Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Elements (1)

Writing about the elements and what they mean for our survival is a bit daunting. So much has been written over the centuries, that I feel I have nothing new to add. In addition, much of what has been written has probably been discussed already. Since each contributes directly to the well-being of all, they (air, fire, earth, water, and spirit) are essential for all life. Without one or more of the basic elements, there would be no life. That is why early Greek philosophers and others focused on learning as much about the elements as they could.


Without water, people plants, and animals could not live for very long. Because our bodies are made mostly of water, we need it to sustain us. Places without water are dry and lifeless for only water provides life for the barren land to become fertile. Since water is so important, animals and plants devise strategies to catch and store water in arid regions. For example, the sandgrouse has a net of filaments on his upper body. After he returns from soaking at the water hole, his chicks drink from the water stored in his net.


With its bounty, the land sustains life. The plants and trees that grow on the earth nourish us and replenish our air. The earth provides the structure by giving us a firm foundation for our lives. The rocks are the bones that we build our homes on. Moreover, we use the earth’s ores to fashion our civilizations. In addition, our bodies also contain minerals which enhance our well-being. Without them, we would sicken and die.


Heat in the form of our sun warms Earth, and allows life to flourish there. Cold tends to retard the growth of needed plants for animals to feed on. Moreover, the animals that live in the Polar region are fewer and more dependent on the seas than the land. During the summer’s thaw, only does life explode in profusion.
For humans, fire has made us what we are today. By converting raw food into cooked food expeditiously with fire enabled humans to expend little energy. People could now use their excess energy to develop language and culture. Since fire provided humans with heat, it also enabled them to move beyond hot Africa into colder regions.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

SANDGROUSE: Father’s Love

Living in some of the world’s most inhospitable deserts, Sandgrouse happen to be very hardy birds. Forming large flicks, They slowly move across the desert eating thousands of seeds. In their search for food, Sandgrouse roost wherever They happen to be.

Although They are found in Africa and Eurasia, Sandgrouse have no close relations. Because of their colouring, They were often mistaken for Grouse. However after much debate, scientists believe that perhaps the closet relatives of Sandgrouse are the Wading Birds.

When Sandgrouse want to lay their eggs, They make a shallow depression in the ground. Nesting out in the open, Sandgrouse effectively prevent predators from eating their Eggs. The Parents take turns incubating and protecting their Chicks from the hot sun. After Mother’s shift in the daytime, Father takes over for the night.

Father Sandgrouse provides water for his Chicks in an extraordinary manner. During the day, He flies to a water hole and fills his crop. His breast and undersides contains a net of fine filaments. After dusting Himself off, Father Sandgrouse soaks in the water. His net becomes a sponge to soak up the water. After He flies home and lands, Father Sandgrouse lifts his body up. Racing to Him, his Chicks drink the water from the filaments. He provides water for two months until his Chicks moult.

Sandgrouse aptly demonstrates a father’s love for his children. Performing what could be referred to as “the stuff of legends”, He brings his children water from far distances. A father’s love is what Sandgrouse offers to us. Let us bask in that love.

Science Notes:
1. Sandgrouse are Pterodidae while true Grouse are Galliforms.

Monday, December 28, 2009

RESPLENDENT QUETZAL: Meaning of Precious

Known for nibbling holes in trees, Trogons are cavity nesters. These Birds also are noted for their long elaborate tails. Trogons are the only Birds with a heterodactyl toe arrangement (the first and second toes reversed). Therefore what other Bird Family that They are related to remains a mystery.

RESPLENDENT QUETZAL: Meaning of Precious

Sacred to the Mayas and Aztecs, Quetzal means “precious” in Nahuatl. According to the Aztecs, pregnant women carried both a jade stone and quetzal feather inside of them. Together these items would create the infant’s face and status in the world. Furthermore, Quetzalcoatl, their “Feathered Serpent” was transfigured from Resplendent Quetzal.

Living in the cloud forests of Central America, Resplendent Quetzal offers a glimpse of his incandescent green tail and red breast. Although, He remains still, you can see his long tail waving in the breeze. When He wants to court a Female, Resplendent Quetzal will display Himself in flight.

In a rotting tree trunk, Resplendent Quetzal and his Mate will often nest in a cavity that They had dug out with their beaks. Afterwards, They will incubate their eggs throughout the day. The longer Resplendent Quetzal spends raising his young brood, the more frayed his magnificent tail becomes. If Mother Resplendent Quetzal deserts their nest, He will remain to raise their nestlings alone.

Resplendent Quetzal personifies the meaning of “Precious”. In the cloud forests, He reminds us of how we need to husband our planet. With his tattered tail, Resplendent Quetzal shows that we must give up what is “precious” to us in order for our next generation to flourish.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Basic Divination: Working With Various Types

When I worked with various types of basic divination, I had several problems. First was the mechanics of setting them up to do divination. Two was trying to eliminate personal bias from each method. Finally I had to cope with their lack of accuracy.

In setting up water divination, I had to find a shallow bowl to place the three pieces of paper into. Unless the slips were tiny, they overlapped in the bowl, where I poured the water in. This mattered since the one on top would float to the top first. Also this divination was messy to do repeated times.

Since it was late fall, I could not find a daisy or dandelion as required by flower divination. Therefore, I decided to use roses, which I could easily obtain. During the process of doing this type of divination, I discovered that you could mathematically predict the answer. If you have several roses to choose from, all you need to do is count the petals. So achieving an unbiased outcome was problematic.

Throwing dice was also problematic. Procuring the dice was difficult. For some reason, throwing the dice for me was also difficult. Again my bias would crop up in throwing the dice. It may seem unlikely but if you are skilled enough, you can manipulate the dice to give you the outcome you want.

Stones and coins also had their problems of bias. You could not prevent it from cropping up. If you wanted a certain answer, odds were great that you could achieve it. Along with the bias was the accuracy problem. I had to learn to ask questions of subjects I knew the most about. If divining is to ascertain an idea of the future, then these methods failed since they were inaccurate about unknown things. (I failed miserably in predicting the outcomes of various sports teams.)

