THE CRANE BAG
By Joanna van der Hoeven
I read this slim volume on a two-hour ferry crossing between Dover and Dunkirk!
This morning I woke up (in our house set in the forest in Sweden) to the call of two cranes in the field in front of our house. It seems that today is the day for writing my review of this book. The cranes themselves say so!
This book is not actually about cranes though it does start with a Celtic crane myth. It is really a brief introduction to ritual tools and practices from the Druid tradition. “Held deeply within Celtic mythology, the crane bag is both a symbol of sovereignty, as well as an item containing the ritual tools of the Druid. With proper use, it can further the Druid in working with the tides of nature, finding his or her own place in the environment. Living in balance, harmony and peace” (- From the back cover).
This is a useful book for complete beginners taking their first steps in exploring Druidry. It will help you find out if this tradition is for you or not. If you want to delve deeper there are other books on the market (some by this same author but also by other authors) and if not, there is no harm done as this is a small and affordable book.
The author takes us through all the basics, from “What is ritual?” to why we may choose to carry staff and drum, as well as a bowl, knife, candles and incense in our crane bag. Having described the tools she takes us through the elements of Druid ritual: the Call for Peace, Casting the Circle, honouring the Spirits of Place and Three Worlds, the directions and ancestors and so forth.
I like the way she emphasizes the need to source our equipment in an environmentally conscious and sound way. She points out that a number of items can often be found in charity shops ( recycling is always preferable to using Mother Earth’s precious resources to make new items). She also explains how making tools for others is a sacred art for craftspeople (like drum makers). As a teacher of sacred art I agree completely!
The book opens with the story of how the Crane Bag came to be and introduces the legendary Celtic characters Aoife and Iuchra. It is a sad tale in many ways. She ends by asking: what happened to Iuchra and Ilbhreac (the male hero in this tale) and says that is a tale for another day. I had fully expected her to return to this question in the final chapter and answer it – but she doesn’t. To me this is an opportunity missed. A truly satisfactory story (or book) ties up loose ends, if only on the final page…
Other than that: this makes great summer reading for anyone keen to know a little bit more about Druids and their craft.
Imelda Almqvist, Sweden, July 2017
About the author
Imelda Almqvist’s book Natural Born Shamans: A Spiritual Toolkit For Life (Using shamanism creatively with young people of all ages) was published by Moon Books in August 2016.
She is based in London,UK and teaches shamanism and sacred art internationally. She is a presenter on the Shamanism Global Summit 2017 as well as on Year of Ceremony with Sounds True.