“The Watch-Guardian: Mongoose Energy and Symbolism, Part II” (11/8/2008)

Part II:

(Link to Part I)

Group Strength, Personal Responsibility, and Dedication:

Mongoose energy resonates with symbolism of courage, as relates to their feeding and defensive behaviors I previously explained.  Even though mongooses are prey animals as well as predators, numerous species of them show an amazing capacity for taking on and fighting off terrestrial animal threats, although this maybe much more common amongst the group-oriented species.  Social mongooses have an advantage over the more solitary ones, as they stand as representatives of the “strength in numbers” concept.  It’s not all about quantity though, but instead it’s about having multiple members in a tightly bonded social group who are dedicated to protecting that group from danger.  Depending on the threat and the number of members in a mongoose group, they may not need all or even more than a few members to scare off or kill the danger.  They know how to band together and function as a group toward defending their family, even though their foraging and feeding behavior is quite more independent.  These social mongooses have seemingly formed their groups not for bigger, better food, but rather for protection and survival through good defense (Rasa 98).  Most mongoose species however have not evolved to form such social groups as they are mainly either solitary or some that stay in pairs.  Thus the particular species associated with oneself through Mongoose energy maybe important for the individual to discover and research pertaining to social or more solitary forms of defense.  Mongoose can also offer a lesson in balancing those two main forms—finding the particular level of each that works best for oneself.

Similarly, Mongoose teaches balance regarding socialization in general, most particularly within the group species.  Their groups are amazingly well-bonded, even amongst the inevitable quarrels and sometimes the expulsion of some members from the group because of certain circumstances.  They represent a thriving group structure that seems to so often be attributed to more public focal-point species like grey wolves and rarely acknowledged to any deep, significant extent in social mongooses.  Meerkats though have in recent years become noticed by a wider amount of people for this deep social behavior, yet similar and some same forms of this behavior are found among the other group species of mongooses (such as dwarf, banded, and yellow mongooses).  The lesson of balancing socialization can relate to the fact that although these species are bound closely to their group members in protection, grooming, burrow digging, et cetera, they are independent foragers that generally don’t share their prey with each other.

To Social Mongoose, family (“friends”) are vastly important and essential in most cases to one’s well-being and safety, and yet each member has independent responsibilities that s/he is expected by the other members to learn and uphold.  For the most part, the group carries the weight for the whole group, but when it comes to food, an individual is expected to pull their own weight or likely suffer the dire consequences of not doing so.  Granted, they are not always completely strict about this “food responsibility rule”, such as in Rasa’s documented observations of Tatu mentioned earlier, and of course very young mongoose pups are taken care of well and provided adequate food because they lack the capacity to obtain it themselves.  Yet even for pups, they are nevertheless expected to be attaining their own food in foraging a relatively short time after leaving the burrow for the first time.  This all can represent finding or embracing whatever is the appropriate level of holding one’s own and working with others for support, help, or toward a common goal in everyday life, spirituality, work, career goals, or other applications for oneself.

The theme of personal responsibility also ties into earlier mentioned aspects of ‘babysitting’ and holding a sentry position.  Mongoose has, in essence, a responsibility to itself and its survival but also strongly to the whole group and the members within it, at least for those species which are group-oriented.  Solitary Mongoose may serve as a better guide in some ways for teaching further extents of personal responsibility and independence beyond those forms tied so strongly to an intertwined web of supporting family members.  Slender mongooses are, though, a species that are in-between on socialization in another way because though sometimes solitary they are also sometimes pair-oriented animals, living their lives as a couple together.

Mate-bonding through monogamy is another common aspect found among group mongooses.  They function in matriarchal families with the matriarch being bound monogamously to her mate usually until extensive, severe circumstances would lead to their separation.  The other family members, however, are not monogamous, particularly because they are discouraged by the leaders to reproduce at all, for the good and safety of the family’s survival; except, that is, in banded mongooses in which more open forms of breeding are allowed in the group (“Banded” 1).  There may thus be connections from Mongoose to an individual pertaining to romantic life and relationships for him/her, especially in the areas of dedication and devotion.

Elemental Energy, Body, and the Familiar:

Mongoose also appears to me to have Elemental associations, primarily with the Elements of Earth and Fire, although this can be more variable among the different species such as the marsh mongoose being more greatly tied to Water than Fire or Earth.  The burrow-dwelling species hold a pronounced bond to the Earth Element, as they are integrally tied to it for their protection and survival.  Within the soil or sand, buried in tunnels of it, is the keystone of safety for these types of mongooses while outside of the burrows they remain still largely prevalent on the ground or low areas close to the ground.  However, Mongoose remains attentive to the occurrences with the opposing element of Air through their alertness to be aware of dangers that can attack from skyward.  Earth—ground, soil, and sand—is home and shelter, yet embracing that comfort and protection should not be done at the cost of reduced attention toward that which poses threat from above, around, or within what is distinguished to oneself as “home”.  This is a lesson that can tie into the concepts of comfort and familiarity, and thus that we must be careful not to become oblivious to potential threats or harms to ourselves and others close to us simply because we are within the familiar.  They also do a notable amount of foraging by digging into dirt to uncover and capture prey animals.  Possible application of this ground-foraging and digging could relate to the connection of the Earth Element to an individual’s body and physical health through the link between nourishment, food, and nutrients.  And the act of digging itself (whether for burrows or food) may indicate to the person that more effort in ‘unveiling’ or tapping into certain Earth aspects needs to be performed by him/her.

