Camel: Wild Unknown Animal Spirit Card


First things first, we don’t know what type of camel this is as we can’t see it’s hump or humps!  As a refresher, camels with one hump are called Dromedary and are found in Africa and Arabia and camels with two humps are Bactrian and from central Asia.

The camel is akin to the horse in a number of ways.  They opened up trade routes including the silk route and the incense route and allowed humans to make long journeys which wouldn’t have been possible otherwise.  They were also used by people exploring Australia.  Camels were shipped in and used like horses to get around and also played a key role in the development of infrastructure.  As with horses, we have domesticated the camel but wild camels are still out there although you’re unlikely to see one as they’re quite shy.

This strong relationship with journeys and travel means that the camel is associated with pilgrimage.  This is quite an unusual concept for us in 2017, how many of us take or feel the need to take a pilgrimage?  Surely we can just hop on a plane and get where we want to be without the long trek to get there?  But this overlooks a key part of a pilgrimage, the travel is part of the pilgrimage, not just the destination.  And human life is much the same.  The only clear end point is death (and/or whatever comes after) and so we need to enjoy the journey.

And the only way we will complete the pilgrimage through life and enjoy the journey is by pacing ourselves and being resourceful, stocking up with reserves where we can – this probably isn’t going to be vast amounts of water like the camel but memories, joyful experiences, beautiful moments.  How can you use these in a time of drought?  Perhaps looking through photo albums can make tough times a little easier or rifling through a memory box…

In some ways they are also like the bison.  The humans who’ve worked alongside them for over 3000 years have made best use of their resources and treated them with the respect they deserve.  In terms of the abundances they provide, they drank camel milk, used their skin for clothes etc, ate their meat, used them for shelter (they would dig a hole next to a camel so the camel protected them from sandstorms etc) and their dung was used for fuel.

Whilst this “ship of the desert” can run up to 50 miles per hour, it is built for the long distance approach.  Unlike most of us, it can stay calm in the face of intense heat.  They can survive deserts exceptionally well and are incredibly well adapted to their habitat.  Obviously there is the hump which is full of fat, they can close their nostrils and have thick eyelashes and hairy ears to keep out the sand.  Indeed they are so well adapted that they been around unchanged for a very long time.

It is often believed that camel stores water in it’s hump but it’s actually fat.  Water is stored in it’s blood stream and can go up to seven days before needing to drink.  When water is available, they drink so much so fast that it would harm any other creature.  And they can extract water from their food and drink water too salty for other animals.  They can also lose up to 40% of their body weight before having any issues.  This is a creature which really is asking you to be resourceful and use all you have available to you.  Look at your resources, both internal and external.

In the fable of Zeus and the camel, the camel saw another animal’s horns and lusted after them.  The camel went all the way up to the heavens to beg Zeus to give it horns too. Zeus was angry at the camel’s greediness, so he cropped its ears instead. Leaving it hornless and without it’s original long beautiful ears.  Be careful what you ask for, appreciate what you have and don’t compare yourself to others.

Apparently the Qur’an asks followers to reflect on the camel.  One website discussing this says…

“I think it’s interesting that of all the animals mentioned in the Quran—dogs, horses, birds, locusts, etc—God picked the camel as the one we should reflect upon. It’s not the most beautiful animal in the world; it’s not the fastest or the strongest; it’s not the most loyal or the most wild. But it’s a little bit of all of those things, and that gives it its character and its worth. God combined all of these traits, and many more, to create an animal perfectly suited to fill its niche in the world, and when we reflect just on that, it can teach us a lot about submitting to God’s will, and accepting our own place in the world with more grace and tolerance.”

To me, as a none religious person, the first thing I think of is the idea of a jack of all trades vs a master of one trade.  I am very much a multifaceted person and whilst I have a degree in maths, I don’t feel I have mastered one thing exceptionally well, instead working to get reasonably good at many things.  I have too many interests to be boxed in.  There was a quote that I saw somewhere earlier, nothing to do with camels, but it essentially said, if you have many competing interests do not feel forced to focus on just one, instead introduce them to each other.  This is the space where magical things happen.  You get science focused art, you get stories about science.


