Friday, December 30, 2016

Dragons of the Fields: Guardians of the Dancing Light


I first became aware of Field Dragons from reading about “fire-lizards” in Anne McCaffrey’s books about Pern. They enjoyed being around humans and were rather noisy. After reading about “guardian dragons” in D.J. Conway’s books, I realized that McCaffrey’s “fire-lizards” were Conway’s dragons. And They were the same dragons who liked to play hide-n-seek among the wildflowers.

As I wrote in my blog post about dragon families, I encountered the Dragons of the Fields while on my wildflower walks. (These dragons can also be found frolicking in gardens and orchards.) Sometimes, an odd butterfly will suddenly flit by you. At other times, you glimpse something colorful out of your eye. And on waning summer afternoons, you may hear singing in the waving grass. These are the Dragons of the Fields at play.

Field Dragons are usually brightly colored like the flowers They play in. The ones who are colored golden brown enjoy bouncing on squirrel tail grass. Dancing in the sunlight, Field Dragons like to sing along with the cicadas. They enjoy having a good time.

Because Field Dragons are friendly to humans, They will adopt a kind family. Field Dragons do enjoy gamboling about with children and pets. However if any family member acts uncivilly towards anyone, these dragons will leave. Field Dragons only stay where everyone is welcomed and appreciated.

To entice Field Dragons to adopt your family, make your home and garden, a welcoming place. Since I do not have a garden, I put out pretty stones for Them to play with on my window sills. (Field Dragons especially like moss agate) Also, you can place pictures and little statues of dragons around your house. But remember the family needs to be considerate of each other for these dragons to come.

People who have gardens in North America could plant daises, tulips or squirrel tail grass. For other areas, these Dragons like brightly colored flowers that wave in the breeze. Fruit trees and berry bushes entice Field Dragons to come and feast on the fruit. If you leave out food for the birds, they will tell the Dragons to come by for a visit.

As with all Dragons, Field Dragons expect courtesy from humans. Do not speak or stare at Them. Let the Field Dragons decide how They wish to interact with you. The ones who I meet on my walks simply like to play hide n’ seek.

The Dragons of the Fields are the Guardians of the Dancing Light. Their wisdom is to delight in small things and live in wonder. These Dragons encourage people to embrace the rainbow and know joy.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Tarot of the Animal Lords: The Star, The Moon, and The Sun

The Star: The Tarot of the Animal Lords refers to this card as The Stars, indicating that a multitude of stars can guide people. Under a starry sky dominated by one bright star, a seahorse, dressed as a clown, pours water into a mountain lake. As he kneels on a lily pad, a grebe nests on another pad nearby. The substantial size of the lily pads indicate security in navigating the unknown waters. The pair is serene and calm for The Stars will guide both to their purpose in life, although neither will know exactly how. They trust in The Star.



 The Moon: Climbing up a ziggurat stairway, a cat with a staff steps out onto a nebulous quarter moon. Perched on the staff is an owl and dangling from the perch is a crab. The scene is of a dream, an elusive wispy illusion. The whimsy of the owl contrasts with the nightmare of the crab. The cat has the owl to show him the way, while the crab urges him to rely on his intuition. In the space between reality and dreams lies the illusion of The Moon. 



 The Sun: In the glare of the enveloping sun, two hares grasp hands. Surrounded by briars and flowers, the pair dance together on green grass. The hares may be enjoying themselves in the bright sunshine, but for the reader, the sun is too bright to look at. The card cautions not to be “blinded by the light,” but do enjoy the moment. The illumination of The Sun highlights the shadow, which hides just behind the light.


Other entries in this series:
Death
Temperance, Devil, and Tower

Friday, December 16, 2016

Dragons of the Cosmos: Timeless Chaos

Dragons of the Cosmos are a part of the fabric of the Universe. According to many myths, these Dragons have either created the world or plotted to destroy it. They have an intense unbounded energy to accomplish their aims. Because of the danger They pose, these dragons are best to be avoided. Moreover, Cosmos Dragons only have relations with the Gods, and usually ignore humans.

The Great Mother Dragon, Tiamat of Babylon (pictured above) is one of the best known of the Cosmos Dragons. As the Creator, She formed the first Heaven and Earth with Her Body. Tiamat is also called the Lady of the Primeval Chaos, who avenges her spouse’s murder. According to Babylonian myth, She tried to rid the Earth of both Gods and humans, and nearly succeeded.

Mentioned in the Old Testament of the Bible, the Leviathan is another world destroyer. According to the prophet Isaiah, the Leviathan will run amok during the Final Days. Middle Eastern lore says that the God of the Old Testament created two Leviathans. Because He realized that the Two together would destroy the Earth, God had to kill the Mate. When upset, the surviving Leviathan will cause devastating tidal waves. To console Em (Leviathan is multi-gendered), God plays with Em at sunset every day.

According to Norse lore, Jormungand, the World Serpent is the offspring of Loki, the Trickster God and Angrboda, the Giantess. (His siblings are Hel, the Queen of the Underworld and Fenrir, the Wolf.) To prevent Jormungand from destroying the earth, Odin, the All Father, threw this dragon into the sea to contain Him. Encircling the world, Jormungand lays on the bottom of the sea and plots his revenge. Every time that He considers the injustices done to Him, Jormungand writhes thereby causing tidal waves and earthquakes. At Ragnarok, Jormungand will flood the land in seeking his vengeance on the Gods.

The sworn enemy of Ra, the Egyptian Sun God, Apep is the Dragon of Destruction and Chaos. When Ra goes go forth in his solar barge, Apep tries to kill Him, but is usually thwarted by Ra’s allies. On the few times that Apep appears to be successful, a solar eclipse occurs.

Dragon of the Cosmos are dangerous to people. If you think that you may encounter one, be prepared to offer the Cosmos Dragon, gold, silver, or platinum. Then praise Them, “Oh, Great Dragon of the Central Cosmos, Great Dragon, upon You rest the bones of the Universe. I exalt You.” In addition, people who have Sturgeon or Sperm Whale as their animal teachers can call upon these animals for help, as well. It is best to avoid Cosmos Dragons all together. These Dragons do have the wisdom of divine knowledge, but They keep it to Themselves.

Because They threaten the Order which is maintained by the Gods, Cosmos Dragons embody the attributes of chaos. When these Dragons communicate, They do so by lightning, tidal waves, and earthquakes. This alone creates havoc on the earth and elsewhere. In myths, They are the creators and the destroyers of worlds. Cosmos Dragons are indeed The Beings of the Timeless Chaos.

Friday, December 09, 2016

Tarot of the Animal Lords: Major Arcana: Temperance, The Devil, and The Tower

Temperance: This card depicts a flamingo pouring water from one pitcher to another one, which is sitting on the ground. She is standing under a grove of trees, which are far from her village that is off in the distance. A slight breeze shakes the leaves, giving a sense of movement to the scene. The flamingo watches a mallard migrating, while a grebe broods on her eggs, nearby. The card gives a sense of quiet contemplation of choices yet to be made. Between leaving and staying is Temperance that seeks the balance between the two. Perhaps the flamingo will leave someday, but not today.



The Devil: A he-goat represents the devil in this card. He stands at the maw of a red-rock cavern, patting his buddy, the toad. Behind the pair, the full moon rises with the bats flying out to catch insects. With their jaunty poses and red eyes, the pair exudes a sense of malefic magic. Their air of nonchalance entices people into their web of promises. However, once someone enters the cavern, they become lost. The card suggests think before entering or end up being stuck forever.


 The Tower: A beaver is falling headlong as he is inundated by logs and water. At one time, loggers held drives to guide their sawn logs down river to the mills. Often, a log jam would occur and the logs would pile on top of each other. A logger would need to go and pull out the key log, holding back the others. This usually resulted in the death of the logger who did the task. This Tower is the raw energy that has been pent up rushing out, killing everyone in its way. How the beaver ended up this way is something for the reader to puzzle out. Was he the heroic logger or the builder of a faulty dam?


