Animal Dreaming: Dog, take 2

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So take one wasn’t very helpful… In my defense I really was not feeling the card at the time when I wrote it.

Dogs are mans best friend. They are a symbol of loyalty, fidelity and reliability.  The card therefore asks us to consider our own loyalties, who or what are we putting our trust in?

Dogs are used to protect us, to warn us of approaching danger and to attack intruders.  They offer us warning signals as a way of serving us.  This idea of service is seen again and again with dogs, the most obvious being assistance dogs.

Side note, did you know that assistance dogs doesn’t just mean guide dogs for the blind? There are lots of reasons why a person might have a specially trained dog to help them.  My sister has an assistance dog through the charity Canine Partners and it is amazing how many different and seemingly complex tasks the dogs can be trained to do.

On a darker note, we see the appearance of a black dog in village as a predictor of plague in the 1300s.  Dogs are also associated with death in a number of societys.  Sometimes this is as the gatekeeper to the afterlife.  Sometimes it’s believed that dogs can sense death coming for a human.  Because of their excellent hearing, they were alleged to hear ghosts.  This ties into the concept of the dog as a warning system.

In the Rider Waite Smith tarot, the dog appears on the Moon, the Fool and the 10 of Pentacles cards:

  • The Moon – I would argue that this is possibly a representation of the wolf, there is a wildness associated with the moon that I do not sense in the dog as a domesticated animal.  Perhaps though we need to remind ourselves of how much involvement humans had in creating the dogs we have today.  We have changed their very nature and temperaments.  Is this a good or a bad thing?  It certainly shows the power of humanity but it also shows our cultural approach to nature as a thing which must be tamed.  We tend to feel the same about our emotions and our unconsciousness, both represented by the moon.
  • The Fool – A journey is beginning, where do we go?  Who do we take along?  In this case, I can see the value of an unwaveringly loyal companion who does not question but stands at your heel as you take the first step.
  • 10 of Pentacles – This card asks us to consider what is really important to us in life.  It asks us to look at our definition of success and whether we feel we have reached it.  Where the fool is the beginning of the journey, the ten of pentacles could be considered the end.
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Echidna: Animal Dreaming

wp-image-505075752jpg.jpgAnother amazing animal, this suit really is filled with some exceptional creatures!

They are named after Echidna, a half woman half snake creature from greek mythology.

The echidna’s closest relative may be the platypus, both are egg laying mammals with tiny electroreceptors on their snouts which detect currents.  For the echidna, this allows them to burrow and detect prey with their eyes closed.  Despite laying eggs, their babies, called puggles(!), hatch very undeveloped so they need a lot of looking after and nourishment.

All of this though, comes after mating.  And the echidna is a solitary character who goes quietly about her own business.  When the time is right, an echidna train will form – a female followed by male after male after male…  Not much is known about the echidna’s life but we do know that the males have a four headed penis and their shaft is covered in spines…  During mating, two of the heads sort of shut down and the other two are used to release semen.  The active heads alternate each time the male has sex. We also know that they flatten their spikes to mate.

Once the eggs are hatched, the puggles remain in mum’s pouch for 45 to 55 days and will be kicked out when they start to grow spikes.  Mum then digs a nursery burrow and leaves the puggles there, coming back every few days to feed them.

When the echidna is threatened, they curl up into a ball, leaving their spikes facing outwards so the predator gets a mouthful of spines.  These spines are made of keratin, the same stuff that our nails are made of.  They are designed for self preservation and they are defensive as opposed to offensive, with a gentle nature despite their spikes.  In one dreaming, the echidna refused to fight and thus his spines are the spears he continues to keep with him.

Other helpful adaptations include backwards facing feet which help with digging, sharp claws and a sticky tongue help them get to the ants and termites that they eat.  They can also breathe in bush fires by entering a mini hibernation type state in which they don’t need so much oxygen.  So much about the echidna is about self preservation and personal protection.

Whilst that is it for animal spirit cards, there are some plants and animals that I have a personal relationship with or affinity for and I will be doing a few random posts to look into them.

Wombat: Animal Dreaming

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Ooh the wombat is amazing!  They are so cute and so full of attitude!  These gentle, vegetarian marsupials are burrow dwellers with a powerful jaw for gnawing through plants.  Their teeth are also very helpful for digging their extensive tunnel systems along with their powerful claws.  Because of their burrowing, they have a backwards facing pouch to avoid filling it with dirt.  They tend to have one baby at a time which is born in the spring.  After about seven months they leave the pouch and are weaned after 15 months.

Their burrows protect them from fire and the heat of the day but also from predators.  They are mostly at risk from attacks by dingoes and tasmanian devils.  To escape, they will go into their tunnel and stand with their bums facing the entrance. They have a big layer of cartilage and muscle on their back and if a predator tries to grab them this will protect them from too much pain.  They also let the attacker get close and then they ram this hard shield into the top of the tunnel! These endearing, slow moving creatures are fully prepared to use a bit of violence to protect themselves.

