First, I want to thank everyone who commented on last week’s blog. It meant so much to me to receive your kindness as I shared about my father in law’s crossing. It hasn’t been an easy week and so I’m grateful to know you care.
In my video this week you’ll see Marc and me took time out from all the grief, and hard work to have some fun. We went goat shmurgling!! (SHMURGLE Definition; snuggle, smooch, hug, cuddle ANY animal but particularly and with emphasis—a Nigerian Dwarf Goat.) I had the best time walking with a herd of goats, then enjoying some canoodling and kissing and getting head-butted by them. I love the significance of the spirit of this special animal.
When I was 8 years old, my family lived in the West Indies on an island near Antigua called Dominica and there was a disabled woodcarver that lived and worked near us who also had a few goats. I would go over to play with them when I wasn’t collecting lizards. I loved the way the two babies smelled and would push their bony heads into my tummy or nuzzle my neck and bleat. My father taught me about the goat as a spirit animal—the goat represented the skill to navigate dangerous places. I thought how fitting for our times and how I wish I had included this animal in my Oracle Deck, but there wasn’t enough room for all of them! (I literally had too many, I could have created two whole decks!!)
My dad loved to sit us down and tell us stories. His wisdom about spirit animals was passed down through the verbal tradition of his Mongolian grandmother—a young midwife who escaped the harsh Chinese occupation in the 1800s by trekking from Western Mongolia through Kazakhstan. There she met a trading family who took her with them to Serbia. She married my grandfather, a farmer who was Serbian Orthodox Christian, but my dad told me that she never converted from her animistic roots. My grandmother was beautiful and feisty and would stand at the back of the Orthodox church where women and men were separated and she’d spit on the floor as a quiet rebellion. My dad loved her and was very proud that he could trace our family lineage to Genghis Khan (which my mom was not happy about at all, as she wished we could fit more naturally into Canadian society. It was hard enough for her to have her own connection to the Holocaust and fragmented family history).
Although the Slavic people also had their own original folklore around the spiritual significance of animals, it was my dad’s grandmother and his mother who taught him the meanings, and by the time they were passed down to me as my Dad taught me the skill of tasseomancy with Turkish coffee cups. I inherited a blend of two rich spiritual cultures. I never questioned where anything came from because I just knew it was part of my family history, and also included my nanny Mrs. Kelly who hailed from the highlands of Scotland. She had her versions too, but they were similar if not the same as what my dad taught me. The only time I heard there were differing ideas about spirit animals was in Dominica.
My dad remarked to Lando (the woodcarver) that he wanted to give me a carving of a lizard to remind me “not to be lazy” and to use my imagination and follow my dreams, but Lando said, “No, that’s not what a lizard means here. Here they represent the spirits of our ancestors and we have a superstition that if a lizard comes into your room an ancestor is calling you.” My dad didn’t get the lizard carving but he did get me a “mountain chicken” (another name for the giant frogs on the island).
It was the only conversation I remember with my dad differentiating the meanings of animals as he told me over and over that nature is universal and the stories and meanings of nature’s creatures individuate through different places and the imaginations of the people there. In my Spirit Animal Oracle Deck, I tried to find as many universal meanings as I could, while including animals from everywhere in the world. I honestly could have had twice as many cards in my deck.
Being with these fun goats “shmurgling” at Haute Goat made me very wistful. Learning about spirit animals from my dad is one of my favorite memories of him. And of course, Mrs. Kelly who croaked like a frog sometimes when she swallowed and spoke about the magic in the world. It’s good to be inspired by fond memories and what can link you to your family’s stories, especially now for me as death has recently claimed another. I’m putting the puzzle together from the pieces that were left behind and I’m really amazed at everything my family has been through. Turns out I come from tough stock and I’m personally not interested in “fitting in”(sorry mom) anywhere!
Anyway, I could go on and on, but I’d love to invite you to share a story that your parents told you about your ancestors and what they passed down to you too. Maybe it’s your favorite recipe, ritual or prayer!
Look forward to your share—all my love!
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