Tag Archive for: fear

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.

 

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

 

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

hope hardship horses

Hope in the Face of Hardship

Those of you that own a troubled horse may know a particular type of isolation I am familiar with, the type of loneliness that comes when an expert looks down their nose at you and says, “this is too much horse for you” or the kind of despair that comes from finishing yet another clinic in humiliation because your horse was the most explosive, fearful, defiant, you name it beast there and everyone knew it. I can’t tell you how many times people have politely said to me, “Green and green make black and blue,” meaning that a novice owner and untrained horse are a set-up for injury. Some owners of troubled horses decide that because the effort and training is hard that the partnership was just not “meant to be.” These owners sell or give away their horses and hopefully, but not always, find themselves a more calm, obedient mount. Others believe that nothing great comes without blood, sweat, and tears so they shoulder in and work hard to overcome all odds and wow the crowd. I have many talented friends and trainers who have done just this. I also know five times as many horses who are the “discards” still waiting for their chance at greatness. I have one of those discards standing in my pasture. She is one of the best things that has ever happened to me, and I’ve come to know beside her the greatness within. No amount of outside praise or accolades will ever match this brilliance.

Cherokee is my reminder every day of how easy it can be to lose sight of our own inner light. After 6 years and 7 trainers she is still too unpredictable to ride and still sometimes fearful. In a world that values outside measures of success and that idolizes goals, we become addicted to praise and, by default, criticism. We come to fear both, for praise only causes a craving for more praise which requires exhaustive effort and, well, the pain of criticism is an easy one to be habitually phobic of. Our fear causes us to set up a belief system that helps us make decisions when the outcome (praise or criticism) is unknown and adversity arises.

In The Gifts of Imperfection, Brene Brown outlines the two paths people commonly take when encountering hardship.

  1. “When we experience something that is difficult and requires significant time and effort we are quick to think This is supposed to be easy; it’s not worth the effort, or, This should be easier: it’s only hard and slow because I’m not good at it.” I would like to add that in the new era of spiritual positivity and the chase for happiness many also now see roadblocks in a given path to be a sign from a divine source that this is not the right direction. These believers think It’s only hard and slow because it’s not meant to be. 
  2. Others believe “that everything worthwhile should involve pain and suffering.” Brene uses “never, fun, fast, and easy” to explain this mindset. For spiritual seekers looking to become more aware/conscious/enlightened this can look like I need to learn these lessons and clear these woundings before I can attain this dream; the tougher the lessons the bigger the dream. I would venture to say that in there is also the thought I need to learn these lessons before I am worthy of this dream.

Take a moment to consider: What kind of believer am I? We each have a default setting when hardship arises. What is yours?

Awareness here is the first step. If we can catch the first thought of this is too hard or I have to struggle on before our mind takes off in the whirlwind of drama around either path we can hopefully avoid errant action. This is where we break old patterns of ejecting from one friendship/job/marriage after the next or of suffering through unhappy friendships/jobs/marriages way past their expiration date.

I typically default to the “never, fun, fast, and easy” mindset and have been quick to idolize the “meant to be” mindset because that seems so easy and elegant. I sobbed after riding Cherokee for the first time, it was an overwhelming release. I realized that for once, I felt worthy of her. I wasn’t sure if the countless hours of effort and training for both myself and her had been the ticket or if I’d finally healed to the point of deserving this dream. I had been bracing for so long against the hardships and lessons that it was such a relief to have succeeded.

I only had five more rides on her which didn’t always go so well.  I started to loosen my grip on my vision of a blissful riding connection with her. Then, surprisingly, I fell out of love with her. Sounds harsh I know, but I was willing to be with that truth, albeit I kept it a secret at the time. Then I allowed myself to be with What if it’s not meant to be or What if I will never be good enough? 

Luckily, I understood that neither viewpoint was the truth. Every time I heard myself say I’m ready to quit or Just keep going, I used this as a cue to check in with my core self. Always, the entire six years, the truth has been that she is my horse and I am her human. Call it fate or destiny or karma I don’t care, but I know in every fiber of my being that we are family. That’s just it.

It is in this knowing that I find value every time. I don’t know why we’re supposed to be together or what she has to teach me or me her. It really seems to go beyond all of that. There is just a truth in our togetherness that is unfaltering and that itself has value. Trusting in our relationship and our intrinsic value always takes me out of the praise/criticism addiction and brings me hope in the face of hardship.

