Tag Archive for: cleansing

Spirit Animals: SERENE SWAN

She glides gracefully along the water, neck arched with her stately head held high. Her feathers couldn’t be any more white. They gleam and look so soft and so smooth to the touch. She’s often seen in this way, gliding on the mirror-like surface of a lake, but she takes to the wing too. Her enormous wingspan reaches out as if it may touch the ends of the sky. Her elegant neck stretches out, long and forward venturing into the vastness of the universe.

Swan Symbolism and Purity

The connection between the snow white swan and purity is obvious since the color white is synonymous with cleanliness and perfection. As we know from the story of Hans Christian Anderson’s The Ugly Duckling, swans mature into their white coats showing that even this divine beast isn’t born perfect. Those exploring swan symbolism have the opportunity to realize a purity of spirit and heart given a good dose of patience. Swans don’t reach full maturity until as late as 7 years old. A long-lived waterbird, they can live to be as old as 24.

Swan is staunchly loyal as well as fiercely protective. She mates for life and guards her mate, nest and young diligently. The long pairings and the shared care taking of the young are lovely examples of the swan symbolism and the virtue of unity.

The parents carry the young on their backs in the water to safeguard them from predatory fish. This points to a need to shelter new ideas from doubts or fears that may bubble up from under the surface of your subconscious. Her nests are sometimes built atop beaver lodges which demonstrates that the swan spirit animal is able to appreciate and prosper from the ingenuity of others. The top of the lodge is akin to the roof of a building which corresponds to higher thinking.

The Swan Song

The swan is linked to the God Apollo who is the God of music. A “swan song” is a beautiful song swan is said to sing before she dies. She is a totem for poets and singers alike. The goddess Saraswati rode a swan down a tributary of the Ganges playing her lute while holding a rosary and book. She’s known as the goddess of music, song and poetry as well as spiritual purity. It is easy to see how swans have become a symbol of romanticism, love and devotion, but there is much more to this iconic bird.

Swans and Divinity

In many cultures, Gods are known to turn into swans. The Hindu God Brahma turned to a swan to take of the challenge of flying up to find the end of the lingam of the God Shiva. He couldn’t find the top end and Vishnu couldn’t find the bottom. Both learned that they end and begin in each other.

Wohpe, otherwise known as White Buffalo Calf woman, came to earth in the form of a swan to deliver instruction on how to pray. Zeus came down and seduced Leda, wife of the king of Sparta, in the form of a swan. Their children were Castor and Pollux who make up the twins in the constellation of Gemini.

If a swan spirit animal has flown into your life, now is a good time to look for forms of the Divine disguised as gorgeous messengers.

 

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

 

Forgetting the Sacred

There is a lake nestled in the Himalayan mountain range called Lake Manasarovar that sits at the base of the sacred Mount Kailish. In this lake is said to live a beautiful white swan that eats lotus fruit and nectar and who is visited by the Gods that come to bathe there. There are legends of the swan leaving the lake for various reasons. Some say she is cold and others say she is curious. She flies over the peaks to the plains and comes to land in muddy waters. Some say she finds it unsavory and returns home; others say she forgets the way back. In this way she is like man. She has come from the sacred, pure and without fault, but she falls into fault and in her muddiness she forgets her perfect nature.

This is the path of the mystic who finds herself in a state of despair once she discovers the imperfection of envy, greed, pride and malice that dwells within her. She feels unworthy of the love or even company of the Divine and forgets that she has wings with which to carry her back home.

Swan spirit animal can reassure us that despite the impure thoughts and emotions that plague our days, that ultimately we’ve come from God and we will return to him. The process may not be easy, especially given what we see in the story of the black swan.

 

black swan spirit animal

Story About the Black Swan

In aboriginal folklore, there is the story of a group of women who are the only people who know the secret to making boomerangs. They refuse to share the secret, so a band of men decide to steal the boomerangs from them. Two of the men turn to white swans and land on a nearby lake. The women rush to shore to view the beautiful birds and the rest of the men slip into the camp to attain the goods.

