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!

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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.

The Mouse – Wild Unknown Animal Spirit Deck

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My beloved granma was NOT a fan of mice.  She was a strong woman, independent, loving, she kept bees and I don’t think she had a problem with spiders but when it came to mice… She’d be up on a stool the moment she saw one!  I wish she was still with us so I could ask her about it.

Like the earthworm, the mouse is small and often judged by her size, such as in the story of the mouse and the lion.  As well as highlighting that you shouldn’t judge creatures by their size, this fable also illustrates some of the mouse’s characteristics.  She took the giant task of freeing the lion step by step, little by little.

Imagine yourself as the mouse.  You are so tiny and the world so large that the little details, the nitty gritty seem huge.  You can end up so focused on the small things that you don’t even see the bigger picture and this is understandable when a pebble is the size of a rock, a molehill the size of a mountain.  However, too much attention to detail can be a hindrance.  Are you getting the balance right?

Like the Earthworm, the mouse is toward the bottom of the food chain. Unlike the worm, it can’t spend all its time hiding under the ground. To cope, she has a heightened sense of danger, is very vigilant and feels things out carefully. How about you? How do you approach threats and danger? Do you need to be more cautious?

Mice are one of those creatures that a lot of people dislike, if this is you, do you know why? If not, what is your relationship to the little mouse?

The Earthworm – Wild Unknown Animal Spirit Deck

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You might want to read the first post, with some context and my musings on the bear if you haven’t already.

The earthworm… Well, you might wonder what on earth (ha – pun!) I’m going to say but first I’d like to thank Kim for featuring such a range of animals, not just the most beautiful or most loved ones.  For where would we be without the earthworm?  This much overlooked, shy creature which daily turns the earth over contributing greatly to the web of life.

“It may be doubted whether there are many other animals which have played so important a part in the history of the world, as have these lowly organised creatures.”

-Charles Darwin

A bit of background

I’m guessing that, like me, you’ve probably not given much thought about earthworms before so first, lets have a quick lesson.

Earthworms are also known as the “dew-worm”, “rainworm”, “night crawler”, and “angleworm” (due to its use as fishing bait).  Whilst we often overlook the humble creature, the ancient Egyptians apparently held them sacred and were forbidden from removing them from the soil.

Earthworms are deaf and do not have eyes but they are covered in cells which allow them to taste the earth and sense light and dark..  They have five “pseudohearts” (blood vessels which act as a heart) and both male and female reproductive organs.

They move using waves of muscle contractions which shorten and lengthen their body and they expand into crevices in the earth using force.  Perhaps thinking of them like a piston will help you get the idea?

They aerate and mix the earth as they move which also leaves behind tiny tunnels which are helpful for drainage as well as allowing oxygen to enter the ground and carbon dioxide to leave.  They speed up decomposition and improve the fertility of the soil and acelerate the nutrient cycle.  Their casings are essential for healthy soil and the presence of worms increases the activity of bacteria and fungi in the area which all helps to create a rich and fertile environment.  All of this is excellent news for plants that are living in the area which in turn is great news for the animals which eat the plants and so on.  They are also food for birds, hedgehogs, moles and many other species.

The Earthworm Animal Spirit Card

Ok, now you know a bit of the basics of the humble earthworm, lets have a think about what that might mean in terms of the spirit card.

Firstly, we’re thinking about humility and being overlooked.  This little creature does a lot of essential work for the planet and most of us don’t give it a second thought.  They are a reminder that we are all important, we are all interconnected, we are valued even if we are not in the spotlight.  And indeed many of us would rather not be in the spotlight.  Your contribution to this world does not go unnoticed.  It may seem like it at times but what you are doing matters and there are people (like the Earthworm Society of Britain) who are full of praise and joy and delight for you.

Look back at the card, that little worm is hiding it’s light within itself, shyly keeping itself to itself.  It is motivated internally rather than by external praise and validation.  Don’t judge the power of a being based on their size or their presence.  The earthworm is just as crucial to our planet as the imposing bear.  Honour the little things in life and the quiet contributions to society which keep everything ticking over.

Whilst the Earthworm carries out important work, it is a relatively basic creature. If you were creating life, the worm would be one of your earlier projects. The worm is a beginner, the start of the food chain.  Perhaps if you’ve drawn this card you need to give yourself a break, you can’t be an expert as soon as you start out, value each phase of your journey.

As you might expect there are some crossovers between the animals in the spirit deck and those in the wild unknown tarot deck, the earthworm being one of them. It features in the five of swords as well as the nine of swords.


The five of swords is often related to self destruction, pain and suffering and whilst I don’t argue with that, the knowledge that the Earthworm can regenerate parts of itself add a positive note to the tarot card. Yes, we may be hurting but we have the power to heal ourselves.

The nine of swords depicts worms feasting on remains of something.  Which sounds disgusting and horrible and the card itself is associated with fear and nightmares and despair which feels about right if you have worms eating your flesh.  But with our knowledge about the earthworm, we know that this is important.  This is a part of the birth, life, death, rebirth cycle.  In this case it’s not literal, you probably don’t have actual worms eating you but think about what you need to let go of, what needs to die, how can that be transformed into new life?  How can you take your fear and turn it into something good?

