Thursday, October 12, 2017

AUSTRALIAN MAGPIE: Defense of Home

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, September 30, 2017

THE DOMESTIC CAT: Equanimity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Cold-Blooded Ones: Sensitivity to One’s Environment

My latest post at Witches and Pagans: Animal Wisdom.

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

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

Read the rest at: Cold-Blooded Ones

Friday, August 25, 2017

Firefly (Lightning Bug) Family: Recapture the Wonder

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, August 18, 2017

BLACKBIRD: Finding Your Inner Joy

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Clownfish: Cooperation

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, August 04, 2017

Chipmunk: Wise Use of Resources

The Chipmunk, a small striped-rodent, is a member of the Squirrel Family. Scientists usually divide the twenty five species of chipmunks into three groups – the Western Chipmunks (the largest group): Nectamias, the Eastern Chipmunk: Tamias, and the Siberian Chipmunk: Eutamias. The root “tamis” is Greek for steward, which reflects this species’ role in plant dispersal.

Chipmunk is named for her call – “chip-chip,” which sounds like a shrill bird-like chirp. Besides the chip-chip, She also employs a deep chuck, a trill, and a high-pitched startle call. Upon hearing her faint high chip, a dog’s ears will perk up. By the time the dog reacts, Chipmunk will be safe underground.

Living in North America and Siberia, Chipmunk is famous for her propensity to store seeds. People often see Her scurrying about with bulging cheeks full of seeds. Her cheeks can expand to equal her size. They allow Chipmunk to carry her food back to her burrow to eat. During the year, She collects and stores seeds in her vast complex of tunnels, doing most of her activity in the fall.

Besides seeds, Chipmunk will eat frogs and birds. Since She is an omnivore, She adds fungi and vegetables to her diet. Her eating habits help to spread various fungus and tree species. With the fungi, Chipmunk disperses the spores in several ways from storing the fungus to breaking it apart. By harvesting and hoarding seeds, She spreads many species of trees throughout the forest.

The underground burrow of Chipmunk has three areas for food, sleeping, and waste. Preferring sloping ground for drainage, She digs tunnels below the surface to her various chambers and for escape routes. Chipmunk can burrow through stone walls and concrete foundations, which makes Her a pest to some people. Except during mating season, Chipmunk lives by Herself in her home.

Chipmunk teaches people how to husband their resources. She stashes seeds to keep her well-supplied in food. During the winter, Chipmunk will “half-hibernate,” waking from time to time to eat. Some of the seeds, She eats right away, the others Chipmunk will save for the future. She also helps to disperse tree species, which in turn provides future sources of food. People can learn from Chipmunk how to save and when to use their various resources. 

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Frog Family: Tolerance

A Toad
We hear Frogs – their croaking at dusk and dawn, their plop as they dive into the water. We hardly ever see them because Frogs hop away faster than we can approach them. During the spring we hear male Frogs call to females in nearby ponds. To many people, Frogs mean spring and water.

Frogs are Amphibians that need water to procreate and to live in the first part of their lives. They live the adult part of their life on land. As Frogs, they must return to the water to breed.

In late spring, We see little Froglets darting about in ponds. Froglets, which many people call tadpoles (toad’s head) or pollywogs (wiggling head), are the Frogs’ juvenile forms. We see them swimming through their aquatic world, their round bodies swishing a strong muscular tail. Eventually, they will transform into Frogs, and leave the water for the land.

The entire family of Frogs is the Order Anura (tailless amphibians). The Toad family (Bufonidae), which contains the Cane Toad (Bufo marinus) and the Natterjack Toad (Bufo calamita), is one of twenty Frog families. Tree Frogs form the Hylidae and Rhacophoridae families. The Mid-Wife Toad (Alytes obstetricans) belongs to the Discoglossidae family. What people consider to be “true” Frogs are from the family Ranidae. All these scientific categories demonstrate the wide variety of the Frog family. Little wonder why people become confused over the question, “What is a frog?” The answer is, “They all are.”

Frogs demonstrate the principle of tolerance. Frogs come in all shapes and sizes. There are the tiny Spring Peepers, ugly Horned Toads, vigorous Bullfrogs, and green Barking Tree Frogs. The old song goes, “All God’s Children sing in the choir. Some sing low, others sing higher.” Listen to Frog songs, and you will here the low jug-a-rum of the Bullfrog, the rasping natter-natter of the Natterjack Toad, and the high peeps of the Spring Peepers. Together in unison, They provide a melody pleasing to the ear.

Important Frog Teaching: Empathy
“Frog has long been associated with water and fertility. Frogs have a keen sense of hearing that is unique to their species. They can hear octaves and pitch that other aquatic animals do not. The song of Frog often foretells of an imminent rain. Those with Frog Medicine are often "in tune" with the weather. They are often "charged" by a rain instead of made sleepy. Frog people tend to relate to others on an emotional level, and are great empaths. The ability to purge and cleanse negativity resides within a Frog person.” Copyright: Unknown.

Important Frog Teaching: Cleansing
“Frog holds the knowledge of weather and how to control it. Frog medicine can bring rains for every purpose – to cleanse, to heal, to help things grow, to flood, to stream. Its energies can be used to bring light showers or downpours for most any purpose.” Copyright: “Animal-Speak”, Ted Andrews.

Frog and Toad Teachings Include:
“Frog’s familiar song is associated with rain, for frogs and toads must lay their eggs in moisture. Many tribal people pray to Frog and Toad during drought. Folk wisdom tells us that dreaming of Frog means good fortune and if Frog visits your home, you will find romance. When you see or hear Frog or Toad, close your eyes and visualize prosperity. Then give thanks to Frog and Toad for calling forth the healing, life-renewing rain.” Copyright: Dolfyn.

