Buffalo: Wild Unknown Animal Spirit Deck

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Note, the names buffalo and bison are often used interchangeably but are different, based on the illustration and Kim being based in America (I think), I am assuming this card is representing the bison found in North America.  I may be wrong of course!  For simplicity, I have used the word buffalo to stick with the card itself.

Buffalo are not a creature I am familiar with.  We looked at them briefly in school as part of a project on North America but that’s about it… I know they migrate in herds and I know they are big…  Based on the card alone, they look a strong and sturdy animal.  I seem to recall that they are grazers.  They feel like creatures very much of the earth.  They seem grounded.

I do know that when they were hunted by native Americans, everything was utilised – meat for food, hides for warmth, tools, shelter, glue etc….. One buffalo would have provided a fair amount of resources.  Understandably they saw the buffalo as a sacred creature and celebrated and thanked it for sharing it’s abundance.  If I were to eat meat, I would want to do so in this respectful, considerate way.

Are you sharing your abundance? Are you thanking others for sharing with you?

Other than humans, they have few predators to worry about but that doesn’t mean they are safe.  The population of buffalo has a hauntingly political aspect – they were hunted in large numbers as a way to restrict food available to the native peoples.  Populations got dangerously low at one stage but despite the threat to them, they have stood their ground and populations are now more secure.

This sense of security is echoed in the timelessness and reliability of the buffalo who have been around since the ice age and survived a lot of change.

I’d love to hear other people’s thoughts on this card, as I said, it’s not a creature I am familiar with and I’m sure those of you who know it better will have some wisdom to add.

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Reinterpreting weight

I am currently reading Rise Sister Rise by Rebecca Campbell.  Amongst a treasure trove of very quotable lines, she says, when talking about women and weight:

The extra weight I had been carrying was made from very real things.  Two years of celebrating being in love.  Birthing two books into the world.  And facing my lifelong fear of sharing my soul’s voice with the world through my creations.  Would I change any part of that?  No.

So tonight, when I started to have a little eating disorder wobble, I sat down to write about it instead of grabbing the scales.  I was trying to figure out what was causing the emotional wobble and hence the eating wobble.  As I was writing, I remembered these lines and wrote the following:

One book describes how the author had gained weight because she was in a happy relationship so actually her weight gain was a sign of love and happiness.  I tried to stop and think this through myself and all I got was my weight gain is a sign of laziness which is obviously anorexia speaking.

So let’s try again.  My weight gain is a sign that I’m not flat out exhausted, not running on empty constantly, I’m not as stressed, I have less fights to fight.  My weight gain is a sign that things are actually going ok right now.

My weight gain is a sign that things are going ok right now.  How awesome is that?  I’m still trying to feel it but the idea that my weight gain is tied up in my life improving makes it much harder to wish away the extra pounds.  Would I choose to let go of where I am now so that I could lose the weight?  No, I don’t think I would.


Rebecca also has an instant guidance section on her website which randomly chooses a message for you.

Mine, just now, was:

Shine so bright it burns the corneas of those who want you small.

The reason they want you small is because deep down they want to shine too.

And in watching you, chances are they will be inspired to do the same.

Which is so, so relevant to my eating disorder.  I was trying to make myself small, I was trying to make myself invisible, I was so scared to show myself to the world and risk being hurt because of it.

I didn’t plan to write this post but once I’d put it on twitter, I felt it might be a useful way of looking at things for others out there.  I hope it helps.

Snake: Wild Unknown Animal Spirit Deck

Snakes have been around for circa 94-112 million years meaning they have seen an awful lot of change.  This also speaks highly of how adaptable they are, as does the habitat range of snakes; they are found on all continents except the Antarctica and sea snakes are found throughout the Indian and Pacific Oceans.

Feeding

The snake is often associated with venom but most species are actually nonvenomous.  Those who do have venom use it to kill and subdue their prey.  Other ways of killing are by constriction or simply swallowing their prey whilst it’s alive.

Their skulls have more joints than their relatives, the lizard.  This is to allow them to swallow prey much larger than their heads – they have been known to eat crocodiles and cows!!  Random fact, they have been known to explode when eating live pray, apparently no one knows why but I think trying to eat a cow might explain it!  A very literal warning that you are biting off more than you can chew.

To hunt, they use their sense of taste and smell by using their tongues.  Their sense of touch is heightened by their proximity to the ground; they feel vibrations in the earth through their bodies and through their ears.  But I said they don’t have external ears?  Yes, but they do have inner ears!  And some snakes possess a sixth sense – the ability to sense heat and thus detect prey.  Perhaps the snake is asking you to get into your body, feel and listen to your sense, including your gut feeling.

