Swan: Wild Unknown Animal Spirit Tarot Deck

This post will focus primarily on the white swan as when I get onto my Australian animal cards, there is a black swan.

“I have looked up on those brilliant creatures.
And now my heart is sore….
….
The bell-beat of their wings above my head,
Trod with a lighter tred.
Unwearied still, lover by lover,
They paddle in the cold”
– W B Yates, The Wild Swans at Coole

If you’ve never had much do with swans, you’d probably agree with Yates’ description of them as mysterious and beautiful.  As someone who lives in a city of ducks, geese and swans, I’m telling you they are vicious.  They are highly aggressive, especially when parenting.  There is a claim that they can break a mans arm and I fully believe it.  These are strong birds.  They are big and they are violent.  Do not let their graceful, angelic appearance fool you.

Swans mate for life (unless one of the pair dies or occasionally divorce occurs) and this follows on from an elaborate courtship.  The two potential mates dance and check each other out.  As they do so their long sleek necks come together to form a heart shape.  Because of this, their fidelity and their whiteness they are often used as a symbol of pure love.  They are a sign of commitment and constancy.

The tranquil swan appears to float through life without any troubles which can invoke jealousy in others.

When it comes to mythology and folklore it’s hard to know where to start!

Beginning in England, we see the swan as a royal bird.  The queen owns all the swans and this tradition may go back to 1100 or before.  During the Swan Upping, people go up and down the Thames counting the swans.  You are not allowed to hunt or kill swans, possibly going back to a belief that they were tasty and thus reserved for royalty only…  Either way, the idea of the swan as a regal bird persists.

A bit further afield, in Ireland, there is a legend which tells of a stepmother turning her children into swans for 900 years.  Another story, The Wooing of Etain, describes how a king of the underworld transformed himself and his partner into swans to escape the king of Ireland and his armies.

In Northern Europe, we see the swan associated with Freyr and tales of swan maidens were well known.  The swan apparently gained it’s white colour because two of them drank from a sacred well which held water so pure and holy that it turned everything that touched it white.  In Finland, we see a swan living in the realm of the dead and a belief that anyone who killed a swan would die.

The swan is credited swan with spinning the thread of thought in one of Hans Christian Anderson’s fairy tales, The Swan’s Nest.  Possibly better well known though is the ugly duckling, a story which reminds us of our own true beauty which lies within and which can be hard to find in such a society as ours.

Moving now to ancient Greece, we find the story of Leda and the swan which led to the birth of Helen of Troy.  The swan is one of the sacred birds of Apollo, was a symbol of Aphrodite her Roman equivalent Venus, both goddesses of love.

 

Heading finally to the east, the Japanese have a story of a swan angel.  The swan is a vehicle of Brahma, the Hindu god of creation which we will talk about in relation to the tarot deck below.  There is also a belief that swans embody intellect, purity, good judgement, skill, grace, knowledge and creativity.  They epitomise the idea of non attachment – being in the world without getting attached to it – as the swans feather does not get wet even when in water.

It was believed that mute swans (a type not a description) only sang when they were dying and their song would be beautiful.  This is where we get the phrase swan song.

Wild Unknown Tarot Deck
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Swans are used in the tarot deck to represent the court cards of the cup suit and the fool may or may not be a baby swan.

The cups, as well as representing emotion and relationship and love, are used as a sign of creativity.  Indeed I don’t know many people who would say that creativity and feelings are not intimately connected.

To me, the swan feels a bit like a finished piece of creative work.  It is the painting that conceals the tears that went into it, the poetic masterpiece that hides the torment of the poet.  The swan appears graceful, tranquil and yet I’m sure they have their share of tough stuff.  I don’t think we should hide our emotions.  I think we get into a lot of trouble when we do.  I do hide my emotions, of course I do, but I don’t think we should strive for that.  Instead the message here for me is to recognise that others hide their emotions and difficult experiences as well and you can’t judge someone based on what you see.  Like with the ugly duckling story.

