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“Spirit animal”, or innocent victim?

February 11, 2010 8 comments

Just recently I read something I can only describe as incredibly stupid, written by (surprise, surprise) a Popular Pagan Author(tm).

In this account, the author was describing how it had been suggested to him that he take with him an animal familiar or “spirit animal” on his pathwalking/vision-quest he was preparing for. The next day, a friend shows up at his door with an orphaned baby crow. Now, one would consider the responsible action in this case would be to contact a local licensed wildlife rehabilitator or rescue group or, failing that, the local Department of Natural Resources who will dispatch an animal control officer to take the animal to a rehab facility. I have done volunteer work in this field before, namely with raptors. They are good, reliable people, at least in my area. But no. Oh no. Instead of putting the orphaned nestling’s best interests in mind…he does a divination to determine it’s gender. According to the divination, it is female. Then, he gives it a special-mystical pagan name, and considers “her” a gift from the Wild God, to be taken on his vision quest.

Honestly, my stomach turned a bit when reading this. I couldn’t imagine how anyone could be so damn boneheaded. The bird, according to what was written, still had to be hand-fed. Imprinting is a tragic thing to have happen to a wild bird. Many wild birds who are taken in by unwitting humans and raised as “pets” and are later released starve to death in the wild because they have no skills to look for food, or are killed by humans, because they are raised not to fear them. One owl I worked with was rescued and lived permanently at the facility I volunteered at because she would spend her time stealing hotdogs from cook-outs to survive. All because some selfish humans thought they wanted some glamorous “pet”, and stole her from her nest when she was young.

What is even more stunning is the fact that this person wrote about this illegal activity in a published book. Keeping a wild native songbird is illegal in the U.S. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act states this, and it should be common sense to anyone who keeps or raises animals within proximity to wildlife. This sort of basic information can easily be obtained by contacting the Department of Natural Resources in one’s local area.

Now, I haven’t finished reading the whole book that this was written in yet. Maybe this person surrendered the bird when he was done…I don’t know. No mention of it has been made since then, and I am still reading. Am I over-reacting? Well, I could be–but shouldn’t it have been common sense to put the needs of a helpless critter first, however lofty or super-special-spiritual the needs of the caretaker may be? Wouldn’t the Wild God find the keeping of his critters of utmost importance, the very act of being able to secure the safety of a helpless baby bird an important message or omen in and of itself?

Actually, this whole topic would feed back nicely into a response I made to my friend Raven’s post here and probably another rant in and of itself. This isn’t the first time I’ve seen people with precious little grasp on reality (and by “reality” I mean the physical one, and not just the others that might be out there!) and with next to no understanding of animal biology and behavior making lofty claims and projections on an unwitting creature who wants only to be itself. The racist “bald eagle and wolf medicine” couple that I witnessed while visiting Wolf Park come firmly to mind here.

There is so much more I could write on this and related topics, but chores need doing, and personal projects need attending to. This sort of thing will likely crop up in later posts, I’m sure.

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