“Frogs are good signs. The Frog is a doctor and healer, seer, and fortune-teller. The Frog is a messenger of rain....On the other hand, Toads are a bad power and bad luck. If you see Toad, then pray for protection.” Copyright: “Spirits of the Earth”, Bobby Lake-Thom.

Frog’s Advice Includes:
“Are you having difficulty expressing your emotions? Are you becoming fixated on one thing to the extent that nothing else matters? Frog Clan will help you learn to express yourself and to help you heal yourself emotionally. This is the position of slow, but steady change.” Copyright: Unknown.
Frog’s Wisdom Includes:
Transformation
Joy In a New Cycle of Life
Fertility
Fearlessness
Bringing Clarity
Diversity
Wisdom of the Soul
Emotional Healing
Well-Being

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Winged Ones: Living in the Moment




My latest post at Witches and Pagans is up.

"Birds fascinate people. Many people set out feeders to attract birds to their gardens. Others travel long distances to spot a particular bird. People watch birds fly, perch in trees, and sing to each other. What is it about birds that draw humans to them? Many will tell you they love birds for the joy they bring.

Birds teach living in the moment. A flash of brightly colored feathers, then they are gone. The sight of a condor soaring in the sky makes people pause and watch. Crows amuse on-lookers with their antics. A lonely call of the loon fills those who hear with longing. Constantly in motion, birds teach humans to live in the moment."

Read More at Winged Ones: Living in the Moment

Monday, July 17, 2017

PIG ! HOG FAMILY: Enjoying Yourself

The Family of Suidae is either called “Pigs” or “Swine”. “Pig” refers to any wild or domesticated animal in the Suidae Family. “Hog” is only used for domesticated Pigs on a farm or for Warthog of Africa. “Boar” has two uses – a male pig or the wild Pigs native to Europe and Asia.

Suidae live in forests and woodlands and are divided into five groups. They are Pigs (Sus), African Bush Pigs (Potamochoerus), Giant Forest Hogs (Hylochoerus), Warthogs (Phacochoerus), and Babirusa (Babyrousa). Suidae are native to Eurasia and Africa but not to North and South America or Australia. Wild Pigs of those places are domestic Hogs gone feral.

Surefooted and fast runners, Pigs live in tall grass or reeds. Contrary to popular beliefs, Pigs rarely overeat. They can live nearly everywhere because Pigs can find food anywhere. They root in the ground with their snouts for roots and mushrooms. Pigs also eat Worms and Snakes that They find. However, wherever Pigs are, They need water to wallow in, since Pigs have few sweat glands.

Pigs that most people are acquainted with are European Wild Boars. Domestic Hogs are descendents of Wild Boars that roam in Asia and Europe. Bush Pigs live in Africa, south of the Sahara. Like other Swine, They do their rooting after dark. Giant Forest Hogs, who have crescent-shaped growths under their eyes, also live in Africa. These Hogs were not discovered until the early 20th Century. Of course, also living in Africa are the fierce looking Warthogs, with bumps on their cheeks.

The most bizarre looking of all Mammals is Babirusa. Living in the Celebes and Moluccas Islands (of Indonesia), this Pig has tusks which grows through the roof of his snout before curving backwards. His name “Babirusa” means “pig deer”.

Among the ancient people of Britain, Pigs were important and powerful. They provided sustenance and knowledge to people. Since Pigs were incredibly fertile, people thought that They were from the Gods. In addition, ancient people told stories of how Pigs guided people to hidden knowledge such as the healing waters of Bath, England.

Pigs know how to have fun. In the mornings, They root around snorting and grunting to each other. Meanwhile, little Piglets run around and play. Later in the day, all the Pigs pile next to each other and sleep. They stretch out in their cool wallow, and snore in the warm sun. Pigs enjoy themselves and the day. Learn how to do the same from Pigs.

Pig Family’s Teachings Include:
“The Pig shatters perceptions but like a mother with a child, makes you face new and often frightening experiences in order to grow into full awareness.” Copyright: “Beasts of Albion”, Miranda Gray.

“You can open yourself to the abundance that exist through nature. Allow yourself to feast on life–to enjoy its beauties and its sensual delights.” Copyright: “Boar”, “The Druid Animal Oracle”, Philip and Stephanie Carr-Gomm.

“I like pigs. All dogs look up to you. All cats look down to you. Only the pig looks at you as an equal.” -- Winston Churchill.
Pig Family’s Wisdom Includes:
How to Nurture
Guide to Knowledge
How to Flourish
Having Common Sense
Being Intelligent
Intuitively Know How to Respond In Any Situation
Being Charge of Personal Space

Monday, July 10, 2017

The Loch Ness Monster: The “Unknown Unknowables”

Stories about monsters lurking in deep lakes abound worldwide. Noted cryptozoologists (Note 1) Loren Coleman and Patrick Huyghe have collected these stories and analyzed them. They believe that the 1933 sighting of the Loch Ness Monster (Note 2) ignited the public’s interest in Lake Monsters. Now sightings of these beasts are reported regularly worldwide. Meanwhile, “Nessie,” as the Loch Ness Monster is now known as, has entered popular culture as an endearing character.

Loch Ness is a tectonic lake that lies on the Great Glen Fault Line. Long and narrow, it was gouged deep by receding glaciers. This area is seismically active, which makes searching for any Lake Monster difficult. Add to this difficulty is the deepness of the lake that hinders extensive searches.
The Loch Ness Monster has been long known to the area’s inhabitants. The early Picts had carvings of a strange beast with a long snout and flippers. They told the invading Romans in the First Century CE that this animal was ancient.

The first written account of the Loch Ness Monster comes from the 700CE medieval chronicle of St. Columbia’s life. The history tells of St. Columbia’s efforts to convert the Scots. This Irish monk waded into Loch Ness and changed Nessie from being a man killer to a “shy beastie.” This explains why the Loch Ness Monster is rarely seen by people.