Taking this idea and using it to look at the tarot cards, we see swans in different stages of life.  The fool, if it is a swan, is very much a baby.  A vulnerable new born setting out into the world, the fool has yet to even start to think about their creative masterpiece.  Next we have the daughter who is a little older, she’s finding beauty and rainbows in the world and the water she plays in is calm.  The son is a bit older again, wiser, he is starting to pull together the beauty and the rainbows and gather them together to use in his creative masterpiece.  He’s starting to feel more intensely and starting to figure out his own place in the world.

Mother is a full grown swan.  Gentle and aggressive.  She protects her creative and loving energy with her wing but she does not constrict it.  This is the stage in our creative masterpiece where the work itself is doing something magical.  We’ve gathered inspiration as the daughter, collected our tools as the son and now something wonderful is happening to turn it into our masterpiece.  The father is content, he has created his work, he is showing the world his calm, reflective, effortless pose.  The intense emotional and creative process has climaxed.  And looking just at the outcome, the father, the painting, the poem, you wouldn’t know the depth that went into it.

I think it’s interesting that the father card is of a black swan when the rest are white swans.  When I look at the black swan later, this may help shed some light on this tarot card.

As always, for more information about the Wild Unknown Tarot cards, check out Carrie Mallon.

Shark: Wild Unknown Animal Spirit Deck

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The shark is a fish, so it is worth having a look at that card as well.  

Whilst we are familiar with a few key species of shark – the tiger shark, the hammerhead, the mako shark etc – there are actually over 500 species which range from 17cm long to 12m.  I recently read an article about the great white shark.  It covered lots of technical info but the bit that stuck with me was the duality of appearance that they drew my attention to.  From the side, they can appear comical, clown like.  And then when they turn and face you, they are, without any doubt, menacing.  I loved this.  Sharks have a really bad reputation as fierce, heartless killers but really, especially compared to humans, they’re pretty gentle and ethical killers.  Unlike us, they kill to survive.

Sharks have been described as killing machines and whilst that is a very one sided perspective, it is true.  The shark, like other apex predators, has evolved to be an efficient hunter.  They are streamlined and fast with excellent manoeuvrability.  Despite our fear of shark attacks, they are actually elusive creatures who are likely to only attack people if they are threatened or they mistake the human for a seal.  Think about it, the shark will see the person and the seal from underneath, as a shadow against the surface of the water and in certain positions, they look the same.  This does give us some insight into the nature of the shark – they are action orientated, act first, think later.  If there’s something you feel you should do, do it, do it now and don’t overthink it.  Follow your gut.

I think some people probably associate the shark with anger, with uncontrolled temper, with pure fear. But they aren’t like that all the time.  On one side they are killers, they do strike fear into prey.  But there is another side to them.  Like most big sea animals, they are a bit like a moving, living ecosystem.  Little fish actually swim into the mouths of sharks – they help the shark out by cleaning their teeth, eating parasites etc.  And the shark does not eat them even though they could and would in other situations.

It feels like actually, the shark, if you consider it to have a temper, has a very controlled one.  It can say to the cleaner fish, yes now is a good time, I’m in a good mood, I’m not hungry, come on in.  And conversely, it can say no, not now, go away, not right now.  This feels like it would be a really good skill for us.  How much easier would it be if we could recognise and easily communicate when we need to be left alone.  There is a common reaction that if someone wants you to leave that you’ve done something wrong but the shark shows us that you will probably be welcomed back with open arms.  It’s just about timing.

As I’ve said, they are not gratuitous killers, instead killing when they need to eat.  I think humans probably kill more than we eat because of fears around scarcity.

“Scarcity thinking says that there will never be enough of anything – love, food, energy, power – so we must hoard or conditionally offer and withdraw, what we have… Abundance thinking says that together, we have enough of what we need, that there is enough for all of us if we recognise our essential interdependence.” – Autumn Brown

The shark has overcome this difficult relationship with scarcity and abundance with an internal rationing system.  This means they can delay digestion when food is scarce so they are really planning for the future, putting something aside for a rainy day as it were.

