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31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars To the woods..., 15 Sep 2006
By 
J. T. Meddle (Lancing, West Sussex United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Fire in the Head: Shamanism And The Celtic Spirit (Paperback)
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
By 
J. Farrer (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Fire in the Head: Shamanism And The Celtic Spirit (Paperback)
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
By 
G. Jardine-Wilkinson (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Fire in the Head: Shamanism And The Celtic Spirit (Paperback)
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
5.0 out of 5 stars Spiritual and physical together as they should always be., 17 April 2002
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This review is from: Fire in the Head: Shamanism And The Celtic Spirit (Paperback)
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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5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful title that leads the reader into the book, 25 Jun 2014
This review is from: Fire in the Head: Shamanism And The Celtic Spirit (Paperback)
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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Fire in the Head: Shamanism And The Celtic Spirit
Fire in the Head: Shamanism And The Celtic Spirit by Tom Cowan (Paperback - 20 Mar 1995)
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