BOOK REVIEW by James Nichol
The Salmon in the Spring: the Ecology of Celtic Spirituality by Jason Kirkey (Hiraeth Press 2009)
At the age of 12, Jason Kirkey had one of those ‘light bulb’ moments that can set a direction for life. A relative was explaining why he had begun to explore the ‘old ways’ of pagan spirituality and said, ‘nature does not require our belief. It is right there for us to experience’. Jason is from Massachusetts, of partly Irish descent, and his new found awareness led him over time to discover the ‘interplay of nature, story and ancestry’ as a practitioner of ‘Irish Earth-based spirituality and shamanism’.
Ten years later the salt had lost its savour. Jason says that the problem wasn’t his practice, or the tradition itself, but his attachment to it. ‘I had rooted my perceptions of myself into the culture and spiritual tradition’, but tradition can be double edged. It can give us heart and guide us. It can also condition us to experience reality within a ‘very narrow range’. Jason found himself in a dark night of the soul.
He found a way forward through an increased sympathy with Buddhism and the practice of sitting meditation and for some years he studied at the Buddhist inspired Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado. He says of this period, ‘whereas before my spiritual path was one of descent to soul and a healthy and soulful identity rooted in the earth, my practice now shifted to one of ascent and disidentification with the ego’. He found his world coming alive in a new and different way.
Yet it wasn’t about moving from one tradition to another. Jason reclaimed his older practices and combined them with the new. He sees all traditions as moving through ‘a process of re-imagination – of integration into the new story of the twenty-first century’. He asks whether the old stories can live within this new story and his book sets out to demonstrate that they can.
Jason interweaves personal journey and creative revisioning with the help of traditional Irish stories, including the second battle of Maigh Tuireadh, Connla’s Well and the song of the Silver Branch. This is a pioneer’s book and I recommend it to any one interested in the possible futures of Druidry.
James Nichol 9 December 2010