Spirit Animals: FLEXIBLE FOX

Foxes are versatile and diverse. Did you know that there are five species of fox in the continental United States alone and over 20 worldwide? Some species like red foxes cover many habitats and commingle with human habitation. Other species like the swift fox remain in a particular habitat. Let’s review a few species to get a glimpse of the unique power and symbolism of the talented fox.

Gray Fox Spirit Animal Camouflage

The most prolific and common fox native to North America, the gray fox, is a fairly secretive creature that prefers to stick to woodlands and rarely venture into the open. She is identified by the black stripe down her back and tail, gray and black peppered coat on her back, and black-tipped tail. Her coat does include other colors such as white, red, and orange and works as great camouflage. Gray fox symbolism speaks of disappearing into the background and the costumes we wear. If you are exploring the ways you go unnoticed, the gray fox is a great companion. There is power in being invisible.

Gray fox the only fox that can climb trees. Her strong association with trees reminds us that we need deep roots to climb to higher heights. As places that provide shelter and protection, forests can symbolize darkness and chaos or sanctuary and introversion. The gray fox blends right in to calm or chaos and helps us navigate the gray areas of our lives.

Red Fox Symbolism & Kitsune

The widest ranging of any fox species, the red fox is native to Europe and Asia and was introduced to North America by European settlers. She is distinguished by her red coat, black socks on her front feet, and bushy tail with a white tip. Red fox is the fox most commonly pictured stealing from the hen house and she is very comfortable in urban environments. Chances are if you saw a fox in your neighborhood that it’s a red fox.

Red fox is commonly the clever trickster in fairytales that makes away with some prize or another. Her clever and swift nature are so strong that she is the main focus of fox hound hunts. It takes an entire pack of dogs and herd of men on horseback to have a chance at tracking her down. If red fox spirit animal has made it into your life, now is a good time to examine your own cleverness. Who are you outsmarting today? Sometimes we are too clever for our own good and other times we need to think way outside the box.

Kitsune is the name of two species of red fox in China. In Chinese folklore, kitsune are magical beings who are extremely wise. These are the foxes that guard the temples of the goddess Inari and travel with her. There is the belief that kitsune shape-shift into beautiful women at the age of 50 years. There are fairytales of hunters who discover that their wives are actually foxes. These lady foxes exhibit seductive cunning that is associated with the Don Juan archetype.

Island Fox Isolation

Descended from gray foxes, the island fox is a rare species of fox that is making a comeback from the brink of extinction. She looks very similar to the gray fox, but like many island natives, she is smaller and genetically distinct. The island fox spirit animal teaches us how the camouflage we wear can cause great isolation. This is both beneficial and challenging. If you are feeling alone, now might be the time to drop all the costumes you carry and come out of hiding. If you need some alone time, camouflage is the perfect medicine. Isolation reminds us of our own uniqueness and brings us closer to our true self. This is the species of fox I write about in Gracious Wild: A Shamanic Journey with Hawks.

 

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Swift & Kit Fox Symbolism

The swift fox is native to the grasslands of North America and does not adapt well to other environments or human impact on the land. The kit fox is a close relative and is native to arid habitats such as deserts and chaparral landscapes. Such specialization in habitat makes the swift and kit fox examples of the power of getting specific. Both species live in open habitats, but are hard to spot because they are nocturnal and in remote areas.

Swift foxes are dependent on their dens as hiding spots from predators. In looking at the meaning of these foxes, the need to find sanctuary and hide away in the dark will be more prevalent. You will likely see one of these foxes on a visit to a national monument, state park or some other protected wild habitat.

Mixed Species of Fox

Different species of fox hybridize and create crosses. The fox pictured at the top of this post is likely a hybrid of a gray and red fox as she carries characteristics of both. This shows us that all of the qualities mentioned above may come in when considering fox symbolism. It is up to you to use your discriminating nose to determine which qualities most resonate with you.

Adaptability and Home

One of the most fascinating things I learned about foxes during my 10 month tenure caring for a group of them is that they are extremely adaptable in their diets. They eat everything from fruits to bugs to carrion to eggs to quail to mice and rabbits. One of the best parts of my day was making up different meals for them. This adaptability has contributed to their worldwide success and helps them fill an ecological niche apart from their close cousins the coyote and wolf. They are closer to skunks or raccoons in their eating habits, which makes them less dog-like than we might think. This shows that adaptability and the ability to blend into different environments leads to success. How can you cultivate your own adaptability?

Fox is in the canid (dog) family, but in many ways she is more cat- than dog-like. She jumps, leaps, and strides like cats in that smooth and agile way. Her similarity to cats reminds us to not get too entrenched one group or the other. The old dispute between cats and dogs is remedied in fox.

For all her adaptability, fox is usually monogamous and she sticks to a territory near her den the majority of the time. Fox spirit animal reminds us that no matter what costume we wear or shape we’ve shifted into that it is important to know and tend our sense of “home” whatever that might be.

 

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

 

 

Spirit Animals: WOLF the WITNESS

Wolf Symbolism

Wolf spirit animals embody a wide range of qualities in the human psyche. Just think of how many stories you’ve read and movies you’ve seen that have wolves or werewolves as characters.

Most obviously, wolf symbolism is about dismantling fears and not letting them control you. When wolves used to roam the habitat around our small towns, many people feared going out at night. Despite the myths, thank you Red Riding Hood, wolf is not a vicious man-eater. It is truly the stories in our heads about wolves that make them much more dangerous than they are. This is the case with other fears we own. They are illusions, blown out of proportion to prevent us from venturing out into the unknown.

Remember the saying, “we’ll feed you to the wolves”? This conjures up images of a ravenous pack tearing us to shreds. Over the centuries, there has been a projection onto wolf as being a malicious, mindless killing machine. Luckily, awareness about the incredibly complex and intelligent nature of wolves is expanding. We now understand their capacity for caring and nurturing young as well as the intricate, subtle communication that exists between them.

Wolf as a Witness

When we think of wolf we often think of him chasing down big prey with his pack. We picture him fighting with a pack mate over a carcass. We imagine him howling at the moon. We don’t usually think of wolf watching quietly in the background, but this is often what he does. Wolf is not born knowing how to behave or hunt. As a pup, he learns by watching and this habit carries over into the rest of his life. He will sniff out a situation before moving in. Wolf will lurk on the perimeter, watching, until he determines the best course of action.

Wolf spirit animal teaches us about the power of detachment. Many of you may have heard of the concept of being a witness in your life. This entails watching your life as if it were someone else’s. If you’ve studied your triggers you’ll know that being a witness means not being triggered by a situation. This doesn’t mean you don’t care or love or feel. It just means that you let go of trying to force a certain outcome. You let go of the need to be right. You stop trying to direct everything to serve your own needs. You stop distrusting others and trusting in the nature of the universe.

Forget the “Alpha”

How many of you are familiar with the term “alpha male” ? A scientist conducting studies on captive, unrelated wolves in the 1930’s and 1940’s developed our notions of pack structure. Many people are now aware that if you’re not an alpha, you’re a beta in the middle of the pack or, heaven forbid, an omega at the bottom. We’ve carried this term over into our own social structure. We see our scraping to get to the top as the natural order of things, and have used the analogy of the wolf pack to justify our behavior.

