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.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Types of Animal Teachers: Introduction

My blog at Witches and Pagans: Types of Animal Teachers

A part of working with animals is learning as much about them as you can. Since common names are confusing, scientists will use taxonomic names for each animal. In taxonomy, animals are separated into various groupings according to their DNA and biological characteristics. Therefore, every animal has a scientific name based on where they fit in the Web of Life. Taxonomy (this scientific classification system) is essentially the animal’s name, rand, and serial number.

Read more at Animal Wisdom blog

Friday, March 24, 2017

AYE-AYE: Self-Determination and Magic

One of the most bizarre mammals, Aye-aye of Madagascar can frighten people by pointing her spectral middle finger at them. With her large pointed ears, blood red eyes and large bushy tail, She is a figure from a nightmare. Aye-aye looks so supernatural that people on Madagascar believe Her to be capable of great magic.

Even for naturalists, Aye-aye has been a nightmare. When they first encountered Her in the 18th century, nobody could determine what Aye-aye was. Because of her bushy-tail and chisel-like teeth, Aye-aye was believed to be a squirrel. Later naturalists said that She was marsupial, although they could not find a pouch. Finally, scientists determined that Aye-aye was a specialized lemur, the only survivor of her family – the Daubentoniidae. (This makes Her a prosimian, a forerunner of monkeys.)

On Madagascar, Aye-aye takes the role of a woodpecker. (Among the mammals, only She and the striped possum uses percussive foraging.) Tapping with her long bony finger, Aye-aye searches for beetle larvae moving about in the tree bark. No one is sure whether the tapping disturbs the beetles or simply allows Her to locate them. Once She finds the grub, Aye-aye chisels a hole with her rodent-like teeth. Then inserting her middle finger, She scoops out the bug and eats it.

Building nests at the forks of trees, Aye-aye will have several throughout her territory. Although She lives by Herself, Aye-aye will tolerate other aye-ayes whose territories overlap Hers. When She is not using her nests, other Aye-aye may sleep in them. This makes it difficult for naturalists to determine the actual population of aye-ayes.

Many stories abound about how Aye-aye received her distinctive name. Some claim that it comes from one of her distress calls. Others say that it is her Malagasy name, “hay-hay,” which is probably Malagasy for “I don’t know.”

Because the people of Madagascar believe that Aye-aye can be an evil presence, they dislike saying her name. Whomever She points her middle finger at will die. A fearless animal, Aye-aye spooks people by simply walking into the middle of their villages. They usually respond by killing Her and hanging her corpse as a warning for other aye-ayes.

However, there are Malagasy people who believe that Aye-aye brings good luck. Since She was once human, Aye-aye will bless people. Sometimes, She will make a grass cushion for a sleeping village. Placing the pillow under their head, She brings them wealth.

Aye-aye has always been a puzzle for people. Few could figure out what She is or how She came to be called “Aye-aye.” She confounds people and their expectations. Therefore, they have opposite reactions to Her. Aye-aye lives by her own rules of self-determination and magic.

Drawing by Joseph Wolf

Friday, March 17, 2017

Grey Wolf: Trust of Self

The largest of Canis Family is Grey Wolf, the quintessential wild Animal. Loved by those who regard Her brave and loyal. Hated by those who fear and misunderstand Her. For example although the Norse admired Grey Wolf for her courage, they were afraid of her fierceness.

As an Individual, She is not formidable, but in her complex social relationships, Grey Wolf makes up for this. She travels, hunts, and dens together with her Fellow Grey Wolves. Her Pack is an extended Family, centered on the two Leaders, Mother and Father Grey Wolf. The Pups are cared for by their Older Siblings, while Adult Cousins hunt for food for Everyone.

The Native Americans of the Plains heeded Grey Wolf’s wisdom since She taught them how to live properly. The Kiowa taught their children to respect Grey Wolf through prayer and proper hunting. In addition, many Indian people regarded Grey Wolf to be a good sign since She was strong, wise, and courageous.

Among various European peoples, Grey Wolf was a symbol of valor. The Celtic god, Cernunnos, Lord of the Animals, had Grey Wolf as one of his closest companions. The Romans said that the founding of their city began with a She-Wolf suckling Romulus and Remus. In Iceland, one Norse tribe claimed they were descended from Grey Wolf. In Scotland, the MacLennan and MacTyre Clans claimed lineage with Grey Wolf.

