Is my cat my spirit animal? Discover the spiritual connection between humans and pets. Photo of Stacey Couch's cat Rio.

Is My Cat My Spirit Animal?

Is my cat my spirit animal? Can pets be our spirit animals? Most of the time the answer is “no” and, in other instances, it is “yes”. Pets can serve as our soul companions and familiars, and once they cross into the spirit world they may become spirit animals. Let’s first explore these distinctions and then look at the symbolism of different pets as spirit animals such as cat spirit animal, dog spirit animal, and more.

Spirit animals are our guardian angels. They do not have attachments to this world and thus can offer us infinite healing and divine support. Spirit animals do not have wounds or egos or agendas. They give us guidance directly from source, unadulterated and full of cosmic Truth. Keep this definition in mind as we proceed.

Pets as Soul Companions

Pets are our companions, our support network, our friends, our family, our loved ones, our trusted advisors, our best friends, our confidants, and our mirrors.

Just like we have certain people in our lives that we rely on when times are tough and celebrate with when times are great, we have our pets to share the ups and downs of life. They are there for us when no one else is. Oftentimes our pets know more about our interior lives and feelings than the humans we are closest to. They have an excellent sense of empathy.

And, pets are their own unique selves. Each has his/her own set of desires, motivations, intentions, feelings, preferences, habits, flaws, blind spots, fears, patterns, wounds, gifts, talents, and experiences. In essence, when our pets are incarnate, they have their own agendas. They can’t always provide us with unbiased spiritual guidance and support like a spirit animal does because pets have their own little egos and lives going on.

My dog Diesel always has one eye on our chickens to safeguard them from the fox pair on our ranch. He’s always keeping track of where all his humans are and is constantly investigating errant noises. Not only is his attention dispersed, but he is also very concerned about what is going on in his physical world.

At the same time, he is a sensitive Piscean that feels the emotions of others. He responds by approaching with sympathy when I’m sad and steering clear when I need some space. His company can be reassuring and kind, a sweet comfort. I don’t consider Diesel a dog spirit animal, but rather a soul companion.

My cat Rio isn’t my cat spirit animal, but I love him all the same. He can be completely insensitive to whatever task I’m focused on and invade my space to get his need for affection met. And, he also always seems to show up with an air of concern when my son is crying. Rio is an excellent cuddler and is usually willing to oblige my need for snuggling and support during times when I feel down.

In this way, our pets have their own agendas while they also offer their comfort, support, and a healing presence. This makes them excellent soul companions.

Find your spirit animal workshop. Painting of red-tailed hawk.

Pets as Familiars

There is a special class of pets that are set apart in their ability to connect with the spirit world. These pets are called familiars.

I once had a black cat named Gretchen. She usually hung around when I was doing shamanic journeys for myself and others. She’d lay down and snuggle into my side or nest on top of my lap. I thought she was just taking advantage of the warmth and closeness until one particular day.

During a shamanic journey for a client, Gretchen nestled in for a nap against the crown of my head while I laid on my back. In the middle of the journey, I was talking with a black panther, and it dawned on me. “It’s you!” I exclaimed to the black panther. For months, maybe years, Gretchen had been joining my journeys in the form of the black panther. I heard her affirm with a resounding, “Of course it is,” loud and clear in my heart. She was a miraculous being that way.

Gretchen could walk between the worlds. She was connected with the spirit world in a special way.

Most pets help us through how grounded they are in the present moment and the physical plane. They help bring our fragmented minds and hearts to right here, right now. There is a peace in how connected to nature our pets are. They bring a unique form of support and healing. My horse Mable is very much of the earth. Just standing in her company eases the stress and busyness of the day away. When I’m with her I feel rooted and connected to the natural world around me. She helps bring me into my body, but I wouldn’t call her my familiar.

Familiars are different. They have the capacity and interest to leave this plane and go on soul flights with us. Familiars participate in our ceremonies and rituals. They gravitate towards meditation and speak with us on a soul level. Familiars have the ability to leave the physical plane AND the ability to ground us here. They can offer wise council on spiritual matters, and they also have their own egos and agendas.

Gretchen wouldn’t miss meal time for anything, and she had plenty of opinions about when I should be paying attention to her. She was still very much a cat and not a cat spirit animal. Familiars are somewhere in between soul companions and spirit animals.

Pets as Spirit Animals

As a recap: Spirit animals are our guardian angels. They do not have attachments to this world and thus can offer us infinite healing and divine support. Spirit animals do not have wounds or egos or agendas. They give us guidance directly from source, unadulterated and full of cosmic Truth.

Spirit animals carry the gifts, graces, and messages of their kind (i.e. all bears relate to turning inward to hibernate and all dragonflies bring messages about dreaming).

Spirit animals can show up in three forms. The first is as emissaries. For example, a person can bond with a particular bear spirit animal that has a unique personality. Their specific spirit bear is an emissary for the collective archetype of “bear”. This single spirit bear is that person’s connection to the larger collective of bear medicine.

The second form of a spirit animal is a broad connection to the collective of an animal species. A person may not know a specific personality of a dragonfly spirit, but instead commune with all dragonflies and the wider essence of dragonfly medicine. Every time they see any actual dragonfly or representation of one, the person is connecting with their spirit animal.

The third is through our pets who have passed away. When our pets cross over to the other side they may appear as a spirit animal for us. They are now in spirit form free of the attachments of their bodies and able to act as a channel to Source. They help us relate to the larger graces and gifts of their species (such as cat spirit animal or dog spirit animal), and they provide support and guidance that is particular to us.

Each of these forms are not exclusive. They merge and overlap. I had a close bond with an incarnate red-tailed hawk named Graccia that I trained in a raptor education program. Since she has passed away, I have connected with her as a spirit animal. Every time I see a wild red-tailed hawk, I think of Graccia and I also commune with the larger collective of red-tailed hawk spirit animals.

Meaning of Pet Spirit Animals

Here are descriptions of pet spirit animals with links to longer articles that are available…

Dog Spirit Animal

The meaning of dog spirit animal is first and foremost about loyalty. They are the companion archetype through and through, always there and willing to serve. They are nurturing in their affection and support. Beyond one-to-one loyalty, dogs are also loyal to their pack. They are willing to lend a hand and are invested in collaboration. Someone working with dog spirit animal may either inherently exhibit these qualities of loyalty and collaboration, or they are called to learn how to develop them further.

Dog spirit animal brings a keen sense of smell, helping us track the thoughts of others as well as sense where boundaries are. They are often fiercely protective and help us with learn how to establish our own boundaries and alert others when they are intruding. Obedience may come into play for those who connect with dog spirit animal. It is important to consider who you follow with little question, and be sure that your leaders are worth your loyalty.

Cat Spirit Animal

The meaning of cat spirit animal is independence. Cats are known for thinking for themselves and maintaining a wild streak in the midst of domesticity. The message of cat spirit animal is about knowing that we don’t always have to follow the crowd. No matter how tame we think we’ve become, we always have an untamed side to our nature. Cats help us connect with the part of us that is wild and, thus, with the wilderness.

Paradoxically, cat spirit animal also carries the message of indulgence and relaxation. The cat nap is famous for a reason. Cat spirt animal teaches us that it is okay to lounge in luxury, take the rest of the day off, and enjoy the creature comforts of home. More than any other domesticated animal, cats seem to effortlessly live the paradox of tame and wild. For them, the two sides aren’t opposed, but instead organic expressions of our own nature.

 

Here are links to extended articles on other animals that can be pet spirit animals:

Horse Spirit Animal
Rabbit Spirit Animal
Snake Spirit Animal
Turtle Spirit Animal

Don’t see a pet listed? Let me know in the comments which spirit animal you’d like to know more about.

 

Find your spirit animal workshop. Painting of red-tailed hawk.

 

Watch “Can Your Pet Be a Spirit Animal?” Video

Porcupine Spirit Animal

Intimacy in Porcupine Spirit Animal

Porcupine spirit animal speaks being carefree and careful. They are well defended by a coat of tens of thousands of quills that covers their bodies except for their faces and undersides. This lends to a relatively mellow and carefree life. They don’t have to run or hide from predators. However, this safety comes with a cost to intimacy.

Physical contact between porcupines is a delicate arrangement indeed. Get too snuggly or affectionate with your lover and risk getting quilled. Moms cradling a nursing baby brave quills unintentionally dispatched into their belly or teat – yikes!

Apparently porcupines know how to pull out the quills using their incisors and front feet [1], but for anyone who’s plucked quills from a dog’s snout, you know how arduous and painful this process can be. Even with the ability to remove quills, there’s still motivation to avoid them.

Porcupine quills have barbs on the end that make them difficult to remove. If the quills are not removed the barbs embed deeper and deeper into the flesh. This can prove lethal.

