10 – The Animal Kingdoms
10/1 - Mythical Beasts & Fabulous Creatures
I've hardly met anyone who didn't have a dragon or two somewhere tucked away on a rocky hill top or sleeping in a lake. Mythical animals are an intriguing thing, and, once again, I would strongly warn you about consulting dream dictionaries or the like for any advice on how to "unravel" their inherent symbolism.
In the sanctuary, we will not demean these wondrous creatures with unfounded prejudices and we will take them entirely at face value.
Unicorns, mermaids, phoenixes, centaurs, the aforementioned dragons in all different shapes, sizes and appearances all have their parts to play in this internal world, and once again, I would suggest you look for options to resolve conflicts that appear through them or with them in some form other than violence.
It's been standard practise for millennia for knights to slay dragons, for example; however, it's also been standard practise to have wars, and famines, and all other manners of miserable ness in human history for millennia as well, so perhaps it doesn't do sometimes to be too conservative or traditional. It's your own business what you do with your internal dragons; I would play it safe and find a more ecological solution to deal with the problem, one that allows the dragon to find his or her own place within the system.
An interesting and intriguing solution someone once found to the problem of a herd of marauding dragons was to reduce them in size to a flock of birds, and to find an alternative food supply for them (they were basically eating anything that stuck it's head out into the clearing). Changed thus, the dragons became a very beautiful, and vital, addition to the landscape; and it certainly saved many internal knights from dying needlessly.
Another person whose dragon also behaved in a less than desirable fashion created a wild life reservation for him, after consulting with the dragon in question as to what his requirements were. This reservation was, in the end, the size of an entire continent; the owner of this particular world would journey there every so often and found the dragon to be a powerful ally in moments of need.
Mythical creatures and animals are pure magic. They hold the key to the most amazing revelations and to treasures beyond belief; when they appear, take notice and show the utmost respect.
10/2 - Spirit Animals
There is an essence, or a vibration if you will, of each particular animal species that is unlike any other; there is a quality that makes each and every kind of animal special. Within this general quality, of course each individual animal is subtly different again; and thus the animal kingdom, from the lowliest of worms to the most magnificent of African elephants, has within itself a tremendous spectrum of - what?
I don't know what it is, either. I just know that many people find themselves drawn to one or more particular species very strongly. They either live this out for real by having representatives of these species about, or they may like to collect figures, or decorate their house with pictures representing the species.
These people gain something from their connection, calling the essence of that species into their lives.
Pre-technological societies know a lot about this kind of thing; in our society, connecting to the animal kingdom on any level is usually done quite unconsciously, and mostly driven by a real need which the conscious mind can not explain.
Once your sanctuary is under way, the animal kingdom will move in with you in some shape or form. When, and how, this happens, is highly idiosyncratic.
One lady, we will call her Ellen, had a most beautifully designed sanctuary, which she had worked on for some months. It took a long time for her to realise that it was extremely quiet; then she sat up with a start and exclaimed, "This is so sterile!"
There were no fish in the rivers, no birds in the trees, no deer moving amidst her luscious forests; in short, the animal kingdom was highly conspicuous by its absence. Even after having recognised this, she was extremely reluctant to invite any animals into her sanctuary; in the end, and just because it began to nag her and to prove that she could, she put a single goldfish into one of the many ornamental water features. Still, it worried her that the fish "would mess up the clean water" and it wasn't until she installed an elaborate filtration system that she could manage to relax. Do we think there's an issue here ...?
But anyway, whether it's whales you love, or elephants, or penguins or whatever, when the time comes, move them in. You can have conversations with them which provide most interesting view points; and animal guardians and advisors of all kinds are a very common feature. It is traditional for witches to have a "familiar", a spirit in animal form which complements their own nature and helps them in their magic.
Totem animals which provide their specific essence as a resource are also a popular option, and one specific "spirit animal" which you turn to on a regular basis can be very helpful.
In many personal development approaches and in shamanic soul journeys, when there's a problem that needs advice, a space is created for a representative of the animal kingdom to manifest that can help with the particular issue. This is an open invitation; the animal thus called can be of any species, and if you choose to approach a problem in this way, make sure you accept whatever animal spirit manifests in good grace, even if it's not one of your favourite species.
Whilst we're there, animals you particularly dislike or even have a phobia of, may be made peace with in the sanctuary setting for the good of all concerned.
One lady who was very scared of dogs made contact with a "dog spirit" which manifested as a white wolf named Timo. This ancestral dog spirit explained to her many of the ways of his people, and although she had no desire following their conversations to acquire a real life canine companion, she was not afraid of dogs any longer, having gained, as she put it, "a kind of resonance", and, more interestingly, was no longer a target for every neighbourhood dog to have a go at.
10/3 - Companion Animals
If you are someone who simply cannot comprehend why anyone would want to go through the dirt, restrictions, expense, heartbreak and general hassle related to owning a pet, I invite you to skip this section, for here I want to talk in private only with those who develop relationships with companion animals that are in many ways as profound as those they develop with humans, and sometimes even a great deal more meaningful.
The whole area of how a companion animal and their owner interact with each other, and shape each other over time, is one that has fascinated me for many years. I am also fully aware of the extent of the bereavement that can exist when a particularly beloved companion dies. Unlike with a human based bereavement, the guilt feelings involved are often magnified intensely, because the companion and their entire life was totally the owner's responsibility; often, old and suffering companions are euthanised at the owner's request and signing the form at the veterinary surgeon's office is just like signing an official death warrant for a beloved friend; lastly, pet bereavements can stack up in a way human bereavements rarely do throughout someone's life time.
One way or another, for someone who has loved their past companions dearly and has shared a deep, 24 hour a day, no pretence required, no holds barred intimacy with someone who loved them unconditionally and without question or fail for ten or fifteen years, through ups and downs, marriage break-ups and job changes, let downs by friends and relatives - losing such a companion is a major league, very significant, and deeply emotional experience.
Bringing these companions home to live in the sanctuary is an experience that defies words; having a chance to express to them what their lives meant and possibly discuss how it ended is tremendously healing.
Konrad Lorenz, the famous animal behaviourist, wrote in one of his books that as he walked, he often felt the presence of his beloved friends right behind him, following in his footsteps, just as they did when they were with him in the flesh.
I leave you with that thought.