Twenty years ago, Jamie Sams and David Carson published Medicine Cards: The Discovery of Power Through the Way of the Animals, a system of animal divination. The set, with its beautifully crafted deck of cards and book, is as relevant today as when it was first created – perhaps even more so.
Carson regards the medicine cards as a gift from Native American elders whom provide advice on how to live in harmony and balance with the natural world. They feature teachings passed down through the generations: life lessons from the animal kingdom. In the deck, each animal represents an aspect of the human heart and mind.
There are 44 animal cards in the Medicine Card deck, all significant animals on Turtle Island (North America). Although each animal has many lessons to teach, Carson said he and Sams chose the most important one. Each teaching is a mirror that reflects the scenarios the diviner is creating and suggests how to use a specific animal medicine to live more harmoniously.
According to Carson, the animal lessons are best received in silence. “Silence of the quiet mind is the sacred fertility of the receiving spirit,” Carson said in an interview with the author. “If you use this divination tool in silence, you will find a wondrous new world speaking to you through the ways of your fellow creatures.”
The Intention of the Medicine Cards
“The purpose in creating this system of divination was not to cover all the teachings on animal medicine that have ever been,” Carson explained. “Our intention was to open a doorway of understanding for those who seek the oneness of all life. Animals have deep meaning for everyone.
“For example, the eagle is spiritual in every tradition. Eagle medicine is the power of the Great Spirit, the connection to the Divine. It is the ability to live in the realm of spirit and yet remain connected and balanced within the realm of earth. If you have a crick in the neck, you have Eagle disease – you walk and look at the sky when you should be paying attention to what’s around you.”
How to Learn from Animal Encounters
Of course, there are many animals not in the cards, and each one has a lesson to teach. Carson noted that anyone can learn these lessons by observing the animal’s behavior and habit patterns and asking the spirit of the animal to share its medicine.
““When an animal crosses your path, take time to find out what they have to teach you,” Carson suggested. “Take a pinch of tobacco, a drum, and go out and talk to the spirit of the animal. Ask, ‘Why are you on my land? What do you have to teach me?’ If you see a rattlesnake, for example, it’s very powerful, holy medicine. Snake represents the umbilical cord and is the symbol of the midwife. It also relates to the planet Venus. Snake is perfectly balanced energy. It is the energy of wholeness and cosmic consciousness. This medicine teaches you that you are a universal being.
Seeking Wholeness with All That Is
“When you call upon the power of an animal, you are asking to be drawn into complete harmony with the strength of that creature’s essence,” Carson added. “Gaining understanding from these brothers and sisters of the animal kingdom is a healing process, and must be approached with humility and intuitiveness. Many of these lessons are ones we need to travel the Good Red Road. These are the lessons of being human, being vulnerable and seeking wholeness with all that is.”