More recent research conducted on wild wolves has revealed something different. Packs are not dictated by a set of leaders who’ve fought their way to the top. Nor are they composed of a group of submissive followers, but instead packs are family groups that are run by the parents. This paper by renowned wolf researcher David Mech sure turns things on their head: http://www.wolf.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/267alphastatus_english.pdf.

Regardless of the true nature of pack social structure, we like to think of leadership as a static position. In reality, leadership in the natural world is a fluid notion that changes by the moment. Leadership seems to depend less on dominating another, and more on earning their following over and over again. The “submissive” member of the pack always has a choice whether to comply in the moment or not. Different leaders have different styles. Some are more quiet, others more gregarious. Leaders can be aloof or everyone’s best friend. We see this demonstrated in the wolf world and in our own.

If you have concerns over your role in a group and are tired of fighting for position, now is a good time to let go of the idea of the alpha. What qualities can you embody that will earn respect of others, and, even better, yourself? Part of being a witness is releasing concern over what other people think. What is your style of leadership? What do you look for in a leader? Wolf spirit animal offers you the opportunity to stop wasting your time thinking you weren’t born an alpha and start practicing the qualities you look for in a leader.

Wolf, The Guru

“At the beginning of the world, the Great Spirit sent the wolves out into the wilderness to measure the earth. They came back to the Great Mysterious One and told of what they had experienced and learned. Great Spirit said, ‘As you have named it, so it shall be.’ Wolves clearly interpret and impart the way to others.” – How to Find Your Spirit Animal by David Carson

“Because they wandered it was believed they knew everything.” – Animal Wisdom by Jessica Dawn Palmer

In many North American tribes, wolf spirit animal is the quintessential teacher. I go a step further an call wolf a “guru” because all great gurus are essentially great witnesses. Gurus are able to quietly watch their students struggle with tough questions and wrestle with uncomfortable truths. They have infinite patience, waiting for the student to come along at whatever pace they may. Gurus are willing to release the outcome and endure immense hardship without irritability. Gurus are also believed to know everything.

Teachers and gurus alike must be able to adapt their style of communication to match the student because not everyone learns the same way. Knowledge must come through different channels to be assimilated. Wolf has three ways of communicating: visual (body language), verbal, and scent.

Discerning Truth from Illusion

Gurus are incredibly good at discerning truth from illusion. To discern is to distinguish, separate and differentiate. My friend Margaret Burkesmith teaches that discernment is, “Sitting very close to something and allowing it to spontaneously reveal itself.”

Wolf has a superior sense of smell, and smell in religious symbology is linked with the skill of discernment. We don’t pass anything into our mouths without smelling it first just like we do not let any idea into our spiritual life without first discerning if it serves our path. Smell is likened to the ability to discern good from evil. Wolf spirit animal teaches us a great deal about the power of discernment.

The olfactory region of nasal cavity in wolf is 14 times that of humans and his nose is 1,000,000 times more sensitive to odor than humans. Wolf has somewhere around 280 million olfactory receptors. When a wolf stops to smell the marking of another wolf, he can tell how long ago that wolf was there, who exactly the wolf was, the gender of the wolf, and countless other things.

Now is a good time to pay attention to your own power of discernment. How much do you know, really, about what is going on in and around you? Can you take more time to sit with it and know more?

We so often picture gurus sitting cross-legged, in meditation for hours. They are allowing truth to reveal itself. Wolf spirit animal, our guru of the wild, watches quietly from a distance doing the same.

 

ONE WAY TO HELP THE WOLVES:
At Wolfwood Refuge in Ignacio, CO, I had the great fortune of meeting and interacting directly with wolves. Not only are wolves in the wild hunted and harassed due to misunderstanding, but wolves and wolf hybrids raised for domestication are continually discarded, mistreated and abused. Paula and Craig Watson offer these abandoned and mistreated animals a forever home where they have the chance to live outdoors in big enclosures with others of their kind. If you live nearby you can visit yourself. Anyone can donate to help out. http://www.wolfwoodrefuge.org

 

Want to learn more about spirit animals?
Visit the Spirit Animal Guide

 

Spirit Animals: SERENE SWAN

She glides gracefully along the water, neck arched with her stately head held high. Her feathers couldn’t be any more white. They gleam and look so soft and so smooth to the touch. She’s often seen in this way, gliding on the mirror-like surface of a lake, but she takes to the wing too. Her enormous wingspan reaches out as if it may touch the ends of the sky. Her elegant neck stretches out, long and forward venturing into the vastness of the universe.

Swan Symbolism and Purity

The connection between the snow white swan and purity is obvious since the color white is synonymous with cleanliness and perfection. As we know from the story of Hans Christian Anderson’s The Ugly Duckling, swans mature into their white coats showing that even this divine beast isn’t born perfect. Those exploring swan symbolism have the opportunity to realize a purity of spirit and heart given a good dose of patience. Swans don’t reach full maturity until as late as 7 years old. A long-lived waterbird, they can live to be as old as 24.

Swan is staunchly loyal as well as fiercely protective. She mates for life and guards her mate, nest and young diligently. The long pairings and the shared care taking of the young are lovely examples of the swan symbolism and the virtue of unity.

The parents carry the young on their backs in the water to safeguard them from predatory fish. This points to a need to shelter new ideas from doubts or fears that may bubble up from under the surface of your subconscious. Her nests are sometimes built atop beaver lodges which demonstrates that the swan spirit animal is able to appreciate and prosper from the ingenuity of others. The top of the lodge is akin to the roof of a building which corresponds to higher thinking.

The Swan Song

The swan is linked to the God Apollo who is the God of music. A “swan song” is a beautiful song swan is said to sing before she dies. She is a totem for poets and singers alike. The goddess Saraswati rode a swan down a tributary of the Ganges playing her lute while holding a rosary and book. She’s known as the goddess of music, song and poetry as well as spiritual purity. It is easy to see how swans have become a symbol of romanticism, love and devotion, but there is much more to this iconic bird.

Swans and Divinity

In many cultures, Gods are known to turn into swans. The Hindu God Brahma turned to a swan to take of the challenge of flying up to find the end of the lingam of the God Shiva. He couldn’t find the top end and Vishnu couldn’t find the bottom. Both learned that they end and begin in each other.

Wohpe, otherwise known as White Buffalo Calf woman, came to earth in the form of a swan to deliver instruction on how to pray. Zeus came down and seduced Leda, wife of the king of Sparta, in the form of a swan. Their children were Castor and Pollux who make up the twins in the constellation of Gemini.

If a swan spirit animal has flown into your life, now is a good time to look for forms of the Divine disguised as gorgeous messengers.

