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Confessions of a Pagan Nun

3.86  ·  Rating Details ·  1,559 Ratings  ·  231 Reviews
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. She also 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 m ...more
Paperback, 208 pages
Published September 10th 2002 by Shambhala (first published 2001)
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Susan Johnson
Nov 14, 2015 Susan Johnson rated it really liked it
After I finished this rather grim tale, I wondered why anyone became a Christian. The leaders were so awful and full of rules that I would never want to join. The pagans seemed to be having a great time and why they would want to give that up for hair shirts, hard work, and little food is beyond me.

This book is set after St. Patrick's death and centers around a pagan woman who slowly converts to Christianity and becomes a Catholic nun. When I first started reading about early Irish history, i
Lisa Kessler
May 20, 2010 Lisa Kessler rated it it was amazing
I really really loved this book!

But I will caution that if the historical period of Christianity coming out and spreading to wipe out Paganism doesn't interest you, then this book probably won't either.

Seeing how the change from matriarchal religion to patriarchal almost to the point of viewing woman as "evil" has always interested me. How did they manage that shift? This book is a revealing look...

Overall, I find the time period very enthralling and this book was equally so! Loved it! :)
Apr 04, 2009 Monica rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Have you ever wondered how people can put a bowl of milk under the sink for the kitchen fairies then leave for church? This book describes so well what it must be like to fit something completely foreign into your life and how one would have to make sense of it. It is truly a beautifully written work with an amazing way of helping one understand what it must have been like to try to take on this new fangled thing called Christianity. This is my all-time favorite book.
Jan 09, 2008 Rebecca rated it did not like it
This is a prime example of why a book shouldn't be judged by its cover. Although, the ridiculous title should have made me a bit suspicious. I was fully seduced by the picture of the clochan amidst the greenery of Ireland.

I'll be quick with my criticism. The whole story was one gaping anachronism after another. There wasn't a single character that felt authentic...everyone was a one (maybe two) dimensional mouthpiece for the author's philosophical convictions. The ironic thing is, I tend to agre
Apr 14, 2008 treehugger rated it liked it
Shelves: spiritual
This book is a pretty neat novel. It takes place just under 500 years after Christ and is written by one of the very few literate nuns of the time period who should be transcribing sacred texts, but is instead writing of her childhood before the Christians began their persecution of the pagans in Ireland.

There are some GREAT quotes. For example:

"Rather than seeing a contest between druid and Christian, I see a kinship between sone chapel and stone circle. One encloses and protects the sprit; th
Nancy Oakes
What a tragic story! If you want an example of how Christianity transformed native populations, then read this book.

Gwynneve is a nun who lives in a small stone cell at the monastery of St. Brigit, a formerly pagan goddess turned Saint at the behest of St. Patrick. Brigit has the ability to read and write and her task at the monastery is to transcribe the writings of St. Patrick & St. Augustine. She takes time, however, in between her task to set forth the details of her old life pr
Dec 11, 2008 Teresa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, stuff-i-own
Beautifully written, every line is like poetry. It's romantic without being cheesy and mourns for the lost celtic culture. The relationship between the main character and her love is portrayed tenderly and innocently, just like ones first love can be.I think this is the kind of story we don't hear about...the casualties of when one culture invades another.

Words can not express how much I love this novel, the beauty of it astonished me. I simply could NOT put it down.
Nanette Littlestone
Aug 24, 2013 Nanette Littlestone rated it it was amazing
Kate Horsley begins with a well-crafted Translator’s Note to acquaint you with her subject matter, then she deftly drops you into the world of the Middle Ages and the advent of Christianity to the pagan residents of sixth century Ireland. Confessions of a Pagan Nun takes you on a spiritual journey through the eyes of Gwynneve, a young girl nurtured by her mother, then cast adrift to find her way in a man’s world with her sole talent her gift of writing. Ms. Horsley blends the history of this era ...more
I started this book with little expectation and the story story ended up being quite captivating. The beginning was some what boring but afterwards it was a real page-turner. The protagonist is Gwynneve tells the story of her life, a woman raised pagan,trained as a druid and "converted" to a Christianity.