They do not need to hunt everyday. Anacondas and pythons can survive for up to a year without food after feeding.  I’m not at all suggesting you try this but perhaps there is a message here about excess?

Their slender bodies affect their internal organs; paired organs (such as kidneys) appear one in front of the other instead of side by side, and most have only one functional lung.

This is a highly adapted creature.  Don’t be fooled by it’s seeming simplicity.

Shedding your skin

Moulting serves a number of functions. Firstly, the old and worn skin is replaced; secondly, it helps get rid of parasites such as mites and ticks.  It also acts as a wonderful metaphor for the ongoing circle of life, the phasic nature of our existence.  This too shall pass.

Do you need to shed your skin?  Do you need to move on?  Let go?  Transform?

Immortality

In the Epic of Gilgamesh, Gilgamesh loses the power of immortality when it is stolen by a snake.  A concept captured by the ouroboros – an image of a snake eating its own tail in a clock-wise direction (from the head to the tail) in the shape of a circle – which represents the cycle of life, death and rebirth, and thus immortality.  This symbol also encompasses the totality of existence and infinity.

Religion and beliefs

Perhaps because of how long they have been around, snakes feature in a lot of religions.  Indeed, we know in the bronze age there were at least a few snake cults.

The ancient Egyptian snake god Nehebkau was the guard of the underworld, perhaps one reason why snakes are so revered.  They were also considered very important in ancient Mesoamerica and in Mayan and Aztec calendars, the fifth day of the week was known as Snake Day.

The snake is regularly seen as a healer such as in ancient Greece, where they were also linked to fertility, and in Judaism.  They also feature in the  Rod of Asclepius which is associated with medicine and healthcare.  Related to this perhaps, is the use of venom as medicine.  I believe it’s been looked into as a cure for cancer but a lot of poisons can also be used healing, the difference being the dosage.

In Neo-Paganism and Wicca, the snake is seen as a symbol of wisdom and knowledge.

On the other hand, in Christianity, the serpent has been seen as representative of evil and sly plotting, seducing Eve and causing the downfall of women.  As a result, the snake is associated strongly with sexuality.

In Chinese astrology, the snake is a seducer, a charmer.  The snake doesn’t like things being left up in the air, as I guess it also literally doesn’t like being left up in the air!

The Rainbow Serpent or Snake is seen as a creator god in Aboriginal Australia.

Regardless of which belief system you look at, the snake seems to be a pretty powerful figure.  And this power seems to be a primitive, essential, god like power.  Are you embracing your own power?

Wild Unknown Tarot

In the wild unknown tarot deck, the wands court cards are illustrated using snakes.  The wands are about primal energy, spirituality, inspiration, intuition and ideas.  The suit is linked to the element fire – the spark of inspiration, the fire in your belly…

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As you can see in the picture, there is a lot of energy – the light of the son, the colours in the background of the mother and the flash of lightening (ideas, inspiration etc) in the father.

The link between snake and fertility is perhaps one reason Kim used them for this suit – the snakes are giving birth to or creating ideas.

There’s a lot of things to think about when it comes to the snake, perhaps not surprising given how long they have slithered around for.  

If you have drawn this card, think about what feels relevant to you, right now.  

Do you need to step into your power?  Do you need to shed your skin?  Are you biting off more than you can chew?  Are you feeling squeezed to breaking point?

These are big questions, being asked by a creature which has had a lot of time to acquire a lot of wisdom.

See also, Cobra

Fox: Wild Unknown Animal Spirit Deck

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A collection of foxes is apparently called a leash, skulk or troop.  A skulk of foxes seems particularly evocative of the idea of the fox as cunning and secretive, hiding in the shadows waiting to capture it’s prey.

Because they’re quick to adapt, foxes are found in a range of habitats from rural areas to city centres.  Their habitat and the number of foxes in the area affects their mating habits.  In areas with fewer foxes, they tend to display more monogamous behaviour.  Unlike a lot of species we’ve looked at, the father stays to look after the babies (called kits), providing food until they leave home.

This makes the fox a (sort of) dependable partner, there for you, meeting the family needs.  They can also remain together for several mating seasons making a fox a pretty committed creature.

My own fox story

When I was little, I lived in a house down a country lane with its own wee spot of tree climbing woodland.  I would play for hours amongst the horse chestnuts, the oaks, Ash and lime trees. One day, when I was seven or so, I was running through the fallen leaves with my younger sister and we saw a fox. It was laying very very still at the bottom of a tree. Not even moving when we crunched towards it in our wellies. We weren’t naive, we knew it was probably dead. As the older one of us, I stood watch over it whilst my dad was fetched. In that short space of time, the fox, opened its eyes for just a moment. My dad explained it was probably a reflex, a muscle twitch as the body relaxed into death. Whatever it was, that moment has stuck vividly with me for over twenty years.