Divination by stones seemed to suit me best. I could set up a Roman-style of divination. (I practice Roman bird augury.) The choices of “Yes, No, and Maybe” could be transformed into “Yes, No, The Gods don’t care”. The “Maybe” stone offered a sense of latitude that was missing in the others.

Dowsers claim that divining attunes you to your subconscious which in turn is linked to the collective universes. Since I understand that, I could view stone divination in a different light. Setting the question up allowed my subconscious to free itself of bias. I could do stone divination, and not worry about the accuracy. My rate of correct predications was seventy percent, which I considered to be accurate. Therefore I would use stones frequently as a form of basic divination.

Thursday, December 24, 2009



New World Blackbirds, which includes Bobolinks, Grackles, and Meadowlarks, are considered to be the most recently evolved of Bird Families. These very intelligent Birds are also fast learners. For obtaining food, They have strong bills that can force open gaps in places.


Famous for his song, Western Meadowlark is often associated with the American West. His flute-like notes are usually included in the sound tracks of Western movies. By this happenstance, his melodies are actually heard worldwide by many people who have never been to the American prairies.

For the Lakota/Dakota, Western Meadowlark was one of the messengers of Itokago of the South (one of the Four Winds, and son of Tate (Mystery)). For women, He offered them beauty, fertility and the promise of a happy marriage. Because Western Meadowlark could gain access anywhere, He was often associated with love

Singing in his flute-like voice, Western Meadowlark offers joy to all. Since He looks so similar to Eastern Meadowlark, only Western Meadowlark’s song could tell the two Birds apart. On a flower-studded prairie, this Musician finds a fence post, and proclaims his territory with song. (His song is his weapon of defense.) Facing the sun, whose rays catch his golden shield of feathers, Western Meadowlark opens his mouth and sings out, “Spring o’ the year!”

Western Meadowlark brings the joy of music to us. In our busy lives, we often forget how music can enthrall us. Stop and listen to Western Meadowlark singing on his fence post, in the bright sun. Allow Him help you to recapture the joy of music in your life.

Science Notes:
1. True Larks are Alaudidae. Meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta) is of the Icteridae (Blackbirds and allies) family.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

HORNED LARK (SHORE LARK): Flourish Where You Are

Depending on where He lives, Horned Lark is known by many names. Because He is often seen on beaches, Horned Lark is called “Shore Lark” or “Sea Lark” in Europe. Wherever He nests in the Arctic or high mountains, his name is “Snow Bird” or “Snow Flake”. Since He walks instead of hopping and looks for seeds along the roadsides, Horned Lark is called “Road Chippie” or “Road Trotter” in North America. The only Lark to live outside of the Old World, Horned Lark is famous for his black feathers that taper into a pair of tiny “horns”. Therefore in many places, people have named Him “Horned Lark”.

Wherever He lives, Horned Lark is resourceful in finding food. At the shore, He feeds on the seeds of glasswort at low tide. During high tide, Horned Lark eats the seeds found around the sand dunes. Later, He will forage for food in fields and pastures.

Courting Female Larks by strutting around with his horns “erect” is what Horned Lark does best. Singing in his tinkling and lisping manner, Horned Lark ascends to the heavens, and then glides to the ground. Between each beat of his flight, Horned Lark closes his wings, with his silhouette resembling a cross.

Faithful to his birth place, Horned Lark adapts his colour to his habitat. Be it the high mountain ranges of the Himalyas or the beaches of Europe, Horned Lark ably demonstrates his versatility and resourcefulness. Because of his willingness to adapt, He has been able to colonise a wide range of habitats. Let Horned Lark show you how to flourish where you live.
Copyright: Virginia Carper, Animal Teachers

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

SKYLARK: Creative Muse

“Hail to thee, blithe spirit!
Bird thou never wert!”
– Percy Bysshe Shelley, “To a Skylark”

Unlike other Birds, Male Skylark is dull in his colouring. However, He makes up for his mundane appearance by his dazzling courtship displays. With his rich trilling songs, He attracts the Females, and ably defends his territory from other Males.

During his courtship flights, Skylark sings as soon as the sun comes up and continues throughout the day. Soaring vertically in the sky, He sings and then hovers. Suddenly, Skylark will dive towards the earth with folded wings. Just before landing, He spreads his wings out.

Skylark’s trilling song inspired Shelley and Shakespeare in their writing. In addition, He inspires and thrills many more poets and composers. Skylark exalts all of us to achieve greater heights of creativity. Allow Him to be your creative muse.
Copyright: Virginia Carper, Animal Teachers

Monday, December 21, 2009


Because Larks sing as They rise up in flight, a group of Larks is called an “Exaltation”. Since They live in open country, rising Larks are a familiar sight in many rural areas. Although They are cryptically coloured in browns and beiges, They make up for their drabness with their elaborate songs.

Well-known for waking up at dawn, Larks sing through the day. In fact, the sound of many Larks singing at dawn is called “Larkrise” in Great Britain. In addition, “Happy as a Lark” refers to this habit of theirs.

Many legends speak of Larks’ sweetness of temperament. Because of this, They could readily gain access to the Gods. One example of their cheeriness is of course greeting the day with song, inspiring all of us. Singing through the day, Larks by their nature uplift the saddest of hearts and spread good will. Let us follow their example.

Science Notes:
1. True Larks are Alaudidae. Meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta) of the Icteridae (Blackbirds and allies) family.

2. Magpie-lark (Grallina cyanoleuca) is actually a giant Monarch flycatcher.
Copyright: Virginia Carper, Animal Teachers

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Basic Divination (3): Differences and Similarities

Differences and Similarities

The differences between these forms lie mostly in what purpose they are used for and in the materials used. Roman augury and some forms of pyromancy were not to predict the future but to uncover the will of the Gods. Meanwhile some forms of dowsing were used to make personal decisions. Since augury and pyromancy used natural occurrences, they could be expanded into a deeper form of divination. (Pyromancy is as dependent on fire as augury is on birds.) Also, neither is based on human interventions making them less influenced by human desires.

