It doesn’t sound logical. It really doesn’t! We’ve been brought up to believe that animals just say “Roof roof!” Or “Moo moo!” “Quack quack!” Or “Neigh! Neigh!” And we vary how we interpret their sounds, according to our human languages. But animals can communicate with human-beings and vice versa, as evidenced by this video:
In it, animal communicator Anna Breytenbach, soothes and calms a black leopard which has been abused. It does not trust human beings. After communicating with Anna, it becomes more at ease with it’s human handlers, and emerges from the seclusion to which it has hitherto confined itself. This majestic being just wanted to be respected and appreciated.
Indigenous Hawaiians also communicate with sharks during a traditional way of fishing. My good friend Mike Standup, is a Traditional Healer from the Mohawk nation of Kahnawahke. He spent time with Native Hawaiians and they spoke to him about their techniques. The fishermen paddle out to sea and then throw their nets overboard. Then, they take their paddles and start banging on the sides of the boats. What sounds like a ruckus is actually more of a dinner-call: Sharks respond to the vibrations in the water and gather around the boats. They then manoeuvre the schools of fish into the nets, and the fishermen take the catch. In return for this assistance, the fishermen feed the choicest fish to the sharks. I found proof of this communication online.
Who are Aumakua?
Katherine Nichols wrote about “Sharks as ‘aumakua'”, in an article for the Honolulu Advertiser. ‘Aumakua’ is a Hawaiian word for benevolent guardian spirits or family protectors. Kahu (Shepherd or religious leader) Charles Kauluwehi Maxwell Sr., explained that “An aumakua was actually a dead ancestor’s spirit that was deified into an entity.” They could be clouds, trees or animals. In ancient times, people either lived in the mountains or near the ocean. Hence, owls, eels and whales were popular incarnations of aumakua.
This did not and does not mean that every owl, shark or whale that someone encounters is an aumakua. And even if one of those animals happened to be an aumakua for someone, not all other members of that species would automatically be benevolent towards that individual. Carol Silva, a researcher of Hawaiian culture explains that “Aumakua are identified very specifically by body markings, and are named. They are part of the family. There is a direct connection, a blood relationship.”
So, how do people know when an entity is their aumakua? Silva says there is usually some sort of sign. An aumkua can make itself known by behaving in a non-threatening manner, or even coming to the aid of a family member during a dangerous situation. The recognition between the human and the animal is usually instantaneous and mutual.
Kahu Maxwell recounts the story of a tour-boat that sank in the 1930s. Sharks circled and all of the tourists were attacked and killed. The captain of the ship started to chant and his aumakua appeared, offered his dorsal fin and carried the captain safely to shore.
What is real?
It can be difficult to accept with our logical minds the validity of some of these beliefs. I am not postulating that all Aboriginal beliefs are true. What I am suggesting is that we open our minds to investigating them, without the prejudices we may have unconsciously ingrained in us.
Indigenous beliefs and practices have historically been derided as demonic, superstitious or both. Mike has told me that people did communicate with animals, and listened to their wisdom through dreams and visions. Healers also learnt about the medicinal properties of plants through similar communications with plant-life.
There was and is no hierarchy of life in an Aboriginal value-system. Every being has a right to exist, and be treated appreciatively and respectfully. This is in recognition of our interdependence and connection to the same source.
It is really clear that other beings besides us, have intelligence and feelings. They are not dumb animals or inanimate forms of life. It’s time to extend our respect and compassion to those we presume to dominate. This means treating the animals that we encounter differently, including those that we rear for our consumption. It’s time to demand that our food-suppliers live in accordance with ethics of love, respect and balance. We shouldn’t diminish ourselves and other creatures, simply in the process of living.
Photo credit: Luz Rovira, Mila (baby black panther), Flickr.