Tarantula: Wild Unknown Animal Spirit Deck


See also spider.  Tarantulas are a type of spider… they tend to be larger than spiders and have fewer spinnerets, 2 or 4 instead of 6.

I once held one, I was being sponsored to raise money for a volunteering trip to Ghana.  The tarantula had been cooled down so was supposed to be a bit more docile but as soon as it was put on my outstretched hands, it ran one way and I ran the other way…

They vary in size and if you’re into this 8 legged critter, do go and read more.  I am trying to read enough to understand them and not so much that I freak myself out…  I don’t really know why I’m afraid of them.  Except for people who are allergic to them, they are not dangerous to humans although with my track record I bet I’m one of those few people!

Tarantulas are often hairy, often brownish and live in North, Central and South America as well as Africa, Asia, Australia and some Mediterranean counties.  They have to shed their skin in order to grow as they have an exoskeleton.  During their moult, they also replace internal organs, such as female genitalia and stomach lining, and can regrow legs if needed…  They are slow and deliberate predators, seeking out insects and other small creatures such as frogs and mice.

Despite preconceptions, they are hunted as well as hunters, including being killed by humans for food.  When I was in Cambodia we did stop by a local market and tarantula was on the menu… I did not partake, I stuck with my plantain chips!

And I’m afraid that is as much as I can face about the actual tarantula so we’re turning the meaning of the tarantula as a spirit animal…

  • There is the inevitable shedding your skin metaphor which suggests transformation and new starts.
  • The hunting approach urges us to be patient, to wait until the right time and then go in for the kill.
  • There is also the self defence/territorial angle that comes with their bite which we discussed in the context of their relative, the scorpion.
  • It’s hard to unpick which myths and legends refer specifically to the tarantula, they tend to refer more to the wider family – the spiders – rather than getting that specific.

Definitely check out the spider if you’ve pulled this card!

Panther: Wild Unknown Animal Spirit Cards


There is not really any such thing as a panther… Which is a bit of an intense starting point!  They are any animal from the Panthera genus which has melanism.  This means that they appear black.  Those found in Asia and Africa are leopards and those found in the Americas are black jaguars.  Despite their appearance, they still retain their spots and in the right light you can see them.  Metaphorically, this is interesting as the markings on a jaguar are it’s rosettes, so a black jaguar is essentially hiding it’s prowess and medals.

I’m going to focus on the jaguar in this post as I think that’s what might be pictured but if leopard shouts out at you, go away and look into them as well.

So, what is this almost mythical creature like?  Well, a bit of a paradox really.  They are bold but reclusive, they are adaptable and good with change but prefer routine, they can be active in the day and also at night.  They have bursts of intense energy but pay for it with rest afterwards.


Paradox Spirit Card

Interestingly, Paradox is one of the Spirit Cat cards which I’ve been drawing recently.  For me, at the moment, this is all about being able to hold competing ideas, feelings etc.  I mentioned it a bit in my post about the bear.  The dualities of being aggressive and being nurturing as in the mother bear, of expansion and contraction, of wanting to explore and discover whilst also wanting to feel safe and cocooned.  These competing energies need not be at odds with each other.  Find your own balance, make space for both.

Returning to the panther, we don’t know as much as we do about other big cats.  Probably partly because of the confusion about what a panther is or is not but also because they are loners.  They prefer their own company and stalk quietly, getting very close to its prey before going in for the kill.  They see the weak spot and they utilise it.  If the panther was a person, we’d be looking at con artists, those people who find your vulnerabilities and manipulate the situation to their best advantage.

This enigma is a patient hunter, waiting for the precise moment to go in for the kill.  And when they do leap into action, it is a calculated leap.  It has weighed up the odds and decided this is something worth risking.  According to some sources, Jaguar means “he who kills with one blow”.  This is a cat which doesn’t rush, thinks things through and then goes for it in one clean swoop.  Listen to your instincts, analyse a situation and then act swiftly.