 

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

 

Forgetting the Sacred

There is a lake nestled in the Himalayan mountain range called Lake Manasarovar that sits at the base of the sacred Mount Kailish. In this lake is said to live a beautiful white swan that eats lotus fruit and nectar and who is visited by the Gods that come to bathe there. There are legends of the swan leaving the lake for various reasons. Some say she is cold and others say she is curious. She flies over the peaks to the plains and comes to land in muddy waters. Some say she finds it unsavory and returns home; others say she forgets the way back. In this way she is like man. She has come from the sacred, pure and without fault, but she falls into fault and in her muddiness she forgets her perfect nature.

This is the path of the mystic who finds herself in a state of despair once she discovers the imperfection of envy, greed, pride and malice that dwells within her. She feels unworthy of the love or even company of the Divine and forgets that she has wings with which to carry her back home.

Swan spirit animal can reassure us that despite the impure thoughts and emotions that plague our days, that ultimately we’ve come from God and we will return to him. The process may not be easy, especially given what we see in the story of the black swan.

 

black swan spirit animal

Story About the Black Swan

In aboriginal folklore, there is the story of a group of women who are the only people who know the secret to making boomerangs. They refuse to share the secret, so a band of men decide to steal the boomerangs from them. Two of the men turn to white swans and land on a nearby lake. The women rush to shore to view the beautiful birds and the rest of the men slip into the camp to attain the goods.

Discovering they’ve been duped, the women grow furious and chase the swans off the lake. The swans go to a neighboring lake where a pair of eagles live. The eagles attack the swans and pluck every last white feather off their body leaving them to die. A flock of crows, wanting to spite their enemies the eagles, offer their black feathers for the swan’s new coats and the swans are saved. Meanwhile, the women continue on bickering for eternity over who’s to blame for the incident. (from Oracle of the Dreamtime: Aboriginal Dreaming offers guidance for today).

Symbolism of the Black Swan

This story tells us much about the journey of the spiritual seeker who looks to attain purity and perfection in the image of God. The path to enlightenment is not paved with gold, but often suffering instead. The seeker may not even start out looking for God, but for power (the boomerang). The trial she encounters turns her toward the Divine. But the meaning of swan shows that it is not the suffering that causes the transformation, rather the faith to move on from greed, thievery, resentment, blame and vengeance.

As Thomas Merton says in No Man Is An Island, “To believe in suffering is pride, but to suffer, believing in God, is humility.” All around them, the black swans are surrounded by the evil of the world and they are laid bare because of their own treachery. They are not even saved in an act of kindness, but vengeance. All around them is dark. Still they are able to accept help without judgment and to touch the Divine with the white tips of their new wings.

Swan Spirit Animal’s Undying Faith

The constellation Cygnus (the latin word for swan) is made of the same stars as the Northern Cross. It is an interesting synchronicity that the cross, long a symbol of spiritual suffering and undying faith, is paired with swan symbolism.

To endure suffering and imperfection with a fierce faith in the One Who Moves Through All Things turns wretchedness into a gift. Swan symbolism is about learning at the core of your being your ultimate radiance and perfection. There will likely be trials along the way to remind you of the grace and virtue of maintaining a humble soul. For even pride in your perfection renders it imperfect.

If you are currently courting swan spirit animal ask yourself the following questions:

  • How do I view my own imperfection? and my own perfection?
  • What suffering has come to me to teach me about keeping my faith and releasing my faults?
  • How do I appreciate the virtue of loyalty? Who or what am I loyal to?
  • How can the swan guide me on the path to enlightenment?

 

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

 

 

Spirit Animals: RACCOON the BANDIT

He sneaks about in the darkness looking for the slightest opportunity. Any tidbit hidden in a crevasse becomes a jewel in his hands. He is at home in the city or the country. No matter where we find raccoon spirit animal we will find a dose of both good humor and good conscience. Who thought such a common animal could bring such luck?

These little bandits are ubiquitous across the whole of the North American continent. Found in swamps and marshes, on the banks of lakes, ponds, rivers and streams, in the vastness of the desert and prairie, in the seclusion of forests, on the tops of mountains and the bottom of canyons, and in cities and suburbs, raccoons have adapted to any environment. Raccoons are happy to den anywhere from a hole in the ground to a cubby in an attic. They are the quintessential omnivore and will eat anything, plant, insect, trash, or animal, that they can get their little paws on.

Raccoon spirit animal brings the message that you have the occasion to be at home and find sustenance, even wealth, wherever you are. He does not cover a wide range, but he utilizes and explores every nook and cranny of his territory. Raccoon symbolism is all about being flexible with what’s available.

Raccoon is marked from birth with that characteristic black eye-mask. He has a reputation for being a trickster and nighttime bandit in disguise.

Disguise

Raccoon spirit animal teaches us about the nuances of disguise and what we do when we think we’ll go unrecognized. In movies, cartoons, and drawings, the archetype of the thief is pictured so often with a black scarf with two holes for eyes. In many legends, raccoon is busy stealing things under the cover of night or out from under the noses of blind people. Raccoon symbolism is closely linked with what we might be blind to or what others are blind to in us.

When we wear a mask or watch a character in a movie wear a mask there is the unwritten understanding that the wearer is attempting to escape the consequences of their actions. Even if the thief is robbing from the rich to give to the poor like Robin Hood (i.e. stealing for “good”) they still have to hide and evade because they are operating outside the law.

In the end, raccoons in legends are always caught and marked as thieves as evidenced by their face mask and ringed tail. In our world, we may escape without any outer consequences, but we will still have the inner doubt that plagues us. What if someone did find out?

It is worth evaluating how you use a disguise to get away with stealing. When you go to pay for a service and remember that you didn’t bring enough cash along, do you pose as innocent to convince the other person to take less money? Raccoons have the sweetest, charming little faces and they aren’t above playing the innocent to get away with something they want.

There is a splash of white all around the edges of the black eye mask of the raccoon. This can point to an inherent goodness shining out, a need to be recognized for the light we are in the world. Sometimes the masks we put on aren’t necessary and can be born of a shame that requests healing.

Raccoon the Bandit

Raccoon has lightening quick paws to grab aquatic creatures, pluck mice and insects from hiding places, and invade bird nests to take tasty eggs. He is known for raiding campsites and trashcans when everyone is sleeping.

We all steal from time to time, be it something as simple as a pen or as invisible as the attention of another. Stealing energy or time from another person, or even stealing from their reputation by mentioning their name, wears away at the fabric of who we are over time. Raccoon spirit animal teaches us how to notice the telltale signs in ourselves of when we are snatching up little bits that might not be ours. He helps us come further into integrity.

This isn’t about looking at the ugly side of your nature and disliking what you see, not at all. It’s about developing a mature conscience. An immature conscience depends on the opinions of others or even the laws of society. Both of these conventions can be mischievously fun to break. A mature conscience taps into the value of one’s motives and understands whether we mean to do harm or do kindness. It’s that simple. When we come from a place of valuing kindness, mischief falls away.

Some questions to ask yourself when contemplating raccoon symbolism:

  • What are the things you tell yourself to justify stealing? (They’ll never find out. There’s enough extra. They don’t need it anyway.)
  • What motivates you to steal? (Maybe it is feeling like you aren’t worth something, like you can’t come by it honestly, or like you just can’t wait.)
  • What is conscience to you? How do you decipher right from wrong?

