Available for $5.00 + $1.25 for shipping >From Brown Books P.O. Box 1331, Redway, CA USA 95560 Paperback, 92 pages.
Recommended for ages 8-14

This delightful, entertaining story is the only book I have seen on The Burning Times that was written especially for older children. It’s hard to be both positive and realistic about this subject, but Gillian Brown does a very good job at it.

The story takes place in a small English village just about the time Christianity is beginning to establish itself as a power. The protagonists ( all Pagans) have not even heard very much about this new religion, and are curious. So far, only vague rumors have come to their isolated little community. Young Ivy and her mother Elspeth, the village herbalist, have just finished celebrating Summer Solstice when unpleasant reality asserts itself in the form of a messenger from the Church. They are shocked that some outsider would actually try to stop the ancient seasonal celebrations, and not sure what to do. Is the danger real?

Apparently, the danger is real. A young priest has been spying on them for a long time, and has recently made the report that called down the “authorities” on the village. The villagers finally see the need for caution, but have no intention of abandoning their heart-felt beliefs. In the midst of the turmoil and confusion, the villagers find the young priest, their supposed enemy, lying in the forest with a broken leg. Compassion overrules fear, and they take the priest to Elspeth’s house for healing.

During his convalescence, the priest, Luke, is forced to deal with the Pagans on a daily basis and sees that they are good, kind people. He holds to his faith, but begins to doubts the Church’s teachings on the evils of Witchcraft. Using his bible, he teaches young Ivy to read, and a bridge is built between two different worlds and belief systems.However, the report that Luke sent before his injury has dire consequences. The village is overrun with guards from the Church, and Ivy’s mother Elspeth is arrested for Witchcraft. Luke finds he is as horrified as the rest of the villagers. Elspeth is a good woman- what can he do to help her? Luke attempts to recant his original report in order to help Elspeth, putting himself in danger with his superiors.

In the mean time, the Pagans have their own ideas about how to save Elspeth without harming anyone else, using their own Sacred Lore. Luke and the Pagans, working from very different angles, achieve a positive outcome for all concerned. In addition to telling a good story, “Ancient Circle” also delves into Pagan beliefs, ethics, Herbal lore, seasonal celebrations, and creative problem solving. I would recommend it highly for Pagan children, and also for children of open-minded non-Pagan families, who might want to learn more about Pagan history.


Published in Australia  1984 - 1990 - In Seattle & Sydney 1990-1994
Sydney/Seattle Webzine 1999
Copyright Shadowplay 1999. All rights reserved.
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Copyright Shadowplay 2000