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Confessions of a Pagan Nun

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  2,185 ratings  ·  323 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, 191 pages
Published September 10th 2002 by Shambhala (first published 2001)
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Deirdre Jodi, actually CE means Common Era and it is the same as AD, Anno Dominum, After Christ. Laura is right in saying there is an anomaly. You couldn't ha…moreJodi, actually CE means Common Era and it is the same as AD, Anno Dominum, After Christ. Laura is right in saying there is an anomaly. You couldn't have become a Christian in BCE, because that is Before Christ.(less)

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Susan Johnson
Sep 07, 2015 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 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 02, 2009 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 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
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 prior
Mar 28, 2008 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
Nanette Littlestone
Aug 24, 2013 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
Feb 02, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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.
Jul 29, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Brought this home from library with high expectations but was disappointed. I have visited all the major historic religious sites in Ireland and made a month of it. I am not without interest in the origins of Christianity as lived in ancient Ireland. It is a fascinating topic, but this book is deadly in its presentation and pace. Poor Gwynneve (nun of the title).

Random paragraph from book:
"Then the woman began to weep and came to the orange-bearded man and pounded on his chest. She wailed leanin
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
Aug 24, 2013 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 Guadalupe Grant
Jul 14, 2015 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 am sadder & wiser for this knowledge, yet still in the church because of the beauty & glory I do find there.
Mar 29, 2012 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
Dec 27, 2008 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 15, 2011 rated it really liked it
Thank God I finally remembered the name of this book. I've spent the past month trying to recall the title - or enough key words for a google search - which is strange because the crazy title is what drew me in the first place. This was another random selection from the eclectic collection of the Ketchum Community Library (which is privately funded, so donated books abound).

Moving along, This is not The Great American Novel...or The Great Irish Novel...or whatever. The characters aren't very str
Jan 12, 2014 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
May 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Outstanding writing. Well researched. This Pagan nun is a healer and lover of words. She sees much cruelty at the hands of the monks. Getting your head around how this can be reconciled with the stories and goodness of Jesus is not only impossible for me, but for her? When she finally admits there is no good in the abbot and his monks, they have discerned her intelligence and respect she is given. No one is allowed any power but them, especially not a woman. This takes place in 500 AD. Now tell ...more
Oct 06, 2008 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.
Kristen Kieffer
Jan 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
With a look at the early Catholic influence on pagan Ireland, this book piqued my interest and quickly became highly captivating. The author explored human suffering, the consolation of kindness, and the corruption of the church in ways that felt incredibly real and tangible to today's time. Definitely recommend if you're a fan of literary historical fiction! ...more
Jun 29, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am fascinated by a story of a historical Slavic queen and her loyal female warriors who lived a couple of centuries after the time in this novel. When the Roman Christians showed up and began converting these Slavs, primarily the men, the results were an atrocious battle in which men slaughtered the women warriors, the dissenting queen was deposed by her mate, and the people of the land became Christian. All I turned up in my research about the events were accounts and stories by men belittlin ...more
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
Confessions of a Pagan Nun - Kate Horsley
4 stars

As I understand it, the Druids left no written documents. If they had, if any one of them had, it might have looked like this small book. Or not. Whether or not it is historically accurate, Gwynneve has a compelling voice as she tells the story of her pagan childhood and her reluctant, ambiguous, conversion to Christianity.

It’s been a very long time since I read The Confessions of St. Augustine, but the scribe, Sister Gwynneve, had read them. She
Aug 03, 2014 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
Shaktima Brien
Aug 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
I was agreeably surprised by the tone and maturity of this book. I learned about the Druids, their magic, Ireland, and the respect for the earth, the Great Mother honored through Brigid, later recuperated by Christians as a Saint.
I was particularly interested to learn about the transition between Paganism and Christianity, the invasion, the separation between spirit and nature, and what was considered blasphemy, like saying that you had a direct connection with the divine, instead of going to a
Jan 27, 2010 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 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
Janet Gardner
Jul 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
A short novel and a quick read. It takes the form of a personal confession, penned on the sly, by Gwynneve, a woman raised as a pagan but now living as a Christian nun, one of 19 guardians of St. Brigit’s flame in the turbulent days when Christianity is taking firm hold and overthrowing the old ways in Ireland. The two people she loved best--her mother and her druidic teacher/lover--taught her the ancient stories, healing ways, and traditions, but as someone whose own precious literacy was hard ...more
Eleanor Cowan
Feb 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Brilliant comparisons and contrasts are made between Paganism and Christianity....until a third marvelous option is arrived at - and claimed - by the Pagan Nun, a brave, natural, honest, thinking woman who painfully sifts and sorts out the unvarnished truth for herself. In riveting story form - a stunning addition to any Women's Studies program world-wide.
Eleanor Cowan, author of : A History of a Pedophile's Wife: Memoir of a Canadian Teacher and Writer
Edwina 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.
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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

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