Seasons of the Sacred Earth: a New Review

Published by Llewellyn. Available August 2013.

Published by Llewellyn.
Available August 2013.

Please enjoy this latest review of “Seasons of the Sacred Earth”.

One Such Road

A strong northwest wind crackles the remaining maple leaves on nearby low-hanging skeletal branches as a man approaches the bonfire.  Pulling his cloak closer to his core, then standing his full height, he appears more bearlike than human when he turns and faces his multi-aged audience.  Words suddenly burst forth from his lips – a weaving many generations old of humankind living in balance with the land.

The westernmost reach of the Elfwood in autumn--a place where faerie tales dwell.

The westernmost reach o the Elfwood in autumn–a place where faerie tales dwell.

Cliff Seruntine’s Seasons of the Sacred Earth is that shaman’s tale reverberating in the silence of a world rampant with the latest electronic gadgetry, fast-paced consumerism, species extinction, and resource depletion.  Mother Earth is not a mere commodity, but a complex multiverse holding many truths.  This primal knowing, felt deep in the soul, lives in the author’s stories, which spans the family’s third and fourth years on a small homestead deep in the wild Nova Scotia highlands.

Each chapter vignette explores the lessons and activities of a particular month or High Day.  In  “He Who Walks Among The Trees,” the writer engages the reader about the sacredness of The Hunt and his encounter with the (or a) Green Man.

“‘I respect your wood,’ he said to a dark forest that did not quite feel right, ‘and I’m trying to live in balance with the land and all the creatures of this place.  But I am here with a bow, so as to hunt in the Old Way, in harmony with the land.  I am here for a deer, for meat for my family for the winter, and because there are too many this year.  They will starve if they aren’t thinned.  You know it, and so do I.  But I swear, I won’t shoot unless I can make the kill clean and quick'” (24).

Cliff, his wife, Daphne, and his two daughters, Arielle and Natalia, spied multiple braids in their horses’ mane one April morning, in “The Fair Folk.”  The plaits were a faery prank and the possible sign from a bruanighe.  During morning and evening chores, the family had always squirted the first milk from the goats into a saucer in honor of this being for watching over their animals and the barn atmosphere.  Gratitude and reciprocity go hand in hand.

Offering glimpses into his daily life, the author speaks with much frankness about how easily a person can lose track of what is truly important, for abstract actions cannot substitute oneness with the living world.  The “Traditional Living” essays that appear after every two chapters provide examples of not only back-to-the-land skills, but ways to connect with Nature.  They range in topic from making vinegar cheese to home-brewing hard cider; from building and maintaining herb and vegetable gardens to learning the language of animals.

In the end, what matters is walking one’s individual path – something he quickly points out in the introduction: “You don’t have to launch off deep into the wilds as we have done, but you do have to go out your door.  The trees and grass, the animals and brooks and sea, and earth and sky have much to teach any who look to them” (9).

After all, that is where deep, soulful magic is found.  And Cliff’s book is a poignant example of one such road.

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