Eagle: Animal Dreaming Cards

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We are starting with the eagle, a bird we have already considered in Wild Unknown Animal Spirit deck. This gives me an opportunity to let you know how I’ll be tackling these cross over cards.

There will inevitably be similar themes and similar teachings so I will not repeat what I have already written.  Each crossover card will link to the equivalent wild unknown version and I will expand on this interpretation by looking specifically at the image in the animal dreaming card and the Australian context.  Whilst there will be similarities, I don’t believe that one image will convey the same as another of the same species.  In some cases we may have different sexes, in some we may get different feelings towards the animal.  A mouse looking curious will speak to us in a different way to a mouse looking terrified.

Wild Unknown Animal Spirit Eagle

This particular eagle looks like it might be some kind of sea eagle.  It certainly doesn’t look like the Wedge Tailed Eagle which is Austrailia’s largest bird of prey.  According to birdlife Australia, “few Australian birds of prey are as spectacular as the White-bellied Sea-Eagle.”  This bird is second largest and is found in coastal areas but also inland, far from the sea, near rivers and lakes.

Just returning to the Wedge Tailed Eagle for a moment, Bunjil is often depicted as such.   One myth tells of Bunjil creating the mountains, the rivers, the plants and the animals as well as laws for humans to live by.  One he had done this, he asked Crow to create some wind and this wind was so strong that Bunjil and his family were blown up to the heavens.  They remain they today, Bunjil as the star Altair and his two wives, the black swans, became stars on either side of him.

Regardless of which eagle we see here, we know already that the eagle soars high in the sky, carrying messages between land and spirit.  They know a freedom which comes only when you let go of material, earth bound things.

Another important aspect of this card is the number 0.  From a mathematical point of view, 0 is a powerful number.  It has led to philosophical ponderings, how can nothing be something?  0 is neither positive or negative, neither forward nor backwards.  It is potential, possibility.  It is everything and nothing.  It is the moment before the first breath of life.  0 also marks the Fool in the tarot deck, beginnings and endings.

Considering the eagle and zero, we see a bird which is guiding us to step out on our journey.  Their amazing eyes see the minutiae, what lies in our hearts, what stops us from moving on.  They also see the big picture, the possibilities, the paths that lie ahead of us.  They ask us to trust their guidance and knowledge and listen to them in whatever way they speak to us.  Whether that is signs and synchronicities or intuition or cards. We are poised, ready to take an amazing journey, if only we can trust ourselves to listen and take that initial step.

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Disability and abortion

Have I already written about this? I know I touched on it in the post around sterilisation…  Hmm… maybe I haven’t… I think maybe I was avoiding it because it is such a huge and complex area…

Firstly, I am pro choice.  I believe that women have the right to chose what happens to their body.  For me, this is not a case of not valuing a fetus, it is a case of valuing the woman’s life more.  I do not believe making abortion difficult will stop abortion.  Making abortion illegal will just make abortion more dangerous.  It will not stop abortion.

Secondly, language around this issue is full of emotion and controversy and I have done the best I can.

Thirdly, this is not a discussion about the morals and ethics surrounding abortion itself.  It is about abortion and disabled or potentially disabled fetuses.  I am making an assumption, for this post, that the society in which this debate is taking place allows women access to abortion.

Ok, now we’ve clarified that, what does abortion have to do with disability?

Here I am considering the right to abort a fetus which has a disability.  The argument against screening for disability and then acting on the information is that it is a form of eugenics. As we’ve already seen on this blog, the eugenics movement in the early 1900s had a profound effect on disabled people and their rights and their lives.  Here we are not sterilising or killing people who have a disability but instead are stepping in earlier and preventing a potential disabled person from being born.  Society is allowing the reproduction of people with “undesirable attributes” to be stopped.  This underlines the idea that all disability is bad and that everyone is better off not being disabled.

Adrienne Asch is one writer who finds abortion for “fetal indications” profoundly troubling. This is not because she regards fetuses as persons and abortion as seriously morally wrong. Her view is that abortion is morally acceptable if the woman does not want to become a mother. However, she distinguishes between abortion to prevent having a child (any child) and abortion to prevent having
this child. Why, Asch asks, would someone who wants to be a mother reject this pregnancy and this (future) child because of one thing about that child: that is, that he or she will have, or is likely to have, a disability? She believes that such rejection is likely to stem from inaccurate and prejudiced ideas about what it is like to have a disability or to parent a child with a disability.

