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Animals and Witchcraft

(The Witches Familiar)

Sheep

by Lillian Norman

In northern Europe, February was the traditional month of lambing.  The ewe’s milk came in before the time of giving birth and so we have the names, Imbolc, “in the belly;” and Oimelc, “ewe’s milk,” as the names of the festival we are celebrating at this time of year.  What better time to look at our friend, Sheep, as Totem.

 

Sheep originated in Asia.  We see them as totems in many early Asian civilizations. Sheep has been included in the Chinese zodiac as well as the sign of Aries in the Western zodiac.  During the Stone Age, wild sheep were hunted for their meat.  Toward the end of the Stone Age, about 10,000 years ago, sheep began to be domesticated.  It is thought that this was because the human population had grown to such an extent that having a flock of sheep available provided a consistent source of both meat and milk, and was therefore an efficient means for survival.

 

Early sheep were hairy and didn’t have much wool.  As time passed, humans began to breed sheep with longer hair and eventually, about 3,500 BCE, the art of spinning wool for thread and yarn evolved.   Interestingly, sheep were also being bred to be less intelligent than their predecessors so they would be easier to manage and less likely to escape.  Today’s sheep have smaller brains than their ancient ancestors.  However, as we shall see, they are not as stupid as they are portrayed to be.

 

Sheep were one of the earliest animals to be domesticated.  Long has been the relationship between sheep and humankind as evidenced by the intertwining of sheep into various cultures, their religions and astrology. The trading of wool and sheep products led to the first international trade.  Today sheep farming is a key industry for countries such as New Zealand, Australia, South America and the British Isles.

 

Gregariousness, or the tendency to gather in social groups of like kind, is a word commonly used to describe sheep behavior.  Sheep have strong flocking instincts.  It is this flocking instinct that causes them to stick together.  It is much more difficult to attack a sheep in a large group than it is a lone stray.  They also have an instinct to follow each other.  It doesn’t matter who’s leading. There is a story of a flock falling off a cliff to their deaths because one random sheep decided to take a walk.  They are a prey animal and will run from what frightens them. 

 

As a prey animal, the sheep depends greatly on its senses for survival, relying heavily upon its sense of sight.  If it doesn’t keep other sheep in view at all times, it will become upset and agitated.  A sheep’s field of vision ranges from 190-306 degrees with just a slight turn of the head.  Sheep can recognize and remember up to fifty sheep faces,  and even human ones, for years.

 

Sheep have a keen sense of hearing and become frightened with loud noises.  Their sense of smell is highly developed as they can distinguish between their fellow sheep and predators, another necessary defense mechanism.  The rams use their sense of smell to locate available females and the ewes use their sense of smell to locate their young.  The sense of touch is important for sheep.  Group animals stay close together and the sense of touching each other calms the sheep.  Lambs stay in close physical contact with their mothers.  Taste helps sheep to distinguish between food stuffs.  They have been known to choose foods that will make them feel better, a sort of self-medication.

 

Because of their strong flocking instinct, and their flight response when threatened, sheep are often thought to be unintelligent.  This, however, has been disproved.  As previously mentioned, sheep have excellent memories. They can also problem solve.  It has been reported that they found their way over a cattle grid to get to better food.  They have also demonstrated the ability to learn to navigate mazes.

 

Although mostly docile, sheep can be aggressive and dangerous.  A male during rutting season, for example, will show aggressive behavior in an effort to dominate the flock.  A ewe will show aggressive and protective behavior when their lambs are threatened.

 

Baby lambs love to play.  They like to run, jump and climb on things.  Their cousins in the wild, Big Horn Sheep, Cashmere Goats and Tibetan Sheep live and climb in the highest of mountains portraying a sense of loftiness and being sure footed.

 

Sheep like their food.  Often they are moved with enticements of food instead of being herded with dogs.  They are grazers, cud chewers, ruminants.  By definition, ruminants graze and regurgitate already chewed and swallowed food to have another go at it.

 

Relaxation is a key ingredient to feeding this way as opposed to the adrenalin rush experienced by predatory carnivores during their hunt and kill.  Rumination also has another definition, one that was derived from the behavior of sheep, which is to think at length, to contemplate, consider, study; to think deeply or ponder; to reflect on over and over again.

