Quite a few folks have asked me to provide a more detailed account of how I came to be involved with translating and publishing the Lebor Feasa Runda, so for those who are curious, I hope that the following summary will help to answer the many questions that have been asked since its publication this past November.
Having been born into an old southern family that for generations had resided in the foothills of rural Alabama, I grew up hearing many stories of how our ancestors had come to America long ago seeking to escape the turmoil and political persecution that had threatened them in their native homeland of Scotland. As a youngster the idea that our family had once lived in a far off land of windswept moors and ancient castles held an enormous appeal to me. There was something noble in that lineage of tartan-clad clansmen assailing their English oppressors on the heather-covered battlefields of the old country which seemed eminently more prestigious than the life I had always known growing up in a small Southern community. Everything here seemed so mundane and commonplace by comparison.
Years later, when I finally had the opportunity to visit the country where the heritage of my forefathers was rooted, I excitedly embarked on my first excursion outside of the United States, hoping to find some real connection to the past which could show me that I was in fact a descendant of some gallant figure of a bygone era who had bravely upheld the honor of the family from which I descended.
After a few days of looking around the graveyards of old churches and sorting through papers in local record offices, my hopes of discovering anything which might tie into the history of my family began to dim. Very little of what I found dated back earlier than the 19th century, and my family had left Scotland in the 1600’s. Somewhat dejected by this revelation, I decided to spend the rest of my trip taking in the local culture. Inevitably this led me to a small pub which seemed to be a popular destination for visitors to the area. Asking about the history of the region, I was told that the most remarkable event to have occurred there came during a pivotal moment in World War II when one of the highest-ranking Nazi officials seemingly defected from Germany by flying solo in the dark of night to Scotland. Having run out of fuel, he was forced to bail out of his plane before reaching his intended destination - a private landing strip at Dungavel House. There he proposed to meet with the Duke of Hamilton, allegedly to discuss a secret peace treaty with Great Britain.
Rudolf Hess had parachuted from his Messerschmitt fighter around 11 p.m. over Renfrewshire, Scotland, touching down at Floors farm near Eaglesham, south of Glasgow, about 10 miles or so from Hamilton’s estate in southern Lanarkshire. Breaking his ankle on impact, Hess was apprehended by David McLean, a local farmer armed with a pitchfork, who had seen the plane go down and took its only occupant by surprise while he was struggling to disengage his parachute harness.
As if these events were not already incredible enough, I was told in a hushed conversation over a pint in the pub that the legend of Rudolf Hess’ mission was not the whole story. There was far more to the extraordinary affair, though the gentleman who revealed this to me was somewhat reluctant to go into details about the specific nature of Hess’ business with the Duke. As the rainy autumn afternoon wore on however my companion, a Mr. Paterson, seemed to gather his confidence. Having partaken of more than a wee dram of single-malt scotch, he quietly told me that Hess had not come to the bargaining table empty-handed. It seems that the former deputy-Führer had brought with him what amounted to a national treasure in hopes of sweetening the deal. Listening intently as he spun his yarn, I learned that the supposed treasure was actually a book. "No ordinary book, mind you, but a very old book." It was, as it turned out, a manuscript of ancient Gaelic mystical lore. "I only got a wee glance at it, " Paterson admitted, "but it was right queer, like a book of spells of some sort."
At first I gave little credit to what the old gentleman was saying; but as his story progressed, the details he revealed made the tale more and more convincing. Intrigued by his account, I began searching through old newspaper reports and on the internet for more information about the mysterious volume Hess had turned over to British officials; but nowhere in any of the articles that I came across was there the least mention of this supposedly ancient document. Ultimately I decided that I had simply been on the receiving end of what was most likely a cock-and-bull story; yet for some reason I couldn’t quite brush it off that easily.
Several months later, having returned home to the states, my work had taken me on the road. While traveling I had stopped for lunch at a small diner near the town of Aliceville, Alabama. Sitting down in a booth near the window I opened my briefcase and began looking over copies of the material I had collected on the Hess affair while the waitress went to the back to bring me my meal. When she returned, I moved the papers to one side of the table making room for the tray. Curious about the photocopies I had been reading, the waitress looked at them for a moment and asked if I was researching the German P.O.W. camp that had been located in Aliceville during the Second World War. I told her no, that I was actually trying to figure out what had happened to a book Rudolf Hess had supposedly brought with him when he had flown to Scotland back in 1941.
