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

Review: The Druid’s Primer

The Druid's Primer

by Luke Eastwood

   Review by Morgan Daimler

There are many books on the market that aim to introduce the seeker to the basics of Druidism, but The Druid’s Primer by Luke Eastwood is perhaps the single best introduction book I have read. It's greatest strength is that it manages to present a great deal of modern Druidic material fairly and with clear references to the sources. The author has done a great deal of research into the historic material, which is also presented well and in an easily accessible manner.

The book begins with a chapter that summarizes the historic material. This was very well done, with the material being covered thoroughly and concisely. This section touches on everything from the early Celtic period and what we have from secondary sources such as Pliny and Caesar up to the modern era revival. Although not gone into as deeply as in other books the single chapter effectively summarizes the highlights and is more than enough to get a beginner started or serve as a basic refresher for a more experienced person.

The next chapter tackles possibly the most complex subject in modern Druidism, defining what a Druid is. The book does an excellent job of presenting the different current theories fairly, including the possible etymologies of the word "druid" itself. The different historical sources are once again drawn upon including Irish mythology and the later Barddas, which the text acknowledges as a well known forgery but also influential on the revivalist period. The author also discusses his own view of what a Druid does and who a Druid is, creating a fascinating and complex picture of the modern Druid.

From here the next seven chapters discuss: Gods & Goddesses, Myth & Legend, Elemental Forces, Cosmology, Inspiration, Imramma, and Animism & Animal Worship. Each chapter is a blend of well-researched history and modern application that manages to offer a balanced view of modern Druidism without favoring any one particular path or focus. In most cases multiple views are offered for the reader to consider with sources given so that the reader may further pursue anything of interest.

This is followed by a section, Cycles of the Sun, Moon and Earth, that looks at the historic and modern way that Druids would honor the passing of time and holy days. The author discusses a system of lunar rituals based on Alexei Kondratiev's book [amazon_link id="0806525029" target="_blank" ]The Apple Branch: A Path to Celtic Ritual[/amazon_link] that could be used by modern Druids seeking to connect to the moon. This is followed by a discussion of the solar year and it's holidays, including all of the eight holidays of the modern pagan wheel of the year.

Next is a section on tools, which looks at the tools historically attributed to the Druids. It begins by discussing clothing, rather in depth, including the colors likely worn and the Irish texts referring to dress and color. Sickles, wands, staffs, the Druid egg, cauldron/chalice, magical branch, musical instruments, the crane bag, and sword are discussed. The four treasures of the Tuatha de Danann are also mentioned in a modern context as tools that Druids today may choose to use, although they have no historic basis in that context.

The final four chapters look at divination, the Ogham, medicine & healing, and justice & wisdom. Each of these was important in some way to the historic Druids and so each chapter looks at how the subject relates to historic Druidism and how these can relate to modern practice.

Overall this book is more than worth the money and certainly the best book to begin with if one is interested in learning about the path of Druidism. It is full of the history of Druidism and also shows the wide array of modern possibilities that are open to new seekers. For more experienced Druids this book will serve as a great refresher or reference.

[amazon_image id="1846947642" link="true" target="_blank" size="medium" ]The Druid's Primer[/amazon_image]

[amazon_link id="1846947642" target="_blank" ]The Druid's Primer[/amazon_link]
Paperback: 318 pages
Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.5 x 1 inches
Publisher: John Hunt Publishing; Reprint edition (February 16, 2012)
ISBN-10: 1846947642
ISBN-13: 978-1846947643
List: $26.95 - Amazon: $19.67 -
Kindle $7.99

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Review: The Gaian Tarot

The Gaian Tarot

by Joanna Powell Colbert

Review by Jenne Micale

Buy the Gaian TarotMany years ago, Joanna Powell Colbert’s detailed and intricate drawings caught my eye when I was perusing a Pagan-themed book. When I learned several years ago that she was working on a Tarot deck, I was excited and delighted. The Gaian Tarot – published by Llewellyn – is the long-awaited result.

Every card in the deck features Colbert’s incredibly detailed artwork and is replete with natural imagery, from the field of lavender in the Nine of Earth (in which the central figure is Colbert herself), to the turtle and fish in the Guardian of Water, the warring eagles in Five of Air, and the shining water and rotting bird in Death. The suits are divided according to element and the court cards according to age: Child, Explorer, Guardian, Elder. The humans depicted in the cards exemplify the range of human diversity and offer, in their way, a utopian vision of what our society could be.

The cards are loosely based on Rider-Waite, although they have their own take on traditional images. The Seven of Water, for example, displays not a woman lost in dreams (contained by chalices), but a man who chooses a chalice and drinks it to the full. While the Six of Pentacles is traditionally the alms-giver, the Six of Earth shows money being exchanged at a farmers’ market. The Eight of Earth – one of my favorite cards – shows a father teaching his daughter how to play djembe rather than a child carving a pentacle, although the Rider-Waite and Gaian tarot both express the dedication required in mastering a skill. The Fool is now the Seeker, the Empress the Gardener and the Devil, Bindweed – to name a few of the changes in the Major Arcana.