They have a really strong jaw and kill their prey by crushing the skull.  Their powerful build, muscular body and quick reflexes means there is no messing around when they decide to get something done.  But these bursts of high energy leave them depleted and they must rest after.  This may be a call to look at your own energy levels – are you stuck in a boom and bust cycle?  Would pacing help you maintain a more even keel and actually get more done?  Or do you need to accept that you need to schedule in rest following high energy events?

The panther is at home on land, in the water and up trees so it really is a variable creature with a multitude of skills.  Again, this highlights their adaptability and they are excellent swimmers and climbers so they really get involved with their environment.  There doesn’t seem to be any frittering around the edges with this creature – it really goes for whatever it does, even if that is sleep.

In terms of symbology, their colour and their night activity tie them to the moon, the darkness and the feminine.  Because of the confusion around species, it can be hard to pin down which myths and beliefs are relevant to the panther.  However, there are mentions of them as a god of the underworld, links with death and transformation.  Also, as they weave between day and night, they are considered to be weaving through worlds, akin to shamans.

In some parts of the world it was believed to be bad luck to see a panther or hear one and they were linked with witchcraft – the ultimate black cat I guess!  Talking of which, I think any superstitions etc surrounding the domestic black cat could be relevant here.

It’s not strange that they were seen as a bad omen – they are powerful hunters after all.  But some cultures saw them as a creature which could lend them strength and protection.  One approach seems more routed in fear of the unknown, fear of predators which ask humans to face our own predatory nature and the other approach coming from a place of respect and reverence.  Perhaps this is a time to look at where your own beliefs and behaviours are coming from.

Lizard: Wild Unknown Animal Spirit Cards


Well, the first thing to say about lizards is that there is huge variance between different species.  And whilst there are particular characteristics of lizards, on the whole there are also exceptions.  When I was learning about them, I ended up abbreviating “most but not all” because I was repeating it over and over again.  So for everything I am about to say, there is likely to be an exception to the rule.

So, what general features can we say about most but not all of the lizard family…  Well, they have overlapping scales which act like a form of armour… Most but not all eat meat, most but not all lay eggs, most but not all are harmless to humans.  Some are venomous.  Some are active during the day, some are active at night.

Many lizard species are capable of shedding part of their tails through a process called autotomy. This is an example of the pars pro toto principle, sacrificing “a part for the whole”, and is used to allow the lizard to escape predators.  The lizard may be asking us to look at what we are sacrificing, or what we are holding on to too tightly.  This ability to regrow a limb also links the lizard with rebirth, renewal and growth.

Lizards are often seen basking in the sun, earning them a reputation as a daydreamer.  They do this to warm themselves up before they can launch into the days activities.  They also conserve their energy until the time is right to strike.  Do you need time to rest and build up your strength or is it time to move forward?

When they get too hot, they must find shade to cool themselves down again.  I think this is a good metaphor for managing our own tempers, learning how to recognise when we’re getting angry and learning how to handle that.

Some lizards have a “third eye” which tunes them into the sun.  This parietal eye helps them to understand what point in the day it is and works sort of like a compass to help with navigation.  In humans, a third eye is associated with intuition and insight and is generally depicted as sitting between the eyebrows.  Like any sense, you need to use it to hone it.  Think about a sense other that sight, you probably feel it’s probably not providing as much feedback as your eyes but that is because we’re a visual culture and essentially our other senses have got lazy.  Explore ways of tuning in and listening to your intuition.  Tarot cards are one of the ways I use but meditation and prayer are just some of the other ways.

These ancient creatures are often linked with witches, in particular for use in spells.  Given the strength of the snake in mythology and religion, we don’t seem to see that many lizards.  It is possible that some of the snake associations were also lizards given the similarities with the species, ditto for dragons.  It is also hard to find information about lizards without searching each type… If you feel drawn to a particular kind of lizard then perhaps have a look into them more closely.

