Sunday, April 22, 2012


As one of the strangest mammals in prehistory, Chalicotherium has baffled paleontologists for a long time.  When fossils were first found of this animal, naturalists thought that She had to be a predator.  What they had discovered were the long sharp claws of Chalicotherium.  Since She had no modern descendents to guide them, paleontologists decided to place Chalicotherium with carnivore-like Mammals.
            However when more fossils were discovered, scientists realized that Chalicotherium had no teeth in her upper jaw.  Moreover, fossilized teeth from this Mammal of the Miocene epoch showed very little wear.  Scientists decided that She ate only the tender shoots from the trees.
            Chalicotherium walked on her knuckles like modern Gorilla and sat on her haunches like modern Panda.  When She walked, her back sloped downwards because of the difference between her long front legs and short strong hind legs.  When Chalicotherium ate, She would use her long legs as her arms to grasp the leaves on trees.  Then She used her razor sharp claws to slice off tender shoots from the trees.  After Chalicotherium placed the leaves in the back of her mouth, She would sit down and chew on them.
            Chalicotherium was unusual since She was an Odd-toed Mammal (Perissodactyl) who had claws instead of hooves.  A distant relative of modern Tapirs and Rhinos, She looked like a cross between a modern Horse and an extinct Giant Ground Sloth.  Unlike the other hoofed Mammals, Chalicotherium regressed back to the original toes of her ancestors.  This is the only known instance of a hoofed Mammal who reverted back to the original clawed toes.
            The extinct Mammal Family that Chalicotherium belongs to is the Chalicotheres.  Knuckle-walkers like Her are called the Chalicotheriinae (after Her).  Meanwhile, her relatives known as the Schizotheriinae (such as Ancylotherium) walked on flat feet.  The Schizotheriinae lived in Africa amongst the early Hominds.
During the Pliocene epoch, Chalicotherium went extinct as more versatile plant eaters emerged.  However, some people believe that She still lives in Africa.  There are stories of a strange Animal with long claws for limbs and a horse-like face living in the jungles.  Other people theorize that the elusive Nandi Bear of Kenya could be Chalicotherium.  However, the tales of Nandi Bear depict a fearsome predator, while Chalicotherium was a gentle-soul who ate tender leaves.
Since She was not in a hurry to go anywhere, Chalicotherium valued slow time.  Instead, this large Mammal preferred to sit still and eat tender tree shoots.  Moreover She turned back time by reverting to the claws of her ancestors instead of retaining the more modern hooves.  When people rushed to judgment about Chalicotherium, they thought that She was a deadly predator.  With the slowness of time, people realized that Chalicotherium was a quiet plant eater.  When the world becomes too fast, let Her show you how to slow down.  Appreciate as She does – the calmness and serenity of slow time.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Cuttlefish: Cunning

Cuttlefish, like their cousin Octopus, will hide during the day and feed at night. However, Cuttlefish differ from Octopus by having a shell inside their mantle, like the Squid, their other cousin. This is the cuttlebone, which helps the Cuttlefish regulate their buoyancy.

The cunning Cuttlefish will hide in sand or seaweed with its tentacles forward, wiggling like fat worms. When an unsuspecting fish investigates the "worms", Cuttlefish will jet forward and grab the fish. Sometimes, Cuttlefish will sneak up behind Crab and nab Him with Her tentacles. Just be careful that you do not just rely only on your wiles. Cuttlefish have other means of protecting Herself such as the ability to change color and to squirt ink to hide.

Cuttlefish' Teachings Include: "Cuttlefish ultimately heralds a legacy; something you're planning on leaving your children, or something being kept in store for you." Copyright: "Australian Animal Dreaming", Scott Alexander King

Cuttlefish' Wisdom Includes:
Having Relations

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Tarot and Dragons: The Dragons Tarot by Toraldo and Baraldi (3 of 3)

Furthermore, I am sensitive to the violence that is depicted in some form on many of the cards.  For example, The Lovers (VI) of the Major Arcana depicts the Norse legend of Sigurd and the Dragon Fafnir of the Volsunga Saga.  Sigurd is bathing in the dead dragon’s blood.  Meanwhile, the Eight of Chalices shows two dragons in deadly combat, and Seven of Chalices depicts an attempted rape.  I found the illustrations of this deck to be too extreme to gain much meaning in any of my readings.