Other entries in this series:
Death
Star, Moon, Sun

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Families of Dragons

To understand dragons better, people have commonly divided them into various families. As with scientific classification, organizing dragons into groups gives folks a framework to learn about them. By studying dragons in families, you can discern who are friendly and who are dangerous. Since each family has their own unique talents, they can also offer their matchless wisdom to seekers.

In Western Tradition, dragons are usually grouped into families by the elements. I have used that system to construct my classifications of dragons. Living in the East, the Dragons of the Air ride the winds. Meanwhile, the Dragons of Fire reside in fire, and are of the South. In the West, the Dragons of the Waters frolic in the waters. With the Air Dragons and Ice Dragons, Water Dragons rule the weather, as well. Ruling the Earth and guarding its treasures are the Dragons of the Earth, who reside in the North. Because each dragon family governs a cardinal direction, therefore in rituals a seeker can avoid the hostile ones and ensure her safety.

In the World of the Dragons, there are three more families. These groupings are from my own understanding of these Magnificent Beings. World myths feature dragons who created and destroyed worlds. Since these dragons have such a profound effect on the fabric of the Universe, I refer to them as the Dragons of the Cosmos, who live in the Center.

Like many people, I was entranced by the “fire-lizards” in “The Dragonriders of Pern” books by Anne McCaffrey. These small dragons liked to sing and sit on people’s shoulders. Later, when reading D.J. Conway’s books on dragons, I realized that the guardian dragons that she talks about are the same as the “fire-lizards” of Pern. Moreover, I have encountered these dragons whenever I go on wildflower walks, especially in open meadows. I call them, the Dragons of the Fields. These small playful dragons move along the East-West axis, and prefer going from sunrise to sunset.

The last family of dragons, I encountered in ice storms and blizzards. When I grew up in New England (US), I saw silver dragons roaring about in the snow and ice. Since that time, I have noticed these dragons flying about in massive blizzards. I call them, the Dragons of the Ice. They prefer the colder darker areas of the world. Ice Dragons traverse the North-South Axis, going from Pole to Pole.

Fire and Chaos Dragons are dangerous for different reasons. Traditionally hostile to humans, Fire Dragons must be approached with great care. Meanwhile, Chaos Dragons, who are a part of the universe’s fabric, have intense unbounded energy. They can annihilate a careless person.

Fortunately for us, the other dragon families are less formidable. Ruling the weather together, Water and Air Dragons are both benign and destructive. But they can be approached for soft breezes and gentle rains. Guarding the Earth’s treasures, Earth Dragons kill first and ask questions later. Nonetheless, their greatest treasure is their profound wisdom. Rarely encountered by humans, Ice Dragons prefer the silence and stillness of the Polar Regions. Their intense life force can warm the coldest heart. On the other hand, the noisy Field Dragons love being guardian dragons of humans.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Tarot: Major Arcana: Astrology (2 of 2)

Mars is force and energy that breaks through similar to The Tower. Jupiter, as the planet of expansion and luck, is appropriate for The Wheel of Fortune. Meanwhile, the principle energy of Uranus is liberation which matches The Fool. Judgment and Pluto both focus on transformation.
 
 What puzzled me the most was the connections of Cancer, the Crab to The Chariot, Sagittarius, the Archer to Temperance, Neptune to The Hanged Man, and Saturn to The World. As a reader, I need to know the reasons for these particular couplings. Is there a hidden aspect to each card that these astrological concepts focus on? Am I missing something? If so, what?

 Cancer knows where they are going and how to get there, which is appropriate for The Chariot. However, Cancer changes moods like the wind. This points to any conflict that needs to be examined while reading The Chariot. Also Cancer stabilizes The Chariot since this Sign is selective in what it does.

 Sagittarius is restless and high spirited, lending movement to Temperance. The subtle message is that Temperance should not be stagnant, but instead keep flowing. Sagittarius gives the warning to the reader of the tendency of Temperance to remain static.

 Saturn is the planet of limitation and fate. Paired with The World, it cautions the reader to beware of wishful thinking. Saturn grounds The World from flights of fancy. The World is to be earned, not handed to someone is something that the reader should know.

 This leaves Neptune and The Hanged Man, both difficult to understand. Neptune is the mystic, whose principle energy is transcendence. The Hanged Man is in limbo, perhaps in a chrysalis much like the caterpillar becoming a butterfly. The two are mystics, detached from the world. Therefore, Neptune reinforce the otherworldliness of The Hanged Man.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Tarot: Major Arcana: Astrology (1 of 2)


Astrology and I have been at odds with each other for a very long time. I only study it to gain a deeper understanding of the various magical systems that incorporate astrology. Since the Tarot used today is based on concepts from the Golden Dawn, I need to know astrology for the deeper meanings.

Some of the connections between the Zodiac Signs and the cards of the Major Arcana make sense. Also, some planets do intuitively match certain cards. However in other cases, I was baffled as to why the pairing. My knowledge of the more arcane aspects of the Tarot is not as deep as I would want. 

Aries, the Ram matches well with The Emperor. They are both leaders with strong masculine energies. Aries’ fire strengthens The Emperor’s authority. Meanwhile, the fixed energy of Taurus, the Bull centers The Hierophant. Stubborn Taurus reinforces traditionally-orientated Hierophant.
 Virgo, the Virgin reveals the introvert tendencies of The Hermit. Both reflect the need for solitude for questioning minds. Meanwhile, Libra, the Scales seeks balance as does Justice. Both stress tact and objective thinking. 

Some Signs associated with the Major Arcana are linked by animal symbolism. Since the venomous scorpion kills, Scorpio, the Scorpion is coupled with Death. Other Signs which represent animals associated with the Major Arcana are Capricorn, the Goat and Leo, the Lion. Capricorn is paired with The Devil while Leo with Strength. Goats are reputed to be stubborn reflecting the bondage aspect of The Devil. Meanwhile, the lion is well-regarded for his strength. 

In regards to the planets, having the sun coupled with The Sun makes obvious sense. Venus, the planet of harmony and love, matches the essence of The Empress. Quicksilver Mercury embodies The Magician, who is an alchemist.

 The remaining parings required further investigation on my part. Because The Lovers focus on two people and their choices, Gemini, the Twins seems to be the logical choice. Reflecting The Lovers’ dilemma, Gemini are opposing twins. This Sign indicates the pull on The Lovers to go into different directions as individuals. 

In seeking future goals, Aquarius, the Water Bearer is guided by the stars. The Star has elements of Aquarius in its essence. Meanwhile, Pisces, the Fish are dreamers governed by the ebb and flow of life. The Moon, the card of dreams, governs the tides, therefore the combination of Pisces and The Moon make sense.

 I did wonder why the moon was not paired with The Moon, and was instead paired with The High Priestess. The clues for me is that both are feminine, receptive, and imaginative. But neither dwells in illusions like Pisces and The Moon. The moon of The High Priestess underlies her intuition.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Animal Relationships: Predator and Prey

Among the animal relationships, the one that bothers people is predator and prey. In understanding that all animals must eat to survive, people can accept the dynamic between predators and their prey. One aspect of this relationship is that they keep each other in check. For example, prairie dogs would breed uncontrollably unless black-footed ferrets hunted them. Crudely speaking, the number of prairie dogs determine the number of ferrets. The predator and prey relationship is the “ying and yang” of nature.

Read the rest at my blog at Witches and Pagans: Animal Wisdom.
Predator and Prey.

Thursday, November 03, 2016

Tarot of the Animal Lords: Mythic Images

The deck that I use is The Tarot of the Animal Lords. On the surface, the deck seems only to be animals dressed up as various Tarot characters. Looking deeper however, the reader will see that each animal is connected to various myths. The associations are subtle and do require a knowledge of animal lore.

 For example, The Emperor features a lion with a golden eagle. The eagle, itself, is associated with the Roman emperors, who were the representatives of Jupiter, the Ruler of the Heavens. In Roman bird augury, the golden eagle represents the will of Jupiter. Using this train of logic, I associate The Emperor with Jupiter.

