Monday, July 17, 2017

PIG ! HOG FAMILY: Enjoying Yourself

The Family of Suidae is either called “Pigs” or “Swine”. “Pig” refers to any wild or domesticated animal in the Suidae Family. “Hog” is only used for domesticated Pigs on a farm or for Warthog of Africa. “Boar” has two uses – a male pig or the wild Pigs native to Europe and Asia.

Suidae live in forests and woodlands and are divided into five groups. They are Pigs (Sus), African Bush Pigs (Potamochoerus), Giant Forest Hogs (Hylochoerus), Warthogs (Phacochoerus), and Babirusa (Babyrousa). Suidae are native to Eurasia and Africa but not to North and South America or Australia. Wild Pigs of those places are domestic Hogs gone feral.

Surefooted and fast runners, Pigs live in tall grass or reeds. Contrary to popular beliefs, Pigs rarely overeat. They can live nearly everywhere because Pigs can find food anywhere. They root in the ground with their snouts for roots and mushrooms. Pigs also eat Worms and Snakes that They find. However, wherever Pigs are, They need water to wallow in, since Pigs have few sweat glands.

Pigs that most people are acquainted with are European Wild Boars. Domestic Hogs are descendents of Wild Boars that roam in Asia and Europe. Bush Pigs live in Africa, south of the Sahara. Like other Swine, They do their rooting after dark. Giant Forest Hogs, who have crescent-shaped growths under their eyes, also live in Africa. These Hogs were not discovered until the early 20th Century. Of course, also living in Africa are the fierce looking Warthogs, with bumps on their cheeks.

The most bizarre looking of all Mammals is Babirusa. Living in the Celebes and Moluccas Islands (of Indonesia), this Pig has tusks which grows through the roof of his snout before curving backwards. His name “Babirusa” means “pig deer”.

Among the ancient people of Britain, Pigs were important and powerful. They provided sustenance and knowledge to people. Since Pigs were incredibly fertile, people thought that They were from the Gods. In addition, ancient people told stories of how Pigs guided people to hidden knowledge such as the healing waters of Bath, England.

Pigs know how to have fun. In the mornings, They root around snorting and grunting to each other. Meanwhile, little Piglets run around and play. Later in the day, all the Pigs pile next to each other and sleep. They stretch out in their cool wallow, and snore in the warm sun. Pigs enjoy themselves and the day. Learn how to do the same from Pigs.

Pig Family’s Teachings Include:
“The Pig shatters perceptions but like a mother with a child, makes you face new and often frightening experiences in order to grow into full awareness.” Copyright: “Beasts of Albion”, Miranda Gray.

“You can open yourself to the abundance that exist through nature. Allow yourself to feast on life–to enjoy its beauties and its sensual delights.” Copyright: “Boar”, “The Druid Animal Oracle”, Philip and Stephanie Carr-Gomm.

“I like pigs. All dogs look up to you. All cats look down to you. Only the pig looks at you as an equal.” -- Winston Churchill.
Pig Family’s Wisdom Includes:
How to Nurture
Guide to Knowledge
How to Flourish
Having Common Sense
Being Intelligent
Intuitively Know How to Respond In Any Situation
Being Charge of Personal Space

Monday, July 10, 2017

The Loch Ness Monster: The “Unknown Unknowables”

Stories about monsters lurking in deep lakes abound worldwide. Noted cryptozoologists (Note 1) Loren Coleman and Patrick Huyghe have collected these stories and analyzed them. They believe that the 1933 sighting of the Loch Ness Monster (Note 2) ignited the public’s interest in Lake Monsters. Now sightings of these beasts are reported regularly worldwide. Meanwhile, “Nessie,” as the Loch Ness Monster is now known as, has entered popular culture as an endearing character.

