Thursday 12 December 2013

Review: Earth Alchemy by Glennie Kindred

The book I’ve just finished reading is one I was kindly sent to review – Earth Alchemyby Glennie Kindred. It covers a subject I am very interested in.

I’ve found the concept of alchemy fascinating ever since I saw a production of Ben Jonson’s play The Alchemistback while I was at school. The play is, of course, a 17th century satire about three con artists who trick people of all walks of life out of their cash by convincing them they can perform various feats of magic, including creating an elixir of life and turning base metal into gold.

The characters in the play are tricksters and certainly not making any attempt to be genuine alchemists, but the play does not go so far as to say that all alchemy is a trick. And it is that possibility that fascinates me. Many years later I read Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist: A Fable about Following Your Dreams,which is a wonderful story about spiritual alchemy. In it a poor boy has a vision that he chooses to follow and, by doing so, goes on a journey of personal transformation – alchemy of the soul.

Spiritual alchemy, I realised, interested me a great deal more than the more traditional view of alchemy as a series of mysterious chemical processes to create the Philosopher’s Stone. But how to go about it? There aren’t that many instruction manuals for complete beginners – which comes back to why I found Glennie Kindred’s Earth Alchemy interesting. A beginner’s guide to spiritual alchemy is exactly what it is. It is aimed at pagans and is based around the eight festivals of the wheel of the year.

The book uses the motifs and symbols of alchemy and corresponds them to the seasons, starting at the Midsummer Solstice with calcination – the alchemist’s use of fire to reduce a substance to ashes. Glennie is not suggesting you go out and get a bad case of sunburn though. She is talking about a spiritual trial by fire as a catalyst for change and to activate an inner journey.

The journey continues through the year, with Lammas representing the process of dissolution and inner reflection; Autumn Equinox representing separation and union to bring harmony; Samhain is then a time of putrefaction and returning to the dark earth; the Midwinter Solstice allows fermentation of something new, Imbolc brings a distillation of ideas and illumination; Spring Equinox allows us a new level of union and Beltain lets the process of perfection be completed so that we can attempt to find the hidden gold, or essence of life, within ourselves.

The book is easy to follow and pleasant to read - it tracks Glennie's own personal alchemical journey of discovery back in 2004. In fact it is a new and updated edition of her earlier book The Alchemist's Journey.While no beginners' book, or single year's worth of meditations and reflections, is likely to be enough to teach true enlightenment - or enable one to create the Philosopher's Stone - I do think this book could set you out on the first steps along the way.

As publisher Hay House says on its website: "This practical guide, written in Glennie's accessible style, shows us how to work with each seasonal and alchemical shift, and use the natural energy of transformation to experience ourselves in a new way."

The book also has lovely black and white illustrations by Glennie and makes a great companion to her earlier book Earth Wisdom.

Earth Alchemy: A Dynamic Fusion Between Alchemy and the Eight Celtic Festivalscan be ordered through Amazon.

Links and previous related posts
Earth Alchemy: A Dynamic Fusion Between Alchemy and the Eight Celtic Festivals

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