For thousands of years, the indigenous people all over the world have used various forms of oracular knowing in order to seek guidance when they’re feeling lost, confused, stuck or off track. What is an oracle? Merriam-Webster defines “oracle” as “a priest or priestess acting as a medium through whom advice or prophecy was sought from the gods in classical antiquity” or “a response or message given by an oracle, especially an ambiguous one.” What if nature can be your oracular priest or priestess, connecting you to the priest or priestess—the part that just knows the answer—inside yourself?

While the traditional oracle was a mysterious intuitive person, other forms of oracular knowing include Tarot cards, the I Ching, the Norse runes, the casting of the bones in African shamanism, the reading of the coca leaves in Peruvian shamanism, and any number of modern New Age Goddess cards, fairy cards or spirit totem cards.

With the right intention, anything can be used as an oracle—a rock, a cloud, an animal or a waterfall. You could wander out into nature, find a flower that resonates with you, and ask the flower a question from your heart. When you really feel into the flower, you may be surprised how much wisdom that flower has to share with you, once you have the eyes to see and the ears to hear. Any adventure out into the natural world can be experienced as a sort of oracular reading. This can be done anytime you head out for a hike in the woods, a visit to a waterfall, a trip to the beach, or any experience where you’re away from domestication and venturing into the wildness of nature.

Safari as an Oracle

I just went on safari in South Africa to Londolozi in Sabi Sands and Singita Lebombo in Kruger National Park. It’s been my mother’s life long dream to go on safari in Africa with me, and after deciding not to pursue conventional cancer treatment when she was recently diagnosed with an “incurable” form of leukemia, Mom and I decided to take the risk and venture out to Africa, even though my mother is quite ill and I was just attacked by a pit bull.

Every day on safari, we experienced two game drives—one at sunrise and one at sunset, when the wildlife is most active. Before each safari, we posed a question as a plea for wisdom and guidance from the natural world. I dedicated my first safari to the question, “What do I need to learn in order to minimize the risk of being prey?” I’ve felt preyed upon—by romantic partners, by business partners, most recently by a pit bull that attacked my leg and then, a few days later, a tick that was sucking on my left nipple. I had to wonder, “Do I have a label on my forehead that says, “Bite me?” I suspected I might have a blind spot around this issue, and I prayed that the animals would help bring my blind spots into the light.

Hippo Wisdom

Within two minutes of our safari, we arrive at a watering hole where four hippos were submerged underwater, only their eyes scanning the environment. I wonder if there’s a message in this for me. I ask Hippo, “What are you here to teach me?”

Hippo says, “If you want to attract fewer predators, lay low. When you’re out in the open all by yourself, you’re more vulnerable to becoming prey. Don’t be frightened, but consider staying just below the surface for a while as you hone your discernment and learn how to protect yourself. Keep your instincts alert until you know others can be trusted. Take your time ascertaining whether it’s safe to get out of the water.”

Vulture Wisdom

As we continue, I notice a large bird flying overhead which looks like a much larger version of the turkey vultures we have in California. Then I notice two more vultures roosting in a tree. Grant, our guide, says this is unusual, to have three different species of vultures all concentrated in one spot. We sit and watch the vultures, and I wonder whether the vultures have a message for me.

I tune in, and Vulture says, “I am opportunistic. I don’t do all the work that the birds of prey do. I am not Eagle. I wait for others to go for the kill, then I swoop in and take advantage of the hard work of others. Please don’t make me wrong for my opportunism. This does not make me evil or worthy of judgment. It is simply my nature to feed off the hard work others do.” I feel the plunk in my gut. It is more in my nature to be Eagle than Vulture, so of course, I attract Vulture.

Wildebeest Wisdom

Mom felt attached to seeing giraffe and rhinos, so we headed off into giraffe/rhino territory, but the game drive had other plans for us. We hit one big wildebeest herd after another. Wildebeest says, “The best way to avoid being prey is to stay in the middle of the herd.”

Impala Wisdom

Next, we unexpectedly found fresh female leopard tracks, heading for the border of Londolozi property. Our guides spent about an hour going back and forth into the bush, following her trail. Her tracks got fresher and fresher, until they headed right to the border, where Grant was certain she could come out of the bush onto the road. Just as we wondered whether she would appear, she strolled right up to us, only about ten feet away. She was lactating. Grant said she would be hunting, trying to feed her cubs during the day, without leaving them for long, vulnerable as they are to predators. She was on the move, stalking a herd of impala, but the lone male impala protecting the large nursing herd starts calling out, making a loud alarm sound. The guinea hens chime in, as do the monkeys. The bush is suddenly blaring with alarm calls, almost like the bush version of an Amber Alert, as every animal that could be prey calls to the others to say, “Predator on the loose! Beware!”

