BOOK REVIEW BY PEGI EYERS
By Jane Meredith
Llewellyn Publications, 2015
For holistic place-based cultures all over the world, human spiritual practice arises from, and is informed by, wild nature and the land. In contemporary Pagan Community this approach varies, and it can be ambiguous how important wild nature is to our diverse traditions and religion(s). Yet for at least a decade in Australia a small and dedicated group have created a spiritual tradition from the ground up, and Circle of Eight: Creating Magic for Your Place on Earth is the result of that collaboration between land and people. While musing on the local reverence for standing stones and other sacred sites on a trip through England, Priestess of the Goddess Jane Meredith had an epiphany. It was clear to her that Europeans had a special way of belonging to the landscape, and she wondered how she might apply that same deep knowing of place to her own Australian homelands.
So the Circle of Eight was born, a brilliant system based on ancient Celtic principles that can be embraced anywhere in the world, by any group of people. The Circle of Eight is a magical system that incorporates the unique features of each location – the weather, seasons, flora, fauna, elements, and other special conditions. Beginning as a structure for magic and ritual, and with participants holding the positions, the Circle of Eight engages magically, energetically, and literally with the cardinal and intermediate compass directions. True to the specific landforms that surround each community, layers of meaning and activity continue throughout the neo-pagan Wheel of the Year, with explorations, ritual workings, earth magic, animism, local magic, storytelling, nature walks, ceremony and festivals. The Circle of Eight becomes a real, living and immediate experience.
Intermixed with wonderful memoirs, and passages akin to the best in the genre of “nature writing,” the delightful chapters in Circle of Eight are also eight in number – Grounding, Casting a Circle, Elements, Invocation, Ritual, Myth, Inner Work and Release. Meredith takes us on a journey through the structure of the Circle of Eight in both the southern and northern hemispheres, how to form and facilitate a circle, how to map a geographic circle, casting the circle, how to incorporate special elements from locality into the circle, invoking the living land, correspondences in the circle, festivals during the Wheel of the Year, working with myth, exploring inner work, endings, and letting go. The author is deeply aware of previous claims to the land in Australia and the Indigenous Knowledge of those who came before, and at many points in the book expresses her deep gratitude for diverse First Nations and their teachings. Circle of Eight takes the most honorable and correct approach, which is for European Australians to form their own deep bonds to the land, to “allow its presence to well up within us and begin to inform us more and more,” without appropriating any elements of traditional culture.
“Both European fairy tales and local, indigenous stories seem equally alive and potent, and equally imminent in the magic of this place by night. The mountain breathes and its dreaming unfolds. Frogs, lizards, and small marsupials own this place of red earth, old volcano, and tall trees. Owls and maybe bats are here too. And we are here. Taking a few hesitant steps onto the edges of this realm in this place that formed all the earth far around it, erupting as fire many years ago but now resting, given over to the enormity of life unfolding and the deepening of magic.” (Jane Meredith)
Pegi Eyers is the author of Ancient Spirit Rising: Reclaiming Your Roots & Restoring Earth Community, an award-winning book that explores strategies for neurodecolonization, social justice, ethnocultural identity, building land-emergent community & resilience in times of massive change.