In 1933, the Spicers were driving along the lake when they encountered a strange animal. This long-necked beast waddled from the bushes, across the road, and slid into the loch. Then in 1934, Arthur Grant nearly crashed into the Loch Ness Monster with his motorcycle. Grant said that the animal looked like a cross between a seal and a Plesiosaurus. These reports made “Nessie” famous. In fact, her name (and the assumption the Lake Monster was a female) were immediately coined by the press.

Based on witness testimony and other evidence, Coleman and Huyghe say that Nessie is real. From similar reports of a nearby Lake Monster in Scotland – Maggie of Loch Morar, Nessie is a Waterhorse. In their collection of stories about Lake Monsters in Scotland, the cryptozoologists say that the majority are Waterhorses. They describe the Waterhorse to be an animal with an elongated body and neck with two sets of flippers. At close range, people have also reported a hairy body and a mane. Moreover, the two cryptozoologists noted that the folklore of the North Sea area abounded in descriptions of the Waterhorse.

Although Nessie may look like a Plesiosaurus, an ancient marine reptile, She is probably a mammal since the hair is key. Nessie could be a Zeuglodon, a genus of long, serpent-like fossil whales. The other choice is a long-necked pinniped from the Pliocene, known as the Acrophoca longirostris.

Whatever Nessie is, She has enthralled and frightened humans for more than a millennia. Nessie is an extraordinary enigma who lives just beyond human ken. She reminds humans that there will always be “unknown unknowables.”

Notes:
Note 1: Cryptozoology is the study of unknown or hidden animals.
Note 2: The “manual of style” adopted by the International Society of Cryptozoology calls for capitalized forms for “Lake Monster,” “Loch Ness Monster,” and “Waterhorse.”

Friday, June 23, 2017

Slow Loris: Experiencing the World of Smell

The Slow Loris (Nycticebus coucang) moves at a leisurely pace through the forests of Southeast Asia. With her slow and steady hand-over-hand movements, Slow Loris deliberately goes from tree top to tree top. Since She often hangs upside down as well, naturalists first believed that Slow Loris was a relative of the sloth of the Americas. Instead, She is a prosimian, a forerunner of monkeys.

As an omnivore, Slow Loris feeds on leaves, insects and small lizards. Using her keen sense of smell, She hunts at night for insects that are poisonous to many animals. Following the scent trail, Slow Loris tracks the insect. Moving unhurriedly, She sneaks up on her victim unnoticed. Then holding onto one branch with her hind foot, Slow Loris quietly reaches out and grabs her prey with her fingers.

Slow Loris communicates to other slow lorises using scent. To leave a message for them, She will urinate on her hands and wipe them on branches. The other slow lorises read her scent markings, and leave messages of their own. Scent acts as a language between these prosimians.

Besides her acute sense of smell, Slow Loris is also known for her toxic bite. First, She licks her scent gland on her upper arm, which produces a toxic secretion. Mixing the secretion with her salvia, Slow Loris grooms her baby for protection. When She forages at night, She will park her infant and leave. Furthermore, when She is threatened, Slow Loris will bite. The toxin from her bite will cause painful swelling and death.

Most people have seen Slow Loris in videos being tickled. What these videos do not tell anyone is that She is reacting from fear. Furthermore, shining a light into her large eyes hurts Slow Loris, since She is a nocturnal animal. Because of her cuteness, Slow Loris is a the victim of the illegal pet trade. Before selling Her, traders will pull her teeth out. Because of this, She dies a slow painful death. To help to stop the illegal pet trade, it is better to work to keep her home forests intact and educate people about her inability to live in captivity.

People can learn from Slow Loris how to fully experience the world of smell. She shows them how to communicate by smell. Imagine the smells of coffee, rotten eggs, baked breads, and then feel what each conveys. Go through your day noticing the smells of your life. Ponder what they tell you. Experiences will become more memorable with smell.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Warm-Blooded Ones: Friendship and Nourishment

My latest at Witches and Pagans is up:

Of all the animal groups, most people feel the closest to the Warm-blooded Ones. People have a natural kinship with these animals, since as humans, we are fellow mammals. Warm-blooded Ones live invited in people’s homes as companions and members of the family. They are raised by people for food, clothing, and shelter. People have been nourished by their friendship with Warm-blooded Ones for ages.

Read more at Witches and Pagans: Animal Wisdom

Friday, May 05, 2017

Toola, the Southern Sea Otter

There are individual animals who have had a profound effect on humans and on animals. Toola the Southern Sea Otter is one of them.

Toola, the first sea otter ever to foster stranded pups, is one of the Mighty Dead. She persevered, in spite of her daily seizures, to pioneer the rehabilitation of sea otters back into the wild. Moreover, Toola inspired important legislation for sea otter conservation. Most importantly, she fostered thirteen stranded pups who now have successfully raised families on their own in the wild. Toola is considered, by many, to be the otter who saved the southern sea otters from extinction in the wild.

"Toola with Pup," by Randy Wilder, Monterey Bay Aquarium
Before Toola, the Monterey Bay (California) Aquarium’s Sea Otter Research and Conservation Program (Sea Otter Program) could not successfully release stranded pups to back into the wild. Raised by humans, these sea otters were too accustomed to people to survive on their own. The Sea Otter Program, which was started in 1984, was failing in its main mission. Then Toola was rescued in 2001.

Found on a beach, suffering from seizures, Toola, who was pregnant, was taken to the Aquarium. The vets determined that she was suffering from toxoplasmosis, a parasite spread by cat feces. Toola could never be returned to the wild, since she needed daily medicine to contain her seizures. Adding to her woes, Toola lost her pup.