Porcupine spirit animal reminds us that when expose our soft places to someone we love, it is all too easy to catch a barb and be hurt. The meaning of porcupine spirit animal brings the wisdom of approaching intimacy delicately. Here a carefree nature must also be careful.

Handling a Delicate Situation

Sometimes in relationships it feels like no matter what we say, the other person is going to take it the wrong way and get hurt.

Porcupine spirit animal helps us handle delicate situations. They are a perfect ally for learning new levels of closeness. With their great sense of smell, porcupine spirit animal helps us discern when our loved one is feeling sensitive. There are times for approaching with caution. There is wisdom in choosing our words carefully out of care for another and ourselves. For hurting another with a misplaced barb could result in a barb in return. Now everyone is wounded.

If we’re not careful we can get too focused on the quills. These cycles of wounding in love cause melancholy and loneliness. Attempts to reach out and make things right seem futile. We become so afraid of making things worse that we stay away all together. Now we are the porcupines wandering alone, everyone giving us a wide berth.

Porcupine spirit animal is closely related to the outsider or outcast archetype.

Porcupines also occasionally stick themselves with their own quills [2]. This is a sharp reminder that sometimes the most harmful barbs come from our own inner critic. Porcupine spirit animal reminds us of the importance of being cautious and gentle in relating to ourselves as well.

Porcupines have a strong craving for salt. In alchemy, salt relates to the grief of tears and bitterness of loss. Porcupine spirit animal is no stranger to either. If you find yourself in a lonely place estranged from the person or people with whom you should be closest, it’s time to turn to porcupine for further instruction.

Find your spirit animal workshop. Painting of red-tailed hawk.

Giving Warnings in Phases

Porcupine spirit animal teaches us how to give warnings in phases. This helps us back off sooner to avoid dangerous barbs.

Many porcupines use the following warnings when threatened. They first raise their quills and turn their backs. Then they shiver their quills and chatter their teeth. Next, they emit a strong foul odor much like a skunk, and, lastly, they attack by backing up towards the threat and whipping their tails at it.

An interesting side note: Prehensile-tailed porcupines from Central and South America live in trees and don’t have spines on their tails, so their warnings look a bit different.

When working with porcupine spirit animal, it’s important to remember to watch for the subtle signals that someone is asking you to back off or move away. You will also be better off if you are able to offer warning signs of your own and if you use them deliberately and consistently. This is how we stay safe from most barbs in relationships.

Beyond the Five Senses – Proprioception

Porcupine spirit animal is associated with a special hidden sensory system in our bodies – the proprioceptive sensory system. Proprioception is how we sense pressure. Proprioception receptors are located in our muscles and joints. Our coordination and body awareness depends on them. When proprioception receptors sense pressure, we get information about where our bodies are in relation to the ground and other objects as well as about where to place our limbs and how to move our bodies.

The sense of proprioception can be under- or over-responsive. Someone who has an under-responsive sense of proprioception tends to play too rough, apply too much pressure, intrude into other people’s space, and run into things.

To have over-responsive proprioception is to shy away from physical touch, avoid closeness, and be claustrophobic in crowds or small spaces.

Given that the consequences of touching a porcupine’s quills are so high, porcupine spirit animal reminds us to pay extra attention to where our bodies (both physical and energetic) are in space. It’s time to learn more about your proprioceptive system and how it is responding.

If your proprioceptive system is under-responsive, some helpful things are to use a weighted blanket, to do some heavy labor or lifting, or to ask for a big hug or cuddle. Find a way to safely lean into your relationships and experience the pressure of an embrace.

For those of you with over-responsive (or more sensitive) systems, make sure to speak up when someone is getting too close, request that others ask for your consent before touching you, and give consent for them to approach only when closeness feels safe. Make sure you’re getting the physical and energetic space you need.

The article on the “8 Senses of the Body: the Hidden Sensory Systems” by Dr. Neff explains proprioception well [3]

Awareness of Danger Embedded in DNA

Many spirit animal guides equate porcupine spirit animal with innocence. They absolutely do have a sweetness them, a childlike face and gentleness.

And… It’s a lot more complicated than that. Innocence is equated with being “defenseless” and “naive”. Porcupines are neither. They are born with quills that harden within an hour to a couple of days (depending on the species). This means that they come into the world with tools to defend themselves and the ability to wield them.

Far from naive, their bodies innately know how to flex the muscles that raise the quills, roll into a ball to protect their face, and swat their tails at threats. Their bodies are not innocent to what it means to have to defend themselves. They come into the world armored, which means that porcupines have an awareness of danger embedded in their DNA.

Porcupine spirit animal relates to generational trauma and how it is passed down through our DNA. If you feel like you were born into a hostile world that required you be on alert from the beginning, call on porcupine spirit animal to remind you that you have the defenses you need to stay safe. Carrying an energetic coat of quills can help you relax. Move more slowly and intentionally through life like the ambling porcupine who knows nothing can shake them.

The meaning of porcupine spirit animal speaks to an ability to stave off bad characters either early in life or early in a project. Is someone trying to overpower you or find your weak spot? Porcupine spirit animal reminds us to safeguard our space and creations early and consistently.

Feeling Pestered?

The North American porcupine is the second largest rodent in North America. Rodents in general have a reputation for being pest species. Porcupines, unfortunately, are no exception. Like beavers, porcupines have two large front teeth that grow continuously throughout their lives. Porcupines gnaw on the hard, outer bark of trees to grind down their teeth and gain access to the soft, edible inner bark.

They have a bad rap with people because of their destructive habits with trees. Porcupines chew large rings of bark off around the base of a tree trunk – called “girdling”. This leaves the trees susceptible to disease and potentially death. This is especially problematic in commercial orchards and forests where trees are grown to produce goods for sale.

Where I live in the Rocky Mountains, porcupines climb ponderosa pine trees, strip bark off of limbs and gobble up the fresh shoots and branches. This causes the trunks of pine trees to split, sometimes upwards of twenty times. This disrupts the singular, straight trunks that people prize for lumber production, and causes what many people see as “ugly” and unhealthy crowns in trees. Hunting porcupines is unregulated in the United States. Some land owners shoot and kill porcupines to protect trees, but, in saving a few trees from a natural death, the overall health of the forest and the species in it are compromised.

Porcupine Spirit Animal Allowing for Imperfection

Porcupines are ecosystem engineers. The deformed, dead, and dying trees they make when gnawing creates diverse habitats for all kinds of animals from woodpeckers and bats, to insects and bears. Humans value living, straight and homogenous trees in a forest, but ecosystems require atypical shapes, heterogeneity, and dead or dying wood. This variation creates critical habitats.

To learn more about the North American porcupine’s ecosystem engineering, read this fact sheet (pdf download) [4]

Porcupine spirit animal reminds us that whatever destruction or deformity might be pestering us, that variation is critical to the overall health of our interior ecosystem. Not everything can be straight, perfect, and healthy in our lives all of the time, nor should it be. We need to allow for decay and imperfection, and maybe even help it along when we see the opportunity. Whatever is gnawing at you may turn into an opening for new life.

Porcupine Spirit Animal’s Affinity for Trees

New World porcupines across the South, Central, and North America have a close relationship with trees, relying on trees as a food source as well as a means to climb to safety. New World porcupines have very strong climbing skills.

All of these things ties the medicine of porcupine spirit animal to the world axis. The world axis is an archetypal symbol for the pillar that connects heaven and earth. Porcupines dig to find roots and climb to the top of tall trees to eat shoots. This shows an ability to navigate the full spectrum of experience, from the earthly to the heavenly.

When working with porcupine spirit animal, you have a chance to firmly grasp the channel between the spirit and material planes.

Ground Dwelling Porcupines

There are two main groups of porcupines around the world. The first is the New World porcupines of the Americas that we’ve already discussed. The second is the Old World porcupines that live in Africa, Asia, and Italy. Old World porcupines are strictly ground dwellers. Another main difference is that some species live in colonies in underground tunnel systems.

If you’re relating to an Old World porcupine spirit animal, you may need to practice handling delicate situations more often and make an effort to get out and find some much needed space. Community and physical day-to-day life can take up more of your focus.

Playfulness in Porcupine Spirit Animal

A common narrative about porcupine spirit animal is that they are playful. Porcupines don’t frolic like fawns. They don’t romp like kittens or wrestle like puppies. Their motions are slow and deliberate, quiet and reserved.

While a porcupine shuffling along is an adorable sight, it is not akin to the wild, expressive freedom of movement we associate with play.

