Michael T. Cooper's Contemporary Druidry: A Historical and Ethnographic Study is a profoundly sensitive account of a pagan identity from an evangelical Christian researcher. The work amounts to an interfaith breakthrough. Not only a sympathetic and enlightening understanding of Druidry itself, but Cooper also manages to open the possibilities of intellectual and empathetic exchange between a pagan position and a Christian one. Comfortably grounded with a balance of sociological tools and understandings, Cooper's remarkably human and informative narrative holds appeal to the insider as well as outsider, to the generally curious as well as those with specific interest. What I learned is that Neopaganism is as much a result of Druidism as it is of Wicca; that the respective founders of each, Ross Nichols and Gerald Gardner, were good friends and worked together closely. Also that, along with nature and ancestors, Druidry is essentially deity oriented and contrasts accordingly with the depersonalized bi-theism of Wicca and the central non-theism of Dark Green Religion. Exploring the polysemic nature of holy places (e.g., Stonehenge), Cooper allows that such a focus is what people believe it to be, open to their imagination. He recognizes that religious identity is constituted by one's distinctive intellectual, experiential and behavioral identities through which religious satisfaction is obtained when inherent or perceived deprivations are fulfilled; that - as in the case of Druidry - "identity is reinforced by the experiences that practitioners have as they attempt to connect with ancient ways." In all, this intelligently and well-written study of the Celtic Druid faith is one to be highly recommended. --Dr. Michael York, Professor (retired) of Sociology of Religion, Bath Spa University College, Bath, United Kingdom and author of Pagan Theology (New York University Press)
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