To a novice tarot reader, the departure from Rider-Waite may make learning this deck a little problematic. The relative dearth of negative cards may complicate readings for more mundane purposes; the Ten of Air – geese flying during the fall migration – espouses a theme of endings, but not in the dramatic and traumatic manner of the Ten of Swords. But overall, the Gaian Tarot is excellent in giving guidance in spiritual matters – wise and gentle – and for meditation. Highly recommended.

[amazon_link id="0738718912" target="_blank" ]Gaian Tarot[/amazon_link] by Joanna Powell Colbert
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Llewellyn Publications; Crds edition (September 8, 2011)
ISBN-10: 0738718912
ISBN-13: 978-0738718910

Review: Tree Readings: 13 Ogham Tree Oracle

Tree Readings: 13 Ogham Tree Oracle

by Carmen Reyes

Review by Tony Taylor

Book Cover - Tree Readings 13 Ogham Tree Oracle - Carmen Reyes

Tree Readings is a lovely little book that walks the reader through thirteen of the ogham consonants.  “Q” and “Z” are not included nor are the vowels, however, because they really are about kennings and the tree lore that is okay.  She helps the reader discover their tree allies and inspires cultivation of relationship with the trees and the goddesses related to them.

The book is divided into two major sections, first the Tree Signs.  In the Tree Signs, Carmen assigns an ogham to standard trees and then focuses on the benefit of the ogham.  For example, Holly’s ogham is “Creativity and Mastery.”  She includes a “Lady” she associates the ogham with, adds some key associations, words, poetry, and a Celtic astrology association.

In the Kennings, Charms & Treasures section, the author provides botanical highlights, associations for the Word Ogham, various other associations, and, most interestingly, to a particular Goddess.  I was distracted by the inclusion of Roman & Greek deities; however, adhering to one pantheon os specific to Keltrian practice.

She finishes the book with a Tree Calendar, information on tree essences, references to further reading, supplies, and a nice bibliography.

Carmen is a member of the Henge of Keltria and I considered nominating her book as the “Best academic book” by a Keltrian, to the Druid Academy Nomination Award Committee  (DANAC) for an “Oakie” award.  However, there are no DANAC awards this year, but I am hoping I will still be able to submit her fine book next year.

I recommended Tree Readings for anyone wishing to develop their relationship with trees.
[amazon_link id="1453690719" target="_blank" ]Tree Readings: 13 Ogham Tree Oracle[/amazon_link] Tree Readings: 13 Ogham Tree Oracle

  • Paperback: 76 pages
  • Publisher: CreateSpace (July 29, 2010)
  • ISBN-10: 1453690719
  • ISBN-13: 978-1453690710

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Review: Forbidden Science

Edited by J. Douglas Kenyon

Reviewed by C. Leigh McGinley

This book is a collection of articles from “Atlantis Rising,” a bi-monthly journal by the editor. The articles cover everything from aliens to ESP to physics to paranormal phenomena. Alternative medicine and astronomy are also included. These are theories and postulations that are not accepted by mainstream science, and in some instances even challenge the status quo.

For instance, in the article entitled, “Is the Big Bang Dead? A Maverick Astronomer Challenges Reigning Theory on the Origins of the Universe,” the author, Amy Acheson, asserts that an astronomer in the 1960s, Halton Arp, made a discovery about galaxies concerning how they are born and how they progress. Instead of being celebrated because of his discoveries, he was systematically drummed out of astronomy. They denied him telescope time and they censured him until he finally gave up and retired. The problem was that the direction of Halton Arp’s discoveries revealed a major flaw in the currently accepted theories of the origins of the universe.

In the section entitled “The ET Factor,” there are two articles that discuss alien technology making its way into our lives. The first article proclaims that the government participated in a cover-up and gave alien technology to certain companies to figure out how it worked -- companies that consequently sold the technology as their own inventions, thus making billions of dollars. For instance, the author alleges that Bell Laboratories did not invent the transistor, as it has been portrayed in history, but that Bell was actually given part of the downed alien spacecraft from the Roswell, NM site. It is assumed that all the technology discovered at Roswell has not been released yet, and the second article explores a small computer company’s claim that the government is blocking them from exploiting the technology from Roswell.

