Human beings are animals, yet we hold ourselves above and apart from them (many religions justify this stance, as in the Bible’s book of Genesis. Without biblical authorization, the natural way is for all species to vie for supremacy and dominance in one way or another, even if only for survival. It’s a jungle out there.)
Some cultures tie themselves a little more closely to the other species, and have concepts like SPIRIT ANIMALS. We each have some animal spirit we share some characteristics with who acts as our protector or guide.
My Significant One has a love of dragonflies. Our son has actually drawn them to him without trying, so maybe you can inherit animal affinities. Of course, flies would also come to him (NO, I don’t think it means anything. Anything bad, anyway…) He also seemed to attract ladybugs (they’re supposedly good luck, but he never felt that way about them.)
I’ve had an affinity for wolves for as long as I can remember. I refer to myself as a lone wolf at times, which I understand is a misnomer – wolves are very social animals, and not generally off, away from their own kind. But then, humans are also social animals, and so the outliers like myself who don’t form deep or even casual relationships with many people do stand out as anomalies (no, regardless of what you try to read into some of my stories, I am not a sociopath or a psychopath. I’m on some other path of my own making…)
Mind you, these are predators, but I’ve never viewed myself as one. I’ve also noticed that over the years I’ve become increasingly uncomfortable with watching predators chase down their prey. They tend to go after the slow and the weak, so maybe it was becoming a parent and having an interest in protecting my offspring that put me off. Or it could be that being old, it’s becoming easier to identify with the slow and the weak. Despite my discomfort, I still identify strongly with wolves.
Then there are the SPIRIT-SUCKING ANIMALS.
Long before I read of Shelob and the giant spiders of Mirkwood, I have been totally creeped-out by spiders. I think it’s the idea of being trapped in webbing and left to slowly jellify and have the life sucked out of me – without any hint of some of the niceties that are in some vampire stories (vampires must have better PR firms than spiders do.)
Tarantula Hawk Wasps aren’t much better – paralyzing and laying eggs in their victims so their larva will have something to feed on. Well, at least they’re killing spiders…
I am particularly bothered by the cuckoo. I saw a show once where they explained how the cuckoo doesn’t raise its own young – it finds another bird’s nest and lays its egg in there when the other bird is away, tricking the nest owner into thinking its their own, and dodging parenting responsibilities (some of us know people with this same trait.) The worst part is that once the eggs hatch, the cuckoo chick proceeds to push all the other chicks out of the nest and to their deaths.
Funny thing is, every animal has both its adherents and those who are repelled by it. I grew up with snakes and am largely comfortable with them, although most people share similar feelings toward them as Indiana Jones. SPIRIT-SUCKING ANIMALS are not universally agreed on.
There are all sorts of lists available about what the animals symbolize – you can decide which ones make sense to you, or build your own meanings into your own animal affinities. Ultimately, what it all means is another thing that exists in the eye of the beholder. Just saying…
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William Mangieri’s writing has been published on Daily Science Fiction and The Arcanist. His ninety or so short stories and related collections can be found at several online retailers, including, but not limited to:
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