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Sharks: Mythology, Spiritual Importance and More

Sharks have been an essential part of native cultures along the coasts across the world for 1000s of years. You can find them in tales as being human hybrids, Gods, monsters with superpower like abilities and more. Since I was a young kid I have had a special love and connection to the oceans and Sharks have always been special to me. In fact the Hammerhead shark is one of my spirit animals. I even have two tattooed as a part of my left sleeve who swim around my matron goddess Rán. I even had my own personal spiritual experience with a school of Hammerheads in the U.S. Virgin Islands. So today I want to dive deep into the world of Sharks in folklore, spirituality and more.

Once Upon a Time in St. Croix

It is a long story so I will try to be brief with this personal experience of mine. During my U.S. Coast Guard career I spent a tour in the U.S. Virgin Islands, specifically on the beautiful island of St. Croix. With two friends of mine we decided to go dive a shallow water shipwreck right off the coast in about 50 feet of clear blue Caribbean water. My two friends were geared up with SCUBA and I was free diving with my snorkel and fins.

My two friends dove down to go inside the shipwreck as I was swimming along a reef nearby when suddenly a school of Yellowfin Tuna swam by me at such a fast speed I was surrounded by bubbles. I was maintaining neutral buoyancy when suddenly out of the distance appeared a school of Great Hammerhead sharks! It was incredible to say the least. This species of Hammerhead can reach up to 20 feet in length and one swam by me that I would guess was between 12 to 15 feet. I was surrounded by at least two dozen. It probably lasted for 30 seconds but felt like a lifetime. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life.

Sharks in Global Mythology

  • Greek

The Myth of Lamia: Lamia was the daughter of the sea god Poseidon. She had an affair with the king of the gods, Zeus. When Hera, Zeus’ wife found out about the affair she stole and murdered Lamia’s children, which drove Lamia mad. To help her get revenge, Zeus turned Lamia into a giant shark monster so she could devour the innocent children of others as revenge.

The Myth of Cetus: After Andromeda, the princess of Aethiopia’s mother Cassiopeia, was bragging that her daughter was more beautiful than the sea god Poseidon’s daughters. Poseidon decided to take revenge by sending a giant shark/whale monster name Cetus after her. Luckily for Aethiopia, the legendary hero Perseus was able to save the day and kill Cetus.

Akheilos: Akheilos is the son of Zeus and Lamia and was a lesser known sea god with a shark head and a fiery fish body. Akheilos was turned into a shark as punishment after boasting that he was more attractive than the god of beauty Aphrodite.

  • Hawaiian

Kamohoali’i: Kamohoali’i was the king of the sharks gods and guardian of the Hawaiian Islands. He could transform into both a human and a variety of different sea creatures to help people.

Ka-moho-ali’i swam in the area around the islands of Maui and Kahoolawe.

Ka’ahupahau: A shark goddess that was born a human. After being transformed into a shark god, she dedicated her life to protecting people from shark attacks.

Kane’apua: Was the trickster shark god, who could perform magical feats to entertain and delight all.

Keali’ikau ‘o Ka’u: Keali’ikau ‘o Ka’u fell in love with a human and gave birth to a green shark that would help people trapped at sea.

Kuhaimoana: Was a massive shark god that protected the Ka’ula islet and ensured fisherman had a bountiful catch.

Kane’i’kokala: Was a shark god that would save shipwreck victims.

  • Fijian

Dakuwaqa: was a major god of the Fuji islands. Dakuwaqa was half shark, half man. He would help fishermen avoid danger at sea, protect people from ferocious sea monsters, and would help ensure a bountiful catch. In the Cook Islands, Dakuwaqa was known as Avatea, and was also the god of the sun and the moon. In Tonga, he was known as Takuaka and was a warrior god that would protect people from other vicious gods.

  • Bahamian

Lascu: is a half-shark, half-octopus sea monster with a bad temper from Bahamian mythology. Lascu is responsible for sinking ships, drowning swimmers, and causing whirlpools. Lascu is said to be responsible for the blue holes, or sinkholes found along the island. It is said she will make a sinkhole whenever the residents of an island have angered her.

  • South American

The native tribal people of Brazil and Guyana, believed that the constellation Orion’s belt was actually the leg of a hunter named Nohi Abassi. After tiring of his mother-in-law, Nohi abassi trained a shark to eat her. What he did not know is his mother-in-law found out and disguised her other daughter as the shark. Instead of attacking the mother-in-law, his sister-in-law attacked him and sawed off his leg. That leg became the constellation.

  • Maori

Kawariki: was a princess who fell in love with a simple peasant boy Tutira. Her father, a sorcerer king was not happy and so he cursed Tutira, turning him into a shark. Rather than be defeated, the two still met in secret and would swim together at night. One day, there was a huge tsunami that destroyed the village and swept all the villagers out to sea. Tutira, as a shark, saved the villagers and brought them back to shore. Once Kawariki’s father realized the shark that had saved them was Tutira, he was so impressed with this heroic act, he turned Tutira back to a human and apologized by letting him marry Kawariki.

  • Zanzibar

The myth of the monkey and the shark is a simple fable about how a monkey living in a fruit tree and a shark became friends. The monkey would help the shark eat fruit from the tree and the two would talk. To repay the monkey, the shark offered to take him on his back to his home for a big feast. Turns out the shark only befriended the monkey because his king was sick and needed a monkey heart to cure him. When the monkey found out the shark’s goals, he tricked the shark into thinking he had left his heart back at the tree. The shark took him back to the tree where the monkey climbed up and mocked the shark for being stupid. The moral of the story, never trust a shark or a monkey. SOURCE

In #fijian #mythology, the deity of the sea known as Dakuwaqa is regarded as a shark-god. He was very popular with the fishermen because he would protect them from sharks and other dangerous creatures at sea. When Dakuwaqa was going to Kadavu Island to conquer it, he was attacked by an octopus. After a great battle, the octopus managed to pull out its teeth and restraining him with its 8 arms to prevent the massive attack by the demon. He was a helper during sea disasters but  was also a killer. Today, many parts of Fiji claim to have remnants of his former home and that he once lived among them. The village of Rukua in Beqa for instance has a cave where Dakuwaqa once lived with his two daughters. He is often described as a muscular man with an upper torso that’s usually associated with a great white shark but he can also alter his appearance due to his abilities of shape shifting. According to other legends, he can grow to 60 feet long and has the head and tail of a whale with a brown spotted or mottled back.
The Tiburones  are said to be flying sharks, with razor sharp teeth, crushing jaws, and able to circle their prey from the air. ‘Tiburon’ is Spanish for ‘shark’, most English translations of the Ibalon use this name for the creature (Triburon). In Bikol, these creatures are known as Pating na Pakpakan. In the Ibalon epic, they were tamed by the warrior-hero Handyong. SOURCE

The Cook Islands

From the Cook Islands comes the popular legend of Tekea the Great, the king of all sharks.

One of the most popular tales is that of Ina and the Shark. Though there are many versions of this story, it basically says that Ina was a beautiful, young maiden in love with the god of the Ocean, Tinirau. Tinirau lived on a floating island and asked Ina to come and see him. But she needed transportation across the waters and an unnamed shark offered to help her. She hopped on his back and they were off.

Afterwards, she became hungry and she wanted to break open one of the coconuts she had carried along. She hit it against the shark’s head to open it, denting his head in the process. The angry shark threw her off and she would have drowned (or he would have eaten her). Luckily, Tekea the Great came to her rescue and carried her to meet Tinirau.

Anyway, the islanders believe the knock on the head was how sharks got the indentations on their heads. SOURCE

I own a copy of this amazing book and one chapter covers the story of Nanaue, the Shark-Man of Hawai’i folklore and it is a book I highly recommend. You can purchase a copy HERE.

The Shark as a Spirit Animal SOURCE

Shark teeth have long been a symbol of strength and manhood.

Sailors and surfers often wear them for good luck and protection from drowning. In the Middle Ages people donned a shark tooth to protect them from poison in foods and beverages, which could easily translate into safeguarding us from toxic situations.

In Hawaii a story tells us that a young, brave warrior fought the God of the Sea. He won, and for his reward he received a necklace of shark teeth. So again we see them symbolic value of safety.

In this part of the world people consider the Shark spirit as a type of Ancestor or Deity known by the name Aumakua.

In Polynesia people wear a row of dots around their ankle to protect from Shark bites (or in this case whatever’s nipping at your heels). Shark as a Spirit Animal could be letting you know to watch for those who would try to bring you down by “cutting your legs out from under you”.

In the animal kingdom, males are often presumed to be the most dominant, but in the ocean, does this presumption hold water? Scientists search for answers to understand if the biggest and baddest sharks of them all are female. From the great white sharks of South Africa to the tiger sharks in the Maldives, scientist teams seek to uncover the ultimate rulers of the waves.

People born with a Shark Totem have amazing energy and deep emotions. Now, this may sound odd considering Sharks pretty much have only one facial expression that we are aware of. But, with Water as their element, of course they are creatures of the dreamscape and the real of psychic awareness.

In this, Sharks are not void of emotion but, rather, complete masters of it. They do not wear their emotions on their fins but you may rest assured they “feel” a great deal.

Wherever Shark people swim it seems like opportunity is only a cresting wave away. Shark people have intense drive and enthusiasm. You come by it naturally. Remember, Sharks never stop moving.

You may find yourself wanting to travel and find challenging adventures. In the pursuit of your goals, those with Shark as a Totem Animal will torpedo fearlessly forward until they’ve caught the bait.

Symbolic Meanings of the Shark

  • Comprehension
  • Family Safety
  • Sure Movement & Action
  • Personal Power
  • Leadership
  • Work Ethic
  • Advancement
  • Past Life Awareness
  • Transformation
  • Shape Shifting
  • Productivity
  • Independence
  • Bravery
A team of shark scientists from Florida International University, are on an expedition to try and find the world’s biggest great hammerhead.

So as you can see there is a LOT regarding the world of Sharks in worldwide coastal culture and I could have kept going on but instead I feel it can conclude here but with some further resources I looked into that I highly recommend checking out. Sharks are given such negative representation by Hollywood and even in media yet Sharks are one of the most important species regarding the ecosystem of the oceans of the world and must be respected and protected. I can only hope that doing my part with this blog post will help others realize how essential they are not just in the balance of nature but in our spiritual lives as well.

Further Resources

Hawaiian Shark Mythology

Sharks in Hawaiian mythology

Sharks in Mythology

Unveiling the Mystical Connections: Sharks and Indigenous Mythology

Sharks, Sawfishes, and Rays: Their Folklore

Takuaka – The Myth of the Shark God

Shark Folklore Around The World: Myths And Legends

Fiji’s Shark Legends

In Photos: How Ancient Sharks and ‘Sea Monsters’ Inspired Mayan Myths

The Shark spirit animal : Symbolism and meaning

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The Akhlut of Inuit Folklore

Creatures of folklore from indigenous cultures around thew world is one of my many fascinations. From the Rougarou of Cajun folklore to the Selkies of Irish folklore and many in-between. However I must say my absolute favorite has to be the Akhlut of Inuit folklore and for two specific reasons which its makeup of being a hybrid of a Wolf and Orca. I briefly touched on the Akhlut in my Orca blog post but today I wanted to go into more detail on this fierce creature who hunts the Arctic regions of Canada and Greenland.

In Inuit folklore, the kăk-whăn’-û-ghăt kǐg-û-lu’-nǐk or akh’lut is an orca-like composite animal that takes the form of a wolf when on land, and is sometimes depicted as a wolf-orca hybrid.

