REVIEW: A Wizard’s Bestiary

A Wizard’s Bestiary
by Oberon Zell-Ravenheart and Ash “LeopardDancer” DeKirk

From the times of antiquity through to the age of exploration bestiaries have been written (and illustrated) to keep record of the diversity of life throughout the known world (and the unknown world as well). Continuing in this tradition is A Wizard’s Bestiary. It was written by Oberon Zell-Ravenheart and Ash “LeopardDancer” DeKirk who are both faculty members at the Grey School of Wizardry. Mr. Zell-Ravenheart, in addition to being the headmaster of the school, is a prominent figure in the neo-pagan community and the creator of a number of real-life unicorns (generated through surgical techniques) that have been on display at circuses.

Whereas historical bestiaries attempted to contain exhaustive records of all known animal life, this book limits itself to fantastic creatures that are totally unknown to science, or those which may have been inspired by early accounts of real plants and animals, or those which may have been imagined all together. While the book takes a comprehensive look at the beasts of myth, legend, heraldry, and religion, it goes beyond the past and examines contemporary cryptozoological phenomena and popular monster movies. Obscure and extraordinary creatures of all sorts are cataloged and information is drawn from the folklores of a variety of cultures.

Well known beasts such as unicorns, dragons, gryphons, sasquatches, the phoenix, merfolk, and sea serpents are explored at a greater depth and are included in informative encyclopedic detail. In addition to a meticulous glossary of cryptic and fantastic creatures there are separate chapters for flying, walking, and aquatic creatures as well as chapters on plantimals, dinosaurs, and human-animal-hybrids like sphinxes and centaurs.

I found it very difficult to think of a fantastic creature that was represented in film, folklore, or hearsay that wasn’t included in this book. Every legendary beast I’ve ever heard of has been listed, many I’ve never heard of have been introduced to me, and I would be ready to accept that this book is a comprehensive directory of the spectacular creatures that have occupied people’s imagination since the earliest times.

While there is some speculation regarding the existence of some of the creatures in the book the authors show enough restraint to maintain an objective tone for the most part. The authors include plausible explanations and interpretations of the monsters as well as links between similar creatures or those that may have had a shared a common origin.
The appendix includes lists of monsters arranged by historical age and geographic origin. It also has references, a timeline of other bestiaries, a list of beasts with magickal (that’s magic with a “k”, so you know it’s hardkore) properties, and even a brief comics section.

Whether you’re a mythology buff, an amateur cryptozoologist, or just a critter enthusiast that’s bored with biology textbooks A Wizard’s Bestiary is an interesting resource. It’s an indispensable tool for any hardcore monster fanatic and necessary reading for the scholar of the strange.

Tarek Suliman