Turtle: Wild Unknown Animal Spirit Deck

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Turtles and tortoises…

In the UK turtle means the ones in the ocean, I believe that turtle covers both in America which made researching this card really annoying…  I will be doing a tortoise post at some point so I’d suggest reading that as well, it’ll be in the comments as a pingback if I forget to update this.  So let’s start by looking at the differences:

  • Turtles have streamlined shells, tortoises have domed shells
  • Turtles have webbed feet, tortoises have large stumpty feet
  • Turtles swim at 10mph, tortoises walk at 0.17mph
  • Turtles are ominvores, tortoises are herbivores
  • Turtles spend most of their live at sea, tortoiess spend most of their live on land
  • Both lay eggs

Turtles have been around for 150 million years.  Crocodiles have been around for 65 million years.  So if we take the croc to have ancient primal collective knowledge, imagine how much the turtle knows.

Turtles have powerful front flippers and hind legs which act as a rudder.  They don’t have teeth but they do have a sharp beak which can do some serious damage under the right circumstances.  If they find themselves in shallow water with a shark, they can injure it but if they find themselves in deep water with a shark, they’re in trouble.  This really goes to show just how important environment is. There are some places you’ll thrive and some you’ll die and a vast range of inbetweenness.  In our lives I think this is probably particularly true of work and school.  Some people are just not good at school or traditional work environments.  They are much better at working for themselves.

Whilst they spend their time underwater, often diving deep (as in the image where they are in the dark of the sea) they do need to come up to the surface to breathe.  This echoes some of the themes of the dolphin card which I won’t repeat here.  That said, the turtle seems able to hold their breath for much longer – apparently whilst they can sleep at the surface, they also sleep at the bottom of the ocean, wedging themselves under rocks.

They are graceful, chilled out creatures which drift along on the currents for long distances.  But this relaxed attitude belies the dramatic start in life they’ve had. Mummy turtle lays eggs on a beach, often at high tide, along with lots of other mummy turtles all at the same time of night for safety.  The eggs are buried in the sand and are a reminder to us that sometimes it pays to keep things hidden, let things incubate before exposing them to the elements.

These eggs emerge at the full moon and use the bright moonlight reflected on the sea to guide them to the water.  But, like we saw with the moth, humans have come along and interfered.  Artificial light is drawing baby turtles away from the sea and causing a lot of confusion and death.  About 1 in 1000 babies make it to adulthood but if they do get there, they have a good chance at a long life.  This gives us two slightly at odds ideas; don’t put all your eggs in one basket and longshots can pay off.

The shell is obviously an important part of the turtle.  Whilst it might look like armour and a disconnected part of the turtle, it’s actually got nerve endings in it and is attached to the rest of the turtle.  The shell is kept clean by fish which feed on the algae which lives on it.  I believe it helps them float and it means they’re at home everywhere, which probably explains some of their chilled out attitude.  I’d probably be a lot more relaxed if I had all my stuff with me and my personal space always on hand.  Whilst the shell protects against pain, any turtle will tell you that you can retreat into it but you can’t stay there permanently.  Also, think about where your safe space is – this might be physical or imaginary – and how you can retreat into it when you are far from it.  I’ve been doing a safe space meditation for a while and (when I remember) I can drop into it when I am anxious.  I spend a couple of minutes there and then the world is a little easier to face.

Apparently the shell itself has symbolism which is tied to the moon.  There are 13 large plates/markings/bits in the main shell as there are 13 moons in a year.  Round the edge of the shell there are apparently 28 bits like the 28 days in a lunar cycle.  We saw above the importance of the moon – eggs are laid at high tide (new and full moon) and the baby turtles hatch on the full moon.  As we’ve seen before, the moon symbolises the feminine, goddesses and mother earth.  Indeed, the turtle has been used as a symbol for mother earth and the idea of the turtle carrying the land on it’s back appears in various mythology.

Oyster: Wild Unknown Animal Spirit Deck

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Oysters are hard to find out about, most of the focus is on eating them and their alleged aphrodisiac properties but they are obviously so much more.

Oysters are filter feeders and can have a huge impact on their habitat, improving water quality and clarity.  They remove the crap stuff from the seas, they remove the stuff that pollutes our emotional world.  That said, they are not constantly filtering.  They regularly shut their valves to enter a resting state, a cycle of behaviour which follows particular rhythms of the moon and sun.  Could you use the movements of the moon and sun yourself to help clear up your emotional puddle?  Perhaps for you this could be regular self care check ins based on the moon cycle, or perhaps seasonal feels more appropriate for you, or both.

While some oyster species have two sexes, they make both eggs and sperm meaning it is technically possible for them to fertilise their own eggs.  They spawn in spring when the temperature rises and the males and females release sperm and eggs into the water and basically hope they find each other… Which explains why you get beds of oysters rather than solitary ones.

