Renowned psychoanalyst and author James Hillman said in his book Dream Animals, “The imagination is itself a great animal.”
What is it about animals that captivates us and sparks our imaginations? Just this morning my young children were watching an episode of Nickelodeon’s Blue’s Clues and the subject of the show was “animals.” Not only was this synchronistic for me as I pondered writing this article, but my children sat there spellbound as animals paraded around the host and his companion blue dog showing off their marvelous attributes. These animals were the teachers and their anthropomorphic displays were entertaining my children into a state of engrossed rapture.
Imagination can be unleashed if we dissolve the barriers of limited perceptions. But how can we do this? And how can animals assist us towards a more imaginative, creatively satisfying life? First we have to eradicate thoughts that we are superior to animals. Too often we separate ourselves from the animal world without identifying the important influence these magnificent creatures can have on our lives and our creative musings. Their mere presence can generate smiles, allow swells of emotional warmth to surface or serve as humble reminders of the tenuous nature of all life, including our own. Animals have a means of elevating our well being and it has been said that their presence can actually improve one’s health. My mother-in-law brings her poodle Spencer to nursing homes as a means of elevating the residents’ spirits. And it works. People light up when they see Spencer. His canine presence is a display of pure animated joy. He has the ability to activate people in a profound, emotional way; enabling them to let their guard down and enjoy the moment amidst the sterility of their clinical surroundings. This illustrates the sacred nature of animals; they can affect us and even change our lives just by being themselves.
Animals have the ability to heighten our emotions because they are reflections of ourselves. Humanity has a tendency to deny its inner animal energies, but they remain persistently within. Even as their habitats continue to be exploited, the animals invade our consciousness with their ubiquitous presence on TV, sports teams, band names, and all manner of public forums. We derive comfort from our connection with animals because they have always been here with us (and if we allow them, many will continue to share space with us because of their ability to adapt and evolve).
So we know the animal energies are there—taunting us from their internal realm, beckoning us to acquiesce to the muses; yet we restrain ourselves from crossing the barrier into unknown and possibly uncomfortable territory. We may feel as though we are unable to shed preconceived notions of who we are and who they are. How can we break through this block of separation and become reconnected with the animal spirit? One method is to meditate upon them and think about what makes them marvelous, what makes them mysterious and what aspects of them reflect who we are.
Using the Animals Divine Tarot can provide a wonderful way to connect with the archetypal patterns that reflect our deep connection with animals. In the Animals Divine Tarot, not only can animals be our guides and teachers, but they can also serve as muse and counselor. By getting inside the animals represented in our psyches, we can learn how to channel animal energies in a productive, creative manner. If you take the time to study the cards, you can get to know these old familiars—fixtures in our personal and collective psyches. From the grand nature of the giraffe, to the diminutive wonders of the elegant ladybug, all animals have gifts to expose to us. However, we need to learn how to tap into these offerings and channel them accordingly. We need to learn how to reestablish old ties that were never completely severed. They have been patiently waiting for us, surfacing in unconscious ways; through dreams and other methods of subliminal communication.
By focusing on our internal beasts, we are simultaneously stimulating imaginative thought. Studying the cards of Animals Divine Tarot can provide a window into the wonderful internal habitats of these animals that are yet to be fully explored. Try to get inside the animal and see the world through its eyes. How would things be different? How might you feel? What would you see? By observing animals and seeing the world from their point of view, we can learn to embrace animal energies on a deeper level and thus become more intuitive human beings.
If you pick up the Ten of Cups card depicting three whales swimming in a vast ocean of spiraling energy, you will see how the immediate recognition of the enormous sea animals will draw you into the card. But upon further investigation of the image, the symbols and the movement of the design can reveal latent treasures of the imagination waiting to be fully realized. The whale is a creature that embodies worldliness and timelessness. It is a messenger from the universe; reminding us to go with the flow. Many of us see the whale as an ancient, omniscient creature; an oracle from the depth of the ocean and our collective psyches. When whales beach themselves, we fervently try to rescue them; to bring them back to their watery realm from whence all consciousness originated. Perhaps a beached whale is more than the death of a magnificent animal, it exaggerates our own helplessness in the face of the mysterious cosmic workings beyond our conscious understanding.
Viewing a card can trigger many thought processes. Not only can cards help us to identify problems but they can initiate deeper thoughts that go beyond the confines of self analyses. Viewing these animals can help put things in the context of the big picture. The High Priest card portrays the elephant-headed god Ganesha with his companion rat. In this card, the rat is a positive symbol. On an immediate level, you may wonder how a rat could possibly bring good when they have such a fixed reputation of destruction and disease. But when you really think about it, their ability to evade detection, to get through small crevices, to live in pockets of the city and thrive despite such worldwide revulsion of their presence attests to the power, creativity and cunning of the rat. Maybe its keen ability to adapt can teach us how to see areas of our own life in new ways and to thrive in the most challenging of circumstances. Smaller, less conspicuous animals deserve no less attention and respect than the more behemoth members of the animal chain.
If you take the time to look and think about animals, you will start identifying many of the same traits that you yourself possess. Similes like sly like a fox, quick as a rabbit, slow as a snail, proud as a lion, and so on are indications that we do in fact relate to our animal brothers and sisters. They are more similar than some of us are willing to admit. But it is important to take it to the next level; beyond the superficial and to the sacred realm of imaginative thought.
Animals appear in all manner of creative expression. Our world cultures are overflowing with images and stories about animals. They serve as characters in fairy and folktales and have entertained humanity with timeless messages and thought provoking parables. In the Animals Divine Tarot, I have included mythological associations to help expand the universal and timeless nature of animals. Not only have animals graced our oral tellings and literary expositions, but animal traits as metaphors have become an intrinsic part of our cultural literacy and play influential roles in ways we may not consciously recognize. The phrase “spreading your wings” invites all manner of positive imagery that nearly everyone understands. Not only is it a beautiful description that reflects some of our deepest desires, but it connotes a right of passage, the crossing over into the realm of the unexplored with renewed beauty and grace. Psychologically speaking, this can be a transcendent process. We cannot truly spread our wings until we have embraced all the variables of our being. Connecting with animals and becoming one with their essence can create a psychological and emotional environment that is conducive to the actuating of self and eventual achievement of wholeness. The road to self-understanding can unleash creativity and allow you to become more self-empowered in the process.
The Animals Divine Tarot was created out of my deep reverence for the animals of this earth. They have always driven my muse and have been an integral part of my artistic calling. Animals serve as messengers in my paintings and writings. They have guided my paintbrush and directed my prose. Their presence challenges me to push myself and discover as yet uncharted creative terrain. We can learn to sharpen our senses and follow our intuitive hearts by following the same guttural instincts that enable animals to survive and thrive in a changing world. Like them, we too can thrive despite lingering fears that may prevent us from “spreading our wings.” Once we learn to trust our internal animal voices and identify them as an integral part of who we are, we can learn to embrace all facets of our being; utilizing them in new and inspiring ways.