Swan: Wild Unknown Animal Spirit Tarot Deck

This post will focus primarily on the white swan as when I get onto my Australian animal cards, there is a black swan.

“I have looked up on those brilliant creatures.
And now my heart is sore….
….
The bell-beat of their wings above my head,
Trod with a lighter tred.
Unwearied still, lover by lover,
They paddle in the cold”
– W B Yates, The Wild Swans at Coole

If you’ve never had much do with swans, you’d probably agree with Yates’ description of them as mysterious and beautiful.  As someone who lives in a city of ducks, geese and swans, I’m telling you they are vicious.  They are highly aggressive, especially when parenting.  There is a claim that they can break a mans arm and I fully believe it.  These are strong birds.  They are big and they are violent.  Do not let their graceful, angelic appearance fool you.

Swans mate for life (unless one of the pair dies or occasionally divorce occurs) and this follows on from an elaborate courtship.  The two potential mates dance and check each other out.  As they do so their long sleek necks come together to form a heart shape.  Because of this, their fidelity and their whiteness they are often used as a symbol of pure love.  They are a sign of commitment and constancy.

The tranquil swan appears to float through life without any troubles which can invoke jealousy in others.

When it comes to mythology and folklore it’s hard to know where to start!

Beginning in England, we see the swan as a royal bird.  The queen owns all the swans and this tradition may go back to 1100 or before.  During the Swan Upping, people go up and down the Thames counting the swans.  You are not allowed to hunt or kill swans, possibly going back to a belief that they were tasty and thus reserved for royalty only…  Either way, the idea of the swan as a regal bird persists.

A bit further afield, in Ireland, there is a legend which tells of a stepmother turning her children into swans for 900 years.  Another story, The Wooing of Etain, describes how a king of the underworld transformed himself and his partner into swans to escape the king of Ireland and his armies.

In Northern Europe, we see the swan associated with Freyr and tales of swan maidens were well known.  The swan apparently gained it’s white colour because two of them drank from a sacred well which held water so pure and holy that it turned everything that touched it white.  In Finland, we see a swan living in the realm of the dead and a belief that anyone who killed a swan would die.

The swan is credited swan with spinning the thread of thought in one of Hans Christian Anderson’s fairy tales, The Swan’s Nest.  Possibly better well known though is the ugly duckling, a story which reminds us of our own true beauty which lies within and which can be hard to find in such a society as ours.

Moving now to ancient Greece, we find the story of Leda and the swan which led to the birth of Helen of Troy.  The swan is one of the sacred birds of Apollo, was a symbol of Aphrodite her Roman equivalent Venus, both goddesses of love.

 

Heading finally to the east, the Japanese have a story of a swan angel.  The swan is a vehicle of Brahma, the Hindu god of creation which we will talk about in relation to the tarot deck below.  There is also a belief that swans embody intellect, purity, good judgement, skill, grace, knowledge and creativity.  They epitomise the idea of non attachment – being in the world without getting attached to it – as the swans feather does not get wet even when in water.

It was believed that mute swans (a type not a description) only sang when they were dying and their song would be beautiful.  This is where we get the phrase swan song.

Wild Unknown Tarot Deck
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Swans are used in the tarot deck to represent the court cards of the cup suit and the fool may or may not be a baby swan.

The cups, as well as representing emotion and relationship and love, are used as a sign of creativity.  Indeed I don’t know many people who would say that creativity and feelings are not intimately connected.

To me, the swan feels a bit like a finished piece of creative work.  It is the painting that conceals the tears that went into it, the poetic masterpiece that hides the torment of the poet.  The swan appears graceful, tranquil and yet I’m sure they have their share of tough stuff.  I don’t think we should hide our emotions.  I think we get into a lot of trouble when we do.  I do hide my emotions, of course I do, but I don’t think we should strive for that.  Instead the message here for me is to recognise that others hide their emotions and difficult experiences as well and you can’t judge someone based on what you see.  Like with the ugly duckling story.

Taking this idea and using it to look at the tarot cards, we see swans in different stages of life.  The fool, if it is a swan, is very much a baby.  A vulnerable new born setting out into the world, the fool has yet to even start to think about their creative masterpiece.  Next we have the daughter who is a little older, she’s finding beauty and rainbows in the world and the water she plays in is calm.  The son is a bit older again, wiser, he is starting to pull together the beauty and the rainbows and gather them together to use in his creative masterpiece.  He’s starting to feel more intensely and starting to figure out his own place in the world.

