Animal Wisdom: Connecting People and Animals

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Element of Spirit and Reptiles

Nile Crocodile:

One of the most well-known of crocodiles is the Nile crocodile of Africa, who is a fearsome predator of animals and people.  Ancient Egyptians saw the Nile crocodile as their fearsome God Sobek. An aggressive God, Sobek represented the power of the Pharaoh.  However, He was also their God of fertility and protection. A link to the deep past, the Nile crocodile is respected and feared.  As Sobek, the Nile crocodile is a part of the primal strength of nature. 

Aesculapian Snake:

Found throughout Europe, the Aesculapian snake (Zamenis longissimus) was believed to be introduced in various areas by the Romans.  After transporting this snake in earthenware containers, the Romans released him around their baths and temples.  For them, the Aesculapian snake was a representative of their God of Healing – Aesculapius.

How the Romans associated this snake with Aesculapius is explained one of their myths.  During a plague, they went to Greece to ask for his aid.  Then the God came aboard their boat as a Snake.  When the Romans entered the Tiber River, the Snake left the boat and stayed on an island.  There, the Romans built a temple to Aesculapius to thank Him for his help.  Afterward for the Romans, the Aesculapian snake became synonymous with healing.

 European Adder (Northern Viper):

Known for his “mating dance”, the European adder does ritual combat with other males.  Facing his rival, he will lift the front of his body off the ground.  Swaying from side to side, the two adders wrap themselves around the other.  In a snake version of arm wrestling, each snake tries to force the other to the ground. 

 This ritualized combat became known as “Adder Dancing”.  According to British folklore, on May’s eve, European adders met for a battle royal.  Writhing and hissing, the multitude of fighting snakes covered the battleground with the froth from their battle. Lying in the midst of the battlefield is the “Adder Stone.  The name of this round pale green stone is the “Glain Neidr” (the Glass of the Serpents).  Since this stone contains great power, the possessor of it will be victorious over their enemies.

 Monitor Lizard Sub-Family:

Called “Goannas” in Australia and “Leguaans” in Africa, monitor lizards (Varanidae) are well known to people. Living in urban areas, monitor lizards have a long history with the peoples of Africa, Asia, and Australia.   In fact, Ancient Egyptians call them “Monitors”, since they warned people of the presence of crocodiles.

Monitor lizards have inspired much of people’s mythology such as dragons, which often resemble these lizards. Because of monitor lizards’ aggressive natures, peoples of Borneo put images of them on their shields to strike dread in the hearts of their opponents. In Thailand during the full moon, some unfortunate people became “were-monitors” prowling about for victims. Ancient Egyptians excluded monitor lizards from their afterlife since they preyed on young crocodiles, who represented the Egyptians’ God Sobek. Meanwhile in Australia, stories abound of industrious goannas inventing bark canoes for traveling.

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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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