 The Hierophant depicts the red deer as a priest. In Europe, this animal has religious associations. Cernunnos, God of the Celts, connected to the stage in rut, is the God of the Forest. Moreover, this Horned God is depicted on the Gundestrup Cauldron, itself a sacred artifact. The mythic association for The Hierophant then becomes Cernunnos.

 The Hanged Man is a bat hanging upside down. Although he is not strictly a mythological character, I associate this card with The Batman. This character is suspended between being ordinary Bruce Wayne and the obsessed Batman. He can never completely be one being or the other, but neither is he both. The Batman is my mythological connection for The Hanged Man in this deck.

 Death is represented by the raven. This corvid is associated with The Morrigan, the Dark Goddess of the Celts. She knows who will die in battle, and will tell them beforehand. Since The Morrigan is also the Goddess of Sovereignty, Her decision is always final. The sovereignty of Death leads me to The Morrigan.

 The Devil is represented by the billy goat. I associate this animal with Inuus, Who is one of the aspects of Faunus, the Roman God of Fertility. Inuus is venerated at the Lupercalia in February. Young men would run through town whipping women, with straps made from goatskin. (This was to make women fertile.)

 The Sun features two hares dancing in the sun. Ostara, the Anglo-Saxon Goddess of Spring, often had hares as her companions. A symbol of the reborn sun, the hare is the mythical association that I have with this card. Therefore the Goddess Ostara is The Sun in this deck.

 The Tarot of the Animal Lords also have animals with mythic symbolism. The fox of The Magician does his magic on a toadstool, a traditional symbol of the fairy worlds. The Empress sits on a turtle shell throne, which symbolizes fertility. The Hierophant is accompanied by a stork, the Roman symbol of fidelity and piety.

 Meanwhile, the mandarin ducks of The Lovers are the Chinese symbol for married love. In Death, the chameleon represents bad luck and misfortune as told in African myths. Moreover, the toad in The Devil is considered to be a familiar of wizards, and represents dark magic.

 Further study of the folklore of animals will reveal more mythic symbols in this deck. I have only touched the surface of mythic associations for this particular Tarot deck. I have worked with The Tarot of the Animal Lords for ten years, and still find new mythic connections.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Each-Uisge (Water-Horse): Be Cautious, Be Aware

Throughout the lands surrounding the North Sea, stories abound of dreaded lake monsters who lurk below the surface. These tales describe many of the monsters as “water-horses.” This beast resembles a seal with two sets of flippers, a long neck and a small head. People usually divide “water-horses” into two types – the long-necked Nessie and the maned Each-Uisge. While Nessie of Loch Ness is more benign, the Each-Uisge, also of Scotland, is more sinister. Haunting lakes and lochs, this shapeshifter kills and eats unwary humans (leaving only the liver). The Each-Uisge usually lures people by pretending to be a docile horse.

 From ancient times, the Each-Uisge has filled people with dread and fear. The Picts depicted Him in all his ferocity their pictographs. The Romans recorded deadly sightings of this beast during their time in Britain. Described as a glistening black horse with a greenish patina, the Each-Uisge would appear on the roadside as a tame horse. Seeing relief, the weary traveler would mount Him, only to find themselves firmly affixed to the beast’s back. After that, the “horse” would quickly trot off. When the Each-Uisge smelled water nearby, He would race into the lake drowning the unfortunate victim.

One blood-curdling account tells the killing of several children by the Each-Uisge. This creature had appeared to several children as a pretty pony. As each child sat on his back, the “pony” would lengthen it to fit more children. When commanded by the Each-Uisge mount, a frightened boy ran away. As the boy escaped, he heard his friends scream as they were drowned in the lake. The next day, the sorrowful villagers only found the children’s livers floating in the water.

The Each-Uisge is called by many names throughout the North Sea region. In Norway, this beast is Backahasten or Nokken, the “brook-horse.” In The Faroes, He is known as Nukur, and Nuggle in the Orkeys. The Irish call Him, the Capall-uisce, and the Manx, the Cabbyl-Ushtey.

In Wales, the Each-Uisge is known as the Ceffyl Dwr. This small beautiful “horse” lived in mountain pools. Once someone mounted Him, the Ceffyl Dwr would fly over the water and, then melt into a mist. After the victim drops into the water, He would reform and eat the body. At other times, this beast would transform into a frog and leap on the victim’s back.

No one is quite sure what the Each-Uisge is. Is this creature, an undiscovered mammal such as a new species of otter or seal? Or are the stories too fantastic for an ordinary animal? Whatever the Each-Uisge is, everyone will agree that He is deadly and vicious.

The Each-Uisge is real to those who believe the old myths. Something lives in those lakes, pools, and lochs; Something that will kill and eat you. Ignore the myths at your own peril. Be cautious and aware that not everything you encounter is benign.
----
Note: The Kelpie is similar to the Each-Uisge, except that She dwells in rivers and waterfalls.

Drawing Copyrighted by Liza Phoenix (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons

Friday, October 21, 2016

Tarot of the Animal Lords: Major Arcana: Justice, The Hanged Man, and Death

Justice is a barn owl who stands on the edge of a mountain cliff. She holds the scales and sword of Justice. However, this owl cannot go backwards because of the massive tree behind her. One misstep forward, she falls to her doom. High in the mountains, the owl stands keeping her balance. Like Justice, she has to weigh both sides carefully or risk disaster. (Barn owls are traditionally found in church and grave yards. This explains the artist’s choice for Justice, for me.)

 The Hanged Man presents a bat hanging between two trees under a full moon. Underneath him is a small pool of water that mirrors his face. Around the pool are night lilies, and two rats with their paws on skulls. Since bats sleep upside down and during the day, this bat is perfectly content to wait patiently. However, the rats seem to indicate a sense of impending death. I wonder if the scene is depicting the feeling of peace just before dying. This card is both disturbing and serene at the same time for me.

 This leads to the next card, which is Death. At the front of a cave littered with bones and weapons stands a raven with a scythe. He has his hand on a crowned skeleton. Behind him is a misty swamp. The only way out is to cross the river in front. Meanwhile, a chameleon stands in from of the raven. In African legend, this lizard is a sign of death and misfortune. The two animals together give a sense of doom. There seems a sense of finality to the card.










Other entries in this series:


Thursday, October 20, 2016

Tarot of the Animal Lords: Strength, The Hermit, and The Wheel of Fortune

The Tarot deck that I use is The Tarot of the Animal Lords. Although Strength is XI and Justice is
VIII in this deck, I switched them. The switch now has Justice as the middle card of the Major Arcana. Justice then becomes the “balancer” of the Major Arcana.

 Strength depicts a mongoose wrestling with a cobra. While that is happening, the earth is opening up under them and volcanoes are erupting behind them. The scene is enveloped in smoke and ash. I can almost smell the sulfur spewing out of the earth. In front of the battling pair, are two salamanders, who are facing in opposite directions. I feel the immediacy that someone has to decide quickly to flee or be killed. However, the two center characters are frozen in the moment of the chaos. Does that mean that Strength can be either the calm focus or the frozen stance? Is the downside of Strength to be locked in a struggle oblivious to what is going on?

 The Hermit presents a black bear entering a dark cave. His lamp barely pierces the blackness. This bear carries keys and scrolls with him. This made me wonder if he hoped to find a treasure chest. Behind him in broad daylight is a peaceful countryside. Right above him, dripping in honey is a beehive. I think that the Hermit is leaving the sweetness of the known life for an unknown future. This card elicits a feeling of answering a sacred call, of going deeper into the Divine.

The Wheel (of Fortune) telescopes the concept to a circular tree branch and the life cycle of the butterfly. The adult butterfly lays her eggs on a leaf that hatches into the various stages of caterpillars until finally the juvenile butterfly becomes the adult. And the cycle continues. To emphasize The Wheel’s motion, the wind blows in a circle high up in the mountains. The dominant theme of this card is a circle, going round and round. I get dizzy just looking at The Wheel. This Wheel focuses on the cycles of life that we all experience repeatedly at different points in our lives. 

