Whenever I need to narrow down a selection of animal, for whatever reason, whether it be for use as a game token, for the purpose of setting up an interactive joke, or to describe myself, whenever possible, I have always chosen the duck-billed platypus. That’s my animal.
Having spent a number of years studying shamanic practices, if not practicing shamanism, I was familiar with the concept of a spirit animal, it being somewhat central to shamanic practice; but had never identified my own spirit animal, nor had I felt any particular longing to do so. I have encountered spirit in it ‘s various animal forms during many journeys, who have offered guidance and direction, but there was no intention on either side to establish any long term commitments.
And yet, in daily life, in ordinary reality, I always choose platypus.
Firstly because I like to say “platypus”,. But when pressed further to explain my selection, my response has always gone something like this:
“Well, I just feel I can relate to the duckbill platypus because it is a mammal that lays eggs, and so it doesn’t know what it is, or what category it belongs in, or where it fits, and maybe it couldn’t decide what to be and has some identity issues.”
More recently, I was asked during a job interview to make some connection between myself and an animal of my choosing. After a few moments of imagining as many animals as my imagination could conjure under pressure, I, predictably, and unsurprisingly, landed on platypus.
However, on this occasion, my explanation as to how I relate was slightly different; the idea being that, like the platypus, I can fit in more than one category, or wear more than one hat.
It was the first time I had identified a different point of relation to platypus that didn’t involve identity confusion.
Without question, I would actually wear two or even a dozen hats, if that is what worked for me in the moment. I bet Platypus would too.
Then it occurred to me…
The platypus isn’t confused about itself. Even if it was at all aware of human categorizations, platypus would just laugh and shrug. Platypus is only a freak by human standards, not by nature’s standards. Platypus isn’t confused about who she is just because humans are uncertain how to classify her. And neither am I.
When I show up to work wearing a beanie atop a ten gallon hat, my coworkers may look at me sideways, and management might send me home to change my hat. The likelihood that my idea of fun casual Friday attire doesn’t align with the wardrobe policies adopted by 77% of American companies is 100%, but that doesn’t mean that I’m confused about who or what I am.
I understand myself quite well, in fact. I conduct enough introspective analysis to wear TWO fucking hats on a Tuesday without getting flummoxed about it.
One of my favorite things to do when I encounter an animal messenger is to conduct a bit of research on the actual animal itself, learn its habits and nuances. As well as expanding my general knowledge, comparing my findings with my experience of the animal messenger helps me to determine if I grok the animal’s message. So that’s what I’ve done here:
Facts about Platypus gathered from ’round the innerwebs, or mainly just Wikipedia and Mental Floss:
Is This Some Kind of Joke?
The first scientists to examine a specimen believed they were the victims of a hoax, and that pranksters had sewn the bill of a duck onto a beaver.
A platypus is born with teeth, but these drop out at a very early age, leaving the horny plates it uses to grind food But, in the same way that I can see that a hat can be a perfectly fine bowl, Platypus has long recognized that gravel can be perfectly good stand–in for expensive dental implants. Along with worms, insects, shellfish, the platypus also picks up gravel from the riverbed. The platypus packs the whole lot into pouches in his cheek to carry it up to the surface where he munches away, using the bits of gravel as makeshift teeth to break up some of the tougher food. Yikes! Seems tedious!
Follows Its Own Path
According to one story told by aboriginal Australians, the land animals, water animals and birds, all competed for the platypus to join their respective groups, but the platypus ultimately decided to not join any of them, feeling that he did not need to be part of a group to be special.:83–85
The webbing between their front claws—a boon when paddling through streams—retracts when the platypus ambles up the riverbank to expose sharp claws.
Other Curiosities and Adaptations
- Female platypuses don’t have nipples. Instead, their milk is released out of mammary gland ducts on their abdomen. The babies drink it up by sucking it out the folds of their mother’s skin, or her fur.
- Platypus’ scientific name Ornithorhynchus anatinus is derived from ορνιθόρυγχος (ornithorhynkhos), which literally means “bird snout” in Greek; and anatinus, which means “duck-like” in Latin.
- The female platypus has a pair of ovaries, but only the left one is functional
Platypus as Spirit Animal
Since I’ve been doing more study of shamanic practices than actually practicing lately, some of the following will include interpretations of others who are perhaps currently practicing, and what they have to say about their experiences of Platypus in non-ordinary reality, and I’ll add my experience of Platypus energy in my ordinary reality experience.
A totem animal is one that represents your particular self and also acts as a guide through life. Some believe that you have only one totem animal, while others take a more flexible view and believe that you can have different totems at different points in your life.
If Platypus is your totem animal…
You are probably a rather solitary creature yourself, preferring to spend time alone. You may feel that you don’t quite fit in anywhere, even if others don’t view you this way. People who know you well are more likely to have witnessed your shy nature, whereas far-flung acquaintances may be surprised to discover your true reserved nature.
You likely take an interest in and research many things to get to the heart of the meaning of things. I know for me, I am always asking of anything: “But what does that actually mean?” The quest for, and ability to easily find, meaning in all things is central to who I am.
You are a person who can experience a great deal of growth through reflection. In looking back at event in your life, you may often experience profound insights and epiphanies, and develop deep understanding of the emotions and inner motivations of both yourself and others. It is important to be cognizant of the fact that reflection can easily become rumination, which is characterized by repetitive, obsessive, and unhelpful thoughts.
An animal needn’t be your Spirit or Totem animal to send you a message. You can receive messages from any animal that you encounter, in both ordinary and non ordinary realities. You will know when this happens as the sense that there is some meaning in the animal’s appearance to you is often quite strong. If you sense this, go with it and read up on the nature of the animal to discover its message.
As a guide, Platypus…
Platypus asks you to be true to who you are and not be afraid to be yourself entirely, even if others feel that you should behave or believe in a way that is more acceptable to them.
Until we recognize and accept the worst parts of ourselves, we cannot fully accept ourselves, and therefore we cannot answer the Platypus call to fully BE ourselves, until we have done the challenging work of seeing ourselves accurately, warts and all.
As Platypus tends toward solitude, and is a water animal and water represents emotions, his arrival in your sphere could suggest that it is time to consider looking deeply at yourself, and facing those challenging aspects of your own personality and accepting yourself as you truly are. Then, perhaps, what others think will matter a bit less, and you’ll be free to truly be yourself.