In 1900, the American naturalist Edward William Nelson described the kăk-whăn’-û-ghăt kǐg-û-lu’-nǐk among a number of other mythical and composite animals:

“It is described as being similar in form to the killer whale and is credited with the power of changing at will to a wolf; after roaming about over the land it may return to the sea and again become a whale. While in the wolf form it is known by the above name, and the Eskimo say they know that this change takes place as they have seen wolf tracks leading to the edge of the sea ice and ending at the water, or beginning at the edge of the water and leading to the shore. … These animals are said to be very fierce and to kill men.”

– Edward William Nelson

Nelson attributed stories of the creature to the orca (akh’lut), and explained wolf tracks appearing to lead into the sea as the result of ice breaking away from the edge. He identifies other composite animals among Inuit folklore, including a white whale that can transform into a reindeer, and says that belief in the kăk-whăn’-û-ghăt kǐg-û-lu’-nǐk is prevalent among Inuit along the shore of the Bering Sea. SOURCE

Akhlut are known for their ferocity, and they hunt humans and animals alike.

The Akhlut is from Inuit mythology and is considered a rather vicious beast.  As you can see, it has orca traits as well as four legs.  This is because this aggressive spirit takes the form of an orca, but transforms into a wolf in order to hunt on land.  You can tell one has been around when you find wolf tracks leading to or from the icy water.  This is pretty much it as far as physical traits since it is fairly elusive.  There are times where it is described as a hybrid of a wolf and orca like above.

There are many origin myths for the Akhlut, but this is the one I found most often.  A man became obsessed with the sea and wanted to stay there.  It reached the point where the people of his village could not recognize him, so they made him leave.  He ‘hungered for revenge’ and joined a pack of wolves to survive.  He may have worked with the wolves to attack villagers, but that wasn’t consistent.  Anyway, his love of the ocean returned after he fed and he dove in to transform into an orca.  Now, he remains in that form, but returns to land and becomes a wolf whenever he is ‘hungry for revenge’.  It does appear that this eventually evolved into hungry for food over time. SOURCE

In this exhaustive story collection, the rich tradition of Inuit storytelling becomes accessible to the rest of Canada for the first time. Unipkaaqtut is the Inuit word meaning “to tell stories.”
This definitive collection of Inuit legends is thoughtfully introduced and carefully annotated to provide the historical and cultural context in which to understand this rich oral tradition.
Read about the origin of thunder and lightning, the tale of the man who married a fox and many animal fables from the North. Fascinating and educational, this little-known part of Canada’s heritage will captivate readers of all ages. As a work of historical and cultural preservation, this text will be invaluable to those studying Inuit.

What Always comes back into these stories though, is that there are footprints of a wolf to be found going to, or from the ocean, without any signs of the wolf leaving, or going to the ocean. There are, however, some simple explanations for this. First of all, the chunk of ice the arctic wolf was coming from/ going to, simply broke off. Either with the wolf still on it, or with the wolf already having left, but a few meters away. The second solution is somewhat more mysterious, and still some kind of myth. It says that sometimes, when alder arctic wolves are being rejected by a pack, they would commit suicide by jumping in the cold, icy water and drown themselves. This is rather odd, however, because survival instinct should prevent them from doing that, because it’s very strong with animals. The third explanation is that the wolf jumped into the water, swam a little bit, and came onto shore a few meters away. However, this would mean that the wolf would need a reason to swim, because it’s not really nice to swim at the north pole, and it can be rather dangerous, so this theory also has his flaws. SOURCE

Discover the world of Inuit mythology! In this video you will delve into the rich culture and beliefs of the Inuit peoples of North America. Discover their gods and spirits, their legends and myths that have been passed down from generation to generation. In this video you will learn the history of the Inuit gods, such as Sedna, the goddess of the sea and marine animals, and Nanook, the god of bears and hunting. We will also explore Inuit spirits, such as the Tupilak, spirits that could be summoned to harm others. In addition, you will discover the fascinating Inuit legends, such as that of Igaluk, the god of the moon and Malina, goddess of the sun. You will also learn about the legend of the Tunita or Dorsett, who according to legend, were the first inhabitants of their land and are described as having the musculature and strength of a polar bear.

So as you can see there is little known about this fearsome creature of the Arctic but even with what is known the Akhlut is not only my favorite creature of folklore but actually one that really resonates me on a personal and spiritual level especially due to the origin story of the Akhlut. In the future I do plan on featuring other creatures of Inuit folklore along with creatures of folklore from around the world.

Further Resources

Akhlut

Akhlut, Hunter From the Depth

What is the origin of the akhlut’s name?

Things that go bump – Akhlut

Sedna: Inuit Goddess of the Sea

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The Kingfisher: Facts, Folklore and More

Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, I was exposed to a huge variety of Flora and Fauna in the beautiful nature that is Oregon, Washington and British Columbia. My favorite was and still is the coastal region of the PNW. It is common to see Terns, Seagulls, Orcas, Sea Lions and more. One little colorful and energetic coastal bird that is quite common to see, especially around the Columbia river bar is the Belted Kingfisher.

Recently after reading a small excerpt from one of my books and discussion with a close friend of mine I had quite the revelation that my bird spirit animal is indeed the Kingfisher. Making all four spirit animals of mine marine animals (Canadian Coastal Wolf, Hammerhead Shark, Giant Manta Ray and Kingfisher).

So with today’s blog post I want to cover the facts, folklore and spiritual meaning of this beautiful and very important species.

Kingfisher facts

kingfisher, any of about 90 species of birds in three families (Alcedinidae, Halcyonidae, and Cerylidae), noted for their spectacular dives into water. They are worldwide in distribution but are chiefly tropical. Kingfishers, ranging in length from 10 to 42 cm (4 to 16.5 inches), have a large head, a long and massive bill, and a compact body. Their feet are small, and, with a few exceptions, the tail is short or medium-length. Most species have vivid plumage in bold patterns, and many are crested.

These vocal, colourful birds are renowned for their dramatic hunting techniques. Typically, the bird sits still, watching for movement from a favourite perch. Having sighted its quarry, it plunges into the water and catches the fish usually no deeper than 25 cm (10 inches) below the surface in its dagger-shaped bill. With a swift downstroke of the wings, it bobs to the surface. It then takes the prey back to the perch and stuns the fish by beating it against the perch before swallowing it. Many species also eat crustaceans, amphibians, and reptiles. SOURCE

More Fun Facts

  • Kingfishers have something called a nictitating membrane which is a thin translucent eyelid that protects their eyes when they dive underwater.
  • When they breed they build their nest burrow into the stone-free sandy soil of a low stream bank. These burrows can also be utilized by Swallows.
  • You won’t see these birds near polluted waters since the fish population is not big enough to support them. Each Kingfisher needs to eat its body weight in fish everyday.
  • Males and females will combine their territories during breeding season in order to feed their young. During the colder months they will often divide their summer territory. Each territory covers about 1km of river. SOURCE
A Belted Kingfisher relaxing on the shores of the Columbia river bar Chinook Harbor, Wa. SOURCE

Cool facts of the Belted Kingfisher

  • The breeding distribution of the Belted Kingfisher is limited in some areas by the availability of suitable nesting sites. Human activity, such as road building and digging gravel pits, has created banks where kingfishers can nest and allowed the expansion of the breeding range.
  • The Belted Kingfisher is one of the few bird species in which the female is more brightly colored than the male. Among the nearly 100 species of kingfishers, the sexes often look alike. In some species the male is more colorful, and in others the female is.
  • During breeding season the Belted Kingfisher pair defends a territory against other kingfishers. A territory along a stream includes just the streambed and the vegetation along it, and averages 0.6 mile long. The nest burrow is usually in a dirt bank near water. The tunnel slopes upward from the entrance, perhaps to keep water from entering the nest. Tunnel length ranges from 1 to 8 feet.
  • As nestlings, Belted Kingfishers have acidic stomachs that help them digest bones, fish scales, and arthropod shells. But by the time they leave the nest, their stomach chemistry apparently changes, and they begin regurgitating pellets which accumulate on the ground around fishing and roosting perches. Scientists can dissect these pellets to learn about the kingfisher’s diet without harming or even observing any wild birds.
  • Belted Kingfishers wander widely, sometimes showing up in the Galapagos Islands, Hawaii, the British Isles, the Azores, Iceland, Greenland, and the Netherlands.
  • Pleistocene fossils of Belted Kingfishers (to 600,000 years old) have been unearthed in Florida, Virginia, Tennessee, and Texas. The oldest known fossil in the kingfisher genus is 2 million years old, found in Alachua County, Florida. SOURCE
The Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher is one of the most enigmatic and rarely filmed birds in the world. This fascinating documentary spends a year with them as they survive monsoons, droughts and predators to raise their brood for the next season.

Kingfisher as a Spirit Animal

In Polynesia, where the bird is sacred, the Kingfisher represents control over the seas. The connection is easy to see when you learn about the Kingfishers’ preference for living near water bodies where they can find food. Some clever Kingfishers even take to stocked backyard ponds!

When Kingfisher arrives in your life as a Spirit Animal, it heralds a time of abundance and peace. You have harvested the results of competent labor and begin attracting good fortune. Rejoice! Open your wings and fly on the winds of prosperity. Kingfisher will pull you back, however, if you misuse the blessing.

Kingfisher sometimes arrives as a Spirit Animal when you struggle with a specific fear. Kingfisher teaches you how to invoke courage and tackle anything coming your way head-on. The fear you experience may be because of an “unknown”- something you won’t truly discover until you reach the horizon. Kingfisher Spirit reminds you, such situations can open the way to expanded consciousness. Transform fear into anticipation.

The Kingfisher Spirit Animal brings new things into your life. Perhaps there will be a change in careers, a potential mate, or a skill you’ve been trying to develop. Whatever focus the Kingfisher brings, stick to it. Keep it in your sights. The best part? You will have a ton of fun.
For individuals who struggle with self-expression, the Kingfisher is a welcome ally. Explore the words you use and how you use them. Think about body language. Apply the psychic gifts you have for tapping into intent. If you heed your Spirit Animal’s advice, people will see you, hear you, and understand you fully.
SOURCE

Take a dive into the wonderful and diverse world of kingfishers. Explore their physical characteristics and how they differ between the different families, the habitats in which they abide and what they eat (not all is what it seems!) and the countries where they are found. Discover over 50 species of kingfisher and what makes them all incredibly unique.

Celtic symbolism connects the kingfisher to serenity, patience, and the vibrant beauty of nature. The way that kingfishers wait for their prey alongside ponds and streams evokes a sense of tranquility and watchfulness. The Welsh poet William Henry Davies wrote of the kingfisher in his 1910 poem of the same name:

“It was the Rainbow gave thee birth,
And left thee all her lovely hues;
And, as her mother’s name was Tears,
So runs it in my blood to choose
For haunts the lonely pools, and keep
In company with trees that weep.
Go you and, with such glorious hues,
Live with proud peacocks in green parks;
On lawns as smooth as shining glass,
Let every feather show its marks;
Get thee on boughs and clap thy wings
Before the windows of proud kings.
Nay, lovely Bird, thou art not vain;
Thou hast no proud, ambitious mind;
I also love a quiet place
That’s green, away from all mankind;
A lonely pool, and let a tree
Sigh with her bosom over me”

William Henry Davies

Kingfisher in Dreams

Dreaming of a kingfisher is largely a positive experience which indicates the start of a peaceful or joyous period in one’s life. A kingfisher’s appearance in a dream may mean that you have entered a period of rest or calm, and that you should take this time to renew yourself and acknowledge your blessings with gratitude.

A kingfisher dream may also indicate longing. It may be a sign that your energy is too focused on something unattainable. Be especially cautious about nostalgia. The past is perhaps the most unattainable object of all; you can only move forward. SOURCE

More than one hundred species of kingfishers brighten every continent but Antarctica. Not all are fishing birds. They range in size from the African dwarf kingfisher to the laughing kookaburra of Australia. This first book to feature North America’s belted kingfisher is a lyrical story of observation, revelation, and curiosity in the presence of flowing waters.