 

When Sheep enters your life, perhaps it is an indication that you have been dwelling on an issue or situation too long and it is time to seek resolution and move on.  The other side of that coin to consider is that perhaps you may have been too hasty in a decision or action and need to think deeply, ponder, study or meditate more on a particular situation or issue.

 

Sheep can indicate balance in precarious situations, lofty ideals, perseverance, status and inspiration.   When Sheep shows up, beware of going with the general flow.  Look at all sides of the situation before making a decision.  Don’t follow the flock off a cliff to your detriment.

 

However, there are times when there is safety in numbers, and when Sheep shows up, it might be an indication to identify your resources and allies and stick close by them to weather out whatever storm may be on the horizon.  It may also be a time to think about developing a sense of community and cooperation.

 

 

Sheep as Totem reminds us to use all of our senses, internal as well as external, and our intellectual capacity as we go about our daily lives.  Sheep reminds us that staying calm and relaxed will help us to better digest, understand and problem-solve what is put in front of us.

 

 

Sources:

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Domestic_sheep#History 

http://animalscience.ag.utk.edu/sheep/pdf/AppliedSheepBehavior-WWG-2-04.pdf

http://www.sheep101.info/history.html

http://www.alphadictionary.com/index.shtml

http://www.thewildlifetravels.com/sheep-goats-india-wildlife.html

http://www.sheep101.info/201/behavior.html

Sheep herself

 

© 2009 Lillian Norman

Lil lives in northeast Ohio and is a solitary pagan witch. She has been a member of EW since 2005.

Totem Awareness

 © Patricia J. Martin

"In the past shamans, priests, and priestesses were the keepers of the sacred knowledge of life.  These individuals were tied to the rhythms and forces of nature.  They were capable of walking the threads that link the invisible and visible worlds.  They helped people remember that all trees are divine and that all animals speak to those who listen." 

There is a shaman and priest or priestess in all of us.  It is our job to realize and reconnect to that fact.  And it is through the expressions of Nature that we can enhance and hasten the realization and reconnection. 

"When we see one aspect of the world with new eyes, we begin to see ourselves with new eyes as well." 

It is very common during our celebrations of the Sabbats and Esbats, our Dedications or Initiations, that animals will make themselves known.  Animal Spirit understands the sacred journey we are on, and comes to join us in celebration as we explore and discover our truest selves.  Many wish to impart their wisdom, if we will but hear.  Are you listening?

"Nature teaches to those who will learn from Her."

All quotations attributed to Ted Andrews: Animal-Speak: the Spiritual & Magical Powers of Creatures Great & Small 

Best Wishes and Blessed Be.

 

Site Contents - Links to all Pages

 

Home Page

 

A Universal Message:

 

Let there be peace in the world  -   Where have all the flowers gone?

 

About me:

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Wicca & Witchcraft

 

Wicca/Witchcraft /  What is Wicca What is Magick

 

Traditional Writings:

 

The Wiccan Rede Charge of the Goddess Charge of the God  /  The Three-Fold Law (includes The Law of Power and The Four Powers of the Magus) /  The Witches Chant The Witches Creed Descent of the Goddess Drawing Down the Moon The Great Rite Invocation Invocation of the Horned GodThe 13 Principles of Wiccan Belief /  The Witches Rede of Chivalry A Pledge to Pagan Spirituality

 

Correspondence Tables:

 

IncenseCandlesColours Magickal Days Stones and Gems Elements and Elementals

 

Traditions:

 

Traditions Part 1  -  Alexandrian Wicca /  Aquarian Tabernacle Church (ATC) /  Ár Ndraíocht Féin (ADF) /  Blue Star Wicca /  British Traditional (Druidic Witchcraft) /  Celtic Wicca /  Ceremonial Magic /  Chaos Magic /  Church and School of Wicca /  Circle Sanctuary /  Covenant of the Goddess (COG) /  Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans (CUUPS) /  Cyber Wicca /  Dianic Wicca /  Eclectic Wicca /  Feri Wicca /

 

