What is an octopus? What are these strange and bizarre creatures? They are a “cephalopod mollusc” with (to the tune of the 12 days of christmas…) four pairs of arms, three beating hearts, two beady eyes, one sharp beak and absolutely no skeleton.
They are very different to us humans and that can make it really hard to understand them, to put ourselves in their many shoes. We also don’t see many of them in our day to day life. At least I don’t!
Let’s start with the arms.
There are 8 of them, which numerologically apparently is linked to balance of material and spiritual needs. Other links to the number 8 include the wheel of the year which has 8 points, it’s considered lucky or holy in some cultures. It is also often associated with infinity, turn it sideways and voila.
There’s a couple of ways of thinking of the arms; as being pulled in many directions or being able to reach in many directions. Are you active or passive in this? Do you have your fingers in many pies? This can be good, you’re hedging your bets, but don’t get stretched too thin.
The arms have up to 300 suckers each which let them taste and smell. They can work together or separately. An obvious metaphor which asks does your left hand know what your right hand is doing. All those different pies you have fingers in, are they cohesive and complementary or are they competing with each other?
Octopuses (yes, that’s correct) can detach tentacles if they need to so they can escape from predators. As we saw with the lizard, this may be asking you to sacrifice something for the greater good.
And the structure.
No skeleton? The octopus is truly spineless. And they use this to get into really small spaces. They are super flexible, agile and adaptable which are great lessons for us to learn in life.
When it comes to defence, the octopus has a few tricks up their numerous sleeves; camouflage, ink, hiding, venom and as we’ve already learnt, detaching limbs.
They are sometimes call the master of disguise, the king of camouflage and you will quickly see why. They can change their colour and their texture very quickly, and if that’s not enough, they can be two colours at once! So they may be half camouflaged because there’s a predator on their right but there’s an octopus on the left that they want to communicate with so the other half might be set to stand out! How amazing is that?! A lot of animals use colour to communicate and to hide but how many can do both at the same time?! This truly blew my mind.
And there is so much metaphorical gold there that I don’t know where to start! Actually, decision made, I’m not going to. I’m just going to leave it there for you to mull over.
Possibly less exciting, they have ink which they can expel to help them hide and to distract the predator. The ink also harms the predators, irritating eyes and messing with their sense of smell and taste. With ink, my mind leaps straight to writing and, for me at least, writing something down is often much easier than talking to someone. Writing lets me get my thoughts straight, figure out the words I need etc and this helps me to stand up for myself. Any self advocacy I do will be done via writing as much as possible.
Octopuses love den building, don’t we all?! They tend to live alone and aren’t very territorial and move around a lot so the den isn’t their home, it’s a temporary safe place and somewhere they can eat their catch in peace. They are built into natural and man-made structures and because the octopus is so flexible, they can have tiny openings. I’ve written before about my craving for small spaces when my mental health is bad and for me there is such a huge sense of security that can be gained from a den. It’s a way of marking out a boundary, it’s a retreat from the world, you can leave things outside and take some time out from your worries. I’m all for den building and if you can, do it!
Whilst most aren’t harmful to humans, all species of octopus have venom but that seems almost an afterthought when we consider the other mechanisms they have to survive.
Aristotle had a low opinion of octopuses, considering them stupid but they are far from it. In the same way we could consider their body strange because it is so different to ours, we could consider their intellect strange. But both are highly developed to meet the needs of the octopus and as such I don’t think we can even begin to try and quantify how intelligent an octopus is.
They are quick learners, possibly able to learn through observation and are curious explorers able to use tools and make decisions. They have been shown to have quite good memories but unlike us, their neurons aren’t all in one place (ours are in our skull – the brain) but instead are also spread through their arms which speeds up processing.
This card asks us to combine flexibility with intellect. To think outside the box. To consider things from a different perspective.
The octopus is often seen as evil and appears as a monstrous creature, such as the Kraken, which attack humans and boats. It has been used to represent Medusa and in Polynesian culture, Kanaloa is the malevolent god of the underworld and is symbolised by an octopus.
On a better note, they appear in some erotic art, all those arms could result in some good sex!