Other entries in this series:



Monday, October 17, 2016

Griffin: Majesty and Nobility

The Griffin (Gryphon) has had a long association with humans. For example, She is a part of people’s last names and featured in their coats of arms. Since the time of Sumner, the Griffin has stood for majesty and nobility.

 Various myths depict the Griffin as the combination of the lion and the eagle. Since both of these earthy animals are monarchs of their own domains, the Griffin is considered the Ruler of Heaven and Earth. This mythic animal, with her offspring Hippogriff, are the only members of the Tribes of the Cosmos. While the Griffin protects the Tree of Life with its Golden Apples, the Hippogriff carries the worthy traveler between the worlds. Because of this, the Griffin is also the Sentinel of the Throne of Heaven and Earth.

Archeologists have uncovered representations of the Griffin from Egypt, Persia, and the Middle East. She attended the Pharaoh and guarded the Persian Emperors. From ancient times, the Griffin represented earthy and heavenly power, for She guarded the royal graves. For the Greeks, the Griffin was called “The Hound of Zeus.”

According to the ancient Greek historian, Herodotus, Griffins were native to Scythia (central Eurasia). Living in the northernmost part of the known world, these mythic animals guarded their gold from humans. Later, other writers said that Griffins lived high in the mountains of India. In their aeries, these mythic animals guarded emeralds and other treasures from those who would steal from them. Flavius Philostratus said that in India, Griffins were sacred to the sun.

The dual nature of the Griffin led Medieval Christians to associate Her with Christ. The eagle reflected the divinity of Christ, while the lion, His humanity. St. Isidore noted, “Christ is Lion because He reigns and has strength; Eagle, because after the Resurrection, He rises into Heaven.” Because of this, the Griffin is often featured in cathedral windows and carvings.

 The legends say that the Griffin also guards the Holy Grail of Christ. (The Grail is carved from a single emerald.) Many Knights of the Round Table have searched for the holy artifact, but usually gave up after a futile search. Only the pure of heart was allowed to find the Grail. The Griffin killed everyone else who persisted, as She did all those who would steal from Her.

 As the Monarch of the Heavens and the Earth, the Griffin teaches nobility and majesty. This fierce and intelligent animal, subject of many legends, watches intently over her domains. Protecting the Tree of Life, She ensures that only the pure of heart can receive its blessings. With her power comes her responsibility to use it wisely. Remember that this is a part of nobility. Follow Her example in what you do as you lead others.

Friday, October 07, 2016

Tarot: Hanged Man, The Tower, and The Devil and me

My current life can be expressed in three cards. The Tower is a visual display of what happened to me. I was not hit by lightening but a wall literally fell on me. In an instance like The Tower, my life was changed completely.
 
 My brain injury, itself, is The Devil, since it limits me in what I can do. It inhibits me from living freely, since I have to choose and weight the consequences of doing an activity. If I go to a party, I will become overstimulated by the people, noise, and disruption to my daily routine. This means two days after the party of not leaving my house and living in darkened rooms. In response, I employ creative problem-solving to deal with each challenge as it presents itself. 

The card that reflects me now is The Hanged Man. Now upside down in my life, I have a different perspective on life. After nearly dying and then coming back to life, I live between two worlds. For me, life becomes a paradox as I navigate in a new world. For these reasons, I see my life with ebbs and flows instead of a Hero’s Journey.

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Lake Monsters: Expect the Unexpected

Throughout the world, mysterious “monsters” are often sighted in deep water lakes. Known as “Lake Monsters,” these freshwater beasts both frighten and intrigue people. Nessie of Loch Ness is the most famous representative of these animals.

Worldwide, there are about 1,000 lakes where Lake Monsters are often seen. Most of these lakes lie in the Northern Hemisphere ranging from the northern boreal forests to the southern hardwood forests. In contrast, sightings in the Southern Hemisphere have only been in Argentina and Bolivia.

Cryptozoologists have classifications for Lake Monsters, which they consider to be undiscovered or unknown animals. The most prevalent species of Lake Monsters is the “water horse.” Nessie is a typical long-necked water horse. This type has a small head on a long neck, with a rounded body and two sets of flippers. The water-kelpie (Each-Uisge) who drowns people is an example of a maned water horse. Other famous water horses include Champie of Lake Champlain (US), Ogopogo of Lake Okanagan (CA) and Storsie (Storsjoodjuret) of Storsjon Lake (SD). Rarer species of Lake Monsters include the giant beaver of Utah, the giant shark seen in Alaska, the giant turtle of Vietnam, and the mystery dinosaur seen in China. No one is sure what They are but scientists keep investigating to determine whether They exist or are only a myth.

Often sighted but never found, Lake Monsters exist just beyond human science. Various theories as to what They are range from prehistoric plesiosaurs to primitive whales. These beasts could be new species, unknown species, or simply mutated animals. Nobody knows for sure.

Whatever Lake Monsters are, They inspire fear and curiosity in people. Fear because of They attack and drown people. Many are vicious monsters who attack unsuspecting victims in the water. Curiosity since people want to know more about Lake Monsters. These elusive beasts pop up when people least expect them. Before anyone can react, these mysterious animals disappear from sight. Learn to expect the unexpected teach Lake Monsters. Just remember to be on guard lest They attack you.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Mythic Animals: Magic

What is a mythic animal? Traditionally considered a product of people’s imaginations, they are animals that do not exist on the physical plane. In fact, many mythical animals are a combination of several real animals. (They usually have the characteristics of both animals.) But mythic animals are real to those who dream.

Mythic animals live on the edges of our minds. Moreover, they live in our world, in places where everything is a little wild and primitive. Furthermore, we may encounter them, when we least expect it. For example, on a foggy day or a moonlit night, you may glimpse one. I have seen dragons sunning themselves on mountains as I traveled a busy highway. Dragons have also appeared briefly in raging snowstorms in my local area.

The edges of cultivated areas and wild areas are the best places to encounter mythic animals. Since they are “between places,” these border areas have great power and mystery. At marshes and beaches, encounters with water beasties will often occur. Also, you can come upon mythic animals in deserts or deep in the forests, where things are lonely and wild.

Mythic animals come from many places. To ancient peoples, they were the forces of nature, in all her aspects. For example, thunderbirds governed the weather. Later travelers returning from faraway places told of the exotic creatures they saw. Romans reported on dragons that lived in Joppa in the Middle East. In the Middle Ages, people reported on their encounters with local dragons and other animals. They listed them in their bestiaries, describing each animal.

When people started measuring and examining the natural world, they lost their ability to see any mythic animals. At the same time, all the mythic animals seemingly disappeared. In modern times, people usually seek rational explanations for every phenomenon that they witness.

However, the mythical beasts never really went away. Some people believed that they could still see them. The mythic imaginations of these folks led scholars to continue collecting tales of griffins and others. Today, more people have been able to see more of the mythic animals.

In her book, The Great Work, Tiffany Lazic writes that “mythical beasts guide us in our quest to find the synthesis between our inner and outer worlds.” She sees their uses in heraldry, such as the griffin, connects people to the past and to the future. Because mythic animals are both products of the human imagination and composite of actual animals, Lazic believes they are excellent helpers for integration work.

How do we begin the search for the Mythic Ones? What do the mythic stories, from around the world, have in common? What is the true treasure that the Mythic Ones hold? Does it differ from mythic animal to mythic animal? How can we deepen our relations with the ones, who are friendly to humans? Are there any that we should avoid? Study the myths of the world for the answers.

One example would be the griffin (half-lion and half-eagle). Often used as a last name, this mythic animal is also featured on people’s coats of arms. Lions and eagles both represent royalty. Moreover, the eagle is the Ruler of the Skies, and the lion, Ruler of the Land. Mythology has the griffin protecting and governing both realms. Given the griffin’s exalted status, only the most noble and courageous of people could approach him.