However, play can also mean experimentation. This is the kind of playfulness that porcupine spirit animal embodies, especially when it comes to food. They are generalist herbivores, which means that they eat a wide variety of plant foods. For example, North American porcupines forage on evergreen needles and the inner bark of trees in the winter. In the other three seasons, they dine on berries, seeds, nuts, grasses, leaves, twigs, bushes, and roots.

If you are looking to align with the power of porcupine spirit animal, an intentional foray into culinary experimentation with different vegetable flavors and combinations utilizing all the parts of plants – roots, shoots, and leaves – can be a fun way to do this.

Find your spirit animal workshop. Painting of red-tailed hawk.

References

[1] https://www.maine.gov/dacf/php/gotpests/othercritters/factsheets/porcupine-vt.pdf

[2] https://safarisafricana.com/animals/porcupine/

[3] https://neurodivergentinsights.com/blog/8-senses/

[4] https://www.oregon.gov/odf/Documents/forestbenefits/fact-sheet-porcupines.pdf

[5] https://nationalzoo.si.edu/animals/north-american-porcupine

 

Snow leopard spirit animal pictured in deep snow.

SNOW LEOPARD Spirit Animal

Snow Leopard Spirit Animal
Ghosting and Going Unseen

Known as the “Ghost of the Mountains”, snow leopard spirit animal teaches us how to be elusive. Her camouflaged coat, quiet movement, wary habits, and vast, inaccessible home range make snow leopard sightings extremely rare.

Snow leopard spirit animal carries the ghost archetype. She’s an expert at ghosting.

Challenges come with inhabiting the ghost. You can feel in between worlds. Be apart from the world. This is isolating and lonely, like haunting your own life. Snow leopard most active at dawn and dusk. These are the in between times with low visibility.

When working with snow leopard symbolism, you may be tempted to avoid vulnerability by ghosting others. Slipping away. Hoping they’ll forget you.

Snow leopard comes to help you manage your conflicting attraction and aversion to people not seeing you. She helps you decide when you’re noticed and when you’re not. Choosing solitude in a healthy way. Rather than avoiding intimacy.

You may also experience other people ghosting you by causing physical or emotional distance. Snow leopard spirit animal provides much needed companionship and guidance during periods of estrangement.

Snow Leopard Spirit Animal
and the Exorcist Archetype

There was a poet-saint that lived in the 11th Century in Tibet named Milarepa. He entered the “Great Cave of Conquering Demons” to meditate and devote himself to spiritual practice. A long winter storm came and trapped him in the mountains for six months. The nearby villagers thought him dead and held a funeral. In the spring, they went to look for his body. During their trek through a mountain pass, they saw a snow leopard sitting on a rock, watching them. 

Later, they found Milarepa at the cave, singing and well. He asked them why they were so slow to arrive. He’d seen them hiking through the pass a long while ago. The villagers said they didn’t see him but a snow leopard. He responded, “I was the leopard.” [1]

Milarepa shows us that snow leopard spirit animal is connected with the exorcist archetype. In the Great Cave of Conquering Demons, Milarepa faced fears of loneliness, isolation, starvation, and death. Conquering his own demons, he paved the way for his community to do the same. 

The exorcist and ghost archetype have a close kinship. Embodying both, snow leopard spirit animal helps you walk hidden realms. Clear out what haunts you and find our own skin.

A Guide into Solitude

Snow leopard symbolism relates to solitude. These big cats live a lot of their nomadic lives alone, traveling across vast territories. 

In working with snow leopard spirit animal, you can overcome the perils of solitude and embrace the gifts it brings. If circumstances force you into solitude, snow leopard helps you cross the barren snow fields of abandonment and leap over the chasms of loneliness. Snow leopard hunts down nourishment on the other side of discomfort. Solitude brings you to new heights. You meet the Divine in the sacred mountains the snow leopard inhabits. 

If you choose solitude voluntarily, snow leopard spirit animal shows you how to blend into the mystery and discard escapism. I share a good deal about the intricacy of solitude in an article called “The Seriousness of Solitude“.

Western scientists say the snow leopard is a solitary species that lives alone. This “fact” comes from a male point of view. Male scientists started the narrative focused on male snow leopards. Male snow leopards do live the vast majority of their lives alone. The exceptions are the first two years of their life when they are with their mother, and a couple days a year when they join with a female for mating.

The Feminine Side of Snow Leopard

Female snow leopards are a completely different story. Single mothers, they bear and raise cubs entirely on their own. They reach sexual maturity at 2-3 years old, spend two years raising a litter of cubs, and go into estrus every other year. The typical lifespan of a snow leopard in the wild is 10-12 years. If she only has two litters in her life, she’ll spend four years rearing offspring. That combined with the two years she spends with her own mother means that she could spend around half or more of her life living with family.

Once she regains solitude, it can still be interrupted. A mother snow leopard may meet up with her young after the initial separation. Then there’s mating season every other year. During this time, male and female snow leopards may hunt in pairs.

When viewed from the female snow leopard’s point of view, we see that solitude isn’t king here. Her life is one of ebbs and flows of solitude and intense intimacy. Nursing blind, helpless cubs for months and then teaching the adolescents how to hunt in a vast landscape is no easy task. It requires closeness and attentiveness. “Me time” isn’t happening often when the little ones need their best shot at survival.

Intimacy of Snow Leopard Spirit Animal

Snow leopard spirit animal brings us the wisdom of mixing intimacy with solitude and the ability to flow between the two with grace. She guides us into embracing the holiness of aloneness and togetherness. We are present with and grateful for what is, not hungering for one while with the other. Always the pendulum will swing to the opposite.

If you are feeling overwhelmed with solitude, snow leopard spirit animal reminds you that the season for intimacy will cycle around again. The same is true for those of you feeling a bit smothered by those close to you. The time for solitude will come.

During times of physical distance from others, snow leopard reminds us that we can still communicate. Snow leopards regularly scent mark trails as a way to stay in touch. 

Snow Leopard Spirit Animal’s Agility

If you find yourself out on a ledge, snow leopard spirit animal guides you to safe footing. She can jump six times the length of her body to carry you across great divides. Her ability to navigate unsteady mountainsides during high speed pursuits of prey brings the gift of grasping nourishment in times of uncertainty. She is an apex predator, a queen residing over the realm of rocks and ice. Like many of the big cats including mountain lion, she guides us into sovereignty over our own lives. 

Exposure to a Cosmic Perspective

The snow leopard lives in a very specific habitat above tree-line but below the oxygen deprivation zone. This is a barren landscape, largely inaccessible to humans and most wildlife. Snow leopard spirit animal speaks of resourcefulness in scarce, harsh environments.

Snow leopard spirit animal thrives in climates with high exposure to cold and aridity. With her thick coat, tail full of stored fat, and big feet like snowshoes, she endures harsh freezing temperatures and long winters. You don’t need to move to a colder climate or buy a thick parka to appreciate what it takes to endure exposure to the cold.

During cold-snaps in life where you can’t find warm feelings or your loved ones ice you out, she is there. She wraps around your heart when you feel cold inside, stripped bare. Snow leopard spirit animal keeps you warm when you are given the cold shoulder or shunned.

When she breathes, her large nostrils take in big quantities of air and warm and humidify it. More air and easier breathing equals more oxygen. The ability to think straight at high altitude is critical. If you are struggling with understanding the higher purpose of your life, snow leopard spirit animal can help.

Climb to the heights, clear your head, and find the cosmic perspective that will sustain you in sparse times. Mythologically speaking, mountains are abodes of the gods. Think Mount Meru in the Himalayas and Mount Sinai in the Bible. 

Snow leopard spirit animal helps you inhabit heavenly spaces to get a clear picture of the divine design. Her magic brings you into communion with Divine magic. Breathe in the fresh, thin air and thrive.

 

Want to know more about your Spirit Animal?
Schedule a Spiritual Direction Session
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Resources

[1] https://snowleopardconservancy.org/text/myth/tibmyths.htm

https://animals.sandiegozoo.org/animals/snow-leopard

https://www.worldwildlife.org/species/snow-leopard

 

turkey vulture spirit animal

Spirit Animals: TURKEY VULTURE

Turkey Vulture Spirit Animal

Turkey vulture spirit animal relates to the raptor’s excellent sense of smell. She rides spiral thermals of wind and has the miraculous ability to neutralize lethal diseases. Native to the Americas, turkey vulture is a New World vulture who is connected with the power of the exorcist archetype. This article focuses primarily on the turkey vulture, and includes the symbolism of all vultures at the end.

Turkey Vulture’s Discernment

There is an old wive’s tale that if you find a baby bird outside of its nest that you shouldn’t handle it to put it back in the nest. Supposedly the mother bird will smell your scent on the chick and reject it. This is a myth! Most birds have barely any sense of smell. Putting a chick back in the nest is the first course of action in helping a baby bird. If the parents are alive and around, they will get right back to caring for their little one.

