Religion Laid Bear by Alan Leddon is both a history of the ancient bear cult and a guide for modern pagans, heathens, and shamans to bear spirituality. It examines forty deities descended from the ancient bear god. The book also includes rituals and other information for the modern practitioner.
Leddon postulates that the bear god was the first god of humanity, and that this god was a goddess, taking on gender about 40,000 years ago. The cave bear was a large and powerful creature, and would have been quite impressive. The Bear as Great Mother Goddess is common to cultures across Europe, Asia, and the Americas. In northern climates, when the bear was hibernating, the sun and the vegetation of the earth were asleep, too, and the bear hibernated in a cave, a connection with the underworld. As humans transitioned from a hunting and gathering to an agricultural lifestyle, the bear cult waned in favor of the cow cult, but some bear cult traditions survive even today.
The book has exercises for the student of bear shamanism. Some of these are the same as basic magical and shamanic exercises from other systems, and some are bear specific. The book also connects magical theory to modern theories of physics. There is information on the natural history of bears, and on the history of human interaction with bears, including hunting them and using them for entertainment. There are meditations and spells for each of several species of European, American, and Asiatic bears.
There is also a section on how to behave in the modern world, including a long section on child rearing. A chapter tells how to make ritual tools, including a bear costume and a spear like the type that would have been used to hunt the ancient bear. The chapter on ritual is obviously adapted from Wiccan ritual, including casting a circle and invoking the four quarters, and borrows some phrases from Wiccan ritual such as how to invite and let go of the presence of the gods. It also discusses issues those who come from a Wiccan background may wonder about, such as the question of ritual nudity, and ritual variations tied to astrology. This section may be of less interest to non-Wiccans than the other sections. Another chapter advises how to help natural bears in today’s world. The book concludes with a list of websites and books for further reading.
The author and publisher of this book donate a percentage of the profits to bear conservation. I highly recommend this book.
[Erin Lale is the Acquisitions Editor at Eternal Press and Damnation Books. Her writing and publishing career began in 1985. She has an extensive list of published nonfiction, fiction, poetry, etc. In the print era she was the editor and publisher of Berserkrgangr Magazine and owned The Science Fiction Store, and she publishes the shared world Time Yarns.]