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Native Paths - Animal Totems & Earth Medicine
Category: Walking the Red Road
Roles of the Animal Totems
“Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect."
Explanation of the Animal Totems and their Roles along the Sacred Hoop of Life:
As the quote from Chief Seattle above so eloquently illustrates, we are all connected, not just to other "two-leggeds" and the family of man, but to the animals, the trees, the wind, the earth Herself. Like a beautiful blanket woven from many colors and textures of thread, each individual energy contributes to this Blanket of Oneness, and all are bound together.
Our thoughts, actions and deeds not only have an impact upon our own life along the Red Road, but like a pebble tossed into a pond, the ripples of our movement along the Web has far-reaching effects. Thus, if we callously pollute the air of the Earth Mother, dump toxins into her streams and oceans, kill her creatures and bountiful, beautiful life, we are also destroying ourselves, for one cannot cut off their own arm and not feel the pain of the loss.
Yet we can also be a positive influence upon the lives of Others, we can tread softly upon the Earth Mother and respect her creatures of the land, ocean and sky, and in this way, also heal and nourish ourselves.
When we can look into the heavens and see the love of the Great Mystery glimmering amongst the stars, feel the Divine presence in the heartbeat of a rabbit, or see it reflected in the large tender eyes of a deer, then we are beginning to Understand the intricate bond that is shared with All Things born of the Great Mystery. This is when we begin to understand that Allies accompany us along this Journey around the Sacred Hoop of Life, and though they may be Unseen to our mortal eyes, the bond is a beautiful and intricate thread that is ever present, all we have to do is to acknowledge their presence, offer our thanks, embrace their Wisdom and Medicine, and accept the Lessons that they Teach.
Below, you will find a listing of the various Animal Totem Roles, along with a brief description of each. Let the Unfolding of the Soul`s Unique Purpose begin...
This is the Totem Role that we will begin with, as most individuals who have studied Native Astrology are already familiar with this particular Role. It is the Animal Totem most often equated with the Sun Sign in traditional, esoteric astrology.
The Birth Totem is that Animal Spirit which is the equivalent to the Sun Sign in traditional, exoteric Astrology. Almost everyone in western culture knows what “sun sign” they were born under. In Native Wisdom, there are twelve different Creature Beings that are assigned as the Birth Totem for a period of approximately one month. Hence, our Birth Totem is based upon the day and month of our birth.
Yet, unlike the study of Sun signs in exoteric astrology, the Birth Totem is not so much representative of our ego, as it is a Teacher that we have chosen to "study under" in the current incarnation. In somewhat simpler terms, this means that the Wisdom and Medicine of our Birth Totem, brings to us the mini lessons that we have chosen and absorb this walk around the Sacred Hoop in order that our soul may evolve and progress. The more one aligns and integrates with the lessons that come to us throughout our life, the more we will tend to exhibit the Higher Vibration, characteristics and attributes of that particular Birth Totem.
The Role of the Birth Totem is assigned to a specific Animal Spirit for the birth day and month as delineated below:
Each of the individual Birth Totems will also belong to one of the four Elemental Clans: Turtle Clan, Frog Clan, Thunderbird Clan, Butterfly Clan.
As with traditional exoteric astrology, where each of the twelve zodiac signs fall within a key element, each of the Birth Totems also belong to an Elemental Clan, as governed by one of the four Elemental Chiefs of Fire (Hawk), Earth (Turtle), Air (Butterfly) and Water (Frog).
In Earth Medicine, the Fire Chief is a powerful Force that blazes in heat and illumination. He is a Power that governs the day, inspires the hearts of Humans, and is the Source behind the life-giving rays of the Sun. His energy can either annihilate in reckless abandon and/or vengeance, or can warm a hardened heart by inspiring love and illuminating the way for one who has become lost on their Pathway.
This Chief is the Nurturing Force that provides sustenance and stability. She is soil that provides the nutrition all life on this planet needs in order to live . . . she is one with the Earth Mother. She is the Power that beckons us to provide security for ourselves and Others and is the Source behind the planting of life itself. This Chief can be sustaining and productive, she can also be restrictive, indomitable and unyielding.
