Animal Wisdom: Connecting People and Animals

A blog encouraging deeper relations between people and animals.

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Animals and the Divine

Since prehistory, people have desired more intimate connection with animals.  Cave paintings in France and animals carved into the landscape in Peru demonstrate the depth of feeling and intimacy towards our animal relations. Study religious symbols, and you get a glimpse of how close humans’ relationship to animals is.  Moslems call camels, “God’s Gift,” and Incas refer to llamas as “Children of the Great Mother.”  In Christianity, Christ is called the “Lamb of God.”

The religious pantheons of many cultures feature the merging of animals and people.  In Egypt, Bast is depicted as a woman with a cat’s head, while Horus is symbolized as a hawk.  Zeus of the Greeks could transform Himself into various animals for his own purposes. The Hindu God Ganesha is depicted as an elephant, while Cernunnos, the Celtic Lord of the Animals, is shown with a stag’s horns on his head.

 Moreover, many Gods have animal companions.  Athena, the Greek Goddess of Wisdom, has an owl on her shoulder.  The woodpecker is the friend of Aries, the Greek God of War.  Epona, the Celtic Horse Goddess, is usually depicted with her horses.  Mice are sacred to Apollo.

In Christianity, various animals are connected with Christ and the saints.  The Four Gospel writers are represented by a winged bull, a lion, an eagle, and a man.  In a well-known story, St. Francis of Assisi tames the Wolf of Gubbio.  Meanwhile, a dolphin on an anchor symbolizes Christ and His Church, while a dolphin fighting an octopus is Christ defeating Satan.

Animal totems are legacies from our ancestors.  Formerly, clans were associated with animal helpers, who were considered ancestors. People spoke of bears entering their dreams.  Deer and horses, often depicted on cave walls, were buried in a sacred manner throughout Europe. 

 One way of discovering your animal allies is to examine the animals featured in your religious practices. Cats and toads are known as companions of witches. Roman Polytheists have the wolf who suckled Romulus and Remus. In prehistory, cats were connected with the Great Mother. Animals are part of astrology such as Aries the Ram or Cancer the Crab. Whatever your religious tradition, you will find animals who will guide you.

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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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