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.  

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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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Guardian Dragons

Usually a younger dragon, who likes to play will want to become a guardian dragon of a human. (Age in dragons is different than with people. They age more slowly.) Being curious, the young dragon often find people fun and intriguing. For these reasons, they enjoy the company of humans. In return, these dragons expect kindness and love from their human companions.

Sometimes, an older dragon will ask a person to mentor a young dragon. Watching her unawares, the older one has decided that the human is mature and steady, the qualities of a good dragon mentor. Although the older dragon will guide her at various times, they expect the human to know that she has the responsibility for caring for the dragon “child.” The person must also remember that in her relationship with these two different dragons, they have placed their trust in her. Both expect to be treated with love and consideration.

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Animal Relationships: Symbiosis

When two animals team up, they may form a beneficial partnership called symbiosis. In symbiosis, the two animals provide something, which the other cannot, for each other. It could be food, protection or eliminating parasites. In many cases, neither can survive without the other. This other animal is in a special relationship with your animal teacher. Therefore that animal is also one of your animal teachers.

For example, oxpeckers ride on a rhino’s back. For allowing the oxpecker to eat insects off his back, the rhino gets and early warning system. These two disparate species work together to help each other. They are a unit to be studied as one animal teacher.

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Animal Relationships: Partnerships

Another aspect of working with your animal teachers is to study the partnerships that they form. Many animals work with others to achieve their goals. In that case, the relationship with the other animal should also be studied. How they work together can aid in your understanding of how you can partner with others.

Various types of animal relationships have lessons to impart. For example, zebras drink at a water hole with wildebeests and ostriches. While the others see danger, the zebras smell danger. Together, the animals provide safety for each other at the communal water hole. This is an example of a community forming from diverse entities for a short duration. This could be something that festival organizers could benefit learning from.

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The Dragon Quest

Going on a quest to find a dragon partner requires intense preparation. Dragons, by nature, have little tolerance for silly people. Moreover, some dragons wish to do humans serious harm. In doing the quest, a person needs to be courageous and wary. Only by intently studying dragons beforehand, can a person find those who are friendly to people.

Be patient, since dragons take their time deciding when to make first contact. Dragons choose mature well-disciplined people to work with. Respect those dragons who simply do not wish to speak to anybody. Be self-controlled, since many dragons are reluctant to mingle with people. Dragons have sensitive temperaments, and will remember any disrespect.

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