The Aquarium was now faced with a dilemma – what to do with the grieving Toola and a weakened pup who had been stranded. They decided to see if Toola would nurse the young pup. No aquarium or sea rescue group had ever thought of having sea otters as foster mothers before. Toola took to mothering as her mission in life. She became the first of many sea otter mothers to foster pups. Toola taught the pup, now her foster son, how to dive, how to crack open clams, and how to successfully eat crabs. Her pup is now the head of a pod of otters, and the father of many pups himself. Since her arrival, the Aquarium has had a successful release rate, now they had Toola teaching them.

Toola raised awareness of the human impact on the environment for sea otters. Since her deadly toxoplasmosis could only be abated by daily doses of medicine, Toola had to remain at the Aquarium. This parasite found its way into the watershed system by the careless dumping of used cat litter. Assemblyman Dave Jones (D. Sacramento) enacted legislation to place warnings on kitty litter bags about the proper disposal. He also set up a donation box for the California Sea Otter Fund on income tax forms. More funding also was allocated to saving the southern sea otters.

Toola died of old age (about 16 years old) in March 2012. Dr. Mike Murray, the Aquarium’s veterinarian, said “I will argue that these is no other single sea otter that had a greater impact upon the sea otter species…” He joked that she ruled the Aquarium with an iron webbed fist. Dr. Murray said of her passing, “Toola did what she has always done. She went out her way on her terms. May we all be blessed to go out the same way.”

"Toola with Pup," by Randy Wilder, Monterey Bay Aquarium

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Sea Otter: Second Chances

When people think “otter”, they often imagine Sea Otter with her cute face, floating on her back, holding a clam. The most aquatic of Otters, Sea Otter spends most of her life at sea. Since She likes to be in the water near the shore, Sea Otter prefers living along coasts instead of the open ocean. During rough weather, Sea Otter will seek shelter in a rocky cove.

Unlike other Otters, Sea Otter will catch fish in her clawed forefeet. Other times, She dives to the sea bottom, snatches a tasty clam, and returns to the surface. Swimming on her back, Sea Otter uses a rock and bangs open the clam on her chest. She eats crabs, being careful not to get her nose pinched.

Sea Otter is a keystone species since She maintains the health of the near-shore ecosystem. Sea urchins which attack kelp are her favorite food. Since She maintains the kelp forest, many species have their homes there. Places where Sea Otter has been reintroduced has rebounded in health and been restored.

From time to time, Mother Sea Otter will gather with other mothers and their pups. While her pup is playing with the other pups, Mother Sea Otter grooms herself to keep her fur clean. As her pup has fun with his playmates, Mother Sea Otter rests with her friends. Usually, She has her pup rest on her stomach as they float in the estuary. The bond between mother and pup is so close, that a mother will carry and mourn a dead pup for days.

Because She lives in the cold waters of the Pacific, Sea Otter has the thickest fur of any mammal. To keep her fur in prime condition, Sea Otter will lay on her back and blow air into her under-fur. To clean Herself after eating, She will somersault and twist and turn to get the debris off her fur.

Sea Otter’s history with people is a sad one. Russians and Americans hunted Her to near extinction for her fur. What saved Sea Otter were other, more thoughtful people. When the hunters thought that there were no more sea otters, other people knew where sea otters were hiding and kept the place secret. After laws were enacted to save the sea otter, her numbers slowly recovered.

Today, sea otter populations face other problems. Coastal pollutants and habitat degradation limit the number the survival of the adult otters. Used cat litter has infiltrated the watersheds bringing with it lethal parasites. Every sea otter counts to the people of California who are doing their best to keep these mammals from going extinct.

Sea Otter once trusted people before they hunted Her. After about a hundred years, Sea Otter is willing to trust again. As people are working to give Sea Otter a second chance to thrive, so She is giving people a second chance. Learn from Sea Otter when to trust and when to walk away.

Updated and revised version of a blog posting in 2010.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Relating to The Tarot and Me

For me, the best method for relating to the Major Arcana of the Tarot is the character sketch. Creating a character from each card, and then melding this character into a story is challenging. Doing this makes me look deeper into each card. For example, The Hanged Man presents me with the following: Why is he hanging upside down? Who is he? How does he relate to others? The second part of creating a short story with random cards further cements the meanings of the cards for me as a reader. Writing a story using The Hanged Man, The Sun and The Chariot challenges me to see how they flow together. How does The Hanged Man relate to The Sun, and what do they have to do with The Chariot? This to me is the core of reading the Tarot – the story that the cards tell.

 Aligning the Tarot with the Tree of Life of the Qabalah reminded me why I detest the Tarot. The focus became for me one of organizing the Tarot into a system of redemption and unification with God. This runs counter to what I believe, as a Roman polytheist. I do not regard the Tarot as a tool to relate to various energies of the Universe. For me, the Tarot is simply a divination tool.

Finding patterns in the cards is the most helpful for me to connect with the Tarot. The most common pattern that people see is grouping the cards into aspects of The Hero’s Journey. Finding other patterns became a mnemonic for remembering the essence of each card in a group. I set up a pattern of the Journey to the Dark Goddess and the Return. Each card now fits into a “family relationship,” which aids in a reading. When certain cards appear, I can interpret them by know where the questioner is on this journey.

The constant repetition of learning different methods of how to relate to the cards has made me more confident in my ability to interpret the Tarot. As I worked with each method, I encountered different aspects of each card. Therefore, my reading of The Hanged Man (or any other card) becomes richer by knowing the subtext. Furthermore if I cannot relate The Hanged Man to the other cards in one way, I can employ another method. The repetition and review increased my ability to interpret a spread holistically.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Types of Animal Teachers: Introduction

My blog at Witches and Pagans: Types of Animal Teachers

A part of working with animals is learning as much about them as you can. Since common names are confusing, scientists will use taxonomic names for each animal. In taxonomy, animals are separated into various groupings according to their DNA and biological characteristics. Therefore, every animal has a scientific name based on where they fit in the Web of Life. Taxonomy (this scientific classification system) is essentially the animal’s name, rand, and serial number.