Discovering they’ve been duped, the women grow furious and chase the swans off the lake. The swans go to a neighboring lake where a pair of eagles live. The eagles attack the swans and pluck every last white feather off their body leaving them to die. A flock of crows, wanting to spite their enemies the eagles, offer their black feathers for the swan’s new coats and the swans are saved. Meanwhile, the women continue on bickering for eternity over who’s to blame for the incident. (from Oracle of the Dreamtime: Aboriginal Dreaming offers guidance for today).

Symbolism of the Black Swan

This story tells us much about the journey of the spiritual seeker who looks to attain purity and perfection in the image of God. The path to enlightenment is not paved with gold, but often suffering instead. The seeker may not even start out looking for God, but for power (the boomerang). The trial she encounters turns her toward the Divine. But the meaning of swan shows that it is not the suffering that causes the transformation, rather the faith to move on from greed, thievery, resentment, blame and vengeance.

As Thomas Merton says in No Man Is An Island, “To believe in suffering is pride, but to suffer, believing in God, is humility.” All around them, the black swans are surrounded by the evil of the world and they are laid bare because of their own treachery. They are not even saved in an act of kindness, but vengeance. All around them is dark. Still they are able to accept help without judgment and to touch the Divine with the white tips of their new wings.

Swan Spirit Animal’s Undying Faith

The constellation Cygnus (the latin word for swan) is made of the same stars as the Northern Cross. It is an interesting synchronicity that the cross, long a symbol of spiritual suffering and undying faith, is paired with swan symbolism.

To endure suffering and imperfection with a fierce faith in the One Who Moves Through All Things turns wretchedness into a gift. Swan symbolism is about learning at the core of your being your ultimate radiance and perfection. There will likely be trials along the way to remind you of the grace and virtue of maintaining a humble soul. For even pride in your perfection renders it imperfect.

If you are currently courting swan spirit animal ask yourself the following questions:

  • How do I view my own imperfection? and my own perfection?
  • What suffering has come to me to teach me about keeping my faith and releasing my faults?
  • How do I appreciate the virtue of loyalty? Who or what am I loyal to?
  • How can the swan guide me on the path to enlightenment?

 

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

 

 

Spirit Animals: RACCOON the BANDIT

He sneaks about in the darkness looking for the slightest opportunity. Any tidbit hidden in a crevasse becomes a jewel in his hands. He is at home in the city or the country. No matter where we find raccoon spirit animal we will find a dose of both good humor and good conscience. Who thought such a common animal could bring such luck?

These little bandits are ubiquitous across the whole of the North American continent. Found in swamps and marshes, on the banks of lakes, ponds, rivers and streams, in the vastness of the desert and prairie, in the seclusion of forests, on the tops of mountains and the bottom of canyons, and in cities and suburbs, raccoons have adapted to any environment. Raccoons are happy to den anywhere from a hole in the ground to a cubby in an attic. They are the quintessential omnivore and will eat anything, plant, insect, trash, or animal, that they can get their little paws on.

Raccoon spirit animal brings the message that you have the occasion to be at home and find sustenance, even wealth, wherever you are. He does not cover a wide range, but he utilizes and explores every nook and cranny of his territory. Raccoon symbolism is all about being flexible with what’s available.

Raccoon is marked from birth with that characteristic black eye-mask. He has a reputation for being a trickster and nighttime bandit in disguise.

Disguise

Raccoon spirit animal teaches us about the nuances of disguise and what we do when we think we’ll go unrecognized. In movies, cartoons, and drawings, the archetype of the thief is pictured so often with a black scarf with two holes for eyes. In many legends, raccoon is busy stealing things under the cover of night or out from under the noses of blind people. Raccoon symbolism is closely linked with what we might be blind to or what others are blind to in us.

When we wear a mask or watch a character in a movie wear a mask there is the unwritten understanding that the wearer is attempting to escape the consequences of their actions. Even if the thief is robbing from the rich to give to the poor like Robin Hood (i.e. stealing for “good”) they still have to hide and evade because they are operating outside the law.

