The development of animals in mythology and folklore has seen a variety of creatures empowered with the abilities of speech, and what are now known as PSI, psychokinesis (PK) telepathy and clairvoyance. Believed to indicate that nature itself was attempting to communicate with Man with the aim of raising the consciousness to influence his spiritual and physical being. Sometimes the content of the communication given appeared at a particularly crucial time so that the advice given was perceived as apt, positive and generally agreeing with the instinctual nature in man. Ignoring the advice given often led to misfortune and always an inner struggle. Eventually though the ability of man to understand what was being said resulted in a positive rich outcome or reward. Talking animals were also interpreted to be seen as mediators, and were sometimes shown, in this instance as contrasting forces, for example the lion and the unicorn which demonstrated the juxtaposed physical and spiritual qualities to be pursued.
Composite animals, such as mermaids, were often seen as symbolic of the inner struggles of man with his culture together with his environment. The ‘wild man’ has been said to indicate, in many of the legends, a symbolic need for man to be civilised within mythology and life itself, with animal instincts to be driven out and replaced with moral codes of behaviour. In these instances the folklore often left parts of the story to be resolved by the reader/listener, as the emphasis appeared to be on the denouement and the process the wild man had gone through to understand the predicament. The outcome was expected but not always immediately revealed. Whilst the animal instincts promoted through talking animals were often admired, the primitive aspects of the composite animals, often seen in Celtic, Greek and Roman mythology, could also be shown to highlight the dangerous uncontrollable aspects of nature, so testing the fortitude of man and his inner vitality.
Some animals were used to demonstrate the conflict and harmony between man and woman, that is the masculine and feminine aspects within the personality. This did not follow that a woman was represented in feminine form. Sometimes the feminine qualities within a man were explored, as a sense of sexuality today is explored. Relationships within the family too were highlighted within the mythology, the role of the father, the son, the brother, the uncle sometimes within a feminine animal ego. The ability of a woman to be strong in battle, in faith, in leadership was promoted in an animal form whereas the physical human form might have been less easy to resolve. The morality embedded within the form was allowed within folklore to challenge accepted and undiscovered concepts, to instruct for the common need concerning law and social practice.
The seducer and the temptress and the powers of darker forces within the world’s religions have come to be seen to dominate all folklore, with the eternal desire and search for justice and enlightenment. The sense of a people and a community can be gleamed from the rituals associated with protection or reverence discussed within the mythology. The consequences of ignoring advice or greed were indicated within each narrative. From these the patterns of life could be formed to provide a communal stability in all aspects of life: in masculine and feminine reproduction roles, in the conscious and unconscious thought processes revealed at an encounter, the active and the passive, the inner and the outer needs of the characters, of the underworld and otherworlds, and of course the examination of the negative and positive. The human character was divided and instructed by each scenario. Through the narrative and symbolism the individual began to understand his place and role within the cosmos.
The actions of mythological and folkloric animals have been attributed as information giving, or in some cases were seen to be omen indicators. These omens were allied to the idea of warnings indicating perhaps events to come but not causing the event itself. The omen could indicate an immediate, short or long term outcome depending on the animal concerned. Man could then take precautions and use his wisdom as developed through understanding of the folklore instruction. Omens were traditionally connected with dreams and oracles, believed to be physical messages from other worlds to be heeded. The codes of practice set-up were ritualised and practised by whole communities with each person playing a part for the improvement of the whole.