Fire Element energy can come into play for Mongoose through the behavior of sun-basking shown by some species (some diurnal ones), especially, but not limited to, meerkats, which gives them a tie more toward specifically Sun energy.  They stand or sit pointing toward the sunlight during chilly times of the day and allow the sun rays to help warm up their bodies, and the meerkat’s near-bare, dark-skinned belly portrays this importance well.  There also is mention in various places that meerkats are called “sun angels” in some African beliefs as they are viewed as protectors against werewolves (referred to as “moon devils”).  More solitary species of mongooses tend to be nocturnal and thus may not have as much of an affiliation with Sun or Fire energy.  For the scrub and semi-desert mongooses, Fire and Sun energy have strong abundance where they live and Semi-desert Mongoose associates with making proper use and balance of this energy, against the potential detriment it can cause to those that enter or live in such areas.

The scrub and semi-desert dwelling mongooses are well adapted to living without need of a direct water source beyond their prey and may not have a strong link to Water energy, but are of course bound to it to a still notable extent as with the other Elements for their ties into that which is essential for life and survival.  However, these semi-desert adapted mongooses could also stand as strong affiliates with Water energy for some people because of the heightened emphasis that water has on semi-desert dwelling animals, and that even if not consuming water in a more direct form (drinking it), they are significantly adapted to be able to utilize and conserve water to some amazing extents.  Thus these types of mongooses can teach that utilizing and balancing one’s Water energy (like other Elemental energies) is not always related to connecting with the quantity or abundance of that Element’s forms, but can relate to the value of quality of the Element in the person’s life, even if the Element’s forms are in low abundance for that person (connection-wise).

There are aspects and just a general feel of Mongoose which leads me to associate him with dance, as well as flexibility of body.  Some mongoose species, as types of defense, will perform what are at times called “dances”, whether ‘war dances’ or other types.  To me, this brings to mind a symbolic relation to an almost “tribal” manner of dance, in its primal display, yet more so I affiliate it with some types of martial arts—ones that can be used as defense methods but can be carried out in a way that appears almost as a kind of dance to onlookers, and may feel nearly dance-like to those performing the movements.  My own experiences with Mongoose energy have left me feeling more driven to dance more often as well as a want to have better, more adequate training in some form of martial art, and even to the extent that seemingly martial arts like moves have recently been subconsciously incorporated into some of my dancing.

Mongoose also emphasizes importance of flexibility and agility, with its spine being a prime feature in both its appearance (typically proportionally long) and in its ability to attack, along with the spine’s significance in supporting the body adequately when mongooses do their distinct back-leg standing (known as “high-sit”).  Performing regular exercises, such as some yoga poses, that help tone, stretch, and develop back and abdominal muscles to strengthen the back and aid in its essential support of the body maybe a useful application for some individuals to take from those aspects of Mongoose.

Mutualism, Discreteness, and Shadow Energies:

Numerous species of mongooses, notably group-oriented species, have a tendency to form relationships of mutualism or commensalism with non-mongoose species.  Three main cases of these are found among dwarf mongooses and hornbill birds, meerkats and ground squirrels, and banded mongooses with baboons.  All three of these involve to some extent ways of the mongooses finding and (passively) utilizing additional protection from species outside of their own, particularly through threat detection.  Dwarf mongooses observed by Rasa have a mutual relationship with hornbills because even though they indirectly allow the hornbills to share in each day’s foraging (the mongooses help get hornbill prey out in the open more easily to be caught by the birds), the favor is also unintentionally returned if the hornbills detect a predator or threat before a mongoose does, or the hornbills serve as indicators to the mongooses that the predator is gone as the birds fly down from the trees they hid in (Rasa 25).  Meerkats are known to sometimes live in burrows that are also occupied by ground squirrels, but both species help each other in detecting and warning of dangers.  Banded mongooses allow groups of baboons to affiliate with them, possibly also for additional methods of safety and warning of threats (“Banded” 1).  These relationships can hold possible applications in utilizing good mutualistic associations with other people, animals, environments, etc.  It can help teach the value of working with or around others in a beneficial manner for both or all parties involved, whether the goal is specifically to help or benefit the other party/parties or not.  Sometimes we must give up some of what we want to have or indulge in when being part of these mutual relationships, yet the goal is to work toward a positive, safe, or otherwise overall beneficial outcome for both/all parties and to not turn the connection into something more akin to parasitism upon an involved party.

