Tag Archives: animals

Cat Friends

The cat is the archetypal witch’s familiar, closely associated with magic and uncanny goings on. Many people see cats as aloof creatures, far less companionable than dogs. ‘Cats have staff’ as the wisdom goes. Certainly, you cannot own a cat, they are too independent and if you do not please them, they will leave if they can. Cats expect to be well treated. However, people who do bond with cats find them incredibly generous creatures. I thought today I’d honour human-cat relationships and share a few good stories.

My cat goes out sometimes, but usually he sits next to me (or on me) while I work, occasionally getting on the laptop. Otherwise, he’s with the child. Coming home from school, James would run to greet his cat, who would run to meet him – an unusual behaviour, but very sweet. In my teens, I had a cat who knew if I was crying, and would come racing down the garden to find me and make it better. My experience of cats is that they give comfort to folks who are in pain, and it often seems deliberate – bedside vigils with the sick, staying close to those who are heartbroken. If a cat bonds with you, it will guard you, and watch over you.

The purrs and puds of a cat are very healing, the soft vibration seems to help with tension and distress, and cats deliver very good massage – especially to painful, menstruating tums, I’ve found. That warm presence, when illness makes you cold, is such a blessing. Cats know how to play and relax, they encourage us to chill out a bit more. Stroking them is soothing, and is a recognised way of easing stress.

Cats are not without issue though – they can have terrible impact on wildlife. (There is a case for housecats, and they shouldn’t be let out at night when they are most likely to hunt). It is important to consider the dirt tray, the food, and any other waste they create, to minimize their environmental pawprints.

Being sensitive to atmospheres, cats will make it known to you if all is not well. A relaxed, happy cat is always a good sign. If a cat is troubled, then things are wrong. You can’t bullshit a cat, you can’t lie to them, they judge you purely on your actions. Treat a cat well and it will repay you many times over, with love and purrs. And possibly also mice, which isn’t so good. Mistreat a cat, and it will leave. Possibly with a chunk of your flesh under its claws.

So, if you have a kitty tale to tell, please do post it to the comments section. Let’s honour and celebrate the fur-babies who give so much.

Talk to the Animals …

If you talk to the animals they will talk with you and you will know each other: if you do not talk to them you will not know them, and what you do not know you will fear. What one fears one destroys.

From Chief Dan George, at the front of Ted Andrews’ “Animal Speak” … how horribly true!

I was set off on this trail by an article about a recently discovered shaman burial in Israel, where a woman shaman was buried with a leopard pelvis. Leopard has always been my totem, it’s been a part of the family crest for centuries, and I first connected with Leopard (the African leopard, Panthera pardus pardus) when I was a wee tad. I adore them!

This is how I see myself …

So I thought I’d go and look at what Ted Andrews says about them in Animal Speak – generally, I like Ted’s work. Ted puts leopards with panthers (jaguars) although they are not the same, jaguar being Panthera onca.  He says they’re loners – indeed! And so am I! – but perhaps the most interesting thing he says is …

“Often people enter the metaphysical field, taking up exercises and meditations to have their inner lights “clicked on”. Individuals with panthers as totems are usually individuals who came into the world with their lights already on.” This is certainly true of me and caused me no end of pain and trouble when I finally decided to “come out” as a shaman. Ted goes on to say, “Thus they should not be discouraged when they do not experience what others describe when their lights are turned on. They should trust their thoughts and their inner visions for there is probably a strong foundation in reality.” Thanks Ted, I could have done with that advice 50 years back J.

African leopard in Kenya

My Dad brought me up to speak with animals … with everything, in fact, including the car, hammers and other tools, loaves of bread, one’s clothes, the house, each room in the house … if folk had known we’d all have been for the straight-jacket if not the stake LOL. I still talk to everything, and I agree with Chief Dan George, everything gets to know me and I them. I’m not afraid of animals, plants, places, mountains, the weather, even things that go bump in the night J. But all around me I see people who are afraid, who cannot understand anything that isn’t human and, often, very few humans either unless they fit in the same box.

Most people call animals “it” although they have gender. They do the same for plants although most of them (excluding ferns and such) have gender too. But we get all hot under the collar if somebody calls our child “it”. I’m afraid I do that as an act of rebellion to everyone who calls animals “it”! Well … I’m not afraid, just sucking up *g*. There is this terrible “them/us” thing going on between humans and everything else, including the Earth herself … have you noticed the daft programmes called “Dangerous Planet” ???

We have destroyed masses of species because of our fear and are heading to destroy loads more as we career along with global warming. And most folk don’t give a damn as long as there’s the “footie”, World Cup, some sort of idiot sport, plus a six-pack and a take-away to slob about on the sofa with. Sheeeeesh !!!

Pic by Scot Stuberg

As a shaman this horrifies me. I cannot get my head around this lack of respect. I cannot get my head around folk thinking we’re separate from everything else. Ye gods, don’t folk realise there’s only so many atoms within the sphere of Planet Earth and we’re all made of them be we leopards, worms, cancer viri, cars, oak trees, cabbages, etc, etc, etc. Every time our body dies all those atoms get reabsorbed into Mother Earth and then come out again as something else. That feels to me like a PhD in the bleedin’ obvious!

