Book Review – Pagan Portals: Abnoba: Celtic Goddess of the Wilds by Ryan McClain

Book Review
Pagan Portals: Abnoba: Celtic Goddess of the Wilds
by Ryan McClain
Published by Moon Books
112 pages
Publication date: October 1, 2022











Ryan McClain’s Abnoba: Celtic Goddess of the Wilds is a straight-to-the-point guide to learning about Abnoba, the Gaulish goddess of the hunt. McClain provides historical evidence of her with examples of artifacts found in the Black Forest region of Germany and references in ancient literature. He discusses similar goddesses of the hunt to help illustrate who Abnoba could have been, and also adds his own UPG to fill in the rest. The book includes epithets and symbols, sacred festivals, ideas for altars, offerings, prayers, and meditations, and a dedication ritual if one so desires. This book is a good guide for anyone who is interested in learning more about Gaulish deities, has an affinity for other goddesses of the hunt, such as Diana and Artemis, and/or is looking for a good framework to build their own UPG.

I appreciated McClain’s honest introduction to the book and his work. He clearly delineates what is based on research, artifacts, and historical mentions of Abnoba and what has emerged from his close relationship and devotion to the Gaulish deity. This delineation is not always so clear with a lot of authors and is what I appreciate about McClain the most. He discusses the ways in which he works with Abnoba and is able to offer opposing views of her that might work for other people who find themselves called to her, primarily how he sees Abnoba as a protector of animals from hunters, but also explains that she can also be seen as the protector of the hunter themselves.

I felt myself drawn to this assignment of reviewing the book upon reading her name, and in the chapter that compares Abnoba to other goddesses of the hunt I saw why. She has many similarities to the Roman goddess Diana and the Greek goddess Artemis, and thus even more connections the goddesses I love like Hekate and Selene, among others. Other than hunting, Abnoba may have had associations with the forests, healing waters, and marginalized people. McClain also draws upon other Indo-European goddesses from the Baltics to India, all of which help paint the picture of who Abnoba could be.

There’s an entire chapter on festivals and other times of the year one could pay tribute to Abnoba. While I found this chapter a little difficult to follow upon first reading because the author discusses the dates found on the Coligny Calendar, which is a Gaulish calendar that doesn’t quite line up with our Gregorian calendar, McClain provides enough references and details to make it easy to determine the dates if one desired.

The only thing I wished this book had was more visuals and reference points found in the modern world. I’m not sure if my advance copy didn’t include any images or maps and if they are included in the final printing, but I would have loved to see a map of Gaul and the locations that were referenced. For example, there is a reference to a headless statue of Abnoba that was found, and I would have loved to see it. I tried searching for it online and conclude that it is probably an artifact that is referenced more than it is displayed, but I think it would have been great to see it.

I was also curious about some of the ancient locations that were mentioned. There was a mention of the ancient town of Rauricum, which seems to be modern day Basel, Switzerland. A mention of this would have anchored the location of Abnoba for me because I’ve been there. There’s also a mention of the temple to Diana Nemorensis that is near the village of Nemi, Italy, and one can visit what is left of the temple today. Taking the description of these locations a step further could help the reader understand the areas McClain was describing, and possibly inspire someone to go there in person themselves one day.

All in all, I enjoyed reading this book. It was easy to read and sparked my curiosity; I found myself searching the internet to learn more after reading each of the chapters. I also love the how McClain lays out his UPG framework, and this is a framework that anyone can use to dive into any goddess or god that may have few remaining artifacts and references left for us to enjoy. I recommend this book to anyone interested in Celtic and/or Gaulish polytheism, those who are followers of Diana, Artemis, and other goddesses of the hunt, and anyone looking to reconstruct a relationship with a lesser-known deity.

Ryan McClain has spent well over two decades as a student of several polytheistic traditions. He considers himself an animist who is primarily influenced by Gaulish and Germanic Polytheism. His practice involves several deities, but he has become increasingly connected to Frigg, Abnoba and a few select others over the last several years. He earned his degree in General Studies in 2010. Since that time he has taken part in a great deal of independent study, meditation and prayer. Ryan lives with his husband, their two dogs, a rabbit, and a bearded dragon in a small town in Indiana. When he is not out wandering in the woods, you can catch him doing housework as a dedicated homemaker. You can also follow him on Facebook.









Abnoba: Celtic Goddess of the Wilds on Amazon



About the Author:

Montine is an astrologer, tarot reader, and occultist living on unceded Duwamish land that some call Seattle. A forever student, journalist, and queer gender-nonconforming femme, she spends her time listening to the stories people tell with the hope of understanding many more perspectives than her own. Recently diagnosed with ADHD and self-diagnosed as autistic, she is rediscovering the world through a neurodivergent lens and transforming her life to work smarter and not harder. She writes an annual called Book of My Shadows which explores different ways to use the energy of New and Full Moons for personal growth and exploration and one of her current hyperfixations is studying the Greek Magical Papyri.