Sunday, August 11, 2013

Hearth Moon Rising's Book About Animals and Goddesses

Invoking Animal Magic: A Guide for the Pagan Priestess by Hearth Moon Rising (Moon Books/John Hunt Publishing 2013) trade paperback, 341 pages.

Invoking Animal Magic is an extraordinary book, richly written and chock full of information and inspiration related to goddesses (and some gods) and the creatures with which they’re associated. The author, Hearth Moon Rising, is a Dianic priestess and is also ordained by the Fellowship of Isis. She lives in New York’s Adirondack Mountains, where she teaches magic.

Hearth begins the book, not with the usual Introduction, but by jumping right into the mythological/mystical/magical substance of the book with the first section of Chapter 1: Creatures of the Underworld. This initial section, titled "Snake Dreams," is about living with snakes and relates them and their symbolism to the goddesses of various cultures including (but not limited to) Roman, Greek, Cretan, Minoan, and Maltese. The next two sections, "The Hag and the Serpent" (about Cailleach) and "The Transformation of the Seer," (about Athena and Tiresias) are stories Hearth has written, drawing from mythology. This is followed by a "Snake Review," useful particularly for people studying this material on their own as well as for those who may teach this material. The next section, "Approaching Animal Magic," contains what I would consider an overall introduction to the material in this book (in this review, I will refer to similar sections as "explanatory sections"). In it, Hearth writes: "This guide is designed to help you get a better ‘feel’ for the subject....Instead of memorizing, categorizing, and referencing, you will need to concentrate on experiencing, understanding and imagining." To me, this explains why she placed the mythical and mystical material before what we might call the intellectual material that appears in this section, and it certainly works for me. What a breath of fresh air to experience–feel–before we intellectualize. Certainly it is appropriate for this book. She also recommends that you have within reach while reading the book "a pencil with a good eraser," and remarks that "you might find a highlighter useful." Definitely. You should see my highlighting in this book—in some places it’s hard to see a non-highlighted line. This chapter’s next section, "Such A Deal," retells a legend about sibyls. The final section of the first chapter, "Musings on a Multi-Patterned Scale," contains exercises related to ritual and magical work.

There are 7 sections in each of the the book’s 9 chapters, and the structure of each chapter is similar: mythological/mystical section about Goddesses and animals, followed by retelling of myths, followed by a review of the material up to that point, followed by an explanatory section (always the third from the last), followed by other myths or legends, and ending with a "Musings" section. Chapter 2: Creatures of the Womb focuses on bats; its explanatory section is "The Animal Mother Goddess." Chapter 3: Creatures of the Soil focuses on mice (including Mickey Mouse) and ants. Its explanatory chapter is "What is a Magical Animal?" In answering this question, Hearth writes: "In plain speaking, an animal is any mammal that isn't human. Pagan magic accepts and expands the biological definition of animal, including birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, arthropods, non-human mammals, and humans...along with mermaids, unicorns and dragons."

Chapter 4, Creatures of the Dream World focuses on bears (including Yogi Bear). Its explanatory chapter is "The Animal Guided Meditation, part one," which gives instructions for an audio guided meditation that can be found here. "The Animal Guided Meditation, part two," is the explanatory section of the Chapter 5 and contains suggestions for making the most of the meditation. These suggestions may be applicable to expanding your work with other meditations as well. This chapter, titled Creatures of the Night, focuses mainly on owls. Chapter 6: Creatures of the Long Journey focuses mainly on toads and frogs; its explanatory chapter is "What Kind of Animal Are You?" Chapter 7: Creatures of Silence focuses mainly on spiders. Its explanatory chapter is "Them Lyin’ Critters."  Chapter 8: Creatures of Transformation focuses on hares and rabbits (including Bugs Bunny), with a few nods to tortoises and cows. Its explanatory section is, "If it looks like a Duck, It Could Still Be a Witch." Chapter 9: Creatures of the Otherworld focuses on dogs, wolves and werewolves. Its explanatory chapter is "Wolf Bane, Wolf Brew."

Although each chapter highlights particular animals, the book is not limited to them; among the animals also appearing in this book are bees, birds, cattle, dolphins, horses, fish, deer, foxes, horses, jackals, lions, sheep, and lambs. The book also discusses mythical creatures and many many goddesses. It is illustrated with black and white pictures throughout. The after-matter includes very helpful appendixes on "Heroes and Deities", and "Ancient People and Places," followed by one page of Notes and then an extensive bibliography, filmography, and a very adequate index.

Invoking Animal Magic appears to be Hearth Moon Rising’s first book. It is extremely well written, clear yet with depth and humor. Its writing appears effortless (though usually writing that appears effortless has taken a lot of thought)—certainly it is easy to read, with its fine organization adding to the reader’s enjoyment. I hope we will be seeing more books from Hearth! In the meantime, we have her blog.

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Judith Laura

More blogs about /goddess/feminist theology/spiritual feminism/pagan/feminist spirituality/.