Turkey vultures, on the other hand, have an excellent sense of smell. A turkey vulture can smell the scent of dead and rotting flesh from miles away. I can’t say for sure that a turkey vulture parent would care or not about human scent on her young – turkey vultures are notoriously bold – , but the vulture is unique in her ability to pick up scents.

In spiritual terms, the sense of smell is synonymous with the gift of discernment. Discernment is the ability to sniff out the truth. It is knowing right from wrong. In a mystical sense, discernment is sitting with guidance to attain understanding. To discern something is to look into it and to truly know the nature of it.

The Spiral of Air & Turkey Vulture Spirit Animal

Turkey vulture spirit animal, with her ability to smell the wind, helps you sort through your thoughts. Air is symbolic of the mind. Your thoughts can be confusing whirlwinds at times. It can be hard to tell if your mind making something up or if it is true intuition. Turkey vulture rides the currents of the mind and helps you connect to the ground of knowing.

Summer is the season of turkey vulture. She rides with wings extended in a v-shape on thermals of hot air. Hot air rises off the sun-soaked earth in a spiral pattern, and turkey vulture is an expert at catching a ride on this invisible elevator. She circles upwards, teetering and relaxed. She rarely flaps her wings, but stays aloft for hours. Her migration between North and South America is spent casually riding these warm breezes.

The symbolism of turkey vulture reminds you to ride the currents of warmth in your own life. Allow yourself to benefit from what life has to offer and let go of the need to work so hard. Let life bring you warmth and sustenance. The currents will carry you where you need to go. Exercise a little patience and relax a bit.

 

 

Find your spirit animal workshop. Painting of red-tailed hawk.

Another Man’s Treasure

You know what they say about “one man’s junk is another man’s treasure.” As a scavenger, turkey vulture spirit animal is able to sniff out the nourishing gifts laid out like a banquet. We think of carcasses as waste left to rot. But, turkey spirit animal turns the tragedy of a life lost into the miracle of flight. She lets nothing on the carcass go to waste, and no matter how old the flesh is she will still eat it. She will not turn her nose away from any meal presented.

Turkey vulture spirit animal reminds you to of your own ability to reuse and recycle. She has a kinship with the dumpster diver who resurrects old clothes and the artist who repurposes bottle caps for mosaics. We speak of scavengers like they are the lowest of the low, but it is scavengers like turkey vulture that stem the blight of excess consumerism. Humanity and the planet benefit from practicing scavenging more often.

The Vultures are Circling

The vultures are circlingis a figure of speech that indicates there are people hovering, waiting to pounce and take advantage of a dire situation. When someone is called a “vulture” they are considered a greedy person that exploits others in a crisis. To put it bluntly, vultures get a bad wrap and it is not deserved.

Vultures are common birds of the battlefield and are associated with Ares the Greek god of war. As Jessica Dawn puts it in her book Animal Wisdom, “the bird’s function was to pick up the pieces in the aftermath of battle. By extrapolation, then, vulture can be raised after the struggles are over, to help clean up the mess.”

The turkey vulture has an important role in cleaning up ecosystems. Turkey vulture is a scavenger and she can eat carcasses of animals that are infected with botulism, anthrax, salmonella, and cholera. Her stomach acids kill the bacteria and transmutes the toxins she ingests. Turkey vulture effectively eliminates bacteria and toxins from the environment. This ties her closely to the exorcist archetype.

Nature’s Exorcist – Turkey Vulture Spirit Animal

Demons are described as causing a disease or even seen as the illness themselves. Here we have a bird that is known for literally killing off extremely deadly diseases. Turkey vulture spirit animal most definitely is an exorcist. The demons she neutralizes aren’t visible to the human eye, but they are extremely leathal.

The scientific name of the turkey vulture is Cathartes Aura. This can be translated as “golden purifier” or “cleansing breeze” (see https://www.sjpl.org/blog/home-defender-high-sierra). Both names are appropriate honorifics for the service turkey vulture provides.

Another synchronicity between the turkey vulture and the exorcist archetype is that the turkey vulture uses light to cleanse. You can find turkey vulture perched, her back saluting the sun, and wings held outstretched. She bathes in the ultraviolet, cleansing rays of the sun to bake off harmful bacteria. Turkey vulture’s black shiny feathers increase the efficiency of this process.

The acidity of the turkey vulture’s urine has the power to kill bacteria. She pees on her own legs to clear the dangerous microbes she picks up when walking on carcasses. Sounds gross I know, but when we are talking about decontamination, it is very efficient.

Whenever you are in need of a clean up crew to decontaminate your own energy field, call on turkey vulture spirit animal. She naturally has the ability to transmute the harmful emotions and thoughts that can infect your system. She can clear out the refuse and neutralize negativity leaving a cleansing breeze in her wake.

Vulture Spirit Animal

There are 23 species of vulture worldwide including the magnificent California and Andean condors. Many civilizations have worshipped vulture spirit animal. The Inca built enormous monuments to the Andean condor. A sacred bird in Incan cosmology, the condor is symbolic of death and rebirth.

Egyptian mythology associates multiple gods and goddesses with vulture spirit animal, most notably, Ma’at. The goddess Ma’at weighs the hearts of the dead to determine their fate in the afterlife.

Vulture is literally and symbolically associated with death, the afterlife, and resurrection. An awesome ally to call on when you are going through a metaphorical death of your way of life, vulture spirit animal can help you digest the experience and come out stronger and more clear on the other side.

 

Explore your relationship
with purification and cleansing…

purifiers exorcist liberator destroyer archetype

The “Purifier Archetypes” Online Class

All three archetypes clear out the status quo to make way for an expansive, naked awareness. They purify us along the spiritual path and address the fears we encounter. The exorcist transmutes demons into allies and separation into union. The destroyer embraces the cycle of destruction to unlock hidden potential. The liberator uses wisdom to free us from attachment and suffering.

 

 

Spirit Animals: DRAGON SYMBOLISM

Dragon Symbolism

Writing about “spirit” animals does give me some liberties in that I can write about mythical creatures, thank goodness. That is because no spirit animal guide would be complete without a discussion of dragon symbolism.

Dragons have captivated the minds of cultures around the globe for millennia. There is no escaping the maw of enchantment that comes when imagining the presence of such magic. Iridescent scales, marbled cat eyes, expansive powerful wings, and sharp teeth and talons flash into our minds like memories. It seems that even though there is no evidence that dragons soared over the earth in times we’ve walked it, we still have a sense of knowing these beasts intimately.

Some believe that myths about dragons came from the discovery of dinosaur fossils. Either way, tales sprang up from a deep well of inner knowing and are passed on and on and on. Dragon tales are so common that everyone knows what a dragon is. Dragon symbolism is archetypal in human consciousness.

Since dragons live in our imaginations alone, they relate most strongly to our thoughts and mind. Dragon symbolism relates to our ability to see in our mind’s eye and relate to the energy of the sixth chakra. When working with dragon spirit animal, you are working with a powerful ally or foe of your intellect.

Armor and Wings of the Mind

Dragon symbolism links universally with a few key aspects. Dragons always have armored scales. We imagine the scales in brilliant colors. Often the colors relate to which element the dragon carries. Red dragons breathe fire and can be wrathful. Blue dragons yield the power of water and rain which can be soothing and healing. White dragons bring ice which freezes and preserves. When thinking about dragon spirit animal in your life, consider the armor you wear, especially around your mind. Do you incinerate any new stirrings that brush by or are you cold and impersonal to new ideas?

How do you protect your mind from the overwhelming noise, media, marketing and technology of our time? Dragon spirit animal reminds us that it’s important to do so. You can call on dragon spirit animal to assist with this. It is important to safeguard against influences that pull you off track, but beware of being too closed off, too walled in. Hoarding your thoughts like buried treasure can leave you alone under the mountain.

 

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Hoarding Treasure

Ideas are like precious jewels and we can get very attached to them. Like a dragon with her treasure, we can stash all of our good ideas away for safekeeping. When we get so caught up in hoarding what we know, our wings go into disuse in the cave. Dragons have wings to fly. Our ideas must soar and know the wind and daylight.

Dragon spirit animal can help us know our minds and, in doing so, set them free. She can help us destroy the thoughts that threaten to steal away our richness, and she can help us lift off into new horizons of wisdom. Dragon spirit animal can balance our imaginations so they don’t burn up with too much passion or drown in the depths of too much heaviness.

