Saturday, June 25, 2016

Discovering Your Animals of the Heart

My new blog at Witches and Pagans is up.

Animals of the Heart are the animals who want to share their lives with you. Offering their friendship, these animals want to be a part of you. I prefer calling animals who bond with you as “Animals of the Heart.” For me, the terms of “totem,” “power,” and “familiar” are specific to their religious traditions. I know that people use these words interchangeably to mean the same thing. “Animals of the Heart” is a general term that I use to denote the type of animal that people feel a deep connection with.

Animals of the Heart come in all forms. Some of them have been with you since childhood. I have met people who have been happy with Goldfish as their Animal of the Heart because they had them as pets. Meanwhile, other people have been fascinated by unicorns or dragons as children. As adults, they look to these mythical animals for wisdom.

Other Animals of the Heart represent your inner character or personal characteristics. For example, my family calls me, “Squirrel.” According to them, I am always “bright-eyed and bushy tailed.” They also find me to be a bit squirrelly.

Read more at Animal Wisdom: Animals of The Heart.

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Friday, June 10, 2016

Gorilla: Calmness and Strength

Lowland Gorilla
When people were first introduced to Gorillas, they believed that these primates were fiercesome monsters. King Kong symbolized people’s fear of this mammal. Since Gorillas live in the most inaccessible regions of the forests and mountains of Africa, They were the last members of the Great Ape Family to be found. Therefore, ordinary people had no ideas about what real Gorillas were like.

The largest and most powerful of all living Primates, Gorilla is actually peaceful and sociable. His easy-going nature has made it possible for several groups of Gorillas to coexist peacefully in the same region. When a strange Gorilla appears, the eldest Gorilla (Silverback) hoots excitedly, building up to an ear splitting roar. Silverback Gorilla will charge but stops short of touching the intruder. This will usually frighten the other Gorilla away.

Within His Troop, Gorilla forms a strong attachment with everyone. The strongest and most mature male – the Silverback – rules the Troop. He decides where they will eat and sleep. He is responsible for their safety and closely guards them. If Silverback Gorilla sees the Troop in any kind of danger, He will fight to protect them.

A plant eater, Gorilla especially likes bamboo shoots. Contrary to the movies, He is not a carnivore. After a day of foraging for plants on the ground, Gorilla spends the night in a tree. Nest making is simple; He rips off several branches and places them in tree nooks for a bed. Gorilla’s typical day consists of eating in the morning and evening, traveling during the day, napping in the afternoon, traveling, and then making his nest for the night.

Being very calm, Gorilla is not easily bothered. In fact, social grooming can relax Him into going into a trance. Gorilla shows interest by doing a task for its own reward. Most intelligent of the (nonhuman) Great Apes, He knows and uses language, when taught. Zoologists think that Gorilla has self-awareness like a human does.

Gorilla teaches calmness and strength. Remaining serene, He goes about his affairs. Even when a strange Gorilla shows up, He will not immediately attack. Taking control of the situation, Gorilla will state his position firmly but forcefully. As a last resort, He will attack. Learn from Gorilla how to act calmly and effectively. And keep your aggressive impulses in check.

1. Gorillas are endangered throughout most of their range.

2. The Ape Family is really comprised of two families, the Great Apes (Hominidae) and the Lesser Apes (Hylobatidae). Lesser Apes are the gibbons. Among the Great Apes are gorillas, chimpanzees, orangutans, and humans.

3. Zoologists divide gorillas into two groups – lowland gorilla (Gorilla gorilla) and mountain gorilla (Gorilla beringei). Lowland gorillas live in the dense forests of Africa. Meanwhile mountain gorillas live in the mountains of Central Africa. The difference between the two is that lowland gorillas have short hair and weigh less.

Friday, May 27, 2016

TUATARA: Dedication to Your Cause

Although Tuatara resembles a lizard, He is not one. Tuatara is the last surviving species of the ancient order of Rhynchocephalia (“beak-heads”). Only his family of Sphenodontidae (“wedge-toothed”) is left of this group of reptiles. The rest of the Rhynchocephalia went extinct about 60 million years ago. Because of that, Tuatara is often thought of as a “living fossil.” (However, He has actually evolved to live in modern times.) Because of his link to prehistoric reptiles, scientists can study Tuatara to see how lizards and snakes evolved.

Tuatara has distinctive characteristics that makes Him different from lizards. He has fused jaw teeth, and a beak formed by overhanging upper teeth. (This is what gives Tuatara, a “beak-head.”) Like some dinosaurs, Tuatara has a large opening in his skull behind his eye socket. He also has a third eyelid that passes over his open eyes. Tuatara has gastralia (“abdominal ribs”) which lizards and snakes do not. All these qualities indicate that his lineage is older than theirs.

