I’ve loved animals ever since I was a child, and I’ve been blessed to be loved by them also, and to have many beautiful interactions with wild life throughout my life. In my own neighbourhood I am so happy and grateful that I can feed the squirrels, and we have many rabbits from the park nearby, and beautiful sparrows and red cardinals.
I’ve also had hands on experiences with Siberian tigers, horses, hyenas, leopards and jaguars, wolves, foxes, and hawks. And throughout these close and hands on encounters, the one thing you need to understand is respect. You need to know the unique nature of the animal, how to approach it, and you need to show it respect because you are essentially entering its territory and personal space. If you respect it, it will respect you too, and allow you in. Otherwise, it will attack – animals are highly instinctive, and they also read your energy very well, so any hesitations or subtle movements or even your own fears, emotions and thoughts will be felt and they’ll react to it. You need complete self control. And there is a certain kind of movement, a patience and kindness of rhythm that you must embody.
It was many years ago, when I was doing a Shamanic meditation that I first saw my animal totem and at the time I was almost shocked because I had no idea why an animal was showing up in meditation. My then teacher taught me that we all have our own animal totems at birth, and that this was mine. To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t surprised at all – because I have always felt drawn to it, it was one of my favourite animals, I’ve seen it so many times in various ways and through various mediums, and had a natural understanding of its behaviour in the wild. And as I learned about it even more, its symbolism and its nature as described by Native American beliefs, I could not believe how exactly it was mirroring my own life, and had outlined many of my personal experiences and lessons.
Later on, when I learned about my birth nakshatra and its corresponding animal, I saw how similar and almost exact it was also. This is why I love practicing integrative mysticism and using a holistic approach with my clients in the sessions, because I love blending various techniques and giving my clients various perspectives – and yet, always, all roads lead to Rome anyway.
Today we’ll talk about nakshatra animals and how beautifully you can use them both natally and in compatibility for relationship analysis and deeper understanding into the dynamics of the energies and partners; but before we begin, let’s first acknowledge and understand that this is not the same as your birth animal totem as per Native American traditions and beliefs.
Native American Totem Animals and Guides
Some Native American tribes’ traditions say that each person is connected with nine different animals that will accompany them through life, acting as guides. Different animal guides, also called spirit guides, power animals, or spirit animals, come in and out of our lives depending on the direction that we are headed and the tasks that need to be completed along our path. These tribes’ beliefs further explain that a totem animal is with you for life, starting with your birth as a blessing, and then continues walking with you both in the physical and spiritual world. Though people may identify with different animal guides throughout their lifetimes, this one totem animal acts as the main guardian spirit.
With your totem animal, a deep connection is shared, either through an interest in the animal, its characteristics, dreams, or other interactions. This animal blesses you with its power and wisdom, and often times, your own life may mirror much of its symbolism and innate nature. For some people, knowing their totem animal is almost a natural process – it’s as if they’ve always known, inexplicably drawn to the animal or have a special feeling for its energy.
For those of you interested in learning more, I would highly recommend the book Animal Speak by Ted Andrews, which was where I learned about my own totem and so much more about animal guides and spirits.
What are Nakshatras?
To begin our talk about animal symbolism in nakshatras, let’s first understand what a nakshatra actually is.
If you’ve had a spiritual astrology session with me, you’d know that one of the first things we delve into is your natal Moon’s nakshatra – which is in essence, the constellation under which you were born in this life. Nakshatras are like beautiful love stories full of deep wisdom and symbolism, and for all of us, our natal Moon is perhaps the most important part of our chart and energy; it is the inner world through which we experience life, others and ourselves. It is the deepest part of us, the most intimate and almost sacred, because it is the home of our heart.
There are 27 nakshatras – and these are essentially the wives of the Moon as the Moon is a 28 day cycle. Each nakshatra is like a yoni, or a womb; it is the feminine aspect of receptivity – receiving within itself the seed that we are, and through which we are born and then nurtured in its embrace. This is essentially the soil into which you were planted like a little precious seed, and through which you were then born to blossom and shine in this life.
Each nakshatra corresponds to an animal energy and symbolism, in addition to other symbolism related to its element, ruler, omen, deities, story, and carries a unique symbol. For example, Punarvasu’s symbol is the bow and arrow.
Nakshatra animals allow us deeper understanding of the constellations, and the animal’s unique natures and behaviours help us to understand better the expressions of the planetary energies – so you can apply this knowledge in transits, and also all planetary placements. Nakshatra animals can also be used as remedies or in compatibility analysis, or to build a deeper connection of your own self and with life itself – as you open your perceptions and come into the interconnectedness of all things, as you build a more harmonious union and connection to nature and wild life.
