Wednesday, July 6, 2011
AN AFFINITY FOR ANIMALS
Practically all humans have an affinity for a certain animal. I refer not only to mammals, but reptiles, amphibians, birds, insects and any other non-human creatures. People adorn themselves with animal jewelry and images of animals on clothing. Houses are decorated with animal-themed objects and art. What is it that causes people to gravitate to a certain type of animal and attempt to make it part of their identity?
In ancient times, (and even in some cultures today), animals were revered for their special attributes. The Zuni Indians of North America, for example, have a rich cultural and spiritual tradition regarding animals. Their belief is that animals, according to their abilities, were appointed Guardians of the six Directions. Mountain Lion, because of his hunting ability and stout heart, was assigned as Guardian of the North. Badger, with his single-mindedness, became Guardian of the South. White Wolf became Guardian of the East, the origin of the new day; and Black Bear was appointed Guardian of the West. Bald Eagle, with his ability to fly, became Guardian of Above; and Mole, because of his skill at burrowing, was a natural for Guardian of Below. The Zuni carve fetishes or talismans in the forms of the Six Guardians and other animals. The fetishes express values and beliefs that are used to guide decisions in pursuit of physical, mental, and spiritual well-being.
Some people might align themselves with a particular animal because it is their zodiac sign. The Western zodiac includes only some animals, whereas the Chinese and Japanese zodiac consists of twelve cycles, each marked by an animal. The animals are: the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog, and boar. As with the Western zodiac, people are believed to possess aspects of the characteristics of the animal in whose year they were born.
There are numerous ways in which animals resonate within the human mind. Animals can evoke awe, fear, hatred, and compassion. They possess traits and abilities we often wish were our own. Perhaps by identifying with a certain creature, humans empower themselves; and at the same time, hopefully gain some perspective on our own humanity.