Bonnie Steinbock

It is important to know a bit about prenatal screening and the information available to parents who are going through this process.  There are two parts to prenatal diagnosis; the first is screening which gives parents and idea of how likely it is their child would have a particular health problem, the second is then a definitive test.  The first is non invasive, consisting of scans and/or blood tests and looks for things like infectious diseases, Down’s syndrome, or physical abnormalities.  The second is invasive and carries certain risks but gives a more certain yes or no about whether the fetus has a particular condition.

One really important thing to keep in mind here is that these prenatal tests do not tell a parent that their child will be born healthy or without disability.  There are many many many conditions or illnesses which cannot be screened for.  This then creates a potential for people with certain disabilities being considered less worthy of life.  There is a question of who decides what disabilities are screened for and what are the consequences of that (obviously science and technology plays a part but this is still all guided by people).  For example if most fetuses with Downs Syndrome are aborted, we end up in a situation where there are fewer people with Downs and those that are alive may feel they are being told by society that they shouldn’t be.

Another consideration is the severity of a disability, just because someone tests positive for a condition does not mean they will be disabled by it.  Take my condition, you can be severely disabled by it or you can go through life without too much impact.  This approach is saying that anyone with x is inevitably going to have a difficult life rather than considering the severity of the condition and the society around that potential person.  A millionaire with x will have a very different experience than someone who is unemployed – money buys support and equipment and such things.

The language used in the debate also assumes both that all disabilities are equal and the same and that there is no good life available for a person with a disability:

Disability in the context of a termination decision for a wanted pregnancy has been described as a “tragedy” and a “defect”— using the language of pain, suffering, and devastation. The focus is on the potential suffering a child with a disability will allegedly experience and inevitably bring on parents and other siblings. The fetus with a disability that is survivable post- partum is often considered damaged.

The paradox of disability in abortion debates: bringing the pro-choice and disability rights communities together

A key argument against abortion of disabled fetuses is that if society changed, there wouldn’t be a problem for that disabled person.  As such, abortion is removing the need for society to change how it sees and supports people with disabilities.

But, what if the parents are in a situation themselves where they cannot cope with the additional things that come with having a disabled child.  Is it then fair to insist they have that child and suffer the detrimental impact on their lives as well as the child’s?  Here I’m thinking about additional financial burdens, especially in cultures where health costs are extortionate and parental leave non-existent.  Whilst it is nice to consider what would be ethical in an ideal world, we do not live in an ideal world.

For Lippman, the rhetoric of choice is meaningless; to knowingly carry to term a baby with Down syndrome “cannot be a real option when society does not truly accept children with disabilities or provide assistance for their nurturance”

Keeping the backdoor to eugenics ajar

A further consideration is those parents who know there is a chance of an inherited condition who want to get prenatal screening not so that they can have an abortion, but so that they can mentally and physically prepare.  Prenatal testing and finding out the child may have a disability does not mean that parents will inevitably chose to terminate the pregnancy.

Whilst it’s easy to talk in examples, it is unfair in some ways.  We all find ourselves in situations where there is no good answer and stigmatising parents who have made incredibly tough decisions, whatever they decide, is not helpful to this debate.

“All decisions about screening and termination are difficult and can only be made by those people who have to live with the consequences”

-Tom Shakespeare

Shakespeare distinguishes between population level eugenics (such as that during world war 2 and forced sterilisation) and individual level eugenics (those decisions made by individuals and families).  I find this an incredibly helpful way of thinking about things.  I am absolutely against population level eugenics but I know that if I got pregnant, I would want to have access to abortion.  This is because there is such a high chance that any child of mine would have my genetic condition and whilst I do have a high quality of life, I don’t want someone else to suffer through some of the painful and difficult things I’ve been through.

Shakespeare also points out that whilst screening and access to abortion is not the same as historic practices, the culture and context in which decisions are made can promote the same outcomes.  That is, if you are making a decision to have a disabled child in a society which does not value disabled people and which is not set up for or accomodating of disabled people then that free choice is very different to a free choice made in an inclusive society.  Similarly, whilst parents have the choice about whether they get prenatal screening, there has become something routine about doing so, it is considered part of the normal path of pregnancy.

This complicated issue becomes even more so when you try and bring in political views and feminism.  I am not even going to attempt to tackle that paradox here but if you are interested check out The Paradox of Disability in Abortion Debates who explain more coherently than me how “disability rights and reproductive rights can conflict and intertwine, particularly on the issue of later abortion.”  Jenny Morris and Tom Shakespeare both write articulately on the subject as well.

