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The Magic of Animals

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In many modern Pagan traditions, animal symbolism -- and even actual animals -- are incorporated into magical belief and practice. Let's look at some of the ways people have welcomed animals into their magical practice throughout the ages, as well as specific animals and their folklore and legends.

1. Power Animals, Totem Animals and Spirit Animals

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The use of a totem animal is not part of traditional Wiccan practice. However, as Wicca and other modern Pagan practices evolve and blend together, many people who follow non-mainstream spiritual paths find themselves working with a mix of many different belief systems. A power animal is a spiritual guardian that some people connect with. However, much like other spiritual entities, there's no rule or guideline that says you must have one.

2. Animal Familiars

Image © Caitlin Hyatt 2008

In some traditions of modern Wicca and Paganism, the concept of an animal familiar is incorporated into practice. Today, a familiar is often defined as an animal with whom we have a magical connection, but in truth, the concept is a bit more complex than this.

3. Using Animal Parts in Ritual

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Some Pagans use animal parts in ritual. While this may seem a bit unsavory to some folks, it's really not that uncommon. If your tradition doesn't forbid the use of animal parts, and the  parts are gathered humanely and ethically, then there's no reason you can't use them. Let's look at some of the different parts you might want to use. Let's talk about some of the different animal parts you might choose to incorporate into magical practice, and why you may decide to use them.

4. Serpent Magic

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While a lot of people are afraid of snakes, it's important to remember that in many cultures, serpent mythology is strongly tied to the cycle of life, death and rebirth. Did you know that in the Ozarks, there is a connection between snakes and babies? Or that in Scotland, a snake emerging from its hole signified the beginning of Spring?

5. Ravens and Crows

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The crow and raven appear in folklore going back to early times. Sometimes, they're seen as harbingers of doom, but more often than not, they are messengers -- what are they trying to tell us?

6. Owl Magic

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Owls appear in legends and myths going back to the ancient Greeks, who knew the wise old owl was the symbol of their goddess Athena. However, owls are often associated with prophecy and bad tidings. Read about some of the ways different cultures viewed owls in folklore and magic.

7. Black Cats

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Every year at Halloween, local news channels warn us to keep black cats inside just in case the local hooligans decide to get up to some nasty hijinks. But where did the fear of these beautiful animals come from? Anyone who lives with a cat knows how fortunate they are to have a cat in their life -- so why are they considered unlucky?

8. Spider Folklore

Image © Patti Wigington 2010

Depending on where you live, you probably see spiders starting to emerge from their hiding spots at some point in the summer. By fall, they tend to be fairly active because they’re seeking warmth – which is why you may find yourself suddenly face to face with an eight-legged visitor some night when you get up to use the bathroom. Don’t panic, though – most spiders are harmless, and people have learned to co-exist with them for thousands of years. Nearly all cultures have some sort of spider mythology, and folktales about these crawly creatures abound!

9. Rabbit Magic

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Spring equinox is a time for fertility and sowing seeds, and so nature's fertility goes a little crazy. The rabbit -- for good reason -- is often associated with fertility magic and sexual energy. Spring is a great time to focus on some of that rambctious energy -- let's look at how rabbit symbolism can be incorporated into magical workings.

10. Wolf Legends and Folklore

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The wolf is associated with many different aspects throughout the ages. Often seen as terrifying, there are plenty of tales in which the wolf is shown as compassionate and nurturing. Let's look at some of the many wolf stories that have appeared around the world.

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