Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Triads in Thought (1)

Embedded throughout human culture and thought is the Triad. Appearing in surprising places, the Triad reaches out to our consciousness. On the flag of Barbados is Neptune’s Trident, which is the Sea God’s three-pronged spear. The Boy Scout Movement uses three fingers in their salute, while the Girl Scout Movement uses the trefoil as their symbol. Meanwhile, the Three Tenors delighted people with their music and spawned imitations of “Three Irish Tenors”, “Three Mo’ Tenors”, and more.

In religious thought, the Triad has several symbolic meanings. The Two are joined into One. The Two join to bring forth Three. The Three form a never-ending cycle. The Triad is completion, with the whole that greater than its parts.

In Hinduism, a Triumvirate of Gods, the Trimurti, overseas the universe. Brahma is the Creator, while Vishnu is the Preserver. And finally there is Shiva the Destroyer. According to “The Bhagavad-Gita”, nature is divided into three parts called gunas. Sattva is calm peaceful energy while rajas is creative passion. Rounding them out is the third which is tamas (intense desire). “In the Divine Consciousness, they remain in a state of perfect balance. When this balance is disturbed, the process of creation begins…” (1) “The mechanics of the eternal three-way conflict is the driving force that turns the great wheel of the ever-lasting universe.” (2)

Among other religions, triads are well represented. Christians have the Trinity – God in Three Persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Among the Greeks, Hecate, a chthonic Goddess, sat at a three way crossroads. (Among, Romans she was called Trivia.) The Norns of the Norse were three – Urdhr (that which has become), Verdhandi (that which is becoming) and Skuld (that which shall be). (Norse Runes are also divided into Three Aetts.)
The Romans had several trios of Gods to oversee their State affairs. The Archaic Triad, the first, consisted of Jupiter (the Ruler of the Heavens), Mars (Guardian of the Crops), and Quirinus (God of Roman Civic Life). Later this trio was superseded by the Capitoline Triad.

The Capitoline Triad was Jupiter (the Supreme God), Juno Regina (Ruler of the State), and Minerva (Goddess of Wisdom). The Capitolium, a temple on Capitoline Hill, hosted these Gods. This grouping of a male God with two females reflects Etruscan influence (of Tinia (Supreme Deity)), Uni (his wife), and Menrva (their daughter, Goddess of Wisdom).

Meanwhile, the plebeians venerated the Aventine Trio. The temple of Ceres (the Goddess of Agriculture) on Aventine Hill, housed the City’s grain supply. This temple also hosted Liber and Libera, Gods who oversaw the fertility of the fields. These three Gods (Ceres, Liber, Libera), together, looked after the plebeians.

The Triad was also prominent in Celtic culture. For example, the Triskle (Triple Spiral) of three inter-locking circles was representative of Celtic culture. They swore by “land, sea, and sky”. The Celtic Goddess of Death, the Morrigan had triple aspects (known as her sisters Badb and Nemain). In addition, the Celts venerated the Triple Mother as a midwife of the Soul. Their Triple Spiral represented the Soul’s journey in life. The First Spiral was the conscious life, while the Second Spiral was the unconscious (dream) life. Finally, the Third Spiral was the mature soul finally freed from the body.
Copyright Virginia Carper, Animal Teachers Enterprises

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Pelican Family: Panache

Because Pelicans do everything together in precision, They tend to unnerve people. When flying, these huge Birds drum their wings in unison. While resting, Pelicans point their long beaks in the same direction at the same time. The activities of these ungainly comic Birds, noted for their huge pouches, often transforms into drama.

Suddenly from a great height, with his enormous wings outstretched, Brown Pelican points his huge beak towards the water and plunges in. Filling his immense pouch, Great White Pelican holds more water than any other bird –about three gallons (11 1/2 liters). And, Australian Pelican has the largest beak of any Bird in the world – 19.5 inches (49 cm).

Moreover, Pelicans feed in unusual ways. In the water, White Pelicans form a semi-circle. As They beat their wings, the Group moves towards the shore. Herding Fish into the shallows, White Pelicans scoop Them up in their pouches.
Meanwhile, Brown Pelican dives into deep waters for Fish. Rhythmically flapping his wings, He hunches up his neck looking for Menhaden. Spying a school of Them below, Brown Pelican swiftly plunges into the sea. After scooping up Fish with his beak, He rests on the surface, to drain water from his pouch.