These beds of oysters provide habitats for other creatures such as sea anemones and barnacles.   They also absorb some of the impact of strong tides providing a barrier to our coastlines and offering protection.  Small, static objects such as oysters can make such a huge difference to the world – protecting coastlines, proving habitats, filtering water… These are epic, important things and we really shouldn’t overlook the power of the oyster.  And not judging on appearances brings us naturally onto pearls.

There’s definitely an inner beauty metaphor going on here.  With their hard, crusted shell, the oyster is not an obvious place to look for a pearl and the first person who found one there must have been surprised.  Don’t judge a book by it’s cover and all that.  And don’t forget to look inside yourself as well.  As a society we focus heavily on what we look like and ignore our internal characteristics.  Look back at the card, it is literally shimmering with unseen, untapped potential.

So what is a pearl?  Pearls are created when some tiny gets inside the oyster and irritates it.  The oyster reacts by covering it in layers of nacre, or mother of pearl, and many many layers later, you have a pearl.  The appearance of the pearl depends on what the tiny thing was as well as the natural pigment of the nacre.

Beliefs associated with the oyster seem to focus on prosperity.  If you want good fortune, carry a small piece of oyster shell with you.  If you eat oysters on St James’s Day, 5th August, then you will never go without food again!

 

 

Beaver: Wild Unknown Animal Spirit Cards

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Beavers are awesome.  End of post.

You want more?

They actually change ecosystems and create habitats.

More still?

Oh ok then….

So, expanding on the beaver as an architect, they build dams out of trees, in water, to protect their homes – lodges.  Elementally speaking, we’ve got earth and water right there and the beaver is actually manipulating earth energy to affect water energy, using the physical resources to affect the spiritual or emotional world.  I think that’s awesome.  They create their very own safe place, the beaver pond, to make their home.  They venture out a lot but they always have this wonderful family base to return to.

Taking this idea and using it will look like different things to different people.  It might be about creating a safe place through visualisation or meditation.  It might be about having an object, a crystal for example, which becomes a touchstone for safety.  Something physical which you can reach for to remind yourself that you are safe.

Dams are going to be a major theme in this post and this card could be a warning that you’re damming up your emotions, trying to control how you feel.  However it could also be highlighting the importance of having time and space in your life which feels safe, which feels in control.  Somewhere you can retreat to when you’re exhausted from emotional work.  Perhaps the beaver is asking you to make sure you have this in your life, you need to secure your foundations before you can build a magnificent palace.

The pond they create through building their dam protects them against predators and they build canals to connect them to the resources in their habitat more easily.  This is much more efficient, much safer, than getting out on land and heaving a tree back to the pond. Instead they stay in the water as much as possible and use the water to float the tree to where it needs to be.  They are efficient and industrious throughout their work.  They can fell a tree in just a few hours by chewing just enough and then leaving things to gravity.  As well as trees, they use mud and stones in their building which they carry with their forepaws.

These marvellous creatures are not limited by the existing habitat, if it isn’t working for them they literally change it.  They create what they need.  The beaver really shouts at us to build and shape and create our lives and our environments.  To build our homes and our dreams.  But the beaver also reminds us that strong, powerful, life changing things require work and commitment.

 

The dam is not a one time thing, the beaver, like any good builder, knows that maintenance is key.  So they keep checking for damage and leaks and repairing them.  And if the dam is significantly damaged, they can rebuild them literally overnight.

Talking of attack and safety, their home will have numerous underwater exits so they never find themselves trapped by predators.  And most of their predators are land animals so the underwater entrance makes for an excellent preventative tactic.  This also means that when the pond freezes over, they can still get to their food store which is under the water.  Be vigilant, plan ahead, problem solve and have multiple escape routes planned.

Looking more widely, beaver dams can have a huge impact on their surroundings.  Bacteria which live in the dam can remove pesticides from the water which is incredible.  The dams filter water and help prevent floods and droughts.  They create wetlands and ponds and space for other species to live.

Stay with me for this, it’s a long sentence but an amazing illustration of the complex web of life:

Wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone which led to less elk
so less elk were eating the willows…
which led to more willow for beavers…
and more beavers led to more dams…
and  more dams led to more ponds…
and more ponds led to more wildlife! 

This blows my mind!

To build these earth changing structures, the beavers work closely together as a team.  They are determined, they are persistent, they are powerful.  They work hard but it’s not all work and no play, the beaver is a family orientated animal and after the building is done for the day, they head back to the lodge and relax with a nice bit of bark.

And they deserve a break.  They’ve had a tough time of it.  They were hunted for fur and for their testicles which were used medicinally for male fertility.  They’ve also come under fire because they change the water landscape creating ponds where some humans don’t want them.