I wonder whether the impala will become prey, but Grant says no. The impala had already signaled to the leopard that he knew she was onto him. I asked Impala to help me, and Impala says, “Do not be afraid, but don’t be naïve either. Like me, you are at risk of being prey, so keep your eyes wide open. If a predator is near you, make it very clear, ‘I’m onto you. I see you. No, you will not take me by surprise.’” Impala advises, “Leopard is a beautiful creature, worthy of love and respect, but do not blindly trust Leopard to be your friend. If Leopard is hungry, you are at risk of being prey. Know this and just be aware of what is true.”

Leopard Wisdom

The leopard breaks my heart open with her beauty. She stares right at me and pierces me deep to the core. I ask Leopard if she has a message, and she says simply, “Predators act according to our nature. Do not judge me for preying upon Impala. My cubs are hungry, and most of them will not survive being preyed upon themelves. I am only trying to help them survive.” 

Leopard takes my breath away with her grace and grandeur. My heart bursts and I am in tears. Such beauty! Such power! Such poise! Impala makes it away safely. Leopard and her cubs do not get to eat on this hunt. The minute the leopard walks by, the impala go back to grazing and relaxing. The babies in the nursing herd jump around and play. Some of them lie right down and go to sleep. Impala says, “I am not like you humans. I do not make up a story that says, ‘There’s a predator on the loose! We must never sleep! We are all at risk! Caution! Danger!’ No. The minute the threat walks past, let down your guard. Trust. Breathe. Eat. Sleep. Play.”

Elephant Wisdom

With little warning, we stumble upon a herd of elephants—maybe 100 of them. I ask Elephant, “What is your message for me?” Elephant says, “There’s safety in a tribe. 100 big strong beasts around you makes it hard for any predator to catch you unaware.” Amidst the crowd of elephants, one lone water buffalo prowls around. Our guide explains that she has somehow been separated from her own herd, but she is safe amidst the elephants. Water Buffalo tells me, “If you happen to get separated from those who keep you safe, find another tribe as quickly as possible. Do not try to navigate life alone. And don’t be afraid to ask for help.”

 As the sun sets and darkness creeps in, Jerry, our tracker, spies a pride of lions, lounging in a cuddle puddle. We do not shine the light on them because one of the lionesses is missing. She is off hunting impala and we don’t want to give the lions away. If she makes a kill, she will share with the rest of the pride. We watch them to see if they all leap up and follow her, but they simply stay in their cuddle puddle, lounging. After a while, she returns empty-handed.

Lioness Wisdom

Lioness tells me, “I live in village consciousness. If I am successful in my hunt, I will share with my tribe. If I come home empty-handed, I am still welcomed back into the cuddle puddle.” The lioness lies down with the others, but after lying down, she decides she is not close enough to the pride. She gets up, repositions herself, and plops right on top of another lioness, who moves over to make room for her. They look quite happy, all five of them, curled up as close as they can get.

My little village is made up of lionesses. I can lean on them, and we take care of each other. When we hang out in our cuddle puddles and look out for one another, we are all less vulnerable to predators.

Animal Wisdom

So . . . what did I learn from the animals on this game drive? “We are all predators and we are all prey. We are all doing the best we can and we will act according to our nature. Nobody is immune, and paradoxically, at some level, we are all safe. Anyone can become prey at any time, and this is unavoidable. We can’t control the mystery of life, and we can’t live in perpetual fear of becoming prey. But we can increase our chances of staying safe in this dimension by sticking with a community of like-minded others. We can be discerning and trust our animal instincts. We can stick together in the safety of a herd and call out to other vulnerable creatures when we sense a predator is nearby, everyone looking out for one another.”

The beautiful thing about the animals is that they’re not perseverating over such questions as “How do I avoid being prey?” They’re not strategizing and telling themselves scary stories about all the other animals they knew who lost their lives to terrifying predators. They just stick together. They eat when they can. They sleep when they can. They mate when it’s time. They hunt when they need to. They play—a lot. They rest even more.

