Animals and insects have figured in most of the world's religions in one way or another. Many times, they are the gods and goddesses that people worshipped, or they are the demons and devils that are feared. At other times, gods and goddesses appeared in certain animal or insect forms to accomplish certain tasks or to manipulate the world in some way. Throughout history, these creatures became symbolic of all the qualities, desires, faults or fears that humankind could imagine. Unfortunately, they also became hunted, persecuted, tortured or killed because of these qualities and fears. It was not uncommon in medieval France for pigs to be tried for attacking and killing children. One sow was actually executed after being tried at Falaise, Normandy, France in 1386. Charged with infanticide, "Defence council for the accused animal," wrote Nicholas Saunders "was provided at public expense."1
Fairies, shape-shifters, demons, witches, ghosts and gods have all contributed to the folklore, mythology and superstition surrounding animals. However, perhaps the biggest contributor to these stories is our own awe, fear and wonder of these creatures.
The ten animals and insects discussed in this section were chosen because of their characteristics and qualities. Characteristics and qualities that have reached out to most people around the world, reached out in a spiritual, mystical and fearful manner that inspires, touches and warns all of us.
Animals and insects are spirit creatures, messengers of the gods, symbols of life and resurrection and at the same time symbols of evil and diabolical powers. They are also seen as the spirit helpers of both man and deity.
1. Saunders, Nicholas J. Animal Spirits. London: Duncan Baird Publishers 1997, 22.
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