Earth Medicine teaches us that the Air Chief is the Force that brings to Humanity new ideas. He is the Power behind innovations and inventions and is the Source of intellectual stimulation and conveyance. He is the jovial breeze that elicits laughter, thoughts and communication, yet he is also the element that loves to argue for arguments sake and can be restless and detached.
She is the Chief Force that teaches us the beauty and necessity of emotion and feeling, the Power of the emotional, psychic and spiritual healer that washes the soul in insight and contemplation. Water is the Source of the Soul, an effervescent wellspring that gives of herself free of thought for what will be received in return, yet she can also turn tumultuous with emotions hurtling and crashing like the ocean’s waves.
Where the Birth Totem is the chief Teacher we have chosen to "study under" this Earth Walk, the Power Totem is the most basic and eternal expression of our Soul.
Chief amongst the Animal Totems, the Power Totem is our primary animal spirit that walks, flies or swims beside us as constant companion, guide, protector, teacher, soul brother/sister, and connection to the Blue Road of Spirit and the Great Mystery.
In esoteric astrology, the Soul Ray is the reincarnating You, the essence of the eternal spark which transcends physical "death" to continue its evolution as it reincarnates into different bodies, times and places so that it might experience all that it needs in order to reach the point where there is no longer the "need" to incarnate into flesh.
Similarly, the Power Totem is that Animal Spirit which is most closely related (of spirit) to us, and thus will reincarnate with us again and again, and from lifetime to lifetime, as it is our constant ally. Much as the Soul Ray will explain the Soul`s Unique Purpose whilst in flesh , the Power Totem is a reflection of our own Soul, and likewise represents our Life Path and the major lessons, attributes and abilities of our individual and eternal spark.
~Life Theme Totem~
In addition to the "generalized" Totems of Birth and Clan, which cover a group of people born under a certain day and month, there are several other Animal Totems that will figure strongly in our lives as we walk the good Red Road of Physical Life. One such of these Totem Roles is the Life Theme Totem.
While the Power Totem is the reincarnating You, and is with us from incarnation to incarnation, the Life Theme Totem is with us only for the current Earth Walk. This is the Animal Spirit that is with us to Teach the Wisdom and Understanding of the current Life Theme, as well as to assist us in fulfilling our Souls present Life Mission. For those familiar with traditional astrology, the Role of the Theme Totem is very similar to the Ascendant or Rising sign that establishes the "goal post" for the current incarnation.
To understand a little better exactly what the role of this Animal Spirit is, perhaps it is best to begin by understanding what is meant by the Life Theme and Life Mission.
As we are standing at the Eastern Gate of the Wheel of Life and preparing to enter into the flesh for our next incarnation, our Soul is guided to make choices and decisions that will bring us the lessons and experiences that we need in order to best achieve the Souls growth. Part of this is the choice of what the general Theme will be for the new incarnation.
As an example, for one who chooses the Theme of Truth, their experiences within that lifetime will be encountered so that they will learn the importance and necessity of operating from Truth, not only in the words they speak, but in the way in which they conduct their dealings with Others, how they face their own issues and lessons, and ultimately, in how they relate, respond and act upon Life in Physical itself. Consequently, this soul may encounter many individuals and situations in which they are deceived, lied to and spoken Untruths to, causing emotional pain or perhaps resulting in financial losses, or other such manifestations that will reinforce within their own Soul the importance and value of Truth in all things.
Truth thus becomes a motto that they will then live the remainder of their life by, and held as a banner of sorts that will mark their personality (both to others, and to themselves). This would be an example of a Life Theme.
The Theme Totem in this example then would be one that would have Truth as an integral part of that Animal Spirits Wisdom, and hence, he/she would act as a guide, teacher and mentor to light the way toward fulfilling that two-leggeds current Life Theme. One of the Totems that would have Truth figuring prominently in their Medicine would be White Buffalo.
