Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Pets as Kindred Spirits.

I’ve never been a fan of cats. I’m more of a dog person. Since I have Wolf as my face totem (in the east) it makes sense. The only time cats have been nice to me is when they are sick or old. Actually, it’s the case for most animals even birds and stray dogs. Many years ago we were giving a workshop in Quebec city and we were staying at ML’s house. She had a cat who took a liking to me almost immediately. He would lie on my lap when I talked and would sleep at the end of my bed when I visited. I was told that the cat wasn’t feeling well and was having trouble eating. The family worried about him. One night I dreamt that I was in Egypt. There were cat statues everywhere and one actually came to life. Poussière (cat’s name) told me that it wanted me to give ML a message.

“I had a great life,” P said “I don’t want them to worry about me. I plan to disappear in April. Tell them they are a wonderful family and I was blessed to be with them for so long.”

When I woke up I shared the dream with ML and she cried for a little while. She told me that when her kids were little they loved reading these books on Egypt. They would lie flat on their stomach and the cat would look at the books from over their shoulders. She was impressed with how the dream was so precise. When April came the cat disappeared one evening and never came home. After some time ML questioned if “it was the cat who knew how he would die or if it was the dreaming who took the form of the cat and predicted the cat’s death?”

Last spring I dreamt of a bird fluttering over my head as if it was passing out. I called out to it just in time to catch it’s last breath within my hands. It was a small pink light that moved uncontrollably for a while and then, just disappeared. When I woke up I told my husband about the dream. A few hours later he came into the house with a small bird in his hands. He said that it must have died just before dawn because it was still a bit warm. He was impressed with how accurate the dream was.

I have countless stories of the sort and each time I believe that it’s the soul, which speaks to me rather than the cat or bird or human. In our tradition the soul consists of three different parts: the ego (moon), the totem (kin), and the ancestor (memory). Exploring these different facets of the soul can take life times. Yet there’s nothing more meaningful than experiencing the soul.

JEN recently asked if indigenous people had pets?
Yes – indigenous people did have pets. Companionship is behind the notion of pets; but I believe it’s even more than that… I know that every dog I had taught me lessons about myself and about life. Dogs in particular are loyal, generous and protective of their masters. They are attracted to people who make them feel safe and secure. Dogs teach us about trust, growth and love. No matter the pet or animal there’s an exchange that occurs which relates to learning and healing. I see no difference between a relationship with animals, plants or humans.

Lots of people have a tendency to believe that humans are at the top of the list of living creatures on the Planet because of our intelligence and because of our ability to control or use power over others. Contrary to modern opinion the Odenak people actually believed that humans were at the bottom. Considering that the Odenak people were literally butchered and brought to extinction I would tend to say “they were confirmed in their perspective of humanity.” Many First Nation ancestors believed that humanity was meant to protect and respect Mother Earth and all of Creation. It was dishonourable to be prejudice, impatient, cruel and destructive. If you were attentive to nature then, you could become part of it.

I think that today’s concept of keeping pets is meant to bring us to understand the reality of natural law. For example, in a local home for the elderly a foundation recently donated a dozen cats. The idea was to give the old folks some companionship and give them a sense of usefulness. Each time one of the elderly people passed away the cats would become clingy and evidently intimate and affectionate towards the individuals. The nurses actually got to a point where they could tell when someone would pass just by observing the cats.

“They seem to know,” said one of the nurses “as if they sense it somehow…”

There’s no doubt that animals have a strong understanding of nature and death is part of natural reality. It’s amazing how our pets can predict a storm, an earthquake and even see ghosts. The Mohawk people used to believe that when one of their loved ones would pass away the Wapiti or Caribou would catch the soul between their antlers and throw their heads up to the heavens sending the soul to Creator.