Mother is a full grown swan.  Gentle and aggressive.  She protects her creative and loving energy with her wing but she does not constrict it.  This is the stage in our creative masterpiece where the work itself is doing something magical.  We’ve gathered inspiration as the daughter, collected our tools as the son and now something wonderful is happening to turn it into our masterpiece.  The father is content, he has created his work, he is showing the world his calm, reflective, effortless pose.  The intense emotional and creative process has climaxed.  And looking just at the outcome, the father, the painting, the poem, you wouldn’t know the depth that went into it.

I think it’s interesting that the father card is of a black swan when the rest are white swans.  When I look at the black swan later, this may help shed some light on this tarot card.

As always, for more information about the Wild Unknown Tarot cards, check out Carrie Mallon.

Shark: Wild Unknown Animal Spirit Deck

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The shark is a fish, so it is worth having a look at that card as well.  

Whilst we are familiar with a few key species of shark – the tiger shark, the hammerhead, the mako shark etc – there are actually over 500 species which range from 17cm long to 12m.  I recently read an article about the great white shark.  It covered lots of technical info but the bit that stuck with me was the duality of appearance that they drew my attention to.  From the side, they can appear comical, clown like.  And then when they turn and face you, they are, without any doubt, menacing.  I loved this.  Sharks have a really bad reputation as fierce, heartless killers but really, especially compared to humans, they’re pretty gentle and ethical killers.  Unlike us, they kill to survive.

Sharks have been described as killing machines and whilst that is a very one sided perspective, it is true.  The shark, like other apex predators, has evolved to be an efficient hunter.  They are streamlined and fast with excellent manoeuvrability.  Despite our fear of shark attacks, they are actually elusive creatures who are likely to only attack people if they are threatened or they mistake the human for a seal.  Think about it, the shark will see the person and the seal from underneath, as a shadow against the surface of the water and in certain positions, they look the same.  This does give us some insight into the nature of the shark – they are action orientated, act first, think later.  If there’s something you feel you should do, do it, do it now and don’t overthink it.  Follow your gut.

I think some people probably associate the shark with anger, with uncontrolled temper, with pure fear. But they aren’t like that all the time.  On one side they are killers, they do strike fear into prey.  But there is another side to them.  Like most big sea animals, they are a bit like a moving, living ecosystem.  Little fish actually swim into the mouths of sharks – they help the shark out by cleaning their teeth, eating parasites etc.  And the shark does not eat them even though they could and would in other situations.

It feels like actually, the shark, if you consider it to have a temper, has a very controlled one.  It can say to the cleaner fish, yes now is a good time, I’m in a good mood, I’m not hungry, come on in.  And conversely, it can say no, not now, go away, not right now.  This feels like it would be a really good skill for us.  How much easier would it be if we could recognise and easily communicate when we need to be left alone.  There is a common reaction that if someone wants you to leave that you’ve done something wrong but the shark shows us that you will probably be welcomed back with open arms.  It’s just about timing.

As I’ve said, they are not gratuitous killers, instead killing when they need to eat.  I think humans probably kill more than we eat because of fears around scarcity.

“Scarcity thinking says that there will never be enough of anything – love, food, energy, power – so we must hoard or conditionally offer and withdraw, what we have… Abundance thinking says that together, we have enough of what we need, that there is enough for all of us if we recognise our essential interdependence.” – Autumn Brown

The shark has overcome this difficult relationship with scarcity and abundance with an internal rationing system.  This means they can delay digestion when food is scarce so they are really planning for the future, putting something aside for a rainy day as it were.

Let’s have a look at a few facts and bust some myths…

  • Their teeth are continually being replaced. True.  Keep your tools sharp, keep your skills fresh.
  • They can smell blood from far away which led to the belief that sharks could sense if a death was imminent.  True.  Sailors believed that seeing a shark would mean someone on board would die.
  • They have to keep moving or they’ll sink.  False.  However some species do need to keep moving in order to keep breathing and are able to sleep whilst swimming.
  • Sharks are loners.  False.  Some species are but most are social animals and even solitary sharks meet up for breeding and in rich hunting grounds.
  • Sharks are speedsters.  True and false.  It varies between species but they travel at an average speed of 5mph.  They can reach higher speeds, an average of 12mph, in short bursts. Like the cheetah, this isn’t a marathon, it’s a short sprint.
  • Sharks migrate.  True.  They have complicated migration patterns that we don’t know much about.  They travel great distances and manage 45 miles a day.

