Moon Books, 2017
Reviewed by Piers Warren
This book is part of a series called Pagan Portals, created by the publishers, Moon Books, where leading authors and practitioners share their knowledge across the complete Pagan spectrum.
Joanna van der Hoeven is a Druid and a writer, amongst other creative pursuits, who trained with Emma Restall Orr and the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids. She lives in Suffolk where she works as a Druid priestess for her community. She is also a co-founder of Druid College UK where she tutors.
This short book (under 100 pages) initially seems pretty specific but actually presents an easy to grasp overview of druidic life, especially concerning rituals. It is written in a practical straightforward style which quickly demystifies not only what ritualistic tools can be used by Druids, but also why and how they are used.
After a brief introduction there is a short, mythical story, which explains how the crane bag came to be and how it got its name. The bag itself is a container for the Druid’s ritualistic tools, but is also an expression of the soul of the Druid and, when used in ritual, connects the physical with the spiritual.
Then, after a section on the importance of ritual, the author presents the two main chapters which make up the bulk of the book: The Druid’s Tools (covering items such as the staff, cauldron and drum, but also robes, altars, candles and more) and Druid Ritual Elements (covering the main parts of many rituals such as the call for peace, casting the circle and closing the ritual). It is a highly practical book in that it describes how to obtain or make the crane bag itself as well as all the tools it can contain. The section on ritual elements contains many phrases and sayings that can be used in practice, altogether presenting a do-it-yourself ritual kit which will be especially useful for those who wish to follow these practices solo rather than as part of a group. Finally there is a chapter on how altered states can be achieved using techniques such as meditation, drumming or chanting.
Although this guide would prove an excellent introduction for those starting to explore the Druid Way, it will also be of interest to anyone following a path in green spirituality or any form of paganism. The author’s deep connection with the land comes across in the way she describes the rituals and how they can be performed outdoors (ideally in a wild place though this is not at all necessary). In fact there is much in common with the way we worship and respect nature within GreenSpirit, and it is clear how many of our own rituals and practices have Druidic roots.