Or … How I turned my love of animals into a philosophy and a brand recognised by people all over the world.
Ever since I was small, I’ve shared a deep and personal connection to the Natural World. As a child, I lived for some time in Victoria’s picturesque Yarra Valley, where I was free to explore the forests, fields and farmlands to my heart’s content. My childhood wasn’t an easy one, with chronic abuse and neglect shadowing what should have been a happy time in my life. Instead of being at home, therefore, I chose to spend as much time as possible outdoors, singing to the nasturtiums and tomatoes in the garden I had created against the back wall of the house that never saw the sun and was always damp from the leaking water tanks. I spent hours playing in the ‘haunted house’ that solemnly sat across the lane from our place; a small long-ago deserted weatherboard house with its yellowing newspaper covered walls, broken window panes and missing floorboards. When I wasn’t there, I was imagining a life outside my own in the woods and paddocks that extended out in every direction as far as the eye could see, all of which were dotted with well-stocked hay sheds, dams and willow-edged streams that eventually flowed into the Yarra River.
What made that time in my life so magical was the plethora of animals that also called the Valley home. I remember clearly the goannas, snakes, rabbits, deer, kangaroos, lizards, turtles and vast array of parrots and other birds that shared my days, and the owls, bats, foxes and possums that visited our place at night. I would often stop to handfeed the cows, horses and ponies that came to meet me as I walked to school, and the dogs and cats that often tried to follow me home. I especially remember the ‘house on the corner’ that kept tail-less Manx cats, and – later, nearing the end of our time in the Valley, the guy across the highway that held a family of water buffalo that mercilessly chased any kid (except me) that wandered into their paddock. I remember catching tadpoles from the footbridge that spanned the creek that flowed through our property and checking the eggs of blackbirds each morning to see if they’d hatched during the night. My life, although unfortunate inside our ‘home’, was wild and free outside – where the animals adopted me as one of their own and became my trusted teachers, healers and spiritual guides.
Just before my stepfather gave them away, I remember sitting one day watching our three bantam hens scratching about under the trees. The more I looked at them though – like REALLY studied them – the less like chickens they appeared until, eventually, I could have sworn they had become tiny sharp-eyed men with pointy noses and orange boots; their arms tucked up with their hands buried in their armpits, all the world resembling awkward little wings. I remember seeing one of them steal a glance at me, and then mumble annoyingly that I had seen them for what they truly were. Before I could think more about it though, they had returned to being just chickens, scratching around in the composting leaves. On another occasion I recall following a ring-necked dove along the path that led to the clothes line that stood anchored in the back yard. As I followed the dove, I watched as it jumped through a hole in the back fence. I was tempted to follow, but inexplicably felt compelled to stop for fear the hole was a secret one-way-only entryway into a non-ordinary reality that I may have been barred returning from if I dared to cross its subtle threshold. I relayed both experiences to my mother who played it down to me always having had a vivid imagination. So I figured, imagination or not, it wasn’t just the physical realm and the animals that lived here that were supporting my journey. I have strong memories of being regularly visited by beings and creatures that others may have dismissed as fantasy, for example, such as chasing fauns through the toadstool littered forest that grew around the ‘haunted house’ and wondering in awe at the rocks at the base of a waterfall my stepbrother often took me to swim under that looked all the world like trolls turned to stone. I remember, too, listening intently to the faeries as they tried with all their might to avoid stepping on the crisp autumn leaves that covered the forest floor. But while these experiences changed my life by feeding my soul, my most vivid memory of learning from the animals was when I would lay under our outdoor table setting watching the spiders religiously pull apart their webs in the morning only to reweave them again in the late afternoon; a repetitive pattern I observed without fail, day after day after day.
