Column: Two Reviews on Reiki and Spiritual Animals

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Today’s post comes from one of our international correspondents, Alan D.D., who presents two reviews of books on Reiki that he has recently made use of in his personal practice.

In Focus Reiki, Des Hynes

Last year I decided to study Reiki, a complementary healing therapy performed through the laying on of hands. It had caught my attention some time ago, but I was only able to begin my studies recently. Currently, I have a master level in two systems, Reiki Usui Shiki Ryoho, or Tibetan, and Angelic Reiki.

[In Focus Reiki, by Des Hynes, Wellfleet Press, 2019]

Since then, I have been looking for more information about the system to nurture me in my practice, as well to offer as recommendations when teaching in the future. In Focus Reiki: Your Personal Guide by Des Hynes was a wise choice for this. Although it is a simple reading and does not go into exhaustive detail, it offers enough information both to refresh one’s previous knowledge and to go a little further.

This book is focused on the first and second level of Reiki, Shoden and Okuden, respectively, and talks about how to correctly give the first steps in our training as Reiki therapists. In Focus Reiki offers both theory and practice to achieve this, seeking that the initiate can first develop an effective practice for themselves and then direct their work toward other people.

In addition to being a relatively short book that takes little time to complete, mainly because of the illustrations that make the process much lighter, Des Hynes has a direct style. The author writes in fairly simple language that is easy to understand, and the work is not full of flourishes that could confuse the reader. It is especially useful for first or second level practitioners; I would say even the third level in some cases.

Many times we get carried away by complicated language, elaborate metaphors, and empty words, thinking that reading them gives us a certain prestige or makes us better readers. While it is true that our vocabulary grows, this style can take us out of reading many times, and it has happened to me with several spiritual books. The essence is lost among so much decoration, but it is something that doesn’t happen in In Focus Reiki.

Des Hynes could certainly write a sequel to this initial book that encompasses the third level and mastery in Reiki. Hynes has a good handling of information, although making it more broad would not hurt. It was the only thing I found unsatisfactory, that some chapters seemed shorter than they should be, although this does not happen so often. Since it is an introductory book, I also doubt that anyone in the target audience is bothered by the lack of more details.

Although I had some doubts before reading this book, In Focus Reiki: Your Personal Guide proved to be a good choice, and I find it useful both for initiates and those who are not yet involved in the practice of Reiki, either because they don’t know anything about it, or because they want to understand more about this therapy. Des Hynes offers enough answers to many questions, but leaves enough space to arouse the curiosity of readers and encourage them to learn more.

The Illustrated Bestiary, Maia Toll

When I earned a sensei level in Angelic Reiki, I didn’t expect to start seeing and feeling spiritual animals in my therapy. Every time I applied the techniques I had learned, regardless of whether or not I followed the exact protocols, some spiritual animal manifested itself to support me. Since then, I have been researching and reading about these creatures to find out what each one is responsible for and be able to ask for their help if needed.

[The Illustrated Bestiary, by Maia Toll, illustrated by Kate O’Hara, Storey Publishing, LLC, 2019]

Regarding this, The Illustrated Bestiary: Guidance and Rituals from 36 Spirited Animals, by Maia Toll, has been very helpful. Although the book accompanies a set of oracular cards, it offers enough help for broader cases, giving the reader basic information about the meaning of each of the animals it contains as well as including rituals and simple tasks to connect with their energy.

I have noticed that some of the meanings with which I was working left aside several sides and aspects of the animals in question. I knew that bees, for example, were symbols of teamwork and divination, but I did not see their relationship to communication; nor did I realize that the fox, besides being a cunning psychopomp, a messenger between the living and the dead, can symbolize transformation and the ability to get lost in one’s surroundings; or that spiders, who teach us to be creative, dedicated, and patient, ask that we see beyond what is at first sight.

I’m already applying some of the concepts Maia Toll includes in The Illustrated Bestiary, with favorable results. Although I read the digital version, and therefore I cannot use the oracular cards, I have no reason to believe that a divination session with this deck would give me different results, besides perhaps attaining a better understanding and connection with these animals by being able to visualize them more clearly.

When I’m asked, I always say that I don’t see spirits with my eyes open, but rather I perceive their energy and location by closing them and focusing my senses. I take a couple of deep breaths, I do my prayers, I call my guides, and soon they appear in my mind. I visualize the place where I am and find they start showing up next to me. Sometimes they come with messages or perform acts or gestures that, after I interpret them, imply that they helped in the healing of a patient.

Even the atmosphere changes when these animal guides make an appearance during a Reiki session. While it is always essential to clean and protect both the space and the patient before starting, which makes everything feel lighter, when an animal spirit appears, the atmosphere acquires a different air. Reptiles and mammals almost always make it warmer, but it becomes cooler if insects or birds appear. In addition to this, I feel as if a weight is off my shoulders; I breathe more calmly and feel accompanied.

Maia Toll made The Illustrated Bestiary a simple book to understand and follow, in addition to including only four pages per animal, one of which is a full illustration of the animal in question. This makes reading much faster and more entertaining. While the length of description is small compared to other books, it is impossible not to be curious to go further and expand one’s knowledge.

Regarding art, Kate O’Hara does an amazing job with each of the illustrations. Animal after animal is reflected in a metaphorical and symbolic way, without losing a sense of aesthetics, what each one means, and leaving room for secondary interpretations – those of the readers – as they become familiar with these creatures. The details are so striking that one can get lost seeing each of them.

There is also the choice of colors. Even  little ones may be interested in The Illustrated Bestiary. It’s not just that Maia Toll includes simple and direct descriptions; Kate O’Hara also made sure that the images were striking through an aesthetic of fantasy and mysticism. The air of innocence throughout will capture the youngest and make adults dream of their childhood.

This is a book to which I will return again and again to refresh and rediscover my guides, the spiritual animals. Maia Toll and Kate O’Hara have created a jewel with The Illustrated Bestiary, a small treasure for those interested in divination as well as spiritual therapies – it is magical and captivating.


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The views and opinions expressed by our diverse panel of columnists and guest writers represent the many diverging perspectives held within the global Pagan, Heathen and polytheist communities, but do not necessarily reflect the views of The Wild Hunt Inc. or its management.