As everyone is a part of nature, so is nature a part of everyone. Everything is connected. In the conclusion of Animal Speak, Ted Andrews writes:
“Every animal is a wonder that helps remind us of our own wonderfulness. When we see one aspect of the world with new eyes, we begin to see ourselves with new eyes as well. All of Nature is our totem. Every animal. Every plant. Every time an animal or plant becomes extinct or threatened, the world loses some of its beauty, and we, some of ours. Every time we see the uniqueness of one animal or plant, we also discover something new and unique about ourselves” (p 368).
Through the ages, people have donned animal skins and masks to assist in aligning themselves with animals’ energies. Doing so was used for prophesy, helping with the hunt, and honoring the animals or the deities with whom they were associated. “As quiet as a mouse” and “eyes like a hawk” were used in reference to me recently. Ironically, hawks enjoy a good meal of mice. One of the starting points for shifting one’s energy, or shapeshifting, is becoming familiar with the other’s characteristics and energy.
In Animal Speak, Andrews provides some interesting general information about animals, their mythology and folklore, and their symbolism. There are also exercises for meditation, working with animal medicine, and meeting one’s totems. Birds, mammals, insects, and reptiles and amphibians have their own sections, which makes for easy finding. Because there are millions of species worldwide, Andrews only covers those native to North America, with a few exceptions.
Overall, Animal Speak is akin to attending a 101 class, more so if one is already familiar with its subject matter. It’s simplistic and fairly elementary reading, for example:
“The frog is our most recognizable amphibian. Though often confused with toads, there is a distinct difference. Frogs are associated with water, while toads are always found on dry land. Frogs have a smooth surface, and toads have a bumpy skin surface. Toads also have glands (paratoid) on the side of the head which make a thick mucous that is poisonous. Frogs do not” (p 356).
Although I’ve occasionally read bits and pieces of Animal Speak through the years, it was nothing more than a resource. After a conversation about going back to basics and reading Shape Shifting by John Perkins, I felt it time to read its 369 pages. I learned a bit and improved at recognizing birds. Due to Animal Speak‘s academic nature, I took my time gleaning its information, usually reading no more than ten pages in one sitting. It’s good for those nights when one is brain-tired or is unable to read “just one more chapter”.
Whether I’ll follow up by reading one of my other resources, D.J. Conway’s Animal Magick, I haven’t yet decided. They’re along the same lines, but both include animals and information the other does not. They are also both published by Llewyllen, which is more interested in quantity not quality and hooking the Wanna-Wicca-bes. Either way, I’m content to have them on the shelf. If anyone has any better recommendations, please let me know.