Right now I have two options before me; compile a database listing 4600 drawers of specimens, their geological age, geographical location and the species contained therein. Or do an accompanying statement for a job application.
The obvious thing is to invent a third task and do that. So here we go…
I have recently been delving into things proto-Indo European and Indo-European. On one hand more academically minded books such as West’s Indo-European Poetry and Myth and the on-order Mallory’s In search of the Indo-Europeans: language, archaeology and myth. On the other hand I bought Ceiswr Serith’s Deep Ancestors.
The value in the first two is that they provide a very well put out ‘what came before’ for someone like me interested in the Britons of roughly 2000 years ago. They set out what we can know from comparative study of the I.E people, what their religious ideas developed in to in various corners of their distribution and as such begin something of a reconstruction of the missing pieces. Couple this with post-Celtic academic work, archaeology and Romano-British evidence and we can make a two pronged ‘attack’ of the time-slice and its inhabitants we are interested in.
So, comparative work can offer insights into what a creation myth might have looked like, who the first gods were and something of the people’s relationship with them. The value of Vedic sources comes into its own here too. It can give glimpses of the gods who are known only from a name.
Serith’s contribution goes back one temporal step to the P.I.E people and using similar lines of academic evaluation reconstructs what the religion would have been like, he then also sets out a kind of ritual framework that is at the very least nothing short of as truthful as possible to the reconstruction. Whilst that side of his book was of less value to me, the main body where he lays out his reasoning and re-assembles the pantheon is wonderful. It provides something of a framework with which to keep an eye on when doing similar for the Brythonic version.
So, all in all, the take home message from this diversion from paid work is to make use of Indo-European sources, they are probably far more instructive than anything you might buy which uses the mabinogion as a basis.