In the end, raccoons in legends are always caught and marked as thieves as evidenced by their face mask and ringed tail. In our world, we may escape without any outer consequences, but we will still have the inner doubt that plagues us. What if someone did find out?

It is worth evaluating how you use a disguise to get away with stealing. When you go to pay for a service and remember that you didn’t bring enough cash along, do you pose as innocent to convince the other person to take less money? Raccoons have the sweetest, charming little faces and they aren’t above playing the innocent to get away with something they want.

There is a splash of white all around the edges of the black eye mask of the raccoon. This can point to an inherent goodness shining out, a need to be recognized for the light we are in the world. Sometimes the masks we put on aren’t necessary and can be born of a shame that requests healing.

Raccoon the Bandit

Raccoon has lightening quick paws to grab aquatic creatures, pluck mice and insects from hiding places, and invade bird nests to take tasty eggs. He is known for raiding campsites and trashcans when everyone is sleeping.

We all steal from time to time, be it something as simple as a pen or as invisible as the attention of another. Stealing energy or time from another person, or even stealing from their reputation by mentioning their name, wears away at the fabric of who we are over time. Raccoon spirit animal teaches us how to notice the telltale signs in ourselves of when we are snatching up little bits that might not be ours. He helps us come further into integrity.

This isn’t about looking at the ugly side of your nature and disliking what you see, not at all. It’s about developing a mature conscience. An immature conscience depends on the opinions of others or even the laws of society. Both of these conventions can be mischievously fun to break. A mature conscience taps into the value of one’s motives and understands whether we mean to do harm or do kindness. It’s that simple. When we come from a place of valuing kindness, mischief falls away.

Some questions to ask yourself when contemplating raccoon symbolism:

  • What are the things you tell yourself to justify stealing? (They’ll never find out. There’s enough extra. They don’t need it anyway.)
  • What motivates you to steal? (Maybe it is feeling like you aren’t worth something, like you can’t come by it honestly, or like you just can’t wait.)
  • What is conscience to you? How do you decipher right from wrong?

Trickster

Mircea Eliade, a well-known scholar who studied shamanic practices around the globe, talks about the trickster as a character that plays all sorts of jokes. He makes fun of others and is made fun of. Oftentimes in myths, the trickster is actually a demigod in disguise come to bestow blessings on the object of his high jinks.

We think we know the path and set out on it the way we’ve decided is best. Then the trickster comes and bumps us off our road. This is the flat tire when you’re running late or the hard drive crash right as you type the last word of an important document. We learn to laugh with a sarcastic, “ha, ha” at the trickster’s joke, but often we are at the very least irritated by the interruption or at worse absolutely derailed by the catastrophe.

Once it’s all over we find we are better off or we are brought to a gift we never expected.

In the legends, raccoon cons wolf into freezing his tail into the ice and deceives three blind women into breaking their favorite pottery. He is among the ranks in the animal world of other tricksters such as coyote, raven, and fox.

Thus, raccoon spirit animal has the potential to bring you great teaching and wealth, but it will likely not happen in the way you anticipate. When working with raccoon it is a good idea to keep a loose sense of plans.

Dexterity

Raccoon’s sense of touch is his most heightened of senses and the majority of the focus is in his front paws. He has “hyper-sensitive’ hands that have long whiskers known as “vibrissae” that assist with identifying objects before actually touching them. Nearly two-thirds of his portion of the cerebral cortex responsible for sensory perception is dedicated to the processing of tactile impulses. He thinks a lot about what he feels.

Raccoon will wash his food whenever he has the chance. It is thought that he does this to soften the thin horny layer on his paws, which makes it easier for him to feel his food. Whatever the reason, he loves to play in the water with his hands.