Once we know who are friendly to humans, such as fu dogs, we can begin to approach them. When we do that, we widen our realm of possibilities and develop a new sense of worth. Our relations with them will nurture our hopes and dreams, as well as, give us a greater reverence for all life. When we embrace their energy, we become conscious of the mystical in our lives. Finally, we align ourselves with the mythical world. We bring magic back into our lives.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Tarot: Who Am I in the Cards

I took one of those quizzes about "who are you in the cards?" I took the quiz to find what member of the Tarot Court that I am. The quiz itself is based on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), which is said to show how people perceive the world and operate in it. Personally, I have problems with the MBTI because it divides people into four groups of four. As someone who is familiar with statistics, I find the MBTI methodology suspect. I regard MBTI as something that either you believe in the results or you do not.
 
 The questions that this quiz asked assumes that the person who takes it is neuro-typical with a fully functioning brain. They also have a normal perception of life and not a distorted one. These people can choose whatever they will whenever they want. Since everything I do costs brain function, I have to choose what favorite activity that I can do. Also, since my visual perception has been damaged from my injury, I see the world literally differently from most people.

 The quiz came up with two cards for me – the Queen of Pentacles and the Knight of Pentacles. I think that this reflects the divide between my injury and my desires. The Knight is reliable and trustworthy but prosaic, while The Queen is creative and mature. This reflects both my unpredictable brain and my creative problem solving.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Animal Relationships: Introduction

To know their animal teachers more fully, people should study how these animals relate to other animals. All animals live in ecological systems where they have a role. Some are keystone species such as the alligator, who makes “gator holes” that provides food and homes for the other animals. Other animals contribute positively to the places that they live in. Stag beetles eat dead trees to make soil. “Negative” animals such as leeches have a role, too. They kill their host and help to keep the animal population in balance.

Some animals ignore each other, while others compete for the same food. More importantly, many animals form special relationships. Some are allies, and still others are in predator-prey relationships. The wolf and coyote compete for beaver, while the ratel (honey badger) and honeyguide look for bees together. The plover picks off leeches from a crocodile’s gums. (The plover gets a meal, and the crocodile gets her gums cleaned.) The great white shark pursues the elephant seal but is prey to the orca. Animal relationships are indeed complex and varied.

Read more at Witches and Pagans: animal wisdom: animal relationships: introduction

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Tarot of the Animal Lords: Hero's Journey (2)

Laying out The Tarot of the Animal Lords to follow the Hero’s Journey requires a deeper knowledge of animals. Each card in this deck reflects either the natural history or the folkloric history of various animals. Some animals are an obvious selection for their card such as the fox for The Magician, the lion for The Emperor, the raven for Death, and the male goat for The Devil. 

However to understand the other animals which are representing themes in the Major Arcana requires knowledge of their natural history. For example, The Fool is an European Badger setting out on his own. European badgers live in societies of setts, which are towns constructed of burrows. Some setts are over three hundred years old, with generations of European badgers inhabiting them. A lone European badger going out on his own would be a fool. (In contrast, American badgers, a separate species, usually live by themselves.) 

Featuring a flamingo for Temperance is another example. These birds live in the hot salt flats of Africa and eat brine shrimp. This gives them their bright pink color. If they are too pink or too white, this means that the flamingo is nutritionally out of balance, and will need to change their diet.

 To understand other animals featured in this deck’s cards for the Major Arcana requires knowledge of their folklore. For example, The Moon features an owl and a cat, reminding the reader of the children’s poem, The Owl and the Pussycat, by Edward Lear. In that poem, these two animals go out to gaze at the moon and the stars in wonder. Meanwhile, The Lovers depict two mandarin ducks. In China, these ducks are believed to be lifelong mates. They use mandarin ducks in their wedding decorations to symbolize fidelity.

 Each animal that is chosen for their particular card enhances the meaning of the Hero’s Journey for me. At first glance, each selection may seem a bit opaque but within each card are clues to explore further. The reader can ponder each card’s meaning further through that particular animal.
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Thursday, September 01, 2016

BLACK BASS FAMILY: Passion

The Black Bass Family, a family of freshwater fish in the Sunfish Family, is well known in sport fishing for being strong explosive fighters. This Fish Family of North America are called the Micropterus (incertae sedis) to differentiate this Family from other fish called “Bass.” Fish in Black Bass Family include Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass, who are popular with anglers. Since They come in various shades of green, grey and black, most people identify the different Members in this Family by their jaws.

Preferring clear, clean waters, Black Bass Male usually nests in gravelly bottoms. He builds a small round “bed” and then chases after Female Black Bass, when She enters his territory. After an intense mating dance, She lays her eggs and leaves. A diligent Father, Black Bass keeps his Fry (Baby Fish) safe until They are ready to leave the nest. He constantly patrols the area guarding against anyone who would attempt eat his Fry.

Black Bass use their keen senses to hunt their prey. Their inner ears can pick up the click of the claws of a crayfish walking on pebbles. With their lateral line (a row of sensory pores that extend from their gills to their tail), Black Bass can sense vibrations in the water. Added to that is their excellent eyesight which includes seeing colors.

As an apex predator, Black Bass will eat small alligators, birds, and mammals. This wily Fish will seek out the deepest parts of a pond. Waiting patiently, He will suddenly explode into action gobbling up the unwary Duckling paddling by. Highly adaptable, Black Bass can adjust his feeding habits to wherever He lives. His popularity in sport fishing has made Black Bass a sought after fish. Because of this, He has been introduced to many places outside of North America such as Fiji and South Africa. But his voracious appetite has decimated native populations of Fish. Japan, for example, considers Black Bass to be an invasive Fish.

Black Bass are some of the scrappiest Fish that swim. Catch one, and He will fight you with wild airborne leaps and jolting strikes. “Inch for inch and pound for pound, the gamest fish that swims,” 19th Century sportsmen entered in their journals. Even today anglers feel passionate about Black Bass. Because of their high stamina and great speed, these Fish can break fishing lines and snap poles. Leaping into the air, Black Bass will throw off the lure. In cunning and skill, Black Bass will match anything that an angler can think up to try to catch Him. (Black Bass are the original Pokemon.)

Passion is what Black Bass teaches people. Exuberance for life is why these Fish are top predators. Passion is how They mate and protect their Fry. Devotion is why anglers seek to match wits with Black Bass. However, Black Bass can also warn of prolonged volatility in your life, swinging between nothingness and frenzy. Remember moderation in what you do.

Note:
Many fish are called “Bass.” The temperate bass belong to the family Moronidae and the Asian sea bass to the family Lateolabracidae. Black sea bass are members of the sea grouper family (Serranidae). The giant sea bass belongs to the wreckfish family (Polyprionidae).

Friday, August 26, 2016

Tarot: Patterns of the Major Arcana, "The Hero's Journey," and Others


 The patterns in the Major Arcana set up by Teresa Michelsen in The Complete Tarot Reader and that of Arlene Tognetti and Lisa Lenard in The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Tarot and Fortunetelling are variations on the traditional Fool’s Journey of the Tarot. What each author did was to split their cards into groups to make this journey more understandable for themselves. Each group embraces a particular concept which is helpful to these Tarot authors. Each of the two patterns start with a young person meeting significant people and facing challenge. After wrestling with problems, young person matures and emerges in the world spiritually enlightened. The various groupings help the reader to understand The Fool’s Journey in depth by placing focus on particular parts of it from varying points of view.
 
 Meanwhile, Robert Place in The Tarot History, Symbolism, and Divination sees the Major Arcana differently. For him, it is not a journey, but a focus on particular aspects of the person. In his patterns, Place sets up Plato’s Three Parts of the Soul. Appetite, the first part of the soul, is represented by The Magician through The Chariot. These cards depict the desires a person has such as seeking power or love. The next group, which is Strength to Temperance, represents the Will (Spirit), the second part of the soul. These cards focus on the emotions such as seeking solitude or justice. The final group – The Devil to The World – represent Reason, the third part of the Soul. These cards highlight the mind, which Plato placed as the highest part of the soul.  

