A lot of people sincerely looking for information spend a lot of
time looking at materials on the web or in easily available books.
Unfortunately, if all one is reading is inaccurate material then one will
acquire a great deal of misinformation. If one makes statements based on
such inaccurate materials, then one will be spreading misinformation.
I have made some comments about the Matthewses' work being
inaccurate. I don't make these comments without reason; here are some
examples from the book they call _Encyclopedia of Celtic Wisdom_ which
actually is made up mostly of their own essays about "celtic shamanism."
To begin with, their basic premise that pre-Christian Celtic society
and religious practice were "shamanic" is without foundation. Please see
L.E. Jones, _Druid, Shaman, Saint_ for a detailed study of the evidence in
Celtic sources for shamans and shamanic practices as well as a critique of
the Matthewses' claims. Jones was a doctoral student under J.F. Nagy and she
knows her stuff. As Jones notes (p. 198), "Practical Celtic Shamanism is
basically a cottage industry constructed by John and Caitlin Mathews."
Jones then details how John Matthews took motifs from various Celtic
traditions and grafted them onto Michael Harner's core shamanism (core
shamanism is described in Harner, _Way of the Shaman_). Jones then adds
(p.199), "Not only does Matthews syncretize Celtic material to North
American shamanism, he also syncretizes to the Germanic worldview found in
the Eddas. This is characteristic of the monism of most New Age thought,
which sees all religions as different versions of the same basic faith." To
put it another way, calling a medicine bag The Crane Bag of Fionn does not
automatically make what you are doing "shamanism" or "Celtic."
On p. 6, the Matthewses state "the Tuatha De Danann, (The Race of
Danu, their primal ancestress".... "Race" is not a good translation of
tuath; tribe, people, territory, territorial group generally are used.
Second, to assume that the TDD were considered the descendants of Danu is
not accurate. (See "Danu and Bile: The Primordial Parents?" by Alexei
On p. 8 they say that gabar is Irish for horse. According to the
Dictionary of the Irish Language (the BIG one formerly known as the Royal
Irish Academy Dictionary), gabair or gabor usually means goat, but is
sometimes used to mean horse in poetic language or compounds. I don't see
any support for their statement that gabaltar means invasion (although
modern gabha/ltas can mean seizure of land in modern Irish) unless they're
suggesting that gabaltar was a verbal noun, although I'd expect gaba/l or
gaba/il, or, the dative (gaba/il) (I base the last judgment on John
Strachan's statement that verbal nouns often appear in the dative. See
_Old-Irish Paradigms, p. 4.) They also claim that both words --gabar and
On p.9, they claim that a reference to the "wives of Bres" is "a
kenning for the triple Goddess, Brighid." Interesting idea but by no means
certain--yet they state it as an absolute fact.
On p. 8 they make a statement that I'm not sure about, that Banba
(should be Banbha, yes?) means "woman of cows." I don't see this, but I may
Because their books are easy-to-read, inexpensive, translated into
many languages, and found all over the world, many people read and refer to
them. Unfortunately, beginners assume that these are reliable sources, which
they are not. This is what I found in just a few minutes of looking at a few
pages. My point is that the Matthewses often take a bit of accurate stuff
and twist it into something that is questionable. They obviously consult a
lot of sources, but they do not allow the material to stand on its own--they
make it fit their preconceptions and their manufactured thing that they call