Let’s have a look at a few facts and bust some myths…

  • Their teeth are continually being replaced. True.  Keep your tools sharp, keep your skills fresh.
  • They can smell blood from far away which led to the belief that sharks could sense if a death was imminent.  True.  Sailors believed that seeing a shark would mean someone on board would die.
  • They have to keep moving or they’ll sink.  False.  However some species do need to keep moving in order to keep breathing and are able to sleep whilst swimming.
  • Sharks are loners.  False.  Some species are but most are social animals and even solitary sharks meet up for breeding and in rich hunting grounds.
  • Sharks are speedsters.  True and false.  It varies between species but they travel at an average speed of 5mph.  They can reach higher speeds, an average of 12mph, in short bursts. Like the cheetah, this isn’t a marathon, it’s a short sprint.
  • Sharks migrate.  True.  They have complicated migration patterns that we don’t know much about.  They travel great distances and manage 45 miles a day.

As I mentioned in the stingray post, sharks and rays can detect the electrical pulses given out by living beings through senses on their skin.  Have a look at this video for more info about how this works:

This extra-sensory experience of the world, plus the belief that sharks could predict death, has led them to be linked with clairsentience (psychic feeling or touching) and clairolfactus (psychic smelling).  The shark is asking us to tune into our senses, tune into our intuition, tune into our emotions and what our body is telling us.  Trust these ways of knowing to help you navigate the deep seas of your soul.

And I do mean deep.  Sharks are deep divers, common down to 2,000 metres.  This primitive, instinctual animal is comfortable in the dark waters of our emotions.  Perhaps we need to strip back part of ourselves, our logical, modern mind, and instead approach our inner self in a more intuitive, more primal way.  Feel our way through and not worry about how we put what we experience and see into language.

Sharks are often demonised; the Western view of sharks has been that they are malevolent, dangerous and evil.  A clear example of us fearing what we don’t understand.  And not making much effort to get to know what we don’t understand.  Instead, we make a decision about the nature of a thing and perpetuate myths and beliefs about it so we don’t have to challenge our own thinking.

As we saw with the panther, there is a difference between revering and respecting an animal and just being blindly afraid.  Sharks and shark gods are prominent in Hawaiian mythology.  One of these, Kamohoali’i, would guide lost sailors home and could take the form of any fish.  Both Hawaiian and Polynesian mythology tell of the shark as a resting place for the soul and in a similar vein, the Fijian shark god Dakuwaqa would eat lost souls.

When you’re looking at the shark, try and see the duality, try and see this duality in yourself as well.  We are not clear cut beings.  We are predators and prey.  We are killers and creators.  We are graceful and we are vicious.

Otter: Wild Unknown Animal Spirit Deck

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Otters are awesome!!!

To get us started, and into the mindset of the otter, let’s kick off with a video!

To a certain extent, that says everything I could say… Otters are amazing, playful, curious, intriguing creatures.  They are joyful, caring, graceful and delightful.

“The joyful, keen and fearless otter; mild and loving to his own kind, and gentle with his neighbour of the stream; full of play and gladness in his life; full of courage in his stress; ideal in his home; steadfast in death; the noblest little soul that ever went four-footed through the woods” – Ernest Thompson Seton

These fantastic animals tumble through the water with grace and playfulness.  This sense of play coexists alongside the stormy waters that otters do face.  They are prey for other animals, they have to deal with finding their own food, they have been hunted by humans and are facing habitat destruction, polluted waters and so on.  But they know the healing value of play and joy and love.  The card seems to show the otter in a lovely bubble of light and happiness.  Whilst we can’t live in that bubble all the time, it’s nice to have it to retreat to from time to time.  Have a think about what your bubble is like?  How can you get inside it?  Why not actually blow some bubbles?  There’s something wonderful and delightful about doing it.

Whilst not all otters live in groups, some do.  The smooth coated otters are the most social of otters and they maintain close bonds through group rubbing and play (I’m running out of synonyms so the word play will have to do!).  They make delightful squeaks and yips as they frolic.

These are land animals which returned to water and are clearly at home there.  They are agile, graceful swimmers and highly energetic.  Their flexibility comes in handy as they need to be able to reach all over their body to groom their fur.  These supple creatures move freely between the elements of water and land, between the emotional and practical, at home with both.