 Two patterns that I developed could probably be considered variations on The Fool’s Journey. The first is based on the therapeutic model of moving from illness to wellness. The Magician to The Hierophant are the various perceptions of reality, ranging from “mind over matter” to “strict rules of life.” The next group, The Lovers to Justice, are the issues of life that everyone has to cope with from changing homes to bad luck. The Hanged Man to The Tower are the struggles for people to overcome their distorted thinking and misperceptions. From The Star to The World are the rewards of healthy thinking and wellness, which only happens when the person implements these changes in their life.

 The other pattern was inspired by Journey to the Dark Goddess by Jane Meredith. This Journey is to the Underworld to meet the Dark Goddess. There, the person reclaims the lost and dark parts of themselves. Meredith says that we cannot go to the Dark Goddess while we are still in our place in the world. First, we have to be stripped of everything that we value. Once in the Underworld, we meet the Dark Goddess, who holds these remnants of our selves. Whilst in the Underworld, we are dead until a turning point occurs to restore us to life. This propels us upward. Afterwards, we become whole and emerge back into the Upper World reborn. 

 This particular Journey has four parts. The first is “Preparing for Descent.” The Magician through The Lovers are who we are in the Upper World. We have to give up all of this to undertake the second part, which is “The Descent to the Underworld.” The Chariot to Justice denotes our removal of our status and our acceptance of our fate. The third part is “Dwelling in the Underworld.” Like the Hanged Man, we are limbo as we die. Death to The Devil explains our time in the Underworld. The turning point for “The Ascent,” the fourth part, is The Tower. When we return to the Upper World we gain The Star through Judgement. Now as The World, we are reborn.

 Arranging the cards into patterns helped me to see how various processes occur in the Tarot. Each pattern highlights a different aspect of the Major Arcana. Within each pattern, I can understand how each card relates to the others such as why is Temperance between Death and The Devil. When a number of them from a group appear in a reading, the reader can figure out where the questioner is in the process. 

Works Used:
Lorenz, Hendrick, “Ancient Theories of the Soul.” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 22 April 2009. Web. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/ancient-soul/ .
Meredith, Janet, Journey to The Dark Goddess. Moon Books: Winchester (UK). 2012. Print.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Sturgeon: Be Responsible

Sturgeon are ancient fish who swam in the waters when the dinosaurs first emerged on the earth. Today, these living fossils are considered to be the most primitive of the bony fish. Sturgeon belongs to the Acipenseridae family which has twenty-seven species. Native to the lakes, rivers, and coastlines of Eurasia and North America, these giant fish resemble armored torpedoes. Their distinctive bony plates (hard scutes) stud their back and sides.

One thing that Sturgeons are well-known for are their dramatic leaping out of the water. In his poem, The Song of Hiawatha, Longfellow described this – “saw the sturgeon, Nahma leaping, scattering drops like beads of wampum.” As the largest fish in freshwater, a massive Sturgeon can kill or break the bones of unwary boaters. As to why They leap, nobody knows. Theories range from communicating in their group to Sturgeon simply enjoying doing it.

Sturgeon have been highly regarded in many cultures. In India, Sturgeons represented royalty. Among the Natives Peoples of North America, Sturgeon provided both wisdom and food. Ancient Greeks regarded sturgeon eggs (caviar) as a gift from Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love. In Europe, Sturgeon migrating up the Danube would feed entire villages by allowing Themselves to be caught. When people became too greedy, these Fish stopped coming.

In Europe and North America, Sturgeon were once plentiful. However, the demand for caviar has halved their life expectancy from over 100 years to about 50 years. In the Great Lakes, overfishing and pollution has decimated those populations. The story of Sturgeon is a sad one of people ceasing to respect Them. Now this remarkable Fish is going extinct because of human folly.

Governments in Europe and North America have made concentrated efforts to save the remaining Sturgeon. Because of this, populations for some species of Sturgeon have stabilized on the Danube, Ural, and Volga Rivers. These Fish are making a small comeback in the Great Lakes Regions as people rehabilitate the environment to be more receptive to the well-being of the Sturgeon.

Alarmed by the pending extinction of Gulf Sturgeon, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Air Force, state wildlife agencies and local universities combined their efforts to save this Fish. The result is that these populations of Sturgeon are thriving in Florida, and are expanding to other regional rivers. Meanwhile, Native Peoples of North America have joined with various governments and commercial fisheries to keep the Sturgeon in their regions from becoming extinct. In 1977, the citizens living around Lake Winnebago (Wisconsin) watershed formed “Sturgeon for Tomorrow.” Their efforts were rewarded with a “stunning recovery in that watershed” for Sturgeon today.

Sturgeon teaches responsibility. Because of human carelessness and deliberate action, Sturgeon, worldwide, are close to extinction. Today, people are trying to repair the damage that has been done. It is an uncertain future for Sturgeon but They are amazingly resilient fish. Willing to work with people, Sturgeon have been consuming the invasive zebra mussels and gobies in the Great Lakes. In return, people are taking responsibility for the well-being of this ancient Fish.
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The sturgeon of Sturgeon Moon are the sturgeon of the Great Lakes.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Tarot of the Animal Lords: Mindmapping

The cards that I chose to mindmap with were from The Tarot of the Animal Lords. The center card for the map was II. The High Priestess. Upper left was III. The Empress and upper right was VI. The Lovers. The bottom cards were IX. The Hermit (left) and XXI. The World (right). I could match several cards but forming a story that related to The High Priestess using all of them was difficult.
 
 Mindmapping was hard for me. I saw various relationships between the cards but they did not all fully coalesce around any one card. The individual cards seemed too discrete to mesh together. I could see the layout as an entire story. However, starting with one card and relating it to all of the rest was difficult. 

The High Priestess is depicted as a seated cow elephant in a glade. She is holding an open book. Scurrying about her feet are two chipmunks fussing with the scrolls on the ground. The words that came to me for this card were “regal,” “knowledge,” “questioning,” and “self-knowledge.” Since The High Priestess guides through intuition, this became the starting point of the story, that unfolded card by card. 


The Empress is a she-wolf sitting on a throne, with a turtle-shell shield
next to her. The scene around her is full of life with her pups chasing the butterflies. The similarities between her and The High Priestess are that they are crowned females sitting on thrones. Moreover, the two have two small animals next to them.  One difference is that The Empress holds a scepter while The High Priestess a book. The story moves from the quiet reflection of The High Priestess to the busy life of The Empress. These two cards with their small animals mark the inner and outer lives, the spiritual and temporal.

 The Lovers present two mandarin ducks standing under an orange tree. They are tenderly taking leave of each other. The High Priestess watches, knowing that they will need their intuition to guide them for what will be in store for them. The Empress notes the male’s duty to the Crown by his sword. The Lovers are caught between their spiritual and temporal lives. The story then becomes how they will solve their dilemma. 



The answer is The Hermit. Holding a light, a moon bear enters a cave. Hanging from his belt are scrolls and keys. Behind him, attached to a tree branch is a beehive dripping in honey.

The Hermit’s life has become unsettled, forcing him to find his own answers.  Perhaps he has experienced the horrors of war or has changed so much that his lover does not know him. The choices presented by The Empress and The High Priestess weighs heavily on him. Meanwhile, will his lover wait for him? How this drama will turn out is revealed in the next card.

 The final card is The World. This card features two dancing dolphins. In the moonlight under a flowering tree, the dolphins are celebrating. The World is the answer to what happened to The Lovers. Finding solace within, The Hermit, he rejoined the world and his lover, who did wait for him. This coupled have weathered their separation and trouble. Now together, the mature pair dance in happiness, having lived through the worst and now enjoying the best. 

The High Priestess told The Lovers to follow their intuition. The Empress showed them what they had to do before they could go on. Meanwhile, The Hermit had sought to understand what happened to him. Following his intuition and the advice of The Empress, The Hermit returned home. Now The World, The Lovers became whole again. Celebrating their long life, The Lovers thanked The High Priestess for her guidance.

