Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Jackalope: Barbed Humor

One of the symbols of the American West, the jackrabbit lives in open areas such as grasslands and deserts. With his strange ears, this hare is one of the animals of the American West that people will often remember.  The biggest, fastest, and flashiest of this Family of Hares is the antelope jackrabbit, who can outrun run everything except the antelope (i.e. pronghorn).

The antelope jackrabbit is the source of jackalope (horned rabbit) legends. One joke that Westerners play on new people is to tell them about the jackalope (a large jackrabbit with deer horns). This legendary animal is often seen by people who have had too much to drink.

One of those fabled creatures of North America, the jackalope remains elusive, always roaming the prairies during storms. The vast wilderness and the wild unknown provided the impetus for these stories of fantastic animals lurking about just beyond civilization. Even now, it is possible that a person could encounter one in a remote desolate landscape.

Legend has it that John Colter was the first white man to encounter a jackalope in what would be Wyoming. Years later, cowboys reported seeing them during lighting storms on the prairies. At night, they could hear the jackalopes echoing their singing to their cattle. Many cowboys would attest to this mythic animal having a tenor voice.

The jackalope is believed to be a cross between an extinct species of pygmy deer and a killer rabbit. The Douglas Jackalope is the most well-known, with Douglas, Wyoming proclaiming itself the “Jackalope Capital of the World.” Besides, the Douglas “species,” there is also the Alkali Area Jackalope of the western U.S. The Jack-pine Jackalope of Minnesota and Wisconsin predates the others. According to folklorist Richard Dorson said that this particular jackalope can be found along the shores of Lake Superior.

Known as “warrior rabbits,” jackalopes are vicious when attacked. They will slash at their targets with their sharp antlers. Hunters are cautioned to wear stovepipes on their legs to keep from being hooked. Even then, few hunters survive an encounter and live to talk about it.

The jackalope may look like a figure of fun, but he is dangerous. Cowboys knew better than to hunt one whenever they heard a jackalope mimicking their songs. The jackalope appears in thundering nights, fierce and ready to kill. Never assume that something which looks cute is harmless.

Like many other mythic animals of America, the jackalope has a hidden vicious side under the humorous one. The hidden barb that lurks below the surface is the jackalope. This mythical animal teaches that humor can hurt as much as being slashed by razor-sharp horns.

Thursday, October 12, 2017


Copyright: Aviceda
Although, they share a common name, the Australian magpie is NOT a relative of the magpie of the Crow Family. The Australian magpie (Gymnorhina tibicen) is a relative of the currawong. Found only in Australia, this bird is among one of the most common of local birds there. The Australian magpie tends to live in one place in a large group.

The Australian magpie has a complex social structure. He lives either in a tribe of about two to ten birds or in a flock of many birds. The difference between the two is that a tribe has a breeding territory. Members of his tribe defend their territory from all other magpies. Australian magpies who are members of flocks are usually birds who were unable to join a tribe. These birds do not breed until they join a tribe. When an Australian magpie is about two years old, He is forced out of the territory of his birth tribe and must look for another tribe to join. The only way that an Australian magpie can join a tribe is when another bird leaves.

Australian magpies forage by walking over open land, probing the soft parts of the ground, turning over stones, and other hiding places for Insects. Not particular in what He eats, the Australian magpie is quite versatile in eating whatever He finds. He and his tribe will exploit every part of their breeding territory for food. They will search for scarab beetles, a major garden pest.

A well-known “backyard bird,” the Australian magpie carols to announce his presence. This bird has one of the most complex songs in the bird world. He performs his flute-like melodies in groups (known as caroling). An intelligent bird, the Australian magpie can mimic other bird calls and human speech. He will include both in his songs.

What makes the Australian magpie dangerous is when He believes that a person is a threat to his nest. During the breeding season (August to October), Father Magpie will defend his young. He will attack by swooping down on intruders and pecking their heads. This bird is so aggressive in defending his nest that the local governments in Australia issue magpie warnings for people to wear a helmet, carry an open umbrella, or avoid the nesting area. Since the Australian magpie is protected in parts of Australia, the best defense is to avoid Him completely.

The Australian magpie teaches how to defend your home through offensive action. You watch and then attack before the home invader can come for you. But do not go so overboard in your defense that you become a menace to the neighborhood. Remember that the Australian magpie first announces his presence with his song. Music will calm troubled waters.
Update of a 2014 posting.

Saturday, September 30, 2017


Bred from the more social African wildcat, the domestic cat has been a part of people’s lives since before the time of the ancient Egyptians. Remains of the domestic cats were found, on the island of Cyprus, dating from 8000 B.C.E. Unlike her elusive cat cousins, African Wildcat liked living close to towns and villages. The domestic cat, like her ancestor, is tamer and less secretive than most wildcats. She socializes with people, however like a true cat, only on her terms.