I spent countless hours laying on my back under that setting, wondering why the spiders would destroy what I saw as perfectly good webs, only to diligently rebuild them again. I eventually realised that if the webs still looked perfect the morning after the night before, it meant they hadn’t trapped any beetles or bugs. The webs had failed, and the spiders that relied on them for sustenance were probably very hungry. I understood that for a spider’s web to work, it couldn’t just be beautiful; it also had to also be well-built. Pulling her web apart and rebuilding a new one wasn’t considered a sign of failure by the spider, but rather an essential and determined decision to improve on the old one. Every morning the spider pulled her web apart just as passionately as she wove a better, stronger and more efficient version of her previous creation. It was then that the penny dropped! I realised I had to be just like the spider. Like the spider, I had to see each day as an opportunity to reweave my web, so every day I made decisions that would change and improve the way I lived my life. Every day I asked myself how I could do things better, for example; how I might enhance my self-view and how I could turn my negative childhood experiences into a future rich with golden opportunity.
And it was from these humble beginnings that I decided to look more closely at not just the spiders, but all the animals of the world. By observing their movements, behaviour and interactions with one another and the world all around, I soon realised that every animal on the planet, in one way or another, relies heavily on another. Be it as a form of nourishment, protection or collaboration, every living creature that calls Nature home plays a supportive role in the life of another. Some animals eat other animals, while others form alliances with these meat-eating animals by repaying the protection they provide by cleaning their teeth or keeping parasitic insects at bay. I know of a finch, for example, that builds its nest directly under that of a hawk or eagle knowing that no predatory animal alive would dare bother its young with such a menacing bodyguard watching its back! By observing the animals, I naturally saw glaring differences between how they choose to live life and how my family chose to live theirs. Like the meat-eating animals, my parents were naturally predatory but, unlike the foxes and eagles that preyed on the rabbits and mice, my parent’s voracious ways offered no benefit to anyone but themselves. In nature, predators and prey support one another’s existence; the prey animals nourish the predators as a food source, while the predators help to maintain a healthy population by keeping the prey animals free of the weak, the old and the infirm that may otherwise weaken their bloodline or use resources required to sustain the strong and fertile in times of privation. As difficult as it may be to comprehend, all prey animals rely on their predators equally as much as the predators rely on their prey. But – in my family, this balance, mutual respect and appreciation for one another’s existence wasn’t present. In my family, the small and the weak were there to be taken advantage of, while the strong and the powerful used and abused their positions of power without remorse. In this way, the animals taught me things no human ever could. Similarly, they demonstrated their wisdom without ever lecturing, indoctrinating or forcing me to believe them. They lived their wisdom, and because they were so willing to share it with me, I was naturally drawn to adopt it as my own. I figured, if it worked for them, who was I to doubt that it would work for me?
It was around this time that I found myself consciously retreating to ‘another place’. Some might say I was withdrawing into my imagination, others might say I had manifested a way of emotionally escaping or disassociating from what was happening to me. All I know is, this other place was bright, warm and safe, and I could do things there that I couldn’t do in ‘the real world’. At first, I only found myself there when things got scary or overwhelming, but over time, I grasped the simple fact that I could go there at will.
My primary school teacher, Mrs. Anderson, would often scold me as I sat at my school desk, my legs folded up under me, staring dreamily out of the window instead of concentrating on my studies. She would tell me that at least I’d be able to get a job in a circus as a contortionist when I grew up, because that’s all I would be good for if I persisted in being ‘away with the pixies’ instead of focusing on the task at hand. ‘What am I going to do with you?’, she would ask, shaking her head in a worrisome way while readjusting the silver rimmed glasses that sat perched on bridge of her nose.
