meaning of turkey spirit animal

Spirit Animals: THANKFUL TURKEY

How perfect it is that during this season when we are taking stock of our harvest and practicing gratitude that we have as a mascot in our endeavor the humble turkey? The meaning of turkey spirit animal reflects service and sacrifice teaching us to balance receiving with giving. There are many aspects to the turkey’s life that we can relate to directly as we gather ’round with family and remember who we are in the group.

Meaning of Turkey in Social Settings

Turkeys are communal and social birds that travel in large flocks. They fly up into trees to perch and roost for the night, but they cannot take flight to travel long distances. This may indicate a need to stay grounded when in a group setting, and to know that you have an escape route nearby that will allow you the opportunity to see things from a higher vantage without having to leave the situation all together. This too can help you see things with a bit of detachment and be less angry or charged about what is going on. Turkeys are very mobile on the ground, running as fast as 25 mph. This speaks of an ability to navigate group settings and to travel with a group very easily. All of these aspects of turkey medicine relate to the family gatherings that happen around the holidays.

Turkeys look like primitive dinosaurs striding along the forest floor with long necks, legs, and tails. They are slender and from a distance, a plain brown. Their feathers do have a stunning bronze-green iridescence up close and at certain angles of light. They don’t have very good depth perception which explains why they tip their head from side to side when they walk. They are trying to determine how far away and big things are. Both the variable color of their feathers and their poor depth perception indicate a need to look carefully to decipher how big or small, drab or flashy, the situation in front of you might be and to not always make a snap judgement.

 

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Turkey Spirit Animal Language

Turkey males, or toms, are vocal animals that are easily lured in my the call of another male. We all know the characteristic gobble, but they also make an amazing sound called a boom or “chump” which is a sound emitted from deep in their chest that causes the air to shudder. The sound is like a subtle sonic boom. This chump is followed by a hum that is either created by a rattling of their tail or an exhalation of air through their mouth. The mechanism for each vocalization is not fully understood.

This reminds us to pay attention to how sounds affect our physical bodies. Which sounds repel or attract you? Turkey might be able to help teach you about how listen to your environment with your whole body rather than just your ears. It is also a reminder to be mindful of the vibration or energy we are putting out into the world from the core of who we are.

Meaning of Turkey: Showing Your True Colors

The males make overwhelming displays to not only impress females but to intimidate other males. They puff up to almost twice their usual size, fan their tails out behind them, and adopt an obvious strut. Their profile becomes round and compact. The images we are accustomed to seeing of turkeys during Thanksgiving are purely images of tom turkeys displaying. The color on the heads of toms varies. It is said that when they are excited their heads turn blue and when preparing for a fight, red. This is a bird that is not shy to state who they are and how they are feeling. Turkey spirit animal can come into our life to help us learn how to stand in our power, show our true colors, and boom our truth into the world.

Hen Turkey Humility

Then there are the unassuming, sweet, and relatively quiet females who “purr” and make “soft calls”. When not in full display, the males look very much like the females. The living out loud posture of a strutting tom is the rarity rather than the norm in turkey culture and it is interesting how in our culture we exalt the boastful image of the turkey. Even Benjamin Franklin understood that the turkey could be “a little vain and silly.” [1]  It is easy to get boastful in a world that is obsessed with selfies. The usual, humble nature of turkey is a reminder to not get caught up in booming who you are into the world.

The Service of Turkey Medicine

The main keynote of the turkey spirit animal is SERVICE. There is a selflessness to turkey medicine for they are known for giving their lives to nourish the tribes of North America. Sacrificing for the sake of nourishing another is balanced turkey medicine. The person who gives to show how great of a person they are, is dancing with the prideful energy of a tom turkey.

Where do you have the chance in your life to give back? How can your acts show appreciation for the abundance in your own life? Are you able to give without any return, without any recognition whatsoever?

In modern American tradition, turkey is obviously associated with Thanksgiving holiday. This is when we gather as a family. Turkey flocks are made up of nuclear family groups that work together to find food and keep each other safe. Isn’t that a lovely parallel? If you are dreading the upcoming holiday season and a house full of pesky relatives, you can call on turkey to help you come into harmony with the flock. Finding ways to help each other and enjoy each other’s company is an important aspect of honoring what we’ve been given.

Pausing for Thanks

This is a time of year when we’ve brought in the harvest of our labors, both literal and figurative. This is the season when we say “thank you” for what we’ve been given. By coming into relationship with turkey as a spirit animal, we are asked to study our relationship to what we have and what we give.

Are you able to appreciate what others have sacrificed to make your life possible? What are you willing to sacrifice so that others may prosper? Now is a good time to let go like the trees have their leaves and stop checking your bank balance. This is the time of year when you have too many things to do and too many holiday party invitations. Stop weighing the value of one act over another, of one person over another, and be willing to step in what it is that the universe is offering you as abundance. Then, remember to give back to the deep well from which that abundance pours forth.

