Squirrels belong to a large family of small or medium-sized rodents called the Sciuridae. Squirrels are indigenous to the Americas, Eurasia and Africa, and have been introduced to Australia. Squirrels typically have slender bodies with bushy tails and large eyes. Their fur is generally soft and silky, although much thicker in some species than others. The color of squirrels is highly variable between—and often even within species.
Squirrels live in almost every habitat from tropical rainforest to semiarid desert, avoiding only the high polar regions and the driest of deserts. They are predominantly herbivorous, subsisting on seeds and nuts, but many will eat insects and even small vertebrates. They can be domesticated into a pet in a home while in other areas they are used as meat.
The life span of the Gray squirrel is approximately six years. Most urban squirrels do not reach their first birthday. This is due not to predators, but rather to automobiles. Compared to its rural counterpart, which often perishes from lack of food.
Whether Urban or Country Pagan, most people have seen or heard a squirrel, or a member of the squirrel family, throughout the world. They are playful, curious and quick climbers. The gathering power of Squirrel is a great gift. It teaches us balance within the circle of gathering and giving out. They remind us that in our quest for our goals, it is vital to make time for play and socializing. Squirrels teaches us to conserve our energy for times of need.
In Native American folktales, squirrels are most noted for their noisy and aggressive behavior. Squirrel characters frequently spread gossip, instigate trouble between other animals, or annoy others with their rudeness and bossiness. However, in some stories they are praised for their industrious food-gathering and courage, and among southeastern tribes, squirrels are honored as caretakers of the forest. Some Northwest Coast tribes consider the squirrel a messenger who may bring warnings of danger to the people.
We’ve all heard not to shoot the messenger, and that may hold true even in the case of the gossipy messenger of Norse myth known as Ratatoskr. In Norse mythology, Ratatoskr is a squirrel who runs up and down the world tree Yggdrasil to carry messages between the eagle, perched atop Yggdrasil, and the serpent, who dwells beneath one of the three roots of the tree. Information must come fast and furious. One theory for the origin of the squirrel likens Ratatoskr to malicious gossips, explaining why the messenger role went to a lowly animal or person. Another says the role may have arisen due to the tree squirrel’s shrieking warning call, which can easily sound like he’s screaming nasty things.
Ask yourself are you too active, not active enough, afraid of enough, hung up on accumulating and collecting. Squirrel people tend to be a little erratic – trying to do many things at once. Take the time to stop and listen to your inner self – and don’t forget to play!
On the ash-tree Yggdrasil;
From above the words of the eagle he bears,
And tells them to Nithhogg beneath."