So maybe that’s the moral of this story. How do I avoid being prey? “Eat. Sleep. Mate. Play. Hang out with your trusted beloveds. If there’s a predator that saunters by, simply say, “I see you” and keep your distance. Then go back to eating, sleeping, mating and playing.

Thank you Hippo, Vulture, Wildebeest, Impala, Leopard, Elephant, Lion!

Can You Trust What You Get?

 Did I interpret the guidance from these animals correctly? Is this wisdom straight from God or is it my own ego hearing what it wants to know? Who knows? It’s important to filter such oracular messages through your inner knowing, harvest what feels relevant and resonant, and be willing to take it all with a grain of salt. In other words, I wouldn’t recommend buying a lottery ticket off the numbers the animals give you, but then who knows? Maybe that’s how to get the winning ticket!

Filter it all through your intuition. Surrender the whole thing to Divine Will and ask to be shown what’s trustworthy and what’s not. Don’t take it too seriously. Just as with dream interpretation, make it a sweet, fun game intended to help you unravel the mysterious treasure hunt of following Divine Guidance! See what happens.

Tell us your stories of how nature has guided you.

And ask yourself, “What question might you ask to the oracular knowing of nature today?”

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18 Comments

  1. Laurie Swanson

    I just loved this story! Thank you Lissa. I have been having dreams of elephants lately and would love to go to Londolozi as well. Goals! Thanks for the sweet reminder of how close wisdom actually is to us. We are never alone and the answers we need are right there.

    Reply
  2. chandita choudhury

    Beautiful! Thanks so much for sharing ❤ healing prayers for your mother …and big hugs to you both !

    Reply
  3. Anita

    Thank you Lisa for sharing this beautiful wisdom from the animals. So simple yet so profound! I love your musings and insights and appreciate you sharing them. With gratitude and love, Anita

    Reply
  4. Kerry harrison

    I think of you every day. Love hearing your stories. I’m glad you’re taking this time to reflect and heal. And the part that stood out to me as really important was the part about protecting yourself. You need to protect yourself at all times as you’re leading many people on an important path. Sending you and your mother healing thoughts. I just tried to log on to sign up for workshops but see that your site is taking a much needed break too. On goal I wrote down the other day (and which I whispered to the universe) is to meet you one day soon. If you fancy a trip to malaysia we have a whole guest floor and two bathrooms awaiting… Lol. I would love to attend one of your worskshops/conferences/gatherings one day though. That would be cool. Keep on going. Keep evolving. Sending you love light joy and peace. Kerry xxx

    Reply
  5. Anita Olsen

    This such a beautiful article. As always, thank you for sharing, Lissa.

    Reply
  6. Tracie

    This is a wonderful post! So glad that you and your mom are able to take this journey together and heal. You have been an inspiration for quite a long time – thank you for what you do! Londolozi has been on my list ever since I read Martha Beck. Thank you for sharing and enjoy the rest of your well deserved retreat!

    Reply
  7. Karina Meacham

    What an incredible post! I enjoy so much reading your emails and following your journey. Much of what you share has such a deep resonance within me.
    Thank you for continuing to shine your lantern for so many of us and enjoy this very sacred time with your Mum.
    Karina xxx

    Reply
  8. Trish Rankin

    Hi, I am Lissa’s Mother. Her experience of course reflects my own. we each asked the animals a question each time. Sometimes mine were just “What do you have to teach me?” One of my big lessons was to listen.Animals, especially those preyed on by others were always listening. Listening for a leopard, a cheeta, a lion. I too much listen. Listen to my body and what it has to say to me. I am experiencing a great illness right now. So I pray, “Thank you for this gift of love and the lessons it has to teach me. Help me to accept what is. Amen” But what is the lesson I must learn. First it is to ask for help when I need it. Not an easy thing for me to do. Ever. But I am learning. And second to find the collateral beauty in illness and perhaps in dying well. I see it every day in the care I am receiving from those who love me. I see it in the animals and their terrain, the god in each of them. I am blessed. We all are in every circumstance. Just look and listen. It’s there for you to discover. I am doing just that. Blessings on each of you.

    Reply
    • Lissa_Rankin

      Ah, Mama. It touches me that you commented here and that you shared what you did. It has been such an honor to experience this journey with you. When Dad was going through what you are experiencing now, I only wish we knew then what we know now. I know he was entitled to his own journey in his own way, but I just have so much respect for how you’re handling all this, with so much love and courage and insight and wisdom. Thank you for being brave and going on this journey with me and giving me the opportunity to help you check safari off your bucket list. Now…to find you a symphony that you can sing with!

