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26 October 2012

vervet monkeys and totemism

V snuck up on me.

I lost track of the alphabet somewhere between last week and today.

Which means, obviously, that I'll be talking about Vervet Monkeys today.


Please, try to contain your excitement.

Who said pastels aren't manly?

Actually, I do have a point (and it has nothing to do with colorful genitalia).

A recent revelation about how to read my animal oracle cards (or any cards) for divination has led me - as I said then - to view aspects of my spirituality differently. I started really looking at the qualities of each animal, as opposed to trying to memorize the meaning of each card. Sounds like a "duh" moment, but it took me awhile to get there. Anyway, this morning I was thinking about Vervets, because I was trying to think of a "V" word for my Pagan Blog Project post, and "Vervets" is a much better word than "vicissitudes." Well, maybe it isn't, but it's better for my brain this morning. I need something a little lighter today.

Thus, Vervets.

A friend of mine took that picture (above) while we were in Rwanda this summer. It's an adult male Vervet Monkey. You can tell because it has baby-blue balls. True story.

So having decided to talk about Vervets, I began pondering what lessons a Vervet might confer, were I to draw it from my oracle deck. Not that I have a Vervet card, but if I did. Specifically, I started thinking about what makes Vervets different from other monkeys, and from other primates.

And then I thought, "well it's not like drawing a vervet monkey would give the same advice as drawing a baboon." But... that sentence might actually not make sense to anyone who isn't into primatology in some capacity, so I'll expand. You can tell a lot about a species by how they play, because juvenile play is a huge indicator of how the species will behave as adults.

Vervets have a relatively loose hierarchy in their social structures, and they engage in about as much solitary play as social play. Baboons, on the other hand, have a oft-contested and rigidly enforced social hierarchy - their play is almost always social play, because those skills are important for them to develop. ... That's just one difference in the character of the two species; there are many more. We don't even have to go into their physical differences, which are great enough.

If I were to draw a Baboon card, I would interpret it as a lesson in hierarchies, power, and family loyalties. A Vervet would be a lesson in flexibility, oneness with your environment, and being comfortable in your own skin - even if you have baby-blue balls. It's like comparing vikings with hippies. Two very different animals. Each species of primate - and there are many - is different from the others.

So I wonder, for those who have "monkey" totems, which one do you have? It pays to do the research on this.


And then  I thought, maybe I should create a primate oracle deck. That would be interesting. That's a project for the winter holiday season, when I don't have to go to classes all week. I'll keep you posted.

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