Grey Kangaroo: Animal Dreaming

wp-image-505075752jpg.jpg

For general kangaroo info, check out the red kangaroo post.

Grey kangaroos are smaller than the reds and need more predictable climate.  Because they are more abundant that other types of kangaroos, the eastern grey can be “commercially harvested for export” by licenced hunters.

In terms of the keyword abundance, this is similar to how other cultures have viewed the whale and bison.  A gift from nature which provides lots of resources and for which the community is thankful for.  In this case, the grey kangaroo provided meat, pelts, and strong bones for digging.  She is a sign of prosperity and a reminder that earth will look after you if you look after her.  The balance of the planet relies on us taking only what we need.

Red Kangaroo: Animal Dreaming

wp-image-505075752jpg.jpg

First let’s have a quick look at the kangaroo in general.  Then we’ll focus in on the red kangaroo in this post and the grey kangaroo in the next.

Kangaroos are the largest of all marsupials with the red being the biggest.  They can run up to 70mph and can maintain lower but still fast speeds for a long time.  They have strong, powerful hind feet which help them bounce and hop and jump.  Despite all this apparent energy, they are grazers and as such can be perceived as pests by farmers.

The kangaroo pouch gives us a fantastic metaphor to play with.  It is a place of safety, of comfort, of refuge.  A quiet place that lets the joey retreat when the world gets too much, just like a blanket fort!  There is also the sense that this is a place where it would be very easy to overstay your welcome, to get stuck in your comfort zone.

Red Kangaroo

Red kangaroos have a super kidney and conserve water very well – better than greys do.  Indeed the red kangaroo is better adapted to surviving harsh climates than the grey.  They have developed a number of mechanisms to coping with the heat, the water conservation being just one.

Their fur reflects about 30% of heat and saliva licked onto the fur cools their blood.  When they’re moving they sweat but this increases water loss so they don’t sweat when they are still, instead they pant.  They will dig into the hot sand to reach the cooler sands and then they relax into their “nest”.  The males masters of heat regulation have to be particularly careful because the heat can lower their fertility.  To keep their precious sperm cool, they lick their scrotum.  They can also retract their testicles to protect them in fights…

But females don’t have it easy.  They are almost always pregnant and can have three offspring, each at a different stage of development.  There is a newly fertilised egg which is “on hold” until the peanut sized baby stops suckling and moves on to the more familiar joey stage.  Female red kangaroos are essentially just a reproductive factory and this allows for species maximisation in their harsh climates.  As harsh as it sounds, if one dies there are two others and if climate or access to food dictates, one of her young can be sacrificed.  This sounds tough and uncaring but it’s actually a highly responsible thing to do.  If there is not enough food or water for all then surely it’s better to lose one than all?  And if mum continued looking after all her children and producing the milk they need, there is a higher chance she wouldn’t survive.  This brings us to self responsibility.  We tend to think as responsibility as looking after others but ultimately we must look after ourselves first in order to then be able to help others.  We live in a culture which often asks mothers to sacrifice themselves for family but this is not a helpful idea.  We can be responsible for others without losing ourselves.  Being responsible for our own needs does not mean we cannot meet the needs of others.  But be careful, women in particular, often internalise the idea that we must meet the needs of everyone around us.  This emotional work, this keeping everyone else happy, is draining and unnecessary*.

Emotional labor is the exertion of energy for the purpose of addressing people’s feelings, making people comfortable, or living up to social expectations. It’s called “emotional labor” because it ends up using – and often draining – our emotional resources.
Everyday FeminismEveryday Feminism

 


*It is of course deeply engrained in many of us so I’m not suggesting it’s easy to stop but being aware of it is an excellent start and not doing emotional work for people who aren’t important to you is a great second step.

Thylacine: Animal Dreaming

wp-image-505075752jpg.jpg

The most important thing to know about the thylacine is that they are almost certainly exinct.  Also going by the names marsupial wolf and tasmanian tiger, the last known thylacine died in 1936 in a zoo.

They were large carnivorous marsupials which were in competition with the tasmanian devil.  Bigger than the devil, these ghosts are often compared to the wolves of the northern hemisphere in terms of appearance, behaviour and the similar niche they fill in the ecosystem.  This association would be one factor leading to their extinction. They pursued their prey, kangaroos, to exhaustion and found themselves up against the dingo which also eats roos.  In addition to competition for food, the dingoes also posed an immediate threat as it is believed they hunted the thylacine.

The thylacine was a scapegoat, barring the brunt of anything which went wrong on farms. Because of this, they were feared, loathed and hunted.  A relentless persecution was carried out and a bounty was placed on their heads.  This destruction of an animal which had once thrived echoes the severe impact the British had on Australia.