As I mentioned in the stingray post, sharks and rays can detect the electrical pulses given out by living beings through senses on their skin.  Have a look at this video for more info about how this works:

This extra-sensory experience of the world, plus the belief that sharks could predict death, has led them to be linked with clairsentience (psychic feeling or touching) and clairolfactus (psychic smelling).  The shark is asking us to tune into our senses, tune into our intuition, tune into our emotions and what our body is telling us.  Trust these ways of knowing to help you navigate the deep seas of your soul.

And I do mean deep.  Sharks are deep divers, common down to 2,000 metres.  This primitive, instinctual animal is comfortable in the dark waters of our emotions.  Perhaps we need to strip back part of ourselves, our logical, modern mind, and instead approach our inner self in a more intuitive, more primal way.  Feel our way through and not worry about how we put what we experience and see into language.

Sharks are often demonised; the Western view of sharks has been that they are malevolent, dangerous and evil.  A clear example of us fearing what we don’t understand.  And not making much effort to get to know what we don’t understand.  Instead, we make a decision about the nature of a thing and perpetuate myths and beliefs about it so we don’t have to challenge our own thinking.

As we saw with the panther, there is a difference between revering and respecting an animal and just being blindly afraid.  Sharks and shark gods are prominent in Hawaiian mythology.  One of these, Kamohoali’i, would guide lost sailors home and could take the form of any fish.  Both Hawaiian and Polynesian mythology tell of the shark as a resting place for the soul and in a similar vein, the Fijian shark god Dakuwaqa would eat lost souls.

When you’re looking at the shark, try and see the duality, try and see this duality in yourself as well.  We are not clear cut beings.  We are predators and prey.  We are killers and creators.  We are graceful and we are vicious.

Otter: Wild Unknown Animal Spirit Deck

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Otters are awesome!!!

To get us started, and into the mindset of the otter, let’s kick off with a video!

To a certain extent, that says everything I could say… Otters are amazing, playful, curious, intriguing creatures.  They are joyful, caring, graceful and delightful.

“The joyful, keen and fearless otter; mild and loving to his own kind, and gentle with his neighbour of the stream; full of play and gladness in his life; full of courage in his stress; ideal in his home; steadfast in death; the noblest little soul that ever went four-footed through the woods” – Ernest Thompson Seton

These fantastic animals tumble through the water with grace and playfulness.  This sense of play coexists alongside the stormy waters that otters do face.  They are prey for other animals, they have to deal with finding their own food, they have been hunted by humans and are facing habitat destruction, polluted waters and so on.  But they know the healing value of play and joy and love.  The card seems to show the otter in a lovely bubble of light and happiness.  Whilst we can’t live in that bubble all the time, it’s nice to have it to retreat to from time to time.  Have a think about what your bubble is like?  How can you get inside it?  Why not actually blow some bubbles?  There’s something wonderful and delightful about doing it.

Whilst not all otters live in groups, some do.  The smooth coated otters are the most social of otters and they maintain close bonds through group rubbing and play (I’m running out of synonyms so the word play will have to do!).  They make delightful squeaks and yips as they frolic.

These are land animals which returned to water and are clearly at home there.  They are agile, graceful swimmers and highly energetic.  Their flexibility comes in handy as they need to be able to reach all over their body to groom their fur.  These supple creatures move freely between the elements of water and land, between the emotional and practical, at home with both.

One documentary narrator commented that they seem to have two speeds – on or off.  Action or rest.  And it’s important to get the balance right with that.  And that balance will be different for different people.  For me, if I’m going to have a day trip, I’ll need to rest at least the day before and the day after.  That is my balance and having chronic pain and fatigue really helps you tune into that.  Balance here could also be between land and water.  Between work and play.  Otters have to actively hunt for their fish but they also make water slides.  They work hard and play hard.