Traditions Part 2 Gardnerian Wicca /  Georgian Tradition /  Henge of Keltria /  Hereditary Witchcraft /  Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (H.O.G.D.) /  Kitchen Witch (Hedge Witch) /  Minoan Brotherhood and Minoan Sisterhood Tradition /  Nordic Paganism /  Pagan Federation /  Pectic-Wita /  Seax-Wica /  Shamanism /  Solitary /  Strega /  Sylvan Tradition /  Vodoun or Voodoo /  Witches League of Public Awareness (WLPA) /

 

Other things of interest:

 

Gods and Goddesses (Greek Mythology) /  Esbats & Full Moons Links to Personal Friends & Resources Wicca/Witchcraft Resources What's a spell? Circle Casting and Sacred Space  Pentagram - Pentacle Marks of a Witch The Witches Power The Witches Hat An esoteric guide to visiting London SatanismPow-wowThe Unitarian Universalist Association /  Numerology:  Part 1  Part 2  /  Part 3A history of the Malleus Maleficarum:  includes:  Pope Innocent VIII  /  The papal Bull  /   The Malleus Maleficarum  /  An extract from the Malleus Maleficarum  /  The letter of approbation  /  Johann Nider’s Formicarius  /  Jacob Sprenger  /  Heinrich Kramer  /  Stefano Infessura  /  Montague Summers  /  The Waldenses  /  The Albigenses  /  The Hussites /  The Native American Sun DanceShielding (Occult and Psychic Protection)  The History of ThanksgivingAuras  - Part 1 and Part 2 /

 

Sabbats and Festivals:

 

The Sabbats in History and Mythology /  Samhain (October 31st)  /  Yule (December 21st)  /  Imbolc (February 2nd)  /  Ostara (March 21st)  /  Beltane (April 30th)  /  Litha (June 21st)  /  Lammas/Lughnasadh (August 1st)  /  Mabon (September 21st)

 

Rituals contributed by Crone:

 

Samhain / Yule Imbolc Ostara /  Beltane Litha Lammas Mabon

 

Tools:

 

Tools of a Witch  /  The Besom (Broom) /  Poppets and DollsPendulums / Cauldron Magick Mirror Gazing

 

Animals:

 

Animals in Witchcraft (The Witches Familiar) /  AntelopeBatsCrow Fox Frog and Toads Goat / HoneybeeKangarooLion OwlPhoenix Rabbits and HaresRaven Robin RedbreastSheep Spider SquirrelSwansWild Boar Wolf /  Serpent /  Pig /  Stag /  Horse /  Mouse /  Cat

 

Trees:

 

In Worship of Trees - Myths, Lore and the Celtic Tree Calendar.  For descriptions and correspondences of the thirteen sacred trees of Wicca/Witchcraft see the following:  Birch /  Rowan / Ash /  Alder /  Willow Hawthorn /  Oak /  Holly /  Hazel /  Vine /  Ivy /  Reed /  Elder

 

Sacred Sites:

 

Mystical Sacred Sites  -  Stonehenge /  Glastonbury Tor /  Malta - The Hypogeum of Hal Saflieni /  Avebury /  Cerne Abbas - The Chalk Giant /  Ireland - Newgrange /

 

Rocks and Stones:

 

Stones - History, Myths and Lore

 

Articles contributed by Patricia Jean Martin:

 

Apophyllite  / Amber Amethyst Aquamarine Aragonite Aventurine Black Tourmaline Bloodstone Calcite Carnelian Celestite Citrine Chrysanthemum StoneDiamond  /  Emerald / Fluorite Garnet /  Hematite Herkimer Diamond Labradorite Lapis Lazuli Malachite Moonstone Obsidian Opal Pyrite Quartz (Rock Crystal) Rose Quartz Ruby Selenite Seraphinite  /  Silver and GoldSmoky QuartzSodalite Sunstone ThundereggTree AgateZebra Marble

 

Wisdom and Inspiration:

 

Knowledge vs Wisdom by Ardriana Cahill I Talk to the TreesAwakening The Witch in YouA Tale of the Woods I have a Dream by Martin Luther King /

 

Articles and Stories about Witchcraft:

 

