The Salmon in the Spring: The Ecology of Celtic Spirituality by: Jason Kirkey

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“Here at the end of the Cenozoic Era with the life systems withering away, a surprising creativity appears, a kind of mystical balancing act. The world’s spiritual traditions are entering into deeply engaged conversations through which the riches of each are ignited in new ways. With The Salmon in the Spring, Jason Kirkey has boldly carved out his place in this exciting work with his original interpretations of the concepts and stories of ancient Ireland . . . Kirkey’s vision speaks directly to our present ecological challenge. Rejecting those nature-denying forms of spirituality that have been used too easily to justify our domestication of the planet, The Salmon in the Spring announces its thrilling spiritual foundation: “Our wild nature is our soul.” —Brian Swimme, California Institute of Integral Studies

Text of The Salmon in the Spring: The Ecology of Celtic Spirituality by: Jason Kirkey


  • HHiraeth PressSan Francisco

    Jason Kirkeyforeword by

    Frank MacEowen



    theSPRINGTh e Ecology of

    Celtic Spirituality

  • Copyright 2009 Jason Kirkey

    All Rights Reserved. This book may not be reproduced, in whole or in part, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means without permis-sion from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages.

    An eff ort has been made to trace the ownership of all copyrighted material con-tained in this book, to request permission where necessary, and to use that material in accordance with the terms of fair use. Errors will be corrected upon notifying the publisher.

    The author and publisher gratefully acknowledge the following for permission to reprint excerpts from their work:

    Love Dogs. Barks, Coleman, trans. The Essential Rumi. New Expanded Edition. New York: HarperCollins, 2004. Reprinted with permission of Maypop Books.

    First Edition 2009Reprinted with corrections, 2010

    Cover and text design by Jason KirkeyCover photograph: / Natalia Bratslavsky

    ISBN: 978-0-9799246-6-8Library of Congress Control Number: 2009908769

    Published by Hiraeth PressSan Francisco, California

  • To the ancestorswhose wisdom must not be forgotton

    and to the future generationsto whom the diffi cult tasks will fall.

  • We need a spirituality that emerges out of a reality deeper than ourselves, a spiritu-

    ality that is as deep as the Earth process itself, a spirituality born out of the solar

    system and even out of the heavens beyond the solar system. For it is in the stars

    that the primordial elements take shape in both their physical and psychic aspects.

    Out of these elements the solar system and Earth took shape, and out of Earth,


    There is a triviality in any spiritual discipline that does not experience itself as

    supported by the spiritual as well as the physical dynamics of the entire cosmic-

    Earth process. Ultimately, a spirituality is a mode of being in which not only the

    divine and the human commune with each other, but through which we discover

    ourselves in the universe and the universe discovers itself in us.

    Thomas Berry

  • vii



    by Frank MacEowen . . . ix

    Introduction . . . 1Part One: The Ecology of Perception

    1. Place and Story . . . 152. Wild Earth, Wild Mind . . . 35

    3. The Fomorian Eye . . . 534. Tuatha D Danann Vision . . . 75

    5. Dreamtime Circle . . . 976. The Birdreign . . . 119

    Part Two: The Well and the Branch7. The Soul's Horizon . . . 139

    8. Borderlands . . . 1619. Connla's Well . . . 179

    10. Ecos and Psyche . . . 20511. Empty Mountains . . . 221

    Coda: The Man Who Had No Story . . . 243

    Glossary of Terms . . . 251Notes . . . 261

    Bibliography . . . 273Resources . . . 279

    Acknowledgements . . . 281About the Author . . . 283

  • ix

    FOREWORDby Frank MacEowen


    On the cover of this book is a gorgeous image: Luminous bands of sun-light cascade down through the mist and settle on a pristine forest of ever-greens and deciduous trees. A streambed of shining water trickles over dark stones,

    mirroring clouds and the light of day on its surface. It is easy to imagine a solitary

    deer entering the scene, lapping up her morning refreshment at the rivers edge; or

    a beaver gnawing down another sapling to add to the home he builds for his family

    in the face of impending winter.

    There is something primal and comforting about the photograph. The land-

    scape invites us into a contemplative state, one that mirrors the slow rhythm of the

    forest and the sky-mirroring art of the stream. The image of the forest speaks

    of a softer way of being as well as the unseen integrity inherently woven within the

    harmonious bonds of relationship that shape the ecosystem.