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I think this card is a river otter but we’ll have a look at sea otters whilst we’re on the topic of otters.  Sea otters have the thickest fur on the planet which keeps them nice and warm but makes them a target for hunters.  They need this fur for warmth but it’s not so much the fur itself that protects them from the cold sea water.  The fur traps air which acts as insulation and this also means the super furry babies bob on the surface!!!  When you see sea otters rolling over in the water, this is sometimes to get rid of crumbs, they do eat off their tummies, but also to trap air in their fur.

You may also know that sea otters hold hands or wrap seaweed around themselves and this is to tether themselves so they don’t drift out to the middle of the ocean whilst they take a nap.  Holding paws reinforces the idea of the otter as a loving, caring creature and also suggests a problem solving approach.

Otters are linked with selkie myths as well as other tales of shapeshifting.  If you’ve ever seen an otter dancing, twirling, twisting and being one with the water, you’ll know how easy it is to imagine them shapeshifting.  Which is interesting as they seem so completely at home in their bodies.  Perhaps it is only when we are truly one with ourselves that we are free to explore other bodies?

In folklore they are generally helpful and friendly, bringing food to those who need it and warming cold feet!

The otter really is asking how you can bring more joy and more play into your life.  I hope you find a way to embrace your inner child.

Frog: Wild Unknown Spirit Cards

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Did you know that 29th April is Save the Frogs day? If not, check out my post over on my the day of what series… (being published on 29th April).

Frogs are found living in fresh water and on land as we all know but there are also a few who live underground or in trees.  Such as the tree frog!  I had a quick look on google but I couldn’t decide what frog this is (again, vertigo is a hinderance… it might be a pacific tree frog), please shout up if you know.

Frogs have stout bodies, protruding eyes, a cleft tongue and no tail.  They fold their limbs under their body, hiding their powerful legs.  Frogs are fantastic jumpers, according to wikipedia the striped rocket frog, a mere 5.5cm can leap over 2 metres.

Whilst frogs are well known for the jumping ability, it’s their skin which amazes me.  They shed their skin every few weeks, who knew?!  The skin, once shed, is then eaten by the frog which seems pretty resourceful.  If you’ve put a lot of nutrients and energy into making your skin, why not reuse them? And actually, frogs are apparently really good at turning food in general into body mass.  Anyone who knows me, knows I love efficiency so I find this fantastic!  Bring more efficiency into life folks!

Their skin is awesome in more ways; it secretes chemicals, some of which are toxic.  They are sometimes talked about as having a pharmacy on their back and indeed the chemicals on some frogs’ skin have important, or potentially important, medical uses.  One frog secretes a potent painkiller which is stronger than morphine and another type secretes poison which is used to make poison darts.  Research is also being carried out to see if the chemicals secreted by a particular frog may be helpful in treating HIV.

They use their skin to absorb water which makes them very sensitive to their environment and changes within it.  There can be so many toxins in the water which can affect their health and they have no way of avoiding it really.  One example I came across was the hormones in birth control pills.  Some of these pass into the water system through urine and they can cause birth defects to frogs.

Please don’t read this as you need to get rid of all the chemicals in your life – chemicals are our life.  Water is a chemical.  Salt is a chemical.  Everything made of matter is a chemical.  But you can be more mindful about which chemicals you interact with.  Think back hundreds of years – women wore lead on their skin for beauty and it killed them.  If you have a cold, don’t reach automatically for the antibiotics.  Note, I am on a million meds so I’m not at all anti medication, but again I think a conscious awareness of using them rather than habitual unthinking is best.  I feel that the frog card is just asking for us to pay attention to our environment and our bodies and what we put into both of them.

Frogs can pass oxygen through their skin which means they can respire in environments where they cannot breath conventionally.  However, this is only possible if their skin is moist and it is this which ties the frog to water.  So the frog in the picture, which is being rained on, is probably loving the rain!  How you feel about the rain, and many other things in life, depends so much on perspective… Wherever you find a frog, there will be water nearby.  Whether that’s a pond or a stream or a puddle in a leaf in a tree in the rainforest.  These land dwelling animals cannot forget about their watery needs and nor should we.

If you’re eating or a bit squeamish, pass over this paragraph.  I think it’s fascinating but that doesn’t mean you will…  Frogs have long tongues (well, a few frogs don’t have any tongue but in general…) which are coiled in the mouth.  When food comes along, it shoots out and springs back really fast.  So far, so what?  The next bit is the kicker.  They then push the food, which they eat whole, down their throat using their eyes.  They literally use their eyes to eat.  How interesting is that?!