Meanwhile, dowsing seems more limited than either augury or pyromancy. It is also more subject to the human subconscious since a person holds the pendulum while dowsing. The woman who dowsed for books may have already knew what she wanted. Dowsing seems more personal than augury or pyromancy. It is also easier to execute since the only material needed is a pendulum.

At first glance all these forms seem to differ greatly. However, they are alike in offering limited answers to questions. Also they are, in essence, artificial constructs. Each one is set in a matrix with particular meanings attached to certain events. Each possesses a “Schelling Point” which is an answer that seems to be the obvious choice. Based on the information set, you have the instrument choose for you. However, you and others have provided input (data) for each probable outcome.

In addition, the person’s unconscious desires come into play. Each method has “wiggle room” for interpretation. (For example, a black cat in the U.S. means bad luck, while in the U.K., a white one is bad luck.) Each outcome is not as fixed as it seems. The bird could be leaving North going South. (Then what is the omen now? At that point the Augur would need to make a “judgment call.”) What may seem to be black and white become shades of grey. These methods are all dependent on the interpreter.

Works Used:
Adkins, Lesley and Roy A. Adkins, "Dictionary of Roman Religion”, New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.
Carroll, Robert, “Divination”, The Skeptic’s Dictionary,, 9 June 2009, 7 Dec. 2009
Crystal, Ellie, “Divination Index”, Crystalinks, 2009, 10 Dec.. 2009,
Maurice, “About Dowsing Pendulums”, The Pendulum of Pendulums, 2009, 7 Dec. 2009,
Nozedar, Adele, “The Secret Language of Birds”, Harper Collins, London, 2006.
Stevens, Scott, “Games People Play: Game Theory in Life, Business, and Beyond”, (DVD course) The Teaching Company, Virginia, 2008.
Zell-Revenheart, Oberon, “Companion for the Apprentice Wizard”, New Page Books, Franklin Lakes, New Jersey, 2006.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Methods of Basic Divination (2)

To understand what each has in common and how they differ, I decided to investigate three forms further. I chose Roman augury by birds, dowsing, and pyromancy. They seem to be quite varied in their intent and materials.

Roman Augury by Birds

The purpose of Roman augury was to discover the will of the Gods so that it could be carried out by the Roman Senate. The answers from the Gods were, “Yes, No, or Not Interested.” To set up the divination, the Augur would lay out boundaries and time limits for watching for the birds.

In doing the augury, he followed “Rule of Four”. He divided the sky into four parts, with the favourable directions being South and East. Then the Augur watched for certain birds to fly by (the eagle and vulture, hawk, crow, and woodpecker) or he listened for certain birds calling (raven, owl, woodpecker, and hen). Favourable birds were the eagle and vulture, while the owl was considered to be unfavourable.


I once witnessed a woman choosing various books for purchase by dowsing with a pendulum. Her crystal pendulum swung back and forth for “Yes”, and sideways for “No”. In further research, I found out that some people consider the pendulum swinging clockwise to be "Yes", and counterclockwise is “No.”

According to the American Society of Dowsers (ASD), dowsing connects the conscious with the subconscious mind. They explain that your subconscious picks up what your rational mind cannot. Furthermore, your subconscious governs the pendulum and how it swings. They recommend programming your pendulum for accurate and safe use. (Ouija (talking) boards which use a planchette to move across the board are considered to be an offshoot of dowsing.)


Divination by fire takes many forms. From various lists, I found botanomancy (the burning of plants) capnomancy (smoke, with thin smoke trailing upwards to be a good omen), daphnomancy (the burning of laurel leaves), and sideromancy (placing straw on a hot iron), to name a few. Since fire is a sacred element, many people sought to use it for divination.

One basic form of pyromancy is candle divination (lychnomancy). In the system described in Crystalinks, you set three candles in a triangle. If one flame is higher than the others, the answer to your question is “Yes”. Sparks flying means “Caution”, and any flame that goes out is considered to be bad luck.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Methods of Basic Divination (1)

While researching various forms of basic divination, I became amazed at people’s creativity and attention to detail. It seems to me that people will use anything to divine with.

From The Skeptic’s Dictionary, I uncovered an extensive list. Here is a sampling:
• aeluromancy (dropping wheat cakes in water and interpreting the result)
• aeromancy or acromancy (divination by examining what the air does to certain things)
• alphitomancy (dropping barley cakes in water and interpreting the result)
• axinomancy (divination by the hatchet: interpreting the quiver when whacked into a table)
• belomancy (divination by arrows)
• botanomancy (divination by herbs)
• capnomancy (divination by the smoke of an altar or sacrificial incense)
• chalcomancy (by vessels of brass or other metal)
• cleidomancy (divination by interpreting the movements of a key suspended by a thread from the nail of the third finger on a young virgin's hand while one of the Psalms was recited)
• coscinomancy (divination by a balanced sieve)
• cromniomancy (divination by onions)
• daphnomancy (divination using the laurel branch: how did it crackle when burned?)
• gyromancy (divination by walking around a circle of letters until dizzy and one falls down on the letters or in the direction to take)
• kapnomancy (by smoke)
• koskinomancy (by sieves)
• krithomancy (by corn or grain)
• lampadomancy (interpreting the movements of the flame of a lamp)
• libanomancy or knissomancy (interpreting the smoke of incense)
• lecanomancy (dropping precious stones into water and listening for whistles)
• macharomancy (by knives and swords)
• myrmomancy (divination by watching ants eating)
• oinomancy (divination by wine)
• onomancy (divination by names)
• onychomancy (interpreting the reflection of sun rays off fingernails)
• ornithomancy or orniscopy (interpreting the flights of birds)
• pyromancy or pyroscopy (divination by fire)
• rhapsodmancy (divination by a line in a sacred book that strikes the eye when the book is opened after the diviner prays, meditates or invokes the help of spirits)
• sideromancy (interpreting straws thrown on a red-hot iron)
• theriomancy (divination by beasts)
• tiromancy (interpreting the holes or mold in cheese)
• tyromancy (by cheese)
• urim v'tumim (reading sacred stones attached to the breastplate of the high priest in ancient Judaism)
• uromancy (divination by reading bubbles made by urinating in a pot)
(Source: Carroll, Robert, “Divination”, The Skeptic’s Dictionary)

Saturday, December 12, 2009

FAIRY WREN: Discover the Deeper Truth

Often seen in people’s gardens, Fairy Wren is usually looking for a tasty Insect. Shy in nature, Fairy Wren is however tolerant of people. Popular in Australia, people regularly see Him in parks hopping about.