Later in the deck we will find ourselves looking at dragons and I think that will provide further thinking points for the lizard card.

PS, does anyone know what kind of lizard is pictured in the card???


Scorpion: Wild Unknown Animal Spirit Cards


The scorpion was apparently one of the early creatures to venture onto land and this pioneering creature asks us what territories are we conquering?

Scorpions are generally loners who only meet up to mate.  This involves a passionate sex dance and once it’s over, the female may eat the male…  Something you may be more familiar with when it comes to spiders, indeed scorpions are related to spiders.

Despite the fact we generally view them with fear, these fierce creatures are rarely harmful to humans and when death occurs after a sting (it is the stinger that is harmful, not their bite) it is often due to an allergic reaction.

As with most animals, I suspect they generally only harm humans when we get in their way, such as when we put a foot in a shoe where they are resting…  After all, they wouldn’t have much interest in eating us… Scorpions much prefer insects, spiders and even other scorpions.  Mostly, they lay in wait, sensing approaching prey through sensitive hairs and once close enough, they will ambush their target using their pincers to crush it.  Following this, they have to inject a chemical into the prey which turns it into a sort of soup which the scorpion drinks as they can’t digest solids…  They can go over six months without food if they need to.

The ever vigilant scorpion is defensive of their territory.  They keep their instincts sharp and listen and act on what their gut is telling them.  Be aware, pay attention but don’t strike too soon.  For me, there is a subtle difference between protecting and defending.  Protection is about keeping something of value safe, for the scorpion, this is its territory which provides food.  Probably more so for humans, defence is a reaction.  And in some situations this is a reaction to a clear danger but in a lot of cases, humans react defensively  because someone has touched a nerve and we don’t want to face that. According to someone called Sharon Ellison (quoted in an article about defensiveness in humans), to be defensive is to react with “a war mentality to a non-war issue.”  Protection feels more about safety whereas defensiveness feels more about shutting down an issue.  Reflect on the subtle differences and see how they apply to your life.   This may also be a call to think about vulnerability.  The scorpion has set up very clear defences – poison, hard shell, angry temperament – to prevent it from being vulnerable.  But what are you losing out on because of that?

Despite having three to six pairs of eyes, the scorpion has poor eyesight.  They can’t form sharp images but one pair is very sensitive to light.  This allows it to use star light to navigate at night, the time when this creature is active, a call perhaps for you to do the same?  Let the stars guide you, stop trying to grasp a fully focused picture and instead relax into the vagueness and the feelings of the intuitive but unexplainable.

In terms of symbolism, the obvious representation of the scorpion is Scorpio; both a star sign and a constellation.

According to the wisdom of wikipedia, scorpio people are ruled by their desires, but their strength is resourcefulness, and this allows them to control their desires unless they have a plan to achieve them.  A good lesson for all of us.  As we’ve seen in the scorpions hunting technique, it is prudent to watch, wait and go in for the kill at just the right moment.

The symbol of Scorpio comes from the constellation Scorpius who killed the great hunter Orion.  Orion had boasted that he could kill every animal on earth.  Mother Earth objected to this and sent the scorpion to kill him.  Following Orion’s death, the scorpion was given a place in the heavens, but on the opposite side of the sky to the hunter.

Other, perhaps less known, stories include one of the goddess Isis and her protector scorpions.  When an old woman wouldn’t provide shelter for Isis, the scorpions sought to avenge her by hurting or killing, depending on which version you read, the old woman’s son.  When Isis found out about this, she reversed the poison and the son lived.

In one fable, a scorpion asks a frog to carry it across a river. The frog hesitates, afraid of being stung, but the scorpion argues that if it did so, they would both drown. Considering this, the frog agrees, but midway across the river the scorpion does indeed sting the frog, dooming them both. When the frog asks the scorpion why, the scorpion replies that it was in its nature to do so.

