Powerful deities and humans often shape-shifted into birds and animals. The fertility goddess Freya, put on a falcon skin and took the form of a falcon, allowing her to fly high above the Earth. The ancients adopted an animal or bird form, when they wished to travel undetected by humans. The ancient Egyptians associated higher animal qualities with revered deities, believing the sacred animals and birds embodied the characteristics of their gods and goddesses. The Egyptians worshiped the goddess Bast in her cat form, she was the goddess of dance, music, women, fertility and children, hers is a symbol of empowerment for women worldwide. The native North American Indians believed in the power of animals and birds to protect them and to provide fertile land, they saw them as messengers of the deities. The griffon and unicorn were adopted in medieval times as family crests, their image engraved on armour and seen as a symbol of strength and protection. The North American Indians engraved their totem poles with animal images and called upon the protective magical animal spirits to nurture and watch over them. The unicorn was first described by the ancient Greek naturalist Cresias in 398 BCE, he told tales of a white horse he had seen with one horn protruding from its head.
Cryptozoologists are still attempting to unearth the remains of unclassified creatures believed to have roamed the Earth. Tales of werewolves have been written throughout the literature of Europe, with many stories originating from Germany. There is a shrine outside the village of Wittlich, the last town where a werewolf was killed in the 1880?s.
The dragon, throughout history, has been seen either as a symbol of luck, strength and protection, or a creature to be feared and slain. Many people keep a dragon statue in or outside their home for prosperity, luck and protection. To the Aztecs, birds, animals and insects were an integral part of worship, they feared the moth, the scorpion and the centipede, dedicating altars, with the images of these creatures upon them, where offerings were made.
Grandmother Spider was one of the most powerful spider goddesses in Native American mythology. The Grandmother Spider Woman is a Holy goddess woman, she is said to have woven the web of the world, people made figurines of her out of earth, made from four different clays, red, white, yellow and brown. Hopi legends tell the tale of Spider Woman and Tawa the Sun deity, creating the Earth between them and bringing forth life with magical songs from the thoughts and images in Tawa’s mind. From these thoughts, Spider Woman created animals from clay, she made birds and finally man and woman. Spider Woman cradled man and woman in her arms, she wrapped them in blankets while Tawa led her creation from womb to Earth into the light, in a symbolic act of childbirth. This act was repeated in every human and animal birth. Women were chosen as Spider Woman’s representatives as homemakers and deemed that family name and property would descend through them.
The Sun remained in the sky after creation. Grandmother Spider has returned many times in order to teach and guide in different guises, presenting herself as the Navajo White Shell, or Changing Woman who controlled the seasons. Other guises were Selu the Cherokee Corn Woman who allowed herself to be dragged along the ground to fertilise the soil with corn and White Buffalo Woman. Many crafts were taught by Grandmother Spider Woman, such as the cultivation of food and the power of herbs, she taught people how to smudge for house clearing, showed them ways of healing, taught them how to weave dream catchers to stop children having nightmares. She brought the Sun and fire, pottery and weaving, in Cherokee myth, among the Hopi she is said to have created the Moon, and with the cutting of a thread in her web she gave and took life.
Anansi the West African Spider Mander man, could climb higher than any other mortal. His celestial web ascended to the heavens, after meeting Nyambe, the supreme Sky god, he returned to Earth. Anansi was rewarded by the Sky god with the gift of stories, after he performed various tasks using his ingenuity. One task was catching the jaguar that had teeth like daggers, and catching the hornets that had a sting like fire. In return Anansi gave Nyambe the Sun. Anansi is the trickster who creates change and prevents stagnation, he encourages ingenuity and enterprise in order to find a creative solution to problems. Anansi acts as a helper on Earth for Nyambe, who he called his father, he sends rain to prevent drought or destructive fires and he teaches farming.