~Life Mission Totem~
Just as the Life Theme Animal Spirit is only with us for the current earthwalk, the same holds true for our Life Mission Totem, with he/she possessing the Wisdom and Medicine that will assist us in fulfilling our chosen Life Mission.
Along with our Life Theme for the present incarnation, we also arrive with a Life Mission. Where the Theme represents the general goals and focus of the current earthwalk and is the current Pathway or direction for the evolving soul, the Life Mission is a specific Role we have come onto the Wheel to learn, absorb and fulfill. As such, we will feel the pull of our Life Mission as a "higher calling," and this is not far off the mark, as it is quite literally a Mission or Special Service that we have agreed to fulfill long before beginning our Earthwalk.
As an example, say one chooses the Mission of Healer in the present existence. That individual would come in with latent healing abilities, either through the "laying on of hands," the ability to send out healing energies across vast distances, or as a highly skilled surgeon or doctor.There would be the sense that the soul has a "special calling" to fulfill in Medicine and must obey that call at any cost. Thus, the Animal Totem that walks, flies or swims beside the individual who has Life Mission of Healer, would have a strong alignment to Healing as an integral part of that Animals Medicine. An example of just such an Animal Totem would be Dolphin, who has Healing as one of his/her keywords.
As we enter onto the Sacred Hoop, we choose the general Path, Theme and Mission of our current Earthwalk. Additionally, we will chose the major and minor lessons that our soul will encounter so that it may evolve and move beyond the "need" to take up the Robe of Physical Life.
Within each incarnation, there are many Life Lessons to be encountered, and with each of these Lessons, we are given the blessing of having an Animal Spirit journey with us, providing us with the wisdom and guidance unique to that Totem. These Animal Totems are known as the Lesson Totem.
As we acknowledge, embrace, resolve and absorb the Lessons that are presented to us while in our physical bodies, we are aligning ourselves, either consciously or subconsciously, to that Animal Totem and their Medicine. Once that Major Life Lesson has been learned and assimilated. it is then that we shift a level in our Souls Journey and Growth, and the Lesson Totem who has journeyed beside us through that Lesson will now move aside so that the next Animal Spirit may arrive, bringing with him/her our new Lesson.
An example would be an individual who has current Lesson Totem of White Tiger. As a Lesson Totem, White Tiger would be present to teach that individual the importance of the Power of Conviction, as this is one of the keywords of White Tiger. It may be that the person who has drawn this lesson is a mild person by nature with a Power Totem that is inherently reserved and reticent, and yet this soul may have chosen to learn how to become more outspoken about their beliefs on the present Earthwalk.
Once this individual has learned the importance of speaking up for his/her convictions, then the White Tiger, having fulfilled its responsibility, will quietly step aside. Perhaps the new Lesson is one of Industriousness, so where White Tiger once stood, perhaps Bee Totem will now appear, bringing with him/her the Wisdom of Industry.
And so, as the examples above are designed to illustrate, the Lesson Totems are ever-changing as we grow and evolve, with each new Animal Spirit bringing us the next in a series of lessons as he/she shares our Sacred Space on this journey around the Wheel.
In addition to the Animal Totems that we have either for the current Earthwalk (as in the Birth, Theme and Mission Totems), the Animal Spirit that is with us from lifetime to lifetime (Power Totem), and the Lesson Totems (which change within the current incarnation), there are also Spirit Totems that hover at the edge of our consciousness, acting as emissaries between the Blue Road of Spirit and the Red Road of Physical Life.
These Animal Spirits are known as the Messenger Totems, and as the name implies, they are exactly that, Messengers from the Elders, the Ancestors, the Great Spirit.
When we begin to recognize that there is a unifying thread between all things, when we initiate and establish a connection to the Animal Spirits and express our thanks (in word and deed), we are embarking upon a wondrous Path of Understanding. We begin to recognize that there is a rhythm which flows through all avenues of our life here in physical, that there is a deeper meaning to all of life`s experiences and challenges. Then, as those bonds to the Animal Spirits deepen and we nurture our connection to the Earth Mother and all that dwell upon, above or within Her, give thanks to the Great Mystery for all that is given, and show our respect and reverence for all life, we are establishing a link through which the other planes of existence might contact, guide and teach us.
