Z is for… Zoology

Zoology is the study of animals. It is also the subject my father and grandmother studied; and it is a hobby for many Pagans, even if we don’t call it by the grand academic name. Beginner’s Zoology (and of course Botany) are among the basic skills discussed in many starter books for nature worshippers. If you’ve ever chosen a totem, you’ve probably been advised to research whatever you picked, in zoology of the real animal as well as their mythology. If you’ve ever gone out to the woods, you needed to know at least how to identify and avoid a stinging nettle or your other local dangers, and what to do if faced with the local wildlife. Perhaps you’re even good enough to know where to find it!

This is one of the places where I credit Girl Guiding, as well as my family, with encouraging me along my Pagan path. At Brownies, I was asked to observe common native trees and birds closely enough to identify them; when I was a Guide, we had the chance to camp, and to go on night hikes, and to spend time in the woods. Besides that, people gave freely of their woodcraft knowledge. (I don’t know whether it was an omen that we saw a hare on the Derbyshire hill where I made my Guide Promise, but I remember it clearly!)

One of my Pagan practices is to try and be able to name the creatures I see around me. Sure, silverfish and fruit fly aren’t that exciting, but I know what they are. I can identify blackbirds and robins, and tell a magpie from a pied wagtail. A friend increased my awareness dramatically when they photographed a hundred individual city pigeons, learning to tell them apart in the process! As with so many things, there is a lot to see when you start to look – remember Darwin’s finches, which could easily have been lumped into a single boring ‘small bird’ category.

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