By understanding the nature and behaviour of the animal, we can also understand the instinctive responses of the native or the energy surrounding a situation. For example, a deer often freezes in car lights, and so many Scorpio nakshatra natives with this totem animal may also have an initial freeze response when something unexpected happens – or it can also be that during a transit of this constellation, people are a bit more “frozen” in their response overall especially to fear. Another thing about the deer is that it is a hunted animal yet very graceful too, so this could be a period inspiring you to be more mindful of your surrounding and move through adversaries with grace and a bit more of a delicate kind of movement navigating the circumstances.
List of nakshatra animals:
(Please be mindful that in some different schools of astrology there may be lightly different animal nakshatra associations.)
1. Ashwini (Ketu ruled) – male horse
2. Bharani (Venus ruled) – male elephant
3. Krittika (Sun ruled) – female goat
4. Rohini (Moon ruled) – male serpent
5. Mrigisira (Mars ruled) – female serpent
6. Ardra (Rahu ruled) – female dog
7. Punarvasu (Jupiter ruled) – female cat
8. Pushya (Saturn ruled) – male goat
9. Ashlesha (Mercury ruled) – male cat
10. Magha (Ketu ruled) – male rat
11. Purva Phalguni (Venus ruled) – female rat
12. Uttara Phalguni (Sun ruled) – male cow
13. Hasta (Moon ruled) – female buffalo
14. Chitra (Mars ruled) – female tiger
15. Swati (Rahu ruled) – male buffalo
16. Vishaka (Jupiter ruled) – male tiger
17. Anuradha (Saturn ruled) – female deer
18. Jyeshta (Mercury ruled) – male deer
19. Mula (Ketu ruled) – male dog
20. Purva Ashadha (Venus ruled) – male monkey
21. Uttara Ashadha (Sun ruled) – mongoose
22. Shravana (Moon ruled) – female monkey
23. Danishta (Mars ruled) – female lion
24. Satabhishak (Rahu ruled) – female horse
25. Purva Bhadra (Jupiter ruled) – male lion
26. Uttara Bhadra (Saturn ruled) – female cow
27. Revati (Mercury ruled) – female elephant
How to connect to the animal totems, and use them as remedy
To use the animal symbolism as remedy or to transform the energy of a particular planet or transit, you can connect to the corresponding animal, build a deeper connection to it by learning about it, and donating to a shelter, rescue center or sanctuary. You can also volunteer in animal centers or fund raise because a lot of these centers rely on donations, and unfortunately very few people support them.
Obviously, you should be charitable out of the purity of your heart and not to “gain” something in turn. Regardless, doing volunteer work consistently and donating any time you can, no matter how little, will eventually help to open and cleanse your energy and transform your life for the better. Sometimes clients ask me how to feel more purposeful in their life, and it is by donating or being more charitable and generous, helping people along the way in any way they can – no gesture is ever too little, and no human is ever too high not to kneel to help a person or an animal.
To build a relationship to anything or anyone in life, and for that connection to be sustained and long lasting, there must be three elements: silence, respect, and sharing.
Silence enables us to listen – so that we can open our energy and invite its wisdom in. In practical terms this means perhaps to visit an animal sanctuary, sit with the animal or just observe it in the zoo – take time to sit in front of the animal in the zoo, and just stay there, let eyes meet and let it know your compassion for it and your togetherness, sit in this silence and just notice how the animal will naturally begin to see you too. Witness how much you can connect to it through the compassion of your heart, and connect to its energy. Feel the humility that even though one of you is behind bars, no one is less than the other.
After that comes respect – and we should be in reverence to all that God has created. Respect builds trust and openness, so that it speaks to us; and allows us to connect to the animal spirit, so that it will speak to us and share its knowledge and wisdom guiding us on our path. Without respect, no one will help you.
And third comes sharing. In Indigenous cultures, once an animal shows itself to you, consider yourself blessed and you must pay it back gratitude. This means donating to a sanctuary or a local shelter; and keep giving back to nature, give food to the tiny animals like squirrels and birds in your neighbourhood. Sharing is what build the bridge of communication and for more energy to exchange between the two of you – between you and higher consciousness. This is the law of equivalent exchange of energy. Without you giving back something to the it who gave to you its energy, nothing will be allowed to enter your consciousness. The more you inter-exchange, the more stable the bridge of communication will be.
This whole process essentially allows you to deepen your relationship to nature and wild life, deepen in devotion and reverence to life itself, which in turn expands your inner world and helps you grow on a soul level.
