For those of you who haven’t come across the 19th century Japanese word tsundoku, it’s a wonderful term that in my case has resulted in liberation from the guilt of often buying more books than I’m able to read at one time (the English equivalent bibliomania sounds too much like a disease for my taste!). There’s at least a shelf-and-a-half (and probably several other smaller piles in all honesty) of reading material that’s waiting in the wings. Generally I keep the newest items on the bottom and the oldest on top to try to ensure that I’m not distracted by the New Shiny. But when Dana O’Driscoll’s Sacred Actions arrived, it immediately went next to the reading chair and bypassed the tsundoku piles entirely.
First off, this book is just plain, frickin’ gorgeous on a design level—which shouldn’t be a surprise since O’Driscoll is an accomplished artist as well as author. Her art graces the interior as whimsical border designs and inspirational diagrams—no prefab clipart here! The lightweight cardboard cover doubles as a dust jacket, to which the end papers are attached, and the binding is sewn, not just glued. As a book nerd, I greatly appreciate all the attention to detail that went into the physical book itself. It’s simple, clean, and elegant.
Next, can we talk about content? Over the past decade, esoteric publishers finally have been listening to readers who want something beyond the 101 level. Much of this has been prompted by the birth of completely new companies (e.g., Scarlet Imprint) who have shown there is a market for volumes that are both beautiful and richly deep in their subject matter. Although Schiffer Publishing (of which Red Feather in an imprint) is far from a newcomer to the publishing scene, Sacred Actions in both packaging and content taps into this Renaissance of form and function.
I admit, I was a little nervous when I heard Sacred Actions was going to be “another” wheel of the year book—I should have had more faith. O’Driscoll takes a completely fresh and local perspective on the eight seasonal holidays of the Neopagan calendar. This isn’t just a book you read, it’s a book you DO. Counterintuitively, its specificity to the Allegheny bioregion makes it easily applicable to people outside that area because the focus is on process rather than result.
And that’s the key, I think. Focus on process. O’Driscoll’s emphasis on small incremental changes, her acknowledgement of differing economic and social situations, and her pure joy in sharing techniques and experiences are what makes this book accessible to people from multiple backgrounds and abilities. She is passionate without being preachy—and that’s a difficult thing to achieve in a book like this. O’Driscoll presents a satisfying mix of facts and personal anecdotes to guide the reader through the beginning stages of untangling the unhealthy and increasingly fragile web of supply-chain dependency in which most of us in the West find ourselves entangled.
While certainly accessible to a beginner, O’Driscoll’s book is deeply satisfying for those who are looking for something to enrich their established practices. Of particular delight are the exercises and rituals that conclude each chapter; they are clearly written and while an underlying knowledge of ritual frameworks can add a layer or three of understanding, there is nothing a complete beginner couldn’t perform.
O’Driscoll’s work is unsurprisingly informed by her extensive experience with Revival Druidry (as of this writing she is the sitting Grand Archdruid of the AODA). One form this takes are Triads (such as “Earth care, people care, fair share”), positioned at key points in the text to help distill nuanced and subtle concepts into a form for meditation and internalization. Sacred Actions provides nearly unlimited opportunities to engage deeply with the material and challenges presented.
Additionally, Sacred Actions gets a Research Bunny Rating of five carrots for for diverse bibliography, thorough endnotes (although I would have preferred footnotes, but that a minor quibble to say the least), lack of typographical errors, clarity of arguments, and presentation of new concepts. The overall Druidic Excellence Rating is five golden sickles for applicability, groundedness, insight, accessibility, and Awen.
To sum up, if your spiritual practice centers the Earth and her wellbeing, Sacred Actions will quickly become a go-to book on your shelf. For its practical advice and clear-eyed vision alone, this work is something special. It feeds the mind, heart, and soul while simultaneously teaching how to nourish the body in a manner fair to all beings. O’Driscoll presents seeds to the reader, which with care and feeding will flourish in the both the physical and metaphysical gardens.
This is a good one, folks. Read it. Love it. DO it.
O’Driscoll, D. 2021. Sacred Actions: Living the Wheel of the Year through Earth-Centered Sustainable Practices. Atglen, PA: Read Feather Mind, Body, Spirit.
Golden Sickles: 🪄🪄🪄🪄🪄
Research Bunny Carrots: 🥕🥕🥕🥕🥕
(Full disclosure: I am friends with the author and received a review copy of the book.)