Dragons from the East and West

Dragons are traditionally viewed quite differently in the eastern and western hemispheres. In the west, dragons are treasure hoarding malicious monsters that hide out in caves. Western dragons terrorize villages and don’t take kindly to thieves. There is a knight that goes to slay the dragon and, thus, win the hand of the princess. J.R.R. Tolkien’s dragon named “Smaug” in his tale The Hobbit is a perfect example of a temperamental, miserly yet dazzling lizard with wings. The intelligence of dragons in western folklore varies, but any cunning dragons do possess is used to outsmart and entrap humans. Most western dragons are characterized as fire breathing nightmares, raining down fire and destruction.

In eastern tradition, dragons are more likely to be benevolent creatures that bestow great riches, bring rain and luck, and offer wisdom. In Chinese culture, only emperors were allowed to wear images of dragons and some emperors were said to have descended from the mating of dragons and humans. Dragons in the east were well known as intelligent sources of knowledge. In the east, there were different dragons for different elements, and dragons were more strongly associated with water and rain than fire. There were tales of people raising dragons and riding them. To be born in the year of the dragon in Chinese astrology is a very auspicious thing.

There is a beautiful story about a young boy who finds a magical pearl and becomes a dragon as a result, it’s called “The Dragon’s Pearl“. The story illustrates how dragons of the east are associated with abundance, fertility, and turns of good fortune.

Slaying and Riding Dragons

Most of you probably know this and more about dragons from the east and west, so I don’t bring it up to educate you, but to remind you. There is symbolism behind the split between east and west. The west symbolically relates to the left-brain, the masculine qualities in us that seek to attain, accomplish and overcome. The fiery, passionate and motivated side of who we are relates to the ravenous, fierce dragons in western culture. Rational thought occurs in the left-brain and we are often “slaying the dragons” of our negative thoughts. Dragons can represent the reptilian mind. The reptile brain is not rational and the left-brain seeks to overcome the instinctual, impulsive side of who we are.

It follows then that the east symbolizes the right brain, the intuitive, receptive, non-rational and feeling side of who we are. In essence, the feminine. Dragons are mythical, magical creatures that nourish and protect. Water is representative of feminine nature like dragons in eastern cultures. To ride a dragon is to transcend the everyday and enter the mystery. Dragon spirit animal can bring a protective, mothering nature much like that of a guardian angel. These sentient beings can offer wise council and enter our dreams to help us face our fears. Rather than representing our nightmares, they are the cool balm that staves them off.

Dragons are Everywhere

Dragons have surfaced in a big way in modern culture. Emerging from the watery depths and hidden caves of our psyche, dragon spirit animal helps us confront and befriend the power within. Stories abound from people who shape-shift to dragons in Shana Abe’s Smoke Thief, to the mother of dragons in George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones, to the dragon riders in Christopher Paolini’s Eragon, to dragons that are tamed in How to Train Your Dragon, to the wyverns tortured then rehabilitated by witches in Sarah J. Maas’s Throne of Glass series, and to the various dragon species that are slain or tamed in Harry Potter.

In our new embrace of this mythical beast our imaginations take flight. There are plentiful examples of how to work with the unruly, wild, beastly, armored, and unpredictable aspects of our nature. We find that the benevolent, wise qualities of eastern dragons are likely now fused with the fierce, unyielding characteristics of dragons in the west. This feels more balanced and lends itself to a tempered approach to the intellect as well.

The Sleeping Dragon

If a dragon spirit animal has entered your dreams or imagination, some hidden and powerful part of you is waking. The mountain is beginning to quake at what in you is arising to the surface. Rather than run in fear from what you don’t understand, remember you can slay or befriend this dragon. If it is a repressed rage, you may need to become the knight. If it is a deep, untapped wisdom, you may want to start learning how to ride the wind as a dragon rider. There’s a chance that both are true. Rage carries deep wisdom. There’s something rich that can come of taming such a mythical beast.

The best way to learn more about dragon symbolism is to let your imagination run wild by reading any of the books or watching any of the movies I mentioned above.

 

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Spirit Animals: LION SYMBOLISM

Lion Symbolism

The king of the jungle, lion symbolism represents royalty and supreme authority. Most people think that having lion as a spirit animal means they get to be the king or queen and boss other people around, but ultimately this is about ruling your emotions and actions. Forget needing to be in charge of the world. Be in charge of yourself. Having the true heart of a lion is being the master over yourself, acting from your values, and staying in integrity.

Lion spirit animal symbolizes strength, bravery and courage. The root for courage is “cor” which is the latin word for heart. To have courage is to have heart. Too many people mix lion symbolism with pride. At a surface level, people who are the astrological sign of Leo (the lion) are said to like attention and being on stage. They shine like the sun. Lion spirit animal is so much more than popularity and admiration.

Lion symbolism carries a deep courage that manifests as an ability to bravely speak what is in one’s heart and to follow one’s heart. More than being popular, lion symbolism teaches us how to shine our light and our creativity in the world to bring joy to others.

Lioness Symbolism

Lion prides are a majority female. The lionesses do the lion’s share of the work, raising the young and hunting cooperatively for food. Some of the first cave drawings from thousands of years ago depict cave lionesses hunting prey together. Lioness symbolism carries the power of the feminine to work together rather than compete, to share the prize rather than compete for it. Even though male lions are fierce and impressive, true lion power resides in the feminine.

When asking yourself “What does lion symbolize?” look at where in your life you can you embrace the qualities of cooperation versus competition. Working together and sharing with others open can you up to the power of the divine feminine allowing you to love and live more courageously.

 

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What Does Lion Symbolize?

The male lions are the figurehead, but they do help by guarding territory. Protection is a common theme in lion symbolism. The glorious manes of male lions mimic the sun’s rays. Lion spirit animal is associated with the heat of the sun and its life giving power.

Lions typically rest during the day and hunt at night, so there is debate as to whether they are associated with the conscious power of daylight or mysterious energy of night. Both are likely true. Ultimately, lions are open territory beasts, found in the sweeping landscapes of the African savanna. This speaks of one’s actions being visible or out in the open.

Lion spirit animal can help you gather your courage to be seen and manage the responsibility of having all eyes on you.

Lion Headed Goddesses

Many deities from all over the world have a lion head and human body. They carry the associations of wisdom and protection. The carnal traits of the lion, a wild beast, are elevated for supreme good helping humans progress along the spiritual path.

Among the Egyptian pantheon, Sekhmet is the most famous lion headed goddess. Sekhmet is known as the “One before whom evil trembles” and is a goddess of solar rays, hot dry wind, healing, and protection of pharaohs [1]. Sekhmet and Tefnut (another lion headed goddess) are both associated with the red lion, which is a symbol of purifying alchemical fire.

Narasimha is an avatar (manifestation) of the Hindu god Vishnu. In this incarnation, Vishnu has the head of a lion. He is the ‘Great Protector’ that guards his followers from evil. Vishnu himself is one of the supreme deities of Hinduism, known as the “Preserver.” This again reflects the themes of royalty and ultimate authority in concert with lion symbolism [2].

Simhamukha – Lion as Spiritual Guide

Simhamukha is a lion-headed female Buddha who transforms anger into wisdom, helps clear harmful patterns that obstruct the way to enlightenment, and symbolizes playfulness and bliss to to followers of the Dharma (Buddhists).[3] She protects from the evils within such as lust, rage, and fear. She is often depicted as lion headed with blue skin, but, like Sekhmet, can be depicted as a red lion.

Simhamukha is a wisdom dakini (goddess) that resides in supreme bliss that is eternal, immortal, and  unaffected by the external world. Followers of Tantric Buddhism best suited for Simhamukha’s teachings are people with excessive passion, especially anger. Simhamukha teaches that taking things personally, grabs for power, and other base expressions of hate and rage lead to suffering. She ferociously guides her empassioned followers through anger rather than around it, using this raw power as a means to cut off attachment and craving at its root.

Lion spirit animal is like the gods and goddesses that bear her face, she hasn’t come into your life to simply help you become more important or more powerful than other people. At the deepest level, she’s come to transform your heart. True courage is not about controlling or forcing others to your will. True courage is the ability to overcome your own fears, to master your own emotions, and find equanimity within. This leads to true and lasting peace.

The Lion’s Roar

Buddha was born into a royal family that had the lion as its sigil and the symbolism of lion shows up repeatedly throughout his life. Buddha consistently likened himself to a lion.[3] Buddhists say that Buddha’s teachings are the “lion’s roar” for his words sound louder than any other. His teachings carry ultimate spiritual truth and are “bold and thunderous.” [4]

Some people mistake lion power as an excuse to drown out other voices, to push one’s opinion on others. Lion does not go around roaring all day. His voice is a rare interruption to the cacophony. Choose and use your words wisely. Think before you speak. Are you acting out of personal selfish agendas, or is what you’re sharing for the good of the whole?