One of the most effective ways that the Elders have of contacting the open and listening heart, is through the Animals. Therefore, one who is deeply attuned to the Medicine of all living things, understands that we are never truly alone, never disconnected from that place which we may think of as Home.
When the Great Spirit desires to send us a message, the message will frequently arrive in the form of an animal. By tuning into the messages that this animal is presenting to us, making note of its color, species, even the direction from whence it makes its appearance, we will learn much about situations we are currently encountering, or about to encounter, and are thus being forewarned or advised.
For instance, suppose you are out for a walk in the woods and you encounter a rabbit scampering across your path in front of you. Lets imagine that the rabbit hopped in from the West and stopped directly in front of you at the South. The fact that he/she approached from the West is significant in that perhaps you have been in a time of quiet introspection which is symbolized by the West Wind/Direction, or the Quest Within. As he stopped at the South, perhaps he is bringing you the message that it is time for you to step outside of yourself, that you have done enough inward journeying for the time being and you are to simply Recall Your Inner Child, as symbolized by the South Wind/Direction.
Of course, the species would also point to a message being delivered from the Ancestors and would be incorporated into the Direction. For instance, when rabbit crosses our path (amongst other things), it can indicate that this is a time to be tender and compassionate, yet to rely upon our intuition and think quickly on our feet. Most of all, Rabbits appearance would indicate this is a time to strengthen the intuition. By combining the Wisdom unique to that specific Animal (in this instance Rabbit), along with the Direction that Rabbit stops in front of you (South) the message would seem to indicate that by recalling the inner child and having "childlike" faith, your own sense of timing and intuition will grow stronger, both in aiding yourself, and for assisting Others.
Additionally, there are the "silent messages" that the Animals bring to us, yet in order to hear those whispered thoughts and images, we must have an open heart and trusting soul that we may answer the call of our Ancestors.
Yet, as we begin to pay closer attention to the environment, animals, birds and all life about us, their messages become clearer, and a life-long rapport with all living things may blossom and lead us ever forward on an amazing Journey of Wonder and Discovery.
The Shadow Totem is the Animal Spirit that brings forth unresolved issues for resolving, unhealed pain that it may be healed, and the Personality Center operating from destructive tendencies that we might absorb and integrate the Lessons of the Past.
Journeying beside us on our walk around the Sacred Hoop, the Animal Spirits (Totems) are our constant companions and allies. As we have discovered through examining the preceding Roles (from Power through Messenger), each of these Totems are with us to teach us their Wisdom and instruct us in their powerful and unique Medicine. With each of these Totems, there is also a specific goal, lesson or area of our Earthwalk that the Animal Spirits govern, yet of all the Totems, the role that is perhaps the most challenging and uncomfortable for we of the two-legged to face, is that of the Shadow Totem.
The Shadow Totem is that Animal Spirit that embodies our alternate Self, or our Personality Center. When the Shadow is not integrated, it is the repository of our fears, frustrations, temptations, impulsive/compulsive reactions and our anger and unresolved pain. Perhaps because our modern society has denied the existence of the Shadow Self, or conversely has exerted an over abundance of effort in nurturing it, we have also learned to fear this extension of our inner Self.
By first recognizing that within each of us dwells a Shadow, a reflection of the Personality Center that exists at the core of the Subconscious Mind, we begin to acknowledge the wisdom and gifts that this Totem brings to us, and thereby take a step closer toward the process of integration.
The Shadow prowls the corridors of our Unconscious mind, yet it is not the id itself, as the id is primarily the root of both our Psychic Energy, and the amalgamation of our instinctual drives and needs which the conscious mind represses. While the Shadow is in part our repressed instinctual needs, it is also the very heart of the un-integrated Personality Center. Thus, while the Shadow Self operates mostly in unconscious reflex, it is not based upon instinctual desires alone, but is a sum total of many parts including fear, anger, repressed drives and needs, past pain that has not yet been healed, resolved and integrated, as well as our early childhood conditioning.