Read more at Animal Wisdom blog

Friday, March 24, 2017

AYE-AYE: Self-Determination and Magic

One of the most bizarre mammals, Aye-aye of Madagascar can frighten people by pointing her spectral middle finger at them. With her large pointed ears, blood red eyes and large bushy tail, She is a figure from a nightmare. Aye-aye looks so supernatural that people on Madagascar believe Her to be capable of great magic.

Even for naturalists, Aye-aye has been a nightmare. When they first encountered Her in the 18th century, nobody could determine what Aye-aye was. Because of her bushy-tail and chisel-like teeth, Aye-aye was believed to be a squirrel. Later naturalists said that She was marsupial, although they could not find a pouch. Finally, scientists determined that Aye-aye was a specialized lemur, the only survivor of her family – the Daubentoniidae. (This makes Her a prosimian, a forerunner of monkeys.)

On Madagascar, Aye-aye takes the role of a woodpecker. (Among the mammals, only She and the striped possum uses percussive foraging.) Tapping with her long bony finger, Aye-aye searches for beetle larvae moving about in the tree bark. No one is sure whether the tapping disturbs the beetles or simply allows Her to locate them. Once She finds the grub, Aye-aye chisels a hole with her rodent-like teeth. Then inserting her middle finger, She scoops out the bug and eats it.

Building nests at the forks of trees, Aye-aye will have several throughout her territory. Although She lives by Herself, Aye-aye will tolerate other aye-ayes whose territories overlap Hers. When She is not using her nests, other Aye-aye may sleep in them. This makes it difficult for naturalists to determine the actual population of aye-ayes.

Many stories abound about how Aye-aye received her distinctive name. Some claim that it comes from one of her distress calls. Others say that it is her Malagasy name, “hay-hay,” which is probably Malagasy for “I don’t know.”

Because the people of Madagascar believe that Aye-aye can be an evil presence, they dislike saying her name. Whomever She points her middle finger at will die. A fearless animal, Aye-aye spooks people by simply walking into the middle of their villages. They usually respond by killing Her and hanging her corpse as a warning for other aye-ayes.

However, there are Malagasy people who believe that Aye-aye brings good luck. Since She was once human, Aye-aye will bless people. Sometimes, She will make a grass cushion for a sleeping village. Placing the pillow under their head, She brings them wealth.

Aye-aye has always been a puzzle for people. Few could figure out what She is or how She came to be called “Aye-aye.” She confounds people and their expectations. Therefore, they have opposite reactions to Her. Aye-aye lives by her own rules of self-determination and magic.

Drawing by Joseph Wolf

Friday, March 17, 2017

Grey Wolf: Trust of Self

The largest of Canis Family is Grey Wolf, the quintessential wild Animal. Loved by those who regard Her brave and loyal. Hated by those who fear and misunderstand Her. For example although the Norse admired Grey Wolf for her courage, they were afraid of her fierceness.

As an Individual, She is not formidable, but in her complex social relationships, Grey Wolf makes up for this. She travels, hunts, and dens together with her Fellow Grey Wolves. Her Pack is an extended Family, centered on the two Leaders, Mother and Father Grey Wolf. The Pups are cared for by their Older Siblings, while Adult Cousins hunt for food for Everyone.

The Native Americans of the Plains heeded Grey Wolf’s wisdom since She taught them how to live properly. The Kiowa taught their children to respect Grey Wolf through prayer and proper hunting. In addition, many Indian people regarded Grey Wolf to be a good sign since She was strong, wise, and courageous.

Among various European peoples, Grey Wolf was a symbol of valor. The Celtic god, Cernunnos, Lord of the Animals, had Grey Wolf as one of his closest companions. The Romans said that the founding of their city began with a She-Wolf suckling Romulus and Remus. In Iceland, one Norse tribe claimed they were descended from Grey Wolf. In Scotland, the MacLennan and MacTyre Clans claimed lineage with Grey Wolf.

Meanwhile among the Baltic peoples, Grey Wolf was associated with the Other World. Sniffing amber, Grey Wolf received the power to communicate with the Unseen Forces. For the Baltic peoples, She acted as a guide to the Other Side.

The human hatred and fear of Grey Wolf has ancient roots. Stories of people fighting wolves spread from Siberia to Greenland, and from Mexico to Spain. At first, people and Grey Wolf competed in hunting for the same game Animals. Later when people domesticated Sheep and Cows, their hatred grew as Grey Wolf ate their Livestock.

Because of her independent spirit, Grey Wolf is both feared and respected by people. Unlike Dog who attends to people, She prefers her freedom. Though often misunderstood, Grey Wolf teaches you to trust your instincts. She helps people understand that they have the courage and endurance to face their problems. In a Grey Wolf Pack, She displays proper manners, but still keeps her sense of identity. Learn to trust yourself as Grey Wolf does.


“The return of the gray wolf to the American West isn’t just a triumph for conservationists. It’s a victory over the darkness in our own human nature. We see parts of ourselves in them, parts of our self that aren’t always acknowledged.” Copyright: “The Wolf in All of Us”, Katharine Mieszkowski.

Conservation Note: Grey Wolf is endangered in Europe and North America. Various governments are involved in reintroducing Grey Wolf to these areas.

Note:Red Wolf (Canis rufus) is the closest Wolf relative to Grey Wolf (Canis lupus). They are members of the Canis Family. Other wolves, such as Maned Wolf, belong to the larger family of Canidae, of which Canis is a subfamily. Other members of the Canis Subfamily are Coyote, Dingo, Domestic Dog, and Jackal.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Guardian Dragons

My latest is up at Witches and Pagans on Guardian Dragons.

"Usually a younger dragon, who likes to play will want to become a guardian dragon of a human. (Age in dragons is different than with people. They age more slowly.) Being curious, the young dragon often find people fun and intriguing. For these reasons, they enjoy the company of humans. In return, these dragons expect kindness and love from their human companions.