Meanwhile among the Baltic peoples, Grey Wolf was associated with the Other World. Sniffing amber, Grey Wolf received the power to communicate with the Unseen Forces. For the Baltic peoples, She acted as a guide to the Other Side.

The human hatred and fear of Grey Wolf has ancient roots. Stories of people fighting wolves spread from Siberia to Greenland, and from Mexico to Spain. At first, people and Grey Wolf competed in hunting for the same game Animals. Later when people domesticated Sheep and Cows, their hatred grew as Grey Wolf ate their Livestock.

Because of her independent spirit, Grey Wolf is both feared and respected by people. Unlike Dog who attends to people, She prefers her freedom. Though often misunderstood, Grey Wolf teaches you to trust your instincts. She helps people understand that they have the courage and endurance to face their problems. In a Grey Wolf Pack, She displays proper manners, but still keeps her sense of identity. Learn to trust yourself as Grey Wolf does.


“The return of the gray wolf to the American West isn’t just a triumph for conservationists. It’s a victory over the darkness in our own human nature. We see parts of ourselves in them, parts of our self that aren’t always acknowledged.” Copyright: “The Wolf in All of Us”, Katharine Mieszkowski.

Conservation Note: Grey Wolf is endangered in Europe and North America. Various governments are involved in reintroducing Grey Wolf to these areas.

Note:Red Wolf (Canis rufus) is the closest Wolf relative to Grey Wolf (Canis lupus). They are members of the Canis Family. Other wolves, such as Maned Wolf, belong to the larger family of Canidae, of which Canis is a subfamily. Other members of the Canis Subfamily are Coyote, Dingo, Domestic Dog, and Jackal.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Guardian Dragons

My latest is up at Witches and Pagans on Guardian Dragons.

"Usually a younger dragon, who likes to play will want to become a guardian dragon of a human. (Age in dragons is different than with people. They age more slowly.) Being curious, the young dragon often find people fun and intriguing. For these reasons, they enjoy the company of humans. In return, these dragons expect kindness and love from their human companions.

Sometimes, an older dragon will ask a person to mentor a young dragon. Watching her unawares, the older one has decided that the human is mature and steady, the qualities of a good dragon mentor. Although the older dragon will guide her at various times, they expect the human to know that she has the responsibility for caring for the dragon “child.” The person must also remember that in her relationship with these two different dragons, they have placed their trust in her. Both expect to be treated with love and consideration."

Rest the rest at Guardian Dragons

Thursday, March 02, 2017

VIRGINIA OPOSSUM: Seize Opportunities and Make Them Your Own

One thing that people know about Virginia Opossum is that She plays dead or “playing possum” as people call it. When confronted with a predator, Virginia Opossum will hiss and squirt a foul-smelling liquid. Then She goes limp, with her eyes shut and tongue hanging out. Usually the attacker loses interest and leaves her alone.

However, there is more to Virginia Opossum than simply “playing possum.” The most ancient of marsupials, She has not only survived the placental mammals coming into her territory, but also expanded her territory from South America to North America. An excellent climber, Virginia Opossum has thumbs on her hind feet to help her grip tree branches. In addition, her prehensile tail is capable of grasping a branch (Contrary to popular folklore, Virginia Opossum cannot hang upside down for long periods of time.)

After their initial encounters, Europeans regarded Virginia Opossum to be ingenious and versatile. In her search for food, She is both. Ranging far and wide, Virginia Opossum eats garbage from dumpsters, dead animals from roadsides, overripe fruit under trees, and rats in nearby homes. Virginia Opossum even eats poisonous snakes without being harmed.

However, Virginia Opossum is also known for her maternal caring. She gives birth to tiny underdeveloped young. Just after birth, her babies (joeys) crawl into her pouch, which faces towards to her rear. When her joeys are ready to come out, they cling to her back until they become adults.
(Adults are called Jacks and Jills, respectively.)

When She hunts for food, Virginia Opossum carries her joeys on her back. When they are grown, her joeys leave Her and take up their solitary lives.

Virginia Opossum teaches people to seize opportunities and make them theirs. Instead of having one territory, She wanders around eating what She finds. Because of her activities, some people regard this solitary and nocturnal animal as “nature’s clean-up crew.”
Virginia Opossum’s Wisdom Includes:
Expert Strategist
Loving Mother
Ingenious and Clever
Dexterity
New Life Cloaked in Death
Avoidance
Holding Opposing Points of View
Transmutation of Poisons

Note: Virginia Opossum is also known as ‘Possum. However, Virginia Opossum is not the same as the Possum of Australia. They are different animals with the same name.