Etymologically speaking, the term flora and fauna was popularized by Linnaeus in the mid 18th century, and means the plant and animal life of a particular religion. The words flora and fauna originate from deity names in the Roman pantheon. Flora is the goddess of flowering plants, whose feast day was celebrated at the end of April, and Fauna is a goddess who is either the daughter, sister, or consort (as Bona Dea) of Faunus, a sort of analog to the Greek Pan considered be a god of the woods and wild lands as well as prophecy. From a Pagan perspective, knowing your flora and fauna is a two-fold idea–both knowing the plants and animals (among other things) of your land-base and knowing the Flora and Fauna (whether or not there is actually a Flora and Fauna in your pantheon) of your land base as well.
Once again, this gets back to the idea of loving where you live as an active devotion–of spiritual bioregionalism. Every one of us lives in a unique ecosystem with a unique history. ” Our individual ecosystem can strengthen us, can teach us, can shape us…if we let it. If we know how to talk to it–and more importantly, if we know how to listen to it. I’ve said it enough times that I think I’m a broken record on the subject, but part of being a witch is being part of one’s environment. That means knowing my local plants and animals, knowing where my water comes from, what my geography means for my weather patterns, what the natural AND human history of my landbase is, and where my soil comes from.”*
You can’t be part of your environment without knowing your landbase…and you can’t know your landbase if you don’t know whom you share it with. Maybe it seems like a daunting task…after all, there are 1.3 million described species (as of 2013), and (perhaps) an estimated 8.7 million species in total. So start small, and close to home…
Who are your neighbors (two legged, four legged, feathered, finned and leafy)? Start in your backyard–learn the trees, the grasses, the “weeds”, wildflowers and shrubs, the birds and small mammals that visit, look for amphibians and reptiles, get to know your insects. Once you have those down, learn your neighborhood, and then the parks and wild spaces where you live. Get field guides specific to your state or your ecosystem (or both), and learn your flora and fauna as a way to know your Flora and Fauna!