    The harmonious bond of which I speak is the original language of the planet.

    A few knowledge-bearing wisdom-keepers in the human family still remember this

    language. All of the other species on the planet are fl uent, for it is encoded within

    them, and their days and nights are aligned with it. Whether wise two-legged, four-

    legged, or the fi nned and winged ones, this ancient language is a sacred language

    that shapes their songs, their stories, and their patterns of seasonal activity and

    movement. It is a language that most of us have forgotten. We must re-learn this

    language, and guide our lives by it, or it will be our peril.

    A stark juxtaposition to the beautiful image that graces the cover of this book

    is the cover of the September 2009 issue of National Geographic. The photo-

    graphs and paintings in the article entitled Before New York say it all. In the

  • x The Salmon in the Spring

    article, ecologists turn back the clock by four centuries to reveal how Manhat-

    tan Island would have appeared before industrial development. The comparison is


    In one set of plates we have the image of ponds, beaver, elk, miles and miles

    of untouched forest, with one image of a Lenape village set up according to an

    undoubtedly minimum impact ethic. These retrospective paintings are juxtaposed

    with photographs of the actual human footprint today. Needless to say, the vast

    majority of the natural world is gone, replaced with concrete, unnatural lighting,

    and tributaries of sludge and waste rather than streams of pure water.

    In contrast to the songs and stories of those who live according to the original

    language, our current story is one of disconnection from our naturalness. With

    no regard to the immediate or eventual backlash to our own bodies, our neigh-

    bors downstream, that of future generations, or the indigenous cultures around

    the planet (who tend technologies of the sacred for remembering the original

    language), the technocratic industrial complex continues its steady march forward.

    Fueled by greed, chemicals, an addiction to petroleum, an obsession with con-

    sumption, and a false myth that the natural resources of our planet are an un-

    ending supply chain, we of the First World (unless you live completely off -the-

    grid) are perpetrators, recipients, and devotees to a toxic realityalbeit for many

    people unconsciously. In fact, the forces at work count on the masses remaining

    unconscious and driven more by compulsion than contemplation.

    This toxic reality, which is undoubtedly mandated, propagated and legislated

    by people sitting on both sides of the aisle (and both sides of the Atlantic and

    Pacifi c), is oriented to one thing and one thing only: the generation of wealth

    through an economic engine that is fully-aware-yet-dismissive of the ecological

    impact of its system. The end result: we are slowly but surely killing ourselves, and

    the Earth.

    Yet, there is also good news, evidenced by seemingly small things but which

    will ultimately shape a future culture aligned to the original language. I think of

    those people who make an attempt at living a life that bears less and less of a car-

    bon footprint, or those communities where people have the bravery to engage in

    an honest conversation about how we can slowly change our culture from one of

    addiction to awareness.

  • xiForeword

    The good news is also evidenced by the calling you feel inside your own chest

    a calling for a diff erent way of being spiritual, a desire to explore your connection to the natural world, a need for peace and a way to befriend your own mind. Perhaps

    this calling ultimately led you to pick up the book in your hands. You wont be


    There have been many books published exploring the vast domain of Celtic

    spirituality, some of my own books among them. When I fi rst started my jour-

    ney of trying to make sense of the spiritual tug I felt from my Irish, Scottish

    and Welsh ancestors, I had come from years within an explicitly indigenous and

    shamanic context. Naturally, I saw everything through a shamanic fi lter, including

    what I perceived to be Celtic culture and spirituality. In time, because of other experiences, this profoundly limiting fi lter dropped

    away, changing my perception of everything Id ever written or experienced. What

    I was left with was a much more vast and contemplative way of relating to life and

    the essential power of spiritual inquiry. It is a way of being that transcends all

    labels, and it is a spiritual landscape that author and poet Jason Kirkey has been

    moving through for years. From his own deep-dreaming journey into the realms of

    nature and spirit he has brought forth certain healing nectars of insight for each

    and every one of us.

    In these pages you will fi nd a sophisticated understanding of cosmology and

    spirituality, a Jungian understanding of the transformative power of archetypes and

    story, a near-mystical and poetic way of perceiving the natural world, a shamanic

    and contemplative comprehension of the nature of the soul, light touches of in-

    sight from the Shambhala and Buddhist traditions, with an ever-present current of

    inspiration bubbling up from the deep strata of Celtic consciousness.

    In The Salmon in the Spring: The Ec