Trickster

Mircea Eliade, a well-known scholar who studied shamanic practices around the globe, talks about the trickster as a character that plays all sorts of jokes. He makes fun of others and is made fun of. Oftentimes in myths, the trickster is actually a demigod in disguise come to bestow blessings on the object of his high jinks.

We think we know the path and set out on it the way we’ve decided is best. Then the trickster comes and bumps us off our road. This is the flat tire when you’re running late or the hard drive crash right as you type the last word of an important document. We learn to laugh with a sarcastic, “ha, ha” at the trickster’s joke, but often we are at the very least irritated by the interruption or at worse absolutely derailed by the catastrophe.

Once it’s all over we find we are better off or we are brought to a gift we never expected.

In the legends, raccoon cons wolf into freezing his tail into the ice and deceives three blind women into breaking their favorite pottery. He is among the ranks in the animal world of other tricksters such as coyote, raven, and fox.

Thus, raccoon spirit animal has the potential to bring you great teaching and wealth, but it will likely not happen in the way you anticipate. When working with raccoon it is a good idea to keep a loose sense of plans.

Dexterity

Raccoon’s sense of touch is his most heightened of senses and the majority of the focus is in his front paws. He has “hyper-sensitive’ hands that have long whiskers known as “vibrissae” that assist with identifying objects before actually touching them. Nearly two-thirds of his portion of the cerebral cortex responsible for sensory perception is dedicated to the processing of tactile impulses. He thinks a lot about what he feels.

Raccoon will wash his food whenever he has the chance. It is thought that he does this to soften the thin horny layer on his paws, which makes it easier for him to feel his food. Whatever the reason, he loves to play in the water with his hands.

Raccoon can adeptly open jars, untie knots and turn door handles. His five toed front hand closely resembles ours. His lack of an opposable thumb doesn’t stop him from attempting to enter our world. Raccoon symbolism is about how we choose to handle situations. Will we “grasp” quickly for what we want or will we take the time to “wash our hands” of our wrongdoing before enjoying the incredible opportunity around us?

Working with our conscience is all about how we handle situations. Raccoon spirit animal is most definitely here to help.

 

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Spirit Animals: BUFFALO ABUNDANCE

In the midst of the lowing of the herd, he takes a break from munching grass and saunters over to a bare patch of earth. The sun is rising and his breath is made visible by the steam that drifts from his nostrils like tendrils of smoke. His head sways ever so slightly as he walks, the bulk of his shoulders clearing the way as members of the herd part to allow passage. At the wallow he comes down to his front knees and the rest of his mass falls with a “thud” into the dirt. He rolls to one side pushing his entire body into the depression stirring up dust and frost at once. His grunts join into the contended conversation of the herd.

The buffalo spirit animal is a precious beast for so many reasons, some commonly known and others less so. What we most often call a “buffalo” is officially called the “American Bison”. There is only one other species of bison on earth, the European Bison. Both are considered ecologically extinct and the European Bison has come even closer than the American Bison to complete extinction. Bison are more closely related to cows than to actual buffalo, but in answering the question “what does bison mean?” this exploration will use the names interchangeably.

Abundance

Any study of North American history includes the grievous chapter on the decimation of the buffalo. In less than 70 years, the population of American Bison was brought from a reported 30-60 million to less than a mere 2,000 in 1889. This mass extermination was a gluttonous move by European settlers to win the west, a deliberate tactic to deprive the Native people of their livelihood. A number of Native Americans tribes relied entirely on the buffalo for food, clothing, tools, shelter, and more. They used every part of the buffalo in their daily life. Buffalo symbolism is directly tied to the idea of abundance because they literally offered an abundance of goods to the people that hunted them.

Freedom

Through various efforts, the buffalo has recovered to somewhere between 500,000 to 1 million individuals today, but the species is considered ecologically extinct because they no longer are able to range their native habitat like they evolved to do. They are kept in small parks and buffalo that wander out of the boundaries are shot. Did you know that wild bison are routinely rounded up and excess members are sent to slaughter? The plight of the buffalo today is strikingly similar to that of the wild mustang. The meaning of buffalo is closely linked to our ideals of freedom and how that freedom actually looks in practice.

Do you feel as if you have enough room to roam? Is someone or something curbing your range? Buffalo spirit animals roam the space they are given, but can be tough on fences. If you find yourself testing the boundaries of a relationship or circumstance, it may be time to focus on an area of your life where you have space to take more liberties.

A Keystone Species

Bison are known as a “keystone” species in that they have an impact on their environment that is disproportionately larger relative to their numbers. They affect the distribution of grasses, the way fire moves throughout the prairie, the cycle of nutrients, and the composition of grass and wildflower species. Their hooves aerate the soil which helps the plants better uptake air and oxygen for faster growth. Buffalo wallows are bare patches of dirt where they frequently roll. These round holes create vernal pools during spring rains which serve as mini oasis for wetland species of plants. The wallows remain in undeveloped areas for up to 125 years after buffalo have been removed from the land.

Ferruginous hawks used to create their nests entirely out of bison bone, fur, and dung. Prairie dogs preferred to colonize in areas grazed by buffalo because they could spot predators better in the shorter grasses. A whole host of animals from black-footed ferrets to burrowing owls to foxes rely on prairie dogs as a food source.

Bison not only provided a valuable source of sustenance for grizzly bears and wolves, but also for scavengers such as coyotes, eagles, hawks, and vultures. When their carcasses were left to rot, they would add enough nitrogen to the soil to make it 2-3 times more rich than the surrounding grassland. Even their urine mobilized nitrogen quicker than natural processes and added fertilizer quickly into the ecosystem.

Regardless of the fact that the buffalo is a key player in grassland ecosystems, they are also a part of a herd. Like any herd animal they find safety in numbers and their habits and days are affected by the movement of the herd. Buffalo spirit animal is a reminder that you are at once a critical component of the world AND just a member of the herd. It is important not to get too overblown in your own importance, and to plainly be yourself. Contributing to and participating in the whole is key.

By simply doing what they do, buffalo create variety and abundance wherever they go. Are you able to offer the same gift to the world? If we all could aspire to be so generous, the world would be a better place. Consider if your actions are contributing to the whole are taking from it. How can you tip the scales so that you are a source of grace for others while still standing in your strength?

Strength and Conflict

Buffalo are incredibly powerful animals that weight over 2,000 pounds. They can run up to 35 miles per hour and cross rivers over a half a mile wide. They easily lead barbed wire fences. In the winter they survive by pushing the snow from the grass using their massive heads. Built to survive warm summers and cold winters, they are at home in the stark, open landscape of the grasslands. They will fend off predators using their bulk and horns.

Buffalo spirit animals can lend us the strength to stand our ground, but they remind us not to crash around like a bull in a china shop. Only 5-10% of challenges between bulls lead to actual fights. The bulls compete for females by butting heads. They have special boney struts that reinforce their inner and outer skull as well as a thick matt of hair on their forehead to protect them from the force of the blows. This reminds us of the benefit of being “thick headed”. Sometimes it is necessary to know your truth and not give in to the shoves of others. Do be mindful although, because bulls easily gore their opponents by slipping off to the side. Remember that going straight on may leave you vulnerable.

