In 1977 Sam Wenger and Moira Joyce opened Three Geese In Flight Celtic Books in Woodstock, N.Y. We were huge fans of J.R.R. Tolkien, Welsh Mabinogi stories, Irish mythology, fantasy literature, and anything to do with the Arthurian legend.
Moira's family were Gaelic speakers teaching Irish in Joyce's Country, as well as Micmac from Nova Scotia. I was drawn to this Celtic culture, where a poet had the political power of a king, and women from the Fairy World could appear out of seemingly nowhere to take you to "Tir-na Og" - the "Land of Youth".
I was then teaching Celtic Myth at the Irish Arts Center in New York City and at Ulster County College in Stone Ridge near our Woodstock bookstore. At the time, combining King Arthur with Celtic Studies was considered odd, and having a bookstore with this as a focus was considered odder still. Regardless, Professor Tolkien called the medieval Fairy World "The Perilous Realm", and we were thusly prepared.
Sam Wenger in Brocéliande in front of the Fairy Lake where Lancelot was raised.
Being in the Catskill Mountains - the home of magic, Rip Van Winkle, and Saint Nicholas - we also specialized in colonial New Netherlands folklore, local witches, and legends like the Headless Horseman. As a strong believer in the Other World Isles of Avalon and the Land to the West, I saw the native cultures of Turtle Island as an extension of our Celtic and Arthurian interests. We featured the Six Nation Iroquois Longhouse as the intellectual and mythical center of Turtle Island.
We also feature books about the American Revolution, for we see that struggle as an extension of the Heroic Age in our Western lands, as the struggle inherent of an ancient path to universal freedom and the pursuit of happiness. America is the culmination of that ancient struggle - the same that we see and love in our mythic literature. There was a reason that Americans saw themselves as sons and daughters of Liberty, a goddess of inspirational freedom that holds her torch in the harbor for those seeking shelter from the sea.
I also have books on my beloved ancient Judea, from the Talmud to Grail mysteries of the Jewish Christian Joseph of Arimathea to the Medieval Kabbala, and even Yiddish Arthurian legends, including a Hebrew 13th century Lancelot tale. The power in the rod of Moses is the living glory of the joy of the unseen world that loves us in our collective human struggle.
Currently, I am now in golden Los Angeles, California, the farthest point west before the Undying Lands. Here the bookstore is open in my suite by appointment. Our entire collection is here - rare and used books from our mythic interests to Colonial folklore and earth mysteries of California and the native peoples of the west.
I will be teaching classes and giving lectures here and around Los Angeles, and I feature a blog page to host my opinions and yours. I hope to meet and speak with you, and I hope you love these books as much as I. Welcome!
Thank you to Richard Davies for this fantastic article on AbeBooks:
Sam Wenger and his Quest for Arthurian Literature
Sam Wenger and his Woodstock bookshop sign
Bookseller Sam Wenger’s spiritual home isn’t California, or upstate New York, or any of the other places that he has called home. He would like to settle and enjoy life in Camelot – the residence of King Arthur, still Britain’s greatest hero, and his famous knights of the round table.
Sam (full name Samuel Alton Wenger) specializes in books about Arthurian and Celtic mythology as well as medieval and mythic literature. He’s long been inspired by the works of J.R.R. Tolkien – that professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford University, who also dabbled in a little fantasy writing.
Today, Sam is found in Los Angeles but his bookselling adventures began in 1977 when he and Moira Joyce opened a bookshop called Three Geese In Flight Celtic Books in Woodstock, New York – yes, that Woodstock.
“Moira’s family were Gaelic speakers from Ireland, as well as Micmac from Nova Scotia,” said Sam. “I was drawn to Celtic culture. The stories, the legends, the poetry. I was then teaching Celtic Myth at the Irish Arts Center in New York City and at Ulster County College in Stone Ridge near our Woodstock bookstore. At the time, combining King Arthur with Celtic Studies was considered odd, and having a bookstore with this as a focus was considered odder still.”
Located in the Catskill Mountains, Sam also began to stock folklore books around witches and legends that Washington Irving made famous with Rip Van Winkle, and the Headless Horseman.
Eventually, Sam moved West where he now teaches, lectures, writes (a little Arthurian fantasy) and sells online and by appointment out of his apartment. “We also feature books about the American Revolution,” he added. “We see that struggle as an extension of the Heroic Age.”
His unique inventory stretches from England’s (or Wales’) Camelot to Yiddish Arthurian legends, as well as many books on Celtic Studies, including Irish, Scottish, Welsh, Cornish and Breton history. He supplies books to collectors of Arthurian folklore around the globe.