Warriors of the Word, 2019: 2nd Edition of an Essential Guide to Scottish Highland Heritage

Warriors of the Word: The World of the Scottish Highlanders was first published in 2009 by Birlinn Ltd (of Edinburgh, Scotland), and won great acclaim both amongst scholars and non-specialists for its wide, expansive overview of the history and culture of the Scottish Highlands.

Warriors of the Word is the only volume that attempts such a broad overview of Scottish Gaeldom and it has continued to be popular amongst enthusiasts of Scottish tradition and to be used in courses. I am excited to announce that a 2nd edition has been released (as of August 2019), in both print and eBook editions!

The Table of Contents indicates the breadth of topics covered and the wealth of unique materials provided to the reader:

  • Introduction
  • Chapter One: Themes in Scottish History
    • Celtic Beginnings; The Highland–Lowland Divide; The Lords of the Isles; Linn nan Creach and the Stewarts; Jacobites, Hanoverians and Religion; Clearance, Empire and Evangelism.
  • Chapter Two: Identity and Ethnicity
    • The Invention of Celticism; Territory and Identity; Language and Identity; Ancestries and Genealogies; Inter-ethnic Relations and Perceptions.
  • Chapter Three: Literature and Oral Tradition
    • Oral and Written; Historical Developments; Professional Poets; Vernacular Oral Tradition; Interpretative Methods; Interpreting Prose Narrative; Interpreting Poetry; Literature and Identity.
  • Chapter Four: Clan Society
    • Clanship; Leaders and Leadership; The Diverse Bonds of Clanship; Territory and Ownership; Law and Morality; Feasting and Fighting; Cooperation, Obligation, and Reciprocation; Gender Roles.
  • Chapter Five: Family and Personal Life
    • Names and Naming; Family and Clan Life; Stages of Life; Sustenance; Health and Happiness; Clothing.
  • Chapter Six: Belief Systems and Cosmology
    • Sacred and Secular in Gaelic History; The Otherworld of the Sìdh; Goddess of Life and Landscape; Cosmology and Social Order.
  • Chapter Seven: Song, Music, and Dance
    • Song; Musical Instruments; Musical Traditions; Dance.
  • Chapter Eight: Human Ecology
    • Human-Nature Mirroring; A Sense of Place and Belonging Landscape; Wilderness and Survival.
  • Conclusions
  • Appendix A: Gaelic Poetry Sampler

Prof. Hugh Cheape of the University of the Highlands and Islands writes in the Preface:

“He is a highly original scholar who has established a well-deserved reputation for himself in Celtic Studies, with a number of excellent books and articles which have put teachers and researchers in his debt. His own diligent and detailed research has ranged widely over history, geography, ethnology, anthropology, sociology and ecology, but returning always with his findings and intuition to the Gaelic language and culture. … Warriors of the Word offers a counter-thrust to concepts of the destruction of Gaelic culture or of its irrelevance to a complex and ‘globalised’ culture bestowed on us as members of today’s society. More than this, the work offers a distillation which makes its continuing value clear and explicit. ”

Dr Sharon Blackie, award-winning writer of fiction and nonfiction and a mythologist who runs the Hedge School, wrote this endorsement specially for this re-release:

Warriors of the Word is a unique, heartfelt and carefully researched exploration of Scottish Gaeldom in all its fascinating complexity. This highly original study offers insights into areas of Gaelic culture, such as belief systems, cosmology and human ecology, about which little has previously been written and even less is generally understood. Michael’s translations of material from a wide range of scattered sources, brought together here for the first time, make this book essential reading for anyone interested in the Gaelic traditions of the Scottish Highlands.”

In his review in The Kelvingrove Review (issue 6), Dr Kevin Grant of Historic Environment Scotland writes:

“Michael Newton’s recent publication aims to show the world of the Gaels through their own eyes, primarily using the medium of Gaelic song, poetry, story and indeed the language itself. This book does not claim to be an unbiased historical work, but a retelling of Scottish history from a Gaelic viewpoint, as well as a guidebook into the deeply symbolic cultural and mental landscape of the Gaels. … I would recommend this book to anyone studying virtually any aspect of Gaelic society and culture from the medieval period to the present day. The scope of knowledge in the book may mean that it does not meet the detailed and specific needs of some readers, but its holistic approach should expand and improve the knowledge of anyone studying this topic, and emphasise the importance of viewing the Gaelic world through the eyes of the Gaels.”
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