The over simplification of the debate and the nature of the situation has led to a lot of misunderstanding and conflict, in particular in my bubble world between feminism and disabled people who would often agree on many other issues.  This has the potential to become divisive and that often wipes out the opportunity for nuanced discussion and sensitive conversations.  And these interactions should focus on society, not individuals.  Disabled people, or fetuses, are not the problem here.  The society in which we live is.  If parents knew that their child would grow up in a welcoming, supportive, accepting and accessible world then their reaction to screening results or their interest in knowing at all could look very different.

I’m going to wrap up this intensely difficult issue with a couple of quotes for you to think about:

“Very few forms of impairment involve so much suffering that non-existence would be preferable… Prenatal diagnosis can be justified in terms of the effect on parents and other siblings, but cannot be justified in terms of the benefits to the lief which is prevented from coming into existence as a result, except in the most severe cases of impairment”

Tom Shakespeare

“If the responsibility is placed on the individual woman to exercise the choice whether or not to give birth to a disabled child then the responsibility for choosing to bring up such a child also rests on her”

Jenny Morris (discussing the arguments, not sharing her view)

If you want to find out more about Tom’s views and the future of prenatal screening and testing then his lecture at Harvard Law School is worth a watch.

Animal Dreaming Oracle Cards

The Animal Dreaming Oracle cards are a beautiful deck from Scott Alexander King which feature Australian animals.  Scott explains that the Animal Dreaming approach “simply asks that we live an interconnected life with the world around us – to ‘walk gently’, if you like. Following a more ‘animist’ approach, its message is simple: Look to the animals for guidance, interpret their medicine or Dreaming messages, and incorporate the acumen obtained into your life and give thanks.”

I think it is probably useful to have an understanding of what people mean by “The Dreaming” before we jump into these cards and I would recommend a look at Scott’s website as well.

Australia is a vast and diverse place with huge variety of habitats and thus wildlife and is home to a number of quite unique animals.  This diversity is echoed in Australia’s people, so do keep this in mind as we move through the cards.  I will probably refer to aboriginal myths and whilst there are some similarities across groups, there are differences and I am in no way suggesting that all aboriginal Australian’s will have this myth in their history.

With so many distinct Aboriginal groups, languages, beliefs and practices, scholars cannot attempt to characterise, under a single heading, the full range and diversity of all myths being variously and continuously told, developed, elaborated, performed, and experienced by group members across the entire continent.
Wikipedia

Interestingly, in aboriginal mythology, the sun is seen as female and the moon male which is not what we are used to in the western tradition.  The sun creates life and is symbolised with water, fire, earth and red ochre.  The moon controls the tides and seasons and is symbolised by snakes, dogs, frogs and also water.  I feel it is important to keep this in mind when moving between one deck and another, for example the wild unknown animal cards and this deck.  We cannot assume that meanings remain the same across cultures, you simply have to look at beliefs and associations with colours to get an idea of this.

To get a snapshot of the extent of wildlife in Australia, there are an estimated 250,000 types of fungi.  Australia has 755 species of reptiles, more than any other country.  And it’s not just the numbers, it’s the uniqueness.  85% of flowering plants, 84% of mammals, more than 45% of birds, and 89% of in-shore, temperate-zone fish are indigenous to Australia.  Australia is considered to be one of the megadiverse countries.

One of the first things I discovered when I was given my deck of Animal Dreaming cards is that I do not know a lot of Australian animals.  It was this which set me off on my animal spirit adventure.  I started with the wild unknown cards because I knew at least a little about each one so it was a good way to ease myself into it.

My life in trees

I feel like I may have already written this but I can’t find it so I’m going to assume I just pondered it… Trees are important. We carve names and lives into them. We shelter under them and clamber into them.

The first important tree in my life was the tree which introduced me to tree climbing. It was near our driveway and you could see the quiet lane from it. I had my spot and my younger sister had hers, slightly lower down. One day I was in the tree with an adventurous friend who went a bit higher than she should have and got stuck…  We were maybe 4 years old so the heady heights were thankfully fairly close to the ground.  Still friends with her when we were 18, we both remembered that tree.

