If you talk to the animals they will talk with you and you will know each other: if you do not talk to them you will not know them, and what you do not know you will fear. What one fears one destroys.

From Chief Dan George, at the front of Ted Andrews’ “Animal Speak” … how horribly true!

Shapeshifter

I was set off on this trail by an article about a recently discovered shaman burial in Israel, where a woman shaman was buried with a leopard pelvis. Leopard has always been my totem, it’s been a part of the family crest for centuries, and I first connected with Leopard (the African leopard, Panthera pardus pardus) when I was a wee tad. I adore them!

This is how I see myself …

So I thought I’d go and look at what Ted Andrews says about them in Animal Speak – generally, I like Ted’s work. Ted puts leopards with panthers (jaguars) although they are not the same, jaguar being Panthera onca.  He says they’re loners – indeed! And so am I! – but perhaps the most interesting thing he says is …

“Often people enter the metaphysical field, taking up exercises and meditations to have their inner lights “clicked on”. Individuals with panthers as totems are usually individuals who came into the world with their lights already on.” This is certainly true of me and caused me no end of pain and trouble when I finally decided to “come out” as a shaman. Ted goes on to say, “Thus they should not be discouraged when they do not experience what others describe when their lights are turned on. They should trust their thoughts and their inner visions for there is probably a strong foundation in reality.” Thanks Ted, I could have done with that advice 50 years back :-).

African leopard in Kenya

My Dad brought me up to speak with animals … with everything, in fact, including the car, hammers and other tools, loaves of bread, one’s clothes, the house, each room in the house … if folk had known we’d all have been for the straight-jacket if not the stake LOL. I still talk to everything, and I agree with Chief Dan George, everything gets to know me and I them. I’m not afraid of animals, plants, places, mountains, the weather, even things that go bump in the night J. But all around me I see people who are afraid, who cannot understand anything that isn’t human and, often, very few humans either unless they fit in the same box.

Most people call animals “it” although they have gender. They do the same for plants although most of them (excluding ferns and such) have gender too. But we get all hot under the collar if somebody calls our child “it”. I’m afraid I do that as an act of rebellion to everyone who calls animals “it”! Well … I’m not afraid, just sucking up *g*. There is this terrible “them/us” thing going on between humans and everything else, including the Earth herself … have you noticed the daft programmes called “Dangerous Planet” ???

We have destroyed masses of species because of our fear and are heading to destroy loads more as we career along with global warming. And most folk don’t give a damn as long as there’s the “footie”, World Cup, some sort of idiot sport, plus a six-pack and a take-away to slob about on the sofa with. Sheeeeesh !!!

Pic by Scot Stuberg

As a shaman this horrifies me. I cannot get my head around this lack of respect. I cannot get my head around folk thinking we’re separate from everything else. Ye gods, don’t folk realise there’s only so many atoms within the sphere of Planet Earth and we’re all made of them be we leopards, worms, cancer viri, cars, oak trees, cabbages, etc, etc, etc. Every time our body dies all those atoms get reabsorbed into Mother Earth and then come out again as something else. That feels to me like a PhD in the bleedin’ obvious!

Ok, so it’s true at the basic physical, it’s also true at the spiritual levels as well. We reincarnate as everything … every race, colour, creed, shape, form, gender, orientation, as good, bad, indifferent, memorable or (more likely!) infinitely forgettable. We are each other. Even the Christians say this in Cain’s bleat of “Am I my brother’s keeper?”.

For the shaman it’s obvious. One’s first journeys make this quite apparent – if one is willing to look, to actually go there and not fluff off on a pretty pink trip that comes completely out of our own heads.

And we can begin the work, the journeying, by talking to animals … and then listening! That’s pretty vital. If you don’t listen, you don’t hear. And don’t have preconceptions, how the animals talk with you may not be at all how you expect. Why should it be? But they will talk to you, and you will be able to know them, and they you. And so you will lose your fear and recognise your Elder brothers and sisters, spirits who have so much to teach us if only we will stop to listen.

And your lights will turn on really fast once you start listing to the animal.

Elen Sentier

writer artist gardener shaman
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Celtic shaman – Elen Sentier Talk to the animals …