Gratitude

Buffalo symbolism is also linked to giving thanks much in the same way as turkey spirit animal. When White Buffalo Calf Woman came to the Lakota people she did so with the teaching of right action and right prayer. Giving thanks was a part of her teaching. When considering the meaning of buffalo, remember that you are both the buffalo and the ecosystem that profits from their action. You have the opportunity to spread abundance wherever you go as long as you stay true to who you are AND now is the time to give thanks for the myriad of ways that the Divine brings abundance into your life.

Just now scientists are beginning to understand the immense impact that buffalo had on the vast grasslands that once covered the North American continent. They are just now seeing the connections between buffalo and their environment. All along, people who lived off the land and off the flesh of the buffalo understood that all was connected. They honored these connections and with an deeper understanding of the medicine of buffalo spirit animal so can we.

 

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Spirit Animals: ANCIENT ALLIGATOR

She slips slowly off the shore entering the water without a sound or splash. The ripples of her wake split away from her tough scales. She is cool, calm, calculated, but not without care. Underwater she is graceful, tucking her legs back and moving forward via the propulsion of her big, thick tail. She climbs back to the surface of the marsh to let her eyes and nose rest on the barrier of the water. This has been her life since she can remember and the life of her kind for millennia.

The meaning of alligator relates directly to how primitive these creatures are. Alligators as a species originated approximately 150 million years ago and they are believed to have changed little since surviving the catastrophe that caused the extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. This combined with the fact that alligators are some of, if not the, most attentive and nurturing mothers in the reptile world, makes alligator the “original mother”.

Alligator the Original Mother

Alligator is a symbol of death given her status as a frightening ambush predator. Not only is she the harbinger of death, but also as life. She helps dig her young out of their buried nest after diligently guarding the nest for the 2 month incubation period. She then ferries them to the water in her mouth. The baby alligators stay with their mother for two years, which is a rare kinship in the reptile world.

If you are considering the alligator spirit animal, you will want to look at how you conceive, incubate, birth and nurture creative ideas in your life. She is telling you to be protective of your ideas or new projects but not over bearing. The mother does not sit on her eggs to keep them warm as she’d crush them. The mother alligator instead buries the eggs in a mix of leaves, twigs, and mud and allows the warmth generated by the decaying materials to incubate the eggs. This shows a great trust that the process of death and decay turns into birth.

There may be some old idea or project that it is time to bury and let go back into the earth. With releasing the old, you not only make room for the new, but you actually provide the energy needed for your new endeavor. The mother alligator guards the general area of the nest without trampling it, letting nature take its course.

The young cry from the nest as they begin to hatch and the mother helps dig them out. Be on alert for the right timing for this new project, the signs or omens will speak to you and then you may have to go through some degree of effort to unearth them. Once unearthed, she carries the young to the water in her mouth. The mouth is directly related to communication, so once your project is out in the open, you’ll be responsible for communicating its importance to others. Just like the mother crocodile, you will likely stay with this project longer than others might do.

Another interesting tid-bit about alligator reproduction is that the sex of the young is determined by the temperature of the nest. Below 86F the young are all females and above 93F, all males. In between, and there is a mix of the two. This relates to the masculine principle as “active” and “hot” whereas the feminine is considered “receptive” and “cool”. Consider your associations with both ways of being and how the environment you are raising your project up in will influence the style you use to bring it out into the world.

Alligator is also a mother for other animals in the swamp. During droughts, she (and the males of her kind) dig “gator holes” with their bodies. These holes fill with water and provide a life-giving oasis to animals in need.

Cold-Blooded and Detached

The alligator has a tough skin of scales and is cold-blooded. When we say someone is cold-blooded we say she is detached. We automatically give this a negative connotation, but in Buddhism detachment from illusion is a key element of enlightenment. To be cold-blooded means that her body temperature will match the surrounding environment as will her pacing. If it is warm she will be active and cold she’ll be inactive. There is nothing bad about this way of being. In fact, great wisdom comes from the ability to mirror our surroundings and pace ourselves accordingly.

Alligators vs. Crocodiles

There are only two species of alligator in the world, one in North America and one in China. Crocodiles are much more prolific world-wide, although we don’t have any crocodiles in North America. What sets the alligator apart is her broad snout. This broad snout is adapted for crushing shells like those that cover turtles in the marsh. This would speak of an ability to crack into a resource that others might not have access to.

Crocodiles have a functional salt gland that allows them to inhabit estuaries and venture out into salt water. Alligators do not have this ability and are limited to fresh water. The meaning of alligator, is thus about the tie to a more specialized habitat and a need to stick to specific paths or streams of thought. Now is likely not a good time to venture out.

Take a Bite Out of Life

Alligators have an upper jaw bigger than the lower jaw whereas crocodiles have the exact opposite configuration. With the alligator, this would speak of an ability to bite off more than you can chew – “over – bite”. Both alligators and crocodiles lack the ability to chew. They tear off parts of animals by holding on with their powerful jaws and twisting their bodies to pry loose a chunk of flesh. If you are contemplating a big decision right now, it is advisable to not spend too much time mulling things over, but to instead take the process in big chunks.

The Alligator has up to 80 teeth at any given time, and since new teeth regrow to replace those that are broken or lost she can have between 2,000 and 3,000 teeth over the course of her lifetime. Teeth are directly related to the quality of our words and dreams about losing your teeth can relate to loosing track of your words. Alligator does not fear losing control of what she needs to say because there is always another tooth, another word, coming it to take its place. This teaches us that with the ancient knowing of alligator comes the confidence to always know what to say.

Integration

Alligator symbolism is closely related to the ability to integrate different teachings or experience. This is evidenced by how alligator thrives in murky waters. Life is said to have come from the mud which is her medium. The meaning of alligator reiterates the idea that life’s messy situations sometimes yield the greatest results.

Alligator move slowly on land, so in your outward life the progress of integrating change may be slow. But she is quick and graceful in the water, the realm of emotions and subconscious. This indicates that your processing internally or below the surface will likely be more fluid but invisible to others.

Alligator navigates the border between land and water which also corresponds to transitions, or a transitionary phase. She is never too far from shore, although, which points to a readiness to dive back into the depths. Are you willing right now to delve into the depths or do you find yourself clinging to shore? Now is the time to slip back easily into the water without fear. Mother alligator owns this marsh and has nothing to fear her because she rules the swamp. Do not fear change or decisions. Take charge of your life and be willing to do so without the need for others to take notice. Alligator is with you each step along the path helping you integrate the experience so that you too can take on a great, ancient wisdom tested by the trials of time.

PHOTO CREDIT thanks to David Anton! https://kitestream.wordpress.com. David is a fantastic nature and animal photographer based out of Durango, CO.