Living in a social hierarchy, the domestic cat forms close friendships. In her family group (kindle), the domestic cat sits with and nose-bumps her friends. By rubbing her body against other cats, She reinforces the bonds of her Kindle. (A cat that is rubbed the most is the highest-ranking cat.)

Throughout the centuries, the domestic cat’s fortunes has risen and fallen. In Ancient Rome and Egypt, She was a Goddess. Because a domestic cat symbolized the Egyptian god Bast, any person who killed a domestic cat was put to death. As the Cat-Mother, Bast embodied the benevolent aspects of Cat: fertility, love, and life-giving heat. In Rome, She represented the Goddess of Liberty. Roman legions carried images of the domestic cat on their shields and standards.

In early Christian times, the domestic cat was regarded as a helper. Aboard Noah’s Ark, She kept out the Devil, who had taken on the form of a gnawing Mouse. The “M” on her forehead was placed there by the Virgin Mary, in gratitude for her aid in putting the Baby Jesus to sleep. Stories of the saints featured the domestic cat killing the Mice that tormented various Catholic saints.

However, as Christianity spread, the domestic cat became associated with evil. Thought to be a familiar of witches, the domestic cat was endowed with evil by the Christian Church. For example, medieval people believed that She would try to thwart an expecting mother from giving birth. “Having kittens” meant that a cat, inside of a pregnant woman, wanted to get out. Such beliefs were rooted in earlier times when cats were sacred to the Great Goddess and connected to childbirth. In the Medieval Christian mind, the domestic cat was closely tied to Paganism and hence to evil.

The nadir for the domestic cat’s fortunes occurred when Baudouin III, Count of Flanders threw his cats from his castle towers. His cat killing was a symbol that Baudouin embraced Christianity with all his heart. An annual cat festival was conducted in Flanders, complete with throwing cats out of windows to mark the occasion of his conversion.

A late arrival in Japan, The domestic cat did not appear in Japanese folklore until about the 1400s. Since the Japanese believed that She brought good fortune, they made statues of the domestic cat with her front left paw raised for good luck. (“The Lucky Cat.”) In addition, Japanese sailors believed that the domestic cat kept the evil spirits away that dwelled in the sea.

Throughout it all, the domestic cat has kept her equanimity. No matter what people thought about Her, She lived her life as a champion mouser. The domestic cat helps those who ask, and ignores everyone else. People speak of the domestic cat’s independence, but what She really possesses is inner peace. No matter what happens, She knows that She is still a Goddess. Remember the saying “A cat may look at a king.”

Inscription on the royal tombs at Thebes. “Thou art the Great Cat, the avenger of the gods, and the judge of words, and the president of the sovereign chiefs and the governor of the holy Circle; thou art indeed…the Great Cat.”

Conservation Note: Feral Cats are a problem wherever they are. Cat owners fail to spay and neuter their animals, and often abandon the offspring. These ‘throwaways’ die from starvation, disease, abuse, and predators. Those that survive are a menace to birds, and are carriers of various diseases. REMEMBER TO SPAY OR NEUTER YOUR CATS.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Cold-Blooded Ones: Sensitivity to One’s Environment

My latest post at Witches and Pagans: Animal Wisdom.

The Cold-Blooded Ones are called that because they lack the ability to keep warm by using their bodies. Since these animals need to regulate their body temperatures, the Cold-Blooded Ones use their environment to help them do this. A turtle will find a sunny spot to bask in. A salamander will move under a rock for warmth. Toads will bury themselves in the dirt. Snakes prefer living in rocky dens for warmth and under leafy bushes for coolness.

Reptiles are one of the most ancient forms of life, and also one of the most adaptable. Both the turtles and crocodiles have survived the dinosaurs, while remaining the nearly same today as they were in the past. In addition, crocodiles are distant relatives to birds and dinosaurs. Snakes and lizards have expanded the ways that reptiles adapt to their environment. Snakes lost their legs, while lizards adapted to life in the ocean. Meanwhile, worm-lizards (ringed lizards) have evolved to burrow underground by using their heads.

Read the rest at: Cold-Blooded Ones

Friday, August 25, 2017

Firefly (Lightning Bug) Family: Recapture the Wonder

World-wide, people have marveled at the flashing lights of fireflies on warm nights. These beetles are called many names: blinkies, glowworms, moon bugs, and lightning bugs. All these names reflect the quality of fireflies’ bioluminescence to communicate.

These remarkable insects have the most efficient light in the world. Their “cold light” consists of the luciferase enzyme which acts on the luciferin in the presence of magnesium, ATP, and oxygen. The adults flash to speak with each other and to find mates. Even firefly eggs and larvae glow, as a warning to predators. They tell predators that they taste lousy.