There is an interesting section called “Medicine of Another Kind,” wherein the article “The Malady in Heart Medicine: a Doctor Shatters the Myths Behind Popular Treatments for Heart Disease” by Cynthia Logan discusses Dr. Charles McGee, who wrote a book called Heart Frauds: Uncovering the Biggest Health Scams in History. Dr. McGee alleges that many Americans undergo unwarranted heart procedures under pressure that amounts to scare tactics from their attending physicians -- in other words, “Have this procedure or you will die.”  He asserts that the tests we use for detecting heart disease are highly inaccurate and the interpretation of the results varies radically, depending on the doctor. For instance, he claims that cholesterol isn’t the number one factor causing heart disease, nor is it an indicator of subsequent heart disease.

There is also an article about one of my favorite people, Dr. Masaru Emoto, and his pioneering work with water crystals. Dr. Emoto has done extensive testing of the emotional reaction of water crystals to words, music, phrases, and concentrated energy such as prayer from humans.

Overall, I found the book to be an interesting read. They broke the biggest technical aspects down into layperson's terms rather well and made it fairly understandable for those of us who aren’t scientists. Many of the theories presented are very plausible and the articles seem very well-researched. There are even websites given for further research. This book has something for everyone, including conspiracy theorists! Recommended for those with an inquisitive nature.

    • [amazon_link id="1591430828" target="_blank" ]Forbidden Science: From Ancient Technologies to Free Energy[/amazon_link]
    • Paperback: 336 pages
    • Publisher: Bear & Company (February 22, 2008)
    • ISBN-10: 1591430828
    • ISBN-13: 978-1591430827

Review: Pagan Astrology

Pagan Astrology: Spell-Casting, Love Magic and Shamanic Stargazing

by Raven Kaldera

Reviewed by Karl Schlotterbeck, MA, CAS, LP

There are two worthwhile gems at the heart of this work. One is the author’s insight that we can be more than a passive recipient of cosmic cycles. In fact, we can be an interactive and creative participant in the unfolding drama of our relationship with those forces personified as gods and goddesses in astrology.

The second gem is in the set of practical ideas he presents to give us the tools to show us how to be active participants with the forces. These tools include rituals, altars, stones, colors, icons, invocations, prayers, and associated magical objects. In fact, his general approach could be used without reference to actual astrological data, but as ways of affirming and balancing the various energies operating in all of us. And so I see here the potential of a psychological development program.

That being said, some of his assertions are not equal to the brightness of these two gems. (As we look at some of the shortcomings of this book, however, they do not invalidate the value of his central thesis: that we can participate with cosmic forces represented in astrological figures in a way to maximize beneficial aspects and to ameliorate afflicted ones.)

He makes reference to a “Celtic solar calendar of eight holidays” even though there is no evidence that the Celts celebrated anything but the four “cross-quarter” holidays (which are not really solar). In addition, he would place these cross-quarter days “exactly between” the equinoxes and solstices, which would place them not at the first of the month on which they are now celebrated, but around the 6th of the month in the case of Samhain. (He makes no mention that Samhain, like Beltane, is a month name and would hardly begin on the 6th.) Even if the cross-quarter holidays were placed at the full moon near that time, they would seldom fall exactly between the other holidays.

I found his “Astrology of Magical Tools” interesting since those associated with my own Sun, Moon and Rising signs have always attracted me. He also recognizes the eight phases of all planetary cycles – common in reference to the moon but generally forgotten for the other planets and pairs of planets. He makes a significant error, however, in describing the quarter phases of the moon as falling in particular signs, given the starting position of the New Moon. His description implies a static cycle when, in fact, the sun also advances during the cycle and, if the New Moon is late in a sign, the subsequent phases may advance to later signs than he suggests. Thus, one would do better to check a calendar for the moon phases than using this particular system.

A hefty book at about 350 pages, more than half of it consists of tables of associated implements, colors, stones, invocations, poetry, spells and actions for signs, planets, events and combinations thereof.

I’d never considered that astrology might be sectarian and therefore to be Pagan or otherwise (although some Christian sects decry it). Even with the Pagan deities’ names for signs, planets and asteroids, the Pagan connection seems irrelevant unless one identifies the planet Mars with the god Mars. The breadth of the book’s value is larger than its title and its basic thesis can be applied by anyone of any persuasion. However, Pagans and those with a New Age background may find the concepts more accessible than many mainstream readers, for sure.

Again, these very real shortcomings still do not erase the value of the author’s realization that we can take an active, participatory, and interactive role in addressing the forces in our lives, whether they come from deities, cosmic forces or mundane challenges.

I recommend this book for all readers who can keep their eyes on the prize here (the possibilities in interacting with the forces of our “fate”) and not take Pagan Astrology as a source book for Celtic studies or history.

