The name I produce my spiritual writings and paintings under derives from the Ladakhi name for snow leopard (Shan) and was given to me by a very wise old man. The story of the name is told in my book which I talk about in a blog entitled ‘The Journey‘. In this blog I look at the snow leopard, some facts and myths and why it is now incorporated into my avatar. And the connection between snow leopards and otters.
Shan – Snow Leopards and Otters
The State Animal of Ladakh
The snow leopard was announced as the state animal of Ladakh in Northern India on1 September 2021 alongside the black-knecked crane which was announced as the state bird.
Interesting Facts About Snow Leopards
- The snow leopard, is one of the most endangered species on Earth.
- They live in Central Asia
- They are more closely related to the tiger than the leopard family.
- In Ladakh snow leopards are known as the ‘Shan’. They have various other names across Central Asia including ‘Shen’ in Tibet.
- Unusually, snow leopards have blue, green or grey eyes, as opposed to yellow or orange which is more normally found in big cats. This may be to help them blend in with their environment.
- Snow leopards’ vocal chords are not like other big cats and are more akin to the domestic cat. They can’t roar for example!
Myths About Snow Leopards
Taking The Form Of Snow Leopards
Tibet’s eleventh century poet-saint, Milarepa, was said to have been able to change form at will and once took the form of a snow leopard. There are other stories of great lamas frequently making trips to Tibet in the form of snow leopards.
Snow Leopards and Otters
According to the Snow Leopard Conservancy, one of the myths and legends about snow leopards involves their interaction with otters:
People in Ladakh, Northern India, and “next door” in the Baltistan region of Northern Pakistan, consider the snow leopard to be a part-land, part-water animal. They believe that there is only a female snow leopard. The female comes into heat on a full moon night, goes to the edge of a water body, a lake or a river, and calls to the male otter. The otter comes out of the water and mates with the female snow leopard. After copulation, the female returns to the mountains and the otter goes back into the water. At the time of birth the pregnant snow leopard comes again to the edge of the water and gives birth. A newborn male cub goes in the water and becomes an otter while the female cub goes in the mountain with the mother.
Isn’t that a wonderful story? I love it so much, I am starting to sketch out a new painting based on the imagery it creates.
Snow Leopard In My Avatar
For many years I endeavoured to keep my spiritual art and writing separate from my business life. Therefore I always signed my spiritual art and writing ‘Shan’ or ‘ShannathShima’ rather than use my full name. Now retired I use both names. In designing a new avatar I felt it was important to depict a merger of these two aspects of me. The avatar involves a photograph of myself painting on canvas with a photograph of a snow leopards. There is the suggestion of splodges of paint as the two images merge. I feel that, as an avatar, it represents where I am right now in my life.
Helping Snow Leopards
Many years ago I adopted a snow leopard through The Snow Leopard Trust. You can adopt a snow leopard, buy items featuring snow leopards or donate through their website. Another charity is the Snow Leopard Conservancy through which you can also make an adoption and buy products but they also organise snow leopard treks and much more.
Before you go
My name is Dorothy Berry-Lound (ShannathShima) an artist and writer. You can find out more about my art and writing at https://dorothyberryloundart.com.
Thank you for reading!