Loch Ness is a tectonic lake that lies on the Great Glen Fault Line. Long and narrow, it was gouged deep by receding glaciers. This area is seismically active, which makes searching for any Lake Monster difficult. Add to this difficulty is the deepness of the lake that hinders extensive searches.
The Loch Ness Monster has been long known to the area’s inhabitants. The early Picts had carvings of a strange beast with a long snout and flippers. They told the invading Romans in the First Century CE that this animal was ancient.

The first written account of the Loch Ness Monster comes from the 700CE medieval chronicle of St. Columbia’s life. The history tells of St. Columbia’s efforts to convert the Scots. This Irish monk waded into Loch Ness and changed Nessie from being a man killer to a “shy beastie.” This explains why the Loch Ness Monster is rarely seen by people.

In 1933, the Spicers were driving along the lake when they encountered a strange animal. This long-necked beast waddled from the bushes, across the road, and slid into the loch. Then in 1934, Arthur Grant nearly crashed into the Loch Ness Monster with his motorcycle. Grant said that the animal looked like a cross between a seal and a Plesiosaurus. These reports made “Nessie” famous. In fact, her name (and the assumption the Lake Monster was a female) were immediately coined by the press.

Based on witness testimony and other evidence, Coleman and Huyghe say that Nessie is real. From similar reports of a nearby Lake Monster in Scotland – Maggie of Loch Morar, Nessie is a Waterhorse. In their collection of stories about Lake Monsters in Scotland, the cryptozoologists say that the majority are Waterhorses. They describe the Waterhorse to be an animal with an elongated body and neck with two sets of flippers. At close range, people have also reported a hairy body and a mane. Moreover, the two cryptozoologists noted that the folklore of the North Sea area abounded in descriptions of the Waterhorse.

Although Nessie may look like a Plesiosaurus, an ancient marine reptile, She is probably a mammal since the hair is key. Nessie could be a Zeuglodon, a genus of long, serpent-like fossil whales. The other choice is a long-necked pinniped from the Pliocene, known as the Acrophoca longirostris.

Whatever Nessie is, She has enthralled and frightened humans for more than a millennia. Nessie is an extraordinary enigma who lives just beyond human ken. She reminds humans that there will always be “unknown unknowables.”

Notes:
Note 1: Cryptozoology is the study of unknown or hidden animals.
Note 2: The “manual of style” adopted by the International Society of Cryptozoology calls for capitalized forms for “Lake Monster,” “Loch Ness Monster,” and “Waterhorse.”

Friday, June 23, 2017

Slow Loris: Experiencing the World of Smell

The Slow Loris (Nycticebus coucang) moves at a leisurely pace through the forests of Southeast Asia. With her slow and steady hand-over-hand movements, Slow Loris deliberately goes from tree top to tree top. Since She often hangs upside down as well, naturalists first believed that Slow Loris was a relative of the sloth of the Americas. Instead, She is a prosimian, a forerunner of monkeys.

As an omnivore, Slow Loris feeds on leaves, insects and small lizards. Using her keen sense of smell, She hunts at night for insects that are poisonous to many animals. Following the scent trail, Slow Loris tracks the insect. Moving unhurriedly, She sneaks up on her victim unnoticed. Then holding onto one branch with her hind foot, Slow Loris quietly reaches out and grabs her prey with her fingers.

Slow Loris communicates to other slow lorises using scent. To leave a message for them, She will urinate on her hands and wipe them on branches. The other slow lorises read her scent markings, and leave messages of their own. Scent acts as a language between these prosimians.

Besides her acute sense of smell, Slow Loris is also known for her toxic bite. First, She licks her scent gland on her upper arm, which produces a toxic secretion. Mixing the secretion with her salvia, Slow Loris grooms her baby for protection. When She forages at night, She will park her infant and leave. Furthermore, when She is threatened, Slow Loris will bite. The toxin from her bite will cause painful swelling and death.

Most people have seen Slow Loris in videos being tickled. What these videos do not tell anyone is that She is reacting from fear. Furthermore, shining a light into her large eyes hurts Slow Loris, since She is a nocturnal animal. Because of her cuteness, Slow Loris is a the victim of the illegal pet trade. Before selling Her, traders will pull her teeth out. Because of this, She dies a slow painful death. To help to stop the illegal pet trade, it is better to work to keep her home forests intact and educate people about her inability to live in captivity.