Despite his brilliant blue colours, Fairy Wren is difficult to see in the undergrowth. Since Fairy Wren is more cautious than the Female Fairy Wren (who has drabber feathers), He leaves promptly when an intruder approaches. If Fairy Wren spies a flying Insect, He hops straight up to snatch it, and then dives back to safety in the nearby bushes.

Fairy Wren’s family arrangements were confusing to many scientists. They thought He was socially monogamous but sexually promiscuous. However what they mistook for Female Fairy Wrens were the non-breeding Males. In Fairy Wren’s small group, there is one breeding pair – the dominant Female and her Partner. The Rest are relatives, who will usually leave when They are about four years old.

Fairy Wren teaches that things are not always what they seem. The boldly coloured Male hides in the underbrush. When with his small family, He can be mistaken for a Female if He is not breeding. His family being ruled by a Female is unusual as well. Fairy Wren insists that you look beyond the surface to discover the deeper truths. However, he does caution that the deeper truth maybe staring you in the face, without any probing.

Science Notes:
1. The Wrens of Australia, New Guinea and New Zealand (antwrens, emu-wrens, fairy wrens, grasswrens and wren-babblers,) are not related and are not wrens. They belong to their own families. Fairy Wrens belong to a family of small insect eating birds in Australia and New Guinea called Maluridae.

Friday, December 11, 2009

WINTER WREN: Sacred Mysteries

The “Wren” of Europe, Winter Wren is the only Wren that lives in both the Old and New Worlds. Known as Bran’s Sparrow to the Celts, Wren foretold the future with his songs. The Celts called their sacred Wren “Drui”, (meaning “The Druid among Birds”). Under the protection of Taranis, the Celtic God of Thunder, Wren often nested in his oaks. Killing a Wren brought the wrath of the Gods upon unwary people.

During the winter, this tiny Bird lives in a communal roost with other Winter Wrens. To keep from freezing, They share their warmth. Just before dusk, Winter Wren calls to the Others. They answer and then enter their roost one by one. Many as sixty Winter Wrens will share an abandoned nest site.

In British folklore (Winter) Wren ruled the winter and (European) Robin ruled the summer. As the representative of the Old Year, Wren was sacrificed to bring in the New Year (as represented by Robin). This ritual killing of Wren ended winter.

Later Christians associated Winter Wren with the Virgin Mary. Now the ritual killing of the Wren by the Wren Boys happened on the day after Christmas, which was St. Stephen’s Day. One theory to this ritual occurrence was that people celebrated the ending of Paganism and the coming of Christianity.

The smallest and shiest of the Wrens, Winter Wren sings the loudest. Except to end winter, His killing brings misfortune. With these examples, Winter Wren demonstrates the paradoxes of life. A sacred Bird, Wren sings when He unwraps the sacred mysteries of the universe. Spend time with Winter Wren to understand life’s prophecies.

Copyright: Virginia Carper, 2009, Animal Teachers

Thursday, December 10, 2009

WREN FAMILY: The Mysteries of Happiness

Wrens, a family of little brown Birds, are well-known for their high energy and trilling songs. Friendly and active, House Wren is called “Jenny Wren” in children’s storybooks. Meanwhile Carolina Wren, one of the largest Wrens, flits from perch to perch looking for tasty bugs, delighting gardeners.

Voracious in their nesting, Wrens build nests in boots, mailboxes, and even car radiators. Quick and agile, Cactus Wren builds his nest amongst the sharp spines of a cactus. Meanwhile to impress the female Wrens, Marsh Wren frantically builds as many dummy nests that He can in the wetlands.

Best known for their bubbly songs, Wrens often have as many as 130 different songs in their repertoire. Although They do sing all year round, Wrens are most famous for being the joyful harbingers of spring with their trilling melodies. And, Winter Wren, a shy Bird, has the loudest songs of all the Wren Family.

In addition, Wrens’ songs have a magical quality to them. In some Native American stories, Wrens can bring the dead back to life with their powerful singing. Called the Snow Bird, Black-headed Wren is said to summon the snow. However, He does know the direction and time of the storm.

Wrens are legendary for their spiritedness. Whether defending their territory or building nests Wrens conduct themselves great zest. Let these little brown Birds induct you into the mysterious of happiness. Lose yourself in their songs, and be enriched beyond your dreams.

Science Notes:
1. Members of the Wren Family called the Troglodytidae. The Wrens of Australia, New Guinea and New Zealand (antwrens, emu-wrens, fairy wrens, grasswrens and wren-babblers,) are not related and are not wrens. They belong to their own families.

2. Firecrested wren is the firecrest (Regulus ignicapillus), while golden-crested wren is the goldcrest (Regulus regulus). They belong to the Kinglet Family and are not wrens.
Copyright: Virginia Carper, 2009, Animal Teachers

Friday, December 04, 2009

Basic Divination: Coins

To work with a type of Basic Divination, I decided upon coins. Since the physics and mass of most coins make it more likely that “heads” will appear more often than “tails”, I did not want to do the usual coin toss. Therefore, I decided on the Odd-Even method of coin divination. I counted out twenty pennies and prepared them and their bag for divination. Then I began to divine.

