animal affinities

Discussion in 'Alternative' started by bgruagach, Mar 30, 2004.

  1. bgruagach

    bgruagach eclectic Wiccan

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    I'm just curious what people think about if and how animals and animal qualities might be incorporated into your various spiritual paths.

    Some spiritual traditions (such as Native American ones) talk about "totem animals" where a specific animal is considered to be essentially family.

    I know in some other cultural groups like some in South America they take it a step further and the whole magickal/spiritual life seems to revolve around a specific animal like the jaguar.

    In Norse tradition there is the "berserker" who is seen as a warrior who has strong bear or wolf qualities and ties.

    What do people think? Does anyone here have a particular animal that they have integrated in their spiritual life?

    And what about "furries" on the internet? Is this another expression of the whole totem animal idea?
     
  2. Phyllis Sidhe_Uaine

    Phyllis Sidhe_Uaine Junior Moderator, Intro Moderator

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    I draw members of the feline race like nobody's business, plus I draw wolves, bats, snakes, butterflies, fireflies, and a few other non-human species.

    Heck, this one friend of mine has a cat that she swore would NEVER approach anybody, especially when they call her. Greycat (the cat) proved her wrong repeatedly. The lady's SO (who is also a friend of mine) didn't believe her until he saw Greycat come up to me and, in a feline way, ask for my attention. The couple sometimes refer to me as "the walking Catnip" (especially after they saw this one stray/feral come right up to me after I politely "meowed" a greeting [and the cat was even more aloof than Greycat!])

    I've had problems walking through the county zoo because the wolves turn in my direction, then start howling. Makes for an interesting day of it.

    Phyllis Sidhe_Uaine
     
  3. bgruagach

    bgruagach eclectic Wiccan

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    Personally, I do have a lot of success with cats just like you describe, Phyllis. I've had notoriously shy cats come up to me and let me pet them too.

    One of the most thrilling close encounters I've had with a wild animal was with a whale (I don't remember the type of whale, but it was one of the larger ones, not a dolphin) on a whale-watching trip at Provincetown years ago. They took us out and we saw some whales, and then this one whale came right up to the boat and did the little "peeking" trick where they roll and pop one eye up out of the water to try and get a look. I don't know if the guide on the boat was just saying their standard spiel, but she claimed that this almost never happens, that the whales never show an interest in the boat or its passengers like that. It was very cool to be that close to a wild whale and to be in a situation where it really felt like I might be able to communicate with it and have it communicate back with me.

    Some insects also must like my smell. Butterflies and dragonflies in particular seem to like landing on my hands or arms. Maybe it's that honey I smear on my skin...
     
  4. suanni

    suanni Confused

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    I have great success with cats too, even the feral cats. They just come to me but maybe that is because I understand them. Stare at a cat directly and they take it as a threat. It doesn't really explain why they come to me though, maybe they know that I will look after them, feed them etc, if that's what they require without expecting anything in return.
    I have an equal affinity with dogs.
    I don't really know what animal I would like to have the qualities of, it would likely be a combination of animals for their different abilities.
    The best encounter with a wild animal. "Rescuing" a bat lying asleep on a stone railing midday in summer whilst a bunch of school kids ran ape at Durham Cathedral some years ago. The fact it lay in my palm so quietly totally astounded me.
    Coming face to face with a golden eagle in the wild, so close. I know who was more scared, me!!!
     
  5. Phyllis Sidhe_Uaine

    Phyllis Sidhe_Uaine Junior Moderator, Intro Moderator

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    Greycat is NOT shy. She'll look at someone, and you could almost see the little cartoon bubble above her head with just one word in it...DIE.

    Similar situation as I had with a feral wolf. I was at a picnic with this one group at a state park and I went off for a short period of time to watch the lake. The next thing I knew, I had company: a feral wolf who just came up to me and laid down. One of the other members of the group tried to bother me, but the wolf kept him from even getting close enough to try touching me. He (the wolf) only let me go when I had to leave the park (or I would've been stranded miles from home.)