Comparing this deck to “The Celtic Dragon Tarot” (Conway and Hunt) is a lesson in opposites.  Conway regards dragons to be co-magicians and wise teachers, not agents of chaos.  Toraldo’s views of the dragons representing the elements also differ from Conway’s.  She sees dragons connected to the elemental powers of earth, air, fire, and waters.  Therefore working with the dragons will help a person to tap into this spiritual energy.  Meanwhile Toraldo writes, “It represents a vision of the four elemental realities in a single animal.”  In his view, dragons are only “representations” and not actual conduits.  However, both authors agree that dragons need to be approached with respect.

Although “The Dragon Tarot” (Donaldson and Procownik) does share a similar title to “Dragons Tarot” (Baradi and Toraldo), their points of view about dragons differ greatly.  The Lovers (VI) of Toraldo’s deck represents “the pact with the dragon (which) is the primordial marriage with the forces of nature.”  While Donaldson does regard dragons to be a force of nature, to him they are much more.  The Lovers (VI) of the Major Arcana of “The Dragon Tarot” shows two dragons loving each other.  Donaldson writes, “Two Dragons…gaze at each other in a moment of Union.  Above them shines the Yin-Yang symbol indicating that all love is in a state of constant evolutions.”

Donaldson sees dragons as separate, full-blooded entities who may or may not guide humans.  The only way to find out who will is for the person to go on a magickal journey to Dragonland.  Along the way, they will meet the dragons who are disposed to teaching humans.

Meanwhile the dragons of “Dragons Tarot” are the archetypes of chaos, with many warring with humans.  However, there are those who will meet humans, half-way, as a form of compromise, but these dragons are still a contrast to the people they are with.  For example, the dragons of the Court Cards protect the humans in their care, but seem more subservient to the human. 

I see this deck used as a springboard for learning dragon stories from around the world.  Each culture has its own vision of dragons that is hinted at in “Dragons Tarot”.  Use the cards as prompts to find out more about cultural differences on dragon-human relations.  The stories can lead to a more in depth exploration of dragons.

Works Used:
Bartlett, Sarah, “The Tarot Bible”, Sterling: New York, 2006.

Breeden, David, “The Adventures of Beowulf: an Adaptation from the Old English”, Culture CafĂ©, 5 March 1999,,

Colum, Padriac, “Nordic Gods and Heroes”, Dover: New York, 1996.

Conway, D.J. and Lisa Hunt, “The Celtic Dragon Tarot”, Llewellyn: St. Paul (MN), 2005.

Donaldson, Terry and Peter Pracownik, “The Dragon Tarot”, U.S. Games: Stamford (CT), 1996.

Fontana, David, “The Essential Guide to the Tarot”, Watkins Publishing: London, 2011.

Toraldo, Manfredi and Severino Baraldi, “Dragons Tarot”, Lo Scarabeo: Torino (IT), 2006.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Tarot and Dragons: The Dragons Tarot by Toraldo and Baraldi (2 of 3)

For the Minor Arcana, I chose the Nine of Wands which depicts order and chaos as a unified whole.  This card shows an African chieftain solving a problem with the help of an African dragon.  This dragon has ignited a controlled fire for the chieftain to use in divining for an answer.  Toraldo writes, “The warrior discovers the truth in the fire supplied by the dragon”.  (One of the traditional Tarot meanings for the Nine of Wands is “developing strength through self-awareness.”) 

Toraldo describes his version of African dragons as “descending into black Africa, we have representations of large lizards that embody the great force of nature.”  The Nine of Wands demonstrates how that great force of nature can work in harmony with humankind.  The Nine of Wands presents order and chaos at rest with each other, which fits more with my view of dragons.

These two cards, Justice (XI) and Nine of Wands, present the many facets of dragons, both as destructive forces and as benevolent forces.  These cards demonstrate that dragons are not to be trifled with, and must be approached with caution.  As Toraldo indicates, they are a force of nature. 

As I have already indicated, much of the artwork of this deck was disturbing to me.  I do not know whether it was because of the conflict between my sensibilities and the authors’ European sensibilities.  I did not appreciate the depictions of many naked women but few naked men.  Perhaps, I am too politically correct in my thinking, but I also noticed the lack of clothing in the illustrations for Africans and Native Americans also.  I think that my feeling of distaste stems from Toraldo’s reference to “black Africa” instead of Sub-Saharan Africa, and Native Americans as “red-skinned populations.”  Since he regards dragons to represent the conflict between the male and female principles, I do understand that the naked females are representing the “yin” ideals.  However, it is jarring to me to see naked Queens of the Court Cards cavort with dragons, whilst the fully clothed and enthroned Kings sit sedately with their dragon allies.