      I love you to the moon and stars and leopards and back
      Lissa

      Reply
      • Deirdre Ward

        Thank you both, I have been journeying the wounded healer’s (shamen I have been advised recently) path for over ten years and have dipped my toe in many areas re’ healing etc.
        I naturally came back to the wisdom of nature (shamenism) and the signs and messages that are there for us.
        Lissa I love all the work you share and thank you for daring to raise your head above the water in sharing all your work and wisdom.
        May I be so bold as to say perhaps part of your soul contract in being a trail blazer (Eagle) means YEP, you are going to attract more than your fair share of the vultures and whoopie thats a sign you are on track. (Shite but good a paradox shall we say.)
        But yes perhaps the time has passed for that aspect of the contract or there is more of a “middle way”.
        I often go to this site What’s Your Sign

        http://www.whats-your-sign.com/

        when particular animals (real or symbolic) appear and I know there is a message for me, I find it very good if I am busy, bit of a vulture way to getting the message.
        I lost my own dear mother to Cancer September 2015 and wish we could have bucket listed she loved travel and would have loved to have made a Safari I had a wee cry after reading this especially your mum’s post.
        Blessings to you and your mum we did at least get our mum into chakras reiki etc and she was unafraid to pass and could see her ancestors coming down the hill to meet her.
        On a lighter note hope this gives you a wee laugh,
        Get the fking ticks off your tit hehe.
        Mind you in my world nobody is biting my left tit so I might just let it hang on for a wee while, cheap thrill.
        Lots of love from Belfast.
        DeeDee.

        Reply
        • Deirdre Ward

          This post and my reply set me thinking about a movie I watched years ago and a particular scene in which the young man (THE HERO) recalls his old mentors voice any question and you will find the answer in nature (1hr 16 min in.).
          I remember at the time the words resonated with me, I could not remember the name but Mr Goggle helped and I have just watched it.
          Set in South Africa with a beautiful soundtrack. Really good movie,
          I must admit non violent communication, we are all one, etc is all good and well but I was prepared to have a few more life times Karma to see Daniel Craig’s character get his due. : )

          The Power of One Full Movie

          son grant

          1,953 views

          1:45:36

          Reply
    • Sandra MacLean

      A beautiful wise daughter of a beautiful wise mother ~ thank you both for sharing, this very helpful, and loving message. Many Blessings on each of you ~ may time be on your side

      Reply
  9. Yolanda Pietersma

    Thank you Lissa and Trish ❤ for sharing your lives with us. I resonate with you and feel like in these turbulent global times it’s good for us sensetives to stay safe. Stay close together in your mother/daughter and female tribe. Much love and light to you both

    Reply
  10. Michelle

    Since I read Lissa ‘s book, The Fear Cure and subscribed to the Daily Flame , I have had so much help from her and now from you, her mother. Thank you so much. Every time I open up a ‘page of love and wisdom ‘ from Lissa it is always so relevant and you two are helping me find the answers to so many questions I didn’t even know how to ask. I thank you and wish you all the happiness in the world.

    Reply
  11. Jesje

    Thank you Lissa for sharing your oracle messages and thank you Trish for joining in! For me the message of “when the danger has walked by, relax again” is a very good one and as the danger in my youth came from my mother it is especially inspiring to see the two of you connected so deeply and sincerely. Best wishes on your journeys <3

    Reply
  12. Kathy Moloney

    Thank you to both Lissa and her mom. Your journey helps to remind us to return always to our most fundamental selves. The wisdom in animals, and in us-always lies there. Thank you for the reminder. It touched my heart.

    Reply
  13. Heather Crespi

    Thank you for your wisdom and sharing. I am not sure I am ready yet to ask questions in nature and maybe I am. Regardless, I spend alot of time in nature and working through illness too. Everytime, I am in the wilderness, I have often contemplated the guidance within and how this relates to the surroundings. When I am most quiet, I sense a strong, vibrant energy of the earth who can guide on the path. So so grateful for this post! I admire and respect your path so much Lissa! Many blessings~

    Reply
  14. Rachel

    Profound and beautiful…though I don’t foresee a safari soon in my future, I will use this wisdom on my regular hikes in New York’s Hudson Valley. Love to you and your wonderful family. Thank you so much for sharing these poignant, strong moments.

    Reply

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