Here is what Brene Brown has to say about cultivating hopefulness:

“We develop a hopeful mind-set when we understand that some worthy endeavors will be difficult and time consuming and not enjoyable at all. Hope also requires us to understand that just because the process of reaching a goal happens to be fun, fast , and easy doesn’t mean that it has less [or more] value than a difficult goal. If we want to cultivate hopefulness, we have to be willing to be flexible and demonstrate perseverance. Not every goal will look and feel the same. Tolerance for disappointment, determination, and a belief in self are the heart of hope.” (page 66 of The Gifts of Imperfection)

So next time you catch yourself thinking that Spirit has approved your goals by making the path easy, stop to ask your inner self how you feel about the goal. Next time you start thinking that you have too many wounds to heal to be worthy of your dream ask your inner self how you feel about your path. Is this worth doing even if you fail? Remember the outcome will never be how you expect it.

Just yesterday after a quiet play session together I took a moment to stand with my bay mare out in the sunny, snowy pasture. I was in her shadow standing beside her neck as we both faced northeast, the place of rebirth and renewal. I ducked my shoulder under her jowl to wrap my arm around her head and hold the bridge of her nose in my hand. For the very first time, she softened in to my embrace. I felt the loving and gentle pressure of her jaw resting on my shoulder. I immediately understood the tenderness of her gesture and brought my entire awareness to bear. We stood doing nothing else but soaking in each other’s light. This is what love and value look like. Everything else is just an illusion.

“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten we belong to each other.” – Mother Theresa

“No Sense of Direction” from Gracious Wild

The following is an excerpt from the book Gracious Wild: A Shamanic Journey with Hawks

I went in to see Thalia around noon. I was able to coax her onto the stump near the front door with a piece of chick. Once her appetite was whetted, she was eager to come to me. The first pounce on my gloved hand was pure bliss. I watched her slender, long legs dance as her fierce talons gripped my fingers hard. She bent down to tear at the meat with her beak. Now I could absorb the scene rather than worry about how it looked to bystanders. I carried her to a perch with fluid steps as she picked the glove clean, asked her to step onto the perch, and returned to my post in the open corner of the mews. We danced, moving and flying from different perches to avoid routine. I wanted every moment, every pounce to be fresh. She chirped a few times in excitement over the tasty activity. It was all I could do to take in her features through the blur of hunger.

Once I finished feeding Thalia the meal I’d prepared, I stood by the door for a while to bask in her presence. She stood quietly on her perch, her crop bulging with food, and set to preening her lovely coat. The mixture of colors in each feather was exposed as she chose one and then another to zip into place. She roused (shook her entire coat) and a shock wave of release coursed through my body.

Instantly aware of herself, she turned her head to look me in the eye. It was as if to say, “Who is this strange woman in my company today?” I felt her legs and wings tense just before she leapt to a perch inches from my shoulder. I held my breath. She released her firm grip on the perch and went back to preening. I exhaled. Her feathers relaxed across the contours of her frame and she cocked her head to meet my gaze. My steady breath was all that broke the silence. The maiden harrier subtly lifted the foot furthest from me while curling it in a loose ball. Her ebony talons disappeared into the thick down on her belly. She was far from the anxious hawk I’d seen pulling feathers from her legs. Likewise, I was miles from the frightened woman trapped on an island. Here stood our window to salvation.

Our next month of training was plagued with paradox. The times I spent alone with Thalia in her mews were serene, heavenly hours. This is where I fell hopelessly in love with this harrier’s unbound spirit. She was at once confident, aggressive, and friendly. I worked tenaciously to gain fluidity and strength in my raptor handling skills while she patiently walked me through the process. Even the simple task of accommodating the weight of this one-pound hawk on my outstretched hand could not be taken for granted. My shoulder and arm ached for weeks. I had so much to learn. I could only use five fingers to manipulate her leather ankle jesses through a swivel and onto a leash. It was just like knitting one-handed—the highly tuned muscles in each of my fingers could only remember the motion through repetition. Thalia allowed me to train my right hand over and over. She would often use the time to pick any hint of meat she’d missed off the glove.

