Listening to Animal Wisdom by Judith Shaw

Throughout these years that I have focused on animals and their spiritual meanings – often in ways that relate to goddesses – I’ve heard from many people about their own encounters with animals. It seemed that for me animals mainly showed up in images and words. But now different animals have been showing up in my life while out in nature. 

This past summer I was visited by Butterfly. A large Yellow Swallowtail graced my yard for several days on several occasions – a positive sign of ongoing transformation. In September a big colorful swallowtail caterpillar was chomping away at a parsley plant in my herb garden. Not long after a Black Swallowtail appeared with more Butterfly messages of joy and transformation.

Butterfly – Soul Transformation by Judith Shaw

Recently I lost that positive feeling of joy and the promise given by transformation –  feeling instead a sense of stagnation, of not having achieved my goals and wondering what I needed, to create change and revitalization. With no answer in sight, I activated my go-to cure for the blues – a bike ride in the Bosque – Albuquerque’s cottonwood forest growing along the Rio Grande.

It was a glorious autumn day in the cottonwoods – hues of green turning, turning turning into orange, yellow, gold – sun-white grass heads shimmering in the sun, framed by a deep turquoise blue sky.

Stopping by the river, Dragonfly lit on a stalk of grass, swaying over the water. It remained. I photographed it – moved in closer. It remained. Breathe… wait…. look…. It remained. Suddenly Dragonfly darted – up, down – left, right – circled round – quickly, quickly and then returned to the stalk. It remained. Same sequence repeated ending on the stalk. 

Still it remained. I spoke with Dragonfly while gazing at its huge eyes. Eyes that lead to true sight. “Dragonfly,” I said “Show me the way to a positive transformation, give me a sign. With your true sight lead me to an answer, a resolution to my dilemma.” 

I repeated these words several times as Dragonfly remained – a few times flitting about – yet always returning. Dragonfly was still perched on its stalk when I finally moved on. 

Returning to the cool shadows under the trees, I trekked along. Arriving at a spot where the trees opened up to the banks of the river was a downed tree – a good spot for a river view.

Shortly I noticed a lone bird, standing tall on a small island in the far side of the river  It stood and it stood – same position – same spot. It was tall like a crane – many are arriving now. But no, something was different – it wasn’t a crane. It was grayer with fringe-edged feathers around its neck. With the help of my phone camera I discovered it was a Great Blue Heron. I was amazed!

“Ah ha!” I thought. “So this is my sign. Blue Heron has the wisdom I need now”

Not yet having investigated Great Blue Heron I had to wait until I got home to my computer and the wealth of information on the internet. What I discovered was not what I was hoping for.

As I had been struggling with what I needed to instigate the changes wanted, all I could focus on was who to connect with, what action to take, what project to start….  But Great Blue Heron delivered a completely different message.

Blue Heron brings messages of solitude, of standing still and waiting patiently for what you need to come to you. This is how Blue Heron hunts. Blue Heron encourages calm while watching for opportunities to arrive. Blue Heron says that only after calmly waiting, will opportunity arrive – which you must catch quickly or it will disappear.

Dragonfly, embodiment of transformation and true sight, led me to Blue Heron who then informed me that my usual way of doing and fixing and forging ahead would not work. Blue Heron called me to stop, to remain in my solitude and to wait. Now I can only trust that with patience and quiet meditation I will be able to flow with all of the forces active at this time and the path to the realization of my goals will become clear. 

A week later, while on a bike-riding break from working on editing the stories for the Animal Wisdom deck, Coyote popped up in my path a mere 25 feet away before hightailing it across the way. I suppose I should expect the unexpected in this time of calm waiting. 

I hope you too can find meaningful messages from the animals that appear in your life – messages that help rediscover the wisdom of our ancestors and support the reemergence of the feminine principle in your life.

Judith Shaw, a graduate of the San Francisco Art Institute, has been interested in myth, culture and mystical studies all her life. Not long after graduating from SFAI, while living in Greece, Judith began exploring the Goddess in her art. She continues to be inspired by the Goddess in all of Her manifestations. Originally from New Orleans, Judith makes her home in New Mexico, The Land of Enchantment.

Judith is currently in the pre-press stage for her new oracle deck – Animal Wisdom. To learn about a soon-to-come, pre-order special, sign up to receive her newsletter on her website.

The Celtic Goddess Oracle Deck is still available. Order your deck from Judith’s website – click here. Experience the wisdom of the Celtic Goddesses!

Author: Judith Shaw

Judith Shaw, a graduate of the San Francisco Art Institute, has been interested in myth, culture and mystical studies all her life. Not long after graduating from SFAI, while living in Greece, Judith began exploring the Goddess in her art. She continues to be inspired by the Goddess in all of her manifestations, which of course includes the flora and fauna of our beautiful Earth. Judith has exhibited her paintings in New York, San Francisco, Mytilene Greece, Athens Greece, New Orleans, Santa Fe NM, Taos NM, Albuquerque NM, Houston TX and Providence RI. She has published two oracle decks - Celtic Goddess Oracle and Animal Wisdom Oracle and is hard at work on an illustrated fairytale - Elena and the Reindeer Goddess.

