If I listen, life speaks to me the way my dreams do. When an animal appears I pay close attention. Every animal encounter—dead or alive, dreamtime or daytime—is an invitation for me to commune with a mysterious force greater than myself. All I have to do is answer the bid for deep connection with keen awareness. I follow the tracks, see the symbols, feel in my body, and interpret the messages. Animals are my sacred allies.

Before there were self-help books, psychologists, podcasts, and spiritual retreats, humans considered wild animals among their best teachers for self-awareness. Animal totems were mirrors and guides demonstrating specific behaviors, strengths, and skills to emulate, and weaknesses to modify.

My primary totem as a mother was Wolf. My character was alpha. My family was a pack. My children were the priority and my best friend was my dog. I was canine for life—or so I thought.

When I was fifty-three and nearing the end of my motherhood phase, a black panther appeared in my night dream. I had a bird’s-eye view of the feline predator prowling on the outskirts of my suburban neighborhood. My town looked like a giant maze shaped out of tall green groomed hedges. As the mysterious big cat circled outside the labyrinth searching for an entrance, I felt my heart beat to the primal rhythm of an African drum. When I woke up my heart was racing, my skin was tingling, and all of my senses were heightened from the thrill of being near a wild predator.

In that ethereal dream I was both the hunter and the hunted. Upon waking I reflected on my life as a mother and housewife. My kids were in high school and I was feeling trapped in the mundane routines of domestication. I was symbolically lost in suburbia and had no idea how to get out. Black Panther in my dream was a clue, letting me know her wildness was looming and foreshadowing the next era of my life.

Black Panther’s realm is nighttime under a dark moon. She is mystical, graceful, stealthy, and fierce. Crushing her prey with powerful jaws, she transforms death into fuel for her life at every meal. Domestic Cat is mysterious, intuitive, quiet, and clever. She, too, is a formidable hunter. Swift on her feet, she can scale a tall tree and balance with grace on thin limbs. Half tame and half wild, Cat is a bridge to Panther.


Inspired by Confessions of a Bone Woman: Realizing Authentic Wildness in a Civilized World by Lucinda Bakken White