Animal stories
The companionship of water

Animal stories, continued

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Another excerpt from Linda Hogan's essay "First People":

"[T]he old stories of human relationships with animals can't be discounted. They are not primitive; they are primal. They reflect insights that came from considerable and elaborate systems of knowledge, intellectual traditions and ways of living that were tried, tested, and found true over many thousands of years and on all continents.

"But perhaps the truest story is with the animals themselves because we have found our exemplary ways through them, both in the older world and in the present time, both physically and spiritually. According to the traditions of the Seneca animal society, there were medicine animals in ancient times that entered into relationships with people. The animals themselves taught ceremonies that were to be performed in their names, saying they would provide help for humans if this relationship was kept. We have followed them, not only in the way the early European voyagers and prenavigators did, by following the migrations of whales in order to know their location, or by releasing birds from cages on their sailing vessels and following them towards land, but in ways more subtle and even more sustaining. In a discussion of the Wolf Dance of the Northwest, artists Bill Holm and William Reid said that 'It is often done by a woman or a group of women. The dance is supposed to come from the wolves. There are different versions of its origin and different songs, but the words say something like, 'Your name is widely known among the wolves. You are honored by the wolves.'

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"In another recent account, a Northern Cheyenne ceremonialist said that after years spent recovering from removals and genocide, indigenous peoples are learning their lost songs back from the wolves who retained them during the grief-filled times, as thought the wolves, even though threatened in their own numbers, have had compassion for the people....

"It seems we have always found our way across unknown lands, physical and spiritual, with the assistance of the animals. Our cultures are shaped around them and we are judged by the ways in which we treat them. For us, the animals are understood to be our equals. They are still our teachers. They are our helpers and healers. They have been our guardians and we have been theirs. We have asked for, and sometimes been given, if we've lived well enough, carefully enough, their extraordinary powers of endurance and vision, which we have added to our own knowledge, powers and gifts when we are not strong enough for the tasks required of us. We have deep obligations to them. Without other animals, we are made less."

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Sacred stories about the relationship between humans and animals can be found not only in North America but in mythic traditions all around the world. For further reading, I recommend Lady and the Beasts: The Goddess and Her Sacred Animals by Buffie JohnsonAnimals in Celtic Myth and Life by Miranda Green, and the Animal Series from Reaktion Books.

The gorgeous pictures above are by Rachel Lauren, an artist in central Ohio who specializes in photographing canines, both wild and domestic. The photographs here feature Lucian (Rachel's North American Wolfdog) and Grace Nuth (mythic artist and author of The Beautiful Necessity and Domythic Bliss blogs). Visit Rachel's website and blog to see more of her beautiful work, and Lucian's Facebook page to learn more about Wolfdogs.

"First People" was published in Intimate Nature: The Bond Between Women and Animals, edited by Linda Hogan, Deena Metzger, and Brenda Peterson (Fawcett Columbine/Ballatine, 1998).

Comments

A great post!
It struck a cord with me especially as I have been reading Robin Hobb, "Farseer Trilogy" Where the hero has a connection with animals, which is taboo! I also have two large Rhodesian Ridgeback dogs, which I adore and I am so sure they sense things and see moods. Sometimes I don't speak what I want to do, but think it and they appear as if by magic, if it includes them. My life would be much poorer without them.

The sensitivity of animals is incredible: The relationship between guide dogs and the owners they work with is fantastic. Then look at the reading dog project and the effect this has on shy children http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2011/feb/28/dogs-listen-to-children-reading.
Many domestic pets have been documented sensing cancerous growths in their owners and attempting to communicate this.
The ability to see more and smell more is innate to them.

I think we deny small children the opportunity to care for and create a bond with animals to their detriment. It lays the foundations for a lifetime of understanding and care.

Thanks Charlotte, have read the article. It's amazing. Its really quite strange at the moment my job has changed and I am going to be a librarian at a secondary school. Books and animals what would we do without them? :)

The Cat Around the Corner

The cat around the corner comes
quick-footed, swift-eyed,
kinked tail, whiskers fanned out.
She is all readiness, alert to the day.
Before she smells the food
she knows it is there for her ears,
pointed as antennae,
have heard me open the can.
She is hunter, I am gatherer,
We work well together,
lie down in the big bed,
warmth to warmth,
and purr.

©2012 Jane Yolen All righte reserved

Beautiful photos and poignant the words about the wolves preserving the lost songs of the People and re-teaching them.

Those words remind me of something David Abram quoted in "Becoming Animal":

"We know what the animals do, what are the needs of the beaver, the bear, the salmon, and other creatures, because long ago men married them and acquired this knowledge from their animal wives. Today the priests say we lie, but we know better. The white man has been only a short time in this country and knows very little about the animals; we have lived here thousands of years and were taught long ago by the animals themselves. The white man writes everything down in a book so that it will not be forgotten; but our ancestors married animals, learned all their ways, and passed on this knowledge from one generation to another." — A Carrier Indian from British Columbia:

Those of us of European ancestry must have experienced that closeness with animals in their native lands, though long and long years ago. At least, I like to think that.

purrfect !

Very resonant post for me... I'm heading off on a link-journey, thanks!

Lovely post. I've never read Linda Hogan and now I plan to seek her out. As for the photographs, oh my. Just stunning. I could stare at them for hours.

Yes! Purrfect! And our cats agree.

Here in Ireland there is quite a profound connection with between humankind and animals in our mythic tradition - and even in the more mystical strain of Celtic Christianity that many practice to this day. Have you read John Donohue's Spiritual Wisdom from the Celtic World, for example? I believe Terri has quoted him here once or twice.

I keep meaning to read David Abram, and this is a good reminder to order his books.

I love the photographs today. Meaning no slight to Tilly, but Lucian the wolfdog is an amazing creature - straight out of a fairy tale in these images.

I love Celtic mythology (and Arthurian legend) and folkways so I've read some in that rich vein but not John Donohue--thank you for the recommendation!

Love the pictures, love the post as always. When I was a little girl I had some serious health issues and I often felt that my relationship with animals was what sustained me during those years. Animals have just always understood. It does not mean that they are always "sweet" or "loving" or adhere to so many of our human values-they possess a wild ethic all their own-one I think it would behoove us to remember and reflect in our own lives. Its hard to talk or write about "animals" sometimes because they each have such a unique being-ness about them-Jane Yolen's cat, my dog, that particular cow in the particular pasture on that morning-what a blessing of creation & diversity!

I too had not read Linda Hogan's work, and since these animal story posts, I have explored her work and been nodding ever since. It is not an easy process to remain rooted to Ancient ways and practice them in present times. But, the good news is, it can be done and is done in ways unimaginable. Life as a Hawaiian elder, maturing on the other side of bridges built over time and in spite of the dust of 'occupation' and illusion challenges us to re-learn the art of listening. Thank you Terri for these culture-crossing posts and links. I love the space you give to them and the language that is timeless. We have words in Hawaiian that go beyond "belief" which as Hogan says is not quite enough to describe ancient intelligence. One of them is "kuleana" and roughly translates to 'responsibility.' Layers of meaning is another word that adds depth to that responsibility. In Hawaiian that word is "kaona". We humans have a responsibility on multiple levels. Animals live with their kuleana, and are persistent in their responsibility to teach through example.

I have written about language and connection to All -- animal, elements and beings that may interest some.

Thanks again, Terri. Beautiful posts!
Aloha, Mokihana

http://makuaoo.blogspot.com/2012/08/history-is-no-mystery-to-me.html

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