I love books. Always have. Books are wonderful and magical and sacred. Few things will get my blood pressure up more than idiots who want to ban books, or worse, burn them. So it goes against my nature to tell someone NOT to read a book.
But sometimes that’s necessary. Today I came across a Facebook friend’s post that said she was getting ready to start 21 Lessons of Merlyn by Douglas Monroe.
My response was “Ack! No!”
Subtitled “A Study in Druid Magic and Lore” this book is supposedly based on a 16th century manuscript called The Book of Pheryllt. Only problem is, that book doesn’t exist. It is a near-total fabrication in the vein of Iolo Morganwy’s Bardas, another legendary fake. At least Morganwy’s fakery was mostly decent on its own merits. Monroe’s garbage is fabricated, ahistorical, misogynistic, and if you take his mistletoe recipes seriously, hazardous to your health.
Others have already skewered Monroe and his books. Here’s Isaac Bonewits offering (and I believe it was Isaac who first retitled the book 21 Lessons of Hogwash). Here’s Celticist Lisa Spangenberg’s piece on The Book of Pheryllt. Also on the Digital Medievalist website is this page by page listing of errors by Ceisiwr Serith, author of A Book of Pagan Prayer. And finally, here’s a review from the OBOD website, where OBOD Chosen Chief Philip Carr-Gomm says “one of the most widely read books on Druidry is unfortunately the worst.”
Why does it continue to sell? A lot of people simply don’t know enough to recognize it as crap. More importantly, it’s presented in a format that people want to be true: as hidden knowledge from a long-lost golden age. It’s an occult secret … but if you’ll just buy the book, they’ll let you in on it.
There are no occult secrets. There are only ineffable mysteries.
If you’re seriously interested in Druid magic and lore, start with a good introductory book by a knowledgeable Druid. From there you can go into the history of Druidry (what little of it we know), and into contemporary Druid beliefs and practices.
That’s where the real magic is. Not in the reading, but in the doing.
I’m happy to report my Facebook friend did a brief internet search and has taken 21 Lessons of Hogwash off her reading list. A disaster has been averted – it’s been a good day!