The kingfisher—also known as the halcyon bird—is linked to the mythic origin of halcyon days, a state of happiness that Marina Richie hopes to find outside her back door in Missoula, Montana. Epiphanies and a citizen science discovery punctuate days tracking a bird that outwits at every turn. The female is more colorful than the male (unusual and puzzling) and the birds’ earthen nest holes are difficult to locate.

While the heart of the drama takes place on Rattlesnake Creek in Missoula, the author’s adventures in search of kingfisher kin on the lower Rio Grande, in South Africa, and in London illuminate her relationships with the birds of Montana. In the quiet of winter, she explores tribal stories of the kingfisher as messenger and helper, pivotal qualities for her quest. For all who love birds or simply seek solace in nature, Halcyon Journey is an inviting introduction to the mythic and mysterious belted kingfisher.

Kingfisher Encounters and Omens

An encounter with a kingfisher is often a sign that you need to slow down and exercise some patience. Kingfishers are the ultimate stoics, placidly surveying the water below for as long as it takes. If you encounter a kingfisher, it may mean that you must wait in order to achieve your goal.

Additionally, a kingfisher encounter may be an invitation to stop and smell the roses. Do your best to enjoy the present without fixating on a singular goal or desire. Nature’s beauty is all around us and it never costs a dime. The kingfisher reminds us to be grateful for what we have and for all of the amazing things that we have the opportunity to experience each day. SOURCE

Kingfishers in Folklore and Mythology

The kingfisher is a small blue and orange bird that can be found in most of the world. In Greek mythology, Alcyone, a Thessalian princess, and Ceyx, the son of Lucifer, were married. They sometimes called themselves Zeus and Hera. This angered Zeus and he threw a thunderbolt at Ceyx’s ship while he was out to sea. Ceyx was killed. Morpheus, the god of dreams, came to Alcyone in a dream as Ceyx and told her of his fate. Alcyone was overcome and drowned herself. The gods took pity on them and turned them both into kingfishers. Kingfishers were also known as Halcyons in Ancient Greece. Any days of calm and peacefulness are called Halcyon days.

Polynesians believed the sacred kingfisher had control over the water and the waves.

Different Native American tribes have different symbolism for kingfishers. According to Makkah legend, when the earth was populated by the Two-Men-Who-Changed-Things, they turned a fisherman who was also a thief into the kingfisher. The white feathers around the kingfisher’s neck were the shells from the necklace that the thief had stolen. A kingfisher on a totem pole represents speed, agility, luck, and patience. The Sioux associate the kingfisher with fertility. Most North Coast Indians view the kingfisher as a sign of good luck.

The Dusun people in Malaysia consider the kingfisher a bad omen. Warriors who saw a kingfisher when going into battle were supposed to return home.

In China, kingfishers are symbols for faithfulness and happy marriages.

In Sabah, from 1982-88 the coat of arms depicted a kingfisher. Traditional fishermen considered the kingfisher a messenger of the gods. SOURCE

This is the story of an animal filmmaker who fulfilled a childhood dream: a documentary, featuring the reclusive and rare kingfisher. The material was not shot in some distant country; it was made here in Germany, in the centre of Europe’s green heart, near a tributary of the Rhine. Animal filmmaker Hans-Jürgen Zimmermann used to admire the flying diamond even as a small child. As an adult, he could at last capture this beautiful bird on film – closer and more intensive than ever before. The results enable us to share his observations as if we had actually participated in the film our-selves. Watch the kingfisher, caught on the wing whilst hunting. Experience how elegantly and powerfully the bird breaks the surface of the water, thereby catching small fish. Enjoy detailed footage of the exciting family life of these fascinating animals. The film reveals the secret life of the timid kingfisher, from the beginning of territorial conflicts in spring, the digging of a breeding hollow and the hostile attacks of a sparrow hawk, to the persistent expelling of the young birds from the parental territory – all captured in truly unique pictures. Experience a passionate and unforgettable documentary. Look forward to this delightful declaration of love to our wild nature – and to the flying diamond.

There is so much more I could add regarding this amazing global species known as the Kingfisher but I feel I have covered a really good amount of content. Even as I put this blog post together I have felt a deeper connection to the Kingfisher and even plan to purchase the book I found for this post. I feel like I personally need to learn more about this species and specifically focus on the Belted Kingfisher which I absolutely intend to do.

Further Resources

The Myth of Halcyon – Halcyon Days

Kingfisher Symbolism: 7 Spiritual Meanings of Kingfisher

The Ancient Greeks Believed Kingfishers Were Born of Epic Love

Native American Kingfisher Mythology

Take on Nature: Why the kingfisher is known as ‘the halcyon bird’

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Blue Whales: The Elusive Leviathans of the Deep

After getting a blog post request from a friend I decided it would be interesting to see what I might find regarding one of the most elusive mammals of the ocean depths. It turned out to be quite a challenge and to be honest I found far less than I had hoped for. You see this request was a post regarding the Blue Whale, their part in folklore, mythology and spiritual significance. So I did dive deep into looking to see what I might find which is what I will be sharing with you in today’s blog post regarding the Blue Whale.

Introduction

Blue whale, (Balaenoptera musculus), also called sulfur-bottom whale, the most massive animal ever to have lived, a species of baleen whale that weighs approximately 150 tons and may attain a length of more than 30 metres (98 feet). The largest accurately measured blue whale was a 29.5-metre female that weighed 180 metric tons (nearly 200 short [U.S.] tons), but there are reports of 33-metre catches that may have reached 200 metric tons. The heart of one blue whale was recorded at nearly 700 kg (about 1,500 pounds).

The blue whale is found alone or in small groups in all oceans, but populations in the Southern Hemisphere are much larger. In the Northern Hemisphere, blue whales can be seen regularly in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and off the coasts of Monterey, California, and Baja California, Mexico. They spend the summer in polar waters, feeding on shrimp-like crustaceans called krill. During a dive, the blue whale may engage in a series of turns and 360° rolls to locate prey and rapidly reorient its body to sweep up large concentrations of krill in a single open-mouthed lunge. A single adult blue may consume as much as eight tons of krill per day. In the winter blue whales move toward the Equator to breed. After a gestation of about 12 months, one calf about 8 metres (about 26 feet) long is born in temperate waters. While nursing, calves gain up to 90 kg (about 198 pounds) per day on the rich milk of their mothers. Young are weaned after seven to eight months, when they have reached a length of about 15 metres (about 49 feet). SOURCE

Blue whales are the largest animals to have ever existed. Learn why they’re larger than any land animal and why they were hunted for years, making them endangered.

Somewhere in the midst of the mammoth ocean; there exists the preposterously huge whale.

– Nikhil Parekh

Spiritual Significance

When Blue Whale symbolism appears to you, there are always big things happening in your life right now. However, this creature is reassuring you that although things feel overwhelming right now, these changes are necessary. Thus, you need to stay focused and connected to yourself so you can wok your way through to resolution. In other words, Blue Whale symbolism reminds you to have faith in your abilities and allow yourself to be still enough to see the way. SOURCE

Blue Whales are associated with the Virgo sign (August 23rd – September 22nd) and attributed to reliability, intelligence, being analytical, clever, liking to please and leadership.

When we take on the attitudes relevant to the symbolism of the blue whale, we are able to navigate safely through and back out of our emotional depths. This in turn allows for more perceptive both inward with our emotions/thoughts and outward in the world.

By deeply navigating our inner experiences we can develop a better understanding of what we are feeling; emotional clarity. With this clarity, we can develop more emotional creativity; more sensitivity to the nuances of our inner world.

For example, if we had a pattern that we wanted to change, we could make more lasting behavioral change by digging into the emotions around that unwanted pattern. With a clarity of what those emotions are and why we feel them, we can begin to step away from reactions and into responsibility.

Go to the depths of our selves. Dive deeper than the surface emotions to get to the root. Through that work we will develop a deeper understanding of the world as well.

The metaphor of the ocean as our emotions works well because emotions can be fluid, deeper than they appear, and holding many mysteries about our true selves.

This is why the blue whale symbolizes navigating our inner experience and moving through emotional depths. Embrace the unknown of our selves and dive through it. Continue reading HERE.

This provocative book of photography offers bold new insight into the lives of the world’s largest mammals, along with their complex societies. In these pages, we learn that whales share an amazing ability to learn and adapt to opportunities, from specialized feeding strategies to parenting techniques. There is also evidence of deeper, cultural elements of whale identity, from unique dialects to matrilineal societies to organized social customs like singing contests. Featuring the arresting underwater images of Brian Skerry, who has explored and documented oceans for over four decades, this book will document these alluring creatures in all their glory–and demonstrate how these majestic creatures can teach us about ourselves and our planet.

The size compassion of Blue Whales really puts it into perspective on how massive they truly are.

The blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus) is a marine mammal belonging to the baleen whales. At up to 29.9 metres (98 ft) in length and with a maximum recorded weight of 173 tonnes (191 short tons) and probably reaching over 181 tonnes (200 short tons), it is the largest animal known to have ever existed.

So as you can see, unlike some other species of Whales, the Blue Whale is so elusive and in a sense rare that they have little involvement in human folklore or mythology but I did find a few snippets here and there which I will include below for you to explore. Being a man of the sea I have always considered Whales a favorite of mine and have been honored to see several species in the oceans including a few close encounters but yet to have experienced with my own eyes the Blue Whale, Hopefully someday I get the spiritual privilege.

Further Resources

Leviathan; or, Whale Theology

Blue Whale Mythology and Mystery

The Blue Whale

Blue Whale Songs

Whale Symbolism & Meaning

Whale Myths and Legends

Whales In Mythology | History and Interesting Facts

Icelandic Myths and Tales of Whales

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Orcas: Folklore, Symbolism and More

Being someone who grew up and spent a great deal of my U.S. Coast Guard career in the Pacific Northwest I got to see a lot of the native coastal culture which had deep connections with a certain mammal of the seas. From art to ceremonies and more you will find the Orcas incorporated into them. I myself got to witness them in the wilds of the magnificent Salish Sea, which I will be discussing that sea later on here. But before I go on I need to just say that even though the Orca has the common name “Killer Whale” I must say it is a name I personally do not like using but it will be mentioned in sited articles during this post. Orcas are not even a Whale at all but the larges member of the Dolphin family (Delphinidae). Killers? Well yes they are magnificent predators but that is nature. I find Orcas to be so special in many ways and unfortunately they are an endangered species but the good news is measures are in place to not only help preserve them but to allow in hopes that their population grows and flourishes. So with that said let us dive into the world of the Orcas.

Get to know the Orca

Orcas, also known as killer whales, are among the world’s most easily recognized marine mammals. The largest member of the dolphin family, orcas are highly intelligent and social animals, spending their lives in groups or pods where they hunt together and share responsibility for raising young and taking care of the sick or injured.

Adult orcas have shiny black backs, white chests and patches of white above and behind their eyes. They have paddle-shaped pectoral fins and tall triangular dorsal fins. Their distinct coloring mean they are easy to identify and rarely confused with other dolphins or whales. Orcas vary in size depending on where they live. Adult males are larger than adult females, with males reaching 32 feet (10 meters) in length and females growing to 28 feet (8.5 meters).