Sometimes, an older dragon will ask a person to mentor a young dragon. Watching her unawares, the older one has decided that the human is mature and steady, the qualities of a good dragon mentor. Although the older dragon will guide her at various times, they expect the human to know that she has the responsibility for caring for the dragon “child.” The person must also remember that in her relationship with these two different dragons, they have placed their trust in her. Both expect to be treated with love and consideration."

Rest the rest at Guardian Dragons

Thursday, March 02, 2017

VIRGINIA OPOSSUM: Seize Opportunities and Make Them Your Own

One thing that people know about Virginia Opossum is that She plays dead or “playing possum” as people call it. When confronted with a predator, Virginia Opossum will hiss and squirt a foul-smelling liquid. Then She goes limp, with her eyes shut and tongue hanging out. Usually the attacker loses interest and leaves her alone.

However, there is more to Virginia Opossum than simply “playing possum.” The most ancient of marsupials, She has not only survived the placental mammals coming into her territory, but also expanded her territory from South America to North America. An excellent climber, Virginia Opossum has thumbs on her hind feet to help her grip tree branches. In addition, her prehensile tail is capable of grasping a branch (Contrary to popular folklore, Virginia Opossum cannot hang upside down for long periods of time.)

After their initial encounters, Europeans regarded Virginia Opossum to be ingenious and versatile. In her search for food, She is both. Ranging far and wide, Virginia Opossum eats garbage from dumpsters, dead animals from roadsides, overripe fruit under trees, and rats in nearby homes. Virginia Opossum even eats poisonous snakes without being harmed.

However, Virginia Opossum is also known for her maternal caring. She gives birth to tiny underdeveloped young. Just after birth, her babies (joeys) crawl into her pouch, which faces towards to her rear. When her joeys are ready to come out, they cling to her back until they become adults.
(Adults are called Jacks and Jills, respectively.)

When She hunts for food, Virginia Opossum carries her joeys on her back. When they are grown, her joeys leave Her and take up their solitary lives.

Virginia Opossum teaches people to seize opportunities and make them theirs. Instead of having one territory, She wanders around eating what She finds. Because of her activities, some people regard this solitary and nocturnal animal as “nature’s clean-up crew.”
Virginia Opossum’s Wisdom Includes:
Expert Strategist
Loving Mother
Ingenious and Clever
Dexterity
New Life Cloaked in Death
Avoidance
Holding Opposing Points of View
Transmutation of Poisons

Note: Virginia Opossum is also known as ‘Possum. However, Virginia Opossum is not the same as the Possum of Australia. They are different animals with the same name.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Animal Relationships: Symbiosis

My new post is up at Witches and Pagans.

When two animals team up, they may form a beneficial partnership called symbiosis. In symbiosis, the two animals provide something, which the other cannot, for each other. It could be food, protection or eliminating parasites. In many cases, neither can survive without the other. This other animal is in a special relationship with your animal teacher. Therefore that animal is also one of your animal teachers.

Read more at: Animal relationships: symbiosis

Friday, February 17, 2017

Animal Relationships: Partnerships

My latest posting up at Witches and Pagans. Animal Relationships: Partnerships

Another aspect of working with your animal teachers is to study the partnerships that they form. Many animals work with others to achieve their goals. In that case, the relationship with the other animal should also be studied. How they work together can aid in your understanding of how you can partner with others.

Various types of animal relationships have lessons to impart. For example, zebras drink at a water hole with wildebeests and ostriches. While the others see danger, the zebras smell danger. Together, the animals provide safety for each other at the communal water hole. This is an example of a community forming from diverse entities for a short duration. This could be something that festival organizers could benefit learning from.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Teachings of the Phoenix

Copyright: Maryann Sterling
The only one of her kind, Phoenix lives in isolation. Greeting the dawn, She spreads her shimmering wings, and sings beautiful songs in praise of the Sun. When her feathers become drab, Phoenix gathers up herbs, and flies to a wild desert place. There She builds her pyre, and waits for the Sun to ignite it. Once engulfed with flames, Phoenix dies only to be reborn, three days later.

Invocation
“Ancient Phoenix, renewed by fire,
Beloved of the Sun sing sweetly to me.
Grant to me, your gift of a New Beginning.”


To contact the Phoenix, who lives beyond, first ask the Golden Eagle to help you.

Voice of Golden Eagle:
 
“Come with me to the Sun. As we fly higher and higher, feel the fire in your body. Touch the searing flames without harm. Smell the sweet herbs – sandalwood mixed with frankincense. Hear the mystical song without words. Watch the Phoenix greeting the Sun from the tallest tree of the highest mountain in the Land of the Dawn.”

“Dear Phoenix, we are here to accompany you into the Dark Night.”

The Phoenix sings to you.
 
“Come, greet the Dawn with me. Bathe in the Spring of Life. Drink the Dew of Generosity. Eat the Dates of Sweetness. Share this glorious day with me!”

“Come Dusk, I will build my funeral pyre. As the setting sun strikes my tree, the flames will rise up to consume us both. Ashes we will be, dead, waiting to be reborn.”

Comes the Night -- the unending darkness, the infinite blackness, the unrelenting bleakness. Nothingness are we, waiting, waiting. Oh, how we long for Daybreak.”

“Look the Bright Sun comes! Behold the Glorious Light bathing all with its golden hues! Embrace the Light! Let the Cycle of the Cosmos renew itself in you. Become life, death, and rebirth.
“Be reborn! Sing songs of gratitude to the New Dawn! Embrace the Rainbow! Become the Prism of the Universe. ”

“Now reborn, it is time for you to return home. Golden Eagle will take you back to the Spiral Tree. When you are again facing the long, cold night, call upon Golden Eagle. She will bring you back to the Land of the Dawn. Back to me -- back to our cycle of renewal.”

