Feb. 27, 2019

Tanya Casteel: Painter of Cosmic Animals

Tanya Casteel: Painter of Cosmic Animals

Tanya teaches us about cosmic animals and what we can learn from animals associated to Halloween.


My guest for episode 4 was artist Tanya Casteel, painter of Cosmic Animals.  Tanya helped us explore what we can learn from animals that are associated with Halloween. I first met Tanya when she was creating beautiful sea-creature pottery through her business, Cephalopod Ink. She wrote and illustrated her first children’s book “Waiting Just for You Lullaby,” after having her daughter.  Tanya now works in watercolors and paints animals in a cosmic, galaxy style. She lives in Asheville, NC.

Tanya has been creating since childhood. In college she majored in photography and took ceramic classes. She started her career working in pottery. She does not miss working in pottery; she did it to her fullest and was excited to transition to painting. Her transition to painting was inspired by her mediation practice. During her practice, she was visited by a raven who appeared in the cosmic style she paints in today. Tanya loves animals. Her favorites are raven and octopus.

Tanya explained what a spirit animal is. There are several names: spirit animals, totem animals, but she prefers her term, cosmic animals. It is the wisdom that we can learn from observing animals. It doesn’t matter how we observe animals. It could be through mediation, watching them in nature, or looking at them in books/videos. Thorough these observations we can take lessons for better actions in our lives.

The cosmic animal one identifies with can change over one’s lifecycle and some people resonate with more than one animal at a time.

Next, we transitioned to talking about a few animals associated to Halloween and what we can learn from them as cosmic animals. Note: the animals we discussed are primarily black (or other dark shades). The color black is associated to darkness, night, shadows, and mystery – which fits perfectly with Halloween!

One of the most common Halloween images is a hissing black cat. In Ancient Egypt, cats were cherished and worshipped. But in 1233, Pope Gregory IX identified cats, especially black ones, as being in league with Satan.  Soon after cats became associated with witches; suspected with being their familiars.

The independent nature of cats likely contributed to those associations. Cats are grounded and clever. What can we learn from them as cosmic animals? Black cats can invite us to explore areas that are hidden from sight, but in a wise way to keep us protected. Color does matter when it comes cat symbolism. Each cat and each color has a different message and meaning. For example, black panthers are associated with the moon. Cheetahs are associated to intervals and speed.

After discussing cats, we moved to on to the creepy, crawly spider. After being admired in ancient times for their web building skills, spiders, also became associated to witches. There is a superstition that if you see a spider on Halloween, it is a deceased loved one looking over you.

Tanya loves spider messengers. They are creative; their webs are symbols for spinning stories. They teach us to look at our life stories. Are our stories helpful or are we getting stuck in our own webs? Spiders teach us to clean up the cobwebs in our lives. Spiders are patient. They create beautiful webs and wait for nourishment to come to them.  Their infinity symbol shaped bodies symbolize the balance of masculine and feminine energy.

Many of the creatures associated to Halloween fly – like bats. Picture ancient Celtics celebrating Samhain (pronounced Sow-WHEN, the holiday that is the origin of Halloween) around bonfires. The bats would be attracted to the insects that were attracted to the light of the fire. Stories like Bram Stoker’s Dracula, further cemented the association of bats to Halloween and horror.

 Bats are excellent communicators – they have a unique skill of echolocation. They can go into the dark and come out unharmed. They teach us to not fear darkness - it is a way for us to grow and learn. Bats give birth while hanging upside down. Their babies are born being pushed up into the world. They show us to be independent and do things in a non-traditional way. Bats are one of the best controllers of mosquitos. They can show us not to let annoying pests get to us.

Like bats, most owls are nocturnal. Owls would be seen during Samhain bonfires. They have big mysterious eyes and scream and screech in the darkness. They have also been associated to witches. There is a myth that seeing an owl means someone will die soon.

Owl has similar themes to the other animals – navigating the dark. Owls can be a messenger to help people transition. You can feel sympathy and support from an owl. Different owls have different messages. What it is doing is more important that what it looks like. If an owl is flying silently, it can be telling us to be quiet – that we don’t have to be so loud about what we are doing.  A loud owl may be telling us to speak up for ourselves.

We can give Edgar Allan Poe and Alfred Hitchcock major credit towards unifying crows and ravens to Halloween. They are scavengers and will feed on dead things. In some cultures, they take the soul to the underworld.

Tanya groups ravens and crows together – she playfully calls them “cravens.” Raven is considered a trickster animal. The trickster helps us transform manipulative tendencies into a way to empower and transform ourselves and others. They can give us tricks to help us get around egos and help us get around difficult challenges.

Lastly, we covered vulture. Vultures are easy to associate to Halloween. They show up in large numbers when something has died. They eat dead animals. In Persian lore, they guard the gates to Hell.

On a positive note, vultures symbolize purity, harmony, and preventing the spread of diseases. They show us that small quiet tasks are important. Without someone to help clean up, we would be in a disgusting place. Vultures are humble and just do what needs to be done without fanfare.  

It was an inspiration to learn more about these animals from Tanya. If you would like to learn more about her work, visit her web site https://www.tanyacasteel.com. There you can see her paintings, read through animal profiles, buy paintings and prints, learn about her partnership with Wild Messengers, and more.

Support the show subscribing to the podcast and by following us on Instagram and or Facebook. Join us next month for more Halloween inspiration! Our web site is https://www.halloweenartandtravel.com/.