Later on, I had a reading tree. You had to wrap your legs over a shoulder height branch and swing yourself into it, book and all. But once up, your back would lean against the Birch trunk and your legs would lay out ahead of you on the solid branches. You were slightly hidden in the leaves and so it doubled as a refuge. I never showed been my sister how to climb that tree.

The next important tree in my life was really more of a bench.  The trees sheltered the wooden seat round the corner from the university counselling service.  I would sit there, on a rarely used route, opposite a large metal Buddha in memory of someone or other.  I would sit in my just off the beaten path sanctuary and summon up the courage to enter the single story red brick building with the sign that seemed so huge to me that I couldn’t comprehend anyone not noticing I was going for counselling.  There was nothing else through that exposed door, there was no excuse if anyone saw me.  At that time I needed excuses.  I wasn’t ready to go public with my mental health.  I was barely ready to tell the counsellor.  Then, after, as I waited for my next lecture, I would return to my bench and my trees and the Buddha who was not mine and I would wait.

It was a while after that before I had another favourite tree.  And then it was more a place rather than the tree.  There were years when I didn’t look closely at trees, I just saw them as part of an environment.  I lived in one house for a few years then moved to the next street for a few more.  At the end of those roads, were some trees which dropped delicate pink blossom all over the pavement in the spring. In the summer, I would sit on the grass next to them and often, a small group of people would turn up and tie a tightrope between two of them.  They were fairly good at walking the line and I would steal glances at them through my sunglasses.  I didn’t know them but I felt a bond, we were sharing a space, we were sharing a summers day.

Diana Mini - York Walls

My current favourite tree is one I am documenting throughout the year.  It is a youngish red oak in my favourite park and it seems to be used as a meeting point for people.  The last time I saw it, mums in running clothes with pushchairs were stretching and greeting each other by it.  It is a tough tree.  It holds it’s leaves well past autumn.  It stands slightly alone, no tree within branch touching range.  But I like to think that the other trees are close enough to hear its whispers on the breeze.

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Oh, and I nearly forgot the tree from my primary school.  It was just out of sight from the teachers and dinner ladies.  I don’t remember how we got started but we were digging our way to my friend’s back garden.  It backed onto the school.  I’m not sure why we were trying to tunnel our way out of school.  Our school was a little bubble, a snowglobe of safe space.  But we spent lunch time after lunch time digging with our little twigs to get to the other side of the fence.  Looking back, I wonder why we didn’t chose a tree that was nearer her garden…

Do you have a favourite tree or trees which are important to you? Tell me about them!

Spirit: Wild Unknown Animal Spirit Deck

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I can’t believe I’ve reached the end of this deck, it’s been such an interesting journey!  Things I’ve found out as I’ve worked my way through this suit in particular:

  • These are powerful creatures.  If you are familiar with tarot, these feel to me like the major cards.  These are cards which are taking us beyond body and mind and focusing much more on intuition, feeling and archetypes.
  • Within this suit, we see the other suits.  We have fire in the form of the phoenix, water in the form of the sea serpent, earth in the form of the dragon and air in the form of the unicorn.
  • There is a theme of spheres, eggs and circles, seen not only in the spirit sign but in each of the images.  The circle is a powerful symbol representing infinity, wholeness, eternity, cycles, protection and so much more.  We see the circle used over and over.  We have the wheel of fortune from tarot, the sun, the moon and the stars, we have the yin yang symbol.  The circle can be read as a zero; nothingness or the potential for everything.
  • The seven cards each represent one of the seven chakras.  I don’t know much about chakras but if this is something you want to know more about, buy the guide book.  To be honest, buy it anyway.  These posts are entirely my own thoughts and are very unofficial and not at all reflective of the guide book!  The guide book, whilst we’re on the topic, has information about each card including what the animal looks like in balance and out of balance and how to restore balance.  If I’m struggling with a card when I’m reading, I find this really helpful.

Cosmic Egg: Wild Unknown Animal Spirit Deck

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We saw a couple of creation myths in the golden egg and black egg but these really come into their own with the cosmic egg.

The cosmic egg gave birth to the world so is the perfect card to end on (or start with…). It wasn’t an idea I was familiar with so this is probably a basic portrayal of this card, as with the other egg cards.

The egg in the card is possibly the Orphic Egg.  It was this cosmic egg from which the greek god Phanes hatched and who in turn created the other gods.  However the egg is vital to creation in many cultures and and features in so many myths.  The cosmic egg, or world egg or mundane egg, is the ultimate beginning from which either the universe came from or a mythical being came from who would then create the world.