Hyena: Wild Unknown Animal Spirit Cards


I don’t like hyenas… I didn’t know much about them before this project and they’ve not really grown on me…  But not everyone agrees:

“with her iron jaw and massive clitoris
the beauteous hyena is no more and no less than a queen”
Noah’s Notes (Preliminary) by Penelope Shuttle

As I’ve learned about the different animals covered in this deck I have developed respect and understanding of them and surprising creatures have captured my heart – the vulture, the crow, the earthworm etc.  And despite not really being a fan of the hyena, I do still appreciate the role they play in the web of life.

They are similar to the vulture in that they are essential for cleaning up the environment and without them we could end up overrun with rotting corpses and all the bacteria etc which comes with that.  They are probably best known for scavenging but they do also hunt, although they prefer to be patient and let someone else do the hard work.

A lot of nature documentaries show hyenas trying to get a kill from a lion and indeed, working as a group, they can be successful.  But watch out for karma!  In times of scarce food, lions have been known to steal food from hyenas as well!

They hunt or search for food at night and into dawn and have one of the strongest bites on the planet.  This is not an animal you’d want to stumble across in the dark!  And yet, as humanity spreads, we are encroaching on their territory and human hyena interaction is increasing, which in turn increases hatred and fear of them.

Life in the hyena cackle (genuinely the name for a group of hyenas!) can be tough.  There is a complex social structure and if you’re a male hyena, you’re out of luck.  Especially if you aren’t the lead male.  In order of importance, we have a lead female at the top who basically rules things.  Then come all the other females, their order depending on things including how important their mother was.  Then, after all the female hyenas, come the males.  Males are often left to babysit which must be a bit galling when even a new born female hyena outranks you…

And if you’re a male hyena, you exist pretty much for sex, but only on the female’s terms!  Females tend to go for patient males rather than the aggressive males, possibly as a way of reiterating their dominance.  Regardless of why, like with hunting, we are reminded that patience pays off.

And in case all of this doesn’t make you feel inadequate, the female hyena has genitals which look like a 6-7 inch long penis, although it is actually one of the largest clitoris in the world.  This led to the belief that the hyena was a hermaphrodite.

Life isn’t all fun and games for the female though… Imagine trying to have sex or give birth?  To reproduce the female essentially has to turn her ‘penis’ inside out so it appears like a more traditional vagina for penetration and then they have to give birth from their penis like genitalia which for first time mothers often results in the death of the baby hyena… I’ll leave you to consider what symbolic meaning this may have for you…

In addition to being dominant and having a pseudo-penis, female hyenas have high levels of testosterone and are physically larger than male hyenas which may be a suggestion to channel your masculine energy or stereotypical male traits in order to get what you want.  I’m not by any means suggesting we should all ‘man up’ but sometimes a situation calls for a different approach.  Equally, maybe you need to ‘man down’ and embrace the less traditionally masculine role that the male hyena has.  Or just throw gender out the window all together!

Hyenas are often thought of as as frightening, primitive and best avoided.  They are associated with witchcraft in some cultures and are thought to influence people’s spirits, rob graves, and have the soul of a demon inside them.  Perhaps it is this demon that cackles when the hyena opens her mouth?  Laughter has long been associated with this feral animal so if this card has come up for you, you may want to look at what your sarcasm and jokes are masking.

To sum up… patience can be a good tactic to get what you want, karma may come back to bite you, look at what lies behind your humour and don’t get too caught up in your gender role.

Fire Ants: Wild Unknown Animal Spirit Deck


Fire ant gets its name from it’s powerful, stinging bite which apparently feels like fire.  They use their mandibles to grip their victim (or prey!) and then inject venom using their stinger.  They are small but they can be deadly (if you’re allergic to them) and to further teach us that size doesn’t matter, these tiny beings have huge economic consequences.  As with many animals, they have found themselves transported across the world to places which are less than welcoming.  As an aggressive, invasive animal they cause a lot of harm to their new habitats and huge efforts are made to eliminate them.  Australia, for example, spends £20 million a year trying to get rid of them.

I’m going to look at ants more generally for the rest of the post.