The hardest part of this type of divination for me was in forming the question. Since I was restricted to “yes” (even number of coins) and “no” (odd), I was stumped. What I finally did was to ask whether certain sports teams would win a particular game. I also asked questions such as “Will my friend ring me up today?”
After asking the question and grabbing a fist full of pennies out of the bag, I recorded my answer. My accuracy in predicting winning sports teams was dismal. It was only twenty percent correct. I suppose that if this method was truly accurate, everyone would be doing it. Instead, people usually collect team and individual statistics and base their predictions on that. (They use a form of mathematical modeling combined with intuition.)

Perhaps I asked the wrong question such as “Is Team Y going to defeat Team X” instead of “Is Team X going to defeat Team Y.” It may not seem to make a difference at first but it did make a difference in intent. (The focus on Team Y winning instead of Team X subtly changes the outcome.)

In predicting what people would do, I was more accurate. With that topic, I was right eighty percent of the time. I think it was because I knew the person’s behavior, and could phrase the question correctly.

Of course, the unconscious desire for a certain outcome played out in my divination. I wanted certain teams to win, so I pulled out the number of coins that I wanted. Furthermore, I knew certain people would act in particular ways. Since I desired a specific outcome, I would unconsciously produce that answer. Bias in this form of divination needs to be looked at before offering a final answer on its accuracy. (I do need to figure out how to remove any bias if it is possible to do so.)

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Quail: Quiet Valour

QUAIL (OLD WORLD): Quiet Valour

Thought of as stout little Birds, Quails are remarkable for their hardiness. When Quail are cold, They form star-shaped Bevies (flocks) to receive warmth from each other. In addition, these short legged Birds with round heads, will often post sentries to watch for intruders. Their plumage provides such excellent camouflage that rarely does anyone notice Them until They call “wet-my-lips” or “whit-whit’tit”. (Because Quails’ calls are so distinctive, some cuckoo clocks have Them sound on the quarter hours.)

Surprisingly, Quails are well-regarded in many cultures. For the Chinese, Quails were the Fire Phoenix of Spring and Summer. Among the Hindus, these Birds represented the returning Sun. Furthermore, these unassuming Birds were also the emblem of the Russian Tsars.

Few would regard Quails as charismatic Birds. However, people do notice Quail’s ways of protecting each other. Some Quails post sentries while other Quails direct the Predator away from the Bevy. In their own way, Quails demonstrate valour. Without much fuss and attention, They do what they need to do. Remember as Quails teach: “Just do it!”

Science Note:

1. Old World Quails are Phasianidae while New World Quails are Odontophoridae. They both belong to the Superfamily of Phasianoidea, but are not close relatives of each other. Meanwhile, Button Quails, which are Turnicidae, are members of the Rail and Crane Family, and are not relatives of either Quail groups.

Copywrite: Virginia Carper, 2009, animalteachers @


Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Hen and Rooster


Since She lays so many eggs, Hen represents fertility in many cultures. Because She gathers her chicks under her wings for protection, Hen has also come to symbolize maternal care. In addition, the Bantu regarded Her to be the Conductor of Souls to the After Life.

Rooster (Cockerel, Cock)

Since Rooster crows at dawn, many cultures viewed Him as a representative of the Sun. In Japan and China, Rooster warded off evil spirits. For the Celts, He drove away the hidden powers of the night. In Rome, Rooster, as the Bird of Mercury (God of merchants), called people to open their businesses for the new day. Living in the Underworld, Fjalarr, the Red Cock, will wake the Norse Heroes for their last great battle (Ragnarok).

Only the Tibetans did not see Rooster in a positive light. For them, He represented materialism. As One of the Three Animals on their Wheel of Life, He enticed people with greed.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Red Junglefowl: Change the Status Quo

The gloriously coloured ancestor of the Domestic Chicken, Red Junglefowl is from the forests of South and Southeast Asia. Wary and shy, He prefers life there in the underbrush where He is safe. A nimble flier, Red Junglefowl will escape from a Predator by chimneying (flying upwards in a circle) through in an opening in the forest.

Life for Red Junglefowl revolves around establishing his place in the Flock. As a Chick, He spars with the other Males while Female Chicks spar with each other. Later He will spar with the winning Females. Every place in Red Junglefowls flock is earned. However when He perceives weaknesses in any of the other Birds, He challenges Them.

The most abundant Bird in the world, Domestic Chicken is even more prolific than people. First domesticated in the Indus River Valley between 3200 and 2500 BCE, Domestic Chicken spread to Persia and Mesopotamia, finally reaching Egypt in 1500 BCE and China by 1400 BCE. The reason for Chicken’s popularity was his ability to fight well. (Cockfighting once had religious overtones.)

An important aspect of Red Junglefowl’s life is defining his place in the social pecking order of his Flock. Constantly vying for leadership, each Bird knows when to fight, when to back off, and when to stop. In each case, Red Junglefowl ably demonstrates the many aspects of competition. Never settling for the status quo, He challenges it. Just remember like Red Junglefowl to back off when your endeavours seem futile.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Pondering the Pythagorean Mysteries (2)

While researching the Platonic and Archimedean Solids, I saw them manifested in crystals. Perhaps this is why many people think of crystals as having special properties. The Crystal System of Classification makes it evident that crystals reflect the sacred patterns of the Universe. Since Sacred Geometry comes naturally to them, this is why we seek healing from crystals. They connect us to the Sacred Order of the Universe, which soothes us.

Two things came from the exploration of these Mysteries. I want to know even more about Sacred Geometry – circles, triangles, and squares -- and why we are drawn to them. A circle (a line that meets itself) is complete. For this reason, many people have their sacred space be a circle. Triangles, the most stable shape, appear in building structures. Squares comfort us with their neat understandable boundaries.

Now I understand why I am in awe of The Pentagon. For years, I commuted to Washington D.C., changing buses at the transfer station located at The Pentagon. All major roads in Northern Virginia converge at The Pentagon (formerly called the “Mixing Bowl”). This low concrete building is the power center of the region.