 Laying the cards out as a whole, I did move from one scene to the next. I could see the connections between each of the cards. The story unfolded with The Lovers as the final focus. The Empress and The High Priestess gave them choices. This became a story of a relationship grappling with separation and healing.

Friday, August 05, 2016

Using Animal Oracle Cards to Discover Your Animals

My latest blog is up at Witches and Pagans.

A popular method for finding your Animals of the Heart is with animal oracle cards. While there are many fine decks, they are all limited in both the types and number of animals that they feature. Moreover, most decks are mammal-centric. Birds are usually represented by “Crow (or Raven),” “Eagle,” “Hawk,” “Hummingbird,” and “Owl.” Reptiles are limited to “Lizard,” “Snake,” and “Turtle.” Insects (and related others) are “Bee,” “Dragonfly,” and “Spider.”

Therefore, I would recommend a world-oriented deck since they will feature a wider range of animals. The methods that I suggest can work with most decks. Many popular decks tend to be North American specific, with a sprinkling of world animals. There are special themed decks which focus on Australian animals, birds, pets and other related topics. If you feel strongly about a certain grouping, then use those specialty decks.

To use the deck, shuffle the cards and deal seven cards. Study the animals and note your reactions. For example, you draw “Lizard,” what does that mean? I have only one deck out of the fifty that I own which features Tuatara, a lizard-like reptile. Therefore if an uncommon animal is calling to you, be prepared for a deeper investigation.

Read more at using animal oracle cards to discover your animals
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Thursday, July 28, 2016

Tarot of the Animal Lords: Freewriting

For freewriting, I chose I. The Magician, XI. Strength, and XVII. The Stars from the Tarot of the Animal Lords. I focused on them in order from The Magician to The Stars. (The Tarot of the Animal Lords refer to XVII. The Star as “Stars.”) As I was freewriting, I experienced each card differently. Then as I went from one card to the next, they flowed together as one. The Magician created the reality for Strength to perceive. From Strength comes the ability to receive spiritual guidance from The Star.

I. The Magician features a fox playing “find the bean” game on a toad stool. He is standing in a briar patch. Watching the fox is a scarlet tanager and a mouse. At first glance, the fox is an illusionist simply switching the bean around. As I pondered the adage, “The hand is quicker than the eye,” I perceived that the fox is also an alchemist. With his gestures, he weaves illusion into reality. As the mouse and bird watch, he weaves them into his new reality. Making the beans appear and disappear under the cups, he challenges his audience to ponder if there really is a boundary between reality and imagination.
 
 Traditionally, The Magician combines the four elements into a fifth of the spirit. The elements are represented as the bird (air), the mouse (earth), the cups (water), and the thorns (fire), in this card. The fifth element is represented by the toadstool, the alchemy of the imagination. We, as the audience, become participants in The Magician’s creation. We join in the illusion and unite with the Magician. We bring the vital element, the spark to weld the two worlds. The Magician, as the midwife, helps to birth the new world of magic realism.

 XI. Strength depicts a mongoose embracing a cobra, as the earth under them is opening up. Behind them, several volcanoes are spewing out ash. While chaos erupts around them, two salamanders intently watch the battle between the mongoose and the cobra. Strangely, the watching salamanders are active, while the mongoose and cobra remain frozen in time.
 
 My freewriting enabled me to understand how strength balances the chaos and order. The mongoose is calmly focused on the cobra, while the cobra is focused on the chaos. There is stillness within the whirlwind. Strength becomes the balance between the rational and the irrational. If the mongoose places too much focus on the cobra, he will fall into the cracks opening underneath him. If the mongoose is distracted, the cobra will slip away. Strength is deciding when to hold on and when to let go. The salamanders remind us of the choices that we have to make to keep the balance. 

XVII. The Stars features a seahorse pouring out light as he kneels on a lily pad. Beside him on another lily pad is a nesting grebe. Stars in the sky and reflected in the lake surround the pair. A glowing star dominates the sky, as the pair float in serenity and peace. A feeling of spiritual rest fills the card.
 
 In freewriting, I pondered the grebe. Why did the artist include her in the picture? What does the grebe have to do with the stars? The seahorse pours light from the sky into the lake. He is replenishing the waters of life from the heavens. Meanwhile, the grebe is simply nesting on a lily pad.
 Grebes are noted for their graceful mating. Therefore I reasoned that the grebe was the representation of “grace.” Sitting on her nest, the grebe patiently hatches the new soul. This self will be infused with the waters of life. Therefore The Star is the soul at peace after being created by the Magician and honed by Strength. 

 Freewriting provided me with an entry into each of the cards. It allowed me to focus as I let my mind wander to consider the deeper meanings in each of the cards. Freewriting allowed free association, which brought about a deeper inquiry. For me, it was a good method to get to know the cards.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Thorny Devil: Problem Solving

Known by many names, Thorny Devil (Moloch horridus) is more than an ordinary lizard. With her spiky body and crown of thorns, She resembles a walking nightmare. Her other names – Moloch, Horny Devil, and Thorny Dragon – emphasize her “hellish” nature. The scientist who named Her, Dr. John Grey certainly thought that. He recalled an ancient demon from John Milton’s Paradise Lost, when he gave Thorny Devil, her scientific name. Dr. Grey also cited the Canaanite God Moloch from the Old Testament, who received sacrificed children.

Looks can be deceiving. The only animal that Thorny Devil terrorizes is Ant. She spends her day wandering in the Australian Outback, searching for their nests. When Thorny Devil finds one, She parks Herself next to its edge. Catching one ant at a time with her sticky tongue, She consumes 45 ants a minute (2,500 in an hour). Thorny Devil is the walking nightmare for ants.

As She roams the Outback, Thorny Devil slowly lifts one foot at a time. Swaying from side to side, this small harmless lizard walks jerkily across the sandy soil. Since Thorny Devil cannot run fast, She relies on camouflage to keep Her safe. To blend into the landscape, Thorny Devil changes her colors from pale yellow to olive to brown.

Herpetologist Eric Pianka described his frustrating experience searching for a Thorny Devil. Spending a day in the Great Victoria Desert, Dr. Pianka followed the lizard’s faint tracks, which went around in a figure eight. Searching for most of the day, he found the Thorny Devil’s eating spot, sleeping spot, and bathroom spot, but no lizard. Then as evening was coming, he nearly stumbled over the Thorny Devil. For the entire day, this lizard had been sitting in the center of the figure eight. In his search for the Thorny Devil, Dr. Pianka had passed the lizard many times.
 
Well-suited for living in the tough dry areas of Australia, Thorny Devil has a unique way of collecting scarce water. When a rare shower occurs, the tiny grooves between her spikes will channel the rain to her mouth. Tilting her body forward, Thorney Devil gulps down the water. In the morning, when the dew condenses on her spikes, these grooves will direct the moisture to her mouth for drinking.

Thorny Devil uses her prickly armor for defense. Her head horns warn predators like Blue-tongued Lizard that She is painful to swallow. On the back of her neck, Thorny Devil has a satchel or false head. When She tucks her head between her forelegs, Blue-tongued Lizard sees only this large spiky “head” and retreats.

Thorny Devil is a member of the Agamidae Family (“dragon lizards”). (This Family includes bearded dragons and Australian frilled lizards.) The Agamidae of the Old World are distantly related to the Iguanas of the New World. Thorny Devil most resembles “Horny Toad” (Horned Lizard (Phrynosoma platyrhinos)) of the Iguana Family. Living in the Southwestern United States, “Horny Toad” faces the same challenges. Although They belong to different families, these two lizards could be twins.

Living in similar habitats, Thorny Devil and “Horny Toad” have parallel lives. Both feast on ants, and obtain water using the same methods. These two lizards demonstrate convergent evolution, which means that evolutionary pathways can be predicted and repeated. How these two lizards solve their problems with similar methods is revolutionary in understanding the challenges of nature for every species on the earth.