 

Want to learn more about spirit animals?
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Spirit Animals: BARN OWL

A ghost in the shadows, he comes from behind scooping up the quiet mouse no one ever saw and only he heard. On white wings he travels off silently caring death in his talons. There is no remorse, only absolute recognition of the cleverness in him that reflects the genius of the Divine. He finds a fence post on which to perch and brings his claw adeptly up to his beak. This is his sixth meal of the night and he is no rush to fill his belly. Instead, he snaps the neck of the mouse and sits stoically with it in his talons. He owns the night, the night without moon or stars, the night that sends most creatures into hiding. With his white, heart-shaped face and pitch black eyes he is both a light in the darkness and an invitation to it.

Navigating in the Dark

Owl symbolism across all species of owls is spoken of as hearing and seeing in the dark, but no owl embodies this talent like the barn owl. Barn owls are so incredibly successful at what they do that they are found throughout the world and “are arguably the most widespread bird species on earth” [1]. There are 46 races of barn owl with the race in North America being the largest. No other owl or animal is able to outcompete them at hunting in the dark. In addition, the barn owl has adapted to human intrusion into natural habitats. He is just as comfortable nesting and hunting in a barn, hence the name, as his is in the open prairie or box canyons. Still, despite his conspicuous pale coloring,  the barn owl is rarely seen by humans. If you have had the opportunity to encounter one of these mythic beasts especially during the day, there is a significant message about fear of the unknown and the courage to navigate it that you must heed.

Do you feel like you’re groping around in the dark? Time to call on barn owl symbolism to receive help understanding what you haven’t been able to know before and making your way to the dawn.

Power of Listening

It is the excellent hearing of the barn owl that enables him to hunt in absolute darkness using sound alone. No other animal on earth has this ability. Other owls can hunt in near darkness, but they still need some measure of light to see. Being able to sense in absolute darkness speaks of the talent in ourselves to locate resources while blind. By listening deeply and intently like the barn owl spirit animal you can tap into the ability to find what you need where others may see nothing. The barn owl is able to create a “neural map” of auditory space.  Not only will barn owl symbolism help you pinpoint what you need, but he will also grant you a picture of the unknown with more detail and accuracy than any other animal.

Barn owls and eight other species have asymmetrical ear openings. One ear is higher on the barn owl’s head  than the other. This speaks of the power to listen at all levels. By integrating what we hear from above and below , we are blessed with the gift of receiving guidance from the heavens and the earth. The guidance can relate to mundane matters of the every day as well as the most profound spiritual truths. Barn owl symbolism is about being able to discern where the intuition you receive applies to and from where it comes. This could be why owls are associated with wisdom because they can hear and know what others may not.

 

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

Abundant Productivity

Not only is barn owl symbolism about finding the resources we need, but an astonishing amount. Barn owl catches 3-6 mice a night for himself and just as many for each chick he helps rear. This is no small feat as barn owl clutches range from 2 to 18 eggs! He brings food to the female while she incubates the eggs and then for all of those chicks for the first two weeks of their life. Then his mate joins him for the hunt to help keep up with the voracious eaters. The amazing feat of potentially catching 50 or more mice in a night is compounded by the fact that the barn owl and his mate may raise up to three broods in a given year.

Strong signatures of barn owl symbolism are abundant creativity as well as fantastic capacity to produce well beyond what others may do. This productivity will not always be visible either since the barn owl hunts primarily at night when others are sleeping. The barn owl is monogamous which speaks of a steady commitment to what you are producing in the world.

When are you producing the most? What is your relationship to productivity? Do you wish you could produce more? Call on the barn owl spirit animal to help. Are you worried about others seeing what you’re doing? If so, now is not the time to pine for recognition. Now is the time to take advantage of the energy you have and to harness it.

Facing Fears

The barn owl has a terrifying blood curdling scream and his white underside causes him to look like a ghost. He has a calculated and solitary way about him that is different from the outgoing, hooting nature of other owls like great-horned owls. Sightings of barn owls in the wild are relatively rare. All of this combines to make his visits chilling. He have a coldness or callousness about him that reminds us of the other side of the veil and not in a friendly way. At the same time, he is a light in the darkness and can light the way for us through our own fears, nightmares, and shadows if we are brave enough to follow.

I work extensively with a barn owl in my soul retrieval work. His ability to hear and see in the dark helps me search through the unconscious and find what has been missing. Thus, for you, barn owl symbolism can help with seeking out parts of yourself that you have long neglected or forgotten. The barn owl can also help you work through fears to find the “mouse” or gift that is waiting in the darkness.

He mostly swallows his prey whole after breaking the prey’s neck to kill it, but he can also dissect and eat the mice piece by piece with surgical precision. So much about these creatures is detached and distant. When he looks at us with his black eyes he appears to see straight through us. Is there a person or circumstance you need to distance yourself from? Have you seen the dark side of the situation and find a need to think analytically about it without getting your emotions involved?

This may be one of the most productive times in your life if you get the timing right and open your senses beyond the ordinary. The fruits of what you do may not “show” in the world for a long time or to many people, but that is not the point. The point is to join the barn owl in mapping the unknown and allowing the gifts to flow in as a result.

 

I recommend you check out the “Barn Owl Cam” at Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s website for an opportunity to see video footage of barn owls in their nest. There is nothing happening live outside of the breeding season but you can page through the video clips under the live stream to see highlights from the previous breeding season. Very fun! http://cams.allaboutbirds.org/channel/42/Barn_Owls/

[1] The Birder’s Handbook: A Field Guide to the Natural History of North American Birds by Paul R. Ehrlick, David S. Dobkin, and Darryle Wheye.

 

 

meaning of turkey spirit animal

Spirit Animals: THANKFUL TURKEY

How perfect it is that during this season when we are taking stock of our harvest and practicing gratitude that we have as a mascot in our endeavor the humble turkey? The meaning of turkey spirit animal reflects service and sacrifice teaching us to balance receiving with giving. There are many aspects to the turkey’s life that we can relate to directly as we gather ’round with family and remember who we are in the group.

Meaning of Turkey in Social Settings

Turkeys are communal and social birds that travel in large flocks. They fly up into trees to perch and roost for the night, but they cannot take flight to travel long distances. This may indicate a need to stay grounded when in a group setting, and to know that you have an escape route nearby that will allow you the opportunity to see things from a higher vantage without having to leave the situation all together. This too can help you see things with a bit of detachment and be less angry or charged about what is going on. Turkeys are very mobile on the ground, running as fast as 25 mph. This speaks of an ability to navigate group settings and to travel with a group very easily. All of these aspects of turkey medicine relate to the family gatherings that happen around the holidays.

Turkeys look like primitive dinosaurs striding along the forest floor with long necks, legs, and tails. They are slender and from a distance, a plain brown. Their feathers do have a stunning bronze-green iridescence up close and at certain angles of light. They don’t have very good depth perception which explains why they tip their head from side to side when they walk. They are trying to determine how far away and big things are. Both the variable color of their feathers and their poor depth perception indicate a need to look carefully to decipher how big or small, drab or flashy, the situation in front of you might be and to not always make a snap judgement.