A pentagon consists of three generating triangles, which form a triad. The mystic numbers of five and three combine to form eight which is divided into four and two, which added become six. As each number weaves in and out with the next, they add their special magick to The Pentagon, the building. What emerges from the dance of the numbers is a fortress of strength and resolve.

Works Consulted:

Coppens, Philip, “Salvador Dali: painting the fourth dimension”, Philip Coppens: The Official Website, 2009, 20 October 2009,

Crystal, Ellie, Numbers and their Meanings, Crystalinks, 2009, 26 Sept. 2009,

DuQuette, Lon Milo, Understanding Aleister Crowley’s Thoth Tarot, Destiny Books, Rochester Vermont, 1999

Hall, Judy, The Crystal Bible, Godsfield, Alresdord, UK, 2003

Hart, Francene, Sacred Geometry Oracle Deck, Bear and Company, Rochester Vermont, 2001

Howard, Mike and Darcy, “Introduction to Crystallography and Mineral Crystal Systems”, Bob’s Rock Shop, 1998, 10 November 2009,

Morningstar, Sally, The Art of Wiccan Healing, Hay House, Carlsbad, CA, 2005

Zell-Ravenheart, Oberon, Grimore for the Apprentice Wizard, New Page Books, Franklin Lakes, New Jersey, 2004

Friday, November 27, 2009

Pondering the Pythagorean Mysteries (1)

When I first read a book on Sacred Geometry, I became easily bored as well as hopelessly confused. However, when I learned the Pythagorean Mysteries step by step, I rediscovered the Sacred Patterns of the Universe. For me, the Universe is alive with order if we can only pierce our veil of ignorance. The Pythagorean Mysteries offers us a map to go forth and discover. Through the language of mathematics, I could now explore deeper into how the Universe constructs Itself.

To discern the Fibonacci Sequence in nature, I found out that pigeons landing and acorns falling both followed the same pattern: 1-1-2-3-5-8-1-1-2-3. While I was in the hospital recovering from my brain bleed, I counted the pigeons landing and taking off from the roof. I also noted how they grouped themselves when they roosted. This may seem to be a strange thing to do while recovering with a traumatic brain injury. However my wounded brain fell in sync with the birds. As I counted the pattern of acorns dropping from the nearby oak trees, a soothing pattern emerged. The Universe reassured me of its Sacred Order.

In studying the Golden Mean, I discovered magick. Wizards, who explore and exploit the little corners of the Universe, can bring forth wonderful things. For example, the Golden Rectangle offers a subtle wholeness to buildings and art. As the Universe makes itself known to us, it offers surprises such as the Mobius Strip which transforms a two dimensional world into a one dimensional one.

Salvador Dali explored the Pythagorean Mysteries in his art. Referring to himself as a Master Alchemist, Dali ably demonstrated this in his paintings. Going beyond the limits of the two dimensional canvas, He offered us a glimpse of the fourth dimension of time. (One example is his painting, “The Persistence of Memory” (1931).) In doing so, he transformed our perceptions of the dimensions. Using Platonic solids, he represented God with the Octahedron in “The Sacrament of the Last Supper” (1955). Many may consider Dali to be mad, but for me he was the Master Wizard who inducted me into the Pythagorean Mysteries.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Lessons of the Turkey: Blessings

TURKEY: Blessings
Well-known for his metallic rainbow of feathers, Turkey was called the “Jeweled Bird” by the Aztec, Maya, and Toltec peoples. The largest and showiest of Game Birds in North America, He also has a bright red snood and throat wattle. For the peoples of Mexico, the Jeweled Bird was a Gift from the Gods. For offering to Chalchiuhtotolin (“Jade Turkey”), they would cast solid gold ornaments of Turkeys.

Meanwhile among Native Americans of the North, Turkey was known as “the Earth Eagle”. Because He was close to the earth, Turkey represented the Earth Mother. As Eagle brought messages from the Sky Father, so did the Turkey from the Earth Mother. Other peoples called Him, the “Give Away Bird” because Turkey fed so many. Only the Dakota regarded Turkey to be a stupid Bird.

Domesticated by the Aztecs, Turkey took Europe by storm as the Bird to be served at feasts. In the 1500s, the Spanish Crown required their traders to return from the New World with Turkeys as part of their cargoes. Meanwhile, King Henry VIII served Turkey at his festivities. Turkey was such a major part of European diets that the Pilgrims brought these Birds with them to the New World. Little did they know that Turkeys were native to North America.

Turkey eats what He can find on the forest floor whether it be acorns, beans, Crustaceans, Insects, or roots. This hardy Bird is able to withstand the bitter winters of the North Woods. In the spring, his breast sponge stores fat so that He can court Hen Turkeys without stopping to eat. Often He and His Brother will court a group of Hens together to form their Harem.

Hens who want either Tom Turkey will lie down in front of one of them. Later She will lay Eggs, usually in a common nest. Otherwise, Hens and Toms live separate lives, even roosting in separate trees.

As the “Jeweled Fowl”, Turkey brings blessings to all, for He can feed many at once. Prolific in his life, Turkey brings bounty to all who will share. He only asks that they live abundantly and give to others.
Science Notes:

1. The Pheasant grouping of birds is a large family. Phasianidae includes grouse, jungle fowl (chicken), Old World quail, peafowl, pheasants and turkeys. New World quails belong to the Family of Odontophoridae, which are distant relatives of Phasianidae.

2. The two species of Turkeys are Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) and Ocellated Turkey (Meleagris ocellata).

3. Australian Brush Turkey is a member of the Family of Megopodiidae (birds that build mounds to bury their eggs). Although they are both land fowls, Australian Brush Turkey is only distantly related to Wild Turkey.