One documentary narrator commented that they seem to have two speeds – on or off.  Action or rest.  And it’s important to get the balance right with that.  And that balance will be different for different people.  For me, if I’m going to have a day trip, I’ll need to rest at least the day before and the day after.  That is my balance and having chronic pain and fatigue really helps you tune into that.  Balance here could also be between land and water.  Between work and play.  Otters have to actively hunt for their fish but they also make water slides.  They work hard and play hard.

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I think this card is a river otter but we’ll have a look at sea otters whilst we’re on the topic of otters.  Sea otters have the thickest fur on the planet which keeps them nice and warm but makes them a target for hunters.  They need this fur for warmth but it’s not so much the fur itself that protects them from the cold sea water.  The fur traps air which acts as insulation and this also means the super furry babies bob on the surface!!!  When you see sea otters rolling over in the water, this is sometimes to get rid of crumbs, they do eat off their tummies, but also to trap air in their fur.

You may also know that sea otters hold hands or wrap seaweed around themselves and this is to tether themselves so they don’t drift out to the middle of the ocean whilst they take a nap.  Holding paws reinforces the idea of the otter as a loving, caring creature and also suggests a problem solving approach.

Otters are linked with selkie myths as well as other tales of shapeshifting.  If you’ve ever seen an otter dancing, twirling, twisting and being one with the water, you’ll know how easy it is to imagine them shapeshifting.  Which is interesting as they seem so completely at home in their bodies.  Perhaps it is only when we are truly one with ourselves that we are free to explore other bodies?

In folklore they are generally helpful and friendly, bringing food to those who need it and warming cold feet!

The otter really is asking how you can bring more joy and more play into your life.  I hope you find a way to embrace your inner child.

Grounding

In her awesome newsletter Beth, from Little Red Tarot, asked her subscribers what grounding means to them.  As she explains, we hear a lot about grounding and how we need to do more of it and isn’t grounding awesome.  But what does that mean?  What does it look like?

 

I thought it was a really interesting question and the vertigo continues so perhaps pondering grounding will help with the head spinning dizziness…?

Grounding to me feels like a way of coming back to yourself, to the moment, to the time and place you are in.  But what does the dictionary have to say?

  • Grounds: the foundation or basis on which a belief or action rests; reason or cause
  • To ground: to lay or set on the ground.
  • To ground: to place on a foundation; fix firmly.
  • To ground: to instruct in elements or first principles. (to ground a students knowledge)
  • Grounding: the act of connecting a conductor, or exposed conductive parts of an installation, to the earth. (as used in electricity)

There were lots of other options but these felt most fitting for my idea of grounding.  For me, there is an essence of returning to basics, of going back to the foundation or reestablishing a foundation.  There is also something about the electrical definition of grounding that I find resonates very strongly with my concept of it.  A sort of way of channelling something, for example anxiety, through my body and into the earth.

Grounding is a way of me reconnecting with the earth and feeling secure and supported and held and nourished.  It is a way of going back to the core of my being and renewing myself in some way.  Grounding may help me feel more energetic, it may help me feel calmer, it may help me feel more connected, it may help me feel more stable.  If my head is all over the place, grounding helps me feel stronger, more focused and clearer.

I also do a lot of work around grounding myself in time.  As regular readers will know I have a chronic illness and have had to retire which leaves me with a very different routine and a very different sense of time.  It also means that some of the ways other people use to ground themselves won’t be applicable for me.  Generally I need things to be quick as I get uncomfortable and have brain fog and am easily distracted.  They can’t involve much movement or planning and generally not very tool based.

So let’s have a look at what I do do.  I use a variety of techniques to ground myself in time:

  • Saying out loud “I am Helen <middle name and surname>.  It is <time> on <date including year> and I am in <town>.”  My mental health support team said this would a useful way of bringing yourself back if you have flashbacks.
  • Rituals around the moon phases help tie me to the passing months and rituals around the wheel of the year help tie me to changing seasons.  This will look different for different people but an important aspect for me is nature as this really helps me to see where we are in the year.  For wheel of the year points, I am currently taking a photograph of the same tree and seeing how it changes and this is tuning me in with nature.
  • In an ideal world I would eat a lot more seasonally that I do right now, again this is connecting me to where we are in the year.