Found in every ocean on the planet, orcas are likely the most widely distributed mammal in the world, next to humans. There are three distinct types of orcas recognized in the eastern North Pacific Ocean—transient, resident, and offshore. Residents live close to shore in large pods of about 10 to 20 individuals and feed primarily on fish. Offshore orcas are similar to residents, but are distinguished by their smaller overall size and rounded, nicked fins. Transient orcas live in smaller groups of about three to seven individuals and spend their lives out at sea where they prey on seals, sea lions, and other dolphins (which, strangely, are the same animals that resident orcas like to swim and play with). All three types of orca have genetic differences and do not mingle or interbreed. SOURCE

Drawing on interviews, official records, private archives, and his own family history, Jason M. Colby tells the exhilarating and often heartbreaking story of how people came to love the ocean’s greatest predator. Historically reviled as dangerous pests, killer whales were dying by the hundreds, even thousands, by the 1950s–the victims of whalers, fishermen, and even the US military. In the Pacific Northwest, fishermen shot them, scientists harpooned them, and the Canadian government mounted a machine gun to eliminate them. But that all changed in 1965, when Seattle entrepreneur Ted Griffin became the first person to swim and perform with a captive killer whale. The show proved wildly popular, and he began capturing and selling others, including Sea World’s first Shamu.

Over the following decade, live display transformed views of Orcinus orca. The public embraced killer whales as charismatic and friendly, while scientists enjoyed their first access to live orcas. In the Pacific Northwest, these captive encounters reshaped regional values and helped drive environmental activism, including Greenpeace’s anti-whaling campaigns. Yet even as Northwesterners taught the world to love whales, they came to oppose their captivity and to fight for the freedom of a marine predator that had become a regional icon.

Orcas in popular culture

Many ancient civilizations knew them well. The Roman writer Pliny the Elder, who died in AD 79, describe them as huge animals enemies of the whales. Historically, for the native peoples of North America sighting of killer whales is common, so they developed an interesting mythology about them. For example, in the beliefs of the Kwakiutl and Nuu-chah-nulth orcas acquire a relevant meaning for hosting the souls of their chiefs who have died.

Many ancient cultures show great respect for killer whales and are present in their culture and myths. This concept is a bit different in the actual cultures, as they are tagged as fierce whales and highly dangerous creatures. Although for a long time, they had a bad reputation in recent times this has been changing.

The Inuit people today know a lot about orcas. They can identify them and know what they eat, but this is because they live close to them. By contrast, many of today’s Western societies acquire this knowledge through films, literature and television. SOURCE

Killer whales / Orcas (Orcinus orca) large pod including calf traveling together while foraging on large schools of Herring (Clupea harengus) in the cold waters of northern Norway, January.

Ten facts about orcas (killer whales)

  1. Orcas are the largest member of the dolphin family.
  2. A male orca can be nearly 33 feet (10 meters) in length and weigh around 22,000 pounds (10,000kg).
  3. Orcas are highly intelligent and able to coordinate hunting tactics.
  4. Female orcas are thought to live to 80 years of age or more.
  5. The dorsal fin of a male orca is up to 6 feet (2 meters) tall.
  6. Orcas are extremely fast swimmers and have been recorded at speeds of up to 33.5 mph (54 kph).
  7. A wild orca pod can cover over 99 miles (160 kilometers) a day, foraging and socializing.
  8. They were give the name “killer whale” by ancient sailors who saw them preying on large whales.
  9. Orcas are still hunted in some countries, such as Greenland.
  10. Different kinds of orcas are called “ecotypes”. They hunt specific prey and live in different parts of the world. SOURCE

Folklore and Native Culture

The Woman Stolen by Killer Whales (Tahltan)

A man was out fishing and drying halibut, and his wife helped him.

One day he felt something very heavy on his hook and could not pull it up. He tied the line to the thwart of the canoe and paddled ashore. With much trouble he managed to land the fish on the beach.

He called on his wife to kill it quickly, and she dispatched it with her knife. She cut it up and hung it up to dry, as is done with halibut. They did not know what kind of a fish it was. It was quite strange to them, but they thought it might be good food. When the woman had finished her work, she went to the edge of the water to wash her hands.

As soon as she put her hands into the water, something seized them and pulled her underneath the sea. She had been taken by the Killer-Whales who had come to have revenge on the man for killing their friend. Continue reading HERE.

In Inuit folklore the Akhlut is an orca spirit that takes the form of a gigantic wolf or a wolf-orca hybrid when on land.

It is a vicious, dangerous beast that ventured onto land in order to hunt humans and other animals. Its tracks can be recognized because they are wolf tracks that lead to and from the ocean, indicating that the creature is waiting for prey under the water nearby.

Often, dogs seen walking to the ocean or into it are considered one of these malevolent beasts. Little is known of this spirit other than that can transform between and orca and/or wolf. SOURCE

The killer whale (Orcinus orca), also referred to as the orca whale or orca, and less commonly as the blackfish or grampus, is a toothed whale belonging to the oceanic dolphin family, of which it is the largest member. Killer whales are found in all oceans, from Arctic and Antarctic regions to tropical seas. Killer whales have a diverse diet, although individual populations often specialize in particular types of prey. Some feed exclusively on fish, while others hunt marine mammals like pinnipeds, and even large whales. They have been known to attack baleen whale calves. Killer whales are regarded as apex predators, lacking natural predators.

Orcas in Haida Culture

The Haida myths and legends about killer whales tells how they are supernatural beings and how they basically ruled the underworld. The underworld in Haida culture refers to the ocean and everything in it. The killer whales had their own villages equivalent to the Haida villages on the surface with longhouses lined up with each other. The stories the Haida have about killer whales are endless, many of them end up being about a killer whale that stole a woman from the shore because he wanted to bring her back to his village and marry her.

There are also stories about the origins of killer whales and stories of their strength. Some say killer whales descended from coastal wolves. There was a story about a man with two wolf pups who, as they grew bigger and bigger, would swim out to sea to hunt whales. They would bring whales back for dinner everyday until one day a heavy fog came in and the wolves became lost at sea, eventually turning into killer whales.

There’s another story about how the supernatural beings were holding a contest. The island of Haida Gwaii was sinking, and to see who would be given the job of holding it up, they needed to see who the strongest. In this contest was a boy who had the ability to wear the skin of others. The contest was to see who can lay on a bed of hot coals the longest, the boy knowing the killer whales skin was the toughest, decided to cheat he took the killer whales skin and wore it when the supernatural beings weren’t looking, he won the contest. It is said he now holds up Haida Gwaii on a totem with his little pet ermine, when there is an earthquake on Haida Gwaii it is said to be the ermine running up and down the pole. Continue reading HERE.

Orca Symbolism in Indigenous Cultures of the Pacific Northwest

(Image by Cecil James from Pixabay)

The Orca, also known as the Killer Whale or Blackfish, possesses a profound significance in the rich tapestry of mythology and folklore of the Indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast of North America. 

Amongst many tribes in the region, such as the Tlingit, Tsimshian, and Kwakiutl, the Orca is revered as a clan animal and serves as a cherished clan crest. Its powerful presence is an enduring symbol of the deep-rooted cultural traditions and profound connection to the natural world that have shaped the identity of these communities for generations.

The Orca is a venerated medicine animal, embodying an enduring symbol of strength and power. In addition, the Orca is regarded as a cherished protector of humanity among the Tlingit people. Despite their status as skilled whale hunters, the Tlingit do not hunt the Orca, acknowledging its esteemed role as a guardian of their communities. 

For the Kwakiutl tribes, the Orca held an even more poignant significance – it was believed that upon the death of a seafarer, their soul would transform into an Orca, much like forest hunters were said to become wolves. This enduring belief is a testament to the deep spiritual connection that has long existed between humans and these majestic creatures of the sea.

To catch a glimpse of an Orca off the coast is to bear witness to a poignant and meaningful omen. In some indigenous cultures, the Orca is revered as a messenger, a spiritual entity transcending the physical realm to offer guidance and wisdom to those still bound to this mortal plane. To some, the sighting of an Orca may even signify a departed chief or tribe member reaching out from beyond the veil to communicate with and protect their loved ones still walking the earth. Continue reading HERE.

During four years of shooting in the icy waters that surround the volcanic archipelago of the Crozet Islands, we have followed the trial and tribulations of Delphine, a young female adolescent killer whale. Living and growing within her family group she gradually learns how to find her bearings, how to hunt king penguins or Minke rorquals and how to get stranded in order to catch sea elephants.

Further Symbolism and Meaning of the Orca

Shamans suggest the Orca or Killer Whale knows the secrets to exquisite romance, long life, peaceful interactions, community cooperation, and perhaps a well-protected family. The Orca is a Whale and the largest member of the Oceanic Dolphin family, so they have many common characteristics, including mischief, curiosity, and intellect. The Orca brain is sophisticated, seeing the aquatic beast is the second largest among Sea Creatures.

Orcas is diligent when working within their pod, raising their calves with the meticulous care. The Orca pods are interdependent and team-oriented. Orcas travel together, hunt together, and play together. Life within the pod is social and friendly, which is one message the creature delivers to humankind: The importance of learning how to live happily together so that everyone benefits.

Orcas have an intimate connection with the Feminine principal of the Universe. They are matrilineal. A female leads each pod, teaching the young everything they need to know for survival. Should a mother in the pod pass away, the sister, grandmother, or next female in line steps into the role; this gives Orca various Yin energetic signatures including nurturing, education, bonding, comfort, facilitation, and endless patience. Even though people call them Killer Whales, the Orca Animal Guide is a gentle creature who takes an interest in those who cannot help themselves. Continue reading HERE.

Orcas of the Salish Sea

The Salish sea for me has a huge importance for me just from fond memories of traveling that sea in my career but on a spiritual level as well. The Salish sea is a marginal sea of the Pacific ocean found between northwest Washington and British Columbia that holds an amazing variety of diverse Marine and Coastal wildlife which certainly includes the Orca. The Salish sea itself is very sacred to the Native cultures who reside there as well.

An Orca pod on the move in the Salish Sea.

Orcas have been a symbol of the West Coast for many thousands of years. They they are an important part of the culture of many Indigenous peoples, belief systems, symbolism, art and storytelling.

The orca is a symbol often centered around luck, compassion and family. Orcas are known to some Indigenous communities as the guardians of the sea. To some people, orcas represent the strength of love and the bonds of family because of their strong group behaviour.

Indigenous peoples and orcas have lived in harmony in the Pacific Northwest since time immemorial. It is important to look to Indigenous communities for knowledge and understanding of the history, location, and behaviours of the Pacific Northwest’s orca populations, as well as to their leadership, when developing protection and recovery actions. SOURCE

photo: Animalia Life

The Pacific Northwest is home to three Orca ecotypes

  • Resident Orcas, of which there are two distinct populations
  • Bigg’s orcas, also known as transients: approx. 400 individuals (population increasing)
  • Offshore orcas: approx. 300 individuals (population trend unknown) SOURCE

The Orca People (qalqaləxič)

Coast Salish peoples, here for thousands of years before settlers arrived, shared a strong belief in the existence of “myth age,” when beings sharing both human and animal qualities roamed the earth. According to legend, a Changer (dukʷibəɬ) transformed beings into animals, giving the native people the essential elements of their culture.

The killer whale or orca is important to the Tulalip Tribes. As the Snohomish legend goes, if a killer whale approaches their canoe, they will greet it with these words: “killer whale, killer whale, your ancestors were also my ancestors.”

A long-told Tulalip story says there were two brothers, famous seal hunters, who went to live in the ocean and became killer whales. Later, when the Tulalip people had been starving, they were relieved to see the salmon arrive.

Suddenly, seals arrived, too, and began devouring the salmon. Remembering their seal-hunting ancestors, the qalq̓aləx̌ič, they called them for help. The killer whales heard the call and arrived to kill the seals, saving the salmon and the Tulalip people from starvation.

“Tulalip” comes from the Lushootseed word dxʷlilap (far towards the end) referring to the wide berth cut by canoes entering Tulalip bay, eight miles north of Mukilteo, to avoid running aground. Tulalip tribal members are the direct descendants of the Snohomish, Snoqualmie, Skykomish, and other allied tribes and bands signatory to the 1855 Treaty of Point Elliott, which was signed here. SOURCE

Meet Onyx and the orcas of J pod, the world’s most famous whales.
Illustrated with stunning photos, this picture book introduces young readers to the orcas humans first fell in love with. The members of J pod live in the Salish Sea, off the coast of Washington and British Columbia. Moby Doll was the first orca ever displayed in captivity, Granny was the oldest orca known to humanity, and Scarlet was the orca humans fought to save.