Be mindful. Proving someone wrong, lashing out, and acting defensively are misuses of the lion’s roar. Wait until you have a quiet mind and heart before speaking. Ask for the help of the angels, god, Creator, the universe, or even a lion headed goddess to purify your heart. Then the roar can come from full lungs and a clear intention.

Seeing Lion in a Dream

Seeing lion in a dream speaks of the blessings of the power of lion spirit animal, bravery and strength. You may just now notice the need for courage in a situation or relationship in your life. This is especially true if you are fearful in the dream. Or, lion spirit animal may be coming to affirm that you have overcome a great obstacle within yourself.

Either way, don’t forget that you are not alone. Courage comes from the heart, the same place through which cosmic love flows. Just as the angels can fill your heart with love, so too can they fill it with courage. Lion spirit animal is one of the angels most skilled at doing so.

References

The book titles in bold are books on my recommended reading list:
[1] Goddesses for Every Day: Exploring the Wisdom and Power of the Divine Feminine around the World by Julie Loar
[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Narasimha
[3] Buddhist Goddesses of India by Miranda Shaw
[4] https://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/nanamoli/wheel390.html

NOTE: There is a separate article for Mountain Lion spirit animal. Click here to read.

 

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crow symbolism

Spirit Animals: CROW SYMBOLISM

Crow Symbolism

Just as crows proliferate in the company of humans, so too do stories of crow symbolism. Associations with crow spirit animal can vary from mischief to benevolence, from creation to death. Crow is the carrier of light and the embodiment of darkness. Crow is known worldwide and nearly every culture has myths about him. The symbology of crow is vast and contradictory and there is a lot of information out there about crow symbolism.

Rather than go into a whirlwind of the spiritual meaning of crow by sharing an unrelenting laundry list of characteristics, I’m going to focus on one very meaningful aspect of crow symbolism.

Keeper of Sacred Law

As a child I studied the book Medicine Cards by Jamie Sams and David Carson religiously. I’ve known for a long time that crow is the keeper of sacred law, but I lived most of my life not knowing what sacred law really was. All I knew was that it was not the same as human law.

Eventually, the picture came together for me when I discovered the mystical laws. One day it dawned on me: sacred law = mystical law. Now you ask, “What is a mystical law?”

What is a Mystical Law?

A mystical law is a truth about how the cosmos works. Much like a law of physics, a mystical law helps us predict how things will turn out as well as why things happen as they do. Physical and mystical laws are law because they are repeatable, occurring every time and everywhere without fail. They are universal. They are a certainty that automatically orders the cosmos.

Mystical laws are similar to physical laws in that they have nothing to do with the civil laws of humans. Civil laws are the laws we write as a way to impose order on society. Civil laws require our enforcement and intervention to hold in place. Mystical and physical laws run regardless of our efforts. In fact, our impulse to resist, change or assist universal laws has no bearing on how or if the laws act. The laws of the universe are outside of our control. We are subject to them.

 

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Laws of Physics & Mystical Laws

Some laws of physics are also mystical laws, like the law of conservation of energy. According to the law of conservation of energy, energy cannot be created or destroyed, it can only change form. The mystical law of the conservation of energy teaches us that when we feel drained of energy, that the energy has to go somewhere. We learn from this mystical law how to become conscious of the movement of energy. We also discover that death is not a disappearance, but a change of form.

Other laws of physics are interpreted symbolically rather than literally when seen as mystical laws. A wonderful example is the law of gravity. In the world of physics, the law of gravity is what holds our feet on the earth. From a mystical perspective, the law of gravity speaks to our attachments, the things that we revolve around that hold us back from moving forward. The more entrenched you are in your own history, the more gravity, or weight, you carry and the slower you progress.

Other physical laws that are also mystical laws include:

  • The law of cause and effect which is known as karma
  • The law of magnetic attraction
  • For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction which equals the law of the Tao

The Mystical Laws of the Cosmos

In addition there are mystical laws that stand on their own and relate to metaphysical discoveries. For example we have:

  • Thought comes before form
  • What is in one is in the whole
  • All nature is paradoxical
  • All of life is interconnected

Why Crow Spirit Animal?

Now here begs the interesting question – Why is crow symbolism associated with sacred (mystical) laws? There are a number of answers.

As an entirely black bird, crow is associated with the void. The void is the place of pure potential, also known as the collective unconscious, from which all things emerge. Familiarity with the void allows spirit animal crow the chance to know the unknowable, to have a deep awareness of the order of things.

Crow is a very social creature able to reach the heavens through flight. He understands the complex interactions that occur between individuals. He can transcend the ground-level politics of civil law and find the greater truth in sacred law.

Crow symbolism is associated with death. Throughout history he and his comrades flocked to battlefields to feast on fallen bodies. Death is a perfect example of the unyielding nature of sacred law.

The meaning of crow has to do with his clever nature. Crow is known for his ability to solve complex puzzles, use tools, and understand a vast vocabulary. Like his cousins raven and magpie, crow is a member of the corvid family, a group of birds known for their human-like intellect. Of all the corvids, crow is most often in contact with humans.

This watchfulness allows crow spirit animal to understand the habits and actions of people, to know civil law. He carries this knowledge up and applies the same observational skills the workings of the cosmos. Thus, he becomes the keeper of sacred law.

How Sacred Law Applies to You

When you find yourself in the midst of crow symbolism, it is time to step out of societal norms. Where in your life do you feel like things aren’t fair?

The mystical laws don’t apply to what you think is fair. The concept of fairness will only keep you grounded.

It is time to release your attempt to restore balance and instead to watch the cosmos to find it’s own equilibrium. Things may not end up how you’d like. However, you’ll learn something powerful about the way the world actually works instead of trying to unsuccessfully force it to work how you’d like it.

Who are you trying to bring to justice? You are not God. It is not your job to punish others or seek retribution. You have no idea what someone else deserves, what karma they carry, or what actions they’ve already set in motion.

Turn your attention with crow spirit animal to glimpsing the mystical laws and find yourself in a larger cosmology. Let the magic of crow teach you how to see life impersonally and better understand the nature of existence.

Crow symbolism overlaps to a good degree with raven symbolism, so you may also want to read my article on Raven Spirit Animal for additional insight. In my article on raven, I share the difference between raven and crow medicine.

 

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horse symbolism

Spirit Animals: HORSE SYMBOLISM

Horse Symbolism

Horse symbolism, like a band of wild horses, could be explained in 1,000,000 words yet never be described. We try to capture horse spirit animal in our imaginations, yet fail. Our kinship with horses runs deep in the veins of our ancestry. Shrouded in mystery, subjugation, and liberation no quantification of the power of horses suffices. We always come up wanting for more.

Rather than finding frustration when looking at what does a horse symbolize, turn this cart around and go back to where you came from. Are you able to say what you symbolize? Like your own vast soul, horse spirit animal cannot be fenced in.

Knowing this is knowing that your discovery of the power of horse symbolism will never end. These horses will run to the ends of the earth and back. So, here I endeavor to give you a few precious gems I’ve found in my years of exploration. May these bits of wisdom at least in small part contribute to your ever expanding communion with these mythic beasts.

Horses as Senses

“Know the Atman (soul) as Lord of a chariot; and the body as the chariot itself. Know that reason is the charioteer; and the mind indeed is the reins. 

The horses, they say, are the senses; and their paths are the objects of sense. When the soul becomes one with the mind and the senses he is called ‘one who has joys and sorrows.’

He who has not right understanding and whose mind is never steady is not the ruler of his life, like a bad driver with wild horses.

But he who has right understanding and whose mind is ever steady is the ruler of his life, like a good driver with well trained horses,” – from Part 3 of the Katha Upanishad

The Good Driver

Many horse trainers proclaim that becoming a good horseman is about learning to control emotions. This is because horses frequently mirror our feelings immediately and without a filter. Like the bad driver with wild horses, a nervous rider finds herself unable to calm an anxious horse. The energy between the two spirals out of control, and the horse and rider run headlong into a major wreck.

However, this is an oversimplified version of the feedback loop that happens between horse and human. Horse symbolism is not about reining in our fear. It is about dropping the need to hide the fear. The problem is not the fear itself, which is a healthy informative emotion. The issue is the shame, humiliation, and low confidence the fear triggers.

Horse spirit animal, just like actual horses, teaches us how to be with our emotions without judgement. This means not taking how we feel personally. Horse people are notoriously critical of each other, but this is just a microcosm of the greater whole. We encounter disapproving stares everywhere.

Since horses are such giant and potentially dangerous creatures, we have to drop our self-consciousness to stay safe. It is a matter of life and death. When we learn to truly let go of what other people think, we can see our fear and engage with it in a way that leads to a safe and healthy resolution.

Horse symbolism teaches you to be a good driver who doesn’t freeze in fear or run wild with it, but to move in a way that expresses and discharges the tension. This movement invokes changes of speed and changes of direction that paradoxically carry you right back to the ever steady center.

