Most spirit animal books fall into the shamanic or New Age categories so the perspective of a modern British pagan hedge witch stands out. Animal Magic is an easy to read introduction to the basic concepts of spirit animals, followed by the meanings of some of the more common spirit animals. Rachel Patterson makes it clear that this form of working with animal spirit is found around the world and is accessible to anyone with an interest.
The exercise to find your spirit animal is a standard journey meditation. I like that she gives a guide to discovering more about your animal, no matter what animal you find, through a series of questions. Rather than rely on book knowledge, she encourages a process of self-discovery and building relationship with the animals that appear. She recognizes that all animals have positive and negative traits and one should be cognizant of how these animal traits affect the person who works with them. Some of the questions ask about the animal's cycle of power, habitat, mating habits, food. The connection to the living, breathing animals is never forgotten. The magical, mythical animals such as griffins, phoenixes and unicorns are also given their due.
The chapter on shapeshifting discusses the purpose of becoming an animal, how to do this through a visualization and warns of ways in which this can be disagreeable. I don't think a book of this type would be complete without shapeshifting but recommend that beginners take the authors advice not to do this lightly. Animal spirits can be wild and crude. Get to know your animal spirits well before trying to see the world through their eyes. After introducing the medicine wheel system, an exercise called the Pentacle Medicine Wheel shows how to find 9 Medicine Pentacle Spirit Animals. I've seen different variations on this theme before. For pagan practitioners, this familiar imagery may be what is needed to get comfortable with a new practice.
What differs from other animal spirit books is the pagan magical knowledge; how to work animals into spells, animals in divination and omens, animal parts in traditional magic and animal magic in ritual. The section on ritual presents the elemental categorization of animals into earth, air, fire and water and the associations of different animals with the Western, Chinese and Celtic zodiacs. My only complaint here is that for some reason Aquarius was skipped. The chapter on Animal Deities is really more of a compendium of animal and God/Goddess associations which while wide-ranging is too short to be anything more than a nod.
The last section, animal meanings, is a short description of the qualities and lessons that an animal may represent. This section is about a quarter of the book. Each animal has about a paragraph. If you find a dragon spirit animal, you probably will want to find more resources as it is stated that they come in many varieties and a paragraph would not do them justice. Truly, once a relationship is developed with any of the animals, these short descriptions will seem rudimentary.
Recommended as an introduction. Patterson is easy to read and provides interesting insights into her personal relationships with spirit animals.
~review by Larissa Carlson Viana
Author: Rachel Patterson
Moon Books, 2017
pp. 99, $10.95