Orcas of the Salish Sea Written By Kaori Pi

The black dorsal fin slices up slowly with barely a ripple. First it rises about a foot above the surface. Like a submarine’s periscope, it travels straight ahead for twenty feet until the mighty stroke of the adult male’s flukes lift six feet of dripping, wavy fin into the air. A huge torpedo-shaped head pushes out just far enough for a loud burst of air out the blowhole and a quick suck to refill the orca’s lungs before it arcs silently back into the depths.

It’s J3, a male over 40 years old, rising to breathe beside his family. His mother’s sister plows up next to him to heave an explosive blow, followed by three more generations of J pod orcas, all closely related and inseparable their entire lives. J3’s age is documented from photos taken in the first years of demographic field research in the mid-1970’s. Several females are much older, however, including two, J2 and K7, both estimated to be over 90 years old in 1995.

Wispy clouds of vapor linger high over their heads as they pass a hundred yards from Lime Kiln Lighthouse at Whale Watch Park. One suddenly twists in tight circles pursuing a large salmon. The others dive into the kelp, rubbing the long soft strands along their backs and into the notches of their flukes as they check for salmon hiding in the shadows. Above them the snow-whitened Olympics stand watch over this vast inland sea, glowing with red-orange hues in the early morning sun. Continue reading HERE.

For eons, a one-of-a-kind population of killer whales has hunted Chinook salmon along the Pacific Coast of the United States. For the last 40 years, renowned whale scientist Ken Balcomb has closely observed them. He’s familiar with a deadly pattern – as salmon numbers plummet, orcas starve. The solution, says Balcomb, is getting rid of four fish-killing dams 500 miles away on the largest tributary to what once was the largest Chinook producing river on earth. Studying whales is science. Removing dams is politics. Defiantly mixing the two, says Balcomb, has become the most important work of his storied career. Meanwhile, the race to extinction for salmon and orcas speeds up, nipping at the heels of the plodding, clumsy pace of political change in the Pacific Northwest, where dams and hydropower are king.

In Conclusion

So in conclusion as you have seen during this blog post there is a tremendous amount of information regarding these amazing Wolves of the Seas and I could have gone on further but I felt ending the Blog with the Orcas of my homeland felt suiting. Even as I wrote and put together the sources for this one I for a moment felt like I was back home which is something special for me. I can only hope that someday I return home to the Pacific Northwest and once again can take to sea and experience with my own eyes the beauty of the Orcas.

Further Resources

Spirits of the Coast: Orcas in science, art and history

Orca guide: diet, how they hunt, and what they’re related to

9 Reasons to Be Obsessed with Orcas

Native American Killer Whale Mythology (Orca or Blackfish)

Orca Whales (Pacific Northwest)

The language of Whales

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Werewolves: History, Folklore and More

The subject of Werewolves have been a fascination of mine since I was a child and still is to this day. There are so many folktales and indigenous lore regarding them found around the world that it is in itself a huge subject that can take years to study. Werewolves have captivated people around the world so much so they can be found in novels, movies and even in festivals. There is so much that can be discussed about these creatures of the night that it would take a series of posts but I decided today to give you a sort of ‘best of’ resources for you to dive into. So with that I hope you enjoy as we get into the topic of the Werewolf.

It’s unclear exactly when and where the werewolf legend originated. Some scholars believe the werewolf made its debut in The Epic of Gilgamesh, the oldest known Western prose, when Gilgamesh jilted a potential lover because she had turned her previous mate into a wolf.

Werewolves made another early appearance in Greek mythology with the Legend of Lycaon. According to the legend, Lycaon, the son of Pelasgus, angered the god Zeus when he served him a meal made from the remains of a sacrificed boy. As punishment, the enraged Zeus turned Lycaon and his sons into wolves.

Werewolves also emerged in early Nordic folklore. The Saga of the Volsungs tells the story of a father and son who discovered wolf pelts that had the power to turn people into wolves for ten days. The father-son duo donned the pelts, transformed into wolves and went on a killing rampage in the forest. Their rampage ended when the father attacked his son, causing a lethal wound. The son only survived because a kind raven gave the father a leaf with healing powers. Continue reading HERE.

Theories of Origin

A recent theory has been proposed to explain werewolf episodes in Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries. Ergot, which causes a form of foodborne illness, is a fungus that grows in place of rye grains in wet growing seasons after very cold winters. Ergot poisoning usually affects whole towns or at least poor areas of towns and results in hallucinations, mass hysteria and paranoia, as well as convulsions and sometimes death. (LSD can be derived from ergot.)

Ergot poisoning has been proposed as both a cause of an individual believing that he or she is a werewolf and of a whole town believing that they had seen a werewolf. However, this theory is controversial and unsatisfactory. Witchcraft hysteria and legends of animal transformations, as well as hysteria and superstition in general, have existed across the world for all of recorded history. Even if ergot poisoning is found to be an accurate explanation in some cases, it cannot be applied to all instances. An over-reliance on any one theory denies the diversity and complexity of such occurrences.

Some modern researchers have tried to use conditions such as rabies, hypertrichosis (excessive hair growth over the entire body) or porphyria (an enzyme disorder with symptoms including hallucinations and paranoia) as an explanation for werewolf beliefs. Congenital erythropoietic porphyria has clinical features which include photosensitivity (so sufferers only go out at night), hairy hands and face, poorly healing skin, pink urine, and reddish colour to the teeth.

There is also a rare mental disorder called clinical lycanthropy, in which an affected person has a delusional belief that he or she is transforming into another animal, although not always a wolf or werewolf.

Others believe werewolf legends arose as a part of shamanism and totem animals in primitive and nature-based cultures.

The term therianthropy has been adopted to describe a spiritual concept in which the individual believes he or she has the spirit or soul, in whole or in part, of a non-human animal. SOURCE

Etymology

The belief in werewolves is not just a European phenomenon but is encountered world wide. This is apparent when considering the etymology of the word. Medieval Europe held strong beliefs in the existence of werewolves during the 15th to 17th centuries, which was reflected in the literature of the time. The term lycanthropy is derived from lycanthropos of ancient Greece meaning wolf plus man (Rose, 2000).

In Old English werewolf is derived from wer or were signifying man, and the word wulf for wolf. In Old Welsh there is gwir and Old Irish has tear where wild dog is used synonymously for wolf. Again, weri from Old English means to wear the skin of a wolf, perhaps ritually. The word is compounded from lyc from the Proto-Indo-European root wlkwo meaning wolf, hence the vira of Sansrit, and the vir of Latin. Counterparts of the English word werewolf are found in the Germanic form of wehr-wolf, a variation meaning man-wolf. A cognate is the Gothic word wair, the wer of Old High German. I France the derivation of loup-garou is from the loup for wolf.

In Eastern Europe the idea of the werewolf is related closely to the concept of the vampire, referred to in Serbia as the vukodlak. In Lithuania the werewolf is called vyras. The word vampire in Slavonic languages is vampire and the origin of the English term, with the Greek vrykolakas originating amongst the Serbs, with werewolf being wilkolak amongst the Poles. For the Scandinavians the Old Norse cognate is verr. Again, in Old Norse there is the vargulf, a wolf that kills large numbers of livestock, which connects with warg-wolf. The words warg, werg, and wera are cognate with the vargr of Old Norse. This refers to an outlaw being regarded as a wolf, a ulfhednar seen as a wolf-like berserker wearing wolf skins in battle. SOURCE

Since before recorded history, werewolves have captivated human imagination. Simultaneously, they represent our deepest fears as well as our desire to connect with our primal ancestry. Today, werewolves are portrayed negatively, associated with violence, cruelty, cannibalism, and general malevolence.

However, in ages past, legends depicted them not as monsters, but as a range of neutral to benevolent individuals, such as traveling companions, guardians, and knights. The robust legacy of the werewolf spans from prehistory, through ancient Greece and Rome, to the Middle Ages, into the Early Modern period, and finally into present-day popular culture. Over the ages, the view of the werewolf has become distorted. Media treatment of werewolves is associated with inferior writing, lacking in thought, depth, and meaning. Werewolves as characters or creatures are now generally seen as single-minded and one-dimensional, and they want nothing more than to kill, devour, and possibly violate humans.

Hollywood depictions have resulted in the destruction of the true meanings behind werewolf legends that fascinated and terrified humans for so many ages. If these negative trends were reversed, perhaps entertainment might not only discover again some of the true meanings behind the werewolf myth, but also take the first steps toward reversing negative portrayals of wolves themselves, which humans have, for eons, wrongfully stigmatized and portrayed as evil, resulting in wolves receiving crueler treatment than virtually any other animal.

To revive the many questions posed by lycanthropy, entertainment must show respect to the rich history of so many cultures all around the world – and rediscover the legend of the werewolf.

English folk-lore is singularly barren of were-wolf stories, the reason being that wolves had been extirpated from England under the Anglo-Saxon kings, and therefore ceased to be objects of dread to the people. The traditional belief in were-wolfism must, however, have remained long in the popular mind, though at present it has disappeared, for the word occurs in old ballads and romances.

The Book of Werewolves by Sabine Baring Gould (1865)

The ‘werewolf gap’: it’s all about the folklore

Between St Augustine (c. AD 400) and the twelfth-century flowering of werewolf stories we hear nothing about them. What are we to make of this 500-year gap? A simple explanation might be that the authors of the twelfth century rediscovered the long-forgotten werewolves in their ancient texts and just chose to start writing about them again. Such an explanation might initially seem to be favoured by the fact that Marie de France’s Anglo-Norman werewolf poem Bisclavret of AD 1160-78, for example, has much in common with Petronius’ story: signally, we find the recurring theme of the werewolf’s need to keep his clothes safe if he is to be able to recover his human form, with Bisclavret hiding his clothes under a rock when it is time for him to transform. However, it is unlikely that Marie had direct access to Petronius’ story…

The more interesting and intriguing possibility is that werewolves just went underground, as it were, and continued to thrive under the radar in the realm of folklore and folktale throughout these centuries, only to resurface into the world of fine literature again in the twelfth. And this is almost certainly what happened. A clue to this is to be found in what is a central theme of Marie de France’s tale, and the tales of other writers of her age: that of the adulterous wife.

When Bisclavret’s wife learns that he is a werewolf, she makes him reveal where he hides his clothes whilst under transformation, and accordingly steals them and makes off with them with the help of her lover, with whom she then elopes, leaving Bisclavret stranded as a wolf for many years before his is able to take his revenge on the pair and recover his human form. When we look back at Petronius’ tale we can see that the motif of an adulterous wife is already lurking in it in an incidental detail of which nothing is made: Melissa is conducting an adulterous affair with Niceros. There is no obvious reason why Marie and the writers of her time should have seized upon this incidental detail and elaborated it so greatly – even if they did, after all, have access to Petronius’ text. It is much more likely that, as an artful writer, Petronius had included the incidental detail of the adulterous wife in order to allude to another, related werewolf story he was familiar with but was not on this occasion telling. It will then have been upon this second story, preserved in folklore alone for a millennium, that Marie and her contemporary writers were eventually to seize. SOURCE

Legends Of The Werewolves

‘Real’ Werewolves

Today, werewolves are known to be mythical creatures found in fiction instead of lurking in the dark woods, but that was not always the case. Not so long ago, belief in werewolves was common. Overall, there was little difference between the killings and activities of wolves and werewolves: both would hunt at night, attacking sheep or livestock, and sometimes humans. The main difference was, of course, that the werewolf changed into human form at some point.

