- Written by Angela Cheetham Wilkinson
Again I am reading words I could not have written.
Not because I don’t have the words.
Not because I can’t arrange my words in a way that’s expressive.
Because these words come from a deep place, one I don’t own – a place I haven’t been, people I haven’t seen, life I haven’t shared.
Yet there’s a link between my soul and the soul of the writer – that’s where I find my understanding of this work.
- Northern Earth reviews Ancestral Airs...Again!!!
NORTHERN EARTH Issue 129 Spring 2012
Ancestral Airs. One of the most remarkable books we have reviewed in Northern Earth over the years (see NE119)is, in book form, a thick and heavy tome retailing at $28; and being a US publication is pretty expensive for overseas orders. Perfect, therefore, for an e-book edition!
To abridge my earlier review here: This book is extraordinary – never clear whether it is a stream-of-consciousness novel, or some transmitted treatise from an ancient mind, it is a challenging read. Positively so; the use of language enhances a dream-like unreality – appropriate, for the core story is of a two-way link between individuals 6000 years apart; an American woman in mid-life crisis at the turn of the millennium and a psychopomp shaman in Mesolithic Britain, while also packed with details of ritual and herbalism. This visionary construction steeps the reader in a state of otherness and an animist world-view so all-encompassing and alien to modern minds that it is actually hard to see it as just a work of imagination. [John Billingsley]
- Temple of Cybele
[Ancestral Airs] is so unique it creates an entirely new genre….really an amazing work in every way. Yesterday I read three chapters….it was, as expected, totally awesome. Hard to stop reading. It’s amazing archaeologists have really given us so little idea of what life in pre-history was like. To listen to them, it was totally boring and mere survival. You’ve provided a really complex and exciting social and spiritual dimension to those lives. My instincts tell me that it must have been something like that….it couldn’t just have been sitting there watching the sun rise and set mindlessly everyday. But nobody else seems to have made the attempt to visualize it like you’ve done.
Priestess Jean, Founder of Temple of Cybele
- Pagan Book Reviews
As I was reading this book, I was trying to figure out where to fit it into the categories on this blog. On the one hand, its purportedly a reconstruction of a culture 6000 years old; this includes extensive research into botany, mythology, history, and other scholarly studies. But, when you get right down to it, it’s also a fascinating set of stories with well-developed characters, settings and plots.
Beyond a certain point, we can really know only so much about cultures prior to written history in a region. The stories supposedly tell about the people who lived in the British Isles 6000 years ago, well before there were any written records; while the author draws from texts about the Celts and other older cultures, these are still newer peoples than what Smedley describes. Whether the people of 4000 BC lived in the ways the book describes is unknown; nonetheless, the author does a lovely job of weaving together a solid description of her thoughts on the matter, and we get a good picture of what it is they did and believed.
So I choose to primarily read this for its storytelling value. Similarly to my experience of reading MZB’s The Mists of Avalon, it didn’t matter whether the story was literally true or not. I found myself sinking into a world where animism was the central belief, where the plants, animals, and other denizens of nature were so important to the people that they took their names from them. I read about rituals these people performed, as well as the participants’ feelings about them. I witnessed interactions between individual groups of people, and how they wove into the greater overarching culture of the time. It didn’t really matter whether this was the way things “really happened”; it was a great journey anyway. Even if seen only as a novel, its a worthwhile read.
I can’t entirely vouch for the validity of the herbal information; the author knows more about that than I do. A lot of the information about plants peppering the stories dealt with magical uses; however, there are some medicinal uses mentioned as well. For those intrepid enough to backtrack the author’s research, there’s an appendix with common and Latin names of all the plants (numbering in the hundreds) mentioned. Additionally, she included a thorough bibliography for further research and fact checking.
This is a book I had to read in bits and chunks over time; at 700 pages, its a lot to read! The formatting left a bit to be desired, most notably the complete lack of page numbers, which in a book this length, is frustrating when trying to find where I left off, or where I found a piece of information or a snippet of story I wanted to go back to. Also, I can’t for the life of me find information about the publisher, the owner of the publishing company, or the author.
Ancestral Airs is a thoroughly enjoyable read, regardless of how much salt you choose to take the research with. Whether you choose to read it as I did, in little pieces, or simply spend several hours going from cover to cover in one fell swoop, I hope you like this unique combination of research and narrative.
Four and half pawprints out of five.
*Please note that Pagan Book Reviews doesn’t seem to available at the moment. Consequently, I have re-typed the review here. The reviewer gave enormous amounts of time to this and deserves to be remembered. Please fogive any typo’s that might have occurred.
**The bibliography and appendixes mentioned in the review can be found on this website now in the Essays area. They are not included in the e-book.
