Mountain lion * Cougar * Puma * Catamount *Florida Panther
There are different names for this feline which depend on where you live. Spanish explorers called it leon (lion) and gato monte (cat of the mountain), hence mountain lion. Puma comes from the Incas and cougar is thought to come from cuguacuarana, an old south American Indian word. The Florida panther is a subspecies of the mountain lion found in swamps in florida and is extremely endangered with about 50 cats left.
As well as their name changing as you range through their territory, so does their colouring. In warmer areas they tend to be a darker, reddish brown and in colder areas, are more silvery grey.
Whatever you call this creature, it’s the largest cat in north America and is found in mountainous regions. It’s solitary and territorial, feeding primarily on wild animals but they have been known to take farm stock which has caused issues.
They are excellent hunters, very patient and can sit still for hours waiting to ambush prey, even killing animals much larger than themselves. They hunt in daytime but still remain elusive, mysterious and invisible, moving through the landscape silently and stealthily. When they have the time, and appetite, they will leave nothing but blood splatter and fur.
Teaching us the importance of patience and silence, the mountain lion may well be an ambassador for meditation.
When they do move, they excel at that as well. They can jump 18 feet from the ground into a tree and have been known to jump the equivalent of a two story building up or down a hillside. They run very fast and can maneuver easily, much like cheetahs, changing direction with ease.
Over and over, when I was researching this creature, I kept coming up against the idea of leadership, something which feels strange when we are dealing with a solitude loving cat. Instead of a dictator style leader, we find the mountain lion cast as reluctant leader, he has the power needed and the physical strength some argue you need but he also has grace and leads without insisting others follow. Instead of creating rules that must be followed, he demonstrates and teaches, and leads, by example. The mountain lion is a quiet leader who defies the common expectations we have of rulers. In doing so, he shows us what it is to step into our own power, to honour (or at times to find) that part of us which may remain hidden. In believing in himself, he becomes powerful in his own way. He follows his convictions and in doing so, he becomes king of the mountain.
As they are solitary animals, they only pair up for the breeding season. During this time, males and females sleep and hunt together for a couple of weeks. The babies will then remain with their mother for the first year, sometimes for the first two years. It is then that they’ll learn how to hunt; mum will teach by example and the cubs will also learn from their own failures. Like the cubs, we too learn through experience. We can read and read and read but we’ll never know how to play tennis unless we pick up a racket. If we never buy any ingredients, all the knowledge we learn watching cooking programmes will never go to use.
They are good mothers and when mum has to leave her babies to go and hunt, she tucks them away in dens and crevices. When preventative protection isn’t an option, the mother will show great strength in defending her children. She is a responsible and loving mother.
“Responsibility is no more than the ability to respond to any situation. Panic is not a part of this sacred medicine.”
– Medicine cards
Despite only coming together to mate, mountain lions leave messages using faeces, urine, scratched logs and other marks. Just because you don’t see someone very often, doesn’t mean you aren’t in touch. Some of my best friends over my life have been people who’ve lived miles away from me. Instead of building or maintaining a relationship based on physical proximity, I have friends who I share interests or experiences with and instead of regular coffees and catch ups, I send them texts, emails, messages and post.
When we looked at the coyote, human wildlife conflict was an important topic to consider and whilst mountain lions share the potential for danger, they don’t often enter human worlds. They do their best to avoid us and when they do, they would rather flee than fight us. Where coyotes encroached on our habitats, mountain lions have shrunk their home as humans have expanded. When Europeans first settled in North America, mountain lions lived from coast to coast. Now they are confined to the west (excluding the small Florida population).
In mythology, we have the stories which display the strength, grace and power of the mountain lion. They are depicted as courageous and in the story of the Wolf, the Fox, the Bobcat and the Cougar, those creatures protected a group of North Americans from some evil beings.
In the story of the puma and the bear, we learn about the importance of preparedness and the perils of cockiness. Bear ran off with Puma’s wife and boasted that he was so strong that he had nothing to fear from Puma and so he didn’t think to prepare for a fight. Obviously Puma won and Bear was killed, Puma’s wife was banished for her infidelity.
Mountain lions seem to have been called on for their skills as warriors, as defenders and as hunters. They have also been associated with healing and in particular, for curing illness caused by witches.
Given their secretive nature, perhaps this is a card that is asking you to seek out what is hidden, or leave well alone. Like much of this card, there is no straightforward, clear cut answer. You must use your intuition and feel your way into it to find your own personal meaning and understanding.