    It's possibly your taste. Many insects are far more sensitive to sweetness than humans are. Perhaps you "taste" sweet even without the honey... ;) :cool:

    Phyllis Sidhe_Uaine
     
  6. juantoo3

    juantoo3 ʎʇıɹoɥʇnɐ uoıʇsǝnb

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    Kindest Regards, all!

    FWIW, I used to have a great deal of unscheduled interaction with critters. Not so much anymore, probably because I don't get out into the woods like I used to.

    Through the years, I have had encounters much like those you all have described pertaining to cats. Also dogs, such as the neighborhood terror I loved all over that bit a 3 year old and an old lady. I used to have butterflies, grasshoppers, honey bees and all sorts of other critters visit with me. A lot of that stopped after I got stung by a mud-dauber.

    I have had encounters with wild turkey (no small feat), porpoise, manatee, and all kinds of backyard animals like squirrels and song birds. Even hawks and eagles pass through my life from time to time.

    Sometimes a critter takes a shine to an infant, and serves as a protector and guardian, usually a cat or a dog. Mine was a Bantam rooster named Pete, and after all of these years I still remember him.

    I don't know that any of this means anything in particular, and I've never really gave it a lot of thought, it just happens. I was taught long ago, and still firmly believe, that a couple of the best indicators when sizing up a stranger, is to check out the reactions from the small children and the family dog. Those two can tell you more about a stranger than you can ever figure on your own in a short time.
     
  7. suanni

    suanni Confused

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    I don't know that any of this means anything in particular, and I've never really gave it a lot of thought, it just happens. I was taught long ago, and still firmly believe, that a couple of the best indicators when sizing up a stranger, is to check out the reactions from the small children and the family dog. Those two can tell you more about a stranger than you can ever figure on your own in a short time

    Agree there. They seem to be very good at sizing up people immediately, and that includes the family cat! One of mine never did like the mother-in-law;)
     
  8. bgruagach

    bgruagach eclectic Wiccan

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    There are always exceptions of course. My cat Bub is grumpy towards EVERYONE except for me and my partner. Anyone else who comes into the house is always persona non grata as far as Bub is concerned.
     
  9. Pagan-prophet

    Pagan-prophet (Protect Computer)

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    My totem animals include the owl and the crow. According a tribe of Indians, the owl and the crow are worst enemies… that may be why I have a hard time sleeping at night.

    One of my friends made me a chalice including various Wiccan symbols along with runic symbols and knots. The largest design though, was an owl flying up from the base. It is quite a beautiful peace.
     
  10. Zenda71

    Zenda71 New Member

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    It would have to be the spider for me. We have dozens of them in our house and yard ... spinners and nonspinners. I find them fascinating and quite reliable companions.
     
  11. iBrian

    iBrian Peace, Love and Unity Admin

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    Spiders are quite under-rated - a musical creature of the musical universe!
     
  12. Zenda71

    Zenda71 New Member

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    My crazy theory is that our kindness to spiders and other creatures in our yard is why my garden is always thriving, whereas in other yards, the flowers and bushes are constantly being eaten or destroyed by local "pests".

    But who knows. It could just be luck too ... ;)
     
  13. Ryuuko

    Ryuuko Member

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    Zenda, did you just say "pests"? LOL! (we've been discussing about pests on the buddhism thread today...) :D Spiders are wonderful creatures, and do help in controlling pests. There is such an intelligence in the spider. How they know intuitively to build these intricate webs is beyond me.
     
  14. Erynn

    Erynn Professional Madwoman

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    I'm a Celtic Reconstructionist, and my view of spirituality is both polytheistic and animist at heart. I do quite a bit a work with animal spirits, as well as ancestors. I don't see them as having been "totems" in a strict sense of being representative of a particular tribe, group, or family, but more as in spirit presences who sometimes elect to assist a person either for a particular incident or through part/the whole of one's lifetime. Certain animal spirits bring different qualities into a person's life, or may express qualities a person has. The salmon, for instance, being a bringer of wisdom, while the crow or raven is a battlefield guardian and shapeshifter.

