Encounters with the Jaguar
When I moved to the rainforest 11 years ago, I never set out to encounter wild cats such as the jaguar. I was mainly interested in the abundant plant life - the tropical medicines growing vibrantly in the lush greenery of the jungles.
I started my jungle immersion and learning expedition while helping manage a Permaculture education center, named Punta Mona, on the southern Caribbean coast of Costa Rica. Punta Mona is located deep in the rainforest – accessible only by a very long hike through the dense jungle, or by boat. The center has limited electricity from solar power, and limited internet and cell service through satellite. Due to the remote location of Punta Mona, there is an abundant amount of both flora and fauna. Parrots, toucans, monkeys, giant butterflies, insects of all colours and sizes, snakes, sea turtles, iguanas, wild cats, and much more all inhabit the lands in that area.
It was while living in this off-grid oasis that I first heard the sounds of the jaguars, panthers, and ocelots. I also learned of the challenges of keeping chickens in the thick of the jungle - as the center and our only neighbour both kept chickens for eggs. Several times the jaguars broke into the chicken yards and helped themselves to the egg bearing hens.
In my year of living at Punta Mona I heard the wild cats, yet never saw one.
A couple years later, and much adventure in between, I was staying at a beautiful and very remote, off-grid farm on the southern Pacific side of Costa Rica. This precious piece of heaven on Earth was called the HOME farm, and now with the new land stewards, it has been renamed the Diamante Center. At the time of my several months of staying on this land, there was no electricity, no phone lines or cell service, composting toilets, and the housing was in very rustic cabin's with half walls.
I had chosen to connect deeper with nature, simplify my life, take a personal sabbatical of sorts, and embark on a journey of deep physical and spiritual healing. I stayed here mostly alone, or at times with a few others sharing the land, as well as my two young children.
The experience of long periods of solitude, immersed in lush tropical nature free of electricity, was profound and transformative. I utilized the potency of this experience to practice organ cleansing and several long water fasts.
One evening, a few days after finishing a several week water fast, I was reading by candlelight in my little cabin. Both my boys were sound asleep when I felt a strong presence and goosebumps covered my arms. Within a minute of this feeling I heard a deep, low pitched rumbling noise outside. I immediately felt an overwhelming sensation of fear and an inability to move. The rumbling sound was definitely an animal, and from the sounds of it I knew it was a large animal. A flash of an image of a large black cat appeared in my minds eye. I stood in fear and a sense of paralysis, wanting to look outside yet unable to get myself to make a move. I assumed a big cat was outside, yet I never saw it. I stayed in silent stillness praying this creature would not approach the very easy to enter cabin and devour me and my two boys. The animal noises continued for about 30 minutes... then nothing but the crickets and other gentle night sounds. I felt the animal had departed, and all fear had seemed to leave my being.
The next morning I searched outside for any evidence of my night time visitor, yet I could not find any. No paw prints, no droppings… nothing.
I figured this close encounter with the mysterious jungle creature was a once in a lifetime occurrence. I was proven wrong when just after dark the next evening the low rumbling sounds of the night stalker returned. This time my sense of fear seemed slightly less. I did still feel immense fear yet I was not overcome with paralysis. I mustered the courage to slowly and quietly approach the window overlooking the area I heard the animal sounds to be coming from. I peeked out into the black night and saw the glow of two eyes looking in my direction. My heart felt as if it may beat out of my chest. My palms became sweat drenched and my stomach tangled itself into a bundle of knots. I stood still, breathed deep, and prayed for safety and protection for myself and the sleeping children. As my eyes further adjusted to looking into the black night, I was able to finally see my persistent visitor. Staring right at me was a large and very real black panther, also known as a black jaguar. Awed and terrified at the same time, I stood like a solid tree and just stared at this magnificent cat. As dark as the night was during the time of the new moon, on a property free of electric lighting, I could only see the slight outline of the body and features of the face. Once again, after about 30 minutes, the great beast walked off to return to the jungle.
As soon as the cat left the vicinity, I grabbed my book titled “Animal Speak” by Ted Andrews. This literary gem is a dictionary of animal spirit meanings and messages. I found the section for the jaguar and black panther – seeking a spiritual understanding of the visiting jungle cat. In Ted Andrews lengthy and in-depth explanation of the jaguar as understood from a multitude of cultures, the jaguar represents reclaiming ones true power, initiation, greater depth of vision and psychic abilities, clairaudience, the heroic quest, rising of kundalini, personal empowerment, protection, healing, magic, and rebirth. The black jaguar also has much to do with healing sexual traumas, psychic abilities, and awakening the divine feminine.
