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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in totem

b2ap3_thumbnail_Jane-Meredith_white-cockatoos.jpgWhite sulphur-crested cockatoos have been my personal totem for years. In the wild they are a noisy, curious, intrusive bird that many people regard as pests, in spite of their beauty. They have a tendency to destroy verandas and windowsills (retaining their habit of ripping up dead wood to get at the insects they expect to find) and their call is loud and raucous. I’ve always loved them, although until recently I hadn’t lived anywhere they existed in large numbers. But now I’m living in the Blue Mountains I find myself surrounded by them.

It’s an interesting concept – that I’ve become local to my totem. I’ve chosen, eventually, to live where they live. As if I’ve been courting them for years and finally we have a good enough relationship that I can move in, onto their territory. I remember swirling flocks of them above me in the blue sky in a forest of ancient Antarctic beech, and I remember them out above the valley on previous trips to the Blue Mountains, climbing and swooping through the mist at my own height as I stood at a lookout. I made up a story about that harsh screeching call of theirs; how it was the sound that ripped open the night of the universe, back at the very beginning of time, and their gold-and-white heralded the the coming of light. They are iconic light-bearers with that white body and yellow crest, yellow blushing the underside of their wings.

About ten years ago I was working magic, looking for a way to speak up; both energetically and vocally – to become louder in the world – and I chose them as a totem, a beckoning reminder for how to sound out loudly through the air. They’ve been wonderful as mentors and totems, floating silent above me at surprising times or greeting me with a harsh call when I arrive somewhere. I’ve taken their appearance as encouragement, as a reminder to speak up and out and as a comfort. Their presence let me know that magic was alive and around me. I am much, much louder now than I was ten years ago, and when they call out overhead I call back to them, filled with pleasure at their existence.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Claudia Priori
    Claudia Priori says #
    Yes, yes, yes, I agree that a local totem from where you live makes wonderful magic. I have recently adopted the redback spider a
  • Alay'nya
    Alay'nya says #
    How absolutely lovely! I am so thrilled that you are responsive to these gorgeous, raucous birds - and what a great totem you've s

Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs
Loblolly by the-specious@flickrI'm always reminding clients and students to use their totems, not just visit them in trance and arrange them just-so on altars. I don't know if it's a Western habit or a general human one, but it seems a constant reminder is needed that we have resources, we have help. Isn't that the crux of animism? We're not alone. We don't have to do everything alone.
 
One of the key components of shamanism that makes it viable is the engaging of totems in holding space, not just acknowledging them every now and then, but actually allowing them to help us create, hold, and be the space. Any time, any place.
 
Case in point: After a long hiatus from working out due to chronic health conditions, I've recently begun running again. It's been a long time since I've run, actually. Over the last two years I've done all sorts of other workouts sporadically, though managing acute asthma took a toll on sticking with consistent activity. In that timeframe my body has been telling me to run, and I've avoided doing so, partly out of sheer fatigue, but also out of fear, trepidation that I'd trigger the awful episodes I've worked so hard to control.
 
Last week I threw caution to the wind and decided it was time, not just to engage in duration exercise, but to do what my body has been telling me it wants to do: run. I've started with short duration and gone a little longer each day, climate-controlled, nice and tidy. The other day it was cool outside, so I ran outdoors. Once I got past the initial aches and moans of an asphalt half mile, I found my rhythm, then minor annoyances abated. However, other chatter began. My lungs began to burn and that familiar choking sensation crept through my airways, wrapped my throat, and I began coughing. I started stressing.
 
I slowed my pace but stayed moving, soothing the worried voice in my head. As I did, I noticed birds singing, a soft breeze blowing in the treetops, dogs barking, rasping cicada tymbals. I smelled pine, freshly mown grass.  Surrounded by Nature, I decided to take my own medicine. I realized my inherent soul connection to the elements around me, and thanked them for supporting me on my run. I invited them to tell me what they need from me, and was told to engage them again, and again. I really felt like I wasn't running through the elements, but with them, actively.
 
These weren't new spirit visitors or Nature friends. I've worked with many of them before in fleeting engagements. I honor them each time I create sacred space in my home because they are the Nature Spirits of my land, its Elders. However, bringing them into my daily routine was a vastly more validating experience, interactive not just in my senses, but my cells.
 