People can learn from Slow Loris how to fully experience the world of smell. She shows them how to communicate by smell. Imagine the smells of coffee, rotten eggs, baked breads, and then feel what each conveys. Go through your day noticing the smells of your life. Ponder what they tell you. Experiences will become more memorable with smell.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Warm-Blooded Ones: Friendship and Nourishment

My latest at Witches and Pagans is up:

Of all the animal groups, most people feel the closest to the Warm-blooded Ones. People have a natural kinship with these animals, since as humans, we are fellow mammals. Warm-blooded Ones live invited in people’s homes as companions and members of the family. They are raised by people for food, clothing, and shelter. People have been nourished by their friendship with Warm-blooded Ones for ages.

Read more at Witches and Pagans: Animal Wisdom

Friday, May 05, 2017

Toola, the Southern Sea Otter

There are individual animals who have had a profound effect on humans and on animals. Toola the Southern Sea Otter is one of them.

Toola, the first sea otter ever to foster stranded pups, is one of the Mighty Dead. She persevered, in spite of her daily seizures, to pioneer the rehabilitation of sea otters back into the wild. Moreover, Toola inspired important legislation for sea otter conservation. Most importantly, she fostered thirteen stranded pups who now have successfully raised families on their own in the wild. Toola is considered, by many, to be the otter who saved the southern sea otters from extinction in the wild.

"Toola with Pup," by Randy Wilder, Monterey Bay Aquarium
Before Toola, the Monterey Bay (California) Aquarium’s Sea Otter Research and Conservation Program (Sea Otter Program) could not successfully release stranded pups to back into the wild. Raised by humans, these sea otters were too accustomed to people to survive on their own. The Sea Otter Program, which was started in 1984, was failing in its main mission. Then Toola was rescued in 2001.

Found on a beach, suffering from seizures, Toola, who was pregnant, was taken to the Aquarium. The vets determined that she was suffering from toxoplasmosis, a parasite spread by cat feces. Toola could never be returned to the wild, since she needed daily medicine to contain her seizures. Adding to her woes, Toola lost her pup.

The Aquarium was now faced with a dilemma – what to do with the grieving Toola and a weakened pup who had been stranded. They decided to see if Toola would nurse the young pup. No aquarium or sea rescue group had ever thought of having sea otters as foster mothers before. Toola took to mothering as her mission in life. She became the first of many sea otter mothers to foster pups. Toola taught the pup, now her foster son, how to dive, how to crack open clams, and how to successfully eat crabs. Her pup is now the head of a pod of otters, and the father of many pups himself. Since her arrival, the Aquarium has had a successful release rate, now they had Toola teaching them.

Toola raised awareness of the human impact on the environment for sea otters. Since her deadly toxoplasmosis could only be abated by daily doses of medicine, Toola had to remain at the Aquarium. This parasite found its way into the watershed system by the careless dumping of used cat litter. Assemblyman Dave Jones (D. Sacramento) enacted legislation to place warnings on kitty litter bags about the proper disposal. He also set up a donation box for the California Sea Otter Fund on income tax forms. More funding also was allocated to saving the southern sea otters.

Toola died of old age (about 16 years old) in March 2012. Dr. Mike Murray, the Aquarium’s veterinarian, said “I will argue that these is no other single sea otter that had a greater impact upon the sea otter species…” He joked that she ruled the Aquarium with an iron webbed fist. Dr. Murray said of her passing, “Toola did what she has always done. She went out her way on her terms. May we all be blessed to go out the same way.”

"Toola with Pup," by Randy Wilder, Monterey Bay Aquarium

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Sea Otter: Second Chances

When people think “otter”, they often imagine Sea Otter with her cute face, floating on her back, holding a clam. The most aquatic of Otters, Sea Otter spends most of her life at sea. Since She likes to be in the water near the shore, Sea Otter prefers living along coasts instead of the open ocean. During rough weather, Sea Otter will seek shelter in a rocky cove.

