Family Book of Shadows
The Cookie Baking Ritual
Earthwise: Cloth Diapers, by Ember
New to School
Monsters in the Closet, by Crystal
Requiem for a Hamster
Samhain Dumb Feast Ritual
Spiritual Cleansing 1: Posessions
Watchtowers, Candles and Children
Animals bring us messages all the time, if we take the time to notice. You don't necessarily have to be on a Shamanic path (although it helps to know about it). You just have to be quiet inside and listen.
I have been noticing messages from the animals for over a year now. The messages are for me and other members of my family.
We have been visited by multitudes of butterflies throughout the summer of 2001. The climax had to be at the summer solstice. A zebra swallowtail landed on my canteloupe as I was holding it, and stayed with me and my daughter for half an hour.
Here's the whole story: We were set up at our merchant space at a Pagan festival. There had been accidents of all kinds happening at one particular spot just near our booth. One man was burned trying to extinguish a torch, and people were falling down in the exact same spot over the next day or 2. I mentioned this to one of my friends. She concluded that there may be a spirit of place who may be having some problems or perhaps just making mischief in that space, and suggested that I make an offering. I made the offering of fruits and herbs, and placed the offering plate on the ground where so much chaos was focused. The butterfly came in response to the offering, as a signal that the offering was accepted. People noticed the food, and stepped carefully around it, and no one fell there for the rest of the festival.
Other animals have come into our lives at other times.
Raccoon moved in to the hollow tree in the backyard 2 years ago, raised a family and then moved on. That spring and summer were filled with fun and adventure.
A young stag visited my husband and daughter one spring day this past year. As we live in an urban area, it was very remarkable. He was still around by the time I got home from work, and we had an interesting moment in the back yard as I watched him eat the last of our strawberries.
He left some "spoor" (fancy talk for deer poop) in thanks for the strawberries, I suppose. I mentioned it to a band mate, who then pointed out that the Stag is a symbol of the God, and he was literally "fertilizing" my space. We took this as an omen of great good fortune for all our projects for the year.
And then there are the ferrets. We adopted two ferrets from a man who could no longer keep them (he had three, and could only keep one). They are male and female, both neutered and de-scented. The female has sable coloring and is very sweet and affectionate. The male has chocholate coloring (which means he's primarily white with some black guard hairs, and black eyes). We have nicknamed him "Bitey," in honor of his favorite behavior, and to warn children away from his fast and sharp teeth. Most of my scars have gone by now. After 6 months of living with us, and lots of love and bribery with Nutri-Cal (a favorite ferret treat), he has stopped attacking us, and with vigilance, we are have not been bitten for a while. I have hopes that he'll calm down even further so that my daughter can also handle him. In the meantime, we have heavy leather work gloves, and don't go in without shoes and socks (he'll go after ankles, as well). I'm not too sure what the significance of owning ferrets is in the Animal Magick realm, but they are fun to watch and to play with - they are full of energy and extremely playful. They like to burrow, and their favorite toys are not the expensive things from the pet store, but plain cardboard boxes with ferret-sized holes in them.
Most recently, a goshawk perched in our old tree in the backyard, as he was eating a pigeon. I captured some video of him, and I hope to post either a short movie file or some still pictures (or both) shortly. Goshawks are not typical residents of New Jersey. They live much farther north, in Canada, for the most part, and only come this far south during the winter, in search of food. Hawks are the messengers from the Gods, according too the animal books I read. I have also had a close encounter with a Red-Tailed Hawk once shortly after moving into this house.
There are also the other permanent residents of the neighborhood. We have many squirrels. A cardinal and his mate have set up residence in the hedges in our backyard, and we also have a blue jay in the front. Even living in my urban plot of land, I can still find the occasional rabbit, and the Canada geese are ubiquitous in the open parklands in our city. I'm pretty sure there are bats around (if you notice anything flying at night, you can be pretty sure it's a bat), and I'd like to encourage a few to live nearby. They are great at mosquito control in the summer.
When you start to notice the animals (and they are there all the time, but we ignore them), you may want to start researching about them: their habitats and habits. The local library is a good place to start. There are many books about specific animals, and books about the esoteric meanings of animal sightings or animal encounters. Generally, animal magick falls under the umbrella of Shamanism. Considering children's innate love and interest in animals, this is a good place to start working with your child.
Set up a notebook for you or your child. Write down any details of your animal encounters - the date, time, and place of the encounter, what you were doing, what the animal was doing, and any impressions or significance you feel at the time. Leave some space to make notes later on about any related effects in other areas of your life. For example, Butterfly encounters indicate a change (metamorphosis) in one or more areas of one's life, but a gentle change, almost like an awakening. This change can take place slowly over a period of weeks or months.
If one particular animal or type of animal keeps coming to you in life or in the dreamworld, make note of that. Is it a Power Animal for you? A totem?
Power Animals and Totems
A power animal is an animal that lends its (magickal) power to you for a purpose, such as for doing work within yourself. Power animals may be with you for brief periods of time, or your entire life.
We have used this concept to help our daughter deal with bad dreams and nightmares. We have placed "dream bears" in her room to assist her. A bear is a very large animal who is very protective of her cubs (and one of my personal power animals, as well, so I am familiar with Bear energy). She is very strong, and also warm and nurturing. The dream bears will vanquish any monster before it can harm my daughter.
The word totem is derived from the Algonquin ototeman, which literally means "his brother/sister/kin". A totem the way we use it means an ancestor. It does not necessarily mean that it's an animal. And an animal Totem is not a power animal (although you can have the same animal for both).
You can tap into the energy of particular animals in many ways. You can keep images of them on altars (pictures, sculptures, etc.). You can live with the animal (as a pet or companion), you can keep parts of the animal (hair, teeth, bones, etc.) - however, you should be aware of how these parts were acquired: is the antler deadfall (in other words, did the antler drop off naturally as a normal part of the deer's life), or was it taken by hunting? Was the animal killed for food, hunted for sport, or was a victim of circumstance (hit by a car, or killed by another animal)? Also be aware that ownership of certain animal parts is illegal in many places (for example, eagle feathers) unless you are part of an exempt group and have the proper permissions from the government.