4. Australian Bustard sometimes called Scrub Turkey belongs to the family of Gruiformes (crane-like birds).

Saturday, November 21, 2009

ROSEATE SPOONBILL: Eye of the Beholder

The only Spoonbill in the Western Hemisphere, Roseate Spoonbill is also the only pink one as well. Her stunning pink colour comes from the Shrimp She eats. Although She usually congregates with Egrets and Pelicans, Roseate Spoonbill often stands out in the crowd with her vibrant colours and distinctive bill.

A sociable Bird, Roseate Spoonbill lives in large colonies with Egrets, Herons, Ibises, and Storks. While the other Birds feed on Fish in deeper waters, She is content to remain in the shallow areas. Sweeping her distinctive bill back and forth in the muck, Roseate Spoonbill discovers many tasty Insects and Crustaceans to eat.

Once hunted nearly to extinction for her beautiful feathers, Roseate Spoonbill has made a dramatic comeback. The irony was that her pink feathers used on ladies’ hats faded to a dull white over time. Today, watching Roseate Spoonbill take flight delights many tourists who come to see Her.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder teaches Roseate Spoonbill. As She brightens the skies and gladden the hearts of those who glimpse Her, so can you. Remember not to be so taken by beauty that you desire it only for yourself. Beauty hoarded will fade like Roseate Spoonbill’s feathers on hats.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Northern Bald Ibis (Kelaynak): Call to Action


Unlike other Ibises, Northern Bald Ibis does not wade in the water, since He prefers life in the semi-arid places of the Middle East. In rocky places, He likes to nests on the cliff ledges. In former times, Northern Bald Ibis often used castle battlements to nest in.

With his red face and curved bill, Northern Bald Ibis is quite an ugly bird. Adding to his weird appearance is his metallic green and purple glossy feathers. Resembling a monk, Northern Bald Ibis also is called “Hermit Ibis”. (Although He prefers life in remote places, Northern Bald Ibis is actually a gregarious Bird.)

A holy Bird to the Ancient Egyptians, Northern Bald Ibis represented the soul to them. Meanwhile in Turkey, this charismatic Bird was regarded as one of the first Birds that Noah released from the Ark. For Moslems, mystical Northern Bald Ibis migrated so to guide pilgrims on their Hajj to Mecca.

Northern Bald Ibis calls us call to action. One of the first officially protected species in the world, Northern Bald Ibis has spurred peoples and governments of Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa to save Him from extinction. (In 1504, Archbishop Leonhard of Salzburg declared protection for this Bird.) Because of his specialness, people of Turkey managed to maintain a small but stable flock of wild Northern Bald Ibises for a long time. Everywhere, Northern Bald Ibis leads people in defending what is truly important. Let Him spur you to action.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Ibises and Spoonbills: Pursuit of Wisdom


Relatives of Pelicans, Ibises and Spoonbills are large Birds who thrive in the world’s marshes and wetlands. Seen together, these Birds will often nest with other water Birds notably Herons and Egrets. The major difference between an Ibis and a Spoonbill is in the shape of their beaks. Ibises have curved bills for probing in the soft mud. Meanwhile, Spoonbills have bills are spoon shaped. They catch their food by swinging their bills back and forth in the water.

SACRED IBIS: Pursuit of Wisdom

Sacred to the Ancient Egyptians, Sacred Ibises were mummified and often buried with the Pharaohs. For them, this Bird represented Thoth, their God of Wisdom. The Egyptians believed that Thoth hovered over the people in the form of a Sacred Ibis offering them protection and guidance.

Important to local ecosystems, Sacred Ibis preys on Snakes and Insects. (In fact, Ancient Egyptians thought of Her as a protector against Snakes.) An adaptable Bird, She can be also found at landfills near towns and villages looking for Worms and Grasshoppers. While migrating, this white Bird with a black head used to visit the banks of the Nile. (Sacred Ibis are now extinct in Egypt because of habitat loss.)

As Sacred Ibis probes the soft earth for tasty Mollusks and Crustaceans, so you can probe deeper beneath the surface of daily life for wisdom. In your pursuit of knowledge, let Her be your guide. Like Thoth, Sacred Ibis will watch over you as you seek the truth. Pursue all wisdom with a passion, but try not get stuck in the muck and the mire of unsavory facts.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Sacred Geometry: Platonic Solids (2)

Composition: C (Carbon)
Hardness: 10
Colours: clear, white, yellow, blue, and pink

When subjected to high temperatures, carbon under immense pressure in deep volcanic pipes will form into diamonds. For this reason, diamond is the hardest substance known today. However, since diamonds are brittle, they will cleave when struck. (This is why large diamonds are rare.) Because they sparkle when polished, diamonds have become a symbol of purity and power. Today, diamonds also symbolise love.

Composition: Na8(Al6Si6O24)Cl2 (sodium aluminum silicate with chlorine)
Hardness: 5.5 - 6
Colours: blue

Often mistaken for lapis lazuli, this deep blue stone has white inclusions instead of gold. Relatively rare, sodalite is found only in silica-poor igneous rocks. Its high sodium content places this crystal in the family of aluminosilcates. Used in beadwork, sodalite’s blue colours add to the beauty of jewelry. For New Agers, sodalite is used to clear electromagnetic pollution in homes.

Taxonomy: Group IV ((+) ssRNA): Picornavirales: Picornaviridae:
Rhinovirus (Genus): Species: 100 types

One of the most common viruses known to people is the rhinovirus. Growing best in hot environments, this virus thrives in people’s noses, hence the name “rhino” from Greek: meaning “nose”. Because this virus is highly adaptable, developing a vaccine against it is quite difficult. Transmission of this virus is through sneezing, and touching surfaces. Since rhinoviruses are sensitive to acidic environments, washing with soap is effective in stopping their spread.