The story of attempts to protect the thylacine are no cheerier. They were finally declared to be a protected species on the same day the last one died, leaving us only with books and a snippet of black and white film.  This sad footage tells a tale of a lonely animal, the last of its kind, a pressure that none of us can know.

Sightings of these mysterious striped beasts continue to be reported in a similar way to those of bigfoot.  Sketchy film and ambiguous accounts fuel conspiracy theories and a cult of believers insist that the elusive animal still lives.  In the context of this card, my focus is less on whether they really are still alive and more about what this belief asks us to think about.  Do we see what we want to see?  Do we see what we expect to see?  How is confirmation bias screwing with our ideas?  What does it say about us when we project the thylacine onto other animals?  Where else are we experiencing a case of mistaken identity?

Dog: Animal Dreaming

wp-image-505075752jpg.jpg

See also dingo as some of the themes will be similar, but with a tamer version for this card.

I find this card to be a bit at odds with the rest of them.  Every other animal is wild and the dog is an icon of our ability to tame.  It possibly doesn’t help that I’m not really a dog person…  In some ways, I find their loyalty annoying… Cats make you earn their love, they have their own mind and their own interests.  Dogs seem so focused on making us happy that they have lost themselves.  Although I can see that man would love a creature which both worships us and can be held up proudly as an example of the power of man…

Their unwavering loyalty may be part of the appeal for some but I like my loyalty to be justified.  I want someone who is loyal to me because they feel justified in it not because they have been breed to and no longer think for themselves…

In case you can’t tell, I’m not really feeling this card.  If you’ve drawn it and want better info, maybe try some of these instead:

 

Dingo: Animal Dreaming

wp-image-505075752jpg.jpg

Dingoes appeared in Australia about 4000 years ago although no one is entirely sure how.  These wild dogs are generally ginger with white feet however their coat adapts to where they live and in desert areas it is more golden and in forests it is more tan.  They prefer live on the edge of forests but will go pretty much anywhere access to water allows.

Unlike dogs, dingoes don’t bark but they do howl.  One dreaming says this is because he ate very hot chillies.  In terms of food, they are opportunistic carnivores, mostly eating mammals such as rabbits, kangaroos and wombats.  They also attack farm livestock, making them unpopular.  Known to stash food, the dingo is prepared for leaner times.  They can be solitary hunters but they can also come together in a pack to hunt.  Like their colouring, this highlights the dingo’s adaptability.  Further, they are physically very flexible as well – they have hypermobile paws and a neck which turns more than 180 degrees.  It is thought that these apex predators may have been partially responsible for the extinction of the thylacine as dingoes were bigger and more adaptable.

Young males are often solitary and nomadic in nature and these seem to be the lens through which the dingo is viewed.  When i was looking into them, I found the words roamer, vagabond and the idea of the dingo as constantly on the move.  However, they tend to have a stable territory and breeding adults sometimes form packs; a mating pair plus some offspring.

Because of their similarity with dogs, I think their wildness hits people harder.  We see something familiar and civilised which then does not act as we perceive it should, leaving us with this emphasised savageness.  Our own clouded vision means this creature is misunderstood.

The dingo is also an excellent tool with which to view the difference between the historical British approach and the aboriginal approach to nature.  Dingoes and aboriginal people lived for thousands of years side by side in balance.  When the British arrived, we bought with us our familiar livestock; rabbits, sheep, cows etc.  In many ways these weren’t suited to the environment and they disrupted ecosystems.  Dingoes did kill sheep and other farm animals and soon found themselves cast out as a malicious hunter who killed for fun not survival.  We insisted our continuing to impose our animals on a land that didn’t welcome them and soon action needed to be taken to control the dingoes.  So we built a large fence.  The dingo fence is longer than the great wall of china and sections off south east Australia. Instead of working with the new land and the animals we found, we fought against them.  We tried to tame the environment we had thrust ourselves into.  We tried to recreate Britain and showed no respect for the world we were in.  This reminds me of the dragon, the European dragon being something that must be slayed, shown dominance over and the Chinese dragon being revered and respected.

 

Sunflowers for the summer solstice

A beam of sunshine

So whilst I’ve been posting my animal dreaming posts I’ve also been working on some plant profiles/plant spirit posts.  They will be coming soon but I felt moved to write and post one on the sunflower today, the summer solstice. Health reasons are keeping me inside during this lovely period of British weather (for once, not a sarcastic comment!) so I may also create some sunflower art today as a way of noting the longest day.

Here and yonder, high and low,
Goldenrod and sunflowers glow.
–Robert Kelley Weeks

The sunflower’s botanical name literally means sun flower and they are used over and over as a symbol of the sun.  In peru, the sunflower was considered an image of their sun god.  In the Rider Waite Smith tarot, the sun card includes a sunflower.

