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.  
The Elements: Reptiles and Amphibians

Alligator (American): Water

Greatly feared because of her size and teeth, the American alligator is a shy animal. She prefers to live in her “gator hole” or mucking around the swamp. The American alligator is a keystone species. She creates “alligator holes”--mud hollows in swampy areas. This provides other animals with water, food, and homes. Even her abandoned nest is used by other animals.

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KIWI: Sacredness of Being Contrary

Unable to fly, the kiwi 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 for smelling. (This is unusual in birds).

This plump little bird has many features similar to mammals. Like the badgers, She lives in a series of underground burrows that She has dug. In addition, her bristly feathers resemble soft mammal fur. Furthermore unlike other birds, the kiwi has two working ovaries.

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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.

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Birds and the Elements

Hummingbird (Ruby-Throated): Fire
The Aztecs of Mexico regarded the ruby-throated hummingbird as a warrior. Despite the ruby-throated hummingbird’s delicate appearance, she is a bold, quarrelsome bird who will readily attack any intruder that strays into her territory. With the frenzied beating of her wings, the ruby-throated hummingbird will defend herself with her long beak.

Quail (Old World): Fire
Thought of as stout little birds, Old Word quails are remarkable for their hardiness. When Old Word quails are cold, they form star-shaped bevies (flocks) to receive warmth from each other. For the Chinese, Old Word quails were the Fire Phoenix of Spring and Summer. Among the Hindus, these birds represented the returning Sun.
(Note: Old World quails belong to the pheasant family, while New World quails are in their own Family. They are only distantly related, and are not the same species.)

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Elements: Spirit and Cats, Coyotes, and Wolves

Cat (Domestic): Spirit or Water

Spirit: 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 domestic cats 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 a domestic cat killing the mice that tormented various Catholic saints.

Water: 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 this cat with her front left paw raised for good luck. In addition, Japanese sailors believed that the domestic cat kept the evil spirits away that dwelled in the sea.

Coyote

Among the Native Americans of the West, the coyote is revered for many things. The Shoshone say that Coyote and Wolf created the world. Among California Indians, Coyote taught people lessons about the mistakes they make in life.

Meanwhile among the Lakota, Coyote was a representative of Wakinyan (Thunder Beings). Those who saw the Coyote in a vision were considered Heyoka (Sacred Clowns), who taught, through example, by doing things the wrong way. Within the concept of Heyoka was an acceptance of Coyote’s innate wisdom of purposeful chaos.

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The Elements: Deer and Spirit

The alchemy of spirit binds the other four elements together. The spark of spirit unites with the elements to make the whole greater than the sum of the parts. Without spirit, each element would remain inert. However, spirit does more than add spark, it also keeps the elements in balance so that none could harm us. Too much air destroys trees. Too much fire creates a lifeless world. Too much earth will suffocate us. Too much water floods us. In return, the four physical elements balance spirit. Too much spirit makes us insubstantial and ungrounded.

Deer (Red)
With his impressive rack of antlers, the red deer makes an awesome sight. His power and agility makes the red deer, a challenge to hunt. For that reason, the Europeans regarded him the “Lord of the Forest.” For many chieftains and kings, to bring him down was proof of their power. Because of his regal bearing and grandeur, the red deer became a part of European religions. Because of his connection with ancient lives, the red deer brings the old religions alive.

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Lost Species Day: Steller's Sea Cow

November 30 is Lost Species Day.

Steller’s sea cow, a cold water relative of the manatee and dugong, was unknown to modern people until 1741. At that time, the crew of Vitus Bering’s ship, the Sv. Piotr was ship-wrecked off the coast of Kamchatka, where the last remaining herds of these mammals lived. Through overhunting, Steller’s sea cow went extinct thirty years later.

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