Contrary to popular belief, Pelicans do not store Fish in their pouches. Instead, They use them as fishing nets. Pelicans fill their beaks with gulps of water and Fish. After straining the water out of their pouches, Pelicans then dine on Fish.

Among people, stories abound about helpful Pelicans. In Mecca, They helped to build a Moslem Shrine. Among Christians, Pelican represents Christ feeding His Flock with His Blood. Because Dalmatian Pelican has red on her crop, many people thought that She fed her Young from her breast.

Whatever They do, these ancient Birds do it to dramatic effect. Plunging from great heights into the water, Brown Pelican causes people to take notice. Flying in unison, White Pelicans fill the skies with their massive bodies. With great subtlety, Pelicans move beyond being comical to being sublime. If you must be noticed, do it in the Pelican way with panache.


Virginia Carper, Animal Teachers

Monday, September 21, 2009

Lessons of the Cormorant Family

CORMORANT AND SHAG FAMILY: Living Disorganized Lives

With their powerful feet, Cormorants quickly propel Themselves through the water. Because their feathers are not waterproof, They can easily sink down into the water. However, when Cormorants emerge from the water, They have to remain on the shore to dry their wings.

Using seaweed, sticks, and flotsam, Cormorants build sloppy nests. (More often than not, their nests turn into rotting heaps.) Because of their general messiness, Cormorant colonies are islands of guano. Besides mining their rich droppings, fertilizer companies build platforms for these Birds to roost and breed on.

Another thing, Cormorants are known for is their superb fishing skills. After scooping Fish up with their throat pouch, They position the fish in their throat before swallowing. In China and Japan, fishermen will use these Birds to fish for them. Placing a ring over Cormorant’s neck, the fisherman would ensure that Cormorant could not swallow the Fish. When Cormorant caught a Fish, they would remove the Fish from the Bird’s throat.

Within Cormorant Family, there are two unique Birds. Beside Penguins, Flightless Cormorant is the only other flightless Sea Bird. One of the most primitive of Birds, Shag has an unusually large clutch of very small eggs.

Since They live messy lives, Cormorants often end up having others take advantage of them. Being disorganized, They have little understanding of how others profit from their activities. Cormorants show that having a chaotic life can make you subject to being used by someone else.


Virginia Carper, Animal Teachers

Friday, September 18, 2009

Grouse Family Teachings

GROUSE FAMILY: Lords of the Dance

Birds of the Northern Hemisphere, Grouse Family (Tetraonidae) are relatives of Pheasants and other Game Birds. Compact in shape, these Birds have fowl-like bodies. Another characteristic of Grouse is their feathered toes and nostrils. In addition, Grouse (except for Willow Ptarmigan) are polygamous.

What Grouse are best known for are their rituals of the Lek. Some Leks (dance grounds) have been used by generations of Birds. Taking turns, Male Grouse strut and put on elaborate dances. Female Grouse attach Themselves to the most vigorous dancer. Meanwhile, Spruce Grouse defends his own individual Lek, and Females go to Him there.

Male Grouse dance to impress. Raising his long tail, Spruce Grouse struts about. In the early mornings, Prairie Chicken issues his booming calls across the North American Prairies. Inflating his throat sacs, Sage Grouse gives a whip-like crack for all to hear. Meanwhile, in the North Woods, Ruffled Grouse drums loudly. The most impressive dancer of all is Capercaillie of Eurasia. Singing while leaping and strutting, He entices Female Grouse to join Him.

Male Grouse is the Lord of the Dance. He commands the attention of all as He drums, struts, and leaps. Express yourself through the dance. Move your body and come alive!


Virginia Carper, Animal Teachers

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Teachings of the Pigeon

Pigeon: Courage

Pigeons perch on statues in cities. They greedily fight over bread crumbs in parks. Bobbing along sidewalks, Pigeons move among people, searching for more food.

Pigeon’s commonness belies his incredible intelligence and discernment. By analyzing the positions of heavenly bodies, landmasses, and weather, Pigeon navigates thousands of miles to return to his home. After being taught, He can tell the difference between a Cubist and an Impressionist painting.

Because of his great skill in navigation, Pigeon has carried important messages for people. Early Greeks sent Pigeon to their cities to inform them of their Olympic victories. Meanwhile, Hindus regarded Pigeon as a messenger of their God of Death and Destruction.