The ant

Ants are amazing!  I had an ant infestation in my bathroom last year so I know they aren’t great house guests but they are very persistent and definitely hard workers!  They seem to be able to get everywhere and appear to come from nowhere.

In addition to being work focused, there are a lot of similarities to the bee;  they are community focused, everyone has a role to play and the ants are devoted to their duties.  Like the bee, the ant is an architect, creating an amazingly complex home.  They even pull in help from others such as the species of ant which cultivates fungus to provide food and use their own antibiotic formula to control the growth of the fungus.

As with the bee, we will see that every little act, every role an ant takes on makes a difference and contributes to the strength of the community.  Again, this super organism has a queen at it’s head, most workers are non reproducing females and the males of the ant world are essentially just sperm donors – they mate and then they die.  Where do you feel you fit into the ant family right now?  Maybe you are the queen ant, creating life and light and coordinating a major project or maybe you’re feeling a bit more like the male ant, that is, used for sex…


Ants may be annoying, especially during a picnic but there can be no doubt that they are essentially miniature superheroes!

One species of ant can stand upside down on a plate of glass and hold 100 times their weight without falling off.  Apparently the key to their strength is their neck and the neck joint of a common field ant can withstand 5,000 times the ant’s weight (presumably not whilst also hanging upside from from a glass plate though!).  The ant does not let its environment hinder it, if they need to they will use their own bodies to create structures eg ladders and bridges to overcome obstacles.  They can, and often do, take on animals much larger than themselves and ants have even been seen carrying dead baby birds back to the ant nest.

You have within you much much more strength than anyone can imagine and probably much more than you will ever need.

Smelling the world

Their amazing life is mostly a result of their highly cooperative set up.  In terms of finding food, scouts will head out to find a good source and leave a chemical trail behind them.  Once they’ve found something tasty, they head back to the nest and strengthen the trail as they go.  Depending on the species you may then have leaf cutter ants head out followed by transporter ants to bring the bounty home.  The different roles are carried out by ants who have their own specialist adaptation for the job.

Without their amazing communication system they would probably fall into chaos, it is communication which makes the community work. 

Which feels like a very applicable statement for human life.  I hadn’t realised until just now that communication and community are linked right down to the actual word form.  We should also ask ourselves what we could achieve if we worked together in a cooperative and organised fashion.

Also, note that the ant’s world is very much one of smell as opposed to our highly visual world.  Maybe its a prompt towards scented candles or aromatherapy or just a reminder to us not to rely so heavily on our eyes for information.

Myths and folklore

We see the ant as a predictor in ancient Rome where Ceres used ant behaviour as divination and in a number of cultures, the ant is supposed to be able to to predict the weather.

In Cornwall it was unlucky to destroy an ants nest as ants were the souls of unbaptised children or faeries, as we’ll see later, the same was said to be true of frogs.

In a story from the Hopi Indians, we see that the ant has saved humanity not once but twice.  Another reminder that size does not matter, especially when you work together.

In another myth, the bear and the ant are in conflict.  Life is all darkness and this is hard for the ant who is always busy working – she can’t see what she’s doing.  Bear liked the dark and accepted a contest from the ant thinking that she would clearly win any challenge against a feeble little ant… On the day of the dance off, there was a banquet of food.  Bear ate happily but the little ant decided that she should not eat anything despite her hunger.  As the contest went on, bear got fuller and fuller and sleepier and sleepier until she could no longer dance and thus the ant won.  But ant is community minded and thus she made a deal with the bear, there would be light but it would be followed by dark and thus even now, we have day and night.  I think it worked out well for the ant this way… her generosity means that she has night time to rest and isn’t working 24 hours a day… I don’t know if ants really care about day and night but my key message here is don’t work too hard!

The story of the ant and the grasshopper illustrates the ants diligence, patience, forethought and planning, all qualities which help the ant colony achieve their collective goals.

Given that we were looking at the fire ant, I would be tempted to take all these characteristics and essentially amp them up.  For example, where ant may symbolise hard work, fire ant may symbolise working too hard and burning out.