I have been giving some serious consideration to the inclusion of shamanic practices within my interpretation of Druidry. At one point, I was certain there was a link, but as I find myself digging deeper and deeper into shamanism, I wonder how this links back to my original intention. Exploration of a fascinating subject is hardly something to be censored, but I think I’m getting off-topic at this point.
Looking over my library, I find it full of books on shamanism and Celtic shamanism and very little on Druidry. On the other hand, I appear to have a large quantity of books on Celtic myth and legends and a few books on the history of the Celts. I think this is where my research should take me next. Leave Cowan, Matthews and Harner. I have dug out Solitary Druid – it’s ADF, but it might be useful – and Druid Magic – which is Llewellyn but has a bibliography and some interesting exercises at the end of each chapter.
That said, I mustn’t dabble. As I have seen, the Otherworld can be dangerous and there is no room for tourism. Commit to something, achieve it, move on and maintain practice.
There is an interesting essay on Celtic shamanism on the OBOD website – [link] – indicating the adventures of Fionn MacCumhail are plausibly shamanic Otherworld experiences: questing to retrieve mystical artefacts, knowledge or power, being dismembered and returned to wholeness stronger than before and receiving traits that mark him as being definitely outside society. The author also suggests the CS-bashing I’ve been seeing is an academic trend, and – as a classically trained, initiated shaman who has actually attended ISS workshops – doesn’t have an issue with Harner’s definition of a shaman as ‘a man or woman who enters an altered state of consciousness – at will- to contact or utilize an ordinarily hidden reality in order to acquire knowledge, power, and to help other persons. The shaman has at least one, and usually more, “spirits” in his personal service’ (quotes are Harner’s), although there is no evidence to suggest drumming as the aural trigger, the Celts had no shortage of instruments or songs that might be used in this fashion.
The spirits of shamanism are, perhaps, the faeries of British folklore. I’ve always avoided faerie-faith books like the plague, but now it seems they might have something to them beyond pink fluff and sparkles.
So: Celtic shamanism? Yes, but it has it’s own distinct flavour. I mustn’t get distracted by the Celtic-everything trend, attempts to homogenise shamanism or a watering down the faerie-faith (I never thought I’d say that).
Other areas for research:
- Celtic myths and legends (look for shamanic practices)
- Faerie healing (being careful of New Age fluff)
- Biddy Early and canny folk who practice/practised around the British Isles (any from East Anglia? That’d be a nice find)