Mara Freeman is already known in Druidic and Western Magical circles as the founder and director of the Avalon Mystery School, and her life’s work has been to offer seekers on the path a profound route into their personal quest. Her earlier book, Kindling the Celtic Spirit is one of my handbooks for living the sacred wheel of the year, and I was keen to read her latest book, Grail Alchemy (Initiation in the Celtic Mystery Tradition), published by Destiny Books.
Some books illuminate as you read; as if there are dark shafts and closed chambers within our minds which need a key to access the locks and a torch to light the sconces. No wonder Eastern sages describe such a process as ‘enlightenment’. Sometimes, as I’m reading a book that opens my thinking in this way, I can physically feel the lights going on and the doors swinging wide. Often, this involves no words, not even within introspective thought. Which is why the experience of bringing an inner journey into full consciousness cannot be properly described; it is too profound for our lexicon.
I knew, as I began to read Grail Alchemy, that it would be a work of scholarship. Freeman’s careful research, combined with an attractive writing style that is never difficult to read, allows this – perhaps the most enigmatic story we have in the west – to be fully comprehended as history, literature, legend and, above all, myth. The book’s format explores the myriad symbols connected to the Grail…Fisher Kings and Loathly Ladies, cauldrons and silver branches among so many others. As reader, I was able to engage with these to discover meaning in both my inner life, and the life of the world; a profound method of making sense of how humankind inhabits this planet.
Early in Grail Alchemy, Freeman speaks of using ‘focus’ and ‘imagination’. The depth of that instruction is possibly one core of the book’s messages. By entering the ‘language of the soul’ through the exercises, meditations, VisionJourneys and rituals contained within the book, pursuing a meaning to the Grail becomes a personal quest that certainly connected me to my deepest inner parts, and from there, to moments where I felt able to reach the spirit of the Divine. This is not achieved by the physical act of reading the book, thoughtful commentary though it is, but through the work the reader will do around the text, including using that combination of concentration of will and the creative imagery of the mind to walk into the world of the beautifully spoken guided journeys that accompany the text. My intention is to return to each ‘VisionJourney’ time after time, reaching deeper into their magic.
Freeman recently was quoted as saying ‘As the Soul of the World is feminine, so is the individual soul within each of us, so that to seek the Grail is to go in quest of the essential Self which has been devalued and disregarded in a world that values the material over the spiritual.’ I truly felt this, as I worked through the book, which for me has become a cypher to aid initiation into deeper mysteries not easily tapped – an unravelling which results in bolts being pulled back and sconces being lit within the mind.
Joseph Campbell called the Grail ‘the founding myth of Western civilization’, and Freeman’s working of this myth creates a possibility for the reader; that of truly being part of the spiritual path of the Grail traditions. This book feels exquisitely wise and, for the reader, transformative and inspiring.