Matthews, John and Caitlin

Matthews, John and Caitlin – British neo-shamans who, following their work on “the Western mystery tradition,” pioneered the study and practice of “Celtic shamanism.” John Matthews’s The Celtic Shaman (1991a) and Taliesin: Shamanism and the Bardic Mysteries in Britain and Ireland (1991c) not only offered considerable evidence for ancient Celtic shamanic practices, such as analysis of the medieval Welsh poet Taliesin as a shaman, but also popularized how modern Westerners might use these sources in their own neoshamanisms. This work has been scrutinized by such academics as Ronald Hutton, Leslie Ellen Jones, and Robert Wallis, who problematize, among other issues, the application of the term shaman to medieval sources that are enigmatic, incomplete, and often poorly translated. Jones comments on the contrast between Matthews’s apparently accessible and “safe” practices vis-à-vis the more challenging, even dangerous, path of other indigenous shamanisms, and she dismisses his practices as lightweight and New Age. Wallis agrees, but adds that Celtic shamanism today is by no means singular and that there are practitioners who not only integrate their practices into the challenges of everyday life but also engage with the “dark side” of the shaman. Caitlin Matthews’s solo-authored work includes Singing the Soul Back Home: Shamanism in Daily Life (1995), concerned especially with soul retrieval. Following the lead of the Matthewses, there are now numerous volumes on Celtic shamanism, including those by Tom Cowan, Jan Fries, and Frank MacEowen.


Historical Dictionary of Shamanism by Graham Harvey and Robert J. Wallis 2007


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