Prey Animal Horse Wisdom

Horses are prey animals, big prey animals, but prey animals none the less. Their wiring is much different than ours because, regardless if we eat meat or not, our make-up is that of a predator. For example, we think in direct lines and like to go after a target. Horses think in circles and meander from place to place. We are more competitive and independent. Horses are more cooperative and bonding. We strategize with our minds. Horses sense with their entire beings.

Horse energy is more sensing and intuitive by nature. Horse spirit animal teaches us to drop the need for reason and release our dependence on planning. In the presence of horse symbolism we let go of the incessant craving for instant gratification that so terribly pervades our technology addicted culture in this day and age.

With the help of horse wisdom, we stand at a distance and take in the situation before cautiously approaching at an angle. We wait for a new herd mate to ask us to approach her. We sense with our whole bodies before analyzing with our minds. Patience is ours. Circle around and come back again.

Horse Dream Meaning

Seeing a horse in dream, shamanic journey, or vision state has many meanings. If it is a wild horse or a loose horse, then contemplate the irrational, unbridled, wild aspect of yourself.

Historically, a man’s status and power were determined by how many horses he owned. A horse in a dream or vision tells us to assess our own power. Are you feeling powerful right now? Or, are you praying for a boost in strength? Horse spirit animal is coming to your rescue. Remember, the power horse brings is interwoven with the herd. A brute display of force using your energy or words may encourage the others to leave you in the dust. Ultimately, you need the safety of the herd, so release the temptation to get pushy. Sure prance around a bit, but quickly settle back to quiet grazing with your tribe.

Just like elephant spirit animal, horses have a long history as slaves and servants of the human race. Spend some time looking at your own relationship to servitude. What might need to change? Is this a healthy exchange of power for service?

Now we ride horses for fun, but we used to do so out of necessity, for transportation. A horse dream meaning may have to do with how you are carried into a new area of your life. Do you feel like you’re going places? Was the horse frozen still or moving freely?

The Mares that Carry Me…

“The mares that carry me as far as longing can reach
rode on, once they had come and fetched me onto the legendary
road of the divinity that carries the man who knows 
through the vast and dark unknown. And on I was carried
as the mares, aware just where to go, kept carrying me 
straining at the chariot.”
– from the ancient Greek poem by Parmenides
in the book In the Dark Places of Wisdom by Peter Kingsley

what is my spirit animal?

About Author, Stacey L. L. Couch

Stacey Couch shamanic practitionerStacey L. L. Couch, Certified Shamanic Practitioner, works as a publicist and journalist for Mother Nature and is the author of Gracious Wild: A Shamanic Journey with Hawks. She empowers people with the ability to explore life’s big questions by calling on nature, story and synchronicity as a source for guidance and healing. With her deeply rooted experience in the field of shamanism and passion for working with wildlife and rescue animals, Stacey has a unique blend of rational and mystical perspective that makes the world of shamanism easily accessible to others. She values mindfulness, wonder, and compassion in her daily spiritual practice. Learn More about Stacey.

peacock symbolism

Spirit Animals: WATCHFUL PEACOCK

Peacock Symbolism

The myths and legends of countless deities are soaked in peacock symbolism and adorned in the peacock’s iridescent tail feathers. Let me start with the short list of gods and goddesses that are associated with peacock meaning: Jesus, the Greek goddess Hera, the Hindu gods Shiva and Indra, the Greek god Argus, and the Hindu Lord Krishna. Not only are all of the friends of peacocks often deities, most of them are also the royalty of the heavens, the supreme of the sublime. In addition, peacock was considered the empress’s bird in Byzantine and Roman imperial courts.

Now does this mean that if you have peacock spirit animal that you are destined to be king or queen? Likely not. Metaphorically, royalty represents respect, mastery and authority. How are you ruling over your own kingdom these days? Are you an angry despot or a benevolent monarch? If you were your own subject, would you be pleased with the rules you are told to live by? Peacock symbolism helps you develop respect for the self, mastery over your actions, and the authority to carry out virtuous living.

Symbolism of Peacock Eyes

The most notable and common mythology about the peacock has to do with the one-hundred eyed Greek god Argus. He was employed by the goddess Hera to prevent her husband Zeus from philandering with the goddess Io. Zeus promptly had Hermes kill Argus, and Hera commemorated Argus by placing his one hundred eyes in the tail of the peacock.

Peacock has more than one hundred eyes in, as author David Carson calls it, his “trembling fan of dazzling colors.” [1] Regardless of the exact number, there are a lot of eyes animately watching us from the intimidatingly tall display that follows the peacock wherever he goes. With peacock symbolism, we learn about watchfulness and being the witness in our lives.

Being a Witness

Being a witness is often equated with the Buddhist quality of detachment. Detachment is not callousness or uncaring, but a trust in the divine design of things. When you are detached you don’t have an agenda or a judgement in the situation. You are able to just show up for the moment simply how it is.

Wolf spirit animal also models qualities of the witness, but he does it unnoticed and at a distance. Peacock spirit animal, in contrast, is in your face and can’t be missed. With wolf, the hairs on the back of your neck stand up and you feel like someone might be watching. With peacock symbolism, there is no way to deny that all eyes are on you. Since the eyes are on his tail, there also can be the sense that you are being followed.

Are you the one watching others closely or do you feel a higher power watching you? You may not be able to take your eyes off of other people for fear of learning who is watching you. Peacock meaning may have you feeling more self-aware and motivated to clean up your actions.

Notice too how those eyes draw you in. It is exactly the feeling that the gods are watching you that cause you to feel closer to the Divine. It is a hypnotizing, mesmerizing display that captures you in the sacred net of worship.

Peacocks, Snakes & the Throat Chakra

Peacock is renowned for hunting and killing snakes. It is said in Hindu tradition that peacock transmuted snake venom into the radiant blue color on his throat. “[Hindu god] Shiva’s throat had turned peacock blue when he swallowed and purified the poison of the primordial ocean.” [2]

The fifth chakra, known as the throat chakra, is a power center represented by the color blue. This chakra represents our power of choice and the ability to express who we are and what we feel. We often think of what we send out of the throat chakra, but not what we put in. Think of the poisonous words you swallow before they come out of your mouth. With peacock spirit animal, you can learn how to transmute those words towards a greater end. Choose your words carefully and your understanding of peacock spiritual meaning will grow.

Masculine and Feminine Power

Peacock is only the male name for the entire species of peafowl. The female peafowl are called peahens and young are called peachicks. The peahens are much less brightly colored than the males and they don’t have the elaborate tail with the eye spots. This strong difference between genders is called sexual dimorphism.

Sexual dimorphism represents a sizable imbalance between the masculine and feminine sides of your being. The masculine side has to do with logic, strategy, and action. The feminine side encompasses the powers of intuition, sensing and receptivity. Of course these are large generalizations, but hopefully to get the idea. Those of you that know right brain versus left brain qualities will understand me when I say that the right brain is associated with feminine power and left brain with masculine.

Due to the fact that male peafowl are bigger and flashier, the name of peacock has dominated the image of the species. This shows that the more drab brown peahens take a back seat and largely go unnoticed. Working with peacock symbolism may bring a time of stronger, more visible masculine power with your intuition working in the background. For more insight into this dichotomy, read my article on turkey spirit animal as the same pattern applies with turkeys.

Going All In

There are many theories as to why the peacock has such an ostentatious tail. The tail is clearly a cumbersome train to drag along when fleeing a predator. It makes flying more difficult and takes an inordinate amount of energy to produce. Scientists have not yet agreed as to why peahens prefer larger tails with more eyes, but they do. So peacocks push harder to survive and go big.

In your own life, how can you shoot for the fence? Now is the time to follow peacock’s example and go all in. What you accomplish may be immensely bigger than you ever imagined possible. And, this will gain you a lot of attention. Just remember that with all eyes on you, impeccability in your behavior will be key.

Furthermore, the displays don’t last forever. Every fall, peacock molts (drops) his entire tail in a matter of days or weeks. He grows an entirely new tail over the course of the winter and focuses his efforts on building up his reserves versus attracting the attention of the ladies. By paying attention to the timing of your efforts, you can come to a peak at just the right time.

[1] How to Find Your Spirit Animal by David Carson

[2] The Book of Symbols: Reflections on Archetypal Images by The Archive for Research in Archetypal Symbolism
what is my spirit animal?

