The Illustrated Bestiary

Guidance and Rituals from 36 Inspiring Animals


By Maia Toll

Illustrated by Kate O’Hara

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  1. Hardcover $19.95 $24.95 CAD
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This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around October 1, 2019. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

Author and spiritual wellness guide Maia Toll turns the insight and wisdom that birthed The Illustrated Crystallary and The Illustrated Herbiary — her best-selling volume on the mystical power of plants — to the mysteries of the animal kingdom. She profiles the mystical, meaningful traits of 36 powerful animals and explores how those traits can guide our intentions, inform our actions, and offer wisdom and insight. Spring Peeper’s ability to reemerge from frozen hibernation can inspire us to reinvent ourselves. Katydid’s five eyes can lend clarity of vision when we need to see the bigger picture. A deck of 36 oracle cards beautifully illustrated by Kate O'Hara, plus suggested rituals, readings, and reflections, guide readers in cultivating and accessing each animal’s special energy.

Also available: The Illustrated Bestiary Collectible Box Set and The Illustrated Herbiary Collectible Box Set.


To the four–leggeds and the winged ones and those who swim the sea: thank you for remembering what we have forgotten .  .  .

And to Andrew and the beasts for navigating this luscious life beside me.




The Bestiary

White-tailed Deer: Pause, Assess, Act

Red Salmon: Navigate Life with Determination

Common Raven: Align Your Inner Compass

Monarch Butterfly: Digest Your Past

Spring Peeper: Evolve into Your Next Becoming

Common Tortoise: Steady On

Black Snake: Grow Your Truth

Screech Owl: Get Creative

Cow & Bull: Appreciate the Process

Black Bear: Sync with the Cycles

Gray Wolf: Nurture Connections

Broad-winged Katydid: Discover the Pattern

Whooper Swan: Love Fiercely

House Mouse: Work Together

Sea Turtle: Find Your Element

Nuthatch: Change Your Perspective

Spotted Skunk: Stand Up for Yourself

Barn Owl: Listen for Spirit

Orca: Dive Under the Surface

Beaver: Make Manifest

Zigzag Spider: Everything Is Connected

Pileated Woodpecker: Free Your Inner Fire

Asian Elephant: Honor Lineage

Earthworm: Discover Your Purpose

Sea Eagle: Renew Your Life

Andalusian Horse: Transcend Yourself

Eastern Oyster: Deal with the Dirt

Honeybee: Navigate by the Sun

House Finch: Know Your Song

Tabby Cat: You Are Worthy

Five-lined Skink: Delight in Daring

Little Owl: Key In to Wisdom

Red Fox: Shape-Shift

Blue Damselfly: Commune with Nature

River Otter: Slide into Joy

Human: Remember Forgetting

How to Work with the Bestiary Cards

Sources & Resources


Discover the Wild Wisdom of Plants

About the Author

Share Your Experience!

Every creature of the world is a book or picture, and also a mirror for ourselves.

— Alain de Lille, Twelfth century (from Holy Dogs and Asses: Animals in the Christian Tradition by Laura Hobgood-Oster)

We are, indeed, unique primates, we humans, but we're simply not as different from the rest of the animal kingdom as we used to think.

— Jane Goodall


The air smelled of apples and woodsmoke and the warm, strawlike scent of freshly cut corn. Although it seemed impossible to get lost with a rural road on one side and a river on the other, as I crouched and crunched through the autumn leaves a small part of me worried that I wouldn't be able to find my way back.

But something held me in its thrall, tugging me deeper into the woods that lined my friend's freshly shorn fields. I crossed a small clearing almost on my hands and knees .  .  . and then, I can't say why exactly, felt I'd gone too far. Turning around slowly, chills went up my spine. Rising out of the ground (which I could have sworn I'd just crawled over) were five bone-white tines.

Despite years of studying religion and spirituality, this gathering, which had sent me wandering into the woods, was my first encounter with a medicine woman. Two medicine women, actually. Both were trained in the old ways and had come to lead a land-blessing on a friend's farm. Just ten minutes before, thirty of us had stood around the campfire, listening to these women speak about our relationship to the land and the cycle of the seasons. Then they'd sent us out to find something we could offer as a gift — a metaphor for our blessings — such as a stone to signify strength or the empty curl of a cocoon to symbolize regeneration.

As I set off around the edge of the field to find my gift, some instinct pulled me into the woods .  .  . and ten minutes later I walked out with a deer antler.

Never has the magic of the world felt as close as it did in those moments when the spirit of Deer seemed to whisper: It's time to walk a new path.

Whether it's time to walk a new path or refresh your commitment to an old one, this Bestiary is a doorway to the magic inherent in the wild world in which we live. May it reconnect you with a sense of mystery that ignites your spirit, reminding you that you, too, are part of a greater whole.


Don Antonio sat at the back of the boat making minute movements with his fingers and chuckling to himself. The Amazon River was broad and sluggish, and we were drifting only slightly faster than the mesmerizing motion of the shaman's fingers. He caught me watching and nodded toward the jungle. Not for the first time, I scanned the treeline, baffled.

It was a few days before I realized he was imitating the sloths, perezoso in Spanish. They hung from branches high in the canopy, the moss growing off their backs blending them seamlessly with the foliage. Sloths do move, but you'll need a huge dose of patience to see it. Don Antonio imitated their slow-motion movement, amusing himself for hours as we toured the river.

Teaching beside a real-deal shaman was eye-opening in none of the ways I expected. Sure, there were ceremonies filled with strange scents and mysterious chanting, but the real lessons were the quiet ones. Witnessing how Don Antonio moved through the world — reverent and humble, curious and laughing — was a gift in itself.

