Animal Speak: The Spiritual & Magical Powers of Creatures Great & Small
Llewellyn Publications, 1996
This is pretty much the classic neopagan totem dictionary. It gets more recommendations to newbies looking for totemic reading material than any other, and there’s good reason for this. It’s a thorough introduction to finding and working with totem animals, and had, at the time of its publication, the most complete listing of animal totems available.
Rather than just sticking to Big, Impressive North American Mammals and Birds, Andrews gives the totemic qualities of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and even insects from around the world. He gives a number of excellent exercises designed to help the practitioner strengthen the bond with hir totem once the connection has been made, and the entire book is written with respect for this relationship.
I do think he sometimes goes overboard on specific details. For example, he makes a bigger deal out of the fact that certain animals have the color red on them instead of blue, and then pulls in the human associations of red. I interpret it instead as red being the best color for attracting a mate or scaring off predators, depending on what animal we’re talking about. But he does rely heavily on interpreting animal behavior, which I think is a much more solid area of study.
I also like that he didn’t pull a Medicine Cards and talk about how he was teaching “genuine Native American totemism” and throwing around “medicine” and “all my relations” and so forth. I have talked to at least one other person whose opinion I respect who thought that Andrews was still a little too much on the side of cultural appropriation, but I think this is still a big improvement over previous (and later) works that try to be “noble savage totemism”. The cover is probably the worst of it, IMO, but I can see arguments otherwise.
Overall, it’s pretty easy to see why this book is so popular. It’s not the only alternative out there, and a lot of people have tried to copy it. I’d recommend it to beginners along with Yasmine Galenorn’s Totem Magic.
Four and a half pawprints out of five.