“All in the web of life have something vital to share in creating a healthy Earth garden.  All life is interdependent on other life forms… When you honour the small beings that are vital to life, you start to let go of your judgement, tune into yourself and acknowledge the gifts you personally contribute to the web of life.  And in doing so you feel on a cellular level that you are enough.”

– Llyn Roberts

 

The Wild Unknown Animal Spirit Deck: The Bear

“…Ask now the Beasts
And they shall teach thee;
And the Fowls of the air,
And they shall teach thee;
Or speak to the Earth,
And it shall teach thee”

-Job 12: 7-8

I recently got the beautiful Wild Unknown Animal Spirit Deck from an amazing friend (which makes it even more special in my books).  One of the wonderful things about the deck is that you can add a lot of your own personal meaning based on your experience with the animals you draw and also by learning more about them.

Kim Krans, the illustrator, explains that, out of all the many many animals, she focused on wild animals and has split the deck into earth, air, fire, water and spirit.

To get to know the cards better, I am hoping to work my way through them all, adding my own knowledge, my understanding of the animal and what I feel like they are telling me.  I will not be regurgitating the accompanying book, buy that yourself, it’s great!  Some of the animals I’m familiar with, some less so and in another animal spirit deck (also from a great friend) there are animals I’ve never even heard of!  It’s the Animal Dreaming Oracle Card deck by Scott Alexander King and I’m planning on doing a similar thing with that deck as well.

These are the earth cards, how beautiful are they?! I love them!

Bear

I like bears, quite possibly stemming from my love of teddy bears which I do realise are very different to the wild kind!

As I approach these cards, I think about what springs to mind when I think of the animal.  When it comes to the bear, hibernation is a big part of that mental construct I have.  I also bring to mind the dichotomies of the bear; on the one hand you have creature which eats mostly vegetation and nurtures her* cubs for a couple of years; on the other hand you have an animal which is fierce and aggressive (mostly when she or her cubs are being threatened it must be said).

In terms of the card, one of the most powerful messages I got was that you can have two seemingly opposing energies or forces or feelings within you and still be one.  I know that sounds obvious to a lot of people but it has taken, and is still taking, a lot for me to be able to reconcile feeling moments of joy against a backdrop of pain.  I am only just reaching a point where I can hold this polarity of feelings without one invalidating the other.  We are all made up of a range of emotions and the way we express that is also diverse but often the root of our actions comes from the same place – our values.  In the case of the mother bear, she nurtures and loves her cubs and is compassionate and gentle and it is that love which drives her to aggression when her beloved children are threatened.  She is gentle and she is strong.

Physical qualities

Bears have a strong presence – they are tall, they are well built and I imagine if you see them in the wild you’re probably going to be rather intimidated!  For me, the bear spirit animal is about stepping into your power, standing tall and standing your ground.

Other than mothers with their cubs, bears live alone.  Is this card a reminder that you need to retreat (into your cave for hibernation) and spend some time on your own?  Literally going within, taking space for introspection within your own cave or den which brings us back to…

Hibernation

Given that this is the first card in the earth “suit”, I think it’s important to think about the cycle of hibernation.  The bear spends spring to autumn in her active phase eating a lot of food, wandering the woods, mating and generally doing what bears do.  She’s out there living her life.

Next comes hyperphagia – lots and lots of eating and drinking and preparing the den.  This is followed by a transition period in which their bodies start to prepare for hibernation; metabolisms fall, heart rates fall and the bear becomes much more lethargic.

Then comes hibernation when the bear is in a dormant state, using her stores of fat as energy.  Changes from the transition period become more extreme with heart rates as low as 8 beats a minute (as opposed to 80-100 during the active phase).  The waste created through the “feeding” process, such as urea, is reused rather than being expelled.  It is during the hibernation period that eggs are fertilised (they are kept away from sperm until the bear knows she will have enough fat stores to ensure a successful pregnancy) and cubs are born in late January/early February.  It is probably this period of sleep and retreat that has resulted in bears being associated with the subconscious.  They do after all spend up to 100 days wandering the land of dreams.

There is a final phase, the bear does not just wake up one day and move into her active period.  This phase has been referred to as a waking hibernation and is when the transition activity is reversed.  Mother bears tend to be the last of the bears to venture back out.

It is this phase in the cycle, almost a rebirth, that I feel is particularly relevant to this card.  As the first card in the suit, the bear is emerging, starting her journey, and a natural place to start is the coming out of hibernation.  Perhaps at different times and different situations, I will relate this card more with another phase, listen and feel what is right for you, now.

Terri Windling has written about the bear, following her seasons of inward and outward, activity and rest, introversion and extroversion.  This idea of dualities has helped me think differently about my own periods of activity and rest.  All things have their time, to flow with this is much easier than to struggle against it:

“There is a perfect time for everything.  If the tulip surfaces in heart of winter, the bitter winds won’t give her a chance.” – Rebecca Campbell

Note: apparently, according to the wisdom of the internet, bears do not truly hibernate as there are specific conditions which are required for this however there is agreement that they do have a long winter sleep!


*For me, this card feels like it has a feminine energy and the messages I am taking are all related to the mummy bear.  Perhaps looking at the different sexes would give interesting depth to readings.