Learning From Our Lady of the Beasts


“The Earth Mother is…the eternally fruitful source of everything…. Each separate being is a manifestation of her; all things share in her life through an eternal cycle of birth and rebirth….Her animals….embody the deity herself, defining her personality and exemplifying her power.”  Buffie Johnson, Our Lady of the Beasts, Inner Traditions
The successful wielding of power to enhance our soul’s development is a primary concern of the feminine archetypes. For them, power is not about controlling otherness, but about loving and learning from otherness so that our souls are empowered to become what they were created to be. If this is to happen, our energies need to be redirected away from pursuits aimed at acquiring external, historical power toward those that bring internal, natural power. By natural power I mean the soul’s power to act from its rich, authentic core, unencumbered by the chains of fear, ignorance, and conformity. One way of loosening these chains is to learn from Earth Mother’s manifestations in nature.
The farther removed we are from nature, the less apt we are to hear Sophia’s voice or learn from her natural guidance. One night after an eventful weekend at our mountain home I recorded five valuable insights I had acquired, all of them necessary to my empowerment, and none of which I would have learned had I stayed indoors. Through my adult interactions with nature I am rediscovering something I knew as a child but never had the words for: staying close to nature brings me closer to my truest self.
A major step in my own return to nature began when, in my fifties, I fulfilled a childhood dream of buying my own horse to train: a two-and-a-half-year old gray thoroughbred I called Honey’s Shadow Dancer — gray to symbolize the union of the opposites of black and white for which I strive, Honey for his sweetness, Shadow to signify my desire to be always mindful of my own shadow, and Dancer to honor the ever-changing dance of life. For me, the physical care I lavished on him and our efforts to understand and trust one another were spiritual practices that were every bit as meaningful as my earlier, more cerebral ones.
Native teachers and healers Jamie Sams and David Carson tell us that for many native peoples Horse represents both physical and unearthly power, and that the impact of Horse’s domestication was akin to the discovery of fire. “Before Horse, humans were earthbound, heavy-laden, and slow creatures indeed. Once humans climbed on Horse’s back, they were as free and fleet as the wind. Through their special relationship with Horse, humans altered their self-concept beyond measure. Horse was the first animal medicine of civilization.”
The term animal medicine refers to life lessons learned from animals whose characteristics and habits demonstrate how to walk on our physical Earth Mother in harmony with the universe. Like Buffie Johnson, I think of the aspect of Earth Mother that conveys lessons through wild creatures and beloved animal companions as Our Lady of the Beasts. Next time I’ll share some empowering animal medicine she brought to me through my beloved teacher, Shadow.
What animal teachers has Our Lady of the Beasts sent to you?

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  1. Lately, I’m seeing lots of water birds, mostly in images, but also in person–egret and heron particularly. Feels like a reminder of the need to balance intellect and intuition.

  2. Dear Sally,
    I love your interpretation of what this phenomenon might mean in your life! In Hindu thought birds represent intelligence: ‘Intelligence is the swiftest of birds’, and a Scandanavian belief is that that the bird, as the spirit freed from the body, represents wisdom. Water is always associated with the Great Mother and the unconscious, and can therefore represent intuitive knowledge.
    So for me, water birds would also suggest the higher/deeper wisdom that comes from balancing intellect and intuition. A very important reminder indeed, in these times when our obsessive, fiery intellectualization is in dire need of the fertility and refreshment of the cooling waters of intuitive understanding.
    Thanks so much for your fascinating and thought-provoking comment.

  3. jeanie, a lovely and timely article. for me, it has been the golden eagle lately. i spent a remarkable day last week watching their nest, with the two young eagles just fledging and then the mother returning to the nest with a rabbit for their dinner. the sight of the mother, with an 8-foot wingspan, soaring into the nest was phenomenal. the evening was full of swarms of mosquitoes but i barely noticed. the antics of the fledglings, clumsy and comical, on that day did not belie the fact that i was looking at magnificent beings who would be ruling the sky in a matter of weeks. power, yes. but a sense of belonging together that made “power” seem more like love, nurturing, and caring than force and might. i could not agree with you more: total immersion in nature, if just for short periods of time, is a spiritual exercise that brings us into contact with our deepest and truest self. for instance, the day in which all this happened with the eagles was the summer solstice: the symbolism of the solar eagle on the longest day of the year was not lost on me. in the midst of all this, i looked at the ground and a piece of stone called to me–a wonderful piece of petrified wood that has turned to jasper and agate! a symbol of that day, the stone still rides around with me in my pocket. i don’t know what any of it means but it all makes me more myself. all the best, william.