Foxlore

There are a lot of stories about the fox including one about how the sly fox gave the owls their wisdom.  In it, the fox repeatedly tricks the owls into getting food for him and they focus so heavily on that that they neglect themselves and start to starve.  The fox reveals his trickery to them and from then on the owls are wiser and the fox continues to be cunning and crafty.  This story also highlights other trait, laziness and greed.  Whilst we often think of the fox as a hunter, they are opportunist feeders which is helped by the fact they eat pretty much everything.

In other folklore, legends and stories, the fox has been known, in male and female forms, to seduce humans and then harm them, such as in the ballard Reynardine.  Japanese folklore depict foxes as intelligent, magical beings who are able to shape shift.  Some use this ability to trick people whilst others are faithful, generous friends.  Long life appears to be another common feature of foxlore in the eastern world.

One of Aesop’s fable, handily condensed into a few lines by Aphra Behn, brings us the concept of sour grapes and suggests a certain pride in the fox:

The fox who longed for grapes, beholds with pain

The tempting clusters were too high to gain;

Grieved in his heart he forced a careless smile,

And cried, ‘They’re sharp and hardly worth my while

What currently feels like it’s beyond your reach?  Are you disparaging it because it isn’t available to you?  We do this in relationships, we get angry or frustrated or upset when someone achieves something we want, whether that’s a material want or seeing someone happy or content or excited etc.

Other fables illustrate other aspects of the fox, for example in the fox and the crow we see the fox’s cunning nature, which is reiterated in the fox and the goat which also shows the fox uncaring about using others to his own gain.

Are you hurting someone for your own gain?  Are you being hurt for someone else’s gain?  Having a cunning nature and intellect can be great but if this is you, look at how you’re using it.  Or perhaps you do need a bit of the fox to help you, just be careful of how it will affect other people.  Outfoxing someone in a battle of wits is one thing, standing on their back so you can reach the best grapes is quite a different thing.

The seven of swords

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Look at this guy, the seven of swords.  You may know that I find seven cards challenging but this is one I’m feeling more connected with.

This little fox is a bit wary, a bit cautious and even a bit sly.  He isn’t taking people at face value.  He is cautious about their intentions, their motives and isn’t going to leap into anything without testing the waters.  He’s keeping an eye out, spying on people, ready with the sword he’s hiding.  Perhaps the reason he’s feeling like this is because of his own nature – he knows how he tricks people and hurts them for his own gain so he expects it from others.

He could also be acting in self protection, keeping his cards close to his heart, holding onto his secrets.  He could be deluding himself or hiding something from himself that he isn’t ready to deal with.

There are times when secrets and not sharing is important to self preservation but there are times when it can also be destructive.  What impact are secrets having in your life at the moment?

Compare him to the much more confident looking fox in the animal spirit deck.  That guy is literally glowing, he is feeling pretty good about himself by the looks of things, possibly even a bit smug.

I hope I’ve given you a few things to think about when it comes to this handsome fox!


One of the strangest things I read when looking into the fox was that they “are the animal kingdom’s answer to Marmite – you either love them or hate them.”  Make of that what you will!

A quick interlude: Wild Unknown Animal Spirit Deck

As I said in my post about the Raccoon, the thoughts in these posts are just my own interpretations of the cards.  I have the guidebook that comes with them and when I’m doing readings I’m looking at it but I’m trying to go into this series of posts and my readings without anyone else’s ideas.

I am a huge believer in the power of the mind to show you what you need to see.  Our brain is set up to look for patterns and our answers, whatever you call them – synchronicities, prayers, messages from a goddess – are “chosen” by our unconscious.  Perhaps an example will make this clearer… You hear the same line of a song several times in a week and it’s exactly the lyric you need to hear to heal or rest or move forward.  Or you keep seeing feathers in your path and you read it as a sign to fly the nest.  We probably hear the lyrics or see the feathers many times on many other occasions but because our brain isn’t looking for that message, we don’t see it.  This is why I can read the same tarot card a million different ways, it’s about the message that I see that day, that is what I need to hear.  And sometimes I don’t hear it and my brain/the universe/the goddess/whatever you want to call it has to hit me over the head with it before I listen.

Taz Thornton explains this when she is talking about storytelling and stories:

“They really do deliver to us precisely what we need at the time – even if we weren’t aware of our requirement!”

She talks of “shooting” someone with a story; the idea that even if we have already heard the story, sometimes it can hit us in the heart, tell us exactly what we need to hear.  And it doesn’t matter if you’ve heard the story before.  You are open to different messages at different times in your life.

You see what you need to.

