The title of this book is a bit off-putting, especially in the age of appropriating indigenous lore for lucrative purposes. So I will admit that when I first was offered this book to review, I was concerned that it would end up being a New Age hodge-podge of “Native American” lore, perhaps mixed in with some 2012 fabrications or connections to Atlantis. I am quite happy to say that I was pleasantly surprised.
This is an absolutely wonderful collection of legend and lore from the six nations in the Iroquois Confederacy of the Northeast United States. Rather than being presented as “super-secret mysteries”, the tales are instead presented as a well-organized collection that any folklorist would have on a shelf. The ancient stories are mixed with more modern anecdotes, and while the skeptical may wish a grain of salt as to the veracity of some of the more wild stories, it’s a lovely look into these cultures’ storytelling traditions old and new.
Part of the focus is, as the subtitle suggests, specifically on supernatural animals and spiritual powers. Along with a variety of shapeshifters and sacred ritualists, the reader is treated to tales of monsters and other strange beings, powerful places, and the power of dreams. Each chapter includes a good blend of historical background, old stories, and modern anecdotes, showing that these traditions are far from dead and buried.
I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys folklore in general and wants something a little out of the ordinary in the publishing world. Additionally, those who are interested in shapeshifting and other animal magics may find some good reference material here. And really, the entire book is just a well-written good read all around, something to take on a flight or train ride, or curl up with on a chilly winter’s eve.
~Review by Lupa
Authors: Michael Bastine and Mason Winfield
Bear & Company, 2011
pp. 378 pages, $20.00