Animal Wisdom: Connecting People and Animals

A blog encouraging deeper relations between people and animals.

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Virginia Carper

Virginia Carper

Virginia Carper, a Roman Polytheist, lives in the Washington D.C. area with her family. She navigates life with a traumatic brain injury which gives her a different view on life. An avid naturalist since childhood, she has a blog called “Nature’s Observations.” Having experienced the animals directly, she teaches on-line classes about the spiritual and natural aspect of animals. She has published articles on her brain injury, Roman polytheism, and working with extinct animals. In addition her writings on animals (including dragons and other mythic creatures) can be purchased her book site, Animal Teachers.  
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.

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Discovering Your Animals of the Heart

Animals of the Heart are the animals who want to share their lives with you. Offering their friendship, these animals want to be a part of you. I prefer calling animals who bond with you as “Animals of the Heart.” For me, the terms of “totem,” “power,” and “familiar” are specific to their religious traditions. I know that people use these words interchangeably to mean the same thing. “Animals of the Heart” is a general term that I use to denote the type of animal that people feel a deep connection with.

Animals of the Heart come in all forms. Some of them have been with you since childhood. I have met people who have been happy with Goldfish as their Animal of the Heart because they had them as pets. Meanwhile, other people have been fascinated by unicorns or dragons as children. As adults, they look to these mythical animals for wisdom.

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  • Lizann Bassham
    Lizann Bassham says #
    Thank you - a lovely and helpful post. I appreciate your acknowledgment of how often wider culture appropriates spiritual traditi

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
GORILLA: Calmness and Strength

When people were first introduced to Gorillas, they believed that these primates were fiercesome monsters. King Kong symbolized people’s fear of this mammal. Since Gorillas live in the most inaccessible regions of the forests and mountains of Africa, They were the last members of the Great Ape Family to be found. Therefore, ordinary people had no ideas about what real Gorillas were like.

The largest and most powerful of all living Primates, Gorilla is actually peaceful and sociable. His easy-going nature has made it possible for several groups of Gorillas to coexist peacefully in the same region. When a strange Gorilla appears, the eldest Gorilla (Silverback) hoots excitedly, building up to an ear splitting roar. Silverback Gorilla will charge but stops short of touching the intruder. This will usually frighten the other Gorilla away.

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TUATARA: Dedication to Your Cause

Although Tuatara resembles a lizard, He is not one. Tuatara is the last surviving species of the ancient order of Rhynchocephalia (“beak-heads”). Only his family of Sphenodontidae (“wedge-toothed”) is left of this group of reptiles. The rest of the Rhynchocephalia went extinct about 60 million years ago. Because of that, Tuatara is often thought of as a “living fossil.” (However, He has actually evolved to live in modern times.) Because of his link to prehistoric reptiles, scientists can study Tuatara to see how lizards and snakes evolved.

Tuatara has distinctive characteristics that makes Him different from lizards. He has fused jaw teeth, and a beak formed by overhanging upper teeth. (This is what gives Tuatara, a “beak-head.”) Like some dinosaurs, Tuatara has a large opening in his skull behind his eye socket. He also has a third eyelid that passes over his open eyes. Tuatara has gastralia (“abdominal ribs”) which lizards and snakes do not. All these qualities indicate that his lineage is older than theirs.

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  • Tony Lima
    Tony Lima says #
    It's hard to find a real Roman Polytheist these days. The real problem with old Polytheism was in fears that do not have anything
Working with Your Shadow Animal: Summary

Our shadow animals are the dynamic that brings change to our lives. They test us, and give us the energy to change ourselves. They break us out of our comfortable places, and push us out into the world. Our shadow animals help us to integrate ourselves. Without our shadow animals, we would be incomplete.

By challenging us, shadow animals also teach us many life lessons. They help us with family legacy issues, and resolve feelings of shame and guilt. Not only that but they guide us through a life of chaos to one of empowerment.

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WOOLLY MAMMOTH: Warmth and Hospitality

Best known of the Ice Age Mammals, Woolly Mammoth (Mammuthus primigenius) received her name from her outer layer of long hair. Underneath that layer, She had another dense inner layer of fur. To cope with the icy temperatures, Woolly Mammoth had a compact body, a high domed head and small ears.

Woolly Mammoth had a shorter but more flexible trunk than other Mammoths. At the end of her trunk was a finger-like appendage as well as another protuberance. She used these to gather grasses and other plants for eating.

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Mastodon Family: Look Closer and Think.

Often confused with Mammoths, Mastodons (Mammutidae) are in their own family, since They split off from Elephants and Mammoths earlier. Therefore, there are many differences between the two Animals. Mastodons have larger and flatter brows than Mammoths. Moreover, They have paired low conical cusps for teeth, and upper jaw tusks. In addition, Mastodons are shorter and more muscular than Mammoths. Scientists have liken Them to a bus, whereas Mammoths are more like construction cranes.

Living side by side with Mammoths, Mastodons colonized Eurasia and North America about fifteen million years ago. As browsers, They preferred to live in spruce forests and open woodlands. During the winter, Mastodons had a double coat of fur to prevent Them from freezing in the icy cold. However, they preferred warmer climates to live in.

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