This layer of muscle and cartilage is also used in communication – babies will nip and bite at it to talk to their mum.

They are lovely, chilled out animals which mooch along and yet below the surface is a bit of attitude and a bit of fiestiness.  These “ground koalas” have a tendency to head butt their way past obstacles.

When a female enters oestrus she becomes active and aggressive. Mating has been observed in captive wombats; the female attacked the male for about 30 minutes before allowing him to mate. The mating lasted for about 30 minutes with both male and female laying on their sides. In the wild, the courtship consists of the female being chased by the male in wide circles. The male then bites the female’s rump and rolls her over on her side. After several minutes the female breaks away and resumes the chasing behaviour. This action can be repeated several times within about 30 minutes.
– 
Australian Museum

In one dreaming story, wombat and kangaroo were both competitive about their homes.  Each thought theirs was the best; the wombat’s underground and protecting him from terrible weather, the kangaroo’s in the open air where he could watch the stars and enjoy a gentle breeze.  One stormy night kangaroo decided he wanted to be in the safety of the wombats burrow and went to stay with wombat, uninvited and unannounced.  Kangaroo got frustrated and angry and annoyed after his difficult night and ended up hitting wombat on the head which is why wombat has a flat head today.  In retaliation, wombat threw a spear at kangaroo, which made his tail.

This story and the importance of home to the wombat (they spend about 2/3 of their life in their burrow) may be asking you to think about your own home, your safe place, your nest.  And once you have found this place of comfort, you may need to gently, but firmly, enforce your boundaries.

Bowerbird: Animal Dreaming

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I’ve been so excited about this post!  The bowerbird is fascinating and interesting and amazing!  These architects of the bird world build complex and intriguing structures.  Some even paint these elaborate creations using natural pigments.  They collect treasures from the environment to decorate these intricate displays.  And why?  It is an activity carried out by the males as part of the mating ritual.

This is a painstaking process.  You need to prepare, think ahead, pull together the resources available and then carefully build your work of art.  You may need to steal from your fellow birds, you must keep an eye out for opportunities and you must gather your strength, your creativeness and your treasures.

A bower must be decorative, with a carefully arranged display of objects, a dowry.  These objects include shells, leaves, flowers, feathers, stones, bones*, berries, plastic, glass or anything else the male may find, satin bowerbirds being particularly fond of blue objects. And it’s not a rough and ready affair.  The male spends hours arranging his display.  You must dedicate yourself to the work for this is your future.  If you do not impress the females, your genes will not be passed on.

Bowerbirds have also been observed creating optical illusions in their bowers to appeal to mates. They arrange objects in the bower’s court area from smallest to largest, creating a forced perspective which holds the attention of the female for longer. Males with objects arranged in a way that have a strong optical illusion are likely to have higher mating success.
– 
Wikipedia

But it doesn’t stop there.  Once a female has been attracted by the bower, you must start the elaborate mating ritual.  This involves expanding your pupils alternately, a call and dance then waving of wings like a matador followed by headbutting the female…  All of this is to prove yourself worthy to her.

Once a mate has been found, the male will fertilise her and then she has the job of building a nest and chick rearing all by herself.  Presumably leaving the male to continue preening his creation.  Which you will have noticed is not doubling up as a nest.  This feels strange to us when most animal behaviour has a clearer function.

Dowries, the keyword for this card, are gifts or money which is given by the brides family to the husbands family when they marry.  Whilst no actual dowry is transferred between the birds, it does feel like the male is the one offering the treasure instead.  I don’t think she actually takes any of his objects but there is a feeling that they are displaying their wealth and enticing her with it rather than her bringing the offering as in the human sense of the word.  Regardless, I feel that this card and the keyword are asking us to look around and see what resources and treasures we have and to think about our relationship to them and how we treat them.  By resources and treasures I am including knowledge, opportunities, friends, family and environment as well as what you physically own or have access to.  We are all abundant in some way.


*Because of their bone collecting habit, the aboriginal people called the bowerbird the ghost bird.

 

Possom: Animal Dreaming

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I don’t really know anything about possums… So this was an interesting card, an interesting opportunity if you will, to learn.

First things first, a possum is not an opossum.  The latter are found in the Americas and the former in Australia.

Possums are nocturnal marsupials which are related to cuscuses.  Based on my limited research, this may be the common ringtail possum, the scientific name of which is Pseudocheirus peregrinus (Greek for “false hand” and Latin for “pilgrim” or “alien”).  The common ringtail possum enjoys eating leaves, flowers, fruit and a special type of faeces that is produced during the daytime when it is resting…  This sounds a bit disgusting to us by it’s similar to behaviour displayed by rabbits and helps to maintain their energy levels, important given their low nutrient diet.  It also helps them to conserve water.  The common brushtail possum is less discerning when it comes to diet.  They normally eat leaves, flowers and fruits but they are often found in urban areas where they will eat pretty much anything.  They don’t pass up the opportunity for a meal even if it’s not what they would generally choose.

