Confessions of a Pagan Nun

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"Cloistered in a stone cell at the monastery of Saint Brigit, a sixth-century Irish nun secretly records the memories of her Pagan youth, interrupting her assigned task of transcribing Augustine and Patrick." "Gwynneve writes of her village's pigkeepers and fishermen, their petty squabbles and lusty warrior sagas. She writes of her fiercely independent mother, whose skill with healing plants and inner strength she inherited. She writes of her druid teacher, the brusque but magnetic Giannon, who first introduced her to the mysteries of written
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Confessions of a Pagan Nun: A Novel

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Overview

"Cloistered in a stone cell at the monastery of Saint Brigit, a sixth-century Irish nun secretly records the memories of her Pagan youth, interrupting her assigned task of transcribing Augustine and Patrick." "Gwynneve writes of her village's pigkeepers and fishermen, their petty squabbles and lusty warrior sagas. She writes of her fiercely independent mother, whose skill with healing plants and inner strength she inherited. She writes of her druid teacher, the brusque but magnetic Giannon, who first introduced her to the mysteries of written language." "But disturbing events at the cloister keep intervening. As the monastery is rent by vague and fantastic accusations, Gwynneve's words become the one force that can save her from annihilation."--BOOK JACKET.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
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 500 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.Wendy Bethel, Southwest P.L., Grove City, OH Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-The fictional memoir of a nun of St. Bridget's Convent during Ireland's Dark Ages. Gwynneve's story is one of adventure, joy, and loss. Born into poverty in pre-Christian Ireland, she learns herbal medicine-and inherits strength of character, talent, and intelligence-from her mother. Escaping the brutish life of her village, Gwynneve joins a troupe of traveling entertainers and later apprentices herself for many years to one of the last surviving Druids. Late in life, though secretly remaining unbaptized, she enters the convent, where her literacy earns her a place as a translator of Christian theologians. Her private memoir betrays a dry wit and iconoclastic attitude, so her eventual martyrdom at the hands of zealots does not come as a surprise. (A frame tale reveals that her legacy did survive her.) Horsley portrays Gwynneve's time as a battleground of profound, complex, and bloody cultural conflict, when a recognizably modern form of Christianity first gained ascendancy over rival sects and over the country's older Celtic traditions. This powerful little book is not for lightweight, fainthearted, or doctrinaire readers, but it will be deeply satisfying for many. It can be read simply as a compelling piece of historical fiction or as an insightful meditation on the nature and roots of sectarian conflict. It should also appeal to fans of popular works such as Marion Zimmer Bradley's The Mists of Avalon (Del Rey, 1987), who might seek to explore this period in more depth.-Christine C. Menefee, Fairfax County Public Library, VA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
From the Publisher
"Cool, clear, gem-like precision . . . a beautifully written and thought-provoking book."—Library Journal

"The depth and subtlety of this document casts a spell upon the reader, bringing words to an ancient silence. Kate Horsley's moving tale both embodies and confirms the power of language."—Branches of Light

"The story reads so convincingly as a personal journal that one may forget that it is, in fact, a work of fiction."—NAPRA Review

"This powerful little book is not for lightweight, fainthearted, or doctrinaire readers, but it will be deeply satisfying for many. It can be read simply as a compelling piece of historical fiction or as an insightful meditation on the nature and roots of sectarian conflict."—School Library Journal

"As a slant of sunlight illuminates jewels long buried, Kate Horsley's novel brings words to an ancient silence and a living, vivid presence to people who lived in that time of great changes and estrangements we call the Dark Ages."—Ursula K. Le Guin

"An exquisite historial novel. The poetry of the language is stunning."—Margot Adler, author of Drawing Down the Moon

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781570627194
  • Publisher: Shambhala Publications, Inc.
  • Publication date: 7/24/2001
  • Edition description: 1 ED
  • Pages: 208
  • Product dimensions: 5.24 (w) x 7.56 (h) x 0.79 (d)

Meet the Author

Kate Horsley lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and teaches creative writing at Central New Mexico Community College. A poet as well as a novelist, Horsley has a PhD in American Studies and has published five novels. Her book A Killing in a New Town was the winner of the 1996 Western States Book Award for Fiction. 
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 14 )
Rating Distribution

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(9)

4 Star

(5)

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Sort by: Showing all of 14 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 5, 2010

    Thought-Provoker

    This book makes you think, I had originally bought it because I thought that it was more along the historical fiction lines, while it is a historical fiction book, it might as well be true because not only is it moving (the ending was so tragic it almost made me cry), but more importantly it makes you think about a period of history that is so often forgotten....