Raccoon can adeptly open jars, untie knots and turn door handles. His five toed front hand closely resembles ours. His lack of an opposable thumb doesn’t stop him from attempting to enter our world. Raccoon symbolism is about how we choose to handle situations. Will we “grasp” quickly for what we want or will we take the time to “wash our hands” of our wrongdoing before enjoying the incredible opportunity around us?

Working with our conscience is all about how we handle situations. Raccoon spirit animal is most definitely here to help.

 

Want to learn more about spirit animals?
Visit the Spirit Animal Guide

 

The medicine wheel and the qualities of each cardinal direction.

Calling the Directions & The Medicine Wheel

Working with the Medicine Wheel

Honoring the directions within the framework of a medicine wheel is a common practice of shamanism found throughout the world and at the root of each of our ancestral lines. This prayer to honor the directions can be called a number of things depending on the culture and preferences of the person praying. Some say we are “calling in the directions” while others state we are “calling ourselves to the directions”. Others just see that we are setting up sacred space to do sacred work.

Regardless of the nomenclature, it is important to take a moment and reflect on why you have chosen to enter in to this practice.

Intention for Calling in the Directions

Are you worried about negative energy entering in as you open up to meditate or journey, so you feel compelled to set up protection around yourself? Do you wish to offer your gratitude to the seasons and rhythms of nature? Is it just because you learned it in a class and you’re trying to explore the power of the medicine wheel practice? Are you asking for help from all of creation for a healing? Are you offering yourself as a channel for the Divine? Would you like to call yourself back to center so that you can be your authentic self and be grounded in your being? Do you intend to set up a quiet space for meditation free from the chaos of the everyday?

The good news is that calling in the directions using the medicine wheel does all of the above and more. Your intent will shape the content and power of the chants or prayers you say. So take the time to reflect on your intent and then be willing to allow that intent to shift over time. The beauty of a shamanic practice is that it is personal and place based. Depending on who you are, where you live and what stage of your life you are in, calling the directions will look different because your relationship to nature will be different.

Directions of the Medicine Wheel

The medicine wheel can be broken into five or seven parts depending on your inclination, but always contains the four primary directions: East, South, West and North and a central point or axis.

“Above” and “Below” can also be recognized individually or not because the central axis is seen as inherently connected to these two spaces. As you determine what qualities, gifts, elements and power animals to acquaint with each direction of the medicine wheel I have a simple framework for you to start with.

  1. Path of the Sun: The medicine wheel is laid out in relation to the path of the sun. The East is the place of dawn (beginnings) and the West is the place of dusk (endings)
  2. Seasonality: The medicine wheel can be laid over a seasonal calendar which for us places spring in the East, summer in the South, fall in the West and winter in the North (see photo above). If you lived at the equator you would only recognize two seasons, rainy and dry, or if you lived at the poles you would recognize light and dark, so your associations would be different.
  3. Diurnal Cycle: You can also overlay the wheel with the a 24 hour clock with the East being sunrise, South being midday, West being sunset, and North being midnight.

Qualities of the Directions

To help you determine your own, unique blend of qualities to associate with the directions of the medicine wheel, I offer the following ideas that I’ve accumulated from studying a number of cultures and nature herself. You may see some qualities listed in more than one direction. Feel into the quality and see where it fits for you.

  • Qualities of the East: dawn/sunrise, spring, new beginnings, birth, infancy, mental body, element of air, seedling plants, new shoots, fresh start, innocence, play, childhood, the Sun or Mother Earth, blue, yellow, green, swords tarot suit, astrological houses 1-3.
  • Qualities of the South: midday, summer, adolescence, physical body, mature crops, abundance, element of fire, the Sun or Mother Earth, passion, drive, vitality, fullness, ripeness, maturity, red, orange, wands tarot suit, astrological houses 4-6.
  • Qualities of the West: dusk/sunset, fall, adulthood, emotional body, leaves dropping from trees, letting go, harvest, gathering resources inward, the void, discernment, element of water, the womb, the Moon, surrender, trust and faith, the unknown, black, blue, cups tarot suit, astrological houses 7-9.
  • Qualities of the North: midnight, winter, elder, spiritual body, frozen landscape, silence, communion with Spirit, element of earth, the Moon, death, union, intuition, complete understanding, being filled with the Divine, white, pentacles tarot suit, astrological houses 10-12.
  • Qualities of the Center: Heart of the matter, in the moment, timeless, ageless, integration of all bodies, openness, channel/hollow reed, grace, connection to above and below, trees, mountains, inspiration, rainbow, all colors.
  • Qualities of Above: Cosmic currents, collective unconscious, movement of the heavens, wisdom of planetary bodies, future, possibility, stars, galaxies, expanded consciousness, God, angels.
  • Qualities of Below: Planetary currents, collective history, ancestors, roots, creation, fertility, the womb, the cave, Goddess.

 

Want to learn more?
Read this article about How to: Prayers to the Directions

 

Spirit Animals: THE FROG PRINCESS

She is in the world but not of it. She senses the shifting tide of her emotions and that of her brothers and sisters singing in the marsh. She is in her feelings but not of them. She embraces the song while it refuses to define her. Water still clings to her porous flesh creating a sheen on her persona. She wiggles her toes through the dry mud on the shore. The Earth satisfies her too. She contemplates the lily pad floating by and the dry stone just a few leaps away. All of this is available to her. She must choose between being at home and answering the call. In the end, her choice has no consequence. What she needs will always be available. What she feels will always be in her experience.

Many are inexplicably drawn to the cleansing, healing power of frog spirit animal. The mystery our minds can’t solve is that frogs are creatures of the emotional realm and many of us have forgotten how emotions can heal. We are of the land, of the concrete world, and we attach our emotions to our stories, our drama, and our woundings. We surrender to the deception that we have to heal the story to heal the emotion. Frog does not have these illusions. She lives in the boarder between the concrete physical world and the watery world of emotion. She has come from the water as a polliwog, so to her the feeling comes before the happening. For us the happening causes the feeling and we try to prevent the feeling.

The lesson of frog symbolism is that in preventing the feeling we are preventing the experience of life. Frog reminds us to allow the emotions to flow through us, to boldly go as far as swimming in our emotion. It is love. It is necessary. Call on frog spirit animal to help you suspend your judgement of your feelings rather than suspending the feelings themselves. Without feeling we cannot be in the world. With feeling we are not of it. When we allow our emotions to flow like water rather than cling to them, we are healed. Using the mind to justify our hurt, our pain and our joy causes us to be stuck in the past and not live in the present.

Frogs are incredibly sensitive to environmental toxins and many cannot go too long without contact with some form of moisture be it dew, rain or stream. They have been the early warning beacons sacrificing their lives to warn humans of toxic waters. Frogs have helped call people to action on behalf of Mother Earth and helped spawn legislation to protect and clean up our waterways. When looking at frog symbolism in your life, ask yourself these questions: What warning signs are your emotions giving you about your environment right now? Are you feeling especially fearful or sad? What emotions are you avoiding? What in your life is causing you to cling or avoid your feelings? How can you shift your life so that you can flow with your heart regardless of the circumstances?

The frog princess reminds us of how to hold our emotions as both unassuming and royal. We must revere them as a pivotal aspect of our being while not identifying with them. Just as she refuses to choose the marsh, stream, or pond over the shore, mud or bank, we too must learn how to live in the space between attachment and neglect of our feelings. It is this practice that is cleansing. The ability to wash oneself clean in one moment and sink our feet into the mud the next is truly liberating because it puts us in touch with the creative life forces within ourselves and frees us from our story. So, spend a day with the princess of the marsh and learn what it means to feel.

Frog spirit animals are associated with the west on the medicine wheel. They reside in the realm of the unknown, in the void of creation. Emotions can’t be known. If they were they’d be thoughts. Allow your emotions to be without words and find the divine in the infinite experience of feeling.

 

Want to learn more about spirit animals?
Visit the Spirit Animal Guide