But the deepest understandings came when we connected, through sign language and broken English, about his childhood. His uncle was the village shaman and Don Antonio his chosen apprentice. To be clear: this was not a glamorous post — it was a lonely one. At a very young age, Don Antonio spent months by himself seeing his cousins only when they brought food into the jungle for him.

Listening to the stories of this young boy, sequestered in solitude, turning to the animals and plants for solace, echoed the intense loneliness I felt when I lived in Ireland, apprenticed to a medicine woman. Far from friends and family, I, like Don Antonio, began to turn toward nonhuman companionship. I played my wooden flute for the swans on the river or the cows in the field; I turned to the Hawthorn tree for sympathy; I let the ravens bolster me with their harsh cries. I became one strand, one life force among many, and part of the larger tapestry of existence.

The deep knowledge that I was woven-in and integral cured some nameless longing that had haunted me since childhood. Something in me calmed and became still.

This is the magic earth medicine — the medicine of the plants and animals, the stones and sky. It connects us not only to the world around us but also back to ourselves and our sense of groundedness, inner-knowing, and deep wisdom. It reminds us we are never alone.

Working with animal medicine is about opening your mind and heart to the energies animals hold in the world and then gently asking what they have to teach you. While the animals you find in this book may not live near you, their energy is part of the web of which you too are a part. We share this world with so many creatures, each holding a place not only in the physical world but also in the ecosystem of spirit.

When we talk about habitat loss and animal extinction, I can't help but wonder what energies the world will lose when a particular species passes from this earth. If they are gone in physical form, will we remember the farsightedness of Eagle and the deep understanding of Dolphin?

We humans are part of this tapestry as well. Sometimes we are threads, sometimes weavers, and sometimes, like the Greek fates, it is we who cut the threads, our actions rippling across the lives of many species. We live in a complex world where all things are intertwined in the loom of creation. When we understand this, we begin to know what the shaman knows: that to become whole and healed you must remember what you have forgotten — that we humans are a thread in the larger web of creation.

The Bestiary Watch List

Due to changes in climate, deforestation, and loss of ecosystem, many animals are struggling to survive. To increase awareness, this icon marks the most vulnerable species in this book.

Hearing Spirit's Song

I think of the song of the spirit as a kind of second song, a counterpoint and harmony existing parallel to what our cognitive mind understands. While animals are physical beings they are also spirits and guides. Their second song connects us to necessary parts of our own psyche.

How do you hear an animal's second song? It begins with simply tuning in to the world around you. Once, when I was out on a walk with friends, a peregrine falcon flew ten feet in front of our faces. My friends were engrossed in conversation and neither of them noticed.

What animals are around you? Who is not simply crossing your path but sparking your imagination, or trying to get your attention? Sometimes an animal will seep into your subconscious, like the way Horse came to me over and over again as a child. When you begin seeing an animal in daydreams and nighttime dreams, in meditation, and on shamanic journeys, it's time to take note.

Sometimes you'll find clues in the physical world. You might find feathers or see photographs or notice an animal on the jersey of your favorite basketball team. You can also use the cards that come with this book to ask yourself: Who wants to guide me right now? Who has a lesson for me today?

How to Use This Book

This book is meant to inspire you to feel into the energy of different animals with rituals and reflections to help you dive deeper and connect more fully. You can draw a card from the deck to guide your day, open the book to a random page and see who wants to speak with you, or read the book cover-to-cover to familiarize yourself with all the animals here. If you want to connect more deeply to an animal's medicine, try this:

Be the Animal

There's an ancient tradition of slipping into the skin of an animal to see how it feels to be that animal, to look at the world through the eyes of a deer or a duck or a wolf. You don't need to literally wear animal skin to do this. Instead, watch a few videos to see how an animal moves and reacts. Then find a comfortable (and private!) place to close your eyes and picture the animal. Breathe as though your breath is the animal's breath. Allow the feeling of the animal to come into your body. Try moving like your animal. How would this animal feel? What would it be like to see through its eyes? Ask yourself: What can I learn from this experience?

Invite the Animal into Your Dreamtime


  • “O’Hara’s bright, bold colors and energetic designs match Toll’s impassioned prose… This poetic, gorgeous oracle deck will make a perfect gift for spiritual animal lovers.” — Publisher's Weekly

    “This book is enchanting — a dive into the wonder, wisdom, and healing offered to us by the natural world.” — Dr. Linda Bender, author of Animal Wisdom: Learning From the Spiritual Lives of Animals

    “Inspiring rituals, contemplation of mythology and cultural traditions, and evocative art work together to create a spiritual guide to animals that uplifts, guides, and encourages self-reflection. A marvelous tool for deepening your relationship with key fauna of the world, and an ideal addition to the shelf of anyone open to connecting with the animal kingdom.” — Arin Murphy-Hiscock, author of The Green Witch

On Sale
Oct 1, 2019
Page Count
168 pages

Maia Toll

About the Author

Maia Toll is the author of Letting Magic In, The Night School, and the Wild Wisdom series, which includes The Illustrated Herbiary, The Illustrated Bestiary, The Illustrated Crystallary, and Maia Toll's Wild Wisdom Companion. After earning degrees at the University of Michigan and New York University, Toll apprenticed with a traditional healer in Ireland, where she spent extensive time studying the growing cycles of plants, the alchemy of medicine making, and the psycho-spiritual aspects of healing. She is the co owner of the retail store Herbiary, with locations in Asheville, NC and Philadelphia, PA. You can find her online at 

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