What Mrs. Anderson didn’t know was that as I daydreamed, I was stalking the woodlands that grew deep within my soul for the white stag I had read about in stories of King Arthur of Camelot. While the other kids were focusing on maths or spelling, I was out searching for the elusive stag, dressed in long baggy shorts, bare feet and a white tunic with long ties that hang from its cuffs; the neck tied with cord instead of fastened with buttons. I would call the stag to me with my mind, finding him waiting in a grove of birch trees, standing by a stream, shaking his golden antlers. He would watch me for a bit, in total silence, before taking flight. And of course, I would chase him. We would run and run and run, and branches would whip my face while tears of joy streamed down my cheeks mixing with sweat and dirt. How I loved that stag, and how I never wanted the chase to end. Of course, I believed I was chasing the stag but, I’ve since realised the stag was always in control, luring me deeper and deeper into the darkness of my own mind. We loved each other, that stag and I. He took me on many adventures and, without my conscious knowing, was leading me deep into the forests of my very being and, in the stillness that I found there, offered me a sense of inner peace despite my innocence being slowly torn apart by the emotional nightmare that was my home life.
Over time, the ‘Other-Place’ I had been withdrawing to almost became physical. I called it ‘the Shadow Lands’, not because it was dark or gloomy but because it was so bright and warm that it seemed to cast shadows on ‘this world’; a world that, for me, was anything but happy or safe. In the Shadow Lands I was able to fly. I was able to shrink to a miniscule size, and I was able to hear and interpret the whispered language of animals. It was a place where I was in control. I could do anything and everyone there was my friend.
My earliest conscious memory of seeing ‘spirit animals’ was an amazing and totally unexpected experience: I was about eight or nine years of age, chatting with my sister in the kitchen. Mid-conversation, we both stopped talking and looked toward the archaic ‘Vulcan’ wall heater that hung on the wall. We were standing there, aghast, unable to speak with eyes wide open and mouths gaping. We must have looked so funny. I finally whispered, ‘do you see that’ and she replied in a quaky voice, ‘yes’. We did not speak of it for a long time, but we both agreed, when we finally did, that what we had seen looked suspiciously like little white rabbits falling from the ceiling. That only happened once and, although my sister is quite intuitive, she has never admitted to seeing animals again. I, on the other hand, was followed everywhere I went by a large, black short-haired domestic cat from that day on. It went everywhere I went. I saw it on the bathroom vanity as I showered, on the coffee table in the loungeroom, and in the garden. It ‘slept’ on my bed in a typical cat-like curl. It peered and smiled at me around corners and sat on my desk as I did my homework. It went everywhere I went. Although it was always just out of reach, meaning I was never able to touch it, when I told my family that, ‘the cat’s here again’, their flippant, ‘oh, is it?’ response led me to naturally believe that they could see it too and that it was no big deal.
The rabbit experience was a bit scary, as so many first-time mystical experiences are, but as I was a child who loved animals, the initial shock soon gave way to excitement. I literally began to seek them out. I looked for them everywhere, and that was when I first realised that the energy I had always felt with people held form. The form it began to take, when I really concentrated, was animalistic. That was a real surprise, because, although the ability to translate the messages the animals held did not come until much later in life, I was able to determine whether people were trustworthy or not by simply ‘feeling’ their animals, or by asking myself, ‘do I feel comfortable with that animal?’ I tried to tell my family, but they sort of ignored me when I did. I guess our traditional church-oriented family history prevented them from asking questions. They simply did not understand, and so to avoid being asked tricky questions, they just ignored me in the hope it would go away. But it didn’t, and so I grew up believing it was natural – like breathing, and because no one sat around discussing our amazing ability to breathe, I figured it was the same deal with seeing people’s spirit animals. So as a kid, I didn’t go around telling people ‘I can see spirit animals’. What was the point? I thought everyone could do it.