We have lots of Wapiti in the back woods near our home. A few winters ago we were driving down the road to the highway and saw two big males dance in a field. It was beautiful to watch. At the end I stated: “Someone must have passed away nearby.” A few days later we found out that the farmer who owned the field where we saw the Caribou had died. I felt so humbled with the fact that I had witness the caribou’s dance for the dead. Sometimes we hear stories or legends but when we actually experience them it just gives us shivers…

We hear lots of stories about coyotes and cougars attacking humans; but it’s rare that we hear stories about people befriending these animals and connecting to them as kin. When we use the word totem we imply “kinship.” It’s not just about feeling an attraction to these animals it’s about connecting to them at some deep level or recognizing these animals as family. For example, one of my totems is Raven. When we moved to our home 6 years ago the land behind our house was Hawk territory. All summer we watched the Hawks (dozens of them) perch on the fence and make their nests in the trees of the area. By Fall Ravens came through the region and literally battled for the territory. I had never seen Ravens and Hawks at war before. I found myself routing for the Ravens and eventually they settled in and won the fight. That year when we celebrated the Winter Solstice we actually put our medicine bundles in the trees in our back yard to honour the Raven victory. Three years later, they were having chicks and there were no more Hawks in the area. I always believed that the Ravens had followed us to our new home from our old town. After creating a strong bond to the birds I was part of the migratory process.

Animals are an important part of our World. We unfortunately don’t enough about the animals on our planet. Often they end up on the extinction list before we even get the chance to acknowledge their presence and their importance in nature. I try to pay attention to the animals and birds etc… around me. Last year I started a journal on birds. Every day I would write about a bird phenomenon. At first I thought I would be skipping a few days a month; but when I found myself writing something every day, I was incredibly impressed. We have a white pine tree in our back yard and it’s been sick since we moved into our home. We’ve tried everything to save it. This spring we noticed that it was being eaten alive by Woodpeckers. At first we wanted to get rid of the birds. We were actually told by experts that it would be best to get rid of the little pests; but in a dream I was told by an ancestor “to sit back and learn.” By the end of the summer the tree was strong and healthy. Amazingly the two little Woodpeckers that had claimed the white pine as their own also saved it. No sooner had they healed the tree they disappeared and we never saw them again. It was quite incredible to see that animals and plants can have pets too.

Many of you know that this passed August, we lost our 14 year old dog, Lucky. She was a wonderful companion to each member of our family. I've already written in a previous blog how we felt Lucky's soul touch each of us at the moment of her passing. For the month that followed we all dreamt of Lucky and she seemed to be guiding us towards another dog. We were all grieving and adopting another dog was the last thing we were ready to do. Still, I never go against my dreams and so I followed Lucky's guidance and trusted that it would bring us to where we needed to be. In October, I found Bella, a 5 month Beagle that was up for adoption. We were getting ready for the Great Gathering at the time and Lucky made me promise to go back for Bella after the workshop. I was surprised when everyone in our family accepted Bella and welcomed her with open arms. Lucky seemed to have passed on to give her spot to a new puppy. She connected to Bella before we did and guided us to her through the dreaming. In so many ways Bella is just like Lucky. From my perspective the souls of animals are no different than the souls of man -- they are aware of something bigger; in service to the sacred circle; and journeying towards wholeness.

Thank you to JEN and MR for suggesting this topic for a blog entry.
MR asked to know more about “familiars.”
In response to her question: “A familiar is an animal who becomes a partner to an individual on a sacred path.” Legends speak of cats in particular having the wisdom or ability to guide witches on their journey. Basically though – a familiar is an animal that shows supernatural senses and abilities; and helps an individual to do magical things. I hope this answer helps you out!


Fishrarr said...

Great read Lisa, seems right on to me. A part of my working life, I was an Animal Control Officer. The most interesting thing that I learned doing that job, was that most of the dogs and cats were smarter than the owners. When someone was having trouble of some sort with their pet, I would tell them to put themselves in the pet place or paws, and see how you would like it and what would you do or would have done. Things are different on the other end of the stick it seems.
Ho! Tom.

Cougar-D said...

I was researching several sea animals these last few months and I began to notice a theme. The animals I had chosen to journey with for the month all seemed to have a relationship with other animals. They called it mutualism. The stingray had little sucker fish that attached to them and ate the parasites. The rhinosoraus had a little bird called-oxpecker. They also ate the parasites. All these animals seemed to have a relationship with other small animals where they seemed to belong together. They helped each other out. Would this be the same thing as totems having pets or familiars?

Wapeyit Malsom said...


Yes that's an interesting way of looking at it.


Wheelkeeper said...

I loved reading your post on pets Lisa. It is strange that I have always had cats and never had a dog, seeing as I also have Wolf in my east.

Yet, my cat is a familiar and a great teacher for me. I do see that she is not just a cat, she seems to be part human, part deer, cougar, and other animals at times. She also has totems!

I find her really impressive. I will have to write about her in my blog now...lol...