The waitress whose name was Mary smiled and said, "I was just a teenager then, but I remember hearing about that German flying over there now that you mention it." Surprised, I asked her if she could remember anything about Hess having turned over a manuscript of some sort to the British. She replied, "No, I don’t know anything about that, but my sister Evelyn might be able tell you more than I can, she married one of those German fellows that was brought over here during the war."
I told the waitress that I would enjoy meeting her sister and talking with her, to which she cheerfully responded, "Well, you just come on back here around six o’clock and I’ll take you out to see her." I thanked her, and after finishing my lunch, I told her that I would be back later to go and visit with her sister.
When we arrived at Evelyn’s home that evening, Mary introduced me to her sister and told her the reason for my visit. The elderly lady looked at me for a moment and asked us to sit down. After exchanging pleasantries she showed me an old photograph of her husband that hung on her living room wall, told me that his name was Henry and that they had been married for 42 years until his death in 1991. "He was a German intelligence officer, " she said. "One of the finest men you could have ever met." I asked her what he did after the war and was told that he was a school teacher. "He could speak about seven different languages, " she said; "he was a brilliant man."
When I asked her if she had ever heard anything about the book Rudolf Hess had turned over to the British, her expression changed a bit as she lowered her brows and said in a serious tone, "Young man, how did you come to know about that?" I related to her the story of how Mr. Paterson had told me about it during my recent trip to Scotland, and that I was quite intrigued over his tale and wanted to find out if there was any truth to it. "There is, " Evelyn said, "but I’m not so sure that it’s something that you ought to go digging up."
Not wishing to offend her, I said, "You’re probably right, I was just curious about it." She smiled and said, "Some things are just better left alone." I nodded and thanked her for telling me what she had, making my way back home after giving her one of my business cards and bidding the ladies goodnight.
When I arrived home there was a message on my answering machine. It was Evelyn. "Mr. Akins, I’m going to be sending you something in the mail this week, keep an eye out for it." Surprised to hear from her so soon after my visit, I waited anxiously the next few days to see what she was sending. The package finally arrived on Thursday afternoon. I opened the large yellow envelope and pulled out a stack of several dozen photocopies of a typewritten text in what appeared to be German. There was no note with it, only the Xerox copies. Unable to read German, I flipped through them disappointedly until I noticed the heading which read: "Abschrift vom Irischen Druiden buch."
Druiden buch??? Druid’s book? I puzzled over the title. Was this in some way related to the manuscript Hess had been carrying? Immediately I picked up the phone and called Evelyn back. "I have the papers that you sent me, " I told her, "but what exactly are they?" I asked. She told me that the copies she sent were of a text that her husband, along with a team of other researchers working for the Ahnenerbe Forschungs-und Lehrgemeinschaft had been assigned to translate into German in the late 1930’s, by orders from Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler. The copies came from a transcription of the manuscript which he kept in a personal journal that he was somehow able to retain throughout his capture and confinement, keeping it after his subsequent release.
Evelyn said that even after their marriage her husband had continued to work on the text, staying up late into the night typing it out. He told her that the translation was of an ancient religious tract predating Christianity. In a later telephone conversation Evelyn revealed that her husband Henry was interested in being of assistance in efforts to negotiate Rudolf Hess’ release from prison following the parole of Albert Speer and Baldur von Schirach in 1966.
I was stunned. What I held in my hands was apparently a copy of what must be one of the oldest and rarest works of European Pagan religious literature ever discovered. But why all the secrecy I wondered? That same day I went out and bought a copy of a German-English dictionary and sat down trying to decipher what seemed like an insurmountable volume of foreign gibberish. Gradually though, the meaning of the words that lay before me became apparent, as I carefully cross-referenced each one individually and arranged the result into a coherent order. In the end, I could scarcely believe the enormous significance of the document which had fallen into my possession. It was almost like finding the Holy Grail. Aside from Henry’s translation of this ancient text, he also provided copious notes detailing how the book had passed from one owner to the next over the centuries.