For grounding myself in the moment, and by extension in place:

  • Really simple five senses inventory; what can I see, smell, hear, taste, touch.  Preferably spoken out loud,
  • Getting my bare feet on the ground (harder than it sounds for me!).
  • Three deep breaths.
  • Visualising the ground supporting me or visualising being a tree and feeling the strength that they get from the physical ground.  I like to include the earth in grounding visualisations as I’m sure many people do.
  • Drawing a tarot card and using that as a focus point.  I do this with flames as well as crystals and for me it’s the act of getting out of my head and focusing on one small thing that I find grounding.

Grounding also draws a line under something.  So if I have a horrible meeting or have had to deal with someone I find challenging, grounding helps me mark the line between that and now.  It doesn’t get rid of crap feelings about the thing but it acts as a reminder that I am no longer in that situation.  Sort of how some people use the journey home from work to transition between work and home mode.

I also find I need to ground myself in my physical body.  I have a history of disassociating and part of my physical health condition leaves me feeling a bit unsure where my limbs are.  It’s hard to explain but if you’re really interested, look up poor proprioception.  I often describe is as not being able to feel my edges.  I don’t have a good sense of where my body ends and the world starts which triggers my anxiety which just makes the feeling worse.  Sometimes my edges are clearer, sometimes they feel almost non existent.  It is at these times that grounding myself in my physical body is important.  I will do a lot of the above – not feeling in your body makes it hard to feel where you are in time and space as well.  I will also physical feel my edges with my hands if I can.  Applying pressure to my skin helps and this could be blankets or teddies.  I visualise myself wrapping bandages around my entire body, bit by bit.

What does grounding mean to you?  How do you ground yourself?  Sign up to Beth’s newsletter to hear a round up of what her readers think!

My day in strangers 

I’m good at people watching and my flat is helpfully located for such things.  And the vertigo means I have been spending a lot of time staring out of my window.

There are the people you only see once.  There is a doctors surgery across the road and you can tell who’s hardly ever been by their slight confusion about where to go.  And their inability to get out again – it says the door is automatic but for exiting, you have to press a button which isn’t intuitively placed.  I see so many people pushing and shoving the door and getting frustrated and confused. I mentioned this to the receptionist once, suggested they put up a sign, they still haven’t.

There are the people who work in the doctors and the doctors themselves.  There are the regular patients.  The people I think I know but don’t.  I actually said hello to one of these once because I thought we had met before.  We hadn’t.  I only knew her through my living room window.

As I type, the really awful doctor is parking up.  She is as bad at parking as she is at medicine.  She has a small car which she regularly bumps as she does a ten point turn.  She parks on double yellow lines and over drop kerbs, preventing access to the surgery she works in.  She has left her car lights on twice in the year I’ve lived here and bumped someone else’s car once that I’m aware of.

Then there are what I consider the locals.  The people who I see regularly, who aren’t here for the doctors.  The people who must live or work around here.  People I feel I know but who have never or rarely seen me.  I live in a bubble.  I do not claim these strangers as friends but I do feel some sort of comradeship with them.

And it is these people that I am memorialising today.  As the day passes, I will add my word portraits to this post and celebrate the strangers who keep me company in my illness.

A tall, stringy man walks past, dirty and ragged but with a bounce in his step.  He is normally alone and normally carrying something; a plank of wood, a metal pole, a carrier bag filled with who knows what.  Today though he is empty handed and talking to a woman I don’t recognise.

A bearded man bound up in layers and a woolly hat.  His tan coloured dog wanders, leadless, ahead of him.  There is something rough and ready about both of them and also an air of gentleness.  The dog is never on a lead and sometimes it strays far ahead of the man but never too far.  There is a trust between them, a bond.