Unlike other Otters, Sea Otter will catch fish in her clawed forefeet. Other times, She dives to the sea bottom, snatches a tasty clam, and returns to the surface. Swimming on her back, Sea Otter uses a rock and bangs open the clam on her chest. She eats crabs, being careful not to get her nose pinched.

Sea Otter is a keystone species since She maintains the health of the near-shore ecosystem. Sea urchins which attack kelp are her favorite food. Since She maintains the kelp forest, many species have their homes there. Places where Sea Otter has been reintroduced has rebounded in health and been restored.

From time to time, Mother Sea Otter will gather with other mothers and their pups. While her pup is playing with the other pups, Mother Sea Otter grooms herself to keep her fur clean. As her pup has fun with his playmates, Mother Sea Otter rests with her friends. Usually, She has her pup rest on her stomach as they float in the estuary. The bond between mother and pup is so close, that a mother will carry and mourn a dead pup for days.

Because She lives in the cold waters of the Pacific, Sea Otter has the thickest fur of any mammal. To keep her fur in prime condition, Sea Otter will lay on her back and blow air into her under-fur. To clean Herself after eating, She will somersault and twist and turn to get the debris off her fur.

Sea Otter’s history with people is a sad one. Russians and Americans hunted Her to near extinction for her fur. What saved Sea Otter were other, more thoughtful people. When the hunters thought that there were no more sea otters, other people knew where sea otters were hiding and kept the place secret. After laws were enacted to save the sea otter, her numbers slowly recovered.

Today, sea otter populations face other problems. Coastal pollutants and habitat degradation limit the number the survival of the adult otters. Used cat litter has infiltrated the watersheds bringing with it lethal parasites. Every sea otter counts to the people of California who are doing their best to keep these mammals from going extinct.

Sea Otter once trusted people before they hunted Her. After about a hundred years, Sea Otter is willing to trust again. As people are working to give Sea Otter a second chance to thrive, so She is giving people a second chance. Learn from Sea Otter when to trust and when to walk away.

Updated and revised version of a blog posting in 2010.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Relating to The Tarot and Me

For me, the best method for relating to the Major Arcana of the Tarot is the character sketch. Creating a character from each card, and then melding this character into a story is challenging. Doing this makes me look deeper into each card. For example, The Hanged Man presents me with the following: Why is he hanging upside down? Who is he? How does he relate to others? The second part of creating a short story with random cards further cements the meanings of the cards for me as a reader. Writing a story using The Hanged Man, The Sun and The Chariot challenges me to see how they flow together. How does The Hanged Man relate to The Sun, and what do they have to do with The Chariot? This to me is the core of reading the Tarot – the story that the cards tell.

 Aligning the Tarot with the Tree of Life of the Qabalah reminded me why I detest the Tarot. The focus became for me one of organizing the Tarot into a system of redemption and unification with God. This runs counter to what I believe, as a Roman polytheist. I do not regard the Tarot as a tool to relate to various energies of the Universe. For me, the Tarot is simply a divination tool.

Finding patterns in the cards is the most helpful for me to connect with the Tarot. The most common pattern that people see is grouping the cards into aspects of The Hero’s Journey. Finding other patterns became a mnemonic for remembering the essence of each card in a group. I set up a pattern of the Journey to the Dark Goddess and the Return. Each card now fits into a “family relationship,” which aids in a reading. When certain cards appear, I can interpret them by know where the questioner is on this journey.

The constant repetition of learning different methods of how to relate to the cards has made me more confident in my ability to interpret the Tarot. As I worked with each method, I encountered different aspects of each card. Therefore, my reading of The Hanged Man (or any other card) becomes richer by knowing the subtext. Furthermore if I cannot relate The Hanged Man to the other cards in one way, I can employ another method. The repetition and review increased my ability to interpret a spread holistically.