There are several medical conditions that can mimic the appearance of a werewolf and may have contributed to early belief in the literal existence of the creatures. One is hypertrichosis, which creates unusually long hair on the face and body; a second condition, porphyria, is characterized by extreme sensitivity to light (thus encouraging its victims to only go out at night), seizures, anxiety, and other symptoms. Neither of these rare conditions turns anyone into a werewolf, of course, but centuries ago when belief in witches, vampires, and magic was common it didn’t take much to spawn werewolf stories.

Clinical lycanthropy is a recognized medical condition in which a person believes himself or herself to be an animal, and indeed there are rare cases where people have claimed to be werewolves. For example in 1589, a German man named Peter Stubbe claimed to own a belt of wolf skin that allowed him to change into a wolf: His body would bend into a lupine form; his teeth would multiply in his mouth; and he craved human blood. Continue reading HERE.

An exploration of werewolf beliefs and legends from Classical Antiquity to the post-medieval period

• Examines werewolf tales and stories from early Greece, Scandinavia, France, Germany, Eastern Europe, China, and Japan, as well as legends of other shapeshifting creatures such as were-tigers, were-jackals, and were-caribou

• Looks at the various ways people become werewolves, including pacts with the devil, magic, and spells, and explores ways to identify, escape, and do away with werewolves

• Includes the trial records from medieval Europe for individuals who were tried on suspicion of being werewolves and the personal records of people whose spouses could shapeshift into wolves

An animal both mythical and real, a terrifying predator and the villain in many a fairytale, the wolf has haunted the human imagination since prehistoric times. Even more disturbing is the possibility that some individuals can change into wolves. These werewolves, or lycanthropes, are able to divest themselves of their human nature and transform into enemies that are all the more dangerous as no one knows who they are. Means of protecting oneself from this beast have been a concern for people since Classical Antiquity, and werewolf legends offer both fascinating tales of horror as well as advice for thwarting these creatures or breaking the werewolf curse.

In this exploration of werewolf folktales, legends, and historical accounts, Claude Lecouteux examines werewolf beliefs and stories from early Greece to the post-medieval age, including the beliefs of the Norse and tales from France, Germany, Eastern Europe, China, and Japan. The author includes the trial records from medieval Europe for individuals who were tried on suspicion of being werewolves and the personal records of people whose spouses could shapeshift into wolves. He investigates the nature of the werewolf, how it can act as the double or lead to out-of-body experiences, and its counterparts in other parts of the world such as were-tigers, were-jackals, and even were-caribou in the Inuit regions of North America. Lecouteux also looks at the various ways people become werewolves, including pacts with the devil and spells, and explores ways to identify, escape, and do away with werewolves. Sharing werewolf mysteries from around the world, Lecouteux shows that by studying the legends of the werewolf we also gain insight into the psyche and ancient imagination of humanity.

Curse or Power?

Various methods for becoming a werewolf have been reported, one of the simplest being the removal of clothing and putting on a belt made of wolf skin, probably as a substitute for the assumption of an entire animal skin (which also is frequently described). In other cases, the body is rubbed with a magic salve. Drinking rainwater out of the footprint of the animal in question or from certain enchanted streams were also considered effectual modes of accomplishing metamorphosis. The 16th century Swedish writer Olaus Magnus says that the Livonian werewolves were initiated by draining a cup of specially prepared beer and repeating a set formula. Ralston in his Songs of the Russian People gives the form of incantation still familiar in Russia.

In Italy, France and Germany, it was said that a man or woman could turn into a werewolf if he or she, on a certain Wednesday or Friday, slept outside on a summer night with the full moon shining directly on his face.

In Brazil, it is believed that when a woman has seven daughters and the eighth child is a man, the latter is likely to be a werewolf.

Becoming a werewolf simply by being bitten or scratched by another werewolf as a form of contagion is common in modern horror fiction, but this kind of transmission is rare in legend, unlike the case in vampirism.

Even if the denotation of lycanthropy is limited to the wolf-metamorphosis of living human beings, the beliefs classed together under this head are far from uniform, and the term is somewhat capriciously applied. The transformation may be temporary or permanent; the were-animal may be the man himself metamorphosed; may be his double whose activity leaves the real man to all appearance unchanged; may be his soul, which goes forth seeking whom it may devour, leaving its body in a state of trance; or it may be no more than the messenger of the human being, a real animal or a familiar spirit, whose intimate connection with its owner is shown by the fact that any injury to it is believed, by a phenomenon known as repercussion, to cause a corresponding injury to the human being. SOURCE

Woodcut of a werewolf attack (1512). Lucas Cranach the Elder.

So as you have seen here there is a vast amount of information regarding the subject of Werewolves which can take someone a great deal of time to look over. I truly enjoy this subject and will just leave you with this. Medically yes there are those inflicted with a genetic disorder to give them the appearance of a Werewolf at no fault of their own. We can clearly see that around the world Werewolves are woven into folklore and modern culture. So the question could be asked, do werewolves or some sort of cryptid wolf-like being exist? Did Werewolf type creatures once roam this world and have in some mysterious way vanished? Could they still exist but be as rare as Hen’s teeth? The truth is we cannot really answer these questions with certainty but the open-minded side of me likes to think it is possible.

Further Resources

The Werewolves of Latvia

Werewolf Legends from Around the World

The Origins of Werewolves

The Scottish Wulver

The Werewolf in Norway: Everything You Need to Know

Werewolves that Fish and Fight in Battles: The Scottish Wulver and Irish Faoladh in Folklore

The Long, Hidden History of the Viking Obsession With Werewolves

King Lycaon Mythology | What is the Greek Origin of Werewolves?

Werewolf Legends from Germany

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Seahorses: Folklore, Symbolism and More

Seahorses are certainly a unique aquatic animal of the oceans and has fascinating unique qualities that make them really stand out. I have always enjoyed watching these beautiful marine animals and even have one tattooed as a part of my left sleeve dedicated to the sea. What molts people may not know is that there are 57 species of Seahorses, including seadragons and pipefish. Also Seahorses can be found in mythology and folklore around the world anywhere there is land meeting the oceans. They also can be one’s spirit animal and have amazing symbolism which I will cover as well in this post.

Until you see one for yourself, it’s easy to believe that seahorses are pure make-believe. So curious, so magical, they seem to have wandered straight out of a book of fairy tales. Even a dead, dried seahorse washed up on a beach keeps its otherworldly shape, encased in its enduring bony armour, waiting for someone to come along, pick it up and wonder what it might be. A miniature dragon? An enchanted serpent? It’s no wonder seahorses have been puzzling people around the world for centuries, inspiring them to tell stories, pass on myths and legends, and find mystical uses for these most charming sea creatures.

Some of the oldest seahorse stories tell of the Greek sea god Poseidon galloping through the oceans on a golden chariot pulled by hippocampus, the beast that was half horse and half fish (today, the seahorses’ scientific name also happens to be Hippocampus). It’s thought ancient Greek fishermen believed the real seahorses they sometimes found tangled in their nets were the offspring of Poseidon’s mighty steeds.

All sorts of ancient Mediterranean art and objects depict the hippocampus. Phoenicians and Etruscans often painted these watery horses on the walls of burial chambers, accompanying the dead on their voyage across the seas and into the afterlife. There’s even a single hippocampus from ancient Egypt painted on a mummy’s coffin.

Many other legends tell stories of watery spirits that take the form of horses. Scottish lochs are said to be haunted by “kelpies”. They come onto dry land and graze with other, normal horses but if you mount and ride one you’ll be dragged underwater as your steed tries to drown and eat you. Similar malevolent beasts were called “tangies” in the Orkney Isles and “shoopiltrees” in the Shetlands. Scandinavian legends tell of the “havhest”, a huge sea serpent, half horse and half fish like hippocampus, that could breathe fire and sink ships. Continue reading HERE.

Absolutely captivating creatures, seahorses seem like a product of myth and imagination rather than of nature. They are small, elusive, and are named for their heads, which are shaped like miniature ponies with tiny snouts. They swim slowly upright by rapidly fanning their delicate dorsal fin, coil their tails to anchor themselves in a drift, and spend days in a dancing courtship. Afterward, it is the male who carries the female’s eggs in his pouch and hatches the young. Seahorses are found worldwide, and they are highly sensitive to environmental destruction and disturbance, making them the flagship species for shallow-water habitat conservation. They are as ecologically important as they are beautiful.

Seahorses celebrates the remarkable variety of seahorse species as well as their exquisiteness. 57 species, including seadragons and pipefish, are presented in lush, life-size photographs alongside descriptive drawings, and each entry includes detailed and up-to-date information on natural history and conservation. Sara Lourie, a foremost expert on seahorse taxonomy, presents captivating stories of species that range from less than an inch to over a foot in height, while highlighting recent discoveries and ecological concerns. Accessibly written, but comprehensive in scope, this book will be a stunning and invaluable reference on seahorse evolution, biology, habitat, and behavior.

Masters of camouflage and rarely seen, seahorses continue to be a fascinating subject of active research. This visually rich and informative book is certain to become the authoritative guide to these charming and unusual wonders of the sea, beloved at aquariums the world over.

In Roman mythology, seahorses were the steeds of Neptune, deity of the Upper Waters. As attributes of Neptune, they represented cosmic forces and the rhythm of the waves. They were also the steeds of Poseidon, a Greek sea god. Daily, Poseidon rode through the ocean on a chariot pulled by seahorses.

Seahorses represented the lunar and humid element of the sea and chaos. Seahorses also carried the dead safely to the underworld. Because of their unique form, the Chinese regarded seahorses as the lesser sons of dragons. In Norse myth, they symbolized the power of water. SOURCE

These animals aren’t like any other living creatures on Earth, they look like they came from some other planet. Biologically speaking, they are quite different from all other terrestrial beings, which has put them in the spotlight a long time ago. At the same time, they look very funny, especially when dancing in the water. The offspring of these creatures are born not by females, as usual, but by males, which sets them apart from all other terrestrial beings. The smallest species of these creatures are only 2 centimeters long, and the largest are up to 30. Their body is covered with spikes. They serve both as camouflage and protection from predators because they don’t know how to defend themselves.

Seahorse Spirit Animal

The Seahorse teaches balance in parenting, how to get in touch with the Masculine Divine, and to get through difficult periods with greater ease. Delve deeply in Seahorse symbolism and meaning to find out how this animal spirit guide can support, assist, and inspire you.

Many ancient cultures connected the Seahorse with various Divine beings.

In Rome and Greece, for example, the Seahorse was sacred to Poseidon and Neptune, potent sea gods. As a result, one of the keynote meanings for Seahorse is one of power and authority, particularly in matters of emotion and intuition because of the Water Element involved.

A rather lovely story from Greco-Roman times indicates that the Seahorse is a guide to drown sailors.

This creature safely guides them through the spiritual vortex until they reach their ordained fate in the afterlife (is it any wonder that sailors used seahorse images as luck charms?). SOURCE

Seahorse Symbolism

  • Water Elemental
  • The Afterlife
  • Power
  • Luck
  • Alchemy
  • Safety
  • Kindness
  • Perception
  • Kindness
  • Manners
  • Pacing
  • Tenacity
  • Progress
  • Ingenuity
  • Stealth
  • Authority
  • Fatherhood
  • Partnership
Frederick Stuart Church’s The Mermaid, 1887

Further Resources:

10 Seahorse Symbolism Facts & Meaning: A Totem, Spirit & Power Animal

Seahorses in Myth, Legend & Art

What are the links between seahorses, folklore and Newcastle upon Tyne?