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Finding a Significator Card in Tarot

One aspect of the Tarot that a reader needs to be familiar with is numerology. The numbers assigned to the cards of the Minor and Major Arcana are based on occult concepts of numerology. The German poet, Goethe once said, “Numbers do not rule the world, but tell how the world is ruled.” Moreover Pythagorean philosophy claim that “All is Number.” This philosophy sees the universe to be based on “blue prints” which are governed by numbers.

 In the Tarot readings, it is often useful to have a card denoting the questioner (querent). This card is the Significator. One way to find this card is to take the birth date and birth year of the querent, and add up the numbers. The resulting number is the Major Arcana card that represents the querent. The Significator aids greatly in the interpretation of the spread.

For the reader, this method of finding a Significator for themselves is another way to learn more about themselves. People find value in astrology, Myer-Briggs, and other systems that classify humans into discrete groups. Having a Major Arcana card assigned to them helps people to gain insight into their personalities. I do not subscribe to this but that is my personal view.

Using this method, I found my Significator and number which is nine and The Hermit. In general numerology, people who are nines are considered visionaries and sages. In the Pythagorean system, nine is the first square of an odd number, which is known as the Ennead. Since nine is one short of ten, the perfect number, it is considered a failure. However, since only the infinite ten is after nine, the number nine can be considered limitless. Nine then becomes a complex and rich number.

The card that is numbered “Nine” in the Major Arcana is The Hermit. This card is associated with solitude, the search for knowledge and mysticism. The Hermit could be considered the sage. However, The Hermit could also be considered someone who is devoted to only seeking knowledge and not using it. This connotes both failure and limitlessness in one card. Therefore, The Hermit encompasses both the Ennead and traditional numerology.

Does this card tell me anything important? Not really, since it is another arbitrary method of assigning personal characteristics to a person. However, when I do personal readings and this card appears, I need to pay attention to the reading. Also, if I want a more direct reading, I could use this card as a part of the spread.

 Combining the Major Arcana with my birthdate is a useful method to personalize my readings. When reading for others, it can be a stand-in for the querent. Since the Tarot has elements of numerology, I that that this method is one way of tying the two together in a meaningful way.

 Works Used:

Bartlett, Sarah, “The Tarot Bible.” New York: Sterling. 2006.
Drury, Neville, “The Tarot Workbook.” San Diego: Thunder Bay Press. 2004.
Zell-Ravenheart, Oberon, “Grimoire for the Apprentice Wizard.” Franklin Lakes (NJ): New Page Books. 2004.

Friday, January 27, 2017

The Dragon Quest

Going on a quest to find a dragon partner requires intense preparation. Dragons, by nature, have little tolerance for silly people. Moreover, some dragons wish to do humans serious harm. In doing the quest, a person needs to be courageous and wary. Only by intently studying dragons beforehand, can a person find those who are friendly to people.

Be patient, since dragons take their time deciding when to make first contact. Dragons choose mature well-disciplined people to work with. Respect those dragons who simply do not wish to speak to anybody. Be self-controlled, since many dragons are reluctant to mingle with people. Dragons have sensitive temperaments, and will remember any disrespect.

Formal in their conduct with others, dragons prefer only associating with persons who know their manners. If a human shows deference and civility, a dragon may acknowledge her. Most dragons prefer that a seeker take his time and not rush into things. Above all, dragons will remember promises that people make to them but cannot keep.

When dealing with dragons, always prepare for your meeting. As spiritual beings, dragons respond best to ceremony and ritual. Therefore, seek them through that discipline. Always ground beforehand, since dragon energy is quite potent. Work within a ritual because it provides a meeting place with boundaries. Do the ritual according to your tradition, and the dragons will appreciate your work. They dislike an ad hoc, messy ritual, and will show their displeasure. The best times to hold a rite for meeting dragons are at dawn and dusk, on cloudy moonlit nights, and foggy days.

Since dragons are reserved, they act in a courtly manner towards others. Remember to do the ritual as simply and as correctly as possible. Think of it as having “high tea” with the Queen. Focus on the awareness of the dragon, and wait for them to speak. Converse with them, and quietly listen to their wisdom. When the dragon is finished, thank them for their time, and ask permission to end the rite.

Remember the following when involved with dragons. Use self-control and self-discipline. Work within the set of magickal laws of your tradition. Be aware of the energies surrounding the dragon. Cultivate cooperation and companionship with the dragon within the ritual setting. Remember your manners.

Only after formal introductions, can a human ask if the dragon will protect her. If the dragon accepts, the person will feel the dragon touching her. Afterwards, the two will move in harmony with each other. The dragon’s energy and essence will come alive in in the person. To align with the dragon’s energy takes restraint and composure. Only after the human and dragon form a long lasting friendship, can she be one with the Dragon.

Do not go on a dragon quest, if you are not serious. This takes intense work and energy. Moreover if your reasons for the quest are less than honorable, the dragon will know. An angry dragon is something that no human wants to deal with.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Observations on American Indian Beliefs

Lakota hide count
Although American Indian cultures are often presented as homogeneous, they are not. For example, Coyote is usually presented as The Trickster who teaches harsh lessons to people. However, different cultures have other Tricksters who serve various purposes.

 For the Lakota, the Heyoka is their Sacred Trickster. If a person dreamed of the Thunder Beings, then it was thought that they were chosen by the Wakan Tanka (Great Mystery) to be the sacred clowns of the people. The Heyoka possesses such sacred energy that they can turn things upside down and backwards. The duty of the Heyoka is to speak the truth and shake up people’s perceptions through laughter. 

Meanwhile for the Chinook of the Northwest, Blue Jay is the Trickster. He is helpful but foolish at the same time. For the Mi’kmaq of New England, Rabbit and Otter are light-hearted beings who entertain people. 