The underlying theme deals with questions about the meaning and origin of faith as Gwynneve struggles to understand the two dominant belief systems of her lifetime. The end of the story is so m
Sep 21, 2013 Brandon rated it liked it
This book is beautifully written and really captured me in its story. It's a sad story, so in that sense it was hard to read, it was just one loss and unfulfilled hope after another, but it's such an honest book, so true to the human experience, so poetic in its language, that in the end it leaves you feeling somehow more alive. This is absolutely something any sensitive human being should read, or at least, something such a person would likely get a lot out of. And as a former Catholic, I can r ...more
Willa Grant
Jul 14, 2015 Willa Grant rated it it was amazing
This book is full of sorrow & truth. The sorrow of real life & of the Catholic church & of human frailty. I am a pagan born & raised, I went into the Catholic Church & found power misused & ashes. I have returned to being a pagan, wiser but sadder for the knowledge I gained.
Dec 27, 2008 Michaela rated it it was amazing
So short. So simple. So devastatingly good. In my top ten reads for 2008. Set in the Dark Ages. A clash of religion. More importantly the clash of one strong soul against the world.
Apr 13, 2012 Michelle rated it it was amazing
Great book! Although I read a page of the book the day I got it, I actually read it in two short sessions. I loved this book and can not understand why it took over 10 years for me to finally get around to reading it. The story was written as if it were secret writings of an Irish nun. The story weaves in and out of her pagan upbringing and her studies as a druid apprentice with her life cloistered away at St. Brigit's convent. The story tells of the early years of Christianity and how locals ma ...more
Jan 13, 2014 Aylen rated it it was amazing
This is an incredibly understated and beautiful book. The writing may not have the bells and whistles we might think of as signifying "excellent writing," such as soaring lyricism or deeply hidden intertexuality (as far as I can tell, at any rate), but it's clean language manages to tell a story that is both profound and simultaneously honest. This is really quite a feat, and certainly qualifies it as "excellent." Besides the story it tells, this is a novel about questions. You will not close th ...more
Oct 06, 2008 Erin rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Cia
A nun from Ireland in the 6th century writes about her Pagan youth! Based on the writings of Gwynneve in her native Gaelic, this translation is fascinating and offered me a glimpse into a world that many of my ancestors lived and died in. The entrance of Christianity and the slow death of the druids of Ireland are something that intrigues me greatly. To read the text of a woman who existed during that time period is awe-inspiring.
Fictional story about Irish nun and druid Gwynneve, who is describing story of her life. The end was predictable if you read introduction. This is sad story, full of philosophical discussion, and it's hard to read. Such short story, but it takes so much time to read.
This book would be more loved by atheist, than by religious ones.
Edwina Hall Callan
This is the story about a woman raised pagan, who trains as a druid and then converts to Christianity.
A life lead in confusion, constantly seeking the truth, she stumbles around Ireland in search of answers ... which she never finds.
I still love the power of words. They dispel my loneliness.

Kate Horsley uses the journey of language to create a tale of Druids, the coming of Christianity, and the loss of nature/innocence in this historical fiction read (sixth-century Ireland). It is a time of transition, as the Druids give way to the worship of Saint Patrick and Saint Brigit. Towards the end, we see the monastic movement take over, as male abbots use control to eliminate female pagans.

The chieftains who used to know the earth
Sep 03, 2014 Yvensong rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Yvensong by: Read for Book Group
Shelves: library
I have very mixed feelings regarding this novel. This was chosen for a group book read, but the group disappeared right after I started reading it. I had read enough that I decided to continue, even though I would never have chosen to read this on my own.

The prose is beautiful. The MC is okay, though most of the secondary characters are rather two-dimensional. There's not a very strong plot and the outcome is rather predictable.

The theme of the novel can be rather thought-provoking, if one all
May 15, 2010 Jacki rated it really liked it
This book has been sitting on my tbr pile for a couple of years. A friend warned me that it was quite depressing, so I have put off reading this fictional account of an Irish Druidess turned Nun of Saint Brigit.

Once again I find myself wishing to go back and read historical accounts of our past. In this case, an account of Ireland just near the time of Saint Patrick and the conversion of the Irish to Christianity. I also wish to learn a bit more about the battle between the Pelagians and the Rom
Alex Telander
Jan 30, 2011 Alex Telander rated it liked it
Confessions of a Pagan Nun does not read like a medieval text, as the prose has a lot more life to it, and it definitely lacks in the depth of description that monks and nuns of the Middle Ages felt someone needed to know about, and yet the book certainly has a dryness and lethargy that some medieval texts have.