As the Shadow Totem walks, flies or swims beside us, we may come to understand, and ultimately integrate, the darker reflection of our Personality. By understanding the Contrary Medicine that this Animal Spirit brings to us and absorbing the Lessons and Wisdom he/she has to impart, we transmute the Medicine from something to be feared or repressed, to an integrated and cohesive Center.
When the pain of past traumas have been embraced, healed and resolved, then we may look upon our Shadow Totem in a new light, understanding that all along, he/she is merely a reflection cast from our own unresolved issues, lessons and pain. With understanding, healing and integration, the Shadow is no longer a separate and dark entity that relentlessly pursues us, and we come to see that where our footsteps fall, no fractured Shadow is cast, for there is only the light of the Integrated Self.
Determining the Shadow Totem and Integrating His/Her Medicine
One may determine their Shadow Totem through a variety of methods, yet one of the "easiest" methods is to think of that animal which is the most frightening to us. For some, this may be a spider, others a lion, yet others still a wolf or a snake. Yet this is not always a "fool proof" barometer for discovering the Shadow Totem, and it is wise in any event to spend some time going Within and getting acquainted with this Animal Spirit.
To discover the Shadow Totem that journeys beside you and to uncover the Wisdom that he/she has to teach, an invitation (spoken out loud) to reveal him/herself during your dreams or while meditating, will often elicit a vivid encounter.
Once the Shadow Totem has been revealed, it is important to embrace that Animal Spirit for the Wisdom and Medicine they bring to you on this Earthwalk. Begin with a prayer of thanks for their Role alongside you, and affirm to yourself that it is your Intent to acknowledge in conscious awareness the Lessons that he/she has brought to you.
The next phase of embracing the Shadow Totem may be both the most painful and the most intensive, yet the Growth that will arise from this process will be the ultimate reward.
As this can be a very painful and/or arduous process, some may benefit from guided counseling and healing. This can be sought through either traditional psychotherapy, or non conventional methods such as past life recall, esoteric astrology or intuitive counseling.
Whatever approach is undertaken, it is important to remember that the integration of the Shadow is a phase in which the psyche, body and soul may be vulnerable to outside influences. Therefore, it is imperative that a counselor be found in which trust is implicitly had, and that the counselor is experienced and highly capable. If you do not feel comfortable with the either the method and approach, or the trust factor of a current therapist/counselor, then you will need to find one with whom you can have complete confidence. Remember, this is your well-being you are looking after, and you have the right to make any changes or choices that you feel are necessary for the integration process to be successful.
During this time, the soul and psyche are especially vulnerable to "psychic attacks" from both non-integrated individuals, and/or from lower level energies that exist on either the Physical or Ethereal (Spiritual) planes.
To prevent such attacks, it is crucial that the aura (the energy field which extends beyond the confines of the physical body), is whole and intact. If there are any rips or breeches in this field, such attacks may deliver an especially powerful blow.
Successful psychic attacks can result in everything from physical illness to bouts of depression, listlessness and futility which may then become an overwhelming drain that distracts the Conscious mind from resolving and integrating the Shadow. One of the best defenses against these blows is to surround the Self with a White Light. Envision the entire body encapsulated in a shield of pure energy, seeing it stream down from above to cover every inch of both the physical body, and the aura.
Once this process has begun, the Shadow may temporarily become stronger, resisting the integrative process, or the pain may become so intense that there will be the urge to discontinue therapy. It is therefore crucial to surround oneself with positive and reinforcing influences and to reduce external stress by whatever extent and means possible or reasonable.
Of course, it is possible to acknowledge and integrate our Shadow ourselves, yet often a qualified individual (in some instances even friends and family members) who can operate from impartiality and detachment, can provide that neutral voice of reasoning, encouragement and reinforcement when we might otherwise be blind to our own issues/lessons.
By looking at the keywords associated with that Animal Spirit that is your Shadow Totem, one may begin to understand the lessons and challenges unique to that particular Totem. This, coupled with acknowledging our fears and examining our motives when there is a conflict Within, will assist us as we learn to walk in peace and integration with our Shadow.
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