Seahorse Symbolism & Meaning & the Seahorse Spirit Animal

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The Witches of Romania

Witches and Witchcraft can be found throughout the world in many countries and has existed since the dawn human existence. It comes in a huge variety with an endless amounts of spiritual beliefs and practices. Over the past decade there has been a huge rise in the practice of Witchcraft, Wicca, Paganism, Heathenry, etc. One place that has always had a rich and strong practice of their craft are the Witches or Romania. This is a part of Europe that has amazing history, culture, folklore and is a region I am absolutely fascinated with. So today’s post I want to take you into the spiritual world of the Romanian Witch.

(Please note:  The term “gypsy” is sometimes considered pejorative.  It appears in this article only when directly quoted or out of respect when practitioners or tribal members expressed a preference for it over the alternative “Roma.”)

Like most places in the world, witchcraft in Romania remains a complex, and often taboo, subject. Romania is home to many forms of witchcraft. 

First, it’s important to note the difference between the neopagan practice of “gypsy magic” (popularized in the West by modern Roma pagans) verses the Roma people themselves (whose practices descend from an unbroken lineage of Hinduism with Christian and Muslim influences).

Although most Romani people identify themselves as Christian (as well as some Hindus and Muslims), their traditions and rituals inspired neopagan Romani authors like Patrinella Cooper to popularize a form of witchcraft known as “gypsy magic.”

The practice of “gypsy magic” emphasizes fortune-telling, the use of charms, healing and protection spells.

“Gypsy magic” rides a strange middle-land between neopaganism and hereditary witchcraft because often, much is borrowed from the unbroken lineage of the practitioner’s ancestors.  These witches recognize their practice as a form of magic.

For the rest of us, this form of magic shares a lot with the larger practice of modern witchcraft.

We owe many common divination techniques (like various approaches to tarot reading and palmistry) to our Romani sisters. SOURCE

In Romania, the home of Count Dracula, witchcraft is recognized by the current government. There are many thriving organizations of witches, all government recognized. Being a witch is considered to be a job. They are employed, not just by Romanians, but people from all over the globe to cure them of heartbreak, depression, demonic possession or even to kill or harm enemies. Our Romanian witches carry out most of their operations online these days and are confident that their influence is not dying out. Instead, thanks to modern technology, it is only on the rise. This isn’t how it always was in Romania. In fact, under Communist rule, witchcraft was banned and punishable by law. And yet, the secret societies of witches and their practices survived, in hiding from the eyes of the ruler. Today, witchcraft is commonly accepted by Romanian society. SOURCE

This book provides a history of witchcraft in the territories that compose contemporary Romania, with a focus on the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries. The first part presents aspects of earthly justice, religious and secular, analyzing the codes of law, trials and verdicts, and underlining the differences between Transylvania on one hand, and Moldavia and Wallachia on the other. The second part is concerned with divine justice, describing apocalyptic texts that talk about the pains of witches in hell, but also the ensembles of religious painting where, in vast compositions of the Last Judgment, various punishments for the sin of witchcraft are imagined.
Virginia Lupu, from the series “Tin Tin Tin,” 2018–19. Courtesy of the artist.

Mihaela Minca is one of the most famous witches in Romania. She and her coven—all women of the traditionally itinerant Roma minority—live at the margins of European society, in the suburbs of Bucharest. There, they make a living through conducting rituals that help their clients find love, money, and adequate punishments for their enemies.

Sometimes, the witches’ endeavors extend beyond the personal: This past year, Minca cast a spell against political corruption in her country by dumping black liquor outside a Romanian government building. The next day, the state issued a final sentencing for Social Democratic Party leader Liviu Dragnea, who’d used his own power to create fake jobs and appealed prior convictions. Continue reading HERE.

In Romania, the homeland of Dracula and superstition, witches were pretty much spared from the medieval witch-hunts that plagued most of Europe and killed 100,000 women. In fact, witchcraft here is not only alive; it’s thriving, and it’s even feared by politicians. There are hundreds of witches in the country, and they make and break marriages, cure diseases, cast or release people from good and evil spells, and predict the future. Supposedly, one in ten Romanians visits a witch. To find out how this influences modern Romanian society, Broadly correspondent Milène Larsson spends a week with Mihaela Minca’s witch clan and learns how to brew a love potion, cook up a curse, and even witnesses the exorcism of a woman supposedly possessed by the devil. We also meet Minca’s mother-in-law, Bratara Buzea, reputedly one of the world’s most powerful witches, who was jailed under communism when dictator Ceausescu banned witchcraft. Finally, we celebrate Summer Solstice, the year’s most important celebration, when the witches use their magical power to predict the future of mankind in the stars.

Further Resources:

Women of the Night, Chapter 3: Vrăjitoare, Romania’s Witch Business

Witches, spells and black magic – all in the hidden forests of Romania.

In The Land Of Dracula, Witches Work As ‘Life Coaches’ Of The Supernatural

Being Unbound: Forays into Romanian Magical Practices

Curse, maleficium, divination: witchcraft on the borderline of religion and magic

Daughters of magic

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Praying Mantis: Spiritual Meaning & Symbolism

Ever since I can remember I have been fascinated by Praying Mantises. I remember the first house I lived in in Oregon had these bushes around the house that seemed to be a haven for these majestic predatory masters of the insect world. I always would go hunting for other insects to feed them and felt as if I was doing a service for them. Little did I know at such a young age the importance and amazing symbolism that are the Praying Mantises. Many years later after building my own greenhouse I even had acquired a Praying mantis egg pod which I placed into my greenhouse and after a few weeks it hatched over 100 of these beautiful creatures. About 25 or so stuck around living in their new dwelling and that was quite beneficial for my garden.

The fact that there are approximately 1,800 species of this amazing carnivores of the insect world that reside on every continent except Antarctica, there should be no surprise they would hold significance in spiritual symbolism with Human civilization for thousands of years. So today I decided to share with you some great resources regarding my favorite insect, the Praying Mantis.

In some cultures, a praying mantis can be a sign of good luck or fortune.

Native Americans believe the insect came before the creation of man and Earth. Paintings, inscriptions, revered symbols and carvings have the insect depicted as a symbol. The bugs represent wealth, success, large families and the cycle of life.

The stealth movements of the praying mantis have made it a symbol of meditation and contemplation. In China, the insect has long been honored for its mindful movements. It never makes a move unless it is certain that is the right thing to do.

In Japan, a praying mantis is a sign of autumn. The bug is often portrayed with the typical gourds and mums that are popular in the season.

Additionally, the fragile looking insect is an emblem of military strength and courage in both China and Japan because it always moves forward to advance and never retreats. SOURCE

Physical Characteristics

A praying mantis head has a triangular shape with two compound eyes with thousands of light sensors that provide them with three-dimensional vision; it’s believed they’re the only insect able to see this way.

Praying mantis don’t have pupils; instead, you see an optical illusion that’s actually just more light receptors, which is why scientists call this a pseudo pupil.

Their neck is quite flexible, so they achieve a 180° range of vision. They generally measure between 1/2 to 6 inches long, with females usually larger than males.

They have an organ similar to an ear located in the thorax, capable of hearing frequencies above the 20,000 hertz that the human ear can perceive. This allows them to hear and recognize the ultrasonic frequencies used by bats who often hunt praying mantis. SOURCE

Why Are They Called Praying Mantis?

The ancient Greeks gave them the name mantis, which means diviner because it was believed a praying mantis possessed magical abilities. This idea is still reflected in its name, mantid, meaning soothsayer.

They’re called praying mantis because their front legs join together when hunting. This method consists of staying motionless and camouflaging itself until the prey approaches close enough to catch it. Then the mantis snatches its prey with jagged forelegs and begins eating it in less than a second. Since all mantids are carnivorous, preying describes them more accurately than praying. SOURCE

Photo of squatting mantis man from Dr. Mohammad Naserifard SOURCE

A Quick-List of Praying Mantis Symbolism

  • Stillness
  • Awareness
  • Creativity
  • Patience
  • Mindful
  • Calm
  • Balance
  • Intuition

The mantis never makes a move unless she is 100% positive it is the right thing for her to do. This is a message to us to contemplate and be sure our minds and souls all agree together about the choices we are making in our lives.

Overwhelmingly in most cultures the mantis is a symbol of stillness. As such, she is an ambassador from the animal kingdom giving testimony to the benefits of meditation, and calming our minds.

An appearance from the mantis is a message to be still, go within, meditate, get quite and reach a place of calm. It may also a sign for you to be more mindful of the choices you are making and confirm that these choices are congruent.

A Divine Messenger

The Kalahari Bushmen in Africa worship and consider the Praying Mantis as the oldest symbol of God. They believed it to be an incarnation of God, and whenever they would sight one, they would try and decipher its message.

Have you ever come across a praying mantis in most of the places you’ve visited? Or may be it appears in your dreams? I’m guessing that you might have passed it off as just a coincidence, or may be you think you’ve become too obsessed with this special visitor that you see it just everywhere you go? Oh no, you haven’t become obsessed with the praying mantis neither is it a coincidence! It could mean something else too; a divine message for you, or a wake up call to view your situations more closely. SOURCE

They are killers! They kill with unbelievable precision. They fight Kung Fu style and are seen in Japan as a symbol of vigilance – the mantises. Their triangular head with its unique flexibility is conspicuous. Two overdimensioned eyes fixate the distance to their prey rapidly and three-dimensionally. The chest segment of the mantis is prolonged and equipped with spiny appendages that can spear their prey as fast as a jack knife. The mysterious aura that surrounds the praying mantis has a lot to do with the fact that they are rarely seen. They have adapted to their surroundings perfectly. No matter whether leaves, blossoms, tree bark, sandy floors or even orchids – the mantis blends in to all environments.

Did you know?

Spiritual teacher Alyson Charles trusts that animals have a way of coming to us when we need to hear their messages the most. “It’s a guide trying to come into our lives, trying to get our attention,” she explains.

In the case of praying mantises, they can represent everything from precision to prophecy, contemplation to deliberation, as well as vision, prayer, perception, and synchronicity, Charles explains.

If they show up around you, it could be a sign you need to make wise choices and act with precision, deepen your mindfulness practice, or be more patient. This is a creature that encourages us to slow down and connect with inner wisdom and even sharpen our clairvoyant abilities.

Historically, she adds, the praying mantis actually inspired a form of kung fu martial arts. During the Northern Song period (A.D. 960–1126), a Chinese kung fu master named Wang Lang was inspired by the movements of the praying mantis after he lost a martial arts competition.

“He watched a praying mantis trying to catch a cicada and was inspired by the agile moves of the mantis. It is said he then collected praying mantises and took them back to the Shaolin Temple to observe closely, going on to create his own form of kung fu inspired by the mantises’ moves,” Charles writes in her book Animal Power: 100 Animals To Energize Your Life and Awaken Your Soul. SOURCE

Prepare to be enchanted with an in-depth and up-close view of the most loved of all invertebrates, the praying mantis! Keeping the Praying Mantis is a huge resource designed to give mantis enthusiasts every tool needed for feeding, housing, and rearing these magical (almost mythological) creatures. Details on their biology, relationship with man over the ages, behavior, and captive husbandry will give you a solid foundation for successfully keeping fascinating species from around the world. From ant mimics and unicorn mantids to Devil’s flower, orchid, and ghost mantids, there are species to entice every insect hobbyist.

Further Resources

Praying Mantis Meaning – What does it Mean to See a Praying Mantis?

Praying Mantis Symbolism: 14 Spiritual Meanings Of Praying Mantis

Praying Mantis Symbolism & Meaning

Ancient mantis-man petroglyph discovered in Iran

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Owls: Myth, Folklore and More

Today’s animal blog post on the folklore, mythology and symbolism plus more will be covering the Owl. With approximately 250 species of Owls around the world it is expected that these predators of the night would absolutely become embedded in culture, folklore and even associated with Deities which indeed is the case. Owls to me are very fascinating both with their important roles in nature and how they have had an effect in humans. So today let us dive into the world of Owls and their significance in the myths, folklore and more.