  4. Oh, William,
    What a remarkable, life-affirming experience! It warms my heart just hearing about it. Thank you for sharing it here.
    What a meaningful gift Our Lady of the Beasts bestowed on you. Of course, the symbolism of all this was not lost on you, of all people! I’m sitting here wondering what color the agate was. My symbol book says that black agate symbolizes courage, boldnesss, vigor, and prosperity, and red is spiritual love of good, health, wealth, longevity, and peace. Or was it amethyst: humililty, peace of mind, piety? I’m betting red! And jasper is joy and happiness.
    But as you note, you didn’t even need to know what it all meant because it made you more yourself! I know what you mean. At the beginning of my journey, understanding the meaning of symbols that appeared in my life was crucial to my process because the intellect was the only path I knew to spirit and soul. These days I need the intellect less and less because the meaning arrives through feeling, especially reverence, gratitude, and joy, which are more than enough.
    Safe journey, fellow traveler,

    1. jeanie, thank you for seeing it through my eyes! the agate seems to be of material that filled in several depressions in the piece of wood (which petrified into jasper). The agate has the quality of moonstone almost, a pale opaque white, as if one poured water into milk. the stone is perhaps two inches long and half-inch through, smooth and timeworn, a treasure to the hand…..my solstice-eagle stone. Some symbols are really the things they symbolize, don’t you think? –wm

      1. William, my pleasure, believe me! Yes, I do think some symbols simply are what they symbolize. I would guess that every time you look at or caress your solstice-eagle stone it will bring back the rush of joy and reverence and gratitude you felt that day. It undoubtedly has great mana; a fitting talisman for a Spirit Warrior. Jeanie

  5. P.S. FYI, as if you need it, the moonstone signifies the moon, (I’m seeing balance and unity between the solar and lunar), tenderness, and lovers (more balance and unity). What a delightful confirmation of all your extraordinary inner work. J

  6. divine……conversations with mother nature……
    communications with mother tongue……….
    every body learns mother tongue without going to any school….
    going back to nature is like leaving all languages behind what one learned in different schools to converse in mother tongue that is natural love . an identity with natural love is your password for communication with any thing to everything…..from moon to stars , from rocks to rivers………
    wisdom through animal symbols signifies your nearness to nature and as one is graduating these animal characters signifies
    your development stage. as per hindhu mythology which is basically a energy animal correlation scientific equations expressed through wisdom stories. and particularly horse as a symbol of new age and music and that is sensitiveness inside that is what matters
    cars have horse power engines and thinkers like you have horse
    powered super brain research engines and the easiest and most
    difficult research is to know oneself but for you it is easy;;;;;;
    blesss you divine jean rafffa….

  7. ram0singhal,
    I love your comment that “going back to naure is like leaving all languages behind…to converse in mother tongue that is natural love.” That perfectly expresses how I feel when I’m absorbed in nature — that I’m communicating with Sacred Mother via natural love. I especially feel the wonder and love at night. Last night we were boating on a calm lake with our granddaughters and were awash with it.
    Thank you for sharing your associations with Horse. I didn’t know Horse is associated with music in Hindu mythology, but that fits me too. I do know that Horse and Bear symbolize much that is extremely important to me, both consciously and, obviously, because of the passion I feel for them, unconsciously.
    Perhaps it appears to others that knowing myself it easy for me, but I must say it’s the hardest work I’ve ever done, and I’m nowhere near finished. Essentially, whatever insights I’ve gained about myself have been the result of powerful need and dogged persistence!! It’s simply what I’ve had to do in order to be comfortable with myself. Lately, however, I have less need for mental work and a stronger need to be in nature. Another graduation!
    Bless you, divine ram0singhal,

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