    I've done a good bit of work and study in Siberian shamanism as well, specifically in the forms practiced by the Ulchi tribe of Southern Siberia. Among these people, animal spirits are regarded as capable of being both helpers to a shaman, and of standing in opposition to their work. It isn't that a particular spirit is regarded as "good" or "bad," but simply that the goals of such spirits are not those of humans. The shaman makes offerings to the spirits, sings to them, asks for their aid, and sometimes directs them. Helping spirits may be mischievous and play tricks on the shaman they aid, and so caution and good relationships with one's spirits are paramount. The spirits who help a shaman may or may not get along together, and so not all spirits may be called upon when the shaman is doing his or her work. One can offend spirits by not making proper offerings, by insulting them verbally or by deed, or by violating prescribed social behaviors, such as speaking of spirit-things outside one's house or shelter.

    In much of modern NeoPagan culture, when people speak of identifying with a particular animal spirit, it's usually because they feel they embody or would like to embody the qualities of that animal -- the bear's strength or reputation as a healer, the eagle's sight, the wolf's leadership, or the coyote's joyful trickster nature. I suspect there's some element of this within tribal cultures (feelings of affinity), but so often I see people who choose their "totem" or "spirit guide" out of a deck of cards by random draw, or have a Priest/ess tell them who their "spirit guide" is, or read a description in an occult book about animal spirits and pick one from a list. My personal feeling is that such relationships can't be indicated or mediated by a deck of cards, by what we desire, or by another person. I feel that when a spirit comes to a person, it will be through dreams, or through significant events in waking life; that such an event will be powerful and have the force of a sign or omen. It's not just sighting an animal in the woods, for instance, but an encounter that leaves one breathless and full of a feeling of great power and awe. Such encounters are often only the beginning of a series of encounters with that animal on both the physical and dream/spirit realms.

    I believe that many people have natural talents for soothing and communicating with animals, but that this power doesn't necessarily indicate a spirit connection with a particular species. Dogs tend to like me very much, but none of the spirits that work with me regularly are canine, for instance. Those creatures that come to me in dreams, that speak to me, and that advise me are of other species.

    Questions to ask oneself in regard to these encounters:

    Do the dreams or visions carry symbolic significance?
    Do the waking-world incidents carry a sense of the numinous?
    Do the creatures encountered appear to be teaching something or showing you something about yourself or the world around you?
    Are the creatures behaving in a "natural" way for that time and place, or is there something unusual or "unnatural" about the event?

    I believe that most people have some connection to animal spirits of different kinds. I believe that we need to listen and observe carefully when we feel that there is some larger spiritual component to our interactions with the creatures in our daily lives. I believe that dreams and visionary experiences must be sorted through and interpreted before we can draw any conclusions about the nature of their significance to us; that some dreams are simply a way of our subconscious relaxing, and that other dreams are an interaction with the life of spirit.

    It's up to us what we do with the information we receive, and how we interact with any spirit (animal or otherwise) that presents itself to us as a teacher. Use caution -- in the spirit world as in waking life, not all is what it seems.
     
  15. mandrill

    mandrill New Member

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    I work with animals and have found much comfort and satisfaction in being around them and caring for them, making their lives better to the best of my ability. I've learned a lot from them and I think I prefer them to (most) people. ;)

    They have changed my life in many ways .. from my eating habits (got harder to both care for animals and eat them) to aspects of my world view. So, in that sense, I'd say animals have a large influence on my spirituality. I don't know about having a specific animal guide though. I've always felt an affinity with deer, after receiving quite a scare as a very young child, being mobbed and pinned against a fence by a large group of them at this petting zoo when my bag of feed ran out .. it left quite an impression .. but I can't say I've ever met a deer in dreaming or in waking that would fit with the idea of a spirit guide.

    I certainly do feel that I can connect with many of the animals I work with, they usually trust me and I find it fairly easy to deal with them .. I often have better luck getting their compliance than some of the other keepers. But then I never take the attitude that I am better than they are or that my role is to 'control' them and 'show them who's boss.' Rather I tend to view them as equals, fellow living creatures on this earth who have just had the misfortune to be living in captivity .. and it humbles me to see how we profit off of them, in various ways, and yet so many of us refuse to treat them with respect.
     

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