Sunday, August 14, 2022

What does it all mean, animal kingdom edition.

I'm taking a break from the news this week about FBI raids, attacks on authors, and all that serious stuff to talk about...birds and bugs. You're welcome.


Amongst Pagans (and New Agey folks), there's sort of a parlor game in which, when you see an animal or insect that you've never seen before, or that you haven't seen in a while, you wonder what it means. A couple of authors have written dictionaries or guides explaining what such sightings might mean to you. Steven Farmer wrote Animal Spirit Guides, first published in 2006; Ted Andrews wrote two books on the subject: Animal Speak, first published in 1993, and Animal-Wise, first published in 2004. Both authors have various ancillary items and volumes for their work (for example, Farmer's has an oracle deck; Andrews has a pocket-sized edition of Animal Speak). Both authors give advice on how to tell if a particular animal (or bird, fish, reptile, or insect) is your totem animal, there to guide you along your path and whose most important qualities you should practice in your own life. But it's also possible that the animal (etc.) has shown up with a special message for you.

Take the hummingbird, for example. I have a feeder on my porch, and I've been seeing a number of these little guys. Here's my best photo. I think it's a female black-chinned hummer. 

Lynne Cantwell | 2022
I don't have a copy of Farmer's book, but I do have both of Andrews's books. His entry for the hummingbird covers a lot of ground that many folks already know: they fly fast and can even fly backwards, they may eat 50 or 60 meals a day (mostly nectar, from flowers and feeders, although some eat bugs), and the migration routes that some species follow are thousands of miles long. But then he takes it personal: their flight "reminds us that if we truly enjoy what we're doing, we become light as a feather, and life is rich with nectar." He says their migratory routes make them "a symbol for that which seems impossible."

Here's another example. While Amy and I were at a spa today, a grasshopper hopped up onto the side of our hot tub, then jumped onto a wooden slat next to the tub. 

Amy Milyko | 2022
Grasshoppers, as most of us know, have an amazing ability to leap away from danger and into better situations. They have tympanic organs on their front legs that allow them to sense which direction a sound is coming from, and that helps them make decisions about which way to go. The message, Andrews says, is to "take a chance; take a leap forward."

Then a couple of days ago on the porch, I spotted this tiny drama: an ant, carrying a dead bee. (The photo's not great, but trust me: The ant is on the wall above the bee and has hold of the bee's wing, and the bee is definitely dead.)

Lynne Cantwell | 2022
Ants, Andrews says, are "the promise of success through effort." In this case, the meaning could also involve teamwork; right after I took this photo, another ant showed up and began helping the first ant carry off the bee carcass.

The biggest trick in any of these situations is to not read too much into what you're seeing. The hummingbird, for example: I put the feeder out there with the intention of attracting them (mainly to entertain Tigs, to be honest). So the fact that hummers are showing up at the feeder regularly is kind of a given. The hummers are doing what hummers do. No message there.

The ants-and-bee drama is also likely a case of critters doing regular critter things. I was surprised to see the ant lugging the bee, but Mama Google tells me that ants feed on dead organic matter, including other insects. So those guys were taking a feast back to their colony.

That grasshopper, though. Amy saw it first, and she has a job interview tomorrow, so I'm taking it as a sign that applying for this job was a good idea and that the interview will go well.

On the other hand, we also saw this today: One of a group of young women spilled some sort of coffee drink into a pool where they were all sitting and chatting. After they moved on, a wasp was attracted to the spill and ended up drowning itself in the pool. Andrews talks about the wasp representing "dreams fulfilled through practical efforts" -- but if I were to take any message from this poor critter's fate, it would be to be careful about what you're attracted to.


These moments of observant blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Get vaxxed and boosted!


Anonymous said...

What does it mean when a horny toad parks itself by an anthill and eats all the ants as they come out?

Vickie A. said...

That was me, by the way...

Lynne Cantwell said...

I figured, Vickie. :D

So Andrews says a horny toad sighting has to do with heightened emotional sensitivity. But he also mentions that they eat ants. So I'm thinking what you saw was a horny toad settling down to a buffet. :)