This book initially caught my attention because when we think totems, we think animals. Not plants or fungus. Lupa explores this bias in Plant and Fungus Totems, as well as the origins of this bias and how to begin facilitating a totemism practice that incorporates more of the natural world than our fellow animals.
What makes this book so wonderful is that it provides a thorough explanation of three different approaches to totemism, as well discussion on how those three different styles of belief and practice can be blended. These styles include psychology-based and derived approaches, as well as approaches that center local bioregions and native species, and animistic approaches. Furthermore, there is no assumption about which style of belief or practice is “correct” — Lupa actively encourages readers to experiment, explore, and uncover what works best for them rather than preaching a one-size-fits-all set of beliefs and practices.
Incorporated into Plant and Fungus Totems are a series of short stories about individuals using the approaches discussed in their daily lives. This provides readers with a solid, realistic example of how these practices can be used in their own day-to-day lives, or how to begin adapting practices to suit their belief systems.
Perhaps the thing that I appreciate most about Plant and Fungus Totems is a chapter discussing the ways in which people can work both in service of the totems they work with, their local ecosystems, and broader environmentalist movements. Lupa takes a look at traditional styles of offering and gives a variety of meaningful alternatives such as donations to relevant nonprofits, volunteering, and more.
This book can serve as both a wonderful introduction to totemism, and a really good resource for experienced practitioners who want to expand their practices and deepen their connections to the natural world and the spirits they work with. It’s approachable, accessible, relatable, and enlightening — and one I highly recommend to anyone who works with totems or incorporates animism into their spiritual practice.
[Reviewed by Tahni Nikitins. Nikitins is beginning to lose track of how long she has been a practicing pagan, but she believes that it’s been somewhere around eight years. She recently became a devotee of Loki, but continues to work with deities and spirits from many pantheons. She often honors the deities and spirits she works with by telling stories for and about them in her art and writing. Some of her work has been featured in Huginn, Lilith: Queen of the Desert and Unto Herself: A Devotional Anthology for Independent Goddesses. She often shares snippets of writing at tahnijnikitins.deviantart.com.]