Furthermore, I am sensitive to the violence that is depicted in some form on many of the cards.  For example, The Lovers (VI) of the Major Arcana depicts the Norse legend of Sigurd and the Dragon Fafnir of the Volsunga Saga.  Sigurd is bathing in the dead dragon’s blood.  Meanwhile, the Eight of Chalices shows two dragons in deadly combat, and Seven of Chalices depicts an attempted rape.  I found the illustrations of this deck to be too extreme to gain much meaning in any of my readings.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Tarot and Dragons: The Dragons Tarot by Toraldo and Baraldi (1 of 3)

Dragons Tarot” Manfredi Toraldo and Severino Baraldi, Lo Scarabeo: Torino (IT), 2006.

Choosing a card from “Dragons Tarot” was difficult for me, since I found the themes of this deck to be quite unsettling.  Since the authors’ view on dragons differs greatly from mine, I had difficulty responding to the themes of the deck.  Toraldo and Baraldi explain that the role of dragons is to represent “nature’s pure primordial energy, the wild part, instinct, chaos.”  Referring to the dragon as “it”, Toraldo continues with, “It represents the conflict between male and female principles.”  My point of view about dragons is that they are sentient beings who command respect, and have lives outside of people. 

Moreover in “Dragons Tarot”, Toraldo and Baraldi focus not on the dragons but on the human reactions to them.  Therefore this deck is human-centric rather than dragon-centric.  What made choosing cards also hard was that many showed humans killing dragons, about to kill dragons, dragons killing dragons, or dragons killing humans. 

Finally, I decided to focus on Justice (XI) of the Major Arcana.  This card shows a scene from the Anglo-Saxon poem of “Beowulf”-- the dragon fighting the hero Beowulf.  This angry dragon had raged about the countryside seeking justice for the theft of his treasures.  The humans of Beowulf’s kingdom had broken their pact with the dragon, and stole from his treasure hoard.  To protect the town and his kingdom, Beowulf has to fight the dragon.  Although both die, justice is obtained by the dragon for the crimes of the guilty humans, and by Beowulf for the crimes against innocent humans.  I see in this card humans and dragons presented as equals in their own spheres.  They then meet on a “level playing field” to address their grievances.  Both speak and are heard by the other, which for me is justice in action. 

A subtext to this card is the maintenance of the delicate balance between order and chaos.  One cannot exist without the other, and both are needed for the world to go on.  The two spheres are held in stable tension, for although Beowulf (order) is killed, we also know that the dragon (chaos) will also be killed.  Since equilibrium is maintained through the constant adjustments between order and chaos, the twin destinies of Beowulf and the dragon to fight each other.  Justice (XI) captures that eternal moment when order and chaos are in balance. (Toraldo states that additional meanings to this card are “Equilibrium, Adjustment, and Destiny”.)

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Octopus: Facing Difficult Situations

Cuttlefish, Octopus, and Squid are Cephalopoda (which means head-footed). Their tentacles (feet) project from their head region. Like all Cephalopods, Octopus defends Herself by releasing a cloud of black ink. The difference between an Octopus and a Squid is that the Octopus has eight tentacles and no shell, whereas the Squid has more tentacles and a shell.

This intelligent Cephalopod is an escape artist. Without a hard shell, the Octopus can squeeze into and out of very small openings. In pursuit of food, the Octopus can go anywhere with little trouble.

However, Octopus is anti-social, preferring to live in caves. Some will block the entrances to their den with rocks to keep intruders out. Remember, that although Octopus has much to teach, She has problems with groups.