It’s raining and cold and dark and as such it’s a bit of a slow day in terms of people watching…

Dogs seem to feature heavily in my people watching.  There is a woman who pushes her dogs in what appears to be a special dog pram.  There is a dog in the dog pram and a dog in a plastic box on top of the dog pram.  The one in the box has black curly fur and wears a little collar that lets people know he is blind.  Today he was also wearing a bright pink coat.  Sadly I only saw the tail end of this group as they went past when I popped to the toilet!  Sometimes the woman is on her own with the dogs but more often, like today, there is a man with her.  I think they are at an early stage in their retired life and seem incredibly committed to the dogs.  It makes me sad to think that there are these two dogs who can’t walk who get taken out at least once a day and there are two dogs who live upstairs who can walk who hardly ever get taken out.

It is getting on for lunch time and I haven’t seen one of my regulars yet.  I am fairly certain he lives alone and I do worry a little for my tribe of strangers.  The one I’m thinking of has a wild mop of dyed astringant red hair and is pulled along by his two black and white collies.  The dogs walk the unsteady man everyday, several times a day.  He feels chaotic, his untamed hair flies in the wind.  His clothes are scruffy and he appears unkempt and uncared for but again, his dedication to his dogs is amazing.

The slightly hippy looking man who also looks like he could easily be a boxer or something has just gone past with his boxer dog.  There is an element there of looking like ones pet… Both are stocky and big and tough looking.  Well built.  Strong and made of muscle.  He was in his regular clothes, a loose shirt, possibly shorts – I couldn’t see but he normally wears shorts.  Sometimes I see him in a royal mail uniform, not the one that post deliverers wear though.

I feel far more connected with my postman than I’m sure he feels to me…  He has close cut hair, greying stubble and a friendly smile.  He parks his post trolley thing opposite my flat and quietly gets on with his work.  There is something very reliable about seeing him at roughly the same time most days and it’s also a cue for me that lunch is soon.  I feel like if I needed help, like opening a bottle, I could ask him…

I’m sure that not all of my strangers have dogs but I guess the walking of them explains why they are such regulars – my flat is near a park where I expect most of them are heading to and from.

No need to panic, the wild haired collie owning guy went by whilst I was eating my lunch.

The woman with her pram has a far less energetic pet.  She slowly walks the baby and the wiry old dog.  Sometimes her partner accompanies her, sometimes a friend and her baby.  Sometimes it’s just the partner with his baby strapped to his chest trying to get the dog to go at a faster pace.

It’s been a slow day in terms of people passing by but the man and the leadless dog from this morning are back.  Meandering slowly past, the dog keeps running into my view and then looking back to see where his friend is.  He then disappears from my window, presumably heading back to the man, before returning again.

Written Monday 24th April.

 

The power of choosing

I found the following post in my drafts.  I thought I had posted it but maybe not.  Sorry if I have done already!

We make millions of choices in our lives, from which socks to put on (or even whether to wear socks) to which job we go for to who we live with.  Not everyone has access to all these choices.  Sometimes circumstances take them out of our hands.  Sometimes the choices we have aren’t good ones and you have to choose between bad and less bad.

And this is why, for me, it’s important that we consciously choose where we are able to.  The alternative is going with the flow, being a victim of circumstance, having things done to us, taking on a passive role.  And so the reverse, that is making choices consciously, brings us power.

There is power is in our choices.

When it comes to the big things, you’ll often find everyone has an opinion and these decisions are much more obviously a choice with consequences, good or bad.

When it comes to the day to day however, it’s so easy to just float along. spend hours watching whatever comes on the tv or keep clicking links through facebook and on into the web of the internet without really choosing what you look for.  Do something just because you always do it.  Reacting to things which happen to us.

We do not have the choice to not make a choice.  Bear with me.  What I mean is we can choose to live without making choices, letting the tide sweep us along etc but to do so is a choice (although one which removes the need for future choices).  Essentially you’ve giving up all your power and saying that the ocean can do what it wants to you.  The alternative is that we actively choose, and that choice might be to keep things as they are but by consciously choosing, you are owning your ability to change that choice in the future.

