This last year when I travelled back to Canada to attend Kaleidoscope Gathering a Pagan festival near Ottawa, I got to spend some time hanging out with my friend Pamela and got to see more of the wild country. It HUGE!! And awesome and I love it, bit I digress. We spent a bit of time driving down country roads around many wonderful lakes and eating custard filled donuts at Timmies. It was during this time that I got to see Deer eating apples in somebodies front yard, on our way to a Wolf Sanctuary, or it might have been the sight of Turkey Vultures circling above as we got out of the car, that I had the sudden realisation, that squirrels are real, along with a whole slew of other animals that are native to Canada like crows, toads, eagles, groundhogs, chipmunks, vultures and of course squirrels. I have learnt about all of these animals via wildlife documentaries, books and wonderful teachers such as David Attenborough, and Jane Goodall as well as the various magical books where I have learnt about there more magical spiritual meanings.
But the realisation and understanding that these animals where real, and something more than pictures on cards or what I had watched on tv, was quite an interesting revelation. These animals were real and whole and you could actually see them in the physical form going about their lives, in the wild and to a degree in the cities to. Up until that moment I had believed that they were somehow not quite real, that they were something that was far away, almost fae like in a sense. For me growing up I had only seen them as cheery picked scenes in a variety of nature programs, or they were animals behind bars who were captive breed rather than wild, and of course I had seen them beautifully illustrated pictures on cards or in natural science book but that had left be with a sense that they were somehow not real.
Needless to say my mind was blown. Along with this realisation that squirrels were indeed real, was a new understanding and realisation that Pagans in Canada have a very different relationship with the spirit and magic of the animals that lived amongst them. And the realisation that many of these animals are the ones that you read so often about in traditional witchcraft and magical books. Crows, Hares, Eagles, Wolves, Toad (OMG I love Toads so wonderful *coughs*) the list goes one. This in turn meant that omens, spirit and the magic of these animals, where proudly different in Canada from what I had experienced in New Zealand. For one there was more of a chance of actually running into the physical animal, send by that animal spirit that you work with, rather than just seeing a picture or statue.
In New Zealand that kind of interaction with traditionally through of magical animals is difficult, and our relationships traditional magical animals, such as wolves, eagles and indeed Squirrels, becomes a lot more symbolic, and to a large degree a lot more distant. We are less likely to run into any of them in physical form, in that sending you a message kind of way that I have read so much about in books and on internet forums.
From my experience I have run into magical animal spirits, in the form of dreams, but more often than not via the trusty medium of TV programs, movies, pictures, the internet and statues. This can make it difficult to decipher if these are messages you are reciving or just pictures, or the whim of the program director at the particular channel, which you happen to be watching. It is not impossible, and it does work after a fashion.. But nothing like what I was experiencing driving down those country roads in Canada, on something call the mother rock. (Igneous rock covers a large part of countryside where my friend Pamela lived.)
I was prepared for how different the land and its energy would feel, and to a degree for the change in the direction in sunwise as well as how the moon is upside down, but I was totally taken by surprise by the realisation that squirrels are real in Canada and not some ethereal idea or image, that in comparison feels removed.
What does this all mean I ask myself, a common question in my musings? The experience I had with these Canada mammals and birds, was familiar but at the same time it was not. It was a lot more intense, when they had messages I was a little in aww, and even when they didn`t I was still in aww and staring, maybe squeezing, much to the amusement of my Canadian friends. And while on the one hand it was no more difficult to discern which messages were and which were not, it was more difficult, as I spent so much time being all excited that these wonderful animals were just running about, or as with a chipmunk, trying to get on my lap. All of it felt a little bit surreal. I was just as excited to see them as I was when I was getting a message from the spirit sense of them, which did I have to say make it a little more difficult at times, albeit pleasantly so.
It is different now that I am back in New Zealand with the lack of traditional magical mammals physically running about as they do in Canada. The realisation that Squirrels are very real along with wolves, otters, ospreys and toads is an important one, and one that has reshaped how I see the world.
But how will that translate that now that I am back in little old New Zealand with its prominence of birds? While we do not have eagles, wolves and those very real squirrels, we do have a complex system of birds. David Attenborough noted in his series The Life of Birds that many of our birds have taken on the rolls that mammals would have in other countries.. Where in a folkloric type of way squirrels can be considered cheeky arseholes delivering gossip and messages in equal measure, here in New Zealand the Fantail fills a similar roll. Although it is also different, as it would not be ok to just copy past meanings to Birds who take on a mammal type roll, after all a fantail is not a squirrel.
But rather than relying on the animals that are traditionally written about in magical books, it is more about working and exploring with what we have locally. And now that I am more familiar with the feelings and sensations from spending time in Canada with the traditionally magical animals, I can use that to be more aware of when it happens in here in New Zealand.
Messages will still be received from those traditional mammals, such as squirrels, hares and ravens, as it is my heritage, but rather than in physical form they will be delivered in dreams and images, or indeed parcels that are received in the mail
I now have a deeper understanding and experience so that I may with a bit more ease, translate the magicality? For the native flora and fauna here in New Zealand. It will be a matter of experimenting, walking in the bush, and around my city, reading a lot about the habits of our native birds as well as revisiting the mythology and legends of Aotearoa. Something I am quite looking forward to.