Day 362: Discovering the Animal Power

Today we’re going to cast a circle and do some magical journeying  to help find our animal and learn its name and symbol.  For this, we’ll need our usual circle casting tools, the incense and oil we’ve prepared, and blank paper and a pen.  Follow the instructions below.  For the guided journey, you can use the recording below:

Cast your circle as usual.  Sprinkle the animal power incense on a hot coal and allow it to smolder.  Offer the incense at each of the four compass points of your circle:  east, south, west, and north.  As you offer the incense around the circle, say the following:

Bull-beggars, spirits, Witches,
Hags, Satyrs, Pans, Sylvens,
Changelings, Dragons, Men of the Oak,
Open the way to the sacred hunt,
From thy thunder, echo the voices of
Feather and fur, claw and talon.

Return the incense to the altar and then use your left hand to fan the smoke across your body.  Carry your animal spirit oil blend to the east of your circle.  Once there, face the perimeter of the circle.  Anoint yourself with the oil at the base of the throat, saying

I open to the voices of the animal world.

Repeat the oil anointing in the south of your circle.  This time, dab the oil to your solar-plexus area, saying:

I open to the power of the animal world.

Repeat the oil anointing in the west of your circle.  This time, dab the oil between your eyes at the center of the brow, saying:

I open to the wisdom of the animal world.

Repeat the oil anointing in the north of your circle.  Dab the oil to your root chakra, saying:

I find my root in the animal world.

Now lie down on your back in the south of your circle with your feet pointed north and your head south.  Anoint yourself with the essential oil on the insides of your elbows and the backs of your knees.  Have a magical partner read the guided imagery below, or record it before your ritual and play it back now:

Reader:
Close your eyes and imagine that you stand before a great oak tree.  Take several deep breaths, and, with each breath, imagine that your body becomes increasingly transparent.  Now move close to the tree and walk into the trunk.  You are now one with the tree.

Imagine that you travel down through the heavy roots of the tree as they descend through layers of sediment, rock, and soil.  You follow the roots even more deeply into the dark, cold earth.  Follow the roots until you come to their end, which places you inside a large cave.  You cannot see anything before you, but you can sense the enormity of the cavern.  Listen in silence and soon you will hear the noise of your animal spirit.  What is this noise?

(Reader:  pause for a moment.)

Follow the sound of the animal in the cave and know that you will not be harmed.  The floor of the cave is smooth and soft.  There are no obstructions in your way.  Simply follow the sound in the dark.  Soon you will feel something brush up against you.  This is the feel of your animal spirit.  How did it feel?

(Reader:  pause for a moment.)

The animal spirit continues to summon you with its sound.  Follow the sound and eventually you will catch the scent of your animal spirit.  What is that scent?

(Reader:  pause for a moment.)

Finally, you notice a speck of glowing light on the floor of the cave.  As you approach the soft glow, you can see it is not a speck at all, but a large luminous symbol.  This is the mark of the animal spirit.  What is this symbol?  Remember it for future reference.  Reach down and touch the glowing symbol and the cave crumbles around you to reveal a landscape.  Where are you?  Is this the beach?  Is this the desert?  A forest?  A mountain top?

Wherever you are, begin to explore the terrain.  Soon you will encounter a single animal.  This is your animal power, your familiar self.  Greet the animal power and ask its name.

(Reader:  pause for a moment.)

It is now time to return to the upper world.  Thank the animal spirit for revealing itself and bid it farewell.  Soon the vision of the landscape and the animal fades and you find yourself back inside the cave holding on to the oak tree root.  The root seems to quickly draw you back to the upper trunk.  Step out of the trunk and then watch your body as it becomes visible and solid again.

Once you are ready, open your eyes and write down what it was you saw.  Write down the animal power you found, write its name, and draw its symbol.

Close your circle as usual.

Ladies and Gentlemen, may I present the European badger, Meles meles.

Ladies and Gentlemen, may I present the European badger, Meles meles.

Seriously, I was fully kidding about the Honey Badger the other day.  It just seemed like too good a joke to pass up when discussing animal traits.  After all, Randall’s flamboyant narration has become the stuff of Internet legend.  I swear, badgers were not floating around in my subconscious when I cast circle and laid down to perform this meditation.  In fact, if I had had to guess beforehand what I would encounter in trance, I would have guessed something like a bacteria (most populous animal on the planet!) or maybe a fish or something.  After all, the charismatic mammalian macrofauna are far too represented as spirit animals in the Pagan population, and it would just figure that mine would be totally bizarre.

So imagine my surprise when I got to the cave and heard this sort of snuffling, grunting, clucking sound.  That’s certainly no fish!  Next, I felt a rough, wiry pelt brush around my ankles and paws, claws, and a snuffling nose reach up towards my knees.  I’ve spent enough time around different friends pet ferrets and hedgehogs to know that this animal was no dog or cat!  Then that musky odor hit my nose and I knew I was dealing with some sort of creature like that.  The speck of light that revealed the sign of my creature showed a squatter, wider paw print than I’m used to seeing with dogs and racoons, and what I now know to be very close to the print of a badger’s front paw.

Prints of a badger's front paw and back paw in some good English mud.

Prints of a badger’s front paw and back paw in some good English mud.

When the cave disintegrated around me as I touched the paw print, I found myself standing in a warm pasture land with rolling hills, a bright blue sky, and ringed all around with woods.  It was like the southern hills of England and Ireland, if I had to guess.  I know now that this is ideal European badger habitat, and the animal I encountered there was indeed Badger.

Yes, that’s right.  The universe has soundly sorted me into House Hufflepuff.

Now that I’ve read up on the European badger–the type of badger that appeared to me (thank the Gods–American badgers are mean!)–I can definitely see why.  It’s definitely something of a homebody.  It likes its territory and it stays well within it.  It also actively maintains several burrows or “setts” within its range, which it shares peacefully with other badgers (and even rabbits, etc.!).  And when I say maintain, I mean maintain.  It hauls out soiled bedding and brings in fresh, and they defecate outside the sett in designated latrines.  They care about maintaining a good home–and they pass that home down to others!  Apparently these extensive setts can be in use for decades.

Like me, the badger is pretty peaceful and genial until something dear to it is threatened…and then it becomes a formidable force!  It’s very social among its burrow-mates, but fights with outsiders, and badgers foster their young very happily and with lots of play.  They’re also hibernating animals, so–like me–they understand the value of a good long “vegetate and do nothing” session, even though they’re otherwise quite industrious.  And even though they build a great little badger society, they do sort of pair bond!  Males typically mate with one female for life, though females themselves may have more than one partner throughout their own lives.  They’re very loyal, these badgers.

In fact, I found out that when it comes to fiction and folklore, it’s not just J.K. Rowling who finds badgers “just and loyal” and “true and unafraid of toil”.  Though Irish mythology laregly figures them as shape-shifters, Germans largely hold them to be cautious and peace-loving, though generally distrustful of art and intellect.  They love nothing more than home and comfort.  Kenneth Graham’s Mr. Badger from The Wind in the Willows is similar.  He loves his home and shuns society, but he’s a good friend to Mole and Ratty, and is the epitome of common sense.  This holds up in T.H. White’s Once and Future King when Merlin turns Arthur into a badger.  When Arthur seeks to learn a lesson from a true badger, he is told “I can only teach you two things – to dig, and love your home.”

Isn't he cute?

Isn’t he cute?

All in all, I’m glad the universe knew better than me on this one, and I’m glad that Badger is my spirit animal.  And, as a delicious coincidence, I’m pleased that its scientific name, Meles meles, is very close to Melissa.  Perhaps there’s a shared etymology there?

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