 

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

 

Turkey Spirit Animal Language

Turkey males, or toms, are vocal animals that are easily lured in my the call of another male. We all know the characteristic gobble, but they also make an amazing sound called a boom or “chump” which is a sound emitted from deep in their chest that causes the air to shudder. The sound is like a subtle sonic boom. This chump is followed by a hum that is either created by a rattling of their tail or an exhalation of air through their mouth. The mechanism for each vocalization is not fully understood.

This reminds us to pay attention to how sounds affect our physical bodies. Which sounds repel or attract you? Turkey might be able to help teach you about how listen to your environment with your whole body rather than just your ears. It is also a reminder to be mindful of the vibration or energy we are putting out into the world from the core of who we are.

Meaning of Turkey: Showing Your True Colors

The males make overwhelming displays to not only impress females but to intimidate other males. They puff up to almost twice their usual size, fan their tails out behind them, and adopt an obvious strut. Their profile becomes round and compact. The images we are accustomed to seeing of turkeys during Thanksgiving are purely images of tom turkeys displaying. The color on the heads of toms varies. It is said that when they are excited their heads turn blue and when preparing for a fight, red. This is a bird that is not shy to state who they are and how they are feeling. Turkey spirit animal can come into our life to help us learn how to stand in our power, show our true colors, and boom our truth into the world.

Hen Turkey Humility

Then there are the unassuming, sweet, and relatively quiet females who “purr” and make “soft calls”. When not in full display, the males look very much like the females. The living out loud posture of a strutting tom is the rarity rather than the norm in turkey culture and it is interesting how in our culture we exalt the boastful image of the turkey. Even Benjamin Franklin understood that the turkey could be “a little vain and silly.” [1]  It is easy to get boastful in a world that is obsessed with selfies. The usual, humble nature of turkey is a reminder to not get caught up in booming who you are into the world.

The Service of Turkey Medicine

The main keynote of the turkey spirit animal is SERVICE. There is a selflessness to turkey medicine for they are known for giving their lives to nourish the tribes of North America. Sacrificing for the sake of nourishing another is balanced turkey medicine. The person who gives to show how great of a person they are, is dancing with the prideful energy of a tom turkey.

Where do you have the chance in your life to give back? How can your acts show appreciation for the abundance in your own life? Are you able to give without any return, without any recognition whatsoever?

In modern American tradition, turkey is obviously associated with Thanksgiving holiday. This is when we gather as a family. Turkey flocks are made up of nuclear family groups that work together to find food and keep each other safe. Isn’t that a lovely parallel? If you are dreading the upcoming holiday season and a house full of pesky relatives, you can call on turkey to help you come into harmony with the flock. Finding ways to help each other and enjoy each other’s company is an important aspect of honoring what we’ve been given.

Pausing for Thanks

This is a time of year when we’ve brought in the harvest of our labors, both literal and figurative. This is the season when we say “thank you” for what we’ve been given. By coming into relationship with turkey as a spirit animal, we are asked to study our relationship to what we have and what we give.

Are you able to appreciate what others have sacrificed to make your life possible? What are you willing to sacrifice so that others may prosper? Now is a good time to let go like the trees have their leaves and stop checking your bank balance. This is the time of year when you have too many things to do and too many holiday party invitations. Stop weighing the value of one act over another, of one person over another, and be willing to step in what it is that the universe is offering you as abundance. Then, remember to give back to the deep well from which that abundance pours forth.

[1] http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/american-myths-benjamin-franklins-turkey-and-the-presidential-seal-6623414/?no-ist

 

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

 

 

animal symbolism

How to: Research Animal Symbolism

Venturing into the world of animal symbolism, otherwise known as the study of power animals, can be very daunting. There are sometimes wide gaps and obvious contradictions between the various books and websites that tell you what a spirit animals signifies. It is important to fact check any power animal reading as well as flesh out these readings with additional information. I can tell  from experience, that it would be incredibly easy to write an entire book about the symbolism and power of just a single species of animal. That means that any power animal interpretation available (yes, including mine), will not cover the entire scope of the animal’s gifts. Most books and websites have a limited number of animals listed, and it can be hard to find a reading on the less common animals. This is when we are forced to create our own interpretations, which is a good thing!

Any true inquiry into the nature of a power animal should include an absorption of simple scientific facts about the colors, structure, eating habits, mating, survival, and environment of the animal. Understanding how the animal makes a living and what their social lives are like can be incredibly enlightening.

Look for what makes this animal unique in the animal kingdom. Take notes on what fun facts really jump out.

We are drawn to the qualities in our power animals that we either identify with or we desire. In pinpointing what we like about our power animals we have the opportunity to make these characteristics conscious in ourselves. Identifying with power animals is a great way to boost self-esteem and become more empowered in who we are. It can be hard to sit down and write a list of what traits we like about ourselves, and a good place to start is by listing the positive aspects of the power animal that match our own great qualities. If the power animal has a characteristic we covet, they have come to help us manifest that expression in the world. A elk that proudly bugles his voice into the world can help someone with speaking up and claiming their territory.

Don’t dismiss what is ugly, cruel, or frightening about an animal. These traits help point out our judgements and fears.

We often think that our power animals are a direct reflection of ourselves, so when we unearth a piece of information about the animal we don’t like we tend to get discouraged. Just because a salamander eats baby birds doesn’t mean that those of us with salamander power animals are heartless individuals that devour helpless beings. This fact can either be taken as a metaphor – that the resource we need may come from those who haven’t left the nest – or as a generous reflection. When we find something that turns us off, this can direct us to the way we judge others unfairly. When we polarize strongly against a certain way of being, we are limiting our own path. In choosing to not do something we can waste a lot of energy making sure we don’t become what we fear.

With the scary or gross power animal we have the chance to learn acceptance and let go of fear. When we encounter a power animal we’d rather not have, we are being offered the opportunity to look into our own shadow. The characteristics of the animal will point out the best way to do this. A bat who is a creature of the night, for instance, is a perfect helper in going into the darkness. They often go out in groups and they use a chirping voice to call out into the darkness and see what’s around them. This could mean that the best option is to join a support group that is a safe place to navigate frightening subjects and ask the others to be a sounding board for what we’re working through.

Any animal can easily help us with both our fears and our triumphs. It is up to us to determine what the animal has come to help with.

Once we fill up to the brim with information on our power animal, it’s time to filter through the information and get clear about what the animal has come to help with. Some facts about the animal might resonate while others don’t. Our intuition is a powerful ally for us in this process. Try not to think this through too hard. Our rational minds can help sort the information while our intuitive nature deciphers the meaning.

Creating our own power animal interpretations is a practice that takes a lifetime to perfect, and it gets easier with each reading we create. I’ve put together a list of my favorite online resources for biological information on wildlife. If you have a website you’d like to share please post it in the comments below.

Here are my videos on Spirit Animals:

 

IN DEPTH ANIMAL GUIDES

This list of websites starts with sites that have the most animals listed with the most information on each animal. I also recommend an internet or library search for information on the particular animal. There are many books and websites dedicated to a single animal (such as polar bears) or group of animals (such as marine mammals) that have much more in depth information not always found in the general animal guides.