  • [amazon_link id="1594773025" target="_blank" ]Pagan Astrology: Spell-Casting, Love Magic and Shamanic Stargazing[/amazon_link]
  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Destiny Books; 1 edition (September 28, 2009)
  • ISBN-10: [amazon_link id="1594773025" target="_blank" ]1594773025[/amazon_link]
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594773020
  • List Price: $18.95

[amazon_image id="1594773025" link="true" target="_blank" size="medium" ]Pagan Astrology: Spell-Casting, Love Magic, and Shamanic Stargazing[/amazon_image]

Review: Reiki for the Heart and Soul

Reiki for the Heart and Soul: The Reiki Principles as Spiritual Pathwork by Amy Rowland.

Review by Rovena Windsor

I approached this book with no prior knowledge of the subject but with a curiosity about the topic.

One of the first things I do when I get a new book is check out the footnotes or

Reiki for the Heart and Soul

bibliography and the suggested reading list.  This tells me quite a bit about the scholarship.  I prefer books that act as a guidepost pointing me in the direction of further study and Ms. Rowland does this.

What is her goal for this book?  The title says it all:  Reiki principles as a spiritual pathwork or, in other words, to show the reader how to use the Reiki principles for personal development and spiritual growth - - not a bad goal.  She makes her case that this aspect of the training is not being adequately addressed in most Western Reiki training.

What are the Ms. Rowland’s qualifications to write such a book?  She is a certified Usui Reiki Master for over 20 years and a Reiki teacher since 1994.  She is also a certified hypnotherapist as well as a clinical therapist.

I am first struck by the description of the first Reiki technique and how similar it sounds to grounding techniques that we have all be taught.  This similarity between the things I have been taught and what she is advocating runs throughout the book.

She presents the goals of Reiki as a spiritual path, an expansion of our awareness of our personal potential and healing of the mind, body, and spiritual both of the client and the practitioner.  Ms. Rowland says to start where you are -- very practical advice for anything.  She does not show any physical representation of the three Reiki symbols so as not to violate her oaths.  The purpose of the first symbol is power and protection; the second is mental-emotion healing and intuitive insight; and the third is distant healing and connection to spirit.

The Reiki principles are more of a creed that has many similar versions of it as with anything that was originally an oral tradition:  Don’t be angry today.  Don’t worry today.  Be grateful today.  Work hard today.  Be kind to others today.  The five principles are universal principles.  The majority of the book is spent discussing how to develop a working relationship with each of the five principles.  There is a chapter on each principle.  There are exercises at the end of each chapter.

I would recommend this book for a variety of reasons.  It is written in a clear, easy to understand style.  Anyone with a curiosity regarding Reiki should come away from this book with a basic understanding and should know if Reiki is something they wish to pursue further or not.  The suggested reading list is divided up according to the chapters in the book.  This should help the reader target the books they need more easily.  Even a reader that is not interested in learning Reiki could learn a great deal about how to incorporate these principles into his own spiritual practice.

Reiki for the Heart and Soul: The Reiki Principles as Spiritual Pathwork (Paperback); 256 pages; Healing Arts Press; ISBN: 1594772525; ISBN-13: 978-1594772528 - Recommended.

Review: Weather Samanism

REVIEW: Weather Shamanism:

Harmonizing Our Connection with the Elements

By Nan Moss, with David Corbin

Review by Karl Schlotterbeck

Book Cover Weather Shamanism

In our Celtic mythology, weather working was one of the “magical” activities of the Druids. As Moss and Corbin note, humankind has had an interest in influencing weather well into history and they give many examples of weather workers into modern times. The format of their book is a description of their discovery through their shamanic work of what the spirits expect of us. “Weather dancing” is how they describe their method and, for them, “the path of weather dancing is necessarily about your unfolding relationship with yourself and your soul, in partnership with compassionate helping spirits.” Thus, weather shamanism is not about the wish to command or dominate nature but, rather, about the development of relationship with the spirits behind the forces of nature. They note the cross-cultural recognition that “the forces of weather are spiritually alive and sentient,” and have their own lives, personalities and purposes in the world.

They build upon the idea of interaction between our psyches and emotions, and the natural world. Moss and Corbin give considerable time to addressing the issue of our conditioned view of the world and how that view shapes the way we perceive, what we think of the world, and what we believe we might do. They present messages of their own spirit teachers as well as many participants in their workshops over the years.

Weather Shamanism is much less about formulaic technique than about the quality of our relationships with the natural world. Ritual is a support to this relationship, but it is not a defining element. Rather, ritual is a means of reciprocity and honoring those who work with us. Those looking for quick pointers of ritual magic will be disappointed at the call for the development of one’s perceptual habits, preconceptions, and capacity for relationship with the spirits of the natural world.

I found this a mature, valuable, and enjoyable rendition of what it means to be in relationship with the spirits of nature – and how we’re all in this together.

Highly recommended.

Weather Shamanism: Harmonizing Our Connection with the Elements, Published by Bear & Company, 2008, ISBN 978-159143074-2, $16.00

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