There are many books about animals in general and even several about totem animals and animal guardians but Shadow Animals puts a whole new spin on it. The author invites you to come to terms with the animals and insects you don't count as your friends or helpers. This book is about confronting and learning to deal with the ones that scare the living bejesus out of you.

What is meant by the shadow animal? The author explains it best when she says, "it's the hidden aspect of our personality that we prefer not to identify with.. It can have to do with shame or guilt, greed or arrogance, weakness or incompetence. We keep them hidden away deep in our psyche.Herein lie our secret fears, suppressed emotions. hidden prejudices and dark beliefs that we've stuffed inside the animal or animals we fear and loathe.. Those animals want us to know them because they too, are who we are. "

The book is very much a DIY (do-it-yourself) therapy book.And it's a fascinating journey. The first part introduces you to animals as teachers and guides. The animals offer messages tailored to your needs. The second part shows a variety of animals that many think of as shadowy: spiders, snakes, bats and rats.. Even some domesticated and harmless animals. There are 13 of them and exercises for working with them.

This is not is not the book you take to bed with you at night. Remember as a kid, there were certain fairy-tale books you'd open cautiously because lurking insideĀ  were scary drawings on certain pages? And you didn't want them to jump out at you? Be forewarned! This book is lavishly illustrated and contains a myriad of photographs not for the faint of heart.

This book is very psychological and you are almost forced to confront your fears. It will make you uncomfortable. But as the physical fitness folk say, no pain, no gain. A unique suggestion for dealing with the shadow, or shadows, is to invite them to a tea party to chat like you did when you were a child and started to formulate shadow animals. From there, you can all vent, gripe, bitch, complain and really get to know each other. Explore your likes and dislikes, favorite things,talents, the whole gamut.

We intuitively sense the playfulness, protection and power in animals when we give our children stuffed animals that are teddy bears. Or tigers or elephants or polar bears, We name our sports teams after them: Detroit Tigers, Miami Dolphins, Chicago Bulls, Cincinnati Bengals.

The last two chapters seem disjointed but they're really not. The author cleverly weaves them into the theme of the book. While you're doing some deep soul-searching, you're presented with how the ancient and earthy goddess got replaced by a sky god. And why. It's eye-opening. Then while you'reĀ  wrapping your head around that one, the final chapter deals with allegories and the masks we wear and how the former president presented his shadow animals.

~review by Judy Blackstone

Author: Dawn Baumann Brunke
Inner Traditions, 2022
323 pp.