On Tuesday morning I saw something I’m not sure I’ve ever seen before1 – a bobcat in my North Texas suburb. It was about a half hour after sunrise – there was plenty of light, but while the sun was above the horizon it was still below the houses and trees. I was finishing my morning walk – the bobcat was moving from one yard to another, moving in a straight line but in no hurry. I had plenty of time to grab my phone and take a couple of pictures. If the cat saw me it paid no attention to me.
There have been plenty of bobcat sightings recently. The same day I saw this one, I also saw this story from a local news station about a bobcat family that took up residence under someone’s porch. In March my wife got some pictures of one resting in our back yard.
The local animal experts say the best thing to do is to simply leave them alone. They’re generally not aggressive toward humans. Don’t leave food out where they can get it and they’re likely to move on. Females generally have a territory of about 5 square miles – males have a territory of 30 square miles.
Speaking of food, I’ve previously written about the large number of wild rabbits in this area. Since most people keep their dogs and cats inside, the rabbits have no natural predators and have been able to multiply like, well, rabbits.
Until now. The websites I found say that rabbits are the bobcat’s primary prey. I’m rather fond of the yard bunnies, but a cat’s got to eat too.
The bobcat is native to North America and can be found throughout the United States, most of Mexico, and southern Canada. Like so many species, it has been impacted by human incursions into its habit. But it’s quite adaptable, and populations are increasing every place except Florida.
On one hand, I’m reluctant to attribute this to anything more than a bobcat doing bobcat things. On the other hand, in meditation with a certain Forest God I was clearly told to contemplate this, and then to write about it.
And so I am.
Animals are not messengers
Let’s start here. I do not think Cernunnos or anyone else sent this bobcat to send me a message.
We have a long tradition of augury – the practice of reading signs and omens in natural phenomena, especially birds, but also other animals. But accurate auguries depend on recognizing normal animal behavior, so you can recognize not-normal behavior. People – especially Pagans – like to assume that seeing a crow is a message, but crows are common in North America and much of Europe. Seeing one simply means you encountered one of your neighbors.
When we assume other animals are messengers, we reduce them to supporting actors in a play where we’re the stars. We are part of Nature. Not the center and not the head, just one part among many. The Earth wasn’t created for us. We grew out of the Earth, as did every other species.
But that doesn’t mean there’s not a spiritual meaning in this sighting.
Animal sightings as Tarot readings
How does Tarot work? We shuffle the cards, lay them in a spread, stare at them, and then – if we’re skilled and practiced – a message becomes clear. “This is coming – get ready.” “If you do this, then that will happen.” “Yes, that’s exactly what I told you, now go do it.”
That’s what happens, and it happens often enough that we’re convinced there’s something at work. But what? I see three possibilities.
Sometimes a God or spirit influences the shuffle and draw and the right cards appear. Other times the draw of the cards is truly random, but a God or spirit directs the reader’s attention to a particular aspect of the artwork. And sometimes the draw is random, but the reader’s own subconscious sees features and patterns, and what was buried deep inside comes to the surface.
This has the feel of that second possibility. The bobcat moving through the neighborhood is a perfectly ordinary, perfectly naturalistic event.
Cernunnos telling me to contemplate this is something else.
The bobcat was doing bobcat things. And now it’s time for the human to do human things.
The cards on the table
What do you see in this picture? What do you read in what you see?
I see a wild animal in a place that attempts to banish the wild. I read the strength, resilience, and inevitability of the wild. No matter how much we try to sanitize and sterilize Nature, the wild always finds its way back into our lives. Sometimes it’s a pretty cat we’re happy to see. Other times it’s a virus that kills almost four million people. Life isn’t all about us.
I see a person whose environment has been disrupted, who is adapting to the new situation. I read the need to adapt to changes in our world, whether we’re talking about the natural world, or the human world of politics and economics and societal expectations. We don’t have to like these changes, but we do have to deal with them.
I see someone who is rarely seen, who is becoming more visible. I read the Otherworld is bleeding through into this world, whether we’re talking about Otherworldly persons in this world, the boundary between this world and the Otherworld being diminished, or increased encounters with the Fair Folk. To be clear: this was an ordinary, this-world bobcat. But in Tarot-like fashion, seeing this cat is a reminder that we share our world with persons who are here and real even though we rarely see them.
One morning just after dawn, a bobcat made its way through a Texas suburb. A passing Druid saw it and stopped to observe.
This story is now yours. Make of it what you will.
1 I say I’m not sure because on one early morning walk, back in the Winter when it was still dark in the morning, something I couldn’t make out moved in front of me and then just disappeared. My first thought was a bobcat, but it was awfully big for that. My second thought was a dog, but it didn’t move like a dog moves. And did I mention it just disappeared? It was well before dawn, but we have streetlights, and I still have decent night vision. I’m not sure what I saw belongs in this world. But it might have been a bobcat.