Thorny Devil teaches problem solving. To live in her harsh homeland, She employs many strategies for survival. Her spines serve as double duty – scaring predators and collecting water. Amid the desert shrubs, her coloring conceals Thorny Devil. She eats the ants that are plentiful where She lives. An excellent problem solver, Thorny Devil teaches how to be effective and efficient. Let Her be your guide. Just remember that looks can be deceiving.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Cryolophosaurus: Use Your Imagination

In 1991, the first dinosaur to be found in Antarctica was Cryolophosaurus. This opened up a new continent to dinosaur discoveries. Named for the geologist David Elliot, who first excavated this dinosaur, Cryolophosaurus’ full taxonomic name became “Cryolophosaurus elliotti.” In 1994, He became the first Antarctic dinosaur to be named. This dinosaur’s name means “frozen crest lizard.”

Life in the Antarctic during the early Jurassic was much different than today. At that time, Antarctica was further north and closer to the equator. Also, the warm Jurassic oceans allowed for plant and animal life to flourish there. However, there were still long periods without a sunrise. This continent was also cooler than other places. Not many large dinosaurs of the Jurassic could tolerate either condition very well. Medium sized Cryolophosaurus did and thrived. This meat-eater had little completion for the Pterosaurs and Prosauropods that He hunted.

Cryolophosaurus is the oldest Tetanuran to be found. Tetanurae are dinosaurs with large stiff tails. They include Spinosaurus, Carnosaurus, and Coelurosaurus. Tetanurae bore more resemblance to birds than many other dinosaurs. Because Cryolophosaurus lived in the early Jurassic, this meant that these dinosaurs evolved earlier than originally thought.

Cryolophosaurus is also noted for his oddly shaped crest. Since this crest reminded people of Elvis Presley’s pompadour, He became known as “Elvisaurus.” Paleontologists believed that his crest was used to identify who He was and to attract Females for mating. Like an Elvis fan, Female Cryolophosaurus would “swoon” eyeing his crest, Or so people could imagine.

Cryolophosaurus encourages people to use their imaginations. Picture Him singing rock’n’roll songs to his adoring fans. Imagine his home as a warm place with trees, a Graceland just for Him. Have fun with your mind pictures about Cryolophosaurus!

Thursday, July 07, 2016

GILA MONSTER: Discerning Fact from Fiction

A striking sight with her beaded skin of pink and black, Gila Monster blends well into her desert home in Arizona. This sluggish-seeming lizard intently flicks her tongue to detect a tasty mouse. At other times, She adroitly climbs the cactus with her sharp claws to hunt for perching birds. Tasting the air with her forked tongue, Gila Monster finds Desert Rat, and quickly chomps down with her vice-like jaws. Then She swallows her paralyzed victim whole and head first.

Gila Monster with her Brother – Mexican Beaded Lizard – are the only venomous lizards (Helodermatidae) in the world. Because of their venom and forked tongues, Gila Monster (Heloderma suspectum) and her Brother (Heloderma horridum ) are distant relatives of snakes. These two lizards are also close relatives to monitor lizards (Varanidae), who possess poisonous saliva, and could be ancestors of snakes. These two beaded lizards have an ancient ancestry, extending back to the mid-Cretaceous.

Contrary to popular belief, Gila Monster uses her venom for defense and not to hunt with. When She is angry, Gila Monster will open her mouth very wide and hiss. When She does this, her venom is pumped from her salivary glands into her grooved teeth. Thus when She bites Coyote, and clamps down hard, her venom flows into his wound. Locking her jaws, Gila Monster will hang on until Coyote howls in pain. After making her point, She then lets go. Learning his lesson, Coyote limps off.

Reclusive Gila Monster spends much of her time in her burrow. Digging deep with her heavy claws, She creates a snug home for herself. In the extreme heat of summer and cold of winter, Gila Monster rarely leaves it. The springtime is when She feasts. The rest of the year, Gila Monster lives off the fat contained in her large wide tail. (Her tail acts like a camel’s hump, storing food instead of water.)

Poorly understood, Gila Monster is the subject of many myths. More than that, these stories about Her are presented as facts. For example, Gila Monster does have powerful jaws and a tenacious bite. From this comes the legend, “Once She clamps her jaw on something, Gila Monster will not let go before sundown.” That is patently untrue. Other myths state that Gila Monster can kill with her bad breath, and has no anal opening. None of these silly stories are true, but they often get repeated as facts.

Another legend informs people that Gila Monster is a killer. Yes, her venom is toxic, but a human can easily avoid her bite. Old timers in Arizona say that only an idiot gets bitten. They add that said idiot would have to place Her on his bare leg, then annoy Her until Gila Monster bites. In other words, the said idiot would want to be bitten.

Sluggish in appearance, Gila Monster can suddenly turn and bite, usually when She senses a tasty meal. She warns those who would disturb Her, so that they leave Gila Monster alone. Separating fact from fiction is what Gila Monster teaches. Inspired by her tenacity, you can hang on for the truth. Before repeating something, discover whether it is false first. Some fiction comes disguised as the truth. Do not be an idiot counsels Gila Monster.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Megalosaurus: The Door to New Worlds

The first dinosaur ever to be named was Megalosaurus. The first fossil to be “officially” discovered (England, 1676), Megalosaurus was believed to be a giant human. As the first dinosaur to be drawn, her thigh fossil was depicted as a piece of male anatomy by Robert Plot. This prompted Dr. Richard Brookes to name it “scrotum humanum” in 1763.

Meanwhile, Reverend William Buckland had different ideas about Megalosaurus. An avid fossil collector, Rev. Buckland realized that the bones he possessed were instead from an ancient animal. After reviewing Buckland’s collection, Baron George Cuvier said that the fossils were of a giant lizard creature. (Cuvier was the first scientist to realize that extinction occurs.) In 1824, Rev. Buckland wrote a scientific paper and named this “lizard,” Megalosaurus, which means “great lizard.”

In his paper, Rev. Buckland described Megalosaurus as a giant land-living reptile who lived in the ancient past. According to him, She was a fifty foot (about 16 meters) long lizard, who walked on all fours. After examining her teeth, Rev. Buckland said that She was a meat eater. His reasoning was that Megalosaurus had sharp teeth like a monitor lizard.

Then in 1842, British scientist Richard Owen was pondering just what were Megalosaurus, Iguanodon, and Hylaeosaurus (an ankylosaur). These were all recent discoveries of extinct animals. Owen noted that their fossils were different from any other reptile living or from the past. Their legs were directly underneath their bodies, unlike modern lizards. Also they had extra bones in their hips. Owen grouped these three animals into their own family – Dinosauria (deinous means “terrible,” and sauros means “lizard”).

Later Owen decided to present Megalosaurus and her friends to the public. He had “life-sized” sculptures placed at the Crystal Palace Exhibition of 1851, which being held in London. Megalosaurus was depicted as a lizard walking on four legs, with a crocodile-shaped head and a hump on her back. After seeing this sculpture, Charles Dickens described Her in his novel “Bleak House.” (This was the first mention of a dinosaur in literature.)

Despite being the first named dinosaur, Megalosaurus is still relatively unknown. Rev. Buckland’s collection had contained fossils of different families of dinosaurs. Scientists first had to sift through his collection to determine which fossils belonged to what dinosaur. As more complete skeletons were found for other dinosaurs, scientists could begin to identify the bones of Megalosaurus.

Who was Megalosaurus? She looked nothing like Owen’s sculpture. Related to the ferocious Spinosaurus, Megalosaurus walked on two legs and hunted large sauropods. Her thick muscular legs allowed Megalosaurus to run fast for short distances. In this way, She could ambush and charge her prey. Also, She had large powerful jaws and long sharp teeth. Using them, Megalosaurus ripped off chunks of meat for her meal.

Megalosaurus opens the door to mystery, inviting people to walk through. Once people discovered her bones, they entered an ancient world, they never knew existed. She prompted them to consider new and strange animals. Through Megalosaurus, the world of dinosaurs came to life. Follow Her in and leave your old ideas behind.