Animals of the Soul – Joseph Epes Brown

Animals of the Soul: Sacred Animals of the Oglala Sioux
Joseph Epes Brown
Element Books Ltd., 1997
142 pages

This book is on my Top Ten Most Underappreciated Books on Animal Magic. It’s a wonderful guide to Lakhota totemism, both the structure of it, and why certain animals are considered sacred.

While it isn’t a full treatise on the traditional culture by far, Brown does a good job of explaining the background context for the specific beliefs. The variety of animals described is nice, too. Along with larger animals like Wolf and Deer, Rabbit and the other small animals of the field are also described. The significance of Buffalo to this culture is given particular attention.

There are some surprises, too. Most neopagan totem dictionaries see Deer as a wholly positive animal. However, according to Brown, for the Lakhota Deer is a dual creature being both capable of kind and malignant properties; this is attributed partly to the Deer’s forked horns. Also, Fox is described as the smaller, gentler, more feminine version of Wolf, which rang true for me.

Again, be sure to supplement this book with others on traditional Lakhota culture. But this is an excellent addition to any neopagan totemist’s book shelf.

Five pawprints out of five.

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