Animal Wisdom: Connecting People and Animals

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Spirit Element and Birds

Hawk (Red-tailed): Air or Spirit

Air: A member of the Buteo family of “Soaring Hawks,” the red-tailed hawk can be seen perched on treetops or utility poles. Spotting prey, she dives to grasp the animal in her talons. Although the red-tailed hawk prefers life in the uplands, she will live in cities nesting on ledges. The red-tailed hawk is a true child of the air.

Spirit: To the Pueblo Peoples, the red-tailed hawk was endowed with the same qualities as the eagle. Because she was a messenger of the Spirit, they called her “Red Eagle.” Through her flight, the red-tailed hawk communicated messages from the Great Mystery. In addition, she brought the rains and the waters necessary for life.

Kiwi: Earth or Spirit

Earth: Unable to fly, the kiwi instead probes about the forest floor looking for tasty bugs. The sensitive hairs around her bill help her to sense the underground movements of worms. Also, at the end of her curved beak are nostrils that she uses to smell with (unusual for birds.). Like badgers, she lives in a series of underground burrows that she has dug.

Spirit: The Maori of New Zealand called the kiwi “Te manu huna a Tane,” (the Hidden Bird of Tane Mahuta, the God of the Forest). Making high ceremonial robes (kahu kiwi) out of her feathers, the Maori hold the kiwi in high regard. They tell of how she surrendered her fine feathers for the greater good. To save the trees, the kiwi chose to live on the forest floor hunting for harmful Insects. Today the Maori are guardians (kaitiaki) of the kiwi, helping to save her from extinction.

Photo of Te Tuatahi a nui  (a male kiwi) sitting on an egg. From Maungatautari Ecological Island Trust

Sacred Ibis: Water or Spirit

Water: Important to local ecosystems, the sacred ibis preys on snakes and insects. (In fact, Ancient Egyptians thought of her as a protector against snakes.) An adaptable bird, she can be also found at landfills near towns and villages looking for worms and grasshoppers. While migrating, this white bird with a black head used to visit the banks of the Nile. (The sacred ibis are now extinct in Egypt because of habitat loss.)

Spirit: Sacred to the Ancient Egyptians, sacred ibises were mummified and often buried with the Pharaohs. For them, this bird represented Thoth, their God of Wisdom. The Egyptians believed that Thoth hovered over the people in the form of a sacred ibis offering them protection and guidance.

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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.  


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