Talking of eyes, they tend to have bulging eyes which see distance better than close up.  Beware of immediate dangers which can be overlooked whilst you’re scanning the horizon.  The mosquito which sneaks up behind you is probably more deadly than the lion which you can barely make out.  The way eyes are positioned means a frog can hide under water with just their eyes above the surface which is great for hunting food.  They also have a membrane which protects them when they’re under water.

We associated frogs with ribbiting but they make other noises as well and their croak is unique to their species.  To make their call, most puff up their vocal sacks.  This self inflation can mean the frog is seen as prideful.  If this is the pacific tree frog then they do make a stereotypical frog ribbit.  This sound, to me at least, has echoes of the ba-bum of a heartbeat and perhaps chanting or using this sound as a mantra could help when meditating on what the frog card has to say.

From a metaphorical perspective, the life cycle of the frog is obviously going to be important and will reflect some of the ideas discussed in relation to the butterfly.  A quick refresher of the frog cycle:

Frogs lay eggs in water (frogspawn).  Frogspawn hatches into tadpoles (sometimes called polliwogs which I love!) which have tails and internal gills.  It grows a bit and develops limbs and lungs.  Then, through metamorphosis over about 24 hours, it then becomes an miniature adult frog and can venture onto land.

This progress from water to land has been paralleled with our own evolutionary development, both as a species and personal evolution and growth.  Has the frog come to you now because you are venturing into a time of change, because you need to step into necessary growth?  Perhaps it is time to get out of the water and onto land.  Whilst emotions are great and most of us don’t spend enough time with them, they can become all consuming and there is a wider world out there for us too.  Note too that frogs tend to lay their eggs in ponds or areas where the water is calm and sheltered.  Perhaps it’s time to leave the relative safety of the pond?  Yes, it’s scary as hell to head out onto land where herons can see you and dive after you but it will be rewarding as well.

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Frogs and beliefs and stories and mythology is an abundant field.  If you find the frog chimes with you or seems to have something to say to you, do your own research, there is so much out there.  I’ll skim over a few of the ideas here but I won’t go into much detail or this would be very very very long!

Frogs are associated with fertility and new life.  In the past they were used as a pregnancy test.  Because of their life cycle, they are used as a Christian symbol of the holy trinity and resurrection.

Ancient egyptians believed frogs were divine and also linked them with regeneration.  The hieroglyph of a tadpole stood for the number 100,000.  We have to remember how important the river Nile would have been to ancient Egyptians and frogs were probably associated with that.  As such, it is not so suprising that they held the frog as a symbol of life and fertility.  The goddess Heqet was represented as a frog and was the goddess of fertility.

In terms of superstitions, we have the idea that the sighting of frogs heralds the end of the dry season, it’s lucky to meet a frog and unlucky to kill a frog because they house the spirit of dead children.  Because of the association with weather, they feature in anti-drought ceremonies.

There are a number of tales of a frog in a well where the frog is symbolic of someone lacking in understanding and vision.

There is this idea that if you put a frog in boiling water, they jump out but if you put it in cold water and heat it, they don’t.  This is disputed and please don’t try it at home.  But the idea is that slow changes build up to massive changes and our reaction to them is then different.  As a very trivial sort of example, it’s like the idea of someone getting taller.  Mum who sees him every day doesn’t notice her boy has shot up a foot but aunty Mable who only seems him once a year does.  Look back on your own progress, it’s easy to think nothing has changed as so much of our life is in baby steps.

In culture, we see the story of the frog prince as well as the frog in many many tales including the lovely Jeremy Fisher pictured above!  In a lot of these, the frog is portrayed as ugly, clumsy etc but with some sort of concealed beauty or skill.  Like the oyster, it’s a reminder to look inside.

Turtle: Wild Unknown Animal Spirit Deck

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Turtles and tortoises…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oyster: Wild Unknown Animal Spirit Deck

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Beaver: Wild Unknown Animal Spirit Cards

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Beavers are awesome.  End of post.

You want more?

They actually change ecosystems and create habitats.

More still?

Oh ok then….

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

This blows my mind!

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

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

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