About Author, Stacey L. L. Couch

Stacey Couch shamanic practitionerStacey L. L. Couch, Certified Shamanic Practitioner, works as a publicist and journalist for Mother Nature and is the author of Gracious Wild: A Shamanic Journey with Hawks. She empowers people with the ability to explore life’s big questions by calling on nature, story and synchronicity as a source for guidance and healing. With her deeply rooted experience in the field of shamanism and passion for working with wildlife and rescue animals, Stacey has a unique blend of rational and mystical perspective that makes the world of shamanism easily accessible to others. She values mindfulness, wonder, and compassion in her daily spiritual practice. Learn More about Stacey.

dolphin symbolism

Spirit Animals: DOLPHIN SYMBOLISM

Dolphin Symbolism

The medicine of dolphin symbolism is often expressed in simple, light-hearted associations of peace, joy, harmony and playfulness. Writers highlight how dolphin spirit animal teaches us to use our breath and work with Mana, or life force. All of these things apply, but dolphin symbolizes so much more.

Of all the animals of the sea, it is likely that dolphin is the most trusted of human companions. ( with the exception of a really good surf board or the best stand up paddle boards, :))

BUT,  dolphin is also the one we’ve regarded with the most paradoxical treatment. Humanity once revered dolphin as a God and now imprisons him in pools for amusement. Viewing the way we treat dolphins gives a window into how we address the light-side of our own nature.

Dolphin Buoys Us Up

In both myth and reality, dolphins throughout time have rescued drowning sailors and guided wayward vessels. From Catholic saints to Greek gods and Chinese explorers to African exporters, every culture has stories of the beneficence of dolphin. Dolphin spirit animal literally lifts us up to the surface in our time of most immediate need. He arises from the depths without notice and grants us a life-saving breath of air.

Whatever goodness in you that is about to die has the opportunity to be saved by dolphin spirit animal.

I’ve often wondered how one animal can have such varied associations in people’s minds – healer, guide, helper, lover, champion, clown, angel, child, playmate, friend, and so forth. What I’ve realized is that dolphin brings exactly what is needed. In one instance a healing is in order and in another a simple snippet of guidance suffices. The life-saving power of dolphin spirit animal is the same throughout, but our our definition of him is based on what we receive.

The buoyant feeling of being lifted up and saved from impending doom is linked to dolphin. The rush of happy endorphins and the giddiness of making it out alive are intricately connected with dolphin symbolism. Think of the times you’ve escaped sudden danger. Remember the laughter that follows. That is what dolphin energy feels like. Dolphin becomes larger than life in our eyes because of the way we feel when we cheat death.

Dolphin spirit animal also lifts up our emotions with his wide grin and high-spirited antics. Whenever you’re feeling down, call on dolphin medicine to help.

Not Favoring Light Over Shadow

Dolphin is an incredibly convivial and happy bloke with a taste for anything that induces laughter and light-heartedness, but we must remember that dolphin plumbs the depths of the Mother’s waters. The ocean, full of gigantic terrors and holding a vast abyss unknown to man, is dolphin’s home.

We tend to favor fun and light over serious and dark, but dolphin is not so blind. He uses keen vision and hearing to navigate his way through enormous expanses of black water. Cutting through the darkness with sharp, piercing clicks, dolphin waits for his noises to bounce off objects and return. This is a form of sensing is called echolocation. It allows dolphin to accurately gauge the distance to the next object as well as the size and movement of the object. It could be his next meal or an approaching shark.

A sophisticated form of listening, echolocation is also used by bats and whales. With dolphin symbolism, we are reminded that we must actively survey our surroundings and listen to our environment to stay safe and make our way in the world. If we get too caught up surfing the waves and performing mid-air acrobatics we’ll lose sight of what lies below.

Dolphin is not afraid of what is under the surface. He can help you develop the same courage. By diving into your subconscious and outwitting your own inner fears and demons, you can save yourself from an uncertain fate.

Dolphin Smarts

Countless studies have tried to quantify the intelligence of dolphins. Many scientists agree that dolphins have self-awareness and empathy. Dolphins teach, learn and cooperate. Their neocortex contains spindle neurons that are “involved in social conduct, emotions, judgment, and theory of mind.” [1] Some scientists have seriously considered that dolphins philosophize, or think about thinking. In essence, we’re discovering that the make-up of a dolphin’s brain is strikingly similar to our own.

Researchers know that dolphins give each other names, called “signature whistles”, at birth. Dolphins respond when their names are called and carry their names throughout the whole of their lives.  Eventually the lines between human intelligence and animal intelligence become so blurry that there is no use in trying to say one form of intelligence is greater than the other.Dolphins blur this line. Soon enough we’re simply comparing apples and oranges.

Light Reasserts Itself

Given this understanding of the great cognitive ability of dolphin, why would we favor the one-sided view of dolphin spirit animal as all innocence and fun? Dolphins live complex lives full of intimidation and fear, grief and loss. They compete and collaborate, antagonize and console. Dolphins have attacked trainers in captivity, lashing out against oppression. Gangs of male dolphins chase and push females into submission. Mother dolphins care for their young with the utmost sincerity.

In the end, light does not exist without darkness. In spite of that, the light always reasserts itself over the dark. Life always overcomes death. Dolphin always carries us back up to the surface.

Dolphins in Danger

But who carries dolphin to a life-giving breath when he is in danger? I want you to be mindful when frolicking in the buoyancy and giddiness of dolphin symbolism to not forget the incarnate dolphins on this planet today struggling to survive. There are many threats from humans that face dolphin populations all over the world. As for the populations that aren’t in danger of extinction, individual dolphins are still suffering enormous hardship, suffering and death at our hands.

DOLPHIN SAFE TUNA
In the 1980’s awareness arose about the inadvertent capture and killing of tens of thousands of dolphins in tuna nets. A tuna boycott lead to the creation of a dolphin safe tuna label that is still in existence today. As a result, dolphin deaths in tuna nets have dropped by 99 percent! http://savedolphins.eii.org/campaigns/dsf/

RELEASING CAPTIVE WHALES & DOLPHINS BACK INTO THE WILD
The next wave of consciousness about the mistreatment of dolphins happened in the 1990’s with the fame of Keiko the killer whale (a toothed whale in the dolphin family) who stared in the movie Free Willy. It turns out that Keiko was not free. He was miserable and ill. The International Marine Mammal Project underwent a huge endeavor to reintroduce Keiko to the wild. Keiko was able to fish and roam the open seas on and off for a number of years. Although opinions about his retirement and release vary, the project surrounding his return to the wild raised the question: Can or should we release captive whales and dolphins back into the wild? http://savedolphins.eii.org/campaigns/kwr/

SONAR TESTING
Also rising in the spotlight during this time was mounting evidence linking dolphin and whale deaths to U.S. Navy sonar testing. Proof was eventually found linking mass dolphin and whale beaching events and die-offs to this testing. Efforts are ongoing still today to curb this testing in critical habitats and modify the testing procedures to minimize effects on whale and dolphin populations. http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2015/09/us-navy-limit-sonar-testing-protect-whales

KILLING AND CAPTURING WILD DOLPHINS
In the 2000’s a great outcry arose in response to the film The Cove which documented the mass slaughter of dolphins in Japan for the meat industry. The way that dolphins are still killed for meat and captured for amusement parks in this fishing industry is a brutal reminder of how far humanity still has to go towards the humane treatment of animals. http://www.takepart.com/cove

THE PLIGHT OF DOLPHINS & WHALES IN CAPTIVITY
And the most recent wave of awareness surrounds the question – Should we keep these animals captive at all? Spawned by the documentary Blackfish which portrayed the anger and frustration of the killer whale named Tilikum, this movement is gathering steam. Sea World just announced that they will no longer breed killer whales and will soon retire them from shows, but this says nothing of the smaller dolphins and whales in their care. It also says nothing about the decades left that many of the captive whales and dolphins have left to live. http://savedolphins.eii.org/campaigns/fwd/

We still have a long way to go to lift up the beautiful dolphins that have risen our souls up for centuries. Click on any of the links above to learn more, sign petitions and donate to causes to help make this a safer and better world for dolphins.

what is my spirit animal?

About Author, Stacey L. L. Couch

Stacey Couch shamanic practitionerStacey L. L. Couch, Certified Shamanic Practitioner, works as a publicist and journalist for Mother Nature and is the author of Gracious Wild: A Shamanic Journey with Hawks. She empowers people with the ability to explore life’s big questions by calling on nature, story and synchronicity as a source for guidance and healing. With her deeply rooted experience in the field of shamanism and passion for working with wildlife and rescue animals, Stacey has a unique blend of rational and mystical perspective that makes the world of shamanism easily accessible to others. She values mindfulness, wonder, and compassion in her daily spiritual practice. Learn More about Stacey.

References
[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dolphin#Intelligence
Myths about dolphins: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/whales/man/myth.html
Dolphins have names: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/07/130722-dolphins-whistle-names-identity-animals-science/