THE WOMAN OF WYRRDThe Arousal of the Inner Fire
By Lynn V. Andrews
Harper San Francisco, $17.95.
Reviewed by Nano Riley
Once again Lynn V. Andrews, the self-proclaimed Beverly Hills shaman, is strutting her stuff. This time she's off to medieval England (by astral projection) to study the Women of Wyrrd _ wyrrd being the name for traditional Anglo-Saxon pre-Christian wisdom and magic.
Andrews, whose first book, Medicine Woman, was published in 1981, was initially received as a female Castenada. She followed with six more, and Jaguar Woman in 1985, was the first of three to make the New York Times nonfiction best-seller list. Next followed Star Woman, 1986, and Crystal Woman, 1987.
Her books are ripping yarns, a cross between H. Rider Haggard and Raiders of the Lost Ark. Her "real-life" odyssey takes her into a shadowy world of powerful shamans and evil sorcerers that she must vanquish.
But now her critics are growing in number. Recently, the National Women's Studies Association requested bookstores to stop selling her books as a show of solidarity with Native American groups that feel she is misrepresenting their spiritual knowledge for personal gain. Indeed, she does teach weekend seminars for $400 where anyone with the bucks can become an Indian for a weekend.
In The Woman of Wyrrd her two old pals, Agnes Whistling Elk and Ruby Plenty Chiefs, the two Native American women that have been her teachers throughout her spiritual journeys, teach her to "dreamwalk" to centuries past.
Agnes and Ruby have spared no expense in preparing a Dreamlodge where they will instruct her. Andrews describes the floor as "covered with skins and blankets ... Navajo, with ... beautiful old designs. Sheepskins had been piled high at one end ... many large crystals set around in special places." And hanging over her altar is a gold amulet with a diamond in the center which will make her dreamwalk.
It seems Agnes and Ruby have little to do but create beautiful settings for Andrews. Throughout the book they seem to cook, clean and anticipate her every desire while she just sleeps and dreams.
Each short, readable chapter is meant to impart a lesson to the reader, but it's pretty general stuff. The "wisdom" is straight from self-hypnosis relaxation and stress reduction seminars so popular in today's helter-skelter society. But here the message is delivered in exotic terms and fantasy to delight New Agers who want to hear something different.
When Andrews dreamwalks into this past life, she discovers she was once Catherine, the young and beautiful daughter of a nobleman. (No poor malformed beggar girl for her.) And in this medieval adventure she finds an old woman called Grandmother to teach her Celtic magic. When, as Catherine, she meets a young man, equally high-born, of course, the tale gathers the feel of a romance novel. Her loyal fans will snap it up.
Whether Agnes and Ruby are real, or created by Andrews' powerful imagination, is anyone's guess. Andrews maintains her books are nonfiction, but won't divulge the identity of her teachers "for their own safety." The "Sisterhood of the Shields," that all-powerful world-wide group of 44 shaman women to which Andrews has been initiated, also remains a mystery.
But one thing's for certain. All of this spirit travel is making Andrews a very rich woman.
ano Riley is a correspondent for the St. Petersburg Times.