Book Review: By Oak, Ash & Thorn

By Oak, Ash, and Thorn by DJ Conway could have been a great book introducing readers to Celtic Shamanism. Instead, it is plagued by poor writing, judgement, and terrible advice. Perhaps, this work appeals to a few. I’m sure there are Pagans who find some information from its pages to be useful, but it certainly wasn’t for me.

Each chapter has information geared towards those just starting a shamanic path. It discusses how the author uses the information in his own practice. There are examples of different practices and really awful attempts to root the practices in historical or cultural evidence. A guided meditation ends each chapter. These range from decent to meh.

Let’s start with the writing. It’s not the worst that I’ve read. It just lacks depth and quality. I feel like it was written by a very young writer. Maybe its style and tone comes from a desire to be easy for those new to Celtic Shamanism. It came across not as an easy read but a patronizing one.

Interestingly, there are a couple points where the author stresses that Shamanism is an individual path, one that you must forge your own way through. Most of the book contradicts this with statements that come across as being absolutes. Judgments about what makes for a good practice or a bad one are everywhere.

I can’t recommend this book to anyone. I’m shocked that I’ve seen it on some recommended reading lists. It couldn’t have been less my cup of tea!

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