Attributed to the 8th century B.C.E. Irish king Ollamh Fodhla who, being the recipient of a vast dispensation of esoteric knowledge through a messenger of the ancient Celtic pagan deities, recorded the teachings that had been imparted to him in ogham text on a set of wooden tablets which he later instructed his son, Caibre, to inter alongside his body at the time of his death. These same ogham tablets were later supposedly discovered and translated in the 3rd century C.E. by the Druid Mogh Ruith as the Lebor Feasa Rùnda, a text which had been preserved in manuscript form, carefully transcribed along with other scriptures by monks of the early Christian Church in Ireland, as a treatise on the magical arts known as the Black Book of Loughcrew.
Early on, the Book of Loughcrew was apparently among the texts brought to England by Hiberno-Scottish missionaries from Ireland when they re-established a monastery amid the ruins of Glastonbury abbey. By the first half of the 10th century C.E. the book had evidently come into the possession Dunstan, abbot of Glastonbury, who was later appointed Archbishop of Canterbury and was formally canonized as a saint in 1029 A.D; despite the fact that earlier in his career he had been expelled from the court of King Athelstan as a practitioner of sorcery and black magic.
In the decades that followed the text of the Lebor Feasa Rùnda may have circulated among the Knights Templars who could have easily adapted its rituals under the guise of a pseudo-biblical attribution to conceal its Pagan origin, perhaps inspiring medieval works on magic such as the Key of Solomon. Legends alluding to the Templars’ quest for relics such as the Holy Grail hint at parallels drawn from Celtic mythology in which sacred vessels possessing miraculous attributes feature prominently. Among the allegations brought against the Templars that led to the destruction of their order in the early 1300’s were accusations of their involvement with occult rites and the practice of magic; although rumors suggest that a surviving band of Templars, led by William Sinclair, escaped persecution by fleeing to Scotland. There, under the protection of the excommunicated King Robert the Bruce, their order is said to have continued in secrecy; supposedly leading to the formation of the fraternal order of Freemasons.
By the 13th century C.E. the Black Book of Loughcrew had purportedly fallen into the hands of Michael Scott, a famed Scottish occultist whose reputation as a sorcerer had earned him the nickname of "the Wizard of the North." Scott, who was born in 1175 C.E. had studied at Durham and Oxford before going abroad to further his education in Paris, where he studied theology and was eventually ordained as a priest. Pope Honorius III (said to be practioner of the dark arts and attributed as the author of more than one book on black magic) had written to Cardinal Langton, the Archbishop of Canterbury, in 1224 for the purpose of obtaining an English benefice for Scott, but he declined that appointment choosing instead to travel to Bologna, Italy, and later to Toledo, Spain, in order to continue his studies.
Following Scott’s death in 1232, the book containing the only surviving copy of the Lebor Feasa Rùnda was evidently acquired by the Franciscan Friar, Roger Bacon, whose scholarly interest in the occult accounts for the authorship of at least one medieval textbook on magic, De Nigromancia, being attributed to him. With Bacon’s death in 1294 the Black Book of Loughcrew changed hands several times, allegedly finding its way into the possession of such noteworthy personages as Henry Cornelius Agrippa and Georg Sabel (alias Johannes Faustus) before ending up in the library of a practicing physician and Catholic priest named Sir Robert of Drayton in Somerset, England.
Sir Robert apparently bequeathed the book to his former apprentice, John Walsh of Dorset, who was arrested in 1565 and examined the following year on charges of sorcery and Witchcraft. The book was confiscated by the arresting constable, Robert Baker of Crewkerne, and eventually found its way into the possession of one John Husey of Blokley who later passed it on to a certain acquaintance of his by the name of Edward Talbot (alias Edward Kelly) . From there the book fell into the hands of the famed Elizabethan magus, Dr. John Dee, who employed Kelly as a crystal-gazer and medium. Dee’s experiments with the occult seem to have been partly influenced by its teachings.
It is unclear beyond this point as to what became of the book, as Dee and Kelly went abroad to Europe for several years seeking the patronage of continental nobility, but in 1589 Dee went back to England leaving Kelly behind. When Dee returned to his estate at Mortlake after an absence of six years he found that his considerable library had been ransacked and many of his rare books and instruments had been stolen.
