The development of animals in mythology and folklore can be seen since ancient times to have empowered an enormous range of creatures with the ability of speech, what is now known as PSI, psychokinesis (PK) telepathy and clairvoyance. This association has been suggested to reflect Man’s awareness of nature as a power in itself and a belief that it has attempted to repeatedly communicate with the individual. The ultimate aim has been deemed to be the raising of the inner and outer consciousness in order to directly influence the individual spiritual and physical growth in accordance with the described need within the mythology or folklore ultimately aiming for a higher state of existence.
The content of the communication often appeared at a particularly crucial time in self-development in a moment of crisis or temptation. The advice was generally perceived to be apt, positive and agreeing with the instinctive nature in Man or what has been referred to as the intuition, to search and find a solution to a problem. Ignoring the advice or appearance of the animal frequently resulted in misfortune, and led to an inner psychological and emotional struggle or torment for the individual. The development of the theme allowed the opportunity for the individual to begin to understand the morality or instruction, resulting in a positive personal enrichment, outcome or reward.
Talking animals have been interpreted to serve the purpose of mediation. As mediators, the animals were often shown as contrasting forces within nature, for example the lion (See Mystical WWW Mystic’s Menagerie, Lion) and the unicorn (See Mystical WWW Mystic’s Menagerie, Unicorn) as seen on heraldic coat-of-arms were believed to embody strength and purity respectively. The juxtaposition of the physical and spiritual qualities were explored to inform the reader or listener, sometimes in the form of parables, nursery rhymes, morality pieces and short stories with characters extolling virtues to be pursued. The dialogue between man and animal and within nature itself can be seen to have produced a process of meditation.
The ritualisation of the mythology and folklore has led to significant points of reference within the calendar year for the individual and community, for religious and seasonal reasons, creating traditions as part of the social development. In the British Isles the traditional figures, dance names and moves of Morris Dancing (See Mystical WWW folk Calendar) and Mumming (See Mystical WWW Arts, Drama) provide examples of the interrelationship of man and nature with the Abbots Bromley Troupe being one of the most celebrated.
Evaluation of composite animals, such as mermaids and werewolves being half-human and half-animal, indicates how the symbolic inner struggle of the individual with the culture and environment produced mythological creatures that should be viewed as signposts or warnings. The Wild Man, such as portrayed by the werewolf, has been said to indicate in many legends a further symbolic need for Man to become civilised within both mythology and life itself. Animal instincts were to be driven out and replaced with moral codes of behaviour. The folklore often left parts of the story to be resolved by the reader/listener with an emphasis on the theme denouement and effect on the wild man. The dramatic outcome was expected but not always revealed to highlight the need for meditation. Whilst the animal instincts promoted through the talking animals were generally admired, the primitive aspects of the composite animals often seen in Celtic, Greek and Roman mythology highlighted nature to be capable of dangerous volatile uncontrollable actions, testing the individual’s fortitude.
Animals were used to demonstrate conflict and harmony of the masculine and feminine aspects of the personality. This did not follow that a woman was represented in feminine form. The qualities were explored in a very similar manner as a sense of sexuality today is explored. Relationships within the family were highlighted within the mythology, the role of the father, the son, the brother, the uncle sometimes within a feminine animal ego. The ability of a woman to be strong in battle, in faith, in leadership was more easily promoted in animal form than human form which were less easy to address in an open widespread forum. The morality embedded within the gender exampled traditional and new concepts to instruct for the common need concerning law and social practice. By emphasising the gender in sympathy or contrast to the form it is suggested that the morality and personality traits were interwoven to produce some of the first role models within the oral tradition, literature and painting.
The seducer, the temptress and the powers of darkness which undermined such models as exampled in many of religions have come to dominate all folklore, but the eternal search for justice and enlightenment continues to produce examples to instruct us of these and other dangers. Some of the most famous can today be seen in celluloid, Free Willy, Oscar, Roger Rabbit, Dumbo and the Lion King. In this magical world the animals are given specific characters who interact to save a person or place from disaster. Some involve human interaction, some exist purely in the animal world. Common to all is a sense of hope, a need to make life better, learning from signs of impending misfortune, right from wrong - even if this message comes from a pink elephant that can fly and talk the mystical powers possessed by the animal to transform and interact with the human consciousness appears to many to be modern phenomena of artistic licence. Yet all modern scenarios have their roots in the culture and folklore. In ancient times and even up until the nineteenth century man read the actions of animals to learn and gain information about the day and the future for himself and others just as we read the papers or watch the television today. Obviously today the awareness and impact of animal folklore and mythology is less in some areas of the world due to a range of modern advances which have come to overshadow even disprove some aspects.
The patterns of life demonstrated through the animal imagery evolved to a highly sophisticated level in most respects aiming for an equality of moral codes of practice and life. With the human character divided and instructed by each scenario the narrative and symbolism began to provide a fundamental foundation for Man to understand his place and role within the cosmos.
The actions of mythological and folkloric animals have been attributed to be information giving, or, in some cases, seen to be signposts of forthcoming events or omens. An omen was allied to the idea of a warning of events to come but not causing the event itself. The omen could indicate an immediate, short or long term outcome depending on the animal concerned. Man could then use his wisdom to take precautions as developed through understanding of the folklore instruction. Omens were traditionally connected with dreams and oracles, believed to be physical messages from otherworlds, and certainly to be heeded. The codes of practice set-up to address the issue raised by the omen were ritualised and practised by whole communities, each person playing a part for the improvement of the whole. Central to this was the power of nature to destruct or live in harmony with the practices of Man. Science has gained much from the insights provided by folklore with modern zoology founded on the basis of many mythological revelations into the practices of Man and animal.