Say you’re in a rubbish job.  You can choose to be a victim of it and give up all your power by declaring you have no choice.  You can choice to leave the job.  You can also choice to stay in th job.  This is different to the first option.  This option means you have considered things, you are aware that you can change your mind and look for other jobs in the future when it might be a more appropriate time.

You cannot not choose.

To do nothing is a choice.  And there are many times when this is a good choice adn the right one for you to make.  But be conscious as you chose it.

With great power comes great responsibility… and when it comes to choices, this means owning the consequences.  Things may be tough or painful because of a choice you’ve made but accepting responsibility for it means keeping your personal power.  Playing the victim, erasing your part in things, is one of the easiest ways to denounce your power.

“I have to…” is probably one of the most common ways that we regularly give up our power.  And this is where the bad and less bad options are probably at play.  “I have to go to work” isn’t really a ‘have to’.  But you probably aren’t fond of having no money, no food, no home etc.

The words we say to ourselves, and others, create the world we live in, our world view and our approach to life.  “I choose to…” or “I will be…” reframes the situation.

“I don’t have a choice” invalidates what you are choosing.  If you don’t believe you have a choice whether you do your specific job or not, you cannot choose to leave.

Frog: Wild Unknown Spirit Cards

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Did you know that 29th April is Save the Frogs day? If not, check out my post over on my the day of what series… (being published on 29th April).

Frogs are found living in fresh water and on land as we all know but there are also a few who live underground or in trees.  Such as the tree frog!  I had a quick look on google but I couldn’t decide what frog this is (again, vertigo is a hinderance… it might be a pacific tree frog), please shout up if you know.

Frogs have stout bodies, protruding eyes, a cleft tongue and no tail.  They fold their limbs under their body, hiding their powerful legs.  Frogs are fantastic jumpers, according to wikipedia the striped rocket frog, a mere 5.5cm can leap over 2 metres.

Whilst frogs are well known for the jumping ability, it’s their skin which amazes me.  They shed their skin every few weeks, who knew?!  The skin, once shed, is then eaten by the frog which seems pretty resourceful.  If you’ve put a lot of nutrients and energy into making your skin, why not reuse them? And actually, frogs are apparently really good at turning food in general into body mass.  Anyone who knows me, knows I love efficiency so I find this fantastic!  Bring more efficiency into life folks!

Their skin is awesome in more ways; it secretes chemicals, some of which are toxic.  They are sometimes talked about as having a pharmacy on their back and indeed the chemicals on some frogs’ skin have important, or potentially important, medical uses.  One frog secretes a potent painkiller which is stronger than morphine and another type secretes poison which is used to make poison darts.  Research is also being carried out to see if the chemicals secreted by a particular frog may be helpful in treating HIV.

They use their skin to absorb water which makes them very sensitive to their environment and changes within it.  There can be so many toxins in the water which can affect their health and they have no way of avoiding it really.  One example I came across was the hormones in birth control pills.  Some of these pass into the water system through urine and they can cause birth defects to frogs.

Please don’t read this as you need to get rid of all the chemicals in your life – chemicals are our life.  Water is a chemical.  Salt is a chemical.  Everything made of matter is a chemical.  But you can be more mindful about which chemicals you interact with.  Think back hundreds of years – women wore lead on their skin for beauty and it killed them.  If you have a cold, don’t reach automatically for the antibiotics.  Note, I am on a million meds so I’m not at all anti medication, but again I think a conscious awareness of using them rather than habitual unthinking is best.  I feel that the frog card is just asking for us to pay attention to our environment and our bodies and what we put into both of them.

Frogs can pass oxygen through their skin which means they can respire in environments where they cannot breath conventionally.  However, this is only possible if their skin is moist and it is this which ties the frog to water.  So the frog in the picture, which is being rained on, is probably loving the rain!  How you feel about the rain, and many other things in life, depends so much on perspective… Wherever you find a frog, there will be water nearby.  Whether that’s a pond or a stream or a puddle in a leaf in a tree in the rainforest.  These land dwelling animals cannot forget about their watery needs and nor should we.

