Since I was a teenager, I have felt a special connection with deer. During a difficult time in my life I found myself looking for clues that all would be well again, that things would turn out ok. I came to find that this message of health and gentleness was, for me, symbolized by deer. I doodled, sketched, painted, and wrote about deer for years, in an attempt to understand and internalize their message of hope. Eventually I got a tattoo - an image of a sleeping fawn - in order to carry this symbolism with me wherever I go. My tattoo, which I refer to as "my friend," has truly been helpful to me over the nearly five years since I got it.
This tendency to look to animals for insights into how best to live our lives can be found across individuals and cultures all over the world. To continue the month's focus on symbols, I'm devoting this weeks post to looking at animal symbolism and how we may use it as a reminder to care for ourselves.
In Greek mythology, owls were a favorite of the goddess of wisdom, Athena. In these stories, she is often either accompanied by, or represented by an owl. Therefore, this bird has come to be associated with knowledge.
In terms of self care, knowledge is essential; we need to have knowledge about ourselves in order to know how best to care for ourselves. And In order to develop this self knowledge, sometimes we need to experiment. By trying new things we learn what we like and what we don't like, what is good for us and what isn't. The owl can serve as a reminder that experimentation is helpful, and being brave enough to try new things, even when it's scary, leads to the development of self knowledge that will ultimately help us care for ourselves in the best way possible.
Originally, the Egyptian goddess Bast was depicted as a lion headed woman and was considered a fierce warrior goddess. However, as time went on, the image of a lion head was replaced with that of a domestic cat, and Bast became the goddess of pleasure. If you've ever spent time with a domestic cat, it is not hard to see why they would be associated with pleasure; cats do whatever they want, whenever they want. They are all about feeling comfortable, relaxed, and cozy.
While most of us can't afford to be quite as lazy, we might learn from the image of the cat about what it is like to truly relax. In our world, where efficiency and productivity are key, where to be hard working is highly valued, we sometimes forget the importance of pleasure. In the midst of our busy lives, perhaps we can rely on the symbolism of the cat to remind us to slow down every once in a while, and allow ourselves to relax and recharge.
Originally from China, but also very popular in Japan, Koi are bad ass fish that are capable of adapting to a variety of environments. They have a long life span (on average they live to be about 20 years old, but some have survived over 200 years in special circumstances), they are resilient, and are known to swim upstream. Koi fish are survivors.
When we look at images of Koi, whether in a Koi pond, photograph, or painting, we can remind ourselves that we too are resilient. We too are capable of overcoming adversity. This belief in ourselves and in our own personal strength is needed to get through life's challenges.
Check out the following links to get ideas on how to make animal symbolism an important part of your life and self care routine:
Do you have other ideas about how to incorporate animal symbolism into your self care routine? Which animal reminds you to care for yourself? Please share in the comments!