Raccoon – Wild Unknown Animal Spirit

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So raccoons are one of the animals I don’t know too much about.  I know they are associated with thieving and mischief because of the markings on their face and nocturnal behaviour.  In my research about rabbits I discovered that raccoons eat rabbits.  A bit more research tells me that they are adept with their hands, excellent for opening latches and doors!  So far, the raccoon is not coming off well…

They are eaten by a number of species including bears, alligators, coyotes, owls and other large birds.  When threatened, they retreat up trees.

Dexterity

They are noted for their problem solving skills and their intelligence which is expressed particularly in their dexterity – indeed their most sensitive sense is that of touch.  Because of this they seem to explore the world through their hands, which brings to mind parallels with artists and writers who explore the world through their hands in the form of the art they create.

Perhaps this card has shown up for you to remind you to create more often, whatever form that might mean to you.  When we create, we use a different part of ourselves and it can be helpful for understanding the world.

Masks

Let’s have a closer look at one of the obvious characteristics – that face mask.  In folktales, probably because of their markings, they often play the part of a cunning trickster which outsmarts other animals.  There is a theory that the markings help it to see in the dark, with the black fur reducing glare.  I’m not sure how true that is but I imagine we can all relate to the feeling of wearing a mask, hiding our true self.

Who in your life is wearing the mask?  It might be you, it might be someone else.  What is their motivation?  Is it shyness or deceit?  The raccoon in the card could be seen as timid or seen as trying to hide itself.  Your interpretation probably says something about what your mind is trying to tell you.  Listen to it.  Trust your own interpretation.  My words throughout this series are a way of me being able to explore my own ideas as well as the nature of the creatures but your own intuition is the most important aspect of any reading.

Masks can be used to conceal identity for reasons of privacy, fear, secrecy, disguise, to allow us to take on the role of another such as in acting…  We all have lots of different faces depending on our circumstances and these can be helpful when we need to call on different aspects of ourselves eg parent, colleague, manager, friend etc.  But like everything, it’s all about balance.  Are you wearing too many masks?  Are you spending any time without your mask?  How tight is your mask?  Are you being someone completely different?  Can you remember who you are without your mask?

Curiosity killed the cat (or the raccoon)

One of the reasons that raccoons get into trouble is their curiosity which leads them to explore, including homes and gardens in residential areas.  Is your own curiosity getting you into trouble?  Do you need to think about the consequences?  Or maybe you need to channel the raccoon and bring more curiosity into your life?

When faced with the unknown, if you feel the fear of the rabbit, perhaps you could transform this energy into the raccoon’s curiosity?  I find it interesting to look at the different spirit animals and see how they relate to one another.  We’ve seen that the raccoon kills the rabbit but perhaps the raccoon could do with a bit of rabbit caution?


If you want to see a cute, none wild raccoon, check out Pumpkin!

Fancy a bit of fun synchronicity?  I tweeted that I was spending my day researching the raccoon, after pressing send I picked up the copy of Flow which had arrived today and bam, there was a raccoon!

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The artist is Emmeke Kistemaker.

The Rabbit – Wild Unknown Animal Spirit Deck

For me, there feels like a lot of similarities between the mouse and the rabbit. Both are vulnerable to predators and this motivates a lot of their behaviour. The mouse focuses on the teeny tiny details to help it feel in control whereas the rabbit focuses on fear, ruminating on it over and over.

When we look at this card, we need to recall Kim’s intention to create a deck of wild animals. We shouldn’t see this rabbit in the same way as we see our domesticated, very much loved by humans, pampered pet rabbit.

Vulnerable to predators, rabbits have an excellent field of vision allowing them to see over a wide area especially when they “stand up” as depicted in the card.  Long ears also help her to sense danger and she is constantly alert.  If she perceives danger, she’ll possibly freeze and then warn other rabbits by thumping her foot.   Apparently rabbits can sleep with their eyes open, always vigilance and waiting for danger. They are shy, timid creatures who experience a lot of fear.

I wonder if fear is the reason they’re “at it like rabbits”, afraid that their young will be killed, they maximise their chances of their line continuing?  Or perhaps sex is an outlet for all their nervous energy?!

In terms of questions to reflect on, look at your fears.  Are they justified or are you seeing fear everywhere? How are you reacting to danger?  Are you like a rabbit in the headlights, frozen?

The story of Rabbit and Eye Walker is a good illustration of how fear can create danger.  What would be a better way of approaching your fear?  How can you work through it, let go of it or face it?

Think about your own life, are you like the Rabbit, afraid, cowardly, frozen? What does your fear drive you to do?  Is fear leading to you see the world through a pessimistic veil?  Does it fuel insecurity?

For me, this card is less about what you are afraid of and more about the impact that fear has on your behaviour, your thoughts and your life.