Possums spend most of their life in the trees, rarely descending to the ground.  They are excellent climbers and use their prehensile tail to help with balance and grip.  Their large, sharp claws also help with their arboreal lifestyle.  That said, the common brushtail possum is happy to adjust and will delight in sharing your home with you (you may feel differently about this arrangement…).  This is a really opportunistic, inventive and adaptable creature.

One possum pair eager to get their paws on tasty garden veggies was witnessed balancing like acrobats: one hanging from a branch, holding the other’s back legs in its front paws and lowering him down the tree!
-BirdGard

As night dwellers, the possum lives in the shadows, able to see and hear and navigate the darkness.  However, danger can hide there so the possum must remain on high alert.  This seems to come naturally to them, they seem always to be on the look out and always thinking and noticing what is around them and how they can make use of opportunities which cross their path.  These skills will also ensure the possum is aware of any predators – in their search for opportunity they also spot danger.

 

Grey Kangaroo: Animal Dreaming

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For general kangaroo info, check out the red kangaroo post.

Grey kangaroos are smaller than the reds and need more predictable climate.  Because they are more abundant that other types of kangaroos, the eastern grey can be “commercially harvested for export” by licenced hunters.

In terms of the keyword abundance, this is similar to how other cultures have viewed the whale and bison.  A gift from nature which provides lots of resources and for which the community is thankful for.  In this case, the grey kangaroo provided meat, pelts, and strong bones for digging.  She is a sign of prosperity and a reminder that earth will look after you if you look after her.  The balance of the planet relies on us taking only what we need.

Red Kangaroo: Animal Dreaming

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First let’s have a quick look at the kangaroo in general.  Then we’ll focus in on the red kangaroo in this post and the grey kangaroo in the next.

Kangaroos are the largest of all marsupials with the red being the biggest.  They can run up to 70mph and can maintain lower but still fast speeds for a long time.  They have strong, powerful hind feet which help them bounce and hop and jump.  Despite all this apparent energy, they are grazers and as such can be perceived as pests by farmers.

The kangaroo pouch gives us a fantastic metaphor to play with.  It is a place of safety, of comfort, of refuge.  A quiet place that lets the joey retreat when the world gets too much, just like a blanket fort!  There is also the sense that this is a place where it would be very easy to overstay your welcome, to get stuck in your comfort zone.

Red Kangaroo

Red kangaroos have a super kidney and conserve water very well – better than greys do.  Indeed the red kangaroo is better adapted to surviving harsh climates than the grey.  They have developed a number of mechanisms to coping with the heat, the water conservation being just one.

Their fur reflects about 30% of heat and saliva licked onto the fur cools their blood.  When they’re moving they sweat but this increases water loss so they don’t sweat when they are still, instead they pant.  They will dig into the hot sand to reach the cooler sands and then they relax into their “nest”.  The males masters of heat regulation have to be particularly careful because the heat can lower their fertility.  To keep their precious sperm cool, they lick their scrotum.  They can also retract their testicles to protect them in fights…

But females don’t have it easy.  They are almost always pregnant and can have three offspring, each at a different stage of development.  There is a newly fertilised egg which is “on hold” until the peanut sized baby stops suckling and moves on to the more familiar joey stage.  Female red kangaroos are essentially just a reproductive factory and this allows for species maximisation in their harsh climates.  As harsh as it sounds, if one dies there are two others and if climate or access to food dictates, one of her young can be sacrificed.  This sounds tough and uncaring but it’s actually a highly responsible thing to do.  If there is not enough food or water for all then surely it’s better to lose one than all?  And if mum continued looking after all her children and producing the milk they need, there is a higher chance she wouldn’t survive.  This brings us to self responsibility.  We tend to think as responsibility as looking after others but ultimately we must look after ourselves first in order to then be able to help others.  We live in a culture which often asks mothers to sacrifice themselves for family but this is not a helpful idea.  We can be responsible for others without losing ourselves.  Being responsible for our own needs does not mean we cannot meet the needs of others.  But be careful, women in particular, often internalise the idea that we must meet the needs of everyone around us.  This emotional work, this keeping everyone else happy, is draining and unnecessary*.

Emotional labor is the exertion of energy for the purpose of addressing people’s feelings, making people comfortable, or living up to social expectations. It’s called “emotional labor” because it ends up using – and often draining – our emotional resources.
Everyday FeminismEveryday Feminism

 


*It is of course deeply engrained in many of us so I’m not suggesting it’s easy to stop but being aware of it is an excellent start and not doing emotional work for people who aren’t important to you is a great second step.