The Salmon in the Spring: The Ecology of Celtic Spirituality by Jason Kirkey
I read this book while I had two streams of thoughts on my mind. The first was the project I am working in which is a study of the theories of mythology and the second was the Copenhagen Climate Change conference and this book was a lovely and fitting companion for both streams. I went into this book knowing the ideas of the author having seen his work before, and read some of the same books he has read, all of that didn’t prepare me for the depth of this book or the simple yet complex ideas in it. Once I started reading I just could not stop. I kept telling myself that I’ll stop after this chapter but I never did until I finished the whole book.
Jason Kirkey’s book is about ecology seen through the lens of Celtic Spirituality. He uses Celtic (Irish) myths to illustrate his ideas. This was especially interesting to me because of my study of the theories of mythology. Through this book I was able to see a practical application of one of the theories of myths in a setting that is very meaningful to me. This theory says that a myth is a story that gives a society the guidelines of how to act towards self, nature and others; that without myth we will have chaos in society. It is a theory that is found in the writings of Joseph Campbell, Robert Segal and Alan Dundes.
At the very beginning of the book Jason answers a question that I have been asking myself and I am sure every other person who follows a spirituality not of the land he/she is living in now has asked: How can I practice Celtic spirituality when I am in a non-Celtic land? The question is fully covered in his first chapter in a section called “The Ecology of Exile”. I recommend this section at least to everyone who struggles with where he/she lives versus what he/she is practicing.
Kirkey uses the myth of the Second Battle of Maigh Tuireadh, the Settling of the Manor at Tara and other myths and stories to explore the human-nature relationship, and many other ecological and psychological concepts. For those who aren’t very up to date on the ecological and ecopsychological writings and ideas, he provides synopsis of the ideas he discusses so you are never left wondering what he is talking about but at the same time it wets your appetite enough to send you searching for more.
There is a practical side to this book in that in some of the chapters there are exercises to perform, which are based on Buddhist practice, but are something that all practitioners of Gaelic paganism or paganism as a whole have no problem doing. Also as I read through the book I kept thinking that this was a road map into myself, into nature and into a spiritual pathway that blends the two together. I say pathway because this is by no means a tradition on its own, nor does the writer want you to think so.
The Salmon in the Spring is not a book that you read only once, and I know that I shall be going back to it a lot. I think that the thing that I liked most about the book is that the author doesn’t talk down to the reader. He also states clearly where an idea is his own conclusion and thought and where it is a part of the traditions of Ireland or its history, and to me as a Reconstructionist that is VERY important.