Confessions of a Pagan Nun Author:Kate Horsley When we think of the Dark Ages, we often think of a dim, primitive society where people struggled just to stay alive, with no room for spirituality or philosophy. The cool, clear, gemlike precision of Horsley's (Crazy Woman) new novel tells another tale. — Gwynneve is born into a world suspended between paganism and Christianity: Ireland circa 50... more »0 C.E. While the rest of Europe was well on its way toward Christianity, at this time Ireland remained much closer to its pagan traditions. After losing her mother, Gwynneve trains as a druid and practices as one for many years. By the time she sets her story down, though, she has converted to Christianity and become a nun. The book is written as a memoir detailing her journey from her birth into a pagan tribe to her end as a Christian with near-saintly status. Her story is not just that of a strong woman making her way in a hostile world. It is also the story of what happens to a country when a new religion takes the place of the old. A beautifully written and thought-provoking book; recommended for all fiction collections.
This brief but vivid novel presents itself as a recently discovered manuscript composed by 1 of the 19 nuns of Saint Bridget in Kildare, at the dawning of Ireland's Christian era. Gwynneve was a druid before the tonsured clerics began to convert her people, offering them new technologies in exchange for conversions. When her druidic teacher and lover, Giannon, is kidnapped, apparently by followers of the new god, Gwynneve falls into despair that is lifted only when she hears of a community that keeps the old Celtic ways under the guise of Christian ritual. In it, she is set to a task that suits her perfectly: copying manuscripts of the church fathers, especially Augustine, with whom she has a running intellectual battle. As she records her life's story, she also relates the melodramatic doings of her convent, which include the abbot's fall from chastity and later self-mutilation. Poetically written and marvelously researched, the novel offers complex theological arguments wrapped in a compelling story about memorable characters.« less
I picked this book up on a whim. I'd finished my book and needed something to read so ended up browsing the bookshelf of the thift store. The title attracted me. I admit the reading was a bit slow at first, but I got wrapped up in the story and finished it in about 24 hours (quite atypical for me). I am so glad I didn't give up. The ending is so bitter-sweet that it brought tears to my eyes.
Set in the beginning of Christianity in Ireland, the story of Qwynneve is enchanting. Born of a wise and wild woman, she learns the ways of the earth and healing plants at her mother's side. She choses to apprentice with the Druid, Giannon, to learn the mysteries of language. In the end, she chooses to become a nun of the Order of Saint Brigid to transcribe learnings from far away places.
Through this, you witness the change in the status of women, reverence for the earth, and the use of power as Ireland moves from a land of Druids and other pagans to Christianity. The story spoke to me and brings me to reconsider some of my learned beliefs about my faith and the manner in which I live it every day.
I am particularly struck by one sentence found near the end......"I would live in a world full of Christ-like humans, but not one full of Christians, may God forgive me."
This is one woman's story of her journey from a Druid to a nun while still holding onto some of the "old ways." It was an interesting view of a time when Christianity was taking over Ireland from the Pagans, many times by force.
This is one of the best books I have read this year--It is lyrical and thought-provoking. You transported to this mystical age at the cusp of Christianity and find yourself rooting for this introspective heroine. Gwynneve struggles as she tries to reconcile her innate wisdom and deep and ageless spirituality with a new religion which carries the recognition from dignified and learned societies, but often fails to speak to her conscience and heart.
This book reminded me of Pope Joan a bit. Women's lives at this time period were so physically and emotionally difficult. The main character had so many doubts and questions about her instincts and emotions because they conflicted with the obviously slanted views of the newly emerging Catholic Church. Gwynn wanted to be open and inspired by the new doctrine, but it pained her to see how the monks and the wealthy would often say one thing, and do the opposite. Not my favorite, but an important piece of history.