***The e-book version of Ancestral Airs has been returned to its original two-volume format.
**** And no, I didn’t remedy the page numbers. Its a story about a people who lived cyclical lives, so lineal numbering for me didn’t quite jibe. And although I am more findable on the internet now, my publisher and I will always remain of the edge of anonymity.
- Patrick Tanguy reviews Ancestral Airs
Ancestral Airs…truly more of a journey and an experience than it is a mere story. To call it such would be a major misunderstanding, almost a crime. Along with the history of an incredible people is a rich collection of knowledge that could easily take anyone a lifetime or more to learn, and as the people within it will tell you, the knowledge and wisdom contained in their history is sacred. Miss Smedley has treated it with the kindest reverence, as is its due, and I feel the people whose story she has brought forth from the darkness of ancient history would be proud of her work and of the honour that she has paid them. My eyes are now more open to the world around me, thanks to this book. I’m thinking about reading it again in the next couple of months.
- Judith Story ("T'ai Shan Oriental Medicine") Reviews Ancestral Airs!
5.0 out of 5 stars Return to the Pure Lands, February 17, 2009
When you finally have the desire to return to the ancient land of your true origin this is the book to read. If you loved Spell of the Sensuous and have a yen for travel to the farther shores buy this right away. Verda Smedley’s book, a result of over 30 years scientific research (anthropology, ethnobotany, geology, physics, archeology, mythology, migration theory) and personal experience, creates another realm of consciousness that we have lost sight of. Written from both male and female medicine practitioners points of view her otherworldly style addicts us quickly. We dream of another way in the evening after reading and apply the lessons subconsciously the next day and the days after that. We journey to an open gate once passed by and enter into a magical kingdom of possibilites beyond our dreams, where the sacred sanctuary is sound, where the circle is complete. This is a rare gift to the world. Don’t miss it.
- Barbara Snow (Author and Teacher) reviews Ancestral Airs!
Ancestral Airs is the kind of book that carries you into another dimension. In the world at the other end of the dreamloop, time and space have different meanings, and the reader as observer is both enclosed in the consciousness of ancient times and the bridge between them and the present. The reader begins to ride the dreamloop along the lyrical language and insights of author Verda Smedley, whose perspective mirrors the most recent findings of quantum physicists. “They understood that the Earth was not solid but was shimmering concentric rings of gelatinous energy through which one could extend a hand, cross into with a dream or choose to enter for a century, or forever.”
This book is not a linear sprint from point A to point B. It perambulates like the evolutionary journey it records, revealing volumes along the way about relationships and magical interactions between humans, plants, animals, and places. I felt Moondog’s hungers and myself expanding with him as he surrendered and sacrificed for the consensus that would fuel his work across dimensions. I participated in Gobetween’s gradual integration from current reality into the magical time to which Moondog drew her and her grateful release of that which has twisted us away from our natural state of wholeness. As I approached the end of the book, I began to parcel out the pages, reluctant to release the relationships that changed me. Yet I still live in the dreamloop with them and weave new realities in my own way, supported by the magic that comes through the pages.
Verda Smedley’s encyclopedic knowledge of plants, their spirits and uses is an important element of Ancient Airs. Fortunately we will soon be graced with her Compendium that will enable us to connect more easily with the plants that called to us through Ancestral Airs. Don’t hesitate. Dive fully and luxuriously into Ancestral Airs and enjoy the expansion of its magic into your life.
- John Billingsley of NorthernEarth.co.uk reviews Ancestral Airs!
This book, thick and close-texted, is an extraordinary creation. Never clear whether it is a ground-breaking style of stream-of-consciousness novel, or some transmitted treatise from an ancient mind, it is not an easy, but a challenging read, in a very positive sense. The use of language enhances a dream-like unreality – words can deftly sidestep accustomed usage, lifting the reader into a state tending towards a mildly altered consciousness, approaching meaning from unexpected angles, yet without losing it.
This dream-like state is appropriate, for the core story is of a two-way link between individuals 6000 years apart – an American woman in mid-life crisis at the turn of the millennium and a psychopomp shaman in ancient Britain. It is like channelling perceived through the other end of the telescope; and in the process, it comes packed with detail of magical ritual and healing herbs (identified in an appendix) and an animist world-view so all-encompassing and alien to modern minds that it is actually hard to see it as a work of imagination – perhaps more a case of Blake’s capitalised Imagination. However one takes Smedley’s book, it is a visionary construction that steeps the reader in a state of otherness. This work is an experience that challenges one’s expectations – fact or fiction? It could be either, or both. I have to say, when I read the blurb, I wrinkled my nose; when I read the book, I wrinkled my brow – a good sign! Truly fascinating; look for a handbook to the healing details later this year. [JB]