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Fire in the Head: Shamanism And The Celtic Spirit [Paperback]

Tom Cowan
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
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Frequently Bought Together

Fire in the Head: Shamanism And The Celtic Spirit + The Celtic Shaman: A Practical Guide + Shaman Pathways - The Celtic Chakras
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Product details

  • Paperback: 222 pages
  • Publisher: HarperSanFrancisco (20 Mar 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062501747
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062501745
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 15.4 x 1.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 157,377 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


In this exploration, Tom Cowan employs literary history to discover the shamanic roots of the Celtic spirit. It explores the shamanic roots of druidism, witchcraft and Celtic Christianity. Cowan draws together the shamans and the bards of old Europe and tells their spellbinding stories of shapeshifting and vision work. He cites the celtic myths and poems that evoke a strong connection to the ways of the shaman, and the spiritual importance that the words, story-telling and drumming can have in contemporary society.

From the Back Cover

In 'The Song of Wandering Aengus' William Butler Yeats refers to the ‘fire in the head’ that characterises the visionary experience. Tom Cowan has pursued this theme in a lyrical cross-cultural exploration of shamanism and the Celtic imagination that examines the myths and tales of the ancient Celtic poets and storytellers, and outlines techniques used to access the shaman's world.

Tom Cowan is the author of 'How to Top Into Your Own Genius' and coauthor of 'Power of the Witch and Love Magic'.

"An engrossing, intelligent, and shamanically well-informed work that is an important gift to all those Westerners seeking a knowledge of Celtic shamanism"
MICHAEL HARNER, PH. D., author of 'The Way of the Shaman'

"An important and fascinating work on Celtic shamanism. Highly recommended"
SERGE KAHILI KING, author of 'Urban Shaman'

"A fascinating and entertaining study…(illuminating) glimpses of an original Celtic shamanism that appears in British and Irish folklore and literary remains. 'Fire in the Head' also offers an account of Celtic supernaturalism in general, and unveils the mysterious background of certain folk heroes, such as Robin Hood"
AKE HULTKRANTZ, author of 'Native Religions of North America'

"A remarkable exploration of shamanism (using) cross-cultural myths to explain the history and roots of the Celtic spirit"
SANDRA INGERMAN, author of 'Soul Retrieval: Mending the Fragmented Self'

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
There was drumming in the hills around Edinburgh. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars To the woods... 15 Sep 2006
The launch-pad for this book is a poem by W B Yeats, that begins "I went out to the hazel-wood/Because a fire was in my head..." Tom Cowan persuasively outlines the many similarities between European shamanism and Celtic myth and tales, suggesting that the latter is less fairytale, more a solid core of useful information and spiritual practice that has been discredited through time and the overlay of other cultures. Discounting the modern fashion of treating shamanism as a catch-all for every type of spiritual pursuit, the author reminds us that the shaman visited other realities, conversed with spirits and brought back knowledge and power, thus acting as a healer and prophet for the benefit of the community. He focuses on the essentials, but also offers fascinating nuggets, such as that the Gilyaks of Siberia use the same word for both shaman and eagle. Cowan also shows how the rise of Christianity effectively demonised what had once been holy: the groves were cut down and the springs were polluted: "in the Celtic imagination, the forest was not just beautiful, it was divine [whereas] for the Christian it was merely woods, haunted by demons, wild animals, and wild people." My only negative criticism is that he tries too hard to fit the myth of King Arthur and the Holy Grail into the shamanistic framework - for me, that is another story, unconnected. This book was a joy to read, and is printed on good quality paper, which adds to the feeling nature of the subject,
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well researched 21 Feb 2012
An elegant look at typical shamanic practices evident in classical Celtic liturature and surrounding documentation. For anyone seeking their Western European pagan spiritual roots, this book makes a good start and looks at the similarities between shamanic styles of understanding and practice as offered in the Celtic texts and those of existing shamanic cultures found elsewhere in the world.

I found the book engaging and a good jumping off point for further research via the extensive reference section.

If I had to find a fault it would be the inclusion of a reference to the 'Ring-a-ring of roses' children's song attributed to the black death now that scholars of Folk songs debate the link. Otherwise it is welcome to stay on my bookshelves for many years to come.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lights a fire 28 Aug 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is an excellent cross over book. I bought it as I was interested in ancient Celtic culture and it seemed to imply a good starting point. It is excellent not only because it's easy to read but because the Shaman elements are sensitively compared and spurred me on to investigate Shamanism too, another fascinating culture. I highly recommend it as it refers to a time before any particular dogma gripped society and humans referred to what was naturally available to them with respect to nature.
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36 of 46 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I read this book because it was a source of inspiration for the brilliant Canadian trio The Tea Party when writing their amazing second album 'the edges of twilight'. The book provides fascinating insights into the worlds inhabited by the Shaman since the dawn of time and how shamanic ideology is woven into celtic culture. The Shaman is a truly mystical being whose forays into the spiritual realm gives him/her a profound understanding of the cyclical and many-layered nature of existence. The physical realm which we inhabit is but one part of the true universe and few of us ever transcend the purely physical before we make the transition into the purely spiritual. The Shaman's role is that of a traveller into the Otherworld, an explorer who uses the knowledge gained in the spiritual realm to help those who remain steadfastly in the physical world. The ambivalence of celtic thinking is elucidated by the Shaman's journeys into the Otherworld or 'nonordinary reality'. The understanding of the harmonious, interconnected nature of existence provides an explanation for the vacillations of life that 'modern' dualism cannot. Suddenly, life and death are intimately linked, the spiritual and physical worlds exist within each other, and the wise fool is a real person. The further you read, the further the doors of your perception widen - this work is truly enlightening...
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When I first came across this book way back in the 1990's I really appreciated the efforts made to bring to light the shamanic tradition that had existed in the Celtic lands, and the way in which this book goes deeper to take these memories up from the vaults of memory - a ground-breaking book in this respect. I also liked the detailed introduction which lays the shamanic tradition in general into a context that is accessible to the general reader - and in particular to unpick the 'bad press' dished out to these traditions fro millennia - ie labelling as superstition rather than the mystical impulse and knowledge that practitioners' carried - and so in my view this book has been a great service to all who have been trying to find their way into the forgotten realms.
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