Beside Tricksters, Culture Heroes are also included in several belief systems of various tribes. Glooscap of the Wabenaki (New England) is their Transformer. One thing He did was to change the landscape to be kind to the people. When the White People came, Glooscap left but promised to return when the Wabenaki needed Him. In contrast, Shikla of Northwest Coast is more focused on bringing balance to the world. He is less involved with the affairs of humans.

 Some Nations had prophets similar to the Abrahamic religions. One was Handsome Lake of the Seneca, who received visions in 1799.  His teachings became the Longhouse Religion of the Iroquois, which is also known as Gaihwi:io – God’s Message, or the Code of Handsome Lake. This Code was in response to the on-going wars and pressures by the British and Americans on his people in the 1700s. Some of the tenets of the Longhouse Religion have elements of the Abrahamic faiths such as the focus on sins. For example, whiskey, witchcraft, love magic, and abortion are considered evil. During the Midwinter Thanksgiving Ceremony, a white dog (or a non-living stand-in) is sacrificed to convey the sins of the people to the sky. Afterwards, tobacco is offered to the Creator to sustain the order of the world.

Discovering these differences in the beliefs of the various Nations demonstrates to me that there is no monolithic faith of American Indians. Many people have the tendency to distill various elements of the differing faiths into a “universal religion” consisting of the Great Spirit, Medicine Wheels, Totems, etc. As a Roman Polytheist, I have experienced this impulse of outsiders to the religion. Roman Gods are not Greek Gods with Latin names. Understanding how outsiders can lump things together helps me tolerate mistakes people make about Roman Gods. It helps me to teach people in a kind manner what the differences are and why they matter. Faith is rooted in the people who practice it, and in their perceptions.

 Works Used:

Favell, Ian, “The Code of Handsome Lake,” Overview of World’s Religions. Web. http://www.philtar.ac.uk/encyclopedia/nam/handsome.htm.
 Native American Spirituality, Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance. Web. http://www.religioustolerance.org/nataspir.htm
 Native Languages of the Americas: Native Cultures. Web. 2015. http://www.native-languages.org/home.htm
 North American Religions, Overview of World’s Religions. Web. http://www.philtar.ac.uk/encyclopedia/nam/index.htmlhttp://www.philtar.ac.uk/encyclopedia/nam/index.html
 Wambli Sina Win, “The Thunderbird’s Echo,” Native American Times. Web. 21, June 2011. http://www.nativetimes.com/index.php/life/commentary/5574-wambli-sina-win-the-thunderbirds-echo

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Orca (Killer Whale): Unbroken Traditions

In January 2017, two notable orcas died – Granny (also known as J2) and Tilikum. Both lived tragic lives in different ways. Granny, captured and released because of her age, saw the gradual extinction of her pod due to pollution and overfishing. Tilikum, captured as a calf, killed three people arising from his torment at being a performing killer whale. Both animals were the impetus for humans to reconsider the ethics of using animals for entertainment. The result was an ending of orca shows at major marine parks.

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Called Orca (“Sea Devil”) by the Romans, Killer Whale is the only member of the Whale Family (Cetacea) to hunt other Mammals. The largest Dolphin of the sea, Killer Whales uses stealth and trickery in hunting. Her original scientific name, Dephinus orca, meant “demon dolphin.” In recognition of her size and complex social life, Killer Whale’s current scientific name is Orcinus Orca, after the Ancient Roman God of the Netherworld.

Ruled by an old Matriarch, Killer Whale’s Pod travels throughout the oceans in search of food. (Some pods may reside in one area, while others travel about.) Like Wolves on land, She hunts with her “wolf pack”. Because of this, Killer Whale is called the “Wolf of the Seas”. Her tightly knit pod hunts and drives Blue Whale into areas where He cannot escape. Killer Whale works with her Pod Mates biting and harassing Blue While until He dies. Then They share in their meal.

In Killer Whale’s Pod, They assist each other in raising Calves. Killer Whale and her mates learn their dialect of Orca language from their Mothers. In addition, Mother Killer Whale also teaches her Calf proper pod behavior. Meanwhile, the ancient Matriarch ensures that All learn their pod’s history and culture.

When She is not busy learning or hunting, Killer Whale likes to play. She pops out of the water (spy hopping) or spouts loudly to surprise her Friends. She likes to ride the wakes formed by boats and whales. Sometimes, Killer Whale forcefully slaps her flukes against the water while remaining partly underwater (lob tailing). She plays for the sheer joy of it.

Even in her flamboyant black and white colors, Killer Whale blends into the ocean. Every pod member has a different pattern on their bodies to identify each other and stranger Killer Whales. Her Mate has a high dorsal fin to tell Him apart from Female Killer Whale. Together in the pod, They roam the seas in search of adventure.

Killer Whale raises her Calf to know their language and culture. She passes on their pod’s history to Him. Because Killer Whale lives a long life, the pod reflects the culture and traditions of many generations. Pay attention to your cultural traditions says Killer Whale.

Saturday, January 07, 2017

Tarot of the Animal Lords: Judgement and the World



 Judgement: This card is set in a mangrove swamp. The swamp is a liminal place, with the day being the noontime. Sitting on a mangrove tree root is a crocodile holding a staff. Perched in his open mouth is a red plover. Crocodiles and plovers live in a partnership, instead of being predator and prey. The plover gets a meal picking leeches off the reptile’s gums, and the crocodile gets his gums cleaned. The card gives the sense of balance and discernment. The scene captures a moment standing in time which I see as Judgement. 


 The World: A dolphin couple dance under the trees on a beautiful summer day. They are dancing on the world, itself. Surrounded by the signs of each suit, the pair seem happy and contented. They have reached the end of their arduous journey. Eventually, The World will open up more journeys for them to go on. In the meantime, the two are happy that they have come to the end of this particular one.

Previous Cards:
Star, Moon, and Sun