And yes, my breathing eased. I finished the run with no problem.
 
No, they weren't my personal totems. I don't have likenesses of loblollies or cicadas on my altar. The thing is, they don't have to be. Even in off-the-hook shamanist and totemist circles, there still pervades the idea that we're locked into certain totems, forever and always, that we can't just honor drive-by connections, or ones that suit specific circumstances. Such limitation is what inhibits deep animistic connections. It's just too easy to move through the space around us and not notice all the support that's there. Yet it's equally easy to pause for a second and consider the spiritual surroundings, the waiting support.
 
I say it over and over, but the hardest part of mindfulness and forging an authentic spiritual path is to remember to pause.  When we remember the pause, we recall to choose how we move forward.

SoulIntentArts.com

I haven't run outdoors since, but I will. I have, however, driven through my neighborhood every day, seeing it, hearing it, experiencing it with different appreciation, a fuller sense of being.
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b2ap3_thumbnail_somo.jpg

 

There is a subtle narrative that exists in the desert, where I meander through a series of washes that lead into canyons. I am nicely secluded, despite being in the middle of one of the West’s largest cities. Summertime in the Sonoran Desert is perfect for a solitary fox like me… I scurry and watch, quietly observing ripening tunas on prickly pear, and listen to the curve-billed thrasher chiming a sharp morning hello to fellow winged compadres. The air is hot, even at 4:30am. The breeze is close but discomforting in its stagnant hold of sand and baked stone. I take a seat on the granite, smoothed by monsoon water flow, and wait for a story to be told.

This is the wash where I have spent many hours. When I arrived in Phoenix in 2007, South Mountain Park, or Muhadag Do’ag, as the range is known by the O’odham nations, was my first taste of this unusual land of light and edge. I have met many wild companions during my solo hikes here. I have listened to the song of five coyotes as they created day from night – turning stars into saguaro blooms. This is the place I watched resident owls descent in twilight, swooping low from their granite and gneiss shelters and out onto the cityscape, into December’s near-chill nights.

In the dusty wash, I climb up onto an outcrop where a lizard (dreamtime) skitters behind the branches of a Palo Verde. I shift my focus to discover a spiral petroglyph, about 10 inches in diameter, carefully concealed by the new growth of the spiny, pale limbs. The glyph can be anywhere from a few hundred to a thousand years old – here, it is tough to tell. I consider the spiral. I feel the maze of my own mind and body. The blood moves through my heart and across the fields and waterways of my being to animate my arms, my legs. I inhale – the air circulates through time. I think of the path I walk and the lifetimes of fellow walkers, all sharing the breath, movement. I have been feeling so disconnected lately. When I dream of the maze, I remember that I am never alone… only my mind is the great isolator, but life –
the rhythm of breath and circulation – brings me back to the world.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Aleah Sato
    Aleah Sato says #
    Thank you, Nancy. I am so pleased the post resonated with you.
  • Nancy Vedder-Shults
    Nancy Vedder-Shults says #
    Your prose brings the morning you describe alive with its incandescent hummingbird!

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

b2ap3_thumbnail_Lupa_136_raw.jpgOh, all manner of things! Rocks and bones and potted plants and tubes of paint and antlers and bits of wood and other natural ephemera, just to name a few. But what’s it doing here on PaganSquare?

Historically I’ve reserved most of my how-to writing for my books [http://www.thegreenwolf.com/books.html], and my blogging and articles have generally centered more on spiritual issues and concepts, personal experiences, and the like. But I do get a lot of people writing to me asking how to do such-and-such practice, or work with this or that spiritual entity. So I’d like to make this more of a center for that sort of writing, and I am open to suggestions.

Of course, you may need a little context, so here are some of the things I work with:

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Eddie Black
    Eddie Black says #
    Surfing around I happen to stumble upon this page and I saw your name. I used to read you regularly way back in the LiveJournal da
  • Lupa
    Lupa says #
    Hey! I remember you! Good talking to you again I still have LJ though I barely use it; I'm on FB and Tumblr mostly, and I blog h
  • Tabitha Cole
    Tabitha Cole says #
    Lupa, I am very much enjoying your articles, they harmonize very much with my own spirit

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