[1] http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/american-myths-benjamin-franklins-turkey-and-the-presidential-seal-6623414/?no-ist

 

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hummingbird totem spirit animal

Spirit Animals: HUMMINGBIRD ELIXIR

Hummingbird Symbolism

Everywhere she goes there is this constant hum. The whiz of her wings shakes up the air. The vibration lights up her senses. She is a vibrant being of color seeking vibrant flowers. She drinks high powered nectar full of sugar. Hummingbird is energized with enthusiasm for living. Her mate rushes by in a blur of squeaks and buzzes. The flash of ruby on his throat takes her breath away. This is how it goes in the warmth of morning. By mid-day she may perch on a tiny branch to preen and rest for a bit. Then she’ll be back to the business of lighting up the world with her sound, her energy, and her love.

Hummingbird Love & Joy

We love hummingbirds. Over and over when they show up our eyes  twinkle. Our hearts unfurl one more step towards the infinite in the presence of these tiny little creatures.

If I were given only one word to describe the meaning of hummingbird symbolism, I would say, “love”. Give me two words and I say, “joy”. Love and joy can be such ambiguous answers although, especially when we don’t have access to them. Love and joy can slip through our fingers and escape the grasp of our hearts. We can’t make love or joy happen any more than we can cage the high powered, nectar fueled hummingbird.

Hummingbird spirit animal has much to teach us about the nature of love. She is not an anchored beast that has all four feet on the ground, nor is she a soaring bird of prey detached from the world below. Hummingbird spirit animal does not take a direct path. If a trail of light were to follow her wherever she goes, we’d see that she weaves through the world. The threads of love that connect us all are what weaves the world together.

Hummingbird’s wings move so quickly that we can’t decipher a single wingbeat. We can only watch where flight takes the bird. The nature of love is like this. We can’t identify where it is in time and space, but the threads of love determine the paths of our lives.

How is love changing your path right now? How can you abandon direct-line thinking and adopt the hummer-path? Where is your heart effortlessly lifting you up to? How does it feel when you are in the space of love? What makes your soul hum?

Strength of Hummingbird Spirit Animal

Hummingbird can cross a giant body of water like the Gulf of Mexico in one crossing, so it is easy to see how the strength, the stamina, the acrobatics, and the tenacity of hummingbird befuddles us. As with any great creature with abilities beyond our comprehension, hummingbird has found her way into all the great myths of the world.

Every society has a story to tell about hummingbird symbolism. In these stories, hummingbird spirit animal is associated with timelessness, tirelessness, rain, rainbows, warriors, fairies, lightness, beauty, circles, and jewels.

Hummingbirds and Immortality

Bears are omnivores, deer are herbivores, hawks are carnivores, and hummingbirds are nectarivores because they eat nectar. What a fun word – nectarivore! The word “nectar” originates from Greek words “nek” and “tar” that translate into “overcoming death”. Thus, nectar is synonymous with the “elixir of life”, a magical potion believed to make one immortal.

Not only does hummingbird drink life giving nectar, but she also literally overcomes death by going into a hibernation-like state called a “torpor” when food is scarce. Her metabolic rate is slowed to 1/15th of its normal rate. This speaks of going beyond survival.

How can you go beyond thinking only in terms of survival? Are you able to overcome your fears of failure, be that financial ruin or debilitating illness, and drink from the nectar of the Gods? What is the nectar that feeds you? Is it material wealth that you must attain or are you seeking recognition from others? Or is it the beauty of the world blossoming open in front of you?

Nectar is the literally the essence in a flower. Nectar contains a sweet scent that attracts pollinators. Hummingbird helps flowering and fruiting plants proliferate by spreading pollen about. She is the assistant in the creative power of nature. Hummingbird spirit animal goes straight to the essence, the heart, of the flower and drink up the truth that is there. By doing this she nurtures the beauty of the world.

Hummingbird animal totem can teach you how to go straight to the heart of the matter, the essence. Then you can carry that essence to other situations in your life. How will the truths you discover now result in abundance of spirit once the rains come?

Illusion and Hummingbird Symbolism

Hummingbird can hover in place, but the amount of energy and movement required to remain hung in midair is anything but still. She is a flurry of activity. Much of what hummingbird does is an optical illusion.

From one angle the black-chin of a Black-Chinned Hummingbird looks black, but in the right light it flashes a brilliant magenta. Many of the colors on male hummingbirds shimmer with a jewel-like iridescence when light skims across their feathers at the proper angle.

This is a reminder that all life is an illusion, and that magical flashes of the divine come when we’re not looking at something straight on. Our lives may look still outside, but be a blur of activity inside. In allowing the needle-like beak of the hummingbird totem animal to penetrate the opening flower of your being, nothing will ever look the same.

 

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meaning of red-tailed hawk symbolism

Spirit Animals: RED-TAILED HAWK ALLIANCE

Red-tails adapt easily to life with and around humans and, in general, are more in service to humanity than other hawk species. There is a famous red-tailed hawk that has nested on the side of a skyscraper on the edge of New York City’s Central Park for over twenty years. The male hawk, known as “Pale Male”, has an entire film documentary about him, his various mates, and his young.

It seems that the spirits prefer to send red-tails as messengers because of their gregarious and more approachable nature. In a sense, they are the labrador retrievers of the hawk world and both in spirit and in the flesh they can be our loyal best friends. The are also very conspicuous, found throughout North America in nearly every type of open or semi-open habitat. Seeing red-tailed hawks is such a common occurrence that one may miss the significance of red-tailed hawk symbolism all together, but just because a host of angels are sent to the skies above you doesn’t mean you should ignore them.

Symbolism of Red-Tailed Hawk Feathers

The red tail feathers of this hawk are extremely significant as they bring strong power in relation to the first chakra, otherwise known as the root chakra. The first chakra relates to situations and circumstances around family, friends, and community. Here is where our insecurities around being abandoned, outcast, and left alone are held. Here are our worries about being humiliated. To have red feathers at this chakra that is characterized by the color red amplifies the power of this message and demonstrates how integral these hawks can be in helping us work through healing wounds around our sense of belonging in tribes.

Red as a color relates to love, anger, and passion, matters we’d typically associate with the heart, but this is the personal heart, the one that ties us intimately with those we come into contact with on a daily basis.

If you look closely at the tail of a red-tail, you will see a thin black horizontal line running across the base of the feathers with each feather tipped by white. Red-tails are divine messengers meant to bring guidance from the heavens and ground the guidance out in the physical world. In grounding out the guidance (black line) the realms of spirit (white tip) are available even in the lowest, most mundane places. Many of a red-tail’s feathers are “barred” with multiple dark lines. This is a common feature of hawk feathers and speaks to how they are able to navigate multiple altitudes and embody many layers of understanding.

Relationship to the Tribe

Each red-tailed hawk has a unique plumage (coat of feathers), so despite the fact that they are literally one in a million of their kind, each is a unique individual with an important story to tell. In my book Gracious Wild: A Shamanic Journey with Hawks I tell the story written on the breast of my best friend, Graccia the female red-tailed hawk I worked with in a raptor education program:

I stood memorizing every single feather on her body. Each was as unique as a snowflake. Then, like peering through a looking glass, noticed a figure on one of the contour feathers among those in her belly. It was in the shape of a spirit, much like that of an angel. The spirit’s arms were straight out and it wore a long flowing robe that extended across the tip of Graccia’s feather. I took a step back and widened my focus. Before me stood a gathering of angels spanning the width of her breast. As I absorbed the entire picture I was without breath. Below the feathers painted with spirits were feathers hatched with horizontal lines. In reading the story written there, I saw that these markings represented the earth. The earth lines rose to form a fleet of spirits that looked like robed angels with arms outstretched. The spirit fleet then morphed into vertical lines, beings of light, shooting into the heavens. The pattern was so plainly written at this moment outside time. The story told on her breast was that of enlightened beings that are born of the earth and then merged with the heavens.

The fact that these stories are demonstrated on the hawk’s chests like a “shield” harkens back to family and tribal shields or coats of armor. If you had to draw the coat of armor for your family or your current tribe, what would it look like? If you are yearning for a new tribe, draw that coat of armor. Imagine what it would look like painted in cream and brown in the feathers of a hawk. Know that “your” people are out there.

The path may be to grow your own self-esteem so that you have the courage to be vulnerable with those around you. Graccia helped me open up and connect with those around me in a profound way, helping me see my tribe wherever I go now. Another opportunity may be to go out and risk making new friends and trying new things. With the image of your tribe to guide you, you will know your people when you meet them.

 

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Divine Messengers

An overabundance of red-tailed hawk spirit animals in our lives can mean that our prayers are being answered… the answers are being brought to us on hawk’s wings. What are you wishing for right now? What are your dreams? Are you able to recognize the gifts being brought to you and the doors open before you?

If you are not able to see the gifts coming your way the red-tails may be coming to assist you and to CALL your attention to them. They can help you identify who in your tribe is granting and fostering these gifts. The hawks may be calling your attention to old habits, patterns, or defenses that are getting in the way of you relating to your fellow humans. Listen and be willing to let your guard down. Trust your reputation into the talons of the red-tail and you will be rewarded.

Red-tailed hawks typically hunt by either using the power of the wind to hold them aloft while they soar or by roosting on a high perch. Aloft or perched, they wait quietly and watch carefully. Once they see a mouse move below them they swoop down on their prey in a slow, controlled dive. The message here is to not waste your energy tirelessly trying to stir up the answer, but to find a high vantage and to take in the whole picture.

With red-tailed hawk symbolism, it’s time to become the observer and see things from a mystical perspective. This is not about being “better than” your tribe-mates, but about seeing things away from your ties to worry about what others will think of you. From this wide-angle view, wait to see a glimmer of movement and use your sharp, keen vision to focus in on what caught your attention. Then you can confidently dive down and grasp hold of the knowing.

Hawk spirit animals in general are about vision and the ability to shift from a wide view to a microscopic focus. It may be time for you to review your life to get in touch with a larger vision and purpose while at the same time checking in to make sure that you are focusing on key relationships. Look for the gifts of your tribe, revel in the gifts of your life, and give thanks to divine messengers. You can release your gratitude to the red-tails and they will carry the memo back to the heavens on your behalf.

gracious wild book by stacey couch

what does seagull mean

Spirit Animals: SEAGULL

Seagull Spirit Animal

Why do you spot “sea” gulls thousands of miles from the ocean? Do you know if all sea gulls look alike or how many places on earth they can be found? Have you stopped to think where you would find a seagull’s nest or chicks? Have you considered how gulls fish?

These were all questions I didn’t have the answer to before the summer of 1999. Then I was offered the opportunity to work with a PhD student from the University of Washington. She was studying Glaucous-winged x Western Hybrid Gulls on the Washington coast.

Quickly I learned that gulls were the unseen birds in my life. I didn’t even have the basics down. First of all, ornithologists refer to seagulls as just plain “gulls” instead of sea gulls. The distinction is made because not all gulls rely on the ocean for their livelihood. Secondly, there was no one species of bird called a seagull. There are more than four dozen species with various plumages, life histories, and habits. This fact alone opened up an entirely new world to me.

Many people, young or old, who first enter into birding have this original epiphany about the nature of things. What they used to think was a “finch” now could be any number of species of finch from a purple finch to a pine siskin.

What in your life have you been glancing over with the assumption that you know what you’re looking at? Remember that just because a bird or animal or topic or activity is plain doesn’t mean it’s worth dismissing. Stop and take a look. When exploring what does seagull mean as a spirit animal, it might be time to immerse yourself in the ordinary to start to understand how nothing in life is such.

Seagull Bravery

Once I had the amazing opportunity to trap and hold a live gull in my hands I was overtaken with how magnificent he was. His white head and breast, and bright yellow beak marked by a striking blood red dot were extraordinarily clean. I felt as if I’d never seen such pure, true colors in the natural world. To see these true colors amidst the muted sky, gray sea, and beige shore made him that much more blazing. His waterproof coat of feathers was luxurious.

And, that was just his appearance. His spirit was fierce and strong. The gaze from his small but complex eye was what I would have expected to encounter from a hawk or tiger.

seagull power animal

A study conducted in 1976 confirmed that gulls are actually attracted to their predators. A colony’s alarm regarding the predators is strongest when the predators were seen previously with a dead bird [4]. The birds are able to distinguish particularly lethal threats.

I remember the experience of walking uninhabited, sandy islands in the middle of broad harbors with a swarm of gulls overhead calling the alarm. Oftentimes, a bird would fly low and look me straight in the eye. There was nothing gullible or ordinary in that glance. They were acutely aware of what I was up to and on watch for any danger I presented.

What Does Seagull Mean?

Gulls are consummate opportunists, thus the reason why we see them so often associated with human civilization. They can  hunt for their own fish and crabs or steal catches from other seabirds. Gulls will beg for crumbs from tourists and scavenge the shore for crustaceans buried in a pile of kelp. They are also relatively bold, willing to bob around in the fray of a busy feeding frenzy and snatch any opportunity that comes by even if it happens to be hanging out of the mouth of a seal. Western gulls will  steal milk from lactating seals. Glaucous-winged gulls have been seen hunting live, terrestrial prey such as rodents [1][2].

All gulls, like many seabirds, swallow their prey whole. To look at the meaning of seagull we need to understand the important relationship here between the name “gull” and the words “gullet” and “gullible”. It seems that the term gullet developed first in reference to throat with the name gull referring to the bird following a couple hundred years later.

The word gullible followed an earlier use of the general term gull which meant to dupe or sucker in reference to “someone who will swallow anything thrown at him” [3]. We have added the negative connotation to the idea of a person that believes anything he’s fed. However, we see that evolutionarily seagulls have done extremely well with this approach.

Once again, we see the theme of not taking anything for granted and not leaving any opportunity untapped. Are you passing possible opportunities by because of what others may think of you if you don’t appear discerning? Are you picking apart the divine gifts in your life because they aren’t impressive or stunning enough?

Maybe it’s time to drop the judgement for awhile and allow yourself to gulp life in. Sounds scary, I know, but with seagull spirit animal you can test this bold way of being in the world.

Gift of Being Ordinary

There is a theme of conventionality and commonality here. It’s worth challenging the parts of yourself that you consider ordinary. Being ordinary is not a handicap. Even in their abilities, gulls are pretty average. They aren’t the deepest divers, fastest fliers, or most aggressive fishermen, but because they haven’t specialized they have been able to adapt and live all over the world in a vast realm of habitats. You may want to consider stepping out of a specialization for awhile and being more flexible.

This brings me back to why I ended up working on the research project about gulls so many years ago. I had always wanted to study marine mammals, specially dolphins and whales, and despite my best efforts at specialization I wasn’t able to land an internship. So, I stepped back, let go, and decided I was willing to be a bit more ordinary if that’s what it took to be in the larger field of marine biology. Then I was able to find work and have a chance to be in the field working hands-on with wildlife like I’d always dreamed.

Most species of gull have a gray cape of one shade or another speaking to the ability to carry the “gray areas” of life with ease. If you are adept enough to know the species of gull you have sighted and are studying, take particular note of the distinguishing marks. Black caps speak to a mysterious connection to the divine realms and being willing to release your thoughts to the unknown. Black wingtips speak of slicing through the mist of confusion or illusion. A red beak speaks to passionate expression and red legs to grounded passion.

[1] http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Western_Gull/lifehistory
[2] http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Glaucous-winged_Gull/lifehistory
[3] http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=gull
[4] from The Birders Handbook: A Field Guide to the Natural History of North American Birds by Ehrlich, Dobkin and Wheye

 

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raven spirit animal

Spirit Animals: MYSTERIOUS RAVEN

Raven Spirit Animal

This beautiful black creature brushes mountainsides with wingtips. His black eyes drink in landscapes as subtle breezes hold him aloft. Raven’s undeniable determination is audible in the whir of his heavy wingbeats. On occasion he joins with a troop of two or three others to cackle at the wind and tease the beasts on the ground below. His voice cuts through the forest’s silence. It echoes like an inside-out gurgle of water down a seep-hole. His call is an invitation to other worlds. Is he calling those worlds forth? Or is he calling us to those worlds? This is for raven to know. He is incredibly clever. We admire him for his ability to use tools and solve puzzles. The trick is we haven’t even begun to solve the puzzles he creates.

Initiation into Mystery

Bringer of hidden truths, Raven spirit animal wanders the world over probing mysteries. He contemplates the unknown as the ravens named Hugin (“Thought”) and Munin (“Memory”) – the Norse god Odin’s trusted advisers. Odin is the god of wisdom and seeking. His wisdom is owed to the help of two intelligent ravens.

Ravens help us discover the the hidden treasures within our own mysteries, lighting up the unconscious. An Inuit tale tells of a raven tricking his way into a whale’s belly where he meets the soul of the whale and eventually feasts on the rich oil inside the whale. He carries two fire sticks with him that he goes to great pains to retain. Raven’s confidence in his ability to light up the dark helps us navigate the unfamiliar in life and in ourselves.

In other myths, raven is known for birthing the human race by coaxing the first humans out of clam shells. For us, raven spirit animal draws us out of our own protective shells and guides us through the mysterious unknown “out there”. He is an opener of doors for the mind and soul.

Raven spirit animal’s intelligence was passed down to humans when he taught people how to sow seeds and hunt. He is known in the mundane world for his ability to outwit other animals, use tools, and use complex communication. If anyone is going to lead you into cloaked and uncharted territory, cunning raven is a good bet.

Raven is depicted as a hero god who either created or helped create the world in stories of the Northwest Coast of North America. On the other hand, we find associations with death in Celtic and European folklore. He is associated with the decimated battlefield littered with the corpses he feeds on. Comfortable with death and the underworld, raven spirit animal helps us enter into that Great Unknown during important life transitions.

The Trickster God

Mythology surrounding raven shows him providing aid and causing trouble at the same time. He’s a trickster who causes hardship for humans and other creatures by convincing them to do foolish things. He’s just as likely to steal the light as bring it. However, raven’s conniving can also result in him putting things right again. An example of this is the Athabaskan myth of raven stealing the sun and moon back from a greedy chief who hid them away. Trickster energy can change the course of things for good and grant us valuable wisdom.

Have you ever had something go terribly wrong and later been grateful for the detour? In looking back do you now realize that there was a Divine hand in the event? Did what you learn in this experience make you all the richer? Or did the redirect take you to place better than what you could have imagined?

Remember when considering raven spirit animal, that you aren’t looking for ways he’ll bring you material wealth or outstanding recognition. Raven helps you know deep mysteries that help you breathe into the infinite.

Ravens vs. Crows

Ravens have wedge shaped tails and long fingers on the ends of their wings. This is how even the novice can tell them apart from their close cousins, crows. Crows have square tails and rounded wingtips. It is important to know one from the other because crows carry aspects of community, civilization, and play. They understand more of what it means to be in society.
(View article on Crow Symbolism here)

Ravens, on the other hand, are closer to the heavens, to solitude, and to wilderness. They keep company with clouds, hawks, bears, coyotes, wolves, and wolverines. They scavenge carcasses of big game. Raven spirit animals relate to what we experience when we spend time alone contemplating the big game, the big questions in life, and how we relate to this mystery.

 

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Raven’s Illusions and Magic

So much is shared about this bird that engulfs mystery with his black coat of feathers. Jamie Sams and David Carson write in Medicine Cards: “If you have chosen Raven, magic is in the air. Do not try to figure it out; you cannot. It is the power of the unknown at work, and something special is about to happen. The deeper mystery, however, is how you will respond to the sparkling synchronicity of this alchemical moment.”

Ravens often come to assist me with ceremonies such as weddings and land blessings. I believe they are responding to the opening of the veil that occurs when we call in the holy. One particularly poignant raven encounter happened at a wedding ceremony I conducted for friends. As I was setting space and asking the guests to circle around the couple, two ravens flew directly overhead right through the center of the circle.

Ceremony involves working with what we call magic. Magic is simply an unseen force that adds power to a setting and it relies on the power of illusion. When magic is in the air surprising omens appear and events outside the laws of nature seem to take place.

Raven spirit animal, like a magician, weaves intricate illusions that causes us to see unbelievable things. When you have an experience you don’t think anyone else will believe, raven is often afoot. He helps shatter our preconceptions and shows us new possibilities. Raven spirit animal captivates us with tricks and causes us to question everything we once thought was certain.

Power is never created or lost. When you direct power to create the dazzling illusion, you’ll find that another area of your life seems to lose power or attraction. There is nothing wrong with this situation, just something to be mindful of.

The part of your life that now seems mind-numbingly boring hasn’t changed, but the balance has shifted. Give the illusion some time to fade away and things will seem less uneven. Ultimately, once raven comes to visit you will never be the same. Adjusting to this new world view will be your new task.

The Flight into the Dark

The path to enlightenment is the same road into the dark. Our ability to hold awareness allows us to persevere rather than tumble into suffering.

Can we tell if the darkness is our own shadow or if it the vast void stretched out before us? When does our shadow merge with the void?

How do we choose the unknown over our fear? Raven has the skill to navigate these currents, to steer through this illusory black hole, and come out more robust than before.

The next time you notice a raven in your field of view, pause to watch what he’s up to. Remember you can learn much about the illusion and the mystery of existence. If you’re luckily enough to notice and engage, raven spirit animal just might offer you some flashing insights.

For more information on raven symbolism and the spiritual path, read my article on the fairytale of “The Seven Ravens”.

 

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Spirit Animals: MAGPIE the MYTHOLOGIST

Magpie goes about her business, chattering to and fro. Both of the old world and of the new, she wears her black and white costume with her brothers and sisters going on about life as if everything were normal. Then a ray of sunshine glimmers over the tips of her wings and tail and a burst of royal blue radiates. She knows this and she is clever. She does not worry if the rain will come or go. Magpie is the rain and lightening. She is the drought and wind. She carries on as if neither were of consequence, full of joy and mirth, warning of nothing and foreshadowing everything. Magpie knows that she and her tribe are bigger, louder, and brighter than the others, and she knows stories about the others. She is an artist at knowing these stories.

The Rebel in Biblical Lore

Magpies are found around the world from the western half of the United States to China to England and Africa. Their association with humans goes back a long time as they followed nomadic people scavenging leftovers from hunts. There is a story from biblical lore that survives today that the magpie would not go into Noah’s Ark, but instead insisted on riding out the storm on the ridgepole of the boat, chattering the entire time. There are some references to the fact that the magpie either did not attend or refused to mourn Christ’s crucifixion. This pairs this cunning corvid with the archetype of the rebel.

Magpie spirit animal reminds you to ask: What beliefs did you adopt that now act as blocks in your quest to find your divine self?

Magpie Funerals

These birds are related to crows and ravens and are a member of the jay family. They mate for life and are dedicated parents. A pair can spend up to 40 days building a large covered nest and they often are seen in small groupings of 3-5 birds as they travel about in their undulating flight looking for food. “One of the most notable Black-billed Magpie behaviors is the so-called ‘funeral’—when one magpie discovers a dead magpie, it begins calling loudly to attract other magpies. The gathering of raucously calling magpies (up to 40 birds have been observed) may last for 10 to 15 minutes before the birds disperse and fly off silently.” [1] This speaks of the ability to call on the help of your tribe in times of mourning.

When studying the meaning of magpie symbolism, it may be time to watch how you congregate with your kind and remember how others can help you with a death. This could be a death of the ego, the self, a way of life or a loved one.

 

Find your spirit animal workshop. Painting of red-tailed hawk.

 

Magpie Helps with a Healing

This September, I started to see two or three magpies with my horses on a regular basis. My horses would cock a back hoof so the magpies could clean the underside. The magpies would jump up and cling sideways to the horse’s legs to pick bugs from their fur. Other times the birds would be perched atop my mustangs cleaning bugs from their ears, manes, and backs.

Cherokee and Legend seemed to enjoy the attention. I was absolutely caught up in the beauty of the scene. I started working with what the birds’ appearance meant in my life and began to discover a link between their presence and my process of breaking down myths I held about other people. We all attach stories, judgements, beliefs and meaning as to why other people are who they are and what they represent in our lives, but ultimately these myths keep us from truly connecting with people. The myths stand in the way of us truly seeing them and truly being seen. I started to notice the birds every where: at work out the window, on my drives home, at my house, and with the horses.

Then, last week Legend, my white mare, feel gravely ill. A large portion of her colon had flipped 180 degrees and gotten stuck between her kidney and spleen. I went on a three day mission to save her life and the magpies were no where to be found. But, I felt their presence still haunting me and haunting Legend.

Magpie Omens

In British and Scottish folklore magpies are believed in different numbers to foretell death, a funeral, and bad luck. I learned the popular saying about magpies: “One for sorrow. Two for mirth. Three for a wedding. Four for death (or birth depending on the origin)”. [2] 

As is the way of things, Chinese folklore portrays magpies of omens of good luck and sometimes I had seen the fortuitous two or three birds at a time, so I tried not to be overcome with foreboding. I waged an inner battle with my fear and superstition.

Here is when I realized that my fear of my loved one’s death was keeping me from my ability to channel healing for her. I had adopted the myth that “I can’t really channel healing that makes a difference on a physical level” because I feared what would happen if I surrendered myself fully to grace and had her die anyways. I didn’t know how I would recover from that kind of grief, but I couldn’t both protect myself from utter devastation AND surrender to divine guidance. As I broke this myth down I went through waves of intense fear, doubt, and suffering. I showed up for Legend to channel the healing power of grace in a way I never had experienced before and she survived.

Less Myths and More Meaning

On the morning of the fourth day, I checked Legend over endlessly to absolutely convince myself that she was okay. A single magpie came to her corral and landed on a fence post. As the black and white bird with a long tail looked at me with her shiny black eyes, she christened me back into the world of the living, a new world with less myths and more meaning.

Seeing one magpie is supposed to be an especially grave occasion as the popular saying goes “one for sorrow”. I knew the death and sorrow had happened in me.

I was a different person now. Legend was well and healthy. I opened the gate to let Legend out onto her pasture and life went on.

The Mythologist

This is why I have come to think of the magpie as a mythologist. Magpie spirit animals can help us study myths we have about spirituality, the universe, others and ourselves. Magpies are known for eating anything as is indicated by their scientific name “Pica“, meaning to crave things unfit for food, and they remind us how we can crave and eat odd stories that aren’t true in an attempt to secure nourishment and safety or to feed the small fears that protect us from the big fears.

Ultimately it is not important to know why we adopted those myths in the first place, but to understand the role of myths in our lives and to treat them lightly. There’s no need to crawl inside the ark and hide away from the storm for the storm of fear and suffering is of our own making. We can light upon the ridgepole of the boat and find humor and humility in the art of rebelling against that which we thought we ought to always know.

I would like to finish by quoting a favorite song of mine by Neko Case that takes on a deeper meaning now. It’s from her album Middle Cyclone and is called Magpie to the Morning. I have to say that Legend was always the closest to death in the mornings…

Magpie comes a calling
Drops a marble from the sky
Tin roof sounds alarm
And wake up child
Let this be a warning says the magpie to the morning
Don’t let this fading summer pass you by
Don’t let this fading summer pass you by

You can listen to these lyrics on her website: http://nekocase.com/music/discography/middle-cyclone/

References: [1] http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/black-billed_magpie/lifehistory [2] http://www.wisdomportal.com/MagpieNotes.html

 

Find your spirit animal workshop. Painting of red-tailed hawk.

 

 

lewis woodpecker spirit animal

Spirit Animals: LEWIS’S WOODPECKER

He has a barbed tongue for snagging insects from holes in trees. He has two toes facing forward and two facing backward, like all woodpeckers. His stiff tail feathers make it possible for him to lean his tail along a tree trunk to climb erect. He can drill a hole through wood as well as any of his cousins. Still one gets the impression that the Lewis’s woodpecker is distinctly trying NOT to be a woodpecker.

This woodpecker’s namesake, Meriwether Lewis made famous by his expedition to explore the Louisiana Purchase with William Clark, commented in his journal that this woodpecker flies “a good deal like a jay bird”.  This woodpecker doesn’t pound out holes in trees to harvest insects or sap. The Lewis’s Woodpecker prefers to hunt by what’s called “hawking”. This bird, which is adapted to cling to the sides of trees and penetrate their bark with hammering blows, catches insects on the wing. He also delicately gleans insects from the ground or from the surface of the bark. He’ll gather nuts and berries too, and, on occasion, he will find natural crevices in the bark and probe those.

It’s hard to comprehend tens of thousands of years of evolution bringing this bird to it’s stunning form as a woodpecker then to have that form employed for occupations other than, well, woodpecking. If the Lewis’s woodpecker spirit animal has flown its beautiful self into your life you are being asked to let go of how familial or societal norms have shaped you. Clearly if this woodpecker can adapt his awkward climbing body to ballet-style flight and make a living doing it, there is no need for you to conform. Let go of the belief that your creativity is limited by what you are. This simply is not the truth.

This absolutely stunning, rosy chested woodpecker has a black back that glimmers the deepest shade of emerald green in the sunlight. The sweetest color of red covers the sides of his face and clean lines create a collar of grey feathers about his neck. This bird resonates with the deep nature of his forested environment and emanates true, heart-centered compassion from his being. Merge with this love, and know what it feels like to love without judgement in a way that overlaps with professionalism and confidence. A perfect companion for business dealings, this monogamous woodpecker is clear in his partnerships and exemplifies how creativity and duty meet for beneficial ends.

It is interesting that like his cousin the acorn woodpecker, the Lewis’s woodpecker will stash acorns in holes in trees, but the acorn woodpecker drills holes to fit the acorn. The Lewis’s woodpecker re-shapes the acorn to fit natural crevices. This, again, shows how the Lewis’s woodpecker is willing to adapt his resources and his character to match his world, rather than manipulate the world to his needs. This is the power of a true artist, one who flows with his form and that of his environment to accent the power around him rather than play the engineer who strives to perfect.

That this bird is named after a famous explorer tasked with mapping the resources of a newly purchased territory is no cosmic mistake. In asking about the meaning of woodpecker, you are being asked to take a gliding, relaxed flight through the unmapped territories of your world and see the resources available to you. Don’t look for imperfections or weaknesses in other people, things, or yourself. Ask, “what is stunning here that I am drawn to work with?” In this way you will find that you don’t have to awkwardly think your way through using the resources available to you. You don’t need to go through the task of creating more opportunities. All you need to do is open your creative heart with confidence and come into alignment with the deep abundance of the forest about you.

Note: I’ve been largely writing lately about animals others have encountered, but this lovely little beast kept crossing my path on my drive too and from work. The other day as he crossed just in front of my windshield I spontaneously felt his energy cross through my soul. It’s one of those callings you can’t dismiss and I hope you find some resonance as well with this sweet expression of the Divine.

 

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immature red tailed hawk spirit animal

Animal Messengers: IMMATURE RED-TAILED HAWK

Before I completely lose the sensation of summer, I wanted to honor a message I received recently from a young hawk. One afternoon I was out orienting a new volunteer at the horse rescue when I was approached by another volunteer. “Hey bird lady, there’s a hawk with a broken wing out in the east pasture. Can you go check it out?”

So, new volunteer in tow, I rounded up a pair of gloves, a towel and a rubbermaid tub. We traipsed all the way out there, through the weeds, and along the fence lines. No hawk. I must admit, I was relieved. It is a paradox to receive a message from the spirit world carried on the back of a suffering animal. I feel humbled in the gift and smacked with my ignorance, not to mention the heartache of my empathy for the animal. Somehow I always wonder, “did I not hear the message the first time?”

I figured, wrongly, that the hawk had wandered onto the neighbor’s property to die in peace in the brush. The next morning I was approached again, “Hey bird lady…”

I drove out into the pasture in the golf cart with a pair of adult red-tails swirling and screaming overhead. There was the small beast standing stoic in the shade of the horse shelter. He had no fight left and the terrible stench of rotting flesh about him. His right wing was fractured. The dead, black bone stuck out an inch. A marble-sized colony of maggots had laid waste to the wound.

Immature red-tail feathers. I know them so well. An old friend of mine was in that plummage for most of the year we spent together. My dear Graccia often had that same determined look in her eye. There was no taking her off course.

“Just give up the ghost,” I said to the injured hawk as it stood in the box staring at me. There was no flesh left on his body. All the energy he had remaining was put to standing there, staring at me.

He died later that afternoon and my husband buried him under the old cottonwood.

So… the message? The active principle (right side wing) was broken, long dead, in my life. The effort that I had put forth into the world (the pair of hawks fledging a young hawk) had failed at its moment of glory. I had been stubbornly sitting on this failure too long (rotting wound). Put in plain terms, my inability to live in the season of summer, live in the fruition of my dreams, had become a systemic problem that had grounded me for way too long and that threatened to destroy my entire way of life.

Sounds dramatic, I know, but, wow, this hawk gave his life. We often hope for angels, miracles, and beams of light from heaven. We think divine messages come on wings, and, guess what? They actually do.

 

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