The most well known type of sunflower are tall, bright flowers with strong stems and ray like petals.  These are happy looking plants which are often grown by children.  As the plants grow, they turn to face the sun, tracking with it as it moves across the sky.  This stops once they have bloomed and they generally face east as mature flowers, welcoming the sun each morning.  We too, should look to the light, literally and figuratively.

There is something so beautiful and wondrous about the sunflower, there is nothing being hidden by them, they are what they seem.  This isn’t to disparage them and suggest there are no hidden depths, more to acknowledge the confidence required to put your authentic, full self on display.

They have been cultivated for over 5000 years and are grown both for their beauty and their usefulness.  Their abundance of seeds, considered a sacred food by some north american tribes, can be eaten raw or roasted, they can be ground into a flour for making bread.  They can be used as bird feed, to grow more sunshine and they are rich in useful oil.  The oil from the seeds can be used for cooking as well as to moisturise skin and hair.  Flowers can be used to make yellow dye and the seeds apparently produce a blue or black dye.  The stems of the plants do not go unused and are fed to cattle and used as fuel.  All of the sunflower is used to create in one way or another.

In flower giving lore, to give someone a sunflower says “my eyes see only you”, in the same way that the sunflower sees only the sun, the giver sees only the recipient.  I suspect most people would see this as a romantic gesture but for me it feels a bit too intense… Whilst the light of the sun is vital to us and whilst I am an advocate of looking to and for the light, I do not want only the sun.  Without the moon I would become unbalanced.  In the same way, being admired so singularly would overwhelm me and leave me feeling cut off from others.  If the sunflower has been gifted to you, by another person or by the universe, it may be time to look at your relationships.  We cannot be sustained and entirely ourselves if we rely on one person or relate primarily with one person.  We are many faceted beings who turn to different people for our needs.

Sunflower

A while back I asked myself, what does the sun mean to me, and this feels like a potent time to think about that a bit further.  For me, whilst I resonate more with the moon, the sun has a major impact on my wellbeing.  I experience Seasonal Affective Disorder so am quite sensitive to the light levels, or lack thereof.  The sun can also bring with it warmth which can help my pain levels but worsen my other conditions.  Despite that, I would much rather be warm than cold!  The sun, to me, is a powerful being, creating and sustaining life, providing us with fuel.  So powerful is the sun that it creates our seasons.  It is the base of all life, our life force.  It feels like an assertive, intense entity which brings clarity and visibility.

The sun is associated with the astrological sign of Leo and the traits of this sign echo some of what I have already said.  It is bright, fiery, passionate, out there, cheerful and expressive.  There is a sense of dominance, you cannot easily hide from the sun.  In many cultures, not all, the sun is a masculine figure with the moon as the feminine.

We owe a lot to the sun but like anything, there is a necessary balance.  The gravity of the sun keeps us in orbit but too much pull or too little would throw us out of balance.  The sun warms us and creates life but can also burn us and destroy.  Do not underestimate this powerful star.

How are you paying homage to the sun on this, the longest day?


None of the above should be considered medical advice, do not eat anything unless you’ve done your research.  Plants go by different names in different places and have different properties at different times of year.  Some of the possible uses of this plant have come from folklore and should not be taken as fact.

Tasmanian Devil: Animal Dreaming

wp-image-505075752jpg.jpg

When the Europeans came across the Tasmanian devil, they were horrified by it’s red ears and high pitched squeal and tales of a ferocious beast with huge fangs were spun. Despite being carnivorous marsupials, they developed a reputation which far exceeded the reality.

As the devil is a black, stocky animal with a bad smell, it is perhaps not surprising that they aren’t popular.  They have the strongest jaw to body weight of any animal and a feisty attitude to match.  When they are threatened, they become aggressive and this has added to their persecution.  These tenacious beasts encourage us to stand up for ourselves, to own our personal power.

Historically they have been maligned and seen as a pest.  Other dangers include being hit by cars, being attacked by dogs and falling into old mine shafts.  Despite perception, the devil is shy, living mostly in the shadows of the night.

Whilst they are nocturnal, they are thought to be most active in the transition times; dusk and dawn.  To help them find prey in the dark, they use their long whiskers, fantastic hearing and excellent sense of smell.  In terms of vision, it is thought that their sight is strongest at seeing black and white and that they see moving objects more clearly than still ones.

In terms of diet, devils prefer to scavenge, eating virtually everything and aren’t very efficient predators.  Whilst they are solitary creatures, they do come in contact with other devils at carcasses.  This role in the ecosystem, keeping the environment clean, is akin to that of the vulture.  Both help to purify their habitat, getting rid of rubbish and ensuring that bacteria and contagions are under control.