Kelly, who had taken up residence in the Bohemian town of Trebon, remained in Central Europe under the patronage of Count Vilem Rozmberk, who supported Kelly’s alchemical experiments. Achieving considerable notoriety, Kelly was even honored by Emperor Rudolph II, who granted him the title of "Baron of the Kingdom, " but Kelly’s rise to eminence was short-lived and he was arrested and imprisoned on more than one occasion due to his failed experiments in creating gold. Kelly died in 1597 at the age of forty-two, allegedly succumbing to injuries received while attempting to escape from a tower in which Rudolph held him prisoner.
The manuscript containing the Lebor Feasa Rùnda eventually resurfaced for a brief time in the 18th century when it was said to have circulated as a literary curiosity among such notable personages as Giuseppe Balsamo (a.k.a. Count Alessandro di Cagliostro) , Adam Weishaupt, founder of the Bavarian Illumanati and Sir Francis Dashwood, a friend of Weishaupt’s and organizer of London’s infamous Hellfire Club.
At some point in the late 19th century, the Black Book of Loughcrew passed between the hands of Austrian mystic Guido von List, and Carl Kneller, a wealthy German industrialist and Freemason who, together with Theodor Reuss, went on to found a secret society known as the Ordo Templi Orientis, or O.T.O., prior to his death in 1905. From that point the book came into the possession of Rudolf von Sebottendorff, a member of the List-inspired secret society known as the Germanenorden, who in collaboration with Walter Nauhaus, founded an occult study group called the Thule Gesellschaft. The disciples of this völkisch esoteric organization saw evidence for an Atlantean origin of the Aryan race in the lore contained within the Lebor Feasa Rùnda, specifically in the legends relating to the ancient gods of the pagan Celts having come from a mysterious island in the North Atlantic, bringing with them the four hallowed treasures of the Tuatha Dé Danann.
The fact that the Lebor Feasa Rùnda apparently corroborated the Thule doctrine on the origins of the Aryan race led to Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler ordering its siezure by the S.S. following Adolf Hitler’s rise to power. Nazi ideology sought to equate the legendary Celtic treasures with long-lost relics of antiquity such as the Holy Grail, the Spear of Destiny and the Stone of Scone, all of which were ear-marked by Himmler for an official scavenger hunt carried out by the S.S. The ancient manuscript even inspired Neo-Pagan Nazi rituals such as the one in which a huge Celtic-style cauldron fashioned from 24 pounds of solid gold was cast into the Bavarian lake of Chiemsee as a votive offering during a ceremony performed to secure Nazi victory through propitiating the ancestral gods.
The fabled Black Book of Loughcrew was inexplicably returned to Britain by Rudolf Hess under mysterious circumstances on May 10, 1941, eventually ending up in the hands of the Occult Division of Britain’s MI5 Intelligence Service. Hess, a long-time member of the Thule Gesellschaft, had flown to Scotland and parachuted from his plane ostensibly under the pretext of meeting the Duke of Hamilton with the intention of negotiating a secret peace treaty that would insure German dominance in Europe and a reinforcement of the British Empire among its commonwealth states.
This escapade occurred not long after a covert military assignment code-named "Operation Mistletoe" is said to have been carried out in within the ranks of British Intelligence in 1940. This plot allegedly involved mysterious occult rituals taking place at Ashdown Forest in Sussex, England; purportedly attended by such notable figures as Ian Fleming and Aleister Crowley (who by 1923 had succeeded Theodor Reuss as head of the Ordo Templi Orientis) . Interestingly, two German S.S. officers designated as "Kestral" and "Sea Eagle" were also supposedly present at these ceremonies. Whatever the case may be, the book that Rudolf Hess brought with him to Scotland has remained in the hands of the British government ever since.
Hess was taken into custody shortly after his descent into Scotland and briefly detained at Maryhill Barracks in Glasgow before being transferred to Buchanan Castle near Drymen. From there he was sent by rail to England, at the insistance of Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who rejected Hess’ peace negotiations and had him placed in the Tower of London from May 17th – 21st , 1941; the last prisoner ever held there. Hess spent the next thirteen months under close guard at Mytchett Place, Camp Z, near Aldershot in Surrey, England; while there he reportedly attempted suicide by throwing himself off a balcony on June 15, 1941. On June 26, 1942 Hess was sent to Maindiff Court Hospital near Aberavenny, Wales, where he was confined for the remainder of the war.