The result is a book that may well not be everyone’s cup of tea. What is interesting is the degree to which the author has gone to make the book seem like a real nun’s chronicle of her li
Jennifer W
Jun 30, 2013 Jennifer W rated it liked it
An enjoyable story of a time of great personal and social change. I don't know much about the conversion of Ireland to Christianity. I could mostly relate to the main character, though I don't entirely understand what she saw in her husband. He was cold and distant and eventually cynical and bitter. (view spoiler) I think the book also dealt wi ...more
Connie D
Mar 28, 2016 Connie D rated it really liked it
This is a fascinating but odd book, and it's not for everyone. In many ways it's more a treatise on Christianity's effects on the non-Christian world than a story.

The protagonist is, as the title says, a pagan nun, writing her life story from inside her beehive-shaped stone hut. It's 6th century Ireland, a place in the midst of great change with the coming of Patrick and his followers. As a child, Gwynneve loved traveling with her mother, a druid herbalist; thirsting for more knowledge, she app
I finished this book a couple days ago. I wish I didn't have to write a review for it. Mostly because I can't figure out what to say.

What I hope to find was an education about the Pagan ways in a gentle fictional story. Instead there was plenty to tell about the cruelty of the 'onward christian soldiers'. But the book seemed to tell more about the cruelty and less about the goodness of either religion. Even the awe of nature and all her wonders was minimal.

Emotions seemed to rule the book: guilt
Ginny Messina
Sep 25, 2008 Ginny Messina rated it liked it
I enjoyed some parts of this, but it averaged out at about 2 1/2 stars for me.

The author uses her heroine—a semi-converted sixth century nun—to kind of hit the reader over the head with her own 21st century feminist and neo-pagan philosophy. The writing is often lyrical and enjoyable, but subtlety is definitely not Kate Horsley's strong point. In case you don’t get why pagans are good and Christians are bad, she sums it all up at the end with sixth century bullet points.

Still, there was much t
Elaine Gullotta
Jan 20, 2016 Elaine Gullotta rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: those who are interesting in gaining a vision of the dark ages and early church in Ireland.
Recommended to Elaine by: found it through google search
Shelves: novel
Educational. I bought this book hoping it would give me insight into my Irish pagan and Christian genealogy. I've been reading it along with a few other Irish mythology books while researching my pagan family name. I can say that even though it is a novel, the author did her research for the period and it provided a lot of contextual information of the dark ages as well as Irish language that I wouldn't have considered otherwise. I highly recommend it to those looking for the same sort of inform ...more
Midnight Blue
Nov 08, 2015 Midnight Blue rated it it was amazing
Two salient points: 1.I read this book in 4 hours. 2. I had tears running down my face when I was finished.
This is a poignant tale told by an Irish nun during the dark ages and chronicles the overthrow of druidic faiths due to the rise of Christianity and the attendant fear and persecution. As she tries to make her way through a sad and confusing world, bereft of the two people she loved the most, she struggles to find faith and comfort and to reconcile beliefs that are called heretical.
Not a bad book, small quick read. It did have some phrasing that seemed odd, almost that the author worded phrases things to make it appear more ancient. Creative concept.

I did get a little tired of the "Bad Catholics", "Good Pagans & Pelagians" harping. Some of the pop philosophy seemed force but some of it also flowed well within the narrative.

Worth giving it a read.
Dec 01, 2008 Carolyn rated it did not like it
Kind of weird and somewhat disturbing. Very annoying that it was a novel but the author tried to pretend it was true.
Apr 10, 2015 Maura is currently reading it
still in cell...
It's about a cloistered nun, 6th c Irish, who is living in a stone cell and secretly writing about her life before the introduction of christianity. More later...

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Born in Richmond, Virginia, in 1952, Kate Horsley Parker, the youngest of five children, loved to read. Her mother, Alice Horsley Parker, inspired that love, which is part of the reason that she chose to write under her mother’s maiden name. In her mother’s world, young women were to be educated and refined and passionate. While in a private girl’s school in Virginia during the sixties, Horsley pr ...more
More about Kate Horsley...

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“Use words to please, to instruct, to soothe. Then stop speaking.” 8 likes
“I would live in a world of Christ-like humans, but not one full of Christians, may God forgive me.” 7 likes
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