Murdered by Witchcraft The Fairy Witch of Clonmel A Battleship, U-boat, and a Witch The Troll-Tear (A story for Children) /  Goody Hawkins - The Wise Goodwife /  The Story of Jack-O-Lantern The Murder of the Hammersmith Ghost Josephine Gray (The Infamous Black Widow) /  The Two Brothers - Light and Dark

 

Old Masters of Academia:

 

Pliny the ElderHesiodPythagoras

 

 

Biographies

 

Witches, Pagans and other associated People

(Ancient, Past and Present)

 

Remembered at Samhain

(Departed Pagan Pioneers, Founders, Elders and Others)

 

Abramelin the Mage /  Agrippa Aidan A KellyAlbertus Magnus - “Albert the Great” Aleister Crowley - “The Great Beast” /  Alex Sanders - “King of the Witches” /  Alison Harlow /  Amber KAnna FranklinAnodea JudithAnton Szandor LaVey /  Arnold CrowtherArthur Edward Waite /  Austin Osman Spare /  Biddy Early /  Bridget Cleary - The Fairy Witch of Clonmel /  Carl " Llewellyn" Weschcke Cecil Hugh WilliamsonCharles Godfrey Leland /   Charles WaltonChristina Oakley Harrington Damh the Bard - "Dave Smith" /  Dion Fortune /  Dolores Aschroft-Nowicki Doreen ValienteDorothy MorrisonDr. John Dee & Edward Kelly /  Dr. Leo Louis Martello /  Edward FitchEleanor Ray Bone - “Matriarch of British Witchcraft” Eliphas Levi /  Ernest Thompson Seton /  Ernest Westlake /  Fiona Horne Friedrich von Spee /  Francis Barrett /  Gavin and Yvonne Frost and the School and Church of Wicca /  Gerald B. Gardner - The father of contemporary Witchcraft /  Gwydion Pendderwen Hans HolzerHelen Duncan /   Herman Slater - Horrible Herman /  Isaac Bonewits Israel RegardieJames "Cunning" Murrell - The Master of Witches /  Janet Farrar and Gavin BoneJessie Wicker Bell - “Lady Sheba” /  Johannes Junius - "The Burgomaster of Bamberg" /  John Belham-Payne John George Hohman - "Pow-wow" /  John Gerard /  John Gordon Hargrave and the Kibbo Kith Kindred /  John Michael Greer /  John ScoreJoseph John Campbell /  Karl von Eckartshausen /  Laurie Cabot  - "the Official Witch of Salem" /  Lewis SpenceMargaret Alice MurrayMargot AdlerMarie Laveau - " the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans" /  Marion WeinsteinMatthew Hopkins - “The Witch-Finder General” /   Max Ehrmann and the "Desiderata" /  Monique WilsonMontague Summers /  Nicholas CulpeperNicholas RemyM. R. SellarsMrs. Maud Grieve - "A Modern Herbal" /  Oberon Zell-Ravenheart and Morning GloryOld Dorothy Clutterbuck /  Old George PickingillPaddy SladePamela Colman-SmithParacelsus /  Patricia CrowtherPatricia Monaghan /  Patricia “Trish” TelescoPhilip HeseltonRaymond Buckland /  Reginald Scot /  Robert CochraneRobert ‘von Ranke’ Graves and the "The White Goddess" /  Rosaleen Norton - “The Witch of Kings Cross” /  Ross Nichols and the " Order of Bards, Ovates & Druids" (OBOD) /  Rudolf SteinerSabrina Underwood - "The Ink Witch" /  Scott CunninghamSelena Fox - founder of "Circle Sanctuary" /  Silver RavenwolfSir Francis Dashwood /  Sir James George Frazer and the " The Golden Bough"S.L. MacGregor Mathers and the “Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn” /  Starhawk /  Stewart Farrar /  Sybil LeekTed Andrews The Mather Family - (includes:  Richard Mather, Increase Mather and Cotton Mather ) /   Thomas AdyT. Thorn CoyleVera ChapmanVictor & Cora Anderson and the " Feri Tradition" /  Vivianne CrowleyWalter Brown GibsonWilliam Butler YeatsZsuzsanna Budapest /  

 

 

Many of the above biographies are briefs and far from complete.  If you know about any of these individuals and can help with additional information, please contact me privately at my email address below.  Many thanks for reading  :-)

 

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