With many species of mongooses being prey animals, they are linked to the need and purpose of discreteness and inconspicuousness.  Living in burrows works as a form of protection, especially since it allows them to be more hidden from predators and dangers (most notably their often worst predators—birds of prey—for some species).  Beyond sleeping in, raising young in, and using as an emergency hiding place: burrows or other holes in the ground, when outside of those places it’s essential for them to have protective behaviors, notably in the form of being of little conspicuousness.  They can make wonderful use of ground foliage and rocks to reduce attention brought to them, and therefore to reduce the risk of being seen by predators or other threats.  Another aspect of what Mongoose can teach is the value of using discreteness or other types of being ‘hidden’ from others, because there are times and situations when it can be of notable worth to a person.  Yet he emphasizes just as well the worth in being balanced and moderate in inconspicuousness, so as to allow it to be a benefit to oneself rather than to develop to undermanaged extents and become more of a vice or a problem to oneself.  “Hide” when it’s of use and good, but to hide too much from others, such as socially (some manifestations of strong introversion), may result in more harm than good for the person.

There maybe few Westernized, mainland people that associate mongooses with strong negativity as a pest, but because of the mongoose’s introduction (mainly the small Indian mongoose) to numerous areas and islands in the 1800’s, they have since then been and continued to be and associated as pests (Global 1).  Their initial introduction was done as another example of forced exotic animal introduction as a means to control an already pest animal at the time; rats in this case (Global 1).  Like numerous similar scenarios of this kind, the mongooses failed to control the pest populations that people intended them to (Global 1).  As a consequence, various species were put at risk and threat because of the mongooses, and are believed to have resulted in the extinction of numerous species of animals, particularly some bird species because of predation by the mongooses on the birds and their eggs (Global 1).  At least in the mainland United States their importation is thus very regulated so as to prevent such a matter occurring here, beyond Hawaii (many of its islands suffered mongoose introductions during that time) (“Mongoose” 1).

This can carry lessons regarding the importance of carefully and skillfully managing that which causes us problems or bother—to understand that one’s control over a situation should be approached carefully because the wrong manner of forced control or too much of a less efficient means could lead to more or worse problems than what was occurring initially.  As also the mongoose’s invasiveness can be a lesson associated with harm of others, whether human or non-human, living or not, through unintentional spread of forms of harm, including social, emotional, mental, ecological, and physical.  It can stand as realization of one’s actions, words, lifestyle, or other affects on the individual’s direct and indirect surroundings, as the person experiences major benefits in his/her life unfortunately at the cost (even if unintentionally) of other beings or systems.  Mongoose aids in this way to help realize in themselves those whose proliferation and well-being is harming those around him/her, and to assist in the moderation of these negative impacts while still retaining a balanced and healthy well-being.

Some species of mongooses are known to be major vectors in the spread of rabies, particularly Cynictis (yellow mongoose) and the small Indian mongoose (Taylor 1).  Although for the most part not harmful to humans directly, mongooses as rabies-vectors can pose serious threats to humans among other mammals in those areas affected.  Such a situation can be applied toward more personal concepts of the spread of ‘toxin’ or “disease”, passed from one to another (in a mainly symbolic sense, though could relate to actual disease for some).  The ‘infected’ individual maybe suffering harmful effects of a “disease” s/he inadvertently picked up from another person and may just as inadvertently, if not purposely, contributed to the further spread of this harmful “disease” to others.  Mongoose can help teach awareness of these occurrences in a person and help in asserting proper management to reduce the spread of the problem and/or to eradicate it altogether from oneself, and may also offer guidance in more ‘preventative’ forms of management depending on the specific problem.

Works Cited:

Global Invasive Species Database, 2005. “Herpestes javanicus.” 16 March 2006
     [Accessed 7 November 2008]: 1.

Hinton, H. E., and Dunn, A.M.S. Mongooses: Their Natural History and Behavior.
     Berkeley: University of California Press, 1967: 3, 14-15, 17.

Rasa, Anne. Mongoose Watch: A Family Observed. Garden City, NY: Anchor Press and
     Doubleday & Co., 1986: 25, 96-99, 106, 255-263.

Taylor, P.J. & Hoffmann, M. 2008. Cynictis penicillata. In: IUCN 2008. 2008 IUCN Red
     List of Threatened Species. <www.iucnredlist.org>. [Accessed 08 November 2008]: 1.

Wikipedia contributors. “Banded Mongoose.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. 26
     October 2008. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banded_mongoose>. [Accessed 7
     November 2008]: 1.

Wikipedia contributors. “Mongoose.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. 6
     November 2008. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mongoose>. [Accessed 7 November
     2008]: 1.