All of what I read was very true for where I was in my life, my healing process, and my spiritual journey. I was recovering from the shock of becoming a single mother with no outside help or support, I was calling back my true power after a period of devastation and pain, I was in a process of transformation and rebirth – on a heroic quest, seeking deeper meaning and magic, and beginning the conscious journey of healing from the sexual traumas I endured in my early childhood. After reading this information I knew in my heart that the cat was a gift of the spirit – medicine for my soul – come to initiate a deep healing and to help me reclaim my power. I knew in that moment that the jaguar wasn't coming to eat me or my children, but to carry a message and an energy to assist my process and my spiritual quest.
The black beast returned 5 more evenings. Each night the sensation of fear greatly diminished. I grew to embody a feeling of adoration and respect for this wild cat. I realized the low grumbling sound being emitted was like a purr, not a growl. This feline came as friend, not foe. Although I am not sure if the jaguar was a male or female, I have intuitively felt it was a she, and I refer to the cat as a she or as her.
My original fear upon encountering her was a deep, primal-like fear. It came from far within me, was paralyzing, and was not something I knew I could embody or experience. I believe that fear was associated with early childhood traumas, abuse, and the scars they had etched upon my soul. The nightly visitations from my feline friend were like a cleansing medicine – extracting the toxins of trauma, purifying my being, and offering liberation through transformation. I grew to look forward to her visits and waited each day in anticipation for the sun to set and the moment to arrive where her deep purrs could be heard outside my little lodge. After her seventh trip to my cabin she never came again. The fear had been washed away, a sense of empowerment and peace had begun to take hold within me, and I had passed through this mysterious initiation… I no longer needed her up close and personal magic and medicine.
The experience with my nightly jaguar visitation took place 9 years ago. Since then I have been revisited by both black and spotted jaguars in dreams and visions. Jaguar spirit seems to come close whenever I am in need of healing, encountering a life shift or transition, or facing a difficult situation. It is in these moments that jaguar comes to offer support, guide me, and help me tap into my own inner wisdom and power. A couple years ago, during one of the most difficult moments in my life, in an ayahuasca ceremony I entered a vision were I jaguar approached me, entered into my body, and allowed me the experience of becoming the jaguar. This amazingly powerful experience also gave me the understanding of how to resolve a very difficult and painful situation in my life. I was shown exactly how to make the changes I needed to transform the situation and to walk towards greater health, joy, and empowerment in my personal life.
I have only once, since my black jaguar experience, seen a jaguar in the flesh. Recently, my children and I visited an animal rehabilitation center. Here we met a male spotted jaguar, rescued from the wild in Costa Rica. This young male had been found as an infant – abandoned, injured, and malnourished. Although my heart hurt a bit to see him in captivity, I also felt great respect and gratitude for the help of humans to rescue him and nurse him to health. He has the opportunity to live in a large enclosement that includes plenty of roaming room, ramps and trees to climb, and a beautiful pool for swimming. Due to his challenges as an infant, he never grew to full size, and walks with a very pronounced limp. By the way my sons Mayan sign is the jaguar, “Ix”.
My love for the jaguar is immense. This spectacular cat has been a powerful guide and healer in my life. Jaguar reflects to me the potential of my own power, the beauty of the mystery, the ability to transform anything we choose to in our lives, and the richness of the rainforest. My love for these creatures, and for their natural habitat – the tropical jungles, motivates me to be a vigilant voice for the conservation and protection of the rainforests of this planet. I invite you all to join me by making conscious choices of what you buy, support, and eat. I urge people to boycott anything made from tropical hardwoods, unless you are absolutely sure it came from naturally fallen trees. I also urge people to boycott fast food and beef – as cattle farms have been the cause of mass deforestation throughout the tropics. Buy local, eat organic, and support companies and products that are aligned with sustainability and practises that ensure health and life to future generations. Help us also by signing petitions to stop private and government supported projects to build roads, dams, and other endeavours that are causing destruction of the tropical rainforests.
Perhaps my prayers will be answered and I will encounter another wild jaguar. If I do, I will be filled with gratitude and elation. Yet if I never see one in the wild again, I am happy to know that jaguar walks with me in spirit and is a friend forever to assist me and guide me on my life journey.
An excerpt from Animal Speak, regarding jaguar -
“Nietzche once said that "that which does not kill us makes us stronger." It is this same idea that is awakened in the lives of those who open to the power of the panther totem. Those things of childhood and beyond that created suffering and which caused a loss of innate power and creativity are about to be reawakened, confronted and transmuted.
The panther marks a new turn in the heroic path of those to whom it comes. It truly reflects more than just coming into one's own power. Rather it reflects a reclaiming of that which was lost and an intimate connection with the great archetypal force behind it. It gives an ability to go beyond what has been imagined, with opportunity to do so with discipline and control. It is the spirit of imminent rebirth.”