Birds, birds, birds everywhere at the moment – eating, playing, chirping, flying South, much later than normal this year. Autumn has come late to London and only in the last few days as the clocks have gone back does it seem colder and darker.
The leaves in my garden are just starting to turn and fall as the birds fly away. The geese went a few weeks ago, honking their goodbyes against a backdrop sky of blue-grey. As I was feeding the foxes tonight there were birds chirruping happily in the cherry tree and it is with their refrain still sounding in my ears that I sit down to write this month’s column.
Protecting pets and wildlife has two main components – the often harder, more practical part – which is ensuring as far as possible their environment is safe (which obviously leads onto the much bigger topic of protection of the environment) and helping them heal when they need it as well as the more specific, ritual protection of animals, wild and tame.
I seem to have a knack for choosing topics for this column that end up being so deep, I could write for a year, send you to sleep through boredom and still not have hit the bottom. Given this, I will concentrate in this article only on the protection of animals and stay away from the obvious link between helping the environment and wild animal care and also for the moment leave out the healing aspect of protection. For “animals” please read animals, birds, insects, reptiles – any life that is not human or plant.
Protecting pets …
Some practicality first … and at the risk of repeating myself … the best way to protect pets is to ensure that you know how to care for them and do so to the best of your ability. Understand how to balance their needs against your environment. Don’t, for instance, kid yourself that having a dog in a flat is ever going to be ideal for her. Or that your cat can wander around near a busy road and he will be safe because you’ve protected them with a special amulet.
For your animals’ sake and the sake of other animals who come into contact with them, make sure that they have all their requisite inoculations. If you believe that these do more harm than good, then ensure your pet is given homeopathic equivalents. As we have come to live in more built-up areas with more pets per square metre than ever before, pet diseases have spiralled and most of these (and a lot of heartache and suffering) can be prevented by inoculations. And don’t get me started on the topic of spaying … if I hear one more time from someone that they think have unsprayed animals is “nature” whilst I watch their animals give birth to litter after litter and slowly become weaker and weaker, I think I’ll strangle them. Slowly.
That said, there is no harm in topping up your practical considerations with some ritual work. These need not be complicated, requiring the feather of a broody black and tan hen taken with her blessing on a Monday during a summer eclipse from a farm 20 metres from a river flowing West. Most of the healing and protection I do consists of me, some deep thought and directed energy and very little else. Here is a simple ritual to try for protection of a pet.
If you have birds, fish, reptiles or amphibians as pets please be careful about what you burn near them in terms of oils and incenses. All of the aforementioned have delicate constitutions and most could be harmed by using or burning oils and incenses around them, so if you have a pet of this kind, please dispense with the incense suggestions below.
– An altar and circle setup is preferable if you are used to working in this way. If not, make sure that you are in a quiet, comfortable place where you will not be disturbed.
– Your pet or a photo of him/her if they don’t fancy sitting in circle with you – if using a photo, place this on your altar
– An unused, white candle
– A knife
– An udjat (eye of Horus) or other protective symbol you have drawn on a new piece of paper, small enough to roll up and put in a name or address tag (the best ones are the little round brass ones that you fold the paper into and screw together rather than one that displays what you have drawn)
– If you do not have a chosen deity, one that you link into often, choose a deity or familiar spirit that links into the animal you are trying to protect – see the list below for some ideas.
Cast a circle and invite your pet to join you or place their photo on your altar.
Cleanse and bless the photo, candle, knife, paper containing protective symbol and the name tag.
Looking at your pet or the photo and fixing him/her clearly in your mind, ask your chosen deity/ ancestors etc to bless and protect your pet
Envisage him/her surrounded by a white, protective light that casts off all negativity
If your pet is with you, roll the paper amulet into the name and address tag and attach it whilst repeating your request
If not, hold the amulet and ask that it may assist in protecting your pet
Close your circle
If you were not able to keep your pet in circle with you, go and find them immediately and attach the tag to their collar, repeating your request whilst you do this
To add to the ritual
Draw the protective symbol whilst in circle, after blessing the pen/paper and whatever else you use to create it
Sprinkle catnip and valerian in the circle for your feline pet. Foxes and some dogs love valerian too,
Burn incense made of protective herbs and resins such as basil, sandalwood, frankincense, benzoin, catnip, jasmine, marigold, rosemary, valerian or wormwood during the ritual
Another, more traditional idea involves naming your pet in a specific ritual for this purpose and giving them two or three names, one of them secret. The logic behind this is that no harm can come to them if no-one but you and them knows their secret name.
Protecting wild animals …
This is the most frustrating piece or work you can undertake. Frustrating because you can’t truly protect wild animals from all the dangers they encounter on a daily basis (most of these from Man) and you can drive yourself round the twist trying to protect everything you see. My advice is to limit yourself to those animals close to your heart and to situations where you can make a difference.
