In Hinduism, Lakshmi takes centerstage as the Goddess of Wealth, Abundance and Prosperity. There are two animals associated with the Goddess: the elephant and the owl. They are her vahana, the vehicles by which she travels and transports herself in the natural world.

In iconography, Lakshmi is usually depicted flanked with two elephants that pour forth water. This represents the beginning of agricultural and even animal abundance.

Without water to sustain our existence, we–all living beings–would simply not exist. The human body consists of at least 60 percent water. We all need water for survival and nourishment. Without it, we would die. We would cease to be. We would just not be.

The other animal less popularly associated with Lakshmi is the owl. I have seen images of her being transported by the owl, but generally speaking, this animal is hidden from popular view. The owl is one of those birds that comes with a mixed meaning. In some cultures, it is a symbol of wisdom; while in other cultures, it is viewed as a bad omen and a harbinger of doom.

In either case, there are strong feminine, matriarchal and maternal tendencies associated with both animals. In herds of elephants, the matriarch mother–who is typically the oldest and largest female–is the head of the family. She is responsible for defending and looking after the entire herd. Just like our own mothers, the elephant imparts the valuable knowledge they have gained from their lives and their experiences. The owl, too, is associated with Grandmother Wisdom and powerful powers of perception.

There is an old story; that the Goddess Lakshmi is only one half of a whole. It has been said that Lakshmi has a twin sister. Her twin sister is known as Alakshmi. She has been called many things that are antithesis to what we associate with Lakshmi. This includes: poverty, strife, quarrel, exploitation, decay and death. Lakshmi thus represents the blessing that is loved while Alakshmi represents the curse that is dreaded.

The two exist as a whole; without either there is neither.

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