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 3, 2006

    A woman's voice carried through the ages...

    Gwynneve, the pagan nun, recounts her life with honesty, humor, loss, joy and fear. She is caught between her pagan upbringing and the Christian faith that is sweeping over her native Ireland. Her words are simple yet laden with complex thoughts and emotions. Her perspective is innocently logical and she clings to it right up until her end. Gwynneve's poignant manuscript is beautifully written and a testament to all the ordinary lives that lived and died during the Dark Ages.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 21, 2003

    Irish treasure

    A very fine read and excellent story portraying the rugged life of a monastic Irish woman. It seems so real to be fiction and I would like to bet it is non fiction in part.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 19, 2013

    Excellent. Not what I expected. Definately thought-provoking,

    Excellent. Not what I expected. Definately thought-provoking, interesting and complex. It is not the Plot of what happens that will keep you reading. It is the internal process of dear Gwynneve.

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  • Posted March 29, 2013

    The Abiding Wisdom of a Sixth Century Woman I consider Confessio

    The Abiding Wisdom of a Sixth Century Woman
    I consider Confessions of a Pagan Nun to be a wisdom book. It is among the most beautiful books I have ever read. Set in early 6th Century Ireland, approximately 50 years after St. Patrick's Declaration, it is a portrait of the final transition from Pagan to Christian Ireland. A novel, it purports to be the confessions of Gwynneve, long an apprentice to one of the last Druid priests (a master of languages) and now a Catholic nun at the Convent of St. Brigit. She writes of both her past life and her present life, in alternating chapters. For her, having lived her life as a Pagan, and having converted to Christianity more by choice than conscience -- a necessary survival move -- she begins to discover a deep commonality between her old Pagan beliefs and her new Christian beliefs. In the course of this profoundly life-affirming but ultimately tragic novel, what she finally unearths within the bottomless precincts of her own mind, heart, and spirit is a profound womanly wisdom and understanding. The ending made me weep long and hard. There's magic here, in the oldest, best senses -- the magic of life itself, and the healing magic of storytelling, in its ability to powerfully remind us of that fact.

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  • Posted May 10, 2010

    Interesting

    It's a short novel and a bit difficult to get into, but I feel very rewarding. It's told from the perspective of a woman who was raised Pagan and chooses Christianity, but struggles with her upbringing and current choices. It helps with a bit of perspective about that time period.

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  • Posted August 7, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Perfect

    This book's voice is poetic, its point is true, and its historical aspects are fascinating. This book caught my eye in the library, I read it nodding my head, and I have just bought it to add to my permanent bookshelves.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 12, 2007

    Poetically haunting

    Captivating w/ an elegantly humane voice. This is a book that all who struggle with the faith of now and that of their ancestors should read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 2, 2002

    Back to our roots

    If you are Irish, Catholic and a woman you will be fascinated by this novel that reads like a non-fiction journal. This story will enlighten you to the religious traditions that existed before the Catholic Church became prominent in Ireland. It is magical, intriguing and speaks of justice vs injustice. This wonderful read will urge you to learn more about your pagan roots.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 2, 2001

    Terrific book!

    I had to keep reminding myself that this book was fiction-- not an ancient artifact discovered in some long-forgotten Irish nook or cranny. If you are intrigued by all things medieval, Ireland, philosophy, religion, women's history, or great story-telling, this is a must-read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 18, 2001

    Intensely Beautiful and Powerful

    This book appeals to the mind and the heart. It's an escape that takes you somewhere enriching, somewhere that makes you think and feel. It's set in the Dark Ages of Ireland and written as though a woman's journal of her struggles with human suffering and religious doubt. There's a lot here. It's a short book, but a lot happens, from passionate love to loss and revelation. I wanted more.

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    Posted December 5, 2009

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    Posted July 9, 2009

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    Posted February 15, 2010

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