For tens of thousands of years, humans have used creative imagination to open up connection with the animals and the powers of the natural world. From the painted walls of the ancient caves of Chauvet and Pech-Merle to the rock art of the Kalahari, we have portrayed wild animals as the guardians of life’s numinous dimensions.
In countless stories and myths, the animals appear as guardians of initiation – the passage from one stage of life, or level of knowledge and experience – to another. Or they come to people at times of great crisis and bring guidance, help and healing.
There is a wonderful Native American story about the Animal Council that meets in a cave beneath one particular sacred mountain. The animals are aware of the actions of humans on the earth above, and if a woman or man is in great need, the Animal Council may choose one of its members to go and find them, bring them guidance and healing, and share something of its power to help them.
There is a story, from the Lakota people, of a woman who leaves the husband who has been cruel to her, and walks off alone into the wilderness. Exhausted, hungry, close to death, she receives comfort, help and guidance from a pack of wild wolves and lives among them until she is strong enough to return to her community as a free woman, who is no longer in the power of her husband.
This beautiful myth, which is re-told in Eyes of the Wild, is mirrored by this extraordinary real-life experience of my wolf mentor, Dr Jason Badridze, a field biologist who was befriended by a wild wolf pack, and lived among them for several years in the remote Caucasus mountains.
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