Encyclopedia of Life has all species around the world. Be sure to click “Read Full Entry” link below the bottom right hand corner of the image of the search result: http://eol.org

National Geographic has pictures and videos of featured animals: 
https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/topic/facts-pictures

 

QUICK FACTS ABOUT ANIMALS

Short on time? These sites will give you a quick summary so you can get in, get what you need, and get out.

One Kind is an animal protection charity with quick and great unique facts: https://onekindplanet.org/animal/

A to Z Index of Animals has wildlife and domestic animals: http://a-z-animals.com/animals/

Defenders of Wildlife has many North American megafauna: http://www.defenders.org/animal-factsheets

World Wildlife Fund has megafauna throughout the world that are of conservation interest:
https://www.worldwildlife.org/species

 

BIRDS AT THE SPECIES LEVEL

There is a lot of great information out there about different species of birds and I highly recommend that all interpretations of birds go to the species level. To simply have an “owl” as a power animal will get you some of information about what they offer as guidance. Being able to see in the dark and fly without making any noise are characteristics of the whole group, but we are limited on what we can learn given that there are over 100 species of owls around the globe. Going to the species level helps us delve deep and gives us magnitudes more information.

Cornell Lab of Ornithology is the premier source for all things avian. Be sure to listen to calls: http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/search

Seattle Audubon Society has facts about species hard to find elsewhere: http://www.birdweb.org/birdweb/

 

ANIMAL LEGENDS

For fun I wanted to add in some animal mythology. I couldn’t resist sharing this link to an extensive list of Native American myths about animals. http://www.native-languages.org/legends-animals.htm

rabbit spirit animal

Spirit Animals: RABBIT the MAGICIAN

Waiting for the right time, rabbit spirit animal’s always waiting for the right time – the right time to dash, the right time to recline on his side and stretch his back legs out, the right time to hold his breath in a burrow. While he’s waiting, he sits back onto his hind legs and looks out over the open meadow. His warren-mates are having an evening silflay of sweet clover. He twitches his whiskers with a precious bob of his velvety nose. A female invites him to groom her with a quiet hum. He comes back down to all fours and sets to licking her neck as she nibbles the tip of his ear.

Social Rabbit Spirit Animal

The number of stories I read about rabbits as a child were many. They influenced my opinions on social behavior, play, fantasy worlds, and humor as a human. The book that had the largest impact on me was Watership Down by Richard Adams. Not only is this story a riveting tale about the social lives of rabbits, it is a commentary on the destructiveness of humans, the complexities of colonization, and the terror of war.

So often when we look up the rabbit spirit animal in various interpretation books their symbolism is watered down to represent fear and fertility. I remember Hazel, Fiver, Blackberry, Silver, and Dandelion, and my heart opens wide with the potential in these amazing creatures. They can be slow or fast, sharp or gentle, and calculated or calm. We shouldn’t be looking up rabbits in spirit animal books, we should be referencing stories such as Watership Down to understand the myriad powers rabbits embody in our collective consciousness.

Rabbits are highly social animals that live together in a city of underground tunnels called a warren. Rabbits regularly groom each other, and they circle and hum to one another as a sign of affection.Their mating systems can be very complex ranging from polygamy to monogamy depending on their status within the warren. Males and females are very territorial and can engage in intense fights that result in injury and even death. They mark their territories with dung hills. The bucks engage in additional battles over does.

Imagination in Rabbit Symbolism

Think of the white rabbit in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. He was always in a rush, worried about getting here or there, and he had the incredible gift of leading Alice down the rabbit hole that changed her life. No matter how much we think we know about the world, rabbit can always take us beyond our capacity to comprehend.

Going down the rabbit hole can indicate moving into a time of chaos when everything is turned on its head. This phase of our evolution is necessary to allow change. It is only once we lose the ground beneath our feet that we have the chance to become more. Once we go underground into our subconscious or into other worlds to see what lies there, there is no going back. We are forever changed.

Remember the rabbit in the story of the Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams. This was a dearly loved toy that had the benefit of genuine affection from a child that believed he was real. Again the theme of devotion and affection with rabbit spirit animal comes through here. This toy offered a sense of solace and comfort to the boy during a life threatening illness only to be rewarded by being cleaned out of his room as it was disinfected.

Left out in the garden, the wish of the Velveteen Rabbit is fulfilled. A fairy turns him into a REAL rabbit. Again, when looking at the meaning of rabbit we see the theme of reality and imagination come in. What is happening to your definition of reality right now? What reality are you wishing into being? Are you the REAL you?

Finding Rabbit Spirit Animal Sanctuary

Among the folklore of rabbit spirit animal, there is a beautiful story of Saint Francis of Assisi. Saint Francis found set a rabbit free from a trap. He named him “Brother Rabbit” before releasing him, but the rabbit would not leave and returned over and over to his lap. The rabbit knew he had found a place of sanctuary and peace. How can you set free the vulnerable, tender side of yourself?

Rabbits always need a burrow, even a temporary one or a hollow in the brush, to retreat to at night. Make sure you have space and time set aside for your own retreat. Using Brother Rabbit’s example, find a place of peace and nestle into a source of sanctuary.

Staying Alert to Rabbit Meaning

When thinking of rabbits as prey animals we think of how they can freeze or flee when a hawk flies overhead. We don’t associate defensiveness with rabbits spirit animal, but they will fight viciously to save their own lives. Their back legs are very strong and they have sharp claws.

Rabbits are acutely alert to their surroundings and have nearly 360 degree vision. We usually only think of owls seeing 360 degrees, but they have to turn their heads to see what is behind them. The rabbit’s eyes take in their entire surroundings constantly, without having to move their heads. Rabbit’s large ears also allow them to listen closely for predators. Rabbit spirit animal brings the ability to take in the whole of your surroundings and take in threats before the threat sees you.

Like Thumper in the movie Bambi, are you ready to warn the others about what you see? This energy is not about looking out for yourself, but the fulfillment in watching out for the whole tribe and the willingness to sound the alarm.

The Adventurous Spirit of Rabbit Medicine

And, who can forget The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter? Here a rabbit takes on a pioneering spirit much like the rabbits that follow Hazel out of the warren in Watership Down. This is art imitating nature. When buck rabbits mature they are often forced to leave their warren. The bucks wander far afield to establish or join a new warren. Does are regularly forced out, but they simply go to the neighboring warren.

Are you venturing out on your own to explore the riches of the world like Peter Rabbit or escape danger like Hazel? Is the danger out there or within you? Do you find gravitate toward home like Peter Rabbit or toward the unknown like the white rabbit? These are all of the questions that come up when a rabbit hole adventure takes a hold of your life.

It is likely that if you are reading this post that you have already started down the rabbit hole. There is no turning back at this point, but if rabbit spirit animal is accompanying you on the journey, take heart. You have countless tricks to pull out of your hat. You likely have what you need to build a sense of community around you and to sense danger before it comes your way.

 

Want to learn more about spirit animals?
Visit the Spirit Animal Guide