Review: Celtic Visions

Celtic Visions: Seership, Omens and Dreams of the Otherworld

by Caitlin Matthews

Reviewed by Autumn Rose

Celtic VisionsTypically for this author, Caitlin Matthews’ newest book is a blend of information and practical suggestions.  On the information side, she gives us nine meaty chapters describing and interpreting the psychic practices of our druidic Irish and Welsh ancestors.  The descriptions go well beyond dictionary definitions and are illustrated by quotations mostly from original sources.  In addition, Matthews offers in some cases interpretations not previously encountered by this reader.

For example, she touches on the corrguinnacht, the crane posture.  In this posture the practitioner stood on one foot, with one hand raised and one eye closed, while performing a spell.  According to Matthews, the aim was to “cancel” one side of the body in the physical world so that it could appear in the Otherworld, thus allowing the practitioner to exist in both realms simultaneously.

Another such interpretation involves the ancient Irish custom of imposing geasa, or taboos.  Matthews describes geasa as soul contracts, designed to protect the soul for as long as the contract was not broken.  If the person in question was a king, the protection extended to his kingdom.  Violations of geasa chipped  away at the soul, and successive violations weakened it progressively.  Thus, in the tales of Cú Chulainn and of Conaire, when each had violated all his geasa, he became vulnerable to death.  It’s interesting to note that this interpretation links the strength of the body to the integrity of the soul.  In the case of a king, again, the health of his soul determined the health of the land.

Beyond these and other explorations of ancient Celtic psychic beliefs and customs (e.g., the bull ceremony , the Three Cauldrons, poetic inspiration and so on), Matthews seeks to help readers adapt these customs for personal use today.  To quote the author herself, “This book will not make you a seer, but it will help you become better attuned to your instincts, imagination,  insight, and inspiration.”  When an author makes a claim like this for his or her work, it should always be understood that fulfilling the promise depends almost entirely  on the effort the reader/practitioner puts into it.  Reading the book is not enough by itself.  Nobody gets from Point A to Point B by reading a map.  One has to undertake the journey.

Matthews gives the reader plenty of help along the way.  At the end of each chapter she provides a suggested exercise intended to put the practitioner in closer touch with both the proximate world of Nature and the Otherworld.  For example, after the chapter titled “Omens and Divination” she shows how readers, by habitually observing their natural surroundings and noting events that follow, may learn to recognize omens that can inform and guide them.

The icing on the cake of this book is a pronunciation guide---always a gift to those not versed in Old Irish.  I recommend Celtic Visions, especially to beginning students, for its wealth of  information and  its usefulness as a guide to personal development.

[amazon_link id="1780281110" target="_blank" ]Celtic Visions: Seership, Omens and Dreams of the Otherworld[/amazon_link]

  • Hardcover: 242 pages
  • Dimensions: 7.5 x 5 inches
  • Publisher: Watkins Publishing, 2012
  • ISBN: 978-1-78028-111-7

You Hear Them Calling

You Hear Them Calling

By Steward of the Wood

Photo of Steward of the Wood at the Lia Fail

Steward of the Wood

Do you have any of those nagging family stories that just will not leave you alone?  One of the many intriguing stories in my family is the reason that my grandfather, Abner Hamblen, changed the spelling of his last name to Hamblin.  My grandfather, his brothers and sisters, and their parents had a major rift before my mother was born.  As a result, my mother, her siblings, and their children did not know many, if any, of their numerous uncles, aunts, and cousins.

Mom told my sister and me that her father changed the spelling of his last name, Hamblen to Hamblin, over this family rift.  According to her story when my grandfather was a young man, one of the numerous Hamblens died; and it seems the maker of the tombstone misspelled the name as Hamblin.  This caused such a furor in the extended family that, in anger, my grandfather changed his name.  I have heard that story my whole life.  It was a sad story, which had nagged me.  I always wanted to say to my grandfather, “Pawpaw, changing your name seemed such a drastic thing to do.  Why would you do that?”  Unfortunately, he died when I was about eight years old so that dialogue was not an option.

Three years ago, I met and started communicating with a second cousin, who had a very different story.  In fact she is a daughter of my great uncle, i.e., my grandfather’s brother, and therefore closer to the event than I.  The story her father told was that Abner (my grandfather) was so mean that he kicked their poor father off his farm and his father had to go live in Chattanooga, Tennessee with his other children.  This new story sparked great interest in me to explore this issue.  My cousin and I have had several other ancestry discoveries together and this seemed to be the next one to tackle.

Given the sleuths we both are, she and I discussed information we already had and what else we needed.  We needed farm deeds; any letters in the family about the subject; to talk with living relatives who might have relevant information; names of family members and if, and when, they changed; birth and death dates and places; and any other information on relationships among family members.  I spoke with several relatives including my aunt, my last living aunt or uncle; my sister; and my cousins.  Unfortunately, they each knew the same story that I did, so that information was not helpful.

Next, we turned to the US Census, which can be accessed in various ways.  I chose to go into www.ancestry.com to which I have a membership.  A complete listing of all US Census is available and easily accessible.  It is also accessible via www.familysearch.org/search  where I entered the first and last name and searched.  I chose various census listings for different decades.  I searched for both Abner Hamblin and Christopher Columbus Hamblen, his father.  As expected , I found that Abner was born with Hamblen as his last name and that spelling was used in the 1880 Census.  To my surprise, he also used it in the 1930 Census.  However, he used Hamblin in 1900, 1910, and 1920.  Columbus Hamblen was listed as Hamblin in the 1860 (actually Hamlin), 1870, 1900, 1910, and on his death certificate in 1941.  He used Hamblen in 1850 and 1880 on his Censuses and 1876 on his marriage certificate.  Hence, they both flipped back and forth freely.

