Lynn Andrews,
Spirit Woman:
The Teachings of the Shields

(Penguin Putnam, 2002)

originally published as
Flight of the Seventh Moon
(Harper & Row, 1984)

Spirit Woman: The Teachings of the Shields is the continuing story of how a white woman from Los Angeles, Lynn Andrews, served an apprenticeship to Agnes Whistling Elk, a Cree medicine woman from Manitoba, Canada. This is the second book about her apprenticeship. The previous book, Medicine Woman, relates the story of how Andrews became involved in Native American medicine and was inducted into the Sisterhood of the Shields, a secret society of native women. She had to outsmart a sorcerer, Red Dog, to retrieve her stolen "sacred marriage basket," which contained her feminine energy.

Spirit Woman begins with an attempt by Red Dog to kill Andrews, who goes back to Agnes Whistling Elk for help. Agnes tells her she will have to seek the teachings of fellow medicine woman Ruby Plenty Chiefs, but Andrews believes that Ruby Plenty Chiefs does not like her and will not help her. This is the story of how Andrews faced her fears and learned how to create protective shields for herself, while learning the deeper philosophical meaning of the transformations that occur within a person as they journey around the Wheel.

The elements are here for a good story. It drags and lags, becoming downright boring at times, but overall, it is an interesting read as a fantasy. Andrews has been praised for providing "a beautiful study of an unfamiliar culture." Even the American Library Association mentioned how she provides "the glimpse ... of an unfamiliar culture."

Yet, by her own admission, Andrews has met much resistance from Native Americans, as well as others. It is no wonder that the Native Americans have opposed these books. She is no more a medicine woman than one of my goldfish! She is a widely published author (18 books and counting) who disperses feminist propaganda in the guise of Native American medicine. It is appalling to the average Native American. No, ludicrous is a better word. If you carried this woman into the wilderness and sliced her thigh, she would bleed to death while there were a dozen natural styptics growing all around her. That is not a medicine woman.

Furthermore, what is a "warrioress?" Webster does not acknowledge the word and neither do any of the Native Americans I spoke with. It is a made-up word for a made-up shaman -- or would that be "shamaness?" This is a case of a woman seeking some type of self-gratification and ego-enhancement, not to mention a quick book with lots of free PR. This is why all the reviewers continue to mention that "unfamiliar culture" -- nobody has ever heard of a Native American culture that had a "warrioress" clan. It must be that "secret society" thing.

If you want to read a work of fantasy and wild fiction, get a copy of this one. It is a decent pleasure read. But please, do not buy it with the thoughts that it will help transform you into a shaman. At best, you would be transformed into a warrioress or shamaness ... which is definitely not a part of Native American culture!

- Rambles
written by Alicia Karen Elkins
published 1 March 2003

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