Stingray: Wild Unknown Animal Spirit Cards


I’m going to assume that you, like me, have a limited knowledge of stingrays. I could probably point them out at an aquarium but when I stopped to think about it I realised I didn’t really know anything about them… I didn’t even know how they relate to the Mantra Ray.

Sting Ray vs Manta Ray

Both are fish and related closely to sharks.  The obvious difference is size; Manta rays are generally much larger than stingrays. The mantas can have up to a 23 foot wingspan whereas large stingrays reach a mere 6 foot in length… Obviously the stingray has a sting. Mantas prefer tropical amd temperate water whereas the stingray prefers warm water.

The body of the stingray is flat and round with a long thin tail whereas the manta ray has a bat-like shape. The manta has a wide, gaping mouth that it uses to gather minuscule zooplankton, its primary food source, as it glides through the water. The stingray’s mouth is located on its underside and features powerful teeth that help it consume crustaceans, worms and small fish.

Ok, so they’re related but quite different.

That exercise in spot the difference was mostly to meet my own curiosity so we shall move on to the stingray with this interesting starter fact:

In ancient Greece, their venom was used as an anaesthetic by dentists

I think that’s pretty awesome although probably not so much for the stringray and given medical history it probably wasn’t a great experience for the patient either…

The sting, as alluded to above, has venom but in general this isn’t a concern for humans. What is much more dangerous is the serated tail; the barbs can rip through organs so you really need to avoid getting swiped by one. Used in self defense, the venom the stingray uses attacks the nerves.

In ancient times, stingrays were very much feared it seems. The Roman, Pliny the Elder claimed that the spine was capable of killing trees, piercing armour like an arrow, and corroding iron. Another claim, this time a Greek poet, says that the venom could dissolve stone. Staying with the ancient Greeks, Hercules lost a finger when he was bitten by a stingray, and Odysseus was killed by a spear tipped with the spine of a stingray. In a few different places from writers of today, I saw the stingray described as “lethal ocean flyers” which should give you some idea of their potential for damage.

That said, they aren’t generally aggressive. National Geographic reports that they spend the majority of the time inactive, hiding in the sands and moving only with the sway of the tide.  I love the idea of swaying with the movement of the sea, it feels very relaxing to me, somewhat meditative.

Remember these are on the bottom of the sea, a place where our most hidden emotions dwell and yet the stingray is calmly resting, just letting things wash over him.  To me, it feels like this card is reminding me that although diving deep into the water realm is good, you don’t have to refeel all the stuff, you can just watch it, note it and make peace with it.

I guess an alternative reading is that the stingray has numbed itself with its venom and is actually not really able to feel the painful emotional stuff…

Stingrays find their prey by hiding on the ocean floor. Generally they feature camouflaged markings which they make even more effective by partly burying themselves under the sand to conceal themselves. Their eyes are on the top of their head and their mouth and nostrils are underneath so they can’t actually see the molluscs and crustateans that they eat. Instead they smell and electroreceptors which we’ll talk about more when we get to the shark. This is an interesting division of senses, especially for humans who do “eat with our eyes”. This hunting approach clearly illustrates their shy and elusive nature, much preferring to blend in.  Just as with the animal world, there are some humans who prefer to blend in and others who prefer to stand out.  And this changes depending on the situation.  Are you more of a camoflage person?  If not, is there some benefit of adopting this approach in certain situations?

If you’ve ever seen a ray in the water, you’ll know just how graceful they are but you probably won’t get a sense of their power. In particular, some species have exceptionaly strong jaws and there is an amazing picture of the jaw of a stingray over on Wikipedia.  Perhaps people are underestimating you, or you’re underestimating yourself?

When it comes to reproduction the mother can hold sperm unfertilised, waiting until conditions are better for giving birth. When they do give birth, the baby stingrays are born fully developed which is pretty awesome really!  I mean think about it, it takes humans many years to become fully physically developed and I’m not sure most of us really reach fully developed when it comes to emotions and such…

I pulled this card in my first reading with the deck and wanted to share the notes I made about what the card was telling me.  Unfortunately I haven’t noted how I got to these ideas:

  • developing confidence and sense of self
  • personal growth
  • wants to grow but needs to move through the discomfort – this could relate to the self numbing concept
  • pulling energy inwards – this is probably related to the lines in the background and Carrie Mallon has a great video about the use of lines in the Wild Unknown Tarot Deck which I’ve linked to before (once vertigo passes I will add the link here)

ps, the spine of the stingray appears to have the colours of the different chakras – I don’t know enough about them to comment and can’t do enough reading to research but if it chimes with you, look into it.

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