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.

What animal teachers has Our Lady of the Beasts sent to you?

Image Credit:  Google Images

Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc. Ebook versions of The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at KoboBarnes And Noble, and Smashwords.

Join 5,847 other subscribers


0 Responses

  1. Thanks Jeanie, lovely post. We had dogs and cats in our family as children. As a married adult we’ve had dogs and cats in our family; one thoroughbred dog and two SPCA abandoned dogs. My son’s cat from about 14 years ago and more recently another of his cats both from the SPCA have found their home here. Both cats are extremely fussy about their food; the male ginger is very standoffish, the female ginger very loving to my husband (not to me) and it can make me upset when they turn their noses up and walk away when fresh food in put in front of them. What does this teach me? Patience I guess. Put it away, in their own time. Nothing can be forced – with animals or people.
    14 years ago when my elder son went through an extreme existential crisis while at university, choosing Harry (the male ginger) from the SPCA when he returned home made a huge difference. It brought him out of himself in a real and meaningful way and helped in his mending – as did the Jungian therapist he saw who helped him with his dreams.
    It’s always interesting to me when animals appear in my dreams – some sort of reminder to be more in touch with my animal instinct and to try to ascertain what that particular creature means; though what two horses tumbling together on the ground in a recent-ish dream has me flummoxed.

    1. Thanks for your stories, Susan. I grew up with dogs too. We always had a dog and a cat when my children lived at home and both my kids have dogs now. My daughter also has cats. Until the last few years of her life, my mother always had a parakeet to talk to and play with when she came home from work. She’d take it out of its cage and share her ice cream or a popsicle with it. I think it brought her out of herself, gave her something to care for, and a welcome respite from worry and work.
      Patience. That’s a big one isn’t it? My animals have taught me a lot about it too. Yes, “nothing can be forced,” or as the old saying goes, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.” I actually experienced that with my horse. On trail rides he’d get afraid when his hooves sank in the mud beside a stream and wouldn’t go near the water. Watching our cat find the sunny spots on the floor then lovingly groom herself was a lesson in all sorts of things: sensuousness…. tenderness….being kind to oneself…..awareness…. gratitude for life in the moment. And then there’s always grief. Their deaths were devastating and the empty spaces they left in my life were palpable. And responsibility…..compassion…..devotion…..I could go on and on. It’s no wonder your son found healing in his cat.
      I think of dream animals the same way as you. Two horses tumbling together on the ground? Wow. My associations: Power. Instinct. Play. Freedom. Spontaneity. Connectedness. Reveling in my animal physicality….. A lovely image, a picture of an emotion: feeling good and glad to be alive. 🙂

    1. Wonderful. Animals have always had special roles in religion, history and myth. St. George had to slay the dragon of unconsciousness. Hercules had to subdue his instincts which were represented by a lion, snake, boar, bull, and birds. Psyche needed ant energy when she had to sort seeds to strengthen her discrimination skills. And she needed to learn to listen to nature and her own intuitions and instincts when the time came to gather wool from some violent sheep. A rich, meaningful topic. So glad you’re including it in your mythology course.
      Thank you for including me in your list of supportive women for International Women’s Day. It has been my pleasure to support your work and I thank you for being equally supportive of mine!

    1. Thank you, Fran. This was a big issue for me for many years. Shadow helped me sort it all out with his occasional attempts to be higher in the pecking order. It’s a bad idea for a rider to let that happen. Horses are big, heavy, powerful, and potentially dangerous if one doesn’t ‘stay on top of them’ so to speak. But it’s not necessary to be mean, arbitrary, insensitive or overly controlling. All that’s needed is to understand them, love them, listen to them, respect them, and let them know who you are and what you want….all with firmness, consistency and perseverance. Shadow understood and respected that, and it was a wonderful learning experience for both of us. Nothing beats intimate relationships for enhancing our growth!

  2. In terms of constant life-long intimacy, dogs, but there are animals everywhere on this land. I often know that through finding coyote or fox or raccoon scat on the trail or tracks in winter snow. I’ve become a nature detective and much more watchful since Vic died. Maybe because I usually walk alone now. My favorite wild things are bluebirds. They’re checking out the nesting boxes right now making housing decisions for later in the April. Then when the tree swallows arrive, there might be a few arguments before they settle down and leave each other alone.
    I’m also a devotee of Our Lady of the Plants. I see first tiny leaves of lupines everywhere on my walks and know they will bloom wildly and extravagantly in May. I see tiny shoots of other wildflowers, too, and watch for yellow trout lilies, one of the first woodland ephemerals here. I just put a book on hold at the library called ‘Braiding Sweetgrass’ by Robin Wall Kimmerer, a Ph.D. botanist and a wise Native American who has integrated her two worlds. It’s been recommended a few times, so I decided it’s just what the doctor ordered. I’ll let you know if it’s as good as I think it will be.

  3. What a gift you’ve been given, Elaine—to live on a land populated by so many varieties of Our Lady’s creations. A gift that keeps on giving to both your outer and inner worlds. Mother Nature has got to be one of the Soul’s greatest teachers. Perhaps THE greatest teacher from outside ourselves. Like dreams, her wisdom and lessons are always with us…at least for those who pay attention.
    I look forward to hearing more about “Braiding Sweetgrass.” Love the title!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Recent Posts