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Sacred Medicine of Bee, Butterfly, Earthworm, and Spider

Shamanic Teachers of the Instar Medicine Wheel

by Linda Star Wolf and Anna Cariad-Barrett
Bear & Company, 2013

Reviewed by Kathy Eckert

Energies from the tiny animals mentioned in the title become vehicles for issues as immense as global transformation in this book. The thesis herein is that individual and, by extension, global transformation is possible through imaginative and shamanic use of the Instar Medicine Wheel, on which the totemic powers of insects and similar species may be accessed. The ecological foundation is shown to have its roots in diverse cultural traditions, including teachings of southwestern Native American elders, psychological premises of C. G. Jung, beliefs of the Mediterranean and Minoan cultures, Mayan philosophy, Hindu thought and ancient Egyptian writings. Perspectives of the authors are enriched by their own teachers, such as Wolf Clan Grandmother Twylah Nitach of the Seneca tribe, teacher and mentor of Linda Star Wolf.

The purpose of this review is to examine the book's success in meeting its own stated objectives, as well as in the potential appeal to the reader of its organization, writing style and clarity. The authors facilitate the analysis of meeting their own goals by making statements describing specific positive outcomes that will result from use of their system.

One of these assertions is that shamanic journeying with the animals described will reveal through each animal's social patterns their teachings regarding transformation and sacred purpose for the individual. In the discussion of the Earthworm, this goal is seen to be effectively accomplished. The parallel is drawn between the Earthworm's actions and personal transformation. The Earthworm, the book tells us, creates aerated and nutrient-rich earth from its ingestion and excretion of decayed matter. The book goes on to say that we can, through meditation on this action, transform the negative feelings from our past experiences into the potential for greater good.

Another of these stated objectives is the unlocking of personal identity. In this case, the illustration through the described animal action seems less effective. The Butterfly is the animal whose actions are described as related to this phenomenon. When the larva reaches the final stage of metamorphosis, we read, the animal turns inward to isolation, and the larval body is essentially dissolved, replaced by the adult butterfly. As an illustration of identity development, this appears to be somewhat lacking. The implication is that we must progress, not by knowing ourselves and growing through that knowledge but by simply changing, abandoning the past without dealing with its issues. This does not suggest a strong indicator of grasping one's identity.

In terms of organizational factors, this book is largely successful. The layout of chapters from the Dedication to the Bibliography follows a simple and straightforward sequential order. It is easy to locate specific topics, both in the Contents and in the Index. There is one area, however, where the organizational effectiveness is less successful. The book is accompanied by a CD of cricket songs, with meditation allowing personal vocal involvement in their song of life. However, this CD is not mentioned until over halfway through the book, and the two-page description of the CD's content and creator does not appear until the last two pages of the book. This makes the CD seem like somewhat of an after-thought, rather than an essential part of the system of transformation.

The style of this book is one that would suggest widespread appeal. It was easy to understand. The parallels between animal metamorphosis and personal transformation are drawn in a way that is not only straightforward but often emotive. For example, the discussion of the Butterfly includes the description of butterflies found carved into the walls of concentration camps by the soldiers liberating the camps after World War II. This description of hopes for transforming beyond death to a new, happier life is only a sentence or two long, but it is powerfully stated, leaving a positive impression of the potential symbolized by the journey of the butterfly, despite the logical lapse previously cited in this review.

Notwithstanding the occasional lapses mentioned in the preceding paragraphs, the overall impression left by this book is one of hope and possibility. The beginning metaphor of small, misunderstood animals leading to transformation of the parts of ourselves that we may see as small and demeaning is sustained throughout. I would recommend this book as a resource of interest to anyone interested in personal development through shamanic journeying.