Tag Archives: cats

Lions – an excerpt from Grimalkyn the Witch’s Cat

Here’s an excerpt from Pagan Portals – Grimalkyn, The Witch’s Cat: Power Animals in Traditional Magic Paperback by Martha Gray, published by Moon Books 29 March 2013.

Lions (panthera leo)

The second largest of the four big cats – tiger, leopard and jaguar – the only four that can roar and which are thought to have evolved into their class around 1.6 million years ago. They are muscular and stocky, which they use to their advantage in bringing down prey. Lions live in family groups, known as a ‘pride’ and are the only members of the cat family to do so, as the others are generally solitary. The males’ main function, with a thick mane to protect them when fighting, is to protect the pride from outsiders including other lions, while the females do all the hunting and rearing the cubs. Symbolically, the lion represents kingship, strength, courage, honour and valour.

There are depictions of lions all over Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, with the most famous being those of ancient Egypt. The oldest images are the paintings in the Chauvet caves in France showing a lioness hunting, which are thought to be around 30,000 years old; and paintings of two lions mating in the ‘Chamber of Felines’ in the Lascaux caves. While a prehistoric ivory carving of a lion has been found in the Vogelherd cave in Germany.

Ancient cultures used lions to decorate great buildings in order to add majesty to the design, and were widespread throughout Mesopotamia. The gates of Mycenae in Greece also show two lioness-deities flanking a column; while in Turkey, the old Hittite city of Bogazkay, they adorn the walls of the gateways. Persia also used the image of lions on their gates to project the great majesty of their cities.

The Greeks saw lions as having not just the power of strength but also of invincibility. In the myth of the Twelve Labours of Hercules, his first task was to slay the Nemean Lion. The beast’s golden fur was said to be impenetrable by any weapon, while its claws were sharper than any sword. Hercules eventually followed it into its lair and used his club to stun the lion, and then strangled it to death. He tried to remove the skin from the lion by using his knife but this did not work; the goddess Athena told him to use one of the lion’s claws and he was able to take the fur to use as a cloak of invincibility. The Greeks identified the constellation of Leo with the Nemean lion.


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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 …