Insights on the Nakshatra Animals
The first thing we see is that there are a total of 14 animals: 13 of them of pairs (for example, both Punarvasu and Ashlesha have cat animals, but Punarvasu is a female cat, and Ashlesha is a male cat), and one nakshatra animal is without a counterpart, which is the mongoose for Uttara Ashadha nakshatra.
Uttara Ashadha nakshatra natives are known for their absolute calmness towards the greatest of aggressions, and their symbol is the elephant tusk. But due to their independent nature, they are often loners, or more reclusive, and tend not to find long lasting relationships as easily. You can see this reflected in the animal symbolism with the mongoose who is the only animal in this Hindu star system without a female counterpart. Does that mean they’ll never find their one? Of course, they will find their companion – and they are adventurous and unique, and may just need someone as unique as them to appreciate them and blend well with their energy. Mongoose carries the spiritual symbolism of courage and of high integrity – so they shouldn’t settle for anything less than what they desire and what is right for them. No one should.
We can also see something unique about the cat family (cat, tiger and lion), and the buffalo and monkey pairs as well – in that all these share the common characteristic that their counterpart is found one nakshatra away. We also have one pair of each feline family in each group of guna: cats in the rajas, tigers in the tamas, and lions in the sattwa. The symbolism of this is the cats are actually pretty adaptable across natures, and very charismatic – can charm anyone in love – and what matters to them in relationships is the deeper than skin emotions and feelings, but also sensuality, romanticism, loyalty, and privacy. But not felines are the same – and lions are different since they live in prides, and the male lion depends on the female for food. This can point out to the need for them to feel nourished by another.
For the rat, snakes and deer pairs – they are sitting exactly next to their companion, which symbolizes the strength of these nakshatras, or the importance for them to be in relationships with the right partner in their life for their overall wellbeing or natural flow of energy. It could also show their fixed natures, i.e. less likely to adjust their nature to a partner who is much different than them.
On the other hand, I want to bring your attention to the horse and the elephant pairs – you can see how far apart each are from their companion – it’s almost all other nakshatras between them. In the old days, both horses and elephants were used in transportation, so they are connected to travel and foreign things.
And for the cows and dog pairs – they are almost sitting exactly opposite each other. For example, the dog nakshatras are Ardra (the female dog) which is Rahu ruled and Mula (the male dog) which is Ketu ruled; and Rahu and Ketu are always opposite each other i.e. 1-7 axis.
And then there’s the very unique goat pair – who are the only ones that sit four nakshatras away from each other. Think of the mountain goats in nature – they are really daring, audacious, curious, and willing to push the boundaries and go the distance.
Another thing to notice is that all the Jupiter nakshatras Punarvasu (cat), Vishaka (tiger) and Purva Bhadra (lion) have feline animals – even though each comes from different natures i.e. rajas, tamas and sattwa. You can analyze this further in various ways, such as the path of Jupiter across the three gunas etc.
When you analyze the animal pairs, understand their natures between the masculine and the feminine. For example, Punarvasu is a female cat within a Jupiter nakshatra, and Ashelsha is the male cat within a Mercury nakshatra. And yet both Jupiter and Mercury share their common trait of the adventurous quest for higher knowledge; but while Mercury prefers learning from and communicating within closer environments, Jupiter is about the far and beyond, the distant travels, horizons and cultures. Female cats are sensual, curious and in general more adventurous than male cats; and male cats tend to sleep longer hours, prefer sitting home yet have high sexual activity. You can see how these are quite in tandem to their corresponding nakshatras.
And what about relationships compatibility?
Well naturally cats like other cats, tigers and lions. Their sexual nature and behaviour are similar and they will find high attraction and sexual compatibility to these other feline nakshatras. Their relationships are usually very deep, passionate and emotionally binding as they tend to share deep intuitive and empathic understanding; and share their need for space, independence yet a lot of closeness, binding, protection and cuddling.
Something more complex would be the snake and the rat. Serpents can be magnetic, charming, and silent, and the male snake can be almost dormant. They are also very lustful with strong desires, and can over-indulge; and they can be very dangerous when provoked (or when even they aren’t) and can become quite aggressive. We all know that snakes eat rats – so naturally this may not be the most compatible match, though it might be attractive sexually initially – at least for the snake, since she’ll see something delicious and edible. Rats tend to love their home (especially Purva Phalguni who is a house mouse) and they actually love luxury as well, and they are considered very fertile – which are all qualities the two might find attractive in one another. But the rats prefer a lot of productivity or action, or can get a little tense, while snakes tend to be a bit more quiet, which might stress the rat or make them feel uneasy, or even suspicious of the silent stare of the snakes. Snakes can also be manipulative etc., and rats really don’t like that – they’ll smell this behaviour quickly and be put off by it. On the other hand, both are usually intelligent, which can create a nice intellectual connection.