While I wasn’t consciously aware of it being a gift at the time, my ‘sight’ developed when I was still very small, not long after my mother first remarried and we moved to the Yarra Valley. I would see tiny sparkly lights that hovered around the heads of people I met or passed in the street. The little lights would dance about, just above their crown and around their temples. The little lights were a blue-white colour, or almost silver to look at, and they appeared around people I knew I could trust. When I saw the lights, I intuitively knew the people they were with were honest and trustworthy. The lights became so familiar to me that I began to refer to them as ‘sprites’ (a word I decided was short for ‘sparkly lights’). Looking all the world like Christmas lights, over time, the little lights started to change colour, or rather to emanate all the colours of the rainbow. Some people had little sparkly green lights, for example, while others had purple, red, blue or even yellow. And then the lights began to change or expand their shape, to look more like colourful smudges or glowing ‘clouds’ of smoke that ‘hung about’ the people instead of the little lights that once danced above their heads. I decided that if I liked the colours, I could trust the person I saw them with, but if I didn’t, I would steer clear of them, avoiding conversation, eye contact or physical contact at all costs. While I had no idea what I was, it was around this time that I intuitively began to associate the colours I saw with certain totemic energies. When I saw ‘pink’ for instance, I instinctively associated it with the loving, loyal, ‘heart’ energy of the dog, and when I saw turquoise, I saw it as being similar to the energy of the dolphin; yellow reminded me of the eagle as it flew close to the sun, while dark blue reminded me of the night-time loving cat. I remember consciously thinking along the lines of, ‘that colour reminds me of this animal’, and if I liked the animal it reminded me of, I would engage the person it travelled with, but if I didn’t – the person wouldn’t get so much as a second look, let alone a nod of the head or even a polite half-smile. My decision-making process needed to be very ‘cut and dried’, to the point where there were only one of two thoughts that affected how I responded: ‘I think I can trust you’ or ‘I don’t think I can trust you’. With my childhood being so traumatic and confusing, I had to know, without a doubt – at first glance – if I wanted to risk letting the people that came into my life get close to me or not. And this was the decision-making process that developed within me – and I like it because the one thing that I did trust, without question, was the animals. So, after I began to trust the colours and my animal correspondences, it made perfect sense to, after a while, kind of skip the colour phase in favour of jumping straight to the animal association. I soon noticed that, instead of seeing colours with people, I was seeing animals instead. It wasn’t that the people reminded me of the animals I associated them with, but rather the animals archetypically mirrored those I saw them accompanying. And the weird thing is, I noticed that the animals I saw didn’t pretend to be gentle or affectionate if they weren’t like that in ‘the real world’. By that I mean, they didn’t pretend to be trustworthy or compassionate for example, if – in the physical world – they were anything but. For example, if I saw an African wild dog, I wasn’t naïve enough to assume that just because it belonged to the canine family, it would treat me the same as the dog my family owned at the time. African wild dogs are wild and unpredictable; ruthless hunters and opportunistic and unforgiving by nature; completely different to our loving, loyal, sympathetic, selfless chihuahua! As such, I knew that just as I wouldn’t trust one in the wild, the ‘spirit’ African wild dog, or the person it accompanied, couldn’t be trusted at first sight either. Even though I was totally unaware of what it meant, the animals I saw were representative in nature, offering insight into the personality and character of the people I saw them with. As I’ve grown, I’ve learned that archetypes are personifications of universal energy patterns; patterns, traits and behaviours that we all recognize. When I saw a cow with a woman, for example, I knew she was most likely a mother, or a nurturing or motherly natured person. If the cow was a dairy cow – a jersey or a friesian, for example, I could safely assume that she was both loving and caring. If I saw a meat breed however – a hereford or angus, for example, I would see them as being more of a ‘tough-love’, practical sort of person who was less inclined to wrap her kids or loved ones up in cotton wool …
Many years later, my wife and I decided to return to the Yarra Valley, to build a home-base, raise a family and open a ‘spiritual’ shop in Warburton, Victoria. By opening our shop, ‘Circle of Stones’, I realised I had given myself the opportunity to legitimately publicise my ability to see spirit animals and to actually earn an income from my unique gift. I had finally harnessed what I called ‘the beauty within the beast’, meaning I had discovered a genuine beauty in – and acceptable purpose for – my ability to see spirit animals.
I learned that when I saw someone’s spirit animals, they offered me insight into their past, present and future and that within them, they held the key that could inevitably unlock the person’s pathway to wisdom and success.