Let’s take a quick tour of the world and see where and how the cosmic egg appears:

  • In Hindu traditions there are a number of creation stories but the one we’re interested in tells of the universe as a cosmic egg which cycles between expansion and total collapse.  This boom and bust idea gives me hope that we’ll get through all the rubbish stuff which is going on right now.
  • The Persian story explains that a god of good created a perfect spiritual world before creating the tangible world.  This made the god of evil so angry he burst through the cosmic egg which set the sun spinning and thus created days and night and the world as we know it.
  • In China we find the black egg also called the cosmic egg.  This as we saw previously contained a chaotic mix of yin and yang.  There was also a giant called Pangu within the egg and after many years he emerged and in doing so, separated the chaos out into it’s opposites.  Yin and Yang were separated, night and day, light and dark, land and sky.  Eventually Pangu started to die and as he did so, his breath became the wind, his body became the mountains and the parasites which lived on him became humans and thus the world was created.  This version of the creation myth uses duality as a fundamental principle which feels really important to me.
  • The Finnish tell a myth of the world being created from the fragments of an egg.
  • Chronos, the greek personification of time, produced an egg from which Phanes and hence the world hatched.

It is unsurprising that so many creation myths feature an egg, after all the egg is the ultimate symbol of fertility, of life, of birth, of creation.  We see eggs used in 17th century France by brides entering new homes, breaking an egg as they did so would ensure fertility.  If you want to meet your true love, place an egg in front of the fire on a stormy night.  As the storm picks up your love will come through the door and pick up the egg.

For anything associated with creation, we find mention of destruction.  The yin and the yang.  In this case, we find eggs left in tombs, eaten after funerals and we associate eggs with the death of Christ.

The egg is a strong feminine symbol and the universe emerging from an egg really emphasises to me the feminine aspect of the world, of nature, of everything.  How fucking powerful is the feminine that it can create everything.  And perhaps that explains patriarchy and women’s oppression – it must be terrifying to be faced with such immense innate creative power and we know that if we fear something, we try and kill it.

Oomancy is divination by eggs which seems interesting, particularly if you believe that life is all mapped out.  If you believe that then it seems only a short jump to the idea that the egg as a representation of the cosmic egg, contains a map of the future.

According to one theory, which I don’t know much about, there are various eggs which each represent the different stages of the process of creation.  Knowing this, perhaps we can see the golden egg, black egg and the cosmic egg as part of a narrative.  If this chimes with you, have a look for writings by H.P. Blavatsky.

These ideas of the world coming from a cosmic egg goes in two directions in my mind. On one hand, the universe can be a terrifying place and overwhelming and the idea that it fitted into an egg feels comforting. Particularly if you take the egg shell as a strong supporting boundary or mother figure holding us. I know we’ve cracked out of the egg but thinking about the universe still being in the egg feels useful to me. The other direction my thoughts are taken is around the potential and promise and creative energy that was in the egg and now in the universe and in turn in each and every one of us.

The zombies upstairs?

I live in a ground floor flat with one flat above me.  My neighbours are annoying and strange…

…and zombies?

It certainly would explain a lot…

With the vertigo, I’ve had a lot of time to people watch and the only sensible conclusion is that my neighbours are indeed zombies.

Evidence 1.

They never bring home food or drink or toilet roll* or dog food or bird food or any of those things you need to live as a human (or dog or bird).  They never get takeaways delivered so they aren’t getting food that way.  And they never have visitors.  Well, they have had one in the year and a bit I’ve lived here.

Evidence 2.

He goes out about 10pm and arrives home at 7am.  Too early for me to have my curtains open so I can’t tell you if he’s dragging a human body for a spot of breakfast…  But if I was looking for flesh, I’d do so in the cover of dark…

Evidence 3.

The regular sound of the vacuum cleaner, several times a day, could actually be a chainsaw being used to cut up bodies.

Evidence 4.

There is a weird bouncing noise once or twice a day. It could be a mini trampoline but it could also be jumping on a body to try and make it fit into a chest freezer for later meals…

Evidence 5.

The washing machine is ALWAYS on and there are only two of them so they don’t have anywhere near enough washing to justify it.  Perhaps they are cleaning blood off their clothes?

I would just like to add that I’m not a stalker.  I have very little to do right now and they are very noisy.

*Between writing this and publishing it, they did bring home some toilet rolls.  Still no food though…