Next, we went in search of land deeds in Anderson County, Tennessee.  I sent a letter to the Register of Deeds giving my grandfather’s and great-grandfather’s names and asked if there were any deeds in either name along with a range of years.  I offered to pay for the work.  A very nice letter arrived a few weeks later with copies of two deeds belonging to my grandfather Hamblin.  Much to my surprise, there was no charge.  I looked at the seller of the land and in neither case was it from my great-grandfather to my grandfather. Therefore, we negated the possibility that the feud started over a land transaction that soured.

My cousin's father told her that Columbus Hamblen lived the last few years of his life on my grandfather’s farm.  According to her father, my grandfather kicked his father off the farm and he had to move to Chattanooga, Tennessee to live with his other children.  To help solve this piece of the puzzle, I went back on-line to www.ancestry.com and found a copy of the Death Certificate for my great-grandfather.  These records are also available by writing to the county officials.  Guess what…it was in Anderson County where the farm was located rather than in Chattanooga.  I also recall my uncle telling me that the US Government condemned my grandfather’s farm in the early 1940’s to help create Oak Ridge National Laboratory.  At the time, my uncle helped to dig up the few graves, including my great-grandfather’s grave, in the small family cemetery on the farm to relocate them.  I checked with my cousin and she had documentation that his grave was relocated to a cemetery near Chattanooga.  These pieces of the puzzle then solidified the fact that my great-grandfather died in Anderson County, probably on the farm, and was buried on the farm in the family cemetery.  Apparently, my grandfather had not kicked his father off the farm.  Hence, we debunked that theory.

Sharing this information with our current and future relatives is very important to me.  Early in my ancestry work, I invested in ancestry software to help organize the information.  Then I submitted the family tree information to on-line ancestry services like www.rootsweb.ancestry.com, which is free to use, and www.ancestry.com, which has a cost.  Fortunately, there are several options and the costs seem reasonable.  I looked at a few options and quickly settled on Family Tree Maker.  In fact, I just purchased the 2012 version that is available on-line through the various bookstores (e.g., Amazon.com).  Family Tree Maker is directly connected with both www.ancestry.com and www.rootsweb.ancestry.com  making interconnectedness very simple.  The interconnectedness accelerated my own work and made it much easier once I began to spend a lot of time working on my ancestry.  Using some common type of software is useful because you can then share easily with others and it organizes your information in a standard format.  I initiated a different family tree for each of my four grandparents.  This has kept the file sizes at a manageable level.  Always keep a hardcopy and electronic backup of everything as computers sometimes fail.  Develop a good filing system early as it will serve you in the future.

My cousin and I still have not pinpointed a “smoking gun” but we continue to delve into it.  The cause of the rift was my grandfather’s poor relations with his father.  Although stubbornness and some level of pride run in my family, I feel that my Hamblen/Hamblin ancestors want us to know what happened.  Could it be a lesson for us not to repeat such a disaster?  Are they telling My cousin and me that ill-founded pride causes much suffering? Do my grandfather and his father regret the rift and seek resolution through my cousin and me?

Ancestors are with us always.  They can advise us and help us resolve old issues like the long-festering one in my family and they can help us know the future or possible results of our actions.

In Keltria, we honor the Ancestors as one of the three basic tenants of our spirituality.  We must know them and work closely with them in our search for wisdom.  We may be their chance for peace or vice versa.

 - Ádh mơr ort!

Poem: Summer’s End

Summer’s End

by Jenne Micale


Photo of Jenne Micale

Jenne Micale

The cold wind comes, embracing.
The lover of frost

the harbinger of fall.
It hides beneath the old green leaves
waiting.
Skin prickles at its embrace
as the poplars shed their rags.
Herald of the yellow light,
the sun waning -- like the moon
with the creak of wagon wheels
headed down the rutted road
westering as it melds
with the blue horizon

[amazon_enhanced asin="190571324X" /]  features an essay by Jenne Micale

Harvest Song

Harvest Song

by Jenne Micale

Come, the harvest – with its gold
braceleting the furrow.
The dowry of mankind,
warding off the winter

that lurks unseen, a ghost
from a nervous child's dream.
The gold mother comforts us
with circling arms of grain.  

Come, the harvest – the neighbors
call, the bridles jangle,
cart wheels creak – hands that share
work share the stuff of life.  

For what is bounty unshared?
It would rot in the fields
without the fellowship
that waters it, kin to rain  

and sun. Come the harvest,
with its sweat and its song,
with dollies and dances,
our arms lifting up bales –  

hearts forgetting grievance,
forgiving our failures.
The sweat purifies us.
The wagon brings us home.

From the President

From the President - Lughnasadh 2012

by Tony Taylor

Photo of Tony Taylor with deer staff

Tony Taylor

Keltria Journal

Wren and I are pleased to announce the return of Keltria: Journal of Druidism and Celtic Magick.  After a thirteen-year hiatus we will publish the journal again. Members of the Henge will receive an electronic edition of the Journal as part of their membership in addition to Henge Happenings.  Distribution of Keltria Journal will also be offered to nonmembers of the Henge.  Keltria Journal returns to its focus on y Celtic scholarship and other items of academic interest. The submission guidelines are posted on the Keltria website.

In the Works

Another exciting Council of Elders project is the Book of Keltria. It includes the complete Correspondence Course and a chapter devoted to the History of the Henge. The Correspondence Course, in its present form, will be eliminated and a new “mentorship” process will be developed for those interested in the Keltrian Druid path.

Publishing a 2013 Henge of Keltria Calendar is in the works.  It will be a wonderful edition to our desks.