Customer Review

31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars To the woods..., 15 Sep 2006
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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Location: Lancing, West Sussex United Kingdom

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