If you’re eating or a bit squeamish, pass over this paragraph.  I think it’s fascinating but that doesn’t mean you will…  Frogs have long tongues (well, a few frogs don’t have any tongue but in general…) which are coiled in the mouth.  When food comes along, it shoots out and springs back really fast.  So far, so what?  The next bit is the kicker.  They then push the food, which they eat whole, down their throat using their eyes.  They literally use their eyes to eat.  How interesting is that?!

Talking of eyes, they tend to have bulging eyes which see distance better than close up.  Beware of immediate dangers which can be overlooked whilst you’re scanning the horizon.  The mosquito which sneaks up behind you is probably more deadly than the lion which you can barely make out.  The way eyes are positioned means a frog can hide under water with just their eyes above the surface which is great for hunting food.  They also have a membrane which protects them when they’re under water.

We associated frogs with ribbiting but they make other noises as well and their croak is unique to their species.  To make their call, most puff up their vocal sacks.  This self inflation can mean the frog is seen as prideful.  If this is the pacific tree frog then they do make a stereotypical frog ribbit.  This sound, to me at least, has echoes of the ba-bum of a heartbeat and perhaps chanting or using this sound as a mantra could help when meditating on what the frog card has to say.

From a metaphorical perspective, the life cycle of the frog is obviously going to be important and will reflect some of the ideas discussed in relation to the butterfly.  A quick refresher of the frog cycle:

Frogs lay eggs in water (frogspawn).  Frogspawn hatches into tadpoles (sometimes called polliwogs which I love!) which have tails and internal gills.  It grows a bit and develops limbs and lungs.  Then, through metamorphosis over about 24 hours, it then becomes an miniature adult frog and can venture onto land.

This progress from water to land has been paralleled with our own evolutionary development, both as a species and personal evolution and growth.  Has the frog come to you now because you are venturing into a time of change, because you need to step into necessary growth?  Perhaps it is time to get out of the water and onto land.  Whilst emotions are great and most of us don’t spend enough time with them, they can become all consuming and there is a wider world out there for us too.  Note too that frogs tend to lay their eggs in ponds or areas where the water is calm and sheltered.  Perhaps it’s time to leave the relative safety of the pond?  Yes, it’s scary as hell to head out onto land where herons can see you and dive after you but it will be rewarding as well.

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Frogs and beliefs and stories and mythology is an abundant field.  If you find the frog chimes with you or seems to have something to say to you, do your own research, there is so much out there.  I’ll skim over a few of the ideas here but I won’t go into much detail or this would be very very very long!

Frogs are associated with fertility and new life.  In the past they were used as a pregnancy test.  Because of their life cycle, they are used as a Christian symbol of the holy trinity and resurrection.

Ancient egyptians believed frogs were divine and also linked them with regeneration.  The hieroglyph of a tadpole stood for the number 100,000.  We have to remember how important the river Nile would have been to ancient Egyptians and frogs were probably associated with that.  As such, it is not so suprising that they held the frog as a symbol of life and fertility.  The goddess Heqet was represented as a frog and was the goddess of fertility.

In terms of superstitions, we have the idea that the sighting of frogs heralds the end of the dry season, it’s lucky to meet a frog and unlucky to kill a frog because they house the spirit of dead children.  Because of the association with weather, they feature in anti-drought ceremonies.

There are a number of tales of a frog in a well where the frog is symbolic of someone lacking in understanding and vision.

There is this idea that if you put a frog in boiling water, they jump out but if you put it in cold water and heat it, they don’t.  This is disputed and please don’t try it at home.  But the idea is that slow changes build up to massive changes and our reaction to them is then different.  As a very trivial sort of example, it’s like the idea of someone getting taller.  Mum who sees him every day doesn’t notice her boy has shot up a foot but aunty Mable who only seems him once a year does.  Look back on your own progress, it’s easy to think nothing has changed as so much of our life is in baby steps.

In culture, we see the story of the frog prince as well as the frog in many many tales including the lovely Jeremy Fisher pictured above!  In a lot of these, the frog is portrayed as ugly, clumsy etc but with some sort of concealed beauty or skill.  Like the oyster, it’s a reminder to look inside.