Tuatara’s most notable feature is his ridge of small spines, which runs from his head to his tail. The Maori of New Zealand call this reptile “tuatara,” which means “peaks on the back.” When threatened, Tuatara will raise these spines. To startle his enemies, He elevates his spines and opens his bright red mouth.

Unlike lizards, Tuatara has a tolerance for exceptionally cool temperatures. He has colder blood than any other active reptile. Because of his slow metabolism, Tuatara spends little energy and much of his time in his snug burrow. When resting, He breathes only once per minute, and while walking, only once every seven seconds. Because of these factors, Tuatara can live beyond 100 years, longer than any lizard. However, it takes about twenty years for him to become an adult.

Legally protected in New Zealand since 1895, Tuatara’s numbers still steadily declined. The local kiore (rats) ate Tuatara’s eggs both on the mainland as well as on the coastal islands. Since Tuatara reproduce very slowly (once every five years), this became a great disaster. Tuatara simply could not recover from the losses inflicted by the kiore. Starting in the 1980s, a concerted effort by the government, volunteers, and Maori iwi (tribes) stopped Tuatara’s decline. They removed kiore from coastal islands and re-established Tuatara populations, thereby increasing his “safe homes” to 37 islands. For the first time in hundreds of years, Tuatara now live on Mainland New Zealand at the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary in Wellington.

Tuatara teaches dedication. The people of New Zealand are determined to keep Tuatara, one of their iconic animals, from going extinct. Spending tremendous amounts of energy, money, and time, people raised captive young, eradicated kiore from various islands, and cared for re-introduced populations. Today Tuatara has been returned to many places where He went extinct. Imagine the help that this distinctive reptile can give you to find your life’s mission. He can inspire to dedicate yourself to a worthy cause. Just do not think of Tuatara as “an ordinary lizard,” since He is neither.

The picture is of Henry, the world's oldest Tuatara in captivity at Invercargill, New Zealand. Still active at 111 years of age.

Picture of Henry: By KeresH (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons. Title:  "Henry at Invercargill"

Monday, May 16, 2016

Working with Your Shadow Animal: Summary

(Hourglass Dolphins)
My blog "Animal Wisdom" at Witches and Pagans features "Working with Your Shadow Animal: Summary"

"Our shadow animals are the dynamic that brings change to our lives. They test us, and give us the energy to change ourselves. They break us out of our comfortable places, and push us out into the world. Our shadow animals help us to integrate ourselves. Without our shadow animals, we would be incomplete.

By challenging us, shadow animals also teach us many life lessons. They help us with family legacy issues, and resolve feelings of shame and guilt. Not only that but they guide us through a life of chaos to one of empowerment.

As I have indicated in my other blog entries, there are several types of shadow animals. (I list them at the end of this blog.) They range from the shadow archetype to the dark trickster. Therefore it is also important to know what type your shadow animal is. This will help you in your shadow work."

Read more at: working with your shadow animal (summary)

Friday, April 29, 2016

WOOLLY MAMMOTH: Warmth and Hospitality

Best known of the Ice Age Mammals, Woolly Mammoth (Mammuthus primigenius) received her name from her outer layer of long hair. Underneath that layer, She had another dense inner layer of fur. To cope with the icy temperatures, Woolly Mammoth had a compact body, a high domed head and small ears.

Woolly Mammoth had a shorter but more flexible trunk than other Mammoths. At the end of her trunk was a finger-like appendage as well as another protuberance. She used these to gather grasses and other plants for eating.

The smallest of Mammoths, Woolly Mammoth had extra long tusks. These ornate twisting tusks had many uses. For example, She could dig up plants and clear snow with them. Also, Woolly Mammoth could fight off predators with her tusks by bashing the attacking animal with them. Her tusks were like tree rings, telling her age and life experience.

Meanwhile, Paleo-peoples used the tusks of Woolly Mammoth to construct their homes. Many of their houses were built from her large bones and woolly hides. In one homestead found in Ukraine, the skulls of Woolly Mammoths, placed in a semi-circle, formed the base walls. Then the jaws were used to erect the upper parts of the walls. For the entrance, they used the leg bones of Woolly Mammoth. She provided shelter for them on the flat, treeless plains.

The last known Mammoth lived about 4,000 years ago on a small island near Siberia during the Stone Age. Many people believe that Woolly Mammoth went extinct through overhunting. However others think that as the world’s climate became warm; She could not survive adequately on the new plants. Whatever the reason, Woolly Mammoth became the icon for extinction from overhunting during the Ice Age.