Octopus' Teachings Include:
“Octopus is telling you to take a step away and hide behind the smokescreen, see what is happening fully before acting - when you do, it will be more effective." Copyright: Unknown

“The octopus has a built-in defense system to guard against negative attack. She teaches us to guard against those negative persons and situations that might otherwise harm us.” Copyright: Unknown

Thursday, April 05, 2012

MEGALOCEROS (“Irish Elk”): Misunderstandings

From Wikipedia: Megaloceros Species
 A giant amongst Deer, Megaloceros stood twelve feet (3.5 meters) high with a rack of antlers which were 6.6. feet (two meters).  This Giant Deer was well-known for his antlers, which was shaped like two outstretched human palms.  Also, his former name of “Irish Elk” was derived from the many bones of his that were first found in Irish bogs.  Starting with the name of “Irish Elk”, Megaloceros has been the subject of many erroneous ideas.  In spite of being known as “Irish Elk”, He roamed throughout Eurasia from Ireland to Siberia.  Furthermore, Megaloceros was not an Elk but a relative of Fallow Deer.
            In addition, the giant antlers of Megaloceros were believed to be the cause of his downfall.  They were thought to grow so large that eventually He could not hold his head up.  Moreover, these antlers would then become entangled in tree branches.  However like all Deer, Megaloceros shed his antlers every year, and then later grew them back for the rutting season.  Furthermore, his antlers were the proper ratio to his body.  Since Megaloceros was the largest Deer ever, his antlers would be large as well.
            Another misunderstanding about Megaloceros is how and when He became extinct.  Since paintings of Him were found on cave walls, many paleontologists believed that overhunting caused his eventual extinction.  Because of this, Megaloceros was believed to not have survived the last Ice Age.
            None of these theories are true.  Fossils of Megaloceros found in the U.K. and Russia proved that He survived until late as 5,000 B.C.E.  What is believed to bring about his demise was climate change and human farmers.  As they cleared the land, the farmers destroyed Megaloceros’ habitat, and at the same time the climate was becoming drier.  The demise of Megaloceros demonstrates that the extinction of many Megafauna of prehistory was more complex than originally thought. 
Throughout the years, Megaloceros has been the subject of many wacky theories.  When his bones were first found in the 17th Century, people at that time could not conceive of any sort of extinction, and believed that He lived elsewhere.  Only in the early 19th Century, did naturalists finally realize that He was gone.  By then, the theories of his antlers spelling Megaloceros’ doom became popular.
            Megaloceros guides us through the fog of ignorance to finally obtaining a clear view of knowledge.  At first, we may have silly ideas and misunderstandings about various things, but we can look to Megaloceros for direction.  He stands tall against spreading misinformation.  Follow Him through the forest of ignorance to the pool of wisdom.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Animals: Review: Creature Teacher Cards by Scott King

Creature Teacher Cards: Animal Wisdom for All Ages”, Scott Alexander King and Sioux Dollman, Blue Angel Publishing: Victoria (Australia), 2008.

As the title suggests, “Creature Teacher Cards” is an oracle deck for children.  The cards in this deck are drawn so that a child can intuit meaning from them.  Moreover, each message for each animal is simple yet profound.  These cards are designed for a child to learn wisdom from the various animals.

Written in a warm inviting manner, “Creature Teacher Cards” encourages children to ask for an animal’s help.  For example, King writes for Shark: “I honour the rules when I feel safe”.  He continues, “To me the Shark is the totem of people like the police – people we respect as protectors and keepers of the law, but that we are a little afraid of at the same time.”  King points out that Shark will help children to honour their boundaries with others.  Also Shark will empower children, who feel that the authorities may be unfair, to speak to someone who can help them.

As King says, “if you ask the animals a question, they will answer you”, this deck will aid children in understanding how divination works.  When I have used these cards in workshops for children and families, they were enthusiastically received.  The favourite cards were Cat (“I learn from my mistakes.”), which shows a kitten playing in a meadow, and Unicorn (“I am sacred.”), which shows a unicorn gazing at the moon.  I found this deck to be an effective teaching tool for families to learn animal divination.

The cards in “Creature Teacher Cards” are round to represent the Circle of Life.  A colourful Snail decorates the back, and represents “new beginnings”, which is every new day.  Each illustration depicts a friendly animal such as Shark with a child’s smile or young Bear with his Dad.  Since King is Australian, the animals featured are from Australia such as Tawny Frogmouth and Possum.  Moreover, the other animals are presented from an Australian point of view.  Lizard is a goanna, a native Australian monitor lizard, and Buffalo is a water buffalo.  Meanwhile, Dragon features a bearded dragon instead of the mythical animal.  This all adds to the specialness of “Creature Teacher Cards”.

I highly recommend this deck for children and their parents.  They can learn about oracles, animals, and basic life lessons together.  This is truly a family oracle deck.