Introduction

Owls in Mythology & Culture By Deane Lewis

Throughout history and across many cultures, people have regarded Owls with fascination and awe. Few other creatures have so many different and contradictory beliefs about them. Owls have been both feared and venerated, despised and admired, considered wise and foolish, and associated with witchcraft and medicine, the weather, birth and death. Speculation about Owls began in earliest folklore, too long ago to date, but passed down by word of mouth over generations.

In early Indian folklore, Owls represent wisdom and helpfulness, and have powers of prophecy. This theme recurs in Aesop’s fables and in Greek myths and beliefs. By the Middle Ages in Europe, the Owl had become the associate of witches and the inhabitant of dark, lonely and profane places, a foolish but feared spectre. An Owl’s appearance at night, when people are helpless and blind, linked them with the unknown, its eerie call filled people with foreboding and apprehension: a death was imminent or some evil was at hand. During the eighteenth century the zoological aspects of Owls were detailed through close observation, reducing the mystery surrounding these birds. With superstitions dying out in the twentieth century – in the West at least – the Owl has returned to its position as a symbol of wisdom. Continue reading HERE.

OWL MYTHS AND LEGENDS by Shani Freidman

Owls and humans are connected from the dawn of history. The nighttime activity, large eyes, acute vision, and “wisdom” of owls were known by the ancients. Dating from a Sumerian tablet (2300 to 2000 BC), Lilith, the goddess of death, has talons for feet, wears a headdress of horns, and is flanked by owls. She is probably the inspiration for Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom and warfare. The rock crevices of Athens and the Acropolis were filled with small owls, believed to be the embodiment of Athena. When the Athenians won the battle of Marathon from the Persians in 490 BC, the warrior goddess Athena assumed the shape of an owl and led them from above.

The Romans, who appropriated many of the Greek beliefs, associated owls with Minerva, the goddess of prophesy and wisdom. Minerva’s role was similar to Athena’s. The prophetic qualities of owls were known. Virgil writes that the hoot of an owl foretold the death of Dido. Pliny reports great confusion and fear in the Forum when an owl entered. Horace associates owls with witchcraft. Romans used representations of owls to combat the evil eye. Owl feathers and internal organs were found in magical potions and pharmaceutical remedies. For example, the ashes of an owl’s feet were an antidote to snakebite, and an owl’s heart placed on the breast of a sleeping woman forced her to tell all her secrets. Continue reading HERE.

Silver tetradrachm coin at the Museum of Fine Arts of Lyon depicting the owl of Athena (circa 480–420 BC). The inscription “ΑΘΕ” is an abbreviation of ΑΘΗΝΑΙΩΝ, which may be translated as “of the Athenians”. In daily use the Athenian drachmas were called glaukes (γλαῦκες, owls). This silver coin was first issued in 479 BC in Athens after the Persians were defeated by the Greeks.

6 Myths and Superstitions About Owls

  1. Owls are famous for their exceptional eyesight and it was thought that you could gain better eyesight by ingesting parts of them. In England, the method was to cook owl eggs until they were ash, then incorporate them into a potion. Folklore from India had a more direct method: just eat owl eyes.
  2. Owls are a sign of death in many cultures, including some Native American tribes. For instance, dreaming of an owl signified approaching death for Apache people. Boreal owl calls were a call from spirits to the Cree people, and if you answered back to the owl with a whistle and didn’t get a response, it was a sign that your death was imminent. On the other hand, Dakota Hidatsa people believed that burrowing owls acted as protective spirits for warriors.
  3. For some cultures, the owl was sacred. Among Australian Aborigines, owls are the spirits of women and so are sacred. The Kwakiutl people also thought owls were the souls of people and shouldn’t be harmed because, if the owl was killed, the person whose soul the owl carried would also die. In fact, many different cultures believed that a person became an owl after death.
  4. Owls are often viewed as a symbol of wisdom. The “wise old owl” character comes from an old English nursery rhyme, which suggests that listening more than talking is a valuable character trait that we would all benefit from developing. As such, the owl has become a sign of learning and mental change. Many people believe that seeing an owl is a profoundly good thing, as it indicates the start of a new phase in life.
  5. Owls are, of course, associated with witchcraft—particularly white ones, which are the most elusive. Greeks and Romans believed witches could turn themselves into owls, and in this form would come to suck the blood of babies. In other cultures, owls were simply the messengers of witches, or hooted to warn of the approach of a witch. Unfortunately this led to many owls being hunted and killed in the Middle Ages.
  6. Though the owl’s nocturnal activity was at the root of many superstitions, the amazing ability of an owl to rotate its neck to extraordinary degrees was even turned into a myth. In England it was believed that if you walked around a tree that an owl was perched in, it would follow you with its eyes, around and around until it wrung its own neck. SOURCE

“You don’t need anything but hope. The kind of hope that flies on silent wings under a shining owl moon.”

-Jane Yolen
Perhaps no other creature has so compelling a gaze as the owl. Its unblinking stare mesmerizes; its nocturnal lifestyle suggests secrets and mystery. This lavishly illustrated book celebrates owls from every corner of the world and offers abundant details on fifty-three of the most striking and interesting species, from the tiny Elf Owl of southwestern American deserts to the formidable Blakiston’s Fish Owl, the largest of all owls.
 Mike Unwin has long studied and admired these remarkable birds from cold northern forests to tropical rivers and beyond. He explains how owls evolved into the supreme feathered predators of the night, and he examines their breeding and hunting behaviors, unusual calls, and the cultural myths and superstitions that surround different species. More than two hundred dramatic color photographs in the wild, taken or selected by David Tipling, capture the wondrous beauty of each owl and the drama of life in its own home region. 

The Owl as a Spirit Guide

When you seek out Owl, it is a way of reaching your Higher Self and truly seeing things from a spiritual perspective; This refreshing vantage point allows you to open doorways into other realms and connect with the Devas, Ancestors, Angels, and the Divine.

Owl has a strong connection with the element of air. Travel with Owl Spirit to the heavens and soar through the halls of the Akashic records. Owl will show you things that might otherwise remain hidden to you, so be open to seeing things in a whole new way.

You cannot deceive Owl, which is why this Spirit Animal reminds us to remain true to ourselves, our voice, and our vision. Owl does not tolerate illusion or secrets. If there are skeletons in the closet, you can trust that Owl will find them and start house cleaning.

It is no surprise that the Goddess Athena held Owls as sacred. Athena is beyond doubt, one of the most complex Deities in history, and Her attributes included wisdom and strategy – so Owl Spirit became the perfect companion. In Greek tradition, Owl was also a protector. It was believed that an Owl flying over a soldier or army portended victory because Owl would remain watchful.

As a creature of the night, the Celts and Egyptians regarded Owl as a gatekeeper to other realms, particularly the souls of the dead. In some stories, this bird actually accompanies a soul, so it doesn’t get lost on its journey.

In Native American tradition, Owl represents sacred knowledge (you’ll get to know me, I live for puns). When you begin studying the mysteries, this Spirit Animal Guide is an amazing helpmate and mentor.

Overall, Owl is a symbol of being able to navigate any darkness in our life; this Spirit brings clarity, prophetic inklings, and a strong connection with the mystical world. SOURCE

“Owls are known as lonely birds, but it is not known that they have the forest as their best friend!”

– Mehmet Murat Ildan
This petroglyph, the ‘Spedis Owl‘ was salvaged from along the Columbia River just before The Dalles Dam flooded the area in 1956. This carving is on display at Horsethief Lake State Park, Washington. Photo © Ralph Turner.

Symbolism

Perception, Silent Observation, Wisdom, Deception

The Owl has a dual symbolism of wisdom and darkness, the latter meaning evil and death. They are symbolically associated with clairvoyance, astral projection and magick, and is oftentimes the medicine of sorcerers and witches, you are drawn to magickal practices. Those who have owl medicine will find that these night birds will tend to collect around you, even in daytime, because they recognise a kinship with you.

The two main symbolic characteristics of the Owl, its wisdom and its nocturnal activity– have made it represent perception. Considering perception in a spiritual context, Owl medicine is related to psychism, occult matters, instincts, and clairvoyance– the true ability to see what is happening around you.

The owl can see that which others cannot, which is the essence of true wisdom. Where others are deceived, Owl sees and knows what is there.

Use your power of keen, silent observation to intuit some life situation, Owl is befriending you and aiding you in seeing the whole truth. The Owl also brings its messages in the night through dreams or meditation. Pay attention to the signals and omens. The truth always brings further enlightenment.

The Owl, symbol of the Goddess, represents perfect wisdom. Owls have the ability to see in the dark and fly noiselessly through the skies. They bring messages through dreams. The Owl is the bird of mystical wisdom and ancient knowledge of the powers of the moon. With wide-open, all-seeing eyes, Owl looks upon reality without distortion and acknowledges it, yet is aware that with ancient magickal and spiritual knowledge, he or she can make changes. SOURCE

This video will discuss about 20 mysterious facts about Owls. As recognized as owls may be, most people don’t actually know a whole ton about them. But the truth is, these birds are incredibly complex creatures with a catalogue of surprising facts.

What Sees the Owl by Elizabeth Sears Bates

His velvet wing sweeps through the night:
With magic of his wondrous sight
He oversees his vast domain,
And king supreme of night doth reign.

Around him lies a silent world,
The day with all its noise is furled;
When every shadow seems a moon,
And every light a sun at noon.

How welcome from the blinding glare
Is the cool grayness of the air!
How sweet the power to reign, a king,
When day his banishment will bring!

For him the colorless moonlight
Burns brilliant, an aurora bright;
The forest’s deepest gloom stands clear
From mystery and helpless fear.

He sees the silver cobwebs spun,
The dewdrops set the flowers have won,
The firefly’s gleam offends his sight,
It seems a spark of fierce sunlight.

Clear winter nights when he so bold,
“For all his feathers, is a-cold,”
Sees the Frost-spirit fling his lace,
And fashion icicles apace.

At his weird call afar and faint
A sleepy echo, like the quaint
Last notes of some wild chant, replies
And mocks his solitude—and dies.

Owls of the World, second edition, is the ultimate photographic resource dedicated to the identification of these charismatic birds of prey. It is packed with spectacular photography of 268 species of owls from all over the world, including extinct species. Many of the images are of highly elusive species very rarely caught on camera.
The vast majority of the roughly 200 species of owls are so-called true owls which possess large heads with round faces short tails and muted feathers with mottled patterns. The remainder accounting for a little over a dozen species are barn owls which can be distinguished by their heart-shaped faces long legs equipped with powerful talons and moderate size. With the exception of the common barn owl—which has a worldwide distribution—the most familiar owls at least to residents of North America and Eurasia are the true owls.
Evolution has an efficient way of relegating animals to particular niches: because other carnivorous birds (like hawks and eagles) hunt during the day most owls have adapted to hunting at night. The dark coloration of owls makes them nearly invisible to their prey—which consists of insects small mammals and other birds—and their wings are structured so as to beat in almost complete silence. These adaptations combined with their enormous eyes makes owls some of the most efficient night hunters on the planet wolves and coyotes not excluded.
One of the most remarkable things about owls is the way they move their entire heads when looking at something rather than simply moving their eyes in their sockets like most other vertebrate animals. The reason for this is that owls need large forward-facing eyes to gather in scarce light during their nocturnal hunts and evolution couldn’t spare the musculature to allow these eyes to rotate. Instead owls have astonishingly flexible necks that allow them to turn their heads three-quarters of a circle or 270 degrees—compared to about 90 degrees for the average human being!

Further Resources

Owls Mythology & Folklore

Owl Names in Mythology – Nocturnal Birds Of Prey In The Mystic Realms

World Owl Mythology

Native American Owl Mythology

Owl Folklore