Works Used:

Bergmann, Rolf, “Viruses with icosahedral capsids”, 2006, University of Hamburg, 10 November 2009,

Cunningham, Scott, “Crystal, Gem, & Metal Magic”, Llewellyn, St. Paul MN, 2002

----, “Methane”, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2006, 10 November 2009,

Hall, Judy, “The Crystal Bible”, Godsfield, Alresdord, UK, 2003

Howard, Mike and Darcy, “Introduction to Crystallography and Mineral Crystal Systems”, Bob’s Rock Shop, 1998, 10 November 2009,

Lilly, Sue, “Crystal Decoder”, Quartro, London, 2001

NNadir, “On Symmetry: Platonic Solids and Ugly Wastes, Lampblack, Coal and Carbon”, Daily Kos, 2007, 10 November 2009,

Permutt, Philip, “The Little Book of Crystal Tips & Gems”, Cico Books, New York, 2008

Sorrell. Charles, “Rocks and Minerals”, Golden Press, New York, 1973

-----, “Virus Structure”, Virology, MicrobiologyBytes, 2004, 10 November 2009,

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Sacred Geometry: Platonic Solids (1)

Platonic Solids: Finding Perfect Bodies in Nature

Finding Platonic Solids (perfect bodies) in nature was for me an exercise in creative thinking. How early philosophers like Plato came to theorise about them still mystifies me. Still I did find examples of perfect bodies in chemistry, mineralogy and biology.

In chemistry, many chemicals form covalent bonds in the form of the tetrahedron. These bonds have a base atom surrounded by four others. One example of this bond is methane (marsh gas). Because tetrahedrons abound so much in chemistry, chemists have named one of their periodicals “Tetrahedron”.

In mineralogy, crystals are divided into seven systems. Each system is derived from how the imaginary axis of a crystal intersects with its center. The length of the axis and the angles determine the “perfect” shape of each crystal. The Isometric Crystal System contains crystals with the highest degree of symmetry. Platonic Solids formed by these crystals are the hexahedron, octahedron, and dodecahedron.

Within viruses, the proteins of animal and plant species will stabilise into icosahedrons. With only a minimum of free energy, a protein can easily bond into a triangle. The most stable and energy efficient form for these viruses is the icosahedron.


Discovered in 1776 by Alessandro Volta, methane became known as marsh gas. Since then, methane was found to be the principle component of natural gas as well. Besides being abundant in the earth’s crust and on various planets, methane is also continually being created by landfills and cows.

Since methane violently reacts with oxidizers, it is dangerous in closed spaces. Highly flammable, methane will explode. Because this gas displaces oxygen, methane will also asphyxiate any living thing nearby. Moreover, its green house properties are problematic. Methane has a warming potential of 25 (averaged over 100 years), which means that this gas traps heat at a higher rate than CO2.

Composition: CaF2 (calcium fluoride)
Hardness: 4
Colours: purple, blue, green, yellow, clear

Formed when a mineral vein come into contact with hot water, fluorite is often found in deposits of silver, tin, and lead. Since this crystal comes in many colours, fluorite was formerly used as an ornamental stone. Because this crystal melts easily at low temperatures, it now has many industrial uses. Since fluorite emits different colours when light is shone through it, fluorescent lights replaced incandescent lights in many modern offices.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Loon (Diver): Unexplored Places

Loon’s primal call beckons us to wander deeper into our trackless wilderness. Hauntingly, her cries expose the lonely places of our hearts. Sending shivers down our backs, her mournful wails disturb our serenity. Suddenly breaking into our reverie, Loon fills the skies with her insane laughing.

Irrespective of how we may feel about Loon, She does have an important place in the universe. According to the Norse, a flock of Loons calling overhead are following souls into heaven. The Siberians believe that Loon escorted souls to the heavens. However to the Abenaki of North America, Loon mourns for the return of Glooskap who left them when the White Man came.

Unlike many other Birds, Loon has heavy bones. Similar to Penguins, She can swiftly sink into the water without any problems. By squeezing air from her feathers and wings, Loon easily dives deeper into the water. To hunt for fish, She holds her head just under the surface, avoiding the water’s glare. Her ability to dive quickly earned Loon, her other name of “Diver”. So well adapted is Loon to the water that her Chicks can dive when They are only two days old. Afterwards, They spread their nights on their Parents’ backs.

Let Loon be your guide to the between times. When we are hopelessly confused, She calls to us to climb on her strong back. Loon takes us through our unexplored places of loneliness to serenity. But do not get so lost by yourself that all you hear is her cackling laughter.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Kingfisher: Live a Mythic Life


All over the world, Kingfishers delight people with their bright colours and diving feats. What people may not know is that this family of Birds consists of three groups. Often seen near lakes and ponds, the Kingfishers of the New World are the Cerylinae (“Water” Kingfishers) group. The “Fishing” Kingfishers (Alcedininae) of the Old World are usually found near rivers. In contrast, “Forest” Kingfishers (Halcyoninae) live in the forests and hunt Lizards. However, all of Them perch in trees, waiting patiently for their Prey to appear. Swooping down, Kingfishers will spear Minnows with their pointed beaks, while Kookaburras will go after unwary Bugs.

Although regarded as “flying jewels”, Kingfishers also quite persistent in their endeavours. These small Birds will excavate their nest cavities with their beaks. At a river bank, Kingfishers will stab repeatedly at the dirt with their bills. Kicking out the debris with their feet, both Kingfishers then build a long burrow into the bank.

The Ancient Greeks tell how Kingfishers came to be. Upon finding out that her husband Ceyx (the King of Thessaly) had drowned at sea, the Goddess Halcyone threw herself off a cliff. Her father, Aeolus (the God of Winds) turned both Halcyone and Ceyx into Kingfishers. According to the Greeks, the days just before and after the Winter Solstice are the Halcyon Days. The winds are calm at this time so that the Kingfishers (children of Aeolus) can nest and raise their young.

For such small Birds, Kingfishers live mythic lives. Unlike other Birds, Female Kingfishers are more colourful than their Mates. Laughing Kookaburra is known in song for his “laughter”. Common Kingfisher and his Mate will chisel out a six foot (two metres) long burrow into a river bank. Belted Kingfisher will dive from great heights for a tasty Minnow (even though She cannot swim). Learn from these remarkable Birds how to have a storied life. But do not become so self-important that you become a legend in your own mind.