Woolly Mammoth exudes warmth and hospitality. Meeting others during migrations, She greets Them with touching and trumpeting with her trunk. Furthermore, Woolly Mammoth would wait for laggards as well, welcoming Them back into the herd.

Learn from Woolly Mammoth about proper hospitality and warmth. She teaches us how to care for and welcome others into our hearth and home. However do not so be taken advantage of that you end up giving up everything you have. You can be flexible but also wary.

(Note: update of post from 2010.)

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Mastodon Family: Look Closer and Think.

Often confused with Mammoths, Mastodons (Mammutidae) are in their own family, since They split off from Elephants and Mammoths earlier. Therefore, there are many differences between the two Animals. Mastodons have larger and flatter brows than Mammoths. Moreover, They have paired low conical cusps for teeth, and upper jaw tusks. In addition, Mastodons are shorter and more muscular than Mammoths. Scientists have liken Them to a bus, whereas Mammoths are more like construction cranes.

Living side by side with Mammoths, Mastodons colonized Eurasia and North America about fifteen million years ago. As browsers, They preferred to live in spruce forests and open woodlands. During the winter, Mastodons had a double coat of fur to prevent Them from freezing in the icy cold. However, they preferred warmer climates to live in.

Fossil Mastodons have been found with full stomachs, indicating that They consumed about 500 pounds (1,000 kilos) of food each day. Since their enormous appetites drove Them to seek more and more food, Mastodons roamed the countryside endlessly searching for food. Mastodons tramped through forests to feast on moss and twigs of cedar, larch, pine, and spruce trees. Their hunger drove Them deeper into bogs and swamps in search of food, where They died.

Mastodons teach to look closer and think. Do not mistake Them for their cousins, the Mammoths. Examine the differences before making a judgment. If you do not ponder what you see, you may mindlessly end up stuck in a bog. Take care in what you do.

Update from a previous 2010 posting

Friday, April 01, 2016

Prehistoric Elephant Family: Partnership

(Deinotheres, Elephants, Mammoths, and Mastodons)

Of the myriad Trunked Mammals who once roamed the earth, only African and Asian Elephants still remain today.  At one time, Proboscids (Trunked Mammals) lived everywhere except Antarctica and Australia.  Spreading from Africa where They originated, these Mammals flourished during the Miocene Period (from 20 million years ago (mya) to 5 mya).  Since many Proboscids were not immune to the cold, only a few survived the Ice Age.

Trunked Mammals have a long complex evolutionary history.  Beginning as small herbivores sixty mya, these Mammals resembled modern Pigmy Hippos.  For example, Moeritherium did look like a small Hippo but possessed a flexible upper lip and snout like an Elephant.  Then a cousin, Deinotherium appeared alongside the Gomphotheres (Early Elephants) about fifteen mya. Many of the Gomphotheres had flat tusks to shovel plants out of soft swampy ground. In addition, They used their trunks to uproot trees.

Mastodons split off from the Elephant Family (which also includes Mammoths). Unlike Mammoths, Mastodons had cheek teeth with low-rounded crowns. Meanwhile, Mammoths had the most highly evolved of elephantine teeth. Because of the grinding surfaces of their teeth, Mammoths could eat grasses whilst Mastodons searched the trees for tender leaves. Mastodons preferred warm climates to the Mammoths’ cold ones.

The Family of Trunked Mammals has been a part of human history from the very beginning.  Both Humans and Proboscids evolved together in Africa.  Later both spread out of Africa to populate the world.  When Paleo-humans needed food and shelter, they hunted Trunked Mammals.  They also built their homes from the bones and hides of various Proboscids. To honor Them, Paleo-peoples painted the likenesses of Mammoths and Mastodons on cave walls.

The infant science of paleontology became advanced through the study of Proboscids’ teeth and bones.  Since Trunked Mammals were widely distributed around the world, early scientists could trace their evolution.  Because Proboscid fossils were plentiful and readily available, early naturalists could learn their craft from these fossils.

Throughout the ages, humans entered into a partnership with various Trunked Mammals.  As each developed, They learned from each other.  Proboscids provided for humans and taught them basic life skills.  In return, Humans honored Them. The lesson of Trunked Mammals is that a partnership is one of equals.  We need to be good partners as They have taught us and protect their living representatives.  Today all that remain are endangered.

Science Note: Manatees, dugongs, and hyraxes are the closest living relatives of elephants. They are descended from Moeritherium.

(Updated from earlier 2010 blog.)