Being as if a Donkey?

by | Dec 6, 2021 | Animals, Compassion, Creative Exercise, Home, Inspiration, Nonhumans | 0 comments

Patience is the virtue of the donkeys.

– French Proverb


Today, on the 6th of December Catholics celebrates Saint Nicholas, the protector of children and sailors. Once I was a kid and once a sailor too, but today, I am choosing him not because of my Catholic upbringing but for his helpers, Donkey and White Horse. While people focus on consumerism to approach tradition, rarely anybody mentions St. Nicholas’s animal helpers. There are different traditions and, in some countries, Donkey appears as the only animal helper, carrying presents and in others, it is the White Horse whom St. Nicholas rides. Whether Donkey or White Horse, both species have been for ages with us, carrying us and our weights, in everyday works, and even today they still do.

I remember an occasion when my was brother 9 and I was around 12 years old, while we were on vacation in a small town in South-Croatian coast. And I remember it because recently I have found the photograph that reminded me of that memory. On its backside it was written: brother and me with donkey Tose. We are standing and looking into the camera, I am on the left side of the photo and my brother on the right side, and in the middle that beautiful greyish-brownish Tose. He seems as if being bored with us and why wouldn’t he be because who knows how many kids already jumped on his back or pinched his ears! My brother is holding his ear gently and is smiling equally gently. I am more reserved for the camera, but I know, I feel now my openness and gentleness felt toward Tose. He was the most beautiful donkey I have ever seen and I felt sorry for him, that he had to walk through that sunny day on a sandy beach where your feet fall down into the bubbling hot sand and spend it with many annoying nagging brats. Who would want that? Nobody!



donkey overlooking coast and forrest


           Photo: Ivana Filip, 2018

Tose was gentle and shy, well behaved and still standing. I wondered those few moments in the back of my exhilarating experience if he was well while I wished I could take him home and take care of him, to save him, feed him and brush his thick but around the ears and head soft hair, and massage his shell alike ears. It may be that I even cried after he and his human left to take photographs with other kids. I felt ambiguous – happy and said, good and bad, smiling but worried.

I will never know if Tose was treated well and how well, but I trusted my feelings and intuition that time more than a few more years later. As kids we are more connected to our authentic self while we slowly get shaped and influenced by our parents and society. Therefore, I felt deep empathy for Tose and I trusted and trust when I say that he would not choose walking around bright and burning summer beach if he could choose. Tose would be keeping a shade and munching carrots, of course! For that and for all the work that They, Donkeys did not want to do, but were forced to do for us, I thank them all and apologize. It is hard to believe that there is a balance in our Universe, which we may read as abusive, unfair and painful to digest.

Historians believe that Donkeys were domesticated by Nubians around 4,500 years ago. In that region they took over for the Ox as an important pack animal. This position in life lead to Donkey becoming an integral participant in mobilizing pastoral and agricultural communities. They could travel easily over long distances, and even two of the first Egyptian Pharaohs valued them enough to give them honourable burials. Therefore, Donkey symbolism and meaning are tied together with the growth of civilization, travel, trade and general service. Their versatility and being a beloved beast of burden is legendary.

In the 2nd millennium BC, Donkey made its way into Europe. In Greece, Donkeys had quite the raucous God looking over them, namely Dionysus the God of wine. From the ancient Grecian hub, Donkeys made their way into Spain, France and Italy. Romans continued distributing Donkey throughout the realm.

No matter the region Donkey’s somewhat stubborn nature was actually an asset. This creature does not move if they perceive any danger. Donkeys know well what they can and can’t do. As humans learned to trust Donkey’s intuitive senses it often kept them out of trouble. The lesson here from the animal spirit guide, world is one of caution. When we have a challenge, look for a safe means of resolving it rather than simply running right ahead. Donkey teaches you to say no – especially in situations where what people ask of you goes against your personal views and beliefs. The Donkey symbolism reminds us of the importance of self-preservation. As you go through life, it is essential not to put yourself in situations where you can get hurt. If a particular habit isn’t improving your life, change it. This power animal also prompts you to take care of yourself and not spend the rest of your life, trying to win the crowd’s approval.

The Donkey is a symbol of stubbornness, self-awareness, honesty, simplicity, and integrity. The Donkey is also a symbol of work, humility, diligence, courage, and truth. Donkeys are sacred animals in Buddhism. They are considered to represent gentleness and patience in the religion. Being herd animals, they also represent the values of a close-knit community.

For this week, use the Donkey symbolism in different areas of your life and see, brainstorm, feel, write or try, where you can be more beautiful Donkey.

Love and thanks for reading,


Ivana Filip’s collection of works and products is inspired by her research, affect and close coexistence with nonhumans. Works in the shop as such represent the extension of her artistic practice. Hopefully these artworks and products can contribute to your richer experience and relationship with nonhumans or perhaps make your dear one jollier. Every month we shall donate 10% of our monthly income to a non-profit dedicated to the protection of nonhumans in Croatia.

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