Found on nearly every continent, fireflies are classified as Lampyridae in the Winged Beetle Order of Coleoptera. Scientists usually divide the thousands of species of fireflies into five groups (although these groupings are in a state of flux). Found in North America, the Lampyridinae synchronize their flashes. The Photurinae are known for the females eating the males. The largest group, the Luciolinae live in the Eastern Hemisphere. These fireflies flash instead of continuously glowing. The most primitive fireflies are called the Cyphonocerinae. The “catch-all” group of Lampyrinae have all the fireflies, who do not fit in any of the other groups.

The flashing is done by the adult firefly, who lives only to mate and lay eggs. Meanwhile, the firefly larvae can live for up to two years, eating snails and worms. Some will hibernate over the winter, others for longer. All usually will emerge during warm weather as adults.

Fireflies are disappearing worldwide. Various factors are to blame, most of them created by humans. In developing fields and forests, people have destroyed firefly habitats. The other major problem is light pollution. In many places, lights abound from headlights of cars to porchlights of houses to skylights of malls. All these lights disrupt the flashing patterns of the fireflies, who are trying to mate. (Consult Firefly.org (http://www.firefly.org/) for suggestions on how to help fireflies.)

Watching fireflies at dusk as they flash by recaptures the lost wonder of childhood. As adults, many of us are caught up in our daily activities and concerns. We forget that the world is full of wonder. Fireflies give people pause to see the beauty that is around them. Remember that the firefly is just an ugly bug who twinkles. But twinkle, is what they do well.

Friday, August 18, 2017

BLACKBIRD: Finding Your Inner Joy

Like all Thrushes, Blackbird (Turdus merula) is known for his singing voice. A familiar sight in the countryside of Europe, He entertains people with his melodies. Originally an inhabitant of the woodlands of Europe and Asia, Blackbird began frequenting parks in the 1800s. By the 1900s, He moved into the cities. Now a familiar sight, Blackbird makes Himself at home most anywhere.

Blackbird’s rich mellow song and striking appearance makes Him noticeable. Because of his black color and sweet song, the ancient Greeks considered Blackbird a destructive bird that led people into bad situations. Later, Christians claimed that Satan took the shape of Blackbird to tempt saints to forget their vows.

However in Druidic traditions, Blackbird is the Gateway between the Worlds of Reality and Dreams. A Sacred Bird, He is also one of the five oldest animals. Because of his sunny song and black color, Blackbird is also the Bird of the Forge. His song calls people to create lives of passion and purpose.

Singing his enchanting song, Blackbird puts people in touch with their inner joy. From this perky little bird comes a sense of contentedness about life. Listen to Blackbird’s song and discover your own inner joy.

Blackbird’s Wisdom Includes:
Answering the Inner Call of Self
Living a Life of Passion and Purpose
Being the Gateway between Worlds
Domestic Happiness
Singing Your Own Melody
Harmony in All Things
Finding Beauty in Unexpected Places
Note: Three unrelated birds are called Blackbird. Red-Winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) and Yellow-head Blackbird (Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus) of North America are members of the Troupial Family. Blackbird (Turdus merula) of Europe is a close cousin of American Robin (Turdus migratorius).

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Clownfish: Cooperation

Clownfish belongs to a small, brightly colored Fish Family called Damselfish. Brilliantly colored Clownfish gets his name from his bright stripes, usually orange, black and white. Young Clownfish usually have more stripes than their Elders.

Clownfish is especially known for his relationship with Sea Anemone. Working with his host Anemone, Clownfish swims out in the coral reef to attract larger Fish nearby. After luring a Fish back to Anemone, Clownfish escapes by swimming inside Sea Anemone. Meanwhile, Anemone stings the preoccupied Fish with its tentacles. After Anemone consumes the Fish, Clownfish feeds on the remains.

Clownfish lives in a group inside Sea Anemone. The largest of the group is a breeding Female, the second largest is a breeding Male. Everyone else is male. Because their bodies are coated with mucus, Clownfish are immune to Sea Anemone’s poison.

As a Clownfish moves up the social ladder, He becomes larger and eventually changes sex. The younger Clownfish limit their growth to avoid the wrath of older Clownfish. Meanwhile, Father Clownfish cares for his Young until They are ready to leave the Anemone to join a new group at another Anemone.

Clownfish teach cooperation with those different from you. Clownfish and Sea Anemone live together for their mutual good. Clownfish receives food, shelter, and protection from Sea Anemone. In return, Clownfish protects Anemone by chasing away Butterfly Fish that like to bite off the ends of Anemone’s tentacles.
Clownfish’ Wisdom Includes:
Making Friends with Unlikely People
Being Flexible in Groups
How to be Distinctive and Well-Known
Being a Homebody