And if you want still more reasons why beavers are awesome just look at that card and the cute little face!

 

Octopus: Wild Unknown Animal Spirit Deck

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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.

Defence mechanisms

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.

Intellect

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.

Myths etc

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!

Starfish: Wild Unknown Animal Spirit Deck

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These creatures start with a deception, they are not fish.  Having got that out of the way, there are over 2000 species in all kinds of ocean climates.  The 5 armed starfish picture is the most common type but they can have more arms, one species having up to 50!  Despite all the limbs, they don’t typically move very fast!  Apparently the arms don’t always work together, if one detects food it can become dominant and override the other ones.

They can sense touch, light, temperature, orientation and the status of the water around them. The tips of the arms are sensitive to chemicals and they can use this ability to detect smell and hence food.  The ends of the arms also have eyespots which respond to light.  Use your senses.  I’m probably going to say this a few times in this post but it really does feel like a key message from the starfish.

These arms are clearly important to starfish and this is echoed in their ability to regenerate limbs.  They can even reproduce by pulling their own limbs off.  This feels quite an intense metaphor which can be about healing, regeneration, going through pain that is necessary for growth.  I think this metaphor could be a whole blog post by itself so for now I’m leaving it to you to ponder.

Starfish are meat eaters, living on a diet including mussels, clams, oysters.  They are surprisingly strong and can prise open shellfish.  They can’t feed out of water but that’s more than made up for by being able to digest food outside their body.  Their stomach emerges from their mouth so they can eat prey bigger than they could otherwise.

Most starfish are brightly coloured to flag them up as dangerous to predators.  Should a creature ignore this warning, they have calcified bony skin which also protects them and I imagine makes them taste a bit awful…  There are times and places that wearing armour is important but don’t lose touch with the softer part of you that hides inside.

Starfish, like stars, have a certain alluring beauty and this has led them to be associated by some with a shallow, superficial nature.  The thinking being that they have exquisite beauty and this means they can use their looks to get what they want.  This can then lead them to lose touch with their deeper needs, deeper self, deeper dreams.  This card may be asking what dreams do you feel you have lost?  What part of yourself have you become disconnected from?

Remember the starfish have all those awesome senses and ability to feel the world around them?  Well use those to tap into yourself.  Take the sensory experience of yourself and find a way to hear your inner voice, to refind your instincts and your intuition.

The symbolism of 5 feels important to me here – we have 5 elements in this deck, we have 5 senses, 5 pointed stars feature in a lot of religions as does the number 5 itself eg 5 pillars of islam, 5 wounds of christ and so on.  If you follow a particular religion, you might want to look to see what links there are with the number and how that relates to the starfish.

You’ve probably heard the story about the man who was throwing starfish back into the sea, the moral being that we can all make a difference and little things matter.  It’s so easy to get caught up in the massive issues and problems in the world and feel so overwhelmed that you freeze and can’t do anything.  But if you think small, think local, think manageable, and manageable for me will be different to manageable for you.  You do what you can and if everyone does that, all the starfish will end up back in the sea.

Think of how beautiful the sky is at night – each of those stars is shining and lovely but together?  Together they can make such a difference to our lives that we can even navigate by them.

Vertigo part 6?

Food history ties into ethnobotany which is awesome and I will write a post about it when I can do a bit of research. For now, here’s a few interesting food talks.

Note, food can give us an insight into women’s history as cook books were one of few outlets that was acceptable for women in certain times and places.  If this is of particular interest, the Jewish Community Cookbook lecture is a good starting point!

Gin

Preserving family recipes

Rice Cuisine and Culture

Jewish Community Cookbooks

Eating the past: How and why to study food history

The Rise and Fall of Sourbread

How Foods Tasted in the Early Modern Period and How They Taste Now

Foodways

Craving Earth: Understanding Pica, the Urge to Eat Clay, Starch, Ice and Chalk

Fish meditation

So, following the exploration of the fish spirit card, I did actually write and record a guided meditation about entering into the world of the fish.  Mostly for myself, I find it helpful to have a recording telling me what to do.

I wanted to share it in case it was helpful to anyone else.  It’s very short, I find with brain fog and pain and things that that is most helpful for me right now.  Otherwise I get part way through and need to move or pain starts to interfere or I completely lose concentration.

What I tend to do is repeat guided meditations a few times so I get the idea of where they’re taking me and then I can use that “place” or process on my own to go deeper.  So when I listen to a safe space meditation, I often use it more as a prompt to get into my safe space and now I’ve done it a few times I know where that is and once the speaker has guided me into it, I can do my own thing.  So if you do want to use my recording, I’d really recommend using it more as a way in and start extending it yourself – just ignore me when I close it!

Fish Meditation