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He Taught Us Animal-Speak…

This post was written by Elysia
on October 30, 2009 | Comments (1)

Guest post by Lupa

Of all the books Ted Andrews wrote, perhaps none was as well-known—or as often recommended—as his seminal work on neopagan animal totemism, Animal Speak. Like so many non-indigenous totemists, it was the first book I ever picked up on the topic, back in the mid-1990s when all I had access to in my small town of origin was a little hippie-owned health food store. While texts on Wicca and ceremonial magic were a bit too “spooky” for these rural folks, the warm, cuddly topic of animals was alright, wasn’t it?

Okay, maybe “warm and cuddly” isn’t the right description. But Andrews had this way of making the information accessible to just about anyone who picked it up. Additionally, he managed to find a good balance between detailed entries on what he had learned from dozens of totems, and instructions on how to apply that information in creating your own relationships with them. And while I didn’t appreciate it as much at the time, one of the things that I respect about him is that he never claimed to be doing things “like the Indians do”. Andrews presented his work as his own, and we’ve lost a wonderfully creative mind with his passing.

Perhaps most important of all was Andrews’ dedication to the animals themselves. Through his writing it was apparent that the natural world and its denizens were incredibly important to him. I always envied him his volunteer work in animal rescue and rehabilitation, too, as well as his experience in falconry. These experiences shone through in the more esoteric writings as a reminder that the spiritual information we have on totems is inextricably tied to the traits and behaviors of their physical counterparts. In short, he walked the talk, and grounded his spirituality in the living world.

My much-loved copy of Animal Speak now sits on a shelf dedicated to practical totemism and animal magic, where it keeps company with other of his works on animal magic. It’s survived eight moves, a flood, and numerous culls of my library (in which less interesting copycat dictionaries ended up getting the proverbial axe at the used bookstore). I was fortunate enough to get it signed at PantheaCon 2007, at which time I had my one and only, brief, but memorable encounter with the author himself. Since becoming an author myself a few years ago, I’ve had the privilege of getting to meet a number of authors whose works I cut my teeth on.  I really regret, especially with all the positive stories people have been telling about him, that I didn’t get the chance to talk to Andrews more than that one time.

But I am grateful for that moment, and for the springboard that his writing gave me in developing my own system of neopagan totemism. While his writing wasn’t flawless (whose is, really?), Andrews was one of those authors whose strengths—and sheer enthusiasm—more than made up for anything that could be criticized. While I can wonder what else he might have shared with his readers had he remained here longer, I am deeply thankful for what he did give us.

Lupa is a neoshaman and graduate student living in Portland, OR. She is a contributor to several of the Llewellyn annuals. She has written books on animal magic and totemism, among other topics, and may be found at http://www.thegreenwolf.com.

Reader Comments

Written By AarTiana
on November 2nd, 2009 @ 3:32 am

Well-stated Lupa, I am not sure I could have done a better job! Throughout my journey of spiritual studies, I have quite a few books by him, but Animal Speak is indeed one of my favorites by him. Though I never had the pleasure myself, many of my like-minded friends ranging all over the country had opportunities to meet him and even attend workshops he hosted. Although his work was very accessible to beginners, never did I once ever hear that he was “fluffy-bunny” or “insincere” or anything of the sort. In fact, he has received some of the highest praise that I can recall for someone being in this line of work. I am sad to see him cross over, but what a wonderful published legacy he left here for us!

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