22 thoughts on “Listening to Animal Wisdom by Judith Shaw”

  1. Beautiful thoughts, paintings, and photos, as always! I love butterflies and dragonflies, too. I used to have a lot in my garden, but many fewer recently so I have been making an effort to make sure they have shelter, water, and pollinator plants. This spring I had a dragonfly fly in front of my face for several seconds – just hovering right at eye level. It was a precious moment and made all the work I had done worthwhile!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Carolyn,
      It is certainly sad to witness the decrease in numbers of butterflies, dragonflies and many other species – signs of the danger we are in with our ongoing oil dependent, consumption dependent lifestyles. But even small effort like yours to plant for pollinators can help – or so we hope.

      Dragonflies are really marvelous and magical. Glad to hear about your encounter.


  2. Thanks for this lovely reflection – appreciate your openness to guidance from animals. I’ve been reading some similar thoughts from Indigenous thinkers – recently enjoyed the book “Restoring the Kinship Worldview” by Wahinkpe Topa (Four Arrows) and Darcia Narvaez, PhD. Beautiful photos and gorgeous painting as well!


  3. Beautiful Judith, I hope you find that pathway. It sounds like you are on the journey you describe in so many depthful ways. You are such an inspiration especially in these times that are so changing and challenging.

    I, too, had at least 2 caterpillars munching on my parsley but I never saw the butterflies I hope they became.

    Blue Heron reminds me of Lao Tzu “Who can wait quietly while the mud settles? Who can remain still until the moment of action?” A lesson I need to hear often.

    Thank you for all the lessons.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Judith,
    Again I really love the butterfly print that you sent me.
    Your article was very interesting and telling to me. At this time of the year when the veil is thin it makes total sense to me that the blue heron would show up. Although the seasons don’t change that much in New Mexico it’s still the time of the year that the veil is thin. we need to go into solitude to gestate our desires and wants in The Cauldron. I hope you get an answer. Hallow’s blessings to you.😊🧡🧙🎃🗽♀️


    1. Juliette,
      You’re right it does make sense. That’s so true about this time/season of the year when the veil between the world is thin. Actually here in New Mexico we get all 4 seasons. Now the leaves have turned from green to gold and red, the sun moves further south in the sky and we are all preparing for the long cold of winter – not as harsh as some more northerly parts but definitely enough to bundle up when out or stay in all warm and cozy. Thanks for your well wishes as I gestate in the in-between.


      1. DH and I lived in Tucson for 13 years and we had even last seasons. But you get used to the signs in the desert. Very cool that your leaves turn color. Now I live in California by the beach and our leaves don’t turn color. I hope you’re in your journey is fruitful. I have shared your butterfly pic and article on my Facebook and I’m planning to look on your website at your animal deck.😊😊🧙🎃🎃♀️

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Beautiful how the nature beings come and go into your consciousness, Judith, with their messages of wisdom. I have a feeling, the more one expects them, the more they will arrive. I’m remembering how Robin Wall Kimmerer suggests a new pronoun for the wild beings, “kin.”


  6. As Richard Powers states: Something is always listening. I translate that in to Nature is always listening…. that animals, plants, weather etc are ready to assist us is obvious to me as a naturalist and as a seeker…. the rio is to learn what that animal or plant might be telling you… with both a sequence of sightings is telling a story…


    1. wow – what I just wrote was “the trick” is to learn… and computer changes it into” rio'” for river.. or the way…(!) But of course the message is the same. I have been a student of nature for most of my life and these signposts I have learned I must experience and then allow meaning to unfold over time…


    2. So true Sara – interpretation is the tricky part – especially since each being has many different symbolic meanings attached to it. Did you have a different idea than mine about my two sightings – different from the true sight of dragonfly leading me to blue heron with the message of patiently waiting for the correct action to move to the other side of the in-between and arrive at dragonfly’s promise of transformation.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, I did – I call heron the dark god – his appearance suggests something is brewing on the dark side that will require my attention…I have to add that I love herons and I resisted this sense of presence for years before finally giving in….. (for me the other side of heron is the Sandhill Crâne)…. Sky Woman incarnate…. According to some Indigenous traditions dragonfly is about delusion and the nécessity of breaking through… true in my life too…. The hardest part of learning that these appearances are pointing to a story is that if it’s about uncovering some dark it makes the sightings no less wonderful…..I have learned to treasure the sighting regardless of portent but it has taken some doing.


  7. As always, I enjoy your animal connections and your art. The bird mot mot (found in tropical regions) shows up as a reminder to keep my crown open as this bird has a distinctive crown. Another time, a wild green parrot appeared injured on my front sidewalk. I took it for vet care. I looked up its meaning. It was time to enjoy life…something I really needed after many difficult years.
    If we take the time to be aware, Nature sends us many signals.


  8. Jan,
    Thanks for sharing the meaning you have gleamed from your own animal encounters. I agree that if taking the time to be aware Nature answers our questions. I seems that in our fast-paced, action-oriented culture we find it hard to take that time, especially during challenging times when we need that wisdom the most. I’m so glad Parrot offered you its (kin) wisdom.


Please familiarize yourself with our Comment Policy before posting.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: