I was having a conversation about spirit animals and how they help us when it occurred to me that Pan Society, LTD doesn’t have a mascot! We had to remedy that. So, I set to work on looking around at animals to see which one might fit the bill. We chose the river otter. Here is some otter lore that helps to explain why.
Our logo colors are blue and green. These are the colors of Water and Earth. River otters are water and earth creatures. The space between water (emotions, fluidity, purification, transitions, healing) and Earth (material world, foundations, boundaries, steadiness, fertility, security) is neither wet nor dry. It’s liminal space. The otter is therefore a creature who easily inhabits the liminal space.
The Scottish have a tale about Otter Kings whose skins would make the wearer invincible and also protect them against drowning.
In ancient Persia, otters were revered above all animals. Killing one resulted in a huge penalty.
Zoroastrians hold ceremonies to honor dead otters they find in the wild, and consider it an act against nature and their gods to kill one.
Native American lore varies from tribe to tribe, but some see the otter as a trickster who is mischievous, but not mean spirited or aggressive. Some tribes see them as lucky, loyal, and honest. Some tribes have otters as a clan animal.
An Ojibwa legend says that an otter was entrusted with the secrets of the Grand Medicine Society. The Ojibwa are said to call upon the spirit of the otter in birth, death and marriage ceremonies. They recognized these are major points of transition. A tribe member requires initiation from one phase of life into the next. Because the otter is adept at moving in-between (liminal spaces), it’s a perfect energy to call upon when moving between two stages of life.
The Tlingit and Tsimshian peoples have stories about a race called the Kushtaka, which means “land otter people”. They are shape shifting tricksters who lure humans away from their homes by imitating the cries of an infant or screams of a woman. Once caught, they’d turn their victims into more Kushtaka which isn’t good since this would render them semi-zombies. They could no longer reincarnate and would no longer be immortal. When they don’t turn their victims into Kushtaka, they might simply tear them to pieces. It’s serious business to leave river otters alone. They are associated with ghosts and drownings and are never eaten for food for this reason.
The Ainu (indigenous people of Japan and Russia) have a tale about the otter that explains why men are imperfect. It says that God was in the middle of making the first man when he was called away on urgent business. He told otter he would send another deity to finish, but otter was to tell him what to do. Being intent on nothing but play, otter forgot. So mankind was made imperfectly. As punishment, God made gave otter a poor memory.
Some consider the otter to be the most intelligent non-human animal on the planet.
Like monkeys and apes, otters can create tools.
Otters are protective mothers. Babies are born helpless. When their babies arrive, mama kicks dad out of the den and showers babies with nurturing and love. Only when the babies are big enough to venture out on their own is dad allowed back in.
Otters are affectionate…or at least practical! They hold hands while sleeping so that they don’t drift apart at night.
Female otters only mate with one male in their lifetimes, but males can mate with many females. This results in a lot of competition and even rape. Mating can be so violent that it’s estimated that 11% of females don’t survive it. Fortunately, there is a type of river otter that is monogamous and mates for life.
Most live alone or in pairs, but socialize in groups.
While other animals play, otters are the only animals that build slides that help them both get around and have more fun.
The Tibetan symbol for universal love involves the pairing of the six traditional enemies – garuda and snow lion, otter and fish, crocodile and sea-snail.
As a spirit animal, otters are said to possess the qualities of protection, aid in gaining wisdom, playfulness, loyalty, finding inner treasures, enjoying life, healthy libido, recovery from crisis, courage, motivation, creativity, lightness of spirit, and help with transitions and transformations.
That’s all the otter lore I possess. All animals have gifts. I think we’ve chosen a great one to represent Pan Society, LTD. There are those who believe that in order to catch wisdom and grow in spirituality, you need the playfulness and curiosity of a child. We hope that our river otter enhances that energy within us as we journey through the wheel of life.