During the Two World Wars, 20,000 messenger Pigeons gave their lives in service to soldiers. For his work during the bombings of Berlin, Snow White was awarded the Military Cross by the United States. For saving a battalion in WWI, Cher Ami was awarded the Croix de Guerre with a Palm by France. In executing his duties, Cher Ami was severely wounded and lost his leg.

The next time you see Pigeon bobbing along the sidewalk, remember his service. Displaying incredible courage, Pigeon has dodged bullets, bombs, and shrapnel to deliver lifesaving messengers. His courage is above reproach. Let Pigeon show you how to live fearlessly with intelligence and discernment.

Science Notes:
Pigeons in cities are descendents of escaped domestic pigeons. The ancestor of domestic pigeons is the Rock Pigeon (Rock Dove).

Virginia Carper, Animal Teachers

Monday, September 14, 2009

Columbidae Family: Dove

Doves and Pigeons make up the Columbidae Family. These stout Birds bob as They walk, and are also known for their flimsy stick nests on the edges of buildings. However, Columbidae are excellent parents. Both mother and father offer their chicks rich “crop milk”, a nutritious substance.

The Columbidae Family is divided into two large subfamilies – one for imperial Pigeons and Fruit Doves, and the other for the rest. Typical Pigeons and Doves belong to the grouping of Columbinae. Doves are smaller, more delicate than the larger, more robust Pigeons.

Dove: Forgiveness
Dove’s soft cooing call is often heard at dawn and dusk. Her quiet calls bring people a sense of serenity. Easily tamed, this shy gentle Bird has represented peace in many cultures for millennia.

The Greeks regarded Dove to be a bringer of messages from the Gods. Native Americans regarded this quiet unassuming Bird to be the soul of a lover. For Christians, Dove represented the Holy Spirit.

Through people’s carelessness, many Dove species have gone extinct. One of the greatest tragedies in the natural world is the extinction of the Passenger Pigeon. Once the most numerous species of Birds on the earth, Passenger Pigeon is no more, ruthlessly overhunted by humans. Another major tragedy is the inoffensive Dodo who was killed off by sailors for his meat.

Overcoming her sorrow, Dove still lives among people. Offering hope, She continues to bring serenity and love to them. Only her soft mournful calls remind people of what they have lost. To humans, Dove offers her olive branch of forgiveness as She continues to minister to them.

Virginia Carper, Animal Teachers

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Greylag Goose: Follow Your Own Star

The largest of the Grey Geese, Greylag Goose is the last to migrate south. Some suggest that this Goose’s name came from Her being the last to leave. Besides being known as “graylag”, this big powerful Goose is also called “wild goose”.

Whatever her name, Greylag Goose is the wild ancestor of the Domestic Goose. Always alert, Greylag Goose is difficult to approach. Among Christians, Greylag Goose is the devout person who keeps a vigilant watch over their soul. Since Domestic Goose inherited her wariness, He makes excellent “watch goose”.

In 390 BCE, Greylag Goose saved the City of Rome. When the Gauls attempted to attack the Capitol area, Greylag Goose warned everyone with her noisy honking. Alerted by Her, the Romans were able to repel the invaders. Since it was in Juno’s temple where Greylag Goose warned the Romans, She became Juno’s sacred animal.

However Greylag Goose often comes into conflict with farmers. Because She prefers the youngest and most succulent of plants, they lose many crops to Her. Her heavy bill with its serrated edges easily snips the growing grasses. Many farmers consider Greylag Goose a pest.

Honored by some, Greylag Goose is detested by others. She is both a guardian for people and a destroyer of their food. Many things to many people, Greylag Goose listens to her inner voice. Domesticated many millennia ago, She remains the only wild Goose that still breeds in Britain. Greylag Goose ignores popular opinion to follow her own star. However, make sure that you do the right thing when asked.

Virginia Carper, Animal Teachers

Friday, September 11, 2009

Teachings of Canada Goose

Canada Goose: Be Faithful

Native to North America, Canada Goose can be found in Europe and New Zealand. Highly adaptable to new situations, She finds new sources of food in farmlands and wildlife refuges. Also in Europe, Canada Goose lives well at man-made bodies of water.

One of the noisiest Birds around, her honking is a familiar sound. By talking to her friends, all of the time, Canada Goose stays close to her large Skein. Since her honking sounds like baying Hounds, the Cree called Canada Goose “The Hound of Heaven”. (Her long neck and special vocal chords enable Her to make her distinctive sounds.)

Like the other Geese, Canada Goose mates for life. However, She is known for her long lived faithfulness to her mate. Many Canada Geese spent their lives together for twenty years or more. Some Canada Geese have remained a pair for forty years, longer than many human marriages.

Closely attached to her breeding area as well, Canada Goose returns to the same place with her Gaggle for years. Because each group of Geese is semi-colonial, They do not interbreed with other Canada Geese. As a result, there are several distinct races of Canada Geese.

In her life, Canada Goose remains faithful. She stays with her Flock and Mate for her entire life. Following the same migratory route every year, any lost Member of her Flock knows where to find Her. She will stop and assist a sick Friend. However, do not be so faithful that you become inbred and stale.

Virginia Carper, Animal Teachers

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Goose Family: Be Aware of All Things

People are familiar with honking groups of Geese. Migrating Geese are such a common sight that their “v” formation is called a “wedge”. While on their way to their home territories, Geese often land to feed on grasses and grain. (On land, They are called a “gaggle”.) A Gaggle of Geese feeding in fields is a common sight in the countryside.

Because Geese have such keen senses, no one can sneak up on Them. A Goose will call to an empty sky knowing that their Skein (flock) will appear in a few minutes. “Going on a wild goose chase” came from Geese thoroughly confusing those who hunt Them. Fiercely protective of their territory, Geese will attack an intruder with their strong bills and wings. In Europe, Domestic Geese were kept as “watch” geese. (Guardians of the home as it were.)

Many cultures saw Geese as mystical beings. The Snow Goose was an emissary of winter, while Nile Goose was the soul of the Pharaoh. Meanwhile, the Hidatsa and Mandan of North America regarded Geese as emissaries of the Bird Spirits. They brought good crops to the people. Breastbones of Greylag Goose were used by the Celts for divination.

What is astounding is how Geese have long baffled people. Barnacle Goose was so named because Europeans thought They were born from Barnacles! No one saw an egg or a gosling, only Geese returning from the sea. Meanwhile Tree Geese supposedly came from the willows on Orkney Island!

Geese teach people to be aware of everything. So perceptive are Geese that They often lead people on a “wild goose chase”. Instead of inventing inane stories, people should investigate things more fully. Do not be a “Silly Goose”, rather become a “wise one”.

Virginia Carper, Animal Teachers

Monday, September 07, 2009

Mallard: Being Popular

The most widespread of the Duck Family, Mallard is familiar to many people. Say “duck” and Mallard, the largest of the Ducks comes to mind. Unlike most Ducks, He is not bothered by people. Mallard will nest anywhere there is water such as public fountains and parks.

Another example of Mallard’s uniqueness is how He exemplifies both Bergman’s and Allen’s Rules. At the Polar Regions, Mallard is larger than his Temperate Zone counterpart. Because his bill is vulnerable to cold, Polar Mallard has a smaller one.

Because of Mallard’s friendliness, He is the ancestor of today’s Domestic Ducks (except for the South American Muscovy). Archaeological evidence even suggests that Domestic Ducks were bred from Mallard before Chickens were domesticated. Even today, many species of Domestic Ducks still retain Mallard’s curly tail.

Wherever He goes, Mallard is easily recognized. People enjoy feeding He and his Friends at ponds. Because of his willingness to live near people, He has become well-known. Mallard teaches the key to popularity is friendliness and accessibility. Be like Him and have many friends.

Science Notes:

1. Allen’s Rule and Bergmann’s Rule
These two rules give general guidelines to an animal’s body shape and size. According to Allen’s Rule, members of the same animal species will differ according to the climate where they live. An animal’s arms, legs, ears, and nose will be shorter in the cooler parts of their range. According to Bergmann’s Rule, geographic groups of a species will have smaller bodies in the warmer parts of their ranges. In the cooler parts, their bodies will be larger.

2. Collective nouns for groups of ducks: in water: raft, paddling. taking off: sord. in flight: team, brace, flight, flock. on the ground: brace.

Virginia Carper, Animal Teachers

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Wood Duck: Be As Colorful As You Want

At home in the forests, Wood Duck is agile and fast on land, water, and the sky. As a Perching Duck, Wood Duck climbs trees. In fact, He places his nests in tree cavities that are abandoned by woodpeckers or squirrels. Seldom straying from his ancestral home, Wood Duck rebuilds his nest in the same area every year. This sensible Duck places his nest high enough off the ground to prevent the eggs from being taken. When his Ducklings leave their nest, They drop down to the ground below.

One of the most beautiful Ducks in the world, Wood Duck is a close relative to the spectacular Mandarin Duck of Asia. In fact, Wood Duck is called “the Water Bird in a Bridal Dress”. With his vivid green, blue, purple, yellow, and brown hues, He stands out. Many remember Him long after he is gone.

This quiet unassuming Duck demonstrates the vivid palette of living. Bright gaudy colors make this Duck memorable where He is. Wood Duck is as colorful as He wants to be. Moreover, He goes about his life not caring that He is dressed for a wedding.

Virginia Carper, Animal Teachers

Saturday, September 05, 2009

The Duck Family: Holders of Souls

Ducks belong to the same family as Geese and Swans. All these Waterfowl (called Anatidae) have webbed feet and waterproof feathers. When They preen, these Waterfowl rub oil on their feathers to make them waterproof.

The Duck Family contains a great variety of Birds. Resembling Geese, Whistling Ducks have long legs and necks. To climb trees, Perching Ducks have sharp claws on their feet. Domestic Ducks (mostly descendants of Mallards) are a part of many barnyards.

Many people are familiar with Dabbling Ducks that frequent parks. They see these Ducks dip their bodies into shallow waters to feed. Dabblers have short broad bills with bony plates to strain their food. When They take off, these Ducks do so directly from the water.

Living in deeper waters, Diving Ducks go completely underwater for food. Because of their heavy bodies, Divers need to run along the water for takeoff. Warm feathers for quilts come from Eider Ducks. Meanwhile, Stiff-tailed Ducks use their tail feathers as a rudder as they dive.

Mergansers use their unusual bills to catch and hold live prey. These long narrow bills have saw teeth. In addition, they also have a hook at the end. While swimming in the water, Mergansers resemble like a head bump between a long neck and an even longer bill.

Many cultures saw greatness in these ordinary Birds. The ancient Egyptians sacrificed Pintail Ducks to Ra, their Sun God. Also, “Duck” was a part of their hieroglyphics for a Pharaoh. When, they saw a Duck skimming along the water, they glimpsed a soul leaving this world behind. For the Olmecs of Central America, Ducks were the alter-ego of the soul. In addition, the Zuni regarded a Duck to be a soul returning home.

Like Eagles, Ducks have deep spiritual significance for people. Unlike Eagles, Ducks live close to humans. Through providing feathers, food, and eggs, Ducks offer people comfort and security. By being near, Ducks became keepers of the human soul.

Virginia Carper, Animal Teachers

Friday, September 04, 2009

Guivre, Dragon of France

The guivre, a dragon of France is fascinating to me. Instead of roasting his victims with fire, this dragon drowns them in water. This flies in the face of what I thought what traditional dragons should be. I always thought that dragons needed fire as a part of their being. The guivre breaks this rule by spouting water to put fires out.

According to European legends, guivres had bodies like other dragons. They looked reptilian and had wings. Like other dragons, the guivre had toxic breath, and killed living things from plants to animals. Aggressive in nature, they also attacked people. This makes them similar to “classic” dragons.

Like many other dragons, guivres live near water. However instead of devastating the European countryside with fire, these dragons flood the area. Happy in water, guivres remake the country side for themselves to live in. Instead of fire, these dragons rule through water.

What I found interesting is that the guivres were afraid of naked people. Living in watery places such as rivers, lakes, and streams, they would run amok until they encountered a person taking a bath. Then, these dragons would quickly flee. This is the main reason why that they are not seen in France these days. To avoid seeing a naked person, guivres moved to remote areas far from towns and cities.

As with other dragons, guivres could be tamed with the Sign of the Cross. But I like the notion that a dragon could be frighten by nude humans. Moreover, guivres were so traumatized by naked people, that they could be easily defeated by taking one’s clothes off. One wit suggested that nude beaches began in Europe as a way to drive away these fierce dragons.

I think that the world is big enough for a guivre to be living somewhere. A dragon spouting water is unique. A dragon afraid of naked people is even more unique. That this dragon existed tickles my imagination. The guivre breaks the rules of what makes a dragon a “dragon”. They open the door to other possibilities of dragoness. The guivre challenges preconceived ideas of dragons and broadens the definition of “dragon”.


Copyright: Virginia Carper, Animal Teachers

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