I gradually developed the ability to relay their messages and gifts of wisdom to the person I was ‘reading’ for being that the spirit animals were fundamentally no different in nature to the archetypes Carl Jung wrote about; externalized representational facets of the human soul, personality and character. The spirit animals I saw essentially told me, by appearing to me in a kind of vision, where the people were at in life on an emotional, spiritual and physical level. They would literally stand in front of me and, by simply appearing, I discovered I was able to interpret their symbolic ‘meaning’ in the form of a reading. By integrating this ability with the moralistic lessons and themes of the fairy-tales I had read as a kid, the myths and legends I had studied as a student, and by tapping into traditional or folkloric stories that included animals as main characters or key figures, I realised I had developed a wealth of knowledge that formed the basis of a powerful gift that, when exercised with honour and respect, could empower others just it had empowered me. And if it means anything, I was often told by my clients that my readings were both insightful and profoundly accurate.
So, I guess the rest, as they say, is history! From those humble beginnings, I’ve since produced eleven literary works, including books, oracle cards and a tarot, and recorded three meditative CDs, designed to help the listener tap into their own innate healing and knowledge. All my products focus on my love of animals and my ability to see spirit animals, and because I’ve never strayed from my truth or branched out into other areas without honouring my connection to the animals, all my products have been well received both internationally and here in Australia by folk of varying cultures, book lovers, animal lovers, spiritual teachers, spiritual seekers, fellow authors, reviewers and retail outlets alike.
Having previously produced a black-line teacher’s resource book for primary age school students (published through Macmillan), and after being actively involved as a contributing author for the Nelson Series of Sunshine Books for the emergent reader as a Primary School Teacher, I remember feeling frustrated and downhearted by the simple truth that no publishing company in Australia (or overseas) was willing to publish my first spiritually-themed book, Animal Dreaming, which they all narrow-mindedly deemed ‘too Australian’. So, after a good and long discussion with the then Australian-based representatives of best-selling American author Caroline Myss, who’s office was conveniently located next door to our shop, Circle of Stones, they encouraged me to follow in Caroline’s footsteps and self-publish. Almost 15 years later, I am very grateful that I took their advice.
ANIMAL DREAMING is now an internationally recognised brand, with all but four of my works produced by three other publishing houses since my humble beginnings. Despite my apparent ‘overnight success’ as an internationally published author, public speaker, spiritual teacher and recognised psychic medium however, I decided to return to my self-publishing roots nearly six years ago when Animal Dreaming Publishing was conceived one rainy Sunday afternoon.
Today, Animal Dreaming Publishing is a family-owned, proudly Australian boutique hybrid publishing company that successfully combines both assisted self-publishing and traditional publishing under the one publishing label. Based in the picturesque Northern Rivers Hinterland of Northern New South Wales, Animal Dreaming Publishing welcomes interest from Australian and international authors alike, be they established or still emerging.
I’ve always said that ‘knowledge is power’, and that knowledge is best gained through life experience rather than through the study of books. Some people view the word power in a derogatory way, erroneously assuming it refers to rules and restrictions used and abused by those in positions of authority and control. In my world though, the word power refers to the ability to bring about positive change in our life and the lives of others by tapping into the wisdom gleaned over a lifetime of both positive and negative experience. And if the notion of ‘good’ knowledge being gained from negative experience confuses you, remember that even during the darkest nights of the soul, the pure light of realisation and awareness eventually breaks through, shining brightly to reveal the lessons offered (and hopefully learned) during those testing times.
Like the dawn of a new day and the sun’s luminous rays that reach out as if banishing the darkness of the night before, it’s good to remember that light cannot exist without darkness, and darkness cannot exist without the light, and that from the darkness, light always emerges, even if – at times – it seems to take forever to do so.
Join me on the GOLD COAST in October and I’ll help you start your own JOURNEY TO SUCCESS.
Scott Alexander King
Instagram: @AnimalDreamingOfficial / @ScottAlexanderKing