A CIRCLE OF STONES: Journeys and Meditations for Modern Celts
Several years ago, I made a distinction between the concepts of Celtic and Celtique, the first being true scholarship and re-creation in the spirit of the ancient Celtic peoples of the British Isles and the Continent. Celtique denotes a superficial knowledge or a veneer of Celtic names and concepts over an incompatible or alien magical system (e.g., the Murray Hope or a fill-in-the-blank-with-the-culture-of-your-choice system). When teaching students in the secrets of Innis Fail (Ireland), I usually caution them about the vast amount of pseudo-Celtic dreck. Eschaton Productions, however, has made an excellent choice in publishing a book on Celtic magic by author(and friend) Erynn Laurie. A Circle of Stones: Journeys and Meditations for Modern Celts is an easy-to-read, well-written, and finely researched work. Erynn's instructions are both practical and clear.
Erynn introduces the reader to basic cosmological concepts, and gives a cohesive world view to work with. Showing great knowledge of gods (dia),elements (duile), and winds (goath), combined with the Great Triskele (Earth, Sea and Sky), Erynn puts together a workable system of magic and meditation for the neophyte and adept alike.
The idea of utilizing a meditation necklace, or "circle of stones," while not unique, is personally the part I least like, reminding me of the rosaries of my Catholic youth. My own preference would be a finger/hand system ála hand ogham, or an inner visual mandala. But, this is only a stylistic difference and not a criticism. For most people, a physical link is useful and practical.
The poetic literature of ancient Erin, and the Scottish Carmina Gadelicacollected by Alexander Carmichael, form a central focus to the book, introducing the reader to the rich wellspring of Celtic poetry and its craft. The chosen pieces convey a sense of the time and place, the head space of the mythic figures that roam the Irish landscape, especially on the astral. Constant practice with these methods can truly open those psychic centers and eventually bring imbas, that sacred knowledge conferred through a poetic frenzy, the "fire in the head."
The main theme of journeying to the Otherworld is outlined and differentiated by Erynn. She gives a unified World structure and a sound methodology for travel to the Realms of Sacred Land, Endless Sky and Eternal Sea. Her grasp of the geographies and states, the ecologies and shadows of the Plains (magh) and Lands (tir) is well thought out and informative, especially to the fledgling Celt. Erynn shows a universality and an interconnectedness to her realmwork, so that, to quote the author, "we become one with our magic and live it."
The moving meditations given for each of the poems are appropriate for their subject matter, and help to create a physical experience as well as the psychospiritual oneheaven and earth united.
Erynn gives special attention to devotional ritual, and the recognition of the ancestors and the sacred land. Sometimes, in their desire to become superwitches or cosmic shamans, many people forget the core of their beinghumans striving along the esoteric path to our Ultimate Goal. We forget to thank the entities that we work with, or the powers that support us. We get caught in the "me" instead of the "we." Erynn reminds us of this as she speaks from a place of humility and humanity.
The section on altars and the use thereof, while only a chapter, touches on an important part of the magical tradition. While many individuals get caught up in the accouterments, the author brings a balanced view of earthly and otherworldly sacred space and how to manifest the magic on the physical plane. Erynn again reminds us of the significance and focus that the "set and setting" have in the Art.
Erynn has proved herself a true fili, in the classic sense, giving sensible and ethical instruction to the reader. She has interwoven, like a piece of Celtic knotwork, seemingly disparate information into a consolidated and serviceable system of magic. Erynn has self-published other works, many of which are much more scholarly and significant, and I hope to see future publications from her through Eschaton or some other press.
Reviewed by Murtagh anDoile
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