However – remember that each of these pairs, the snake pair and the rat pair, sat next to each other on the wheel, symbolizing the fixed nature or strength of their energy i.e. perhaps not really willing to change or adjust to another’s nature.
But don’t mistake the snake’s initial symbolism as having greater power over the rat. Something interesting about snakes is that when they shed their skins, they go blind and are completely vulnerable and exposed, so many get killed through these in-between times until they grow their new skins. This reminds us of the deep vulnerability of these natives, while rats are very resilient, and even though they are one of the most preyed on animals aside from rabbits, they know how to survive; but on the negative side, they can become a bit opportunistic at times, which the snakes will intuit and react to that. Snakes also like to wrap around and sometimes get too possessive or clingy or jealous, while rats don’t really depend that much on being together all the time.
Yes, compatibility will be a bit more tricky, but it is workable as long as both natives can have more respect for one another’s different natures and ways of expressing themselves and their unique needs in the relationship. Once we understand our true natures, and are honest about them both to ourselves and to our partner, we can make more conscious choices, and see whether there is enough love to move forward and work through the differences, settling the relationship into peace; or whether it is best to move forward separately.
Whether it is tigers with elephants, or snakes with rats, as long as both partners are willing to put in the effort, they may find that there is a way to deepen and sustain their relationships.
Remember: silence, respect, and sharing.
Example: Punarvasu Nakshatra – Female Cat
And finally, let’s see how the nakshatra animal blends into the overall nature of the constellation. Punarvasu nakshatra is perhaps the most auspicious of all – it is known as the purest of all nakshatras. It symbolizes the “return of the light”, and its deity is Aditi – the mother of all gods. Its symbolism is the bow and arrow, and is Jupiter ruled, and its animal is the female cat.
Punarvasu natives are extremely kind, generous, yet also headstrong, independent; they are introspective, have a sharp focus on their goals, and love their homes – love to work from home also. They love traveling too and often travel far and wide, and one interesting thing is that they often bring their pillow, or favourite blanket or slippers or something that makes them feel at home. Their senses are very sharp, especially their sense of hearing, and so they need to protect their ears. They are very intuitive, mystical, imaginative, creative and carry the blessings of high spiritual knowledge and wisdom.
This is a nakshatra of purification and cleansing, and it has the energy of a tennis ball i.e. they can bounce back from anything. No matter how they may fall in life, they always come back and usually in very big ways; they can also go from rags to riches.
They are also very intelligent, and have great memories, and know how to store and harness their energy – so generally they have great vitality and powerful auras. They are also known as very charitable people, and spiritual, and they will help even their enemies. They are very forgiving, and pure and kind hearted; and are divinely blessed because of their good deeds throughout lives. They are also very nurturing and caring and loving; and they have a natural connection to the divine and the ability to connect to the unlimited resources and spiritual knowledge.
You can already see how the female cat aligns with all of this. Cats have long been known as divine especially in ancient Egypt. Goddess Bastet or Bast, pictured on the cover artwork of this article, was the goddess of protection, pleasure and bringer of good health. And in Punarvasu – we see all these qualities of home, love, knowledge, divinity, vitality, etc. Cats are also very intuitive, and very independent, and one thing that helps them is knowing how to navigate through anything with their instincts and through silence.
So one thing Punarvasu natives need to remember and to practice when they feel overwhelmed is setting clear boundaries and taking a step back. This is because people may often take advantage of their kindness, and they need to protect themselves and be discerning. They should also remember their enormous ability to be resilient – because they will always come back from anything, just like a cat will never fall on its back. Patience is their friend, and connecting to their inner faith, trust and inner knowing. And any time they feel off balance, taking care of their bodies, nurturing themselves, doing what gives them pleasure will soothe them and balance their energies. Fabrics, beauty, aromas, creams and body oils – nurture yourself in all ways you need. Punarvasu is the return of the light and the return to home – and home is also, currently, our physical bodies.
They are also very sensual beings, and very sweet and loving, so both physical intimacy and emotional intimacy are important, because they need to feel as one with their beloved, and share the depth of connection on heart and soul level. Being as intelligent and well traveled, or open minded, as they are, they also need someone to communicate well with. If this nakshatra is connected to the 7th house or lord, they might have few marriages, or renew their vows for more blessings; or find that perhaps their partner had to try a few times asking them out initially. Again, this is in reference to the “return, and renewal” energy of this constellation. So even if you didn’t like someone the first time, try giving them a second chance when they keep asking you – they might turn out to be your soulmate and you’ll feel wholebodily and wholeheartedly in love with them the second date!
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Cover artwork by Susan Seddon Boulet.