The days I met with either Annie or Sandra for training outside the mews varied from hopeful to nerve-wracking. Both women were superior teachers and lovingly supportive. Not for a moment would I ever fault their skills at falconry or at coaching, but regardless of our best efforts Thalia easily slipped into distress. My first attempts to have Thalia step to my glove from a perch outside ended in her flapping wildly at the end of her leash. Sandra was able to work with Thalia and the perch with no incident. Annie diligently walked me through the process on our next outing and Thalia was perfectly calm. Another day, Annie and I had tried everything we could do to get Thalia to step on the scale. To the hawk it was a leg hold trap and there was no way to convince her otherwise. After the struggle over the scale ended, I was able to stand with Thalia resting quietly on my glove while Annie and I talked.

During walks to and from the raptor barn, Thalia would waver from patience to panic. Sometimes the five-minute walk took twenty because we had to stop and wait for her to settle every time she jumped or looked like she would jump. When the wind was unnerving Thalia, Sandra suggested I face her into the wind. For five minutes, this worked fabulously. Thalia roused and was pleased, but then she took back to crouching and holding her wings out—both clear signs of anxiety. Encounters with strange people or dogs also stressed her, but the worst was when we had to grab her, wrap her in a towel, and do health checkups and maintenance. I did my best to hold steady, but the fight or flight response coursing through Thalia’s veins automatically raced through mine.

Secretly, I wondered if it was my fear that Thalia was picking up on or vice versa. Regardless, I found very quickly that whatever emotion moved through the hawk also moved through me, often in a physical sensation. Her releasing rouses shook tension from my body. Her panicked body posture froze fear in my muscles. The swings between comfort and fright were severe. Through my experiences with Thalia I was accessing layers of joy and fear I never knew existed in my being. The moments of joy were exhilarating and the flashes of fear were paralyzing. I wasn’t sure if Thalia’s anxiety was inextricably linked with mine or if it was coming from those around us. I yearned to walk the grounds of Willow Brook alone with her to unwind the mystery.

At the same time I was working out this new relationship, I was still trapped in a struggle to find gainful employment. I had no a sense of direction. Galena suggested I do a journey and ask, “What is my major block to finding my path at this time?”

I went on a shamanic journey to lower world and met a wolf that led me through the maze of dead-end paths in the dense forest that I had been wandering for years. The paths were worn to dirt from all of my pacing. This time the wolf led me to a grassy path that led out of the dense brush and into an open, old growth coniferous forest. There were no more choices to make along this path—just the squish of soft grass under our feet. Then everything went black and I knew that I was at a point where the landscape was going to be different. First I saw dapples of light and then deciduous trees. Then a whole different forest of shorter trees with an open understory came into focus. It was autumn and the trees were ablaze with red and orange. The wolf disappeared and the fawn, my life purpose animal, was with me. As we talked, I learned that this was a metaphor for where I currently was in my life. I turned around 360 degrees and was surrounded by the colors. The fawn suggested that I paint a picture of what it looked like to me. A blank canvas stood on an easel below an oak tree. It was clear that this place was where all my options were. There was no clear path on the ground. I talked to her about how frightening fall was for me. It was cold, the sun was far away, and the end of the year was near.

“All of these things could bode poorly,” I voiced.

“For your future, you have to let go of your fears,” she reassured. “There is still plenty to eat this time of year, and the temperatures aren’t life-threatening. In the end, winter is not so bad. Most animals find food and enter spring to start anew.”

Then an image of a great gray owl swooping down onto an untracked field of snow came into focus. The owl reached out its massive feathered feet, dug them into the snow, pulled out a mouse in her talons, and silently slipped away. I understood then that I needed to find a space clear of fear to paint an unbiased picture of where I was and, thus, where I was going.

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.

 

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

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”.

 

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

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.

 

 

spider symbolism

Spirit Animals: MOTHER SPIDER

Spider Symbolism

Spider spirit animal tests the space in front of her by delicately lifting the front one of her eight legs. Her furry appendage tenderly caresses the air feeling the breath of the forest collectively and the movements of the creatures around her individually. The only thing that gives away her active, sentient thoughts is the small, almost nervous, twitching of the two feelers on either side of her mouth.

This is mother spider. She weaves webs, climbs trees, and digs burrows. But always, she ambushes her prey.

Spider Dream Meaning

Dreams about spiders can speak about where you may feel trapped in your life or where you are experiencing greater connection to all things. It depends on if you’ve found yourself in an overwhelming web of lies, opinions, or judgements or if you are in the space of owning your power and writing your own destiny.

Most people are afraid of spiders, so having dreams about spiders is a frightening experience. Take a look at what fears have come up for you lately. