Last week I wrote about the power and healing that can be experienced through connecting with our non-human friends, wild and domestic. This weekend, I led a wonderful circle of explorers in sharing the wisdom they had received from getting to know such diverse creatures as Mice, Honeybees, Octopus and even Unicorns.

Perhaps not surprisingly,  the critters that got the most enthusiastic response were the Raven and the Crow. Everyone, it seemed, had a story about an encounter with these intelligent and magical birds – as well as their own interpretation of what those encounters had meant.

For one man, a large Raven presented the opportunity to see the world through another set of eyes. In another instance, a large gathering of Crows appeared as an invitation to change the way one woman led her life.

Our group had used a deck of animal oracle cards as a jumping off point for the conversation, but the real purpose of the circle was to demonstrate that relying too much on an external interpretation of an animal’s “meaning” can separate us from our own understanding of that animal’s true “medicine”.

Anyone who authors a deck of cards – or a book on divination or symbology – brings their own associations and biases to the symbols they are explaining. In many instances, those associations may help us understand something that is otherwise confusing. But at other times, someone else’s interpretation may only lead us further away from our own truth.

If you’d like to begin listening for your own animal messages, you can start by educating yourself about an animal’s behaviors, talents and habits. Learning that a 90 foot octopus can fit through a 3 inch hole, for instance, recently inspired me to ponder how I too could squeeze my life through the eye of a needle.

We all have the power to understand the Crow, the Raven, the Octopus or the Spider – if we just take the time to pay attention. What an individual animal says to one person may not be the same as it what it says to another, and you may be surprised at what even the most common animal – like our friend the Crow – has to tell you.