Once again, practical steps you can take include:
– ensuring your garden or allotment is wildlife friendly and as far as possible, organic
– campaigning against development on green belt land and open spaces
– feeding wildlife in a responsible way
– making sure your refuse is not easily accessible and that broken glass, tins etc are well-wrapped up and safe from hungry mouths and paws
– learning how to rescue wild animals and have contact numbers for your nearest wild and tame animal sanctuaries plugged into your telephone so that you are prepared in case of an emergency
– volunteering at an animal sanctuary
Ritually, a quick and easy way to keep animals from harm is once again to cast a protective circle around them. I do it by looking at the animal or bird and casting a white circle of light around them nine times – nine times because it takes that long for the circle to “take” in my brain and to project it – you will know when it has “taken” and is in place so don’t feel you have to stick to the nine times if you can do it more quickly.
Another I have tried that works is attempting to link into the animal’s thoughts and picture an outcome that will leave them unharmed. Difficult to do in circumstances where there is not much time, so do practice beforehand. I have only employed this when the animal or bird is in front of me which makes linking to them easier and when the situation means I don’t have time to do the nine circles.
One last idea is also one that has worked for me – a sincere and deep-felt wish for the animal to move away from danger, sent fast towards the animal. I tend to do this mostly for birds on the street who are at risk of being hurt by cars although I have also employed it effectively for foxes, cats who do not know me and other animals I see in danger who I can’t get near enough to help.
Protecting wild animals from your pets …
An appeal to the guardians of your garden helps tremendously, as do all the usual logical actions such as putting a large bell (or bells) on your cat, keeping your dog on a lead, feeding your pet before it goes out and not letting cats out after dusk and before dawn.
When the brown stuff is hitting the fan …
When you need to protect an animal quickly and cannot practically do anything (such as remove it from the danger), a variety of ritual work can be employed. One of the best I have seen is one by Silver Ravenwolf in her book Silver’s Spells for Protection which involves invoking the Morrigan or Raven Mother in a circumstance where a pet shop was selling animals off for experimentation. It is a simple ritual but does involve a lot of nerve on the part of the person doing it. I have used a modified version of it with some success.
Nothing works better of course than physically removing the animal from harm but it is often difficult to decide what to do for the best – sometimes removing a wild baby animal that appears to be alone is the worst thing you can do as in many cases, it has been left there by its parents who will return for it once they have finished foraging or hunting. Once again, knowledge and understanding is key to being able to help so arm yourself with appropriate telephone numbers to enable you to call for advice or help.
Giving thanks …
Not as easily remembered once the relief of a life saved has passed, but I always try and give something back in thanks. Normally this takes the form of a heartfelt “thank you” as well as something mundane such as doin a good deed in return, but lighting (eco-friendly) candles and other more ritualistic forms of thanks work well also.
Ideas for patron deities and saints for wild and tame …
I’m a bit of an equal opportunities pagan – I have my own chosen deities (or ones who chose me!) but I also have no problem searching for and speaking to others from a variety of pantheons if I think they are right for the purpose.
I also have been known to call on saints (some of whom were probably appropriated from the original Celtic Pagan pantheon anyway – St Bride for example), guardians and spirits of place and my ancestors. So I have included a pretty eclectic mix here – if some of those included offend you, don’t use ‘em!
As ever, if you wish to invoke a deity or saint you haven’t heard of before, please look them up and do some research to make sure you are entirely comfortable with them (and they with you).
For protection of …
Birds of prey Horus
Bulls Osiris (Apis was a sacred bull said to be the personification of Osiris)
Cats Bast/ Sekhmet/ Diana/ Artemis/ St Gertrude of Nivelles / St Agatha
Crows and magpies the Morrigan
Elephants Parvati/ Ganesha
Fish and other sea life Sedna/ Neptune/ Poseidon
Hares/ rabbits Aphrodite/ Diana/ Hecate/ Venus
Snakes Buto (Egyptian snake Goddess)/ Isis
Wild animals Pan/ Cernunnos/ Diana/ Gaia
All animals St Francis/ Gaia/ Guardians and Spirits of place
References and further reading
I make no apologies for the diverse nature of this reading list. Some of these authors are often quoted as “fluffy” but I have found some value in their work, no matter how prettily dressed up for public consumption. Enjoy!
Bruce, Marie Magical Beasts
Cunningham, Scott and Harrington, David Spell Crafts
Greer, John Michael Natural Magic
Nahmad, Claire Catspells
Pepper, Daisy Spells for Cats
Ravenwolf, Silver Silver’s Spell for Protection
Roderick, Timothy The Once Unknown Familiar
Sophia, with Denny Sargeant The Magical Garden
Zucker, Martin Veterinarians’ Guide to Natural Remedies for Cats
Zucker, Martin Veterinarians’ Guide to Natural Remedies for Dogs
One last note …
We are heading fast towards firework season … I think you can guess my feelings about fireworks and the damage they cause, as well as my thoughts about those people who use the season as an excuse to maim and torture animals for fun. Please keep your pets indoors and safe this firework season, especially at night.
If you can’t resist having fireworks, please ensure your pets are safely away and sedated, that your fireworks are not lit in wild or semi-wild areas, such as parks and your garden if part of it is set aside for wildlife. There is a peculiar irony (or thoughtlessness) in people setting aside places in their garden for wildlife to live safely and then once a year blasting them into panic and pain because they fancy a few pretty bangs. Also, make sure that your children do not have unchaperoned access to the blasted things.