Animal divination is one of the traditional forms of apantomancy—divination using things at hand or which present themselves by chance, i.e., omens. Having addressed ornithomancy-bird divination-in the previous entry, it’s time to address animal divination. Native Americans and the ancient Celts regarded animals as messengers of the divine, and the behavior of animals in their respective environments was read like a book.
Many of us today don’t live in environments, which lend themselves to practicing this art. Living in cities, towns and suburbs removes us from the sorts of environments where tuning-in to the behaviors of animals is second-nature. But even so, though living in a population-dense environment, some days you may observe an animal whose behavior makes you wonder…if it’s an omen. Let’s start with some…
GROUNDING PRINCIPLES FOR ANIMAL DIVINATION
- If there is a type of animal you interact with on a regular, or even daily basis, then probably little can be gleaned by their appearance, unless they’re acting quite oddly, or unless said-animal appears in a divining field you specifically set for a specific period of time.
- An animal you don’t see often, or which simply isn’t found in your environment, will carry a little more weight than an animal you normally see. The more unusual, the clearer the message.
- If it’s an animal normally found in your part of the world, but you see it in an unusual place, consider it significant. Say, you’re walking down a hallway at your school, heading home after some after-school activity and you see a live squirrel-purple, no less-right there by the lockers, that could be a message.
- If you’re actively hunting the animal, it negates the divinatory significance of seeing one, since finding it was your goal, anyway. It should be encountered by chance, without any effort on your part. The only exception to this would be if the animal you’re hunting is acting out-of-character.
- Consider the animal’s demeanor and behavior. Did it see you or notice you at all? Was it peaceful? Aggressive? Indifferent? Scared? Was it playing or fighting with another animal? Possibly either fun times or conflict to come. Was it eating, gathering resources, or building something? Preparation is implied.
- Take into account whether the animal is approaching you, moving away from you, crossing your path, or just standing there. Walking away from you could be taking whatever good or ill luck it represents away from you. Coming toward you is bringing it in. Aggression could be good or ill luck coming in forcefully. Just standing there, good- or ill-fortune could be staying for a while
- Did it suddenly appear? Were you engaged in something else, and suddenly, it was there? That could be a harbinger of something happening suddenly and catching you by surprise.
- If the animal you see doesn’t appear in the Glossary of Animals below, consider the folklore behind the animal. What is this animal know for? How is it behaving? Is it doing anything unusual? Is it acknowledging your presence at all? These are the key questions to keep in mind, regardless of the animal involved.
The document attached below is a compilation of meanings I’ve gleaned from a few sources about the divinatory meanings about various animals. I don’t claim it’s a comprehensive list, but it should be enough to get you started. If you see any animals which don’t appear in this list, draw on your own knowledge about the animal. What are its habits? What is it known for? What is the folklore surrounding it? These answers may speak to you more clearly than any glossary of meanings. Spirit may intend you to go to another source for meaning.
WAYS OF DIVINING BY ANIMAL
There are three ways: 1. establishing a divining field, as with bird divination, and observing for a set period of time 2. asking a question and setting an intention for a specified period of time, then waiting for an animal to make an appearance in your environment or 3.) asking a question, setting an intention for a specified period of time, then waiting for the animal to appear via internet connection.
Let’s start with number one, establishing a divining field, as with bird divination. With this one, you will need to set aside a block of time and choose a location. See Bird Divination for the details about the ritual invocation, but I would substitute something like ‘Lord of the Animals’ or Mother Nature in place of a sky god invocation, because you’re asking about creatures on the ground, not in the sky. As with bird divination, assume right to left is positive, left to right is negative. What they symbolize in and of themselves may not be as important as how they behave in your divining field. To see an animal running for its life from right to left in the divining field is probably not a good sign, and will convey far more urgency than if the same animal made its way across the divining field from right to left in a more desultory fashion, stopping to browse and eat several times before departing the picture. Both are negative omens, but convey differing intensities in response to your question. The drawback with this approach is obviously the time commitment and finding an area where a variety of animals can be expected to show up. Not everyone lives in an environment where this is possible.
The number two approach, asking a question, followed by ‘send me a sign by animal sometime in the next twenty-four/thirty-six/forty-eight hours’, then going about your day, is less time and effort and it gives Spirit more lee-way and creativity for answering your question. They may make a certain animal cross your path sometime in those twenty-four hours, but the animal may also be plastered on the side of a delivery truck, featured in a side-bar ad on a web-page, appear on television, or pop up on your YouTube feed. In this approach, your ‘divining field’ is a period of time, not a particular space.
The number three approach, asking a question, followed by ‘send me a sign by animal through my phone(or iPad, or laptop) sometime in the next six/eight/twenty-four hours’ is great for those who may be a little pressed for time, have other priorities on their ‘to-do’ agenda, and aren’t going to be seeing nature anytime soon. Though you’re strictly-limiting the medium through which Spirit can answer you, this may bring you a faster response than sitting like a statue in a state or provincial park, waiting for a sign from the Gods to saunter into the picture. In this approach, your divining field is a period of time, not a particular space.
Whichever of the three approaches you choose, I do think it’s important you specify firmly and clearly, ‘within the next (fill in the blank with the period of time)’, so you’re not seeing a sort of knock-run-on of potential answers dribbling out over a period of days and you know what’s an omen and what’s not. Also, I think it’s important in this form of divination to ask a Higher Someone to get involved, because you need Somebody to nudge the animals onto your path. Know that you may have to cogitate on the animal-omen you receive; its meaning in response to your question may not be apparent to you at first.
WHAT SORTS OF QUESTIONS CAN I ASK?
As with birds, animal divination is good for asking if a course of action or a plan you’ve hatched will succeed, or if you need to try a different approach. Also, you can ask questions like: am I being deceived? What am I missing in this picture? What’s just ahead in my future? Is there anything I should know for my life at this time? How do I need to approach this situation? How does the other person see this situation/their part in it/my role?
Animal divination can be a wonderful means of relating to nature in a new way, feeling the interconnectedness of life, and knowing Universe will find a way to answer your questions. You may get so good at this form of divination, animals will just start to spontaneously appear in response to whatever question you’re holding in your mind.
Pagan Celtic Britain by Anne Ross, chapter 7, pp. 378-440
Complete Book of Fortune Telling by Gramercy Books, New York, pp. 446-449
Magical Mystical Creatures by D. J. Conway (Hey, if you’re practicing animal divination methods two or three above, might as well go for broke and open it up to mythological creatures as well).
- Look at the two animal pictures at the top of this lesson, the squirrel and the deer. If you were to see them during a divining session, what message would their symbolism and behavior convey to you?
- If you can, try the first animal divination method outlined above. Even a city park will do. Set a period of time for anywhere from fifteen minutes to an hour. Did you get a result? Was it just one animal who appeared in that time, or was it more than one? Were they behaving normally, or was there anything odd about it? (Note: significant animal behavior can include an animal appearing when it’s supposed to be hibernating).
- Choose either one of the other two animal divination methods outlined above and try them. Did you get a result? Which animal or animals appeared?
- Compare and contrast the two different approaches to animal divination you performed. Did you prefer one over the other? Did one approach work and the other, not?