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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.