The Druid Isle by Ellen Evert Hopman, Woodbury, MI: Llewellyn Publications, 2010.
I was led to read and review The Druid Isle after reading Hopman’s first impressive novel, Priestess of the Forest. The Druid Isle, the second book of a trilogy, is equally impressive. Ellen Evert Hopman, a teacher of Druidism, is the former co-chief of the Druidic Order of White Oak. She is also a teacher of Celtic herbal lore and a master herbalist.
Imbedding the Druid beliefs in the excitement of the journeys of two characters of this book, Aife and Lucius, to the Druid Isle is a very effective way of making the Druid beliefs easy to remember as it was in the storytelling of the ancient Druids. The exciting journey of Aife in her pursuit of learning the ways of the Druids takes her first to the central home of Druidism in Ireland that is being overrun by the Roman Church, before she continues on to the Druid Isle. Lucius’s more round about journey to the Druid Isle begins with his escape from a Catholic monastery where he was raised from infancy, bringing him into the loving world of the Celts before he is pulled into the oppressive world of Roman slavery. With the conflict between the invading Roman Church and the Celtic Druids, the freedom and beauty of the Celts and their Druidic beliefs is most uplifting and full of color. The destructive, restrictive, and colorless Roman Church is very discomforting.
Aife and Lucius’s separate journeys eventually take them to the remote Druid Isle in the North Atlantic between Ireland and Scotland. They travel there in small skin covered wooden framed boats. On this leg of the journey, Aife is without an oar because her teacher from the Forest School knew that the ocean current would reliably carry her to the isle. The Druid Isle, Innis nan Druidneach, is a home and center for teaching the ways of the Druids where new initiates are taught the nine tenets central in the lives of these Druids, the central theme of this book.
Over the last two millennia we of the 21st century have lost our way. A sought after and off-planet god has led us on a colorless journey of the destruction of our Earth. The journey into the unknown without an oar, but trusting the current that our Great Mother Earth has provided, shows us the better way, as it does for Aife and Lucius. This journey takes great trust and courage, but it brings us back to the real world of living in oneness with our Great Earth Mother.
The first serpent wisdom tenet, Ecnae Nathairech, is of the courage and determination that begins Aife’s journey of learning, as it does for Lucius when he arrives on the Isle, and for us as we seek to become one with our Great Mother. Aife’s journey to the Druid Isle will take her beyond the ways of the sacred poet and diviner that she learned at the Forest School, to learn “the inner content of the poems and the eternal spiritual truth that the poems are designed to capture.” This serpent wisdom journey takes Aife to the nine serpent-activated-energy-centers of the body, as it twines upward along her spine. On each step, at each body center, a magical stone is added to Aife’s crane bag, the crane being special because it exists in the three world, the sea, land and sky. In my own work I call such a bag a person’s medicine bundle while leading them on their personal journey to their higher self.
The second task, Mian, is to recognize the dangers of desire and addiction and “to transform the desire for material objects and substances into a desire for a harmonious life filled with beauty.” This serpent energy is centered three finger widths below the navel, the dan t’ian from tai chi or the spot that in my work I call the center of harmony. As the journey continues up the spine to the stomach, Commus, Aife and Lucius learn to not “charge ahead without thinking” but take responsibility for making their own best decisions. The fourth stop is the heart, Cride, the inner sanctuary of peace and beauty that comforts and heals, a place to which we can retreat. This place of love and compassion breaks down barriers between self and other, destroying duality.
The fifth task, Fuaimm, is centered at the throat from where we can learn to project our voice “to achieve power in diplomacy, political persuasion, and ambassadorship. The voice can communicate truth and promote justice, loyalty and kindness.” As we continue our journey upward to our third eye we find our inner vision, Suil Inmedonach, vision that can be called upon “whenever emotions threaten to overwhelm us or when we need to gain the altitude to contemplate a problem dispassionately.” The seventh task, Saidecht, is to quiet our mind to bring us the gift of self-mastery, showing us that all is an illusion. “You can step away from cold, heat, happiness, sorrow, desire at any time. … You can choose to feel them or not. You don’t have to identify with them, unless you choose to. This is the gift of self-mastery.”
Reaching the crown of her head, Corann, the place of divine love, Aife feels great love for everything. She can see the plants, animals, invisible nature spirits, the wind and stones, the divine vision of love that connects the higher self to all creatures with no sense of separation, the divine union with all forms of life. Finally she and Lucius go above themselves, Solus, dissolving into the universe, being one with everything in the divine light of the abode of the Mother Goddess.
With their druidic training on the Druid Isle complete, Aife and Lucius are free to return to the deeply conflicted Druid capitol of Ireland with a new sense of strength. They have passed the nine tenets offered at Innis ana Druidneach of the nine spinal energy centers of the serpent, energy centers that many may call the chakra, a concept found in the ancient Sanskrit beliefs of India. This chakra connection may seem out of place in the lore of the Druids, but in an appendix of this book Hopman describes the historic connections between these two ancient cultures. One archeological connection seen in ancient art is the Cernnunos figure found on the Gundestrup Cauldron of Denmark. A similar figure is found in an image of Shiva, Pashupati, the Lord of Animals that likewise wears a headdress of horns though his hands rest on his crossed legs. The Cernnunos figure is important in my practice and teaching of ecstatic trance, an ecstatic posture of metamorphosis or shape-shifting as researched by Felicitas Goodman. We frequently use the Cernnunos posture, wearing a headdress of horns and holding a snake in one hand and a torque in the other. Both images are surrounded by animals. The ancient spiritual lore of these two cultures has become important and central in current spiritual practices that connect us to a higher self and bring us to oneness with the spirits of the Earth and our Great Earth Mother. This goal of uniting with all life on Earth is also the goal of the use of ecstatic trance as we prepare to enter the New Age of peace and harmony.
Nicholas E. Brink, PhD is the author of :
- Ecstatic Soul Retrieval (publisher – Inner Traditions / Bear & Co.)
- Power of Ecstatic Trance
- Baldr’s Magic
- Beowulf’s Ecstatic Trance Magic
- Trance Journeys of the Hunter-Gatherers
- Grendel and His Mother (publisher – Routledge)
- Applying the Constructivist Approach to Cognitive Therapy: Resolving the Unconscious Past (Routledge)
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Randi Thorneau loves to write product reviews. Reach out to her through the main submissions email for Celtic Nations Magazine – firstname.lastname@example.org