Researching our native wild animals can be fascinating. Observing them enhances our learning. Local lore about them deepens our link to our ancestors. Dreaming with them opens up a new world for personal growth and magick.
As we hunker down for a while, with limited time outdoors, I thought I’d share my explorations around otter with you.
Image: JACKIE MORRIS : Otter, 2018
Researching Lutra Lutra (Latin name) or dyfrgi (Welsh name) proved fascinating and helped to inform what I might discover when looking out for them.
For example, otters will eat just about anything they can find.
Key weird food and faeces facts provided some interesting clues:
1) you know if an otter has been around if you find a dead frog turned inside out!
2) their spraint (poo - see image) is left on rocky outcrops to mark their territory and smells just like jasmine tea!
As one of the many protected species in the UK, it is an offence to harass or disturb otters. So a good rule to adopt is never approach an otter (or other protected species) if it can see you and knows that you are there.
European otters have decreased in numbers over the years and are now recovering. Where I live in the Dyfi Valley, a small population is certainly well and thriving!
My first encounter was along a river in a woodland I frequent with friends. Luckily we were down wind and the small waterfall in front of us was quite loud so it didn’t notice us for some time.
HARRIET WALLIS : Otter in Coed Ty Gwyn, 2011
We watched its curiosity and exploratory behaviour and then sudden alarm when it finally noticed our presence. It quickly and fluidly slipped into the river and disappeared.
Key notes here were: intelligent, curious, alert and fluid.
Otters were once prized for their waterproof pelts to make shields. The quick way they catch salmon made an otter skin a natural choice for hunters as well as 'dreamers' who used sympathetic magic when hunting wisdom from the 'other realms'. (Franklin A, Mason P. (2001) Lammas: Celebrating Fruits of the First Harvest, p 170)
Otter features in the Tale of Taliesin captured in writing from Celtic folklore in the 11th century by Elis Gruffydd and later by John Jones of Gellilyfdy. The goddess Ceridwen shape-shifts into an otter to catch Gwion bach as he shape-shifts into a salmon in his attempt to outrun her after ingesting drops of the elixir in the cauldron.
MARTIN CHEEK Taliesin 2 : Otter & Salmon, 1996 - On display in MOMA in Machynlleth
The ancestors of this area knew this story well. I’ve heard tell of hidden clues of the story within the landscape names surrounding the Dyfi Estuary. For more on this, visit Gwilum Morus-Baird’s latest blog ‘Where did Ceridwin chase Gwion bach?’.
Key notes here were: protection, transforming and hunter of wisdom.
“You need to be practical to get things done, but you need to dream to know what is worth doing”
Knight of Cups, Sacred Circle Tarot by Anna Franklin
Making an otter mask and sharing my research with our group helped to physically ‘step into’ otter and embody it. After all, otters love to play! This in turn assisted my inner dreaming with and as otter later.
Dreaming whilst held in an energetically protected space by members of our group and being guided was helpful and highly recommended. This is a new skill / relationship which I continue to work with and will access in future rituals. I’ll discuss ‘my exchange’ in another blog.
You too can research, observe, find local lore and dream with a native animal of your choice…. or who chooses you! And if and/or when you are able to…
"...Run to the riverbank, otter dreamer, slip your skin and change your matter, pour your utter being into otter - and enter now as otter, without falter, into water." - Robert Macfarlane
JACKIE MORRIS : Otters, 2018