Animal Wisdom: Connecting People and Animals

A blog encouraging deeper relations between people and animals.

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Virginia Carper

Virginia Carper

Virginia Carper, a Roman Polytheist, lives in the Washington D.C. area with her family. She navigates life with a traumatic brain injury which gives her a different view on life. An avid naturalist since childhood, she has a blog called “Nature’s Observations.” Having experienced the animals directly, she teaches on-line classes about the spiritual and natural aspect of animals. She has published articles on her brain injury, Roman polytheism, and working with extinct animals. In addition her writings on animals (including dragons and other mythic creatures) can be purchased her book site, Animal Teachers.  
Slow Loris: Experiencing the World of Smell

The Slow Loris (Nycticebus coucang) moves at a leisurely pace through the forests of Southeast Asia. With her slow and steady hand-over-hand movements, Slow Loris deliberately goes from tree top to tree top. Since She often hangs upside down as well, naturalists first believed that Slow Loris was a relative of the sloth of the Americas. Instead, She is a prosimian, a forerunner of monkeys.

As an omnivore, Slow Loris feeds on leaves, insects and small lizards. Using her keen sense of smell, She hunts at night for insects that are poisonous to many animals. Following the scent trail, Slow Loris tracks the insect. Moving unhurriedly, She sneaks up on her victim unnoticed. Then holding onto one branch with her hind foot, Slow Loris quietly reaches out and grabs her prey with her fingers.

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Periodic Cicada: The Nexus of Time

Right now, my area is experiencing a cicada emergence. I have found these insects to be magical in their own way. Even their singing has an otherworldliness to it.

In the eastern half of North America, Periodical Cicadas from Brood X invade the countryside every 13 and 17 years. Crawling up from the ground, They emerge at once, in May and June, leaving behind their exoskeletons. For a brief month, Male Periodical Cicadas fill the air with a deafening sound, advertising for a mate. These large Insects spend their brief adult lives with only one thing on their minds – mating. When a Female Periodical Cicada is ready, She will “click” to the Males, “Here I Am!” After mating, She lays her eggs in trees. When They hatch, the Offspring will move underground for another 13 to 17 years.

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Warm-Blooded Ones: Friendship and Nourishment

Warm-blooded Ones live on the land, fly in the air, and swim in the sea. What makes these animals unique is that they have a constant body temperature. This enables them to live in cold, hot, and temperate areas. Warm-blooded Ones also give birth to live young (except for the platypus and echidna, who lay eggs). However, all Warm-blooded Ones nourish their children with milk. Their other defining characteristic is that they have hair; even whales sport one or two hairs.

Of all the animal groups, most people feel the closest to the Warm-blooded Ones. People have a natural kinship with these animals, since as humans, we are fellow mammals. Warm-blooded Ones live invited in people’s homes as companions and members of the family. They are raised by people for food, clothing, and shelter. People have been nourished by their friendship with Warm-blooded Ones for ages.

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The Mighty Dead: Toola, the Sea Otter

There are individual animals who have had a profound effect on humans and on animals. Toola the Southern Sea Otter is one of them.

Toola, the first sea otter ever to foster stranded pups, is one of the Mighty Dead. She persevered, in spite of her daily seizures, to pioneer the rehabilitation of sea otters back into the wild. Moreover, Toola inspired important legislation for sea otter conservation. Most importantly, she fostered thirteen stranded pups who now have successfully raised families on their own in the wild. Toola is considered, by many, to be the otter who saved the southern sea otters from extinction in the wild.

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SEA OTTER: Second Chances

When people think “otter”, they often imagine Sea Otter with her cute face, floating on her back, holding a clam. The most aquatic of Otters, Sea Otter spends most of her life at sea. Since She likes to be in the water near the shore, Sea Otter prefers living along coasts instead of the open ocean. During rough weather, Sea Otter will seek shelter in a rocky cove.

Unlike other Otters, Sea Otter will catch fish in her clawed forefeet. Other times, She dives to the sea bottom, snatches a tasty clam, and returns to the surface. Swimming on her back, Sea Otter uses a rock and bangs open the clam on her chest. She eats crabs, being careful not to get her nose pinched.

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Types of Animal Teachers: Introduction

A part of working with animals is learning as much about them as you can. Since common names are confusing, scientists will use taxonomic names for each animal. In taxonomy, animals are separated into various groupings according to their DNA and biological characteristics. Therefore, every animal has a scientific name based on where they fit in the Web of Life. Taxonomy (this scientific classification system) is essentially the animal’s name, rand, and serial number.

Taxonomy aids in understanding how animals are alike and how they differ. Take badgers for example. Honey badger (Mellivora capensis) of Africa, North American badger (Taxidea taxus), and Eurasian badger (Mele mele) are called “badgers” because of their distinctive badger stripe. However, each of the these animals are not directly related to each other except as members of the larger Mustelidae (weasel, badger, and otter) family. From the taxonomic first name, you can see that these various badgers are not closely related. Instead, they are in their own sub-groupings of Meles, Taxideae, and Mellivorae within the Mustelidae. Therefore when consulting “animal totem” dictionaries, check to see which “badger” they are discussing since each have different teachings. Eurasian badgers live in ancient setts (homes) developed by their ancestors, while American badgers, who live alone, dig a hole to stay the night in.

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AYE-AYE: Self-Determination and Magic

Consider how strong Aye-aye's connection is to magic, I am surprised that more Pagans do not know about this amazing mammal.

One of the most bizarre mammals, Aye-aye of Madagascar can frighten people by pointing her spectral middle finger at them. With her large pointed ears, blood red eyes and large bushy tail, She is a figure from a nightmare. Aye-aye looks so supernatural that people on Madagascar believe Her to be capable of great magic.

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