Among the individuals brought in to interrogate him was naval intelligence officer Ian Fleming who suggested that noted occultist Aleister Crowley be allowed to interview Hess regarding the more esoteric aspects of his mission. The higher ranking officials in charge of the case would not permit it however. Within a few days of Hess’ arrival in Scotland, Hitler’s Riech Minister, Joseph Gobbels, issued "an order against occultism, clairvoyancy, etc." on May 15, 1941, writing in his diary, "This obscure rubbish will now be eliminated once and for all. The miracle men, Hess' darlings, will now be put under lock and key. "
Interestingly, Winston Churchill, the main proponent for Britain continuing the war against Germany, was himself a member of more than one esoteric fraternity, having been initiated to the Freemasons in the degree of Entered Apprentice at London’s Studholme Lodge in 1901. He later advanced through the Fellow Craft degree to the rank of Master Mason in March 1902 at Rosemary Lodge. By August 1908 Churchill had been initiated in the Albion Lodge of the Ancient Order of Druids in a ceremony which took place at Blenheim Palace, his family estate.
According to physicians assigned to evaluate his mental condition Hess reportedly stated that his flight came about as the result of having received spiritual messages from the gods revealing that he was the "chosen one" ordained to bring about a new era of world peace. Diagnosed as being mentally unstable, having a psychopathic personality, and suffering from hysterical amnesia, Hess was spared the death penalty in his post-war trial at Nuremburg, receiving a life sentence and confined at Spandau Prison. There he would remain for the next 41 years until his death in 1987 at the age of ninety-three, the prison’s sole inmate.
The contents of the Black Book of Loughcrew were photographed by the S.S. in the years prior to its return and placed on microfilm which was later recovered by U.S. troops in the summer of 1945 following the fall of the Third Reich. This microfilm copy was turned over to the U.S. Office of Strategic Services and is currently in the possession of the Central Intelligence Agency. The materials confiscated from Hess by British military intelligence shortly after his arrival in Scotland in May 1941 were kept in a sealed file which was supposed to remain unopened until 2017, but when the seal was broken in 1991-92, it was found that the contents of the file had already been removed and were missing. Given the seemingly incredible history of this single volume of Celtic mystical literature, it is remarkable that it survived at all.
The Lebor Feasa Rùnda, or "Book of Secret Knowledge, " may be counted among a very select group of religious documents which claim to have been divinely revealed to humanity through supernatural means. Never intended for general circulation, this rarely seen scripture proved to be an exposition of the Druidic faith, long held in secret and never before published. The history, legends, myths, religious doctrine, philosophical concepts, and magical teachings contained in this work represent the most comprehensive and authentic collection of ancient Celtic beliefs and practices known to date.
At face value, the Lebor Feasa Rùnda would seem to fulfill the same role in Pagan Celtic spirituality as the Bible, the Torah, or the Koran do in the Christian, Jewish, and Islamic religions. Yet it is far more than just the sacred text of a people, for it offers a unique and in-depth look at the intricate and highly developed society to which they belonged. It is a fascinating chronicle of events which have parallels echoed in the legends of many other cultures the world over. In it the esoteric doctrines of the Druids are explained, and the creation myth of the Celts is revealed alongside details of their origins and accounts of their epic struggles in both the natural and supernatural worlds.
In contemplating the significance of this work, I would have thought that the discovery of it, after all these years, would have been eagerly seized upon by some publisher in their bid to be the first to unveil this remarkable doctrine to the public; yet each one I have suggested this to seems strangely dispassionate about it. There is apparently more money to be made in selling how-to books on inane subjects like auras, tarot cards, and crystals served up as Pagan tradition, rather than answering the great need for something more substantial, more authentic, that many individuals in the Pagan community hunger for and first turned to Paganism seeking.
So I have foregone the time-honored approach of publishing this work through the old-boy network of the industry publishers and have decided instead to make it available using one of the newer print-on-demand presses. While this may not be as prestigious as having a book published by one of the well known, highly respected publishing houses, I believe that the text will stand on its own merit and will be eagerly received among the members of the Celtic Pagan community who have longed for the kind of sacred scripture that other religions have been fortunate enough to possess since their founding. If I accomplish only one thing in bringing this ancient tome to light, it is my hope that it will help the Druidic faith to achieve the recognition it deserves as a legitimate, established religion that continues to be practiced in today’s society by a few devoted individuals.