Ok, so it’s true at the basic physical, it’s also true at the spiritual levels as well. We reincarnate as everything … every race, colour, creed, shape, form, gender, orientation, as good, bad, indifferent, memorable or (more likely!) infinitely forgettable. We are each other. Even the Christians say this in Cain’s bleat of “Am I my brother’s keeper?”.

For the shaman it’s obvious. One’s first journeys make this quite apparent – if one is willing to look, to actually go there and not fluff off on a pretty pink trip that comes completely out of our own heads.

And we can begin the work, the journeying, by talking to animals … and then listening! That’s pretty vital. If you don’t listen, you don’t hear. And don’t have preconceptions, how the animals talk with you may not be at all how you expect. Why should it be? But they will talk to you, and you will be able to know them, and they you. And so you will lose your fear and recognise your Elder brothers and sisters, spirits who have so much to teach us if only we will stop to listen.

And your lights will turn on really fast once you start listing to the animal.

Elen Sentier

writer artist gardener shaman
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Celtic shaman – Elen Sentier Talk to the animals …

Fur Babies and Familiars

People have lived with animals as companions for a very long time. Certain creatures, we accept into our households as additional family members. Owning a cat is an iconic witchy thing to do as well. If you have no children, or are living alone, a fur baby may seem a good alternative. They give warmth, companionship, affection, they make us feel better, provide an alternative to siblings, create laughter and bring joy.

Why is it that we (as a culture) prioritise some creatures while giving so little regard to others? In Living with Honour Emma Restall Orr points out – “…for the vast majority, the incredible hypocrisy of choosing to care deeply for a dog, while eating bacon without a moment’s consideration for the pig (a generally more intelligent creature who has suffered a life of traumatic abuse), is not only rampant in our society, but perceived to be rational and acceptable.”

In many ways our attitude to animals reflects how we relate to other humans. We choose who is inside the clan, the family, and who is ‘other’ and therefore ok to exploit, eat, etc. It may be part of human nature to be clannish, to distinguish ‘us’ from ‘them’ and have different rules accordingly. That doesn’t mean it’s a thing to celebrate. Looking at how, if and why we relate to some animals as family, and others not, can teach us a lot about our own values.

Keeping pets and raising creatures to eat has environmental impact. There’s a New Scientist  here- http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20427311.600-how-green-is-your-pet.html about the impact pet keeping has. Anyone concerned about carbon footprints needs to also think about the impact of creatures they keep, or who are kept on their behalf. Cats are a disaster for wildlife. Whether hungry or not, many of them hunt, doing horrendous damage to rodent and bird populations. It may be in the nature of cats to hunt, but we keep them in a density that is far from natural, and they deplete the species around them. Animals kept as pets, in cages, for amusement, as living toys… can be ethically uncomfortable too. I write as someone who has kept hamsters. It takes work and imagination to give a caged animal a decent standard of living. Children should not, I think, be given animals as toys.

I keep a cat – he doesn’t hunt, so far as I can tell – he doesn’t go out much and is lazy. He’s taught my child about sharing, and respect, and the effects of pointy paws. These have been good lessons. He sleeps on my bed and I am glad of his presence. I’ve lived with cats who savaged the wildlife. I couldn’t do that again. I would not have taken this cat on had I not been assured that he doesn’t hunt.

As with all other aspects of life, the keeping with animals needs thought and consideration. There’s scope to do it well, or to do it very badly indeed. So much of what is wrong in the world stems from people acting without thought, serving their own immediate desires with little care for long term impact on themselves, much less anything else. How we make our families, who (furry or otherwise) we choose to include, and how we handle that, is of vast importance in terms of how we shape the future for everything that will live in it.

Reconstructing the Fall: A Memoir

It was a rather memorable moment, or should I say – historic? Not that there weren’t any other animals around. There were plenty. All of them named by homo sapiens, my allotted spouse. I wasn’t around during that name-giving process and his first wife, Lilith, had just left, so – just to clear things up – we women had no hand in taking dominion over the living things of the earth.

I made my entrance without preconceived ideas about my fellow creatures and made friends easily, while Adam – that is to say this ‘reasoning’ companion of mine – felt he had to rule them. Being on friendly terms with the other animals gave me access to objective information about the time before I was in Eden. About the two trees and the one rule, and about Lilith and why she left. Lilith’s best friend and ultimate confident was Snake. She was wise and patient, understanding and trustworthy. And I wanted to get to know her, naturally. More than anything else, really.

She was of the most amazing appearance. Her body was of a dark shade of green that seemed translucent, and the golden stripes on her back were like sunbeams on water, images forming and re-forming in ever-changing patterns. Her eyes were as clear as crystals, and just above them there was a golden sign drawn on her skin, powerful and mystical. I saw before me the most beautiful creature I had ever beheld.

Now, you might think you know what happened then but, let me tell you, they got it all wrong. We had a long conversation about life, power and knowledge. Of course we touched upon the subject of making one’s own decisions. From there it was only the tiniest step to eat the fruit.

Leaving Eden was a blessing. My life finally had some meaning – meaning that I myself could attribute to it. Though I never saw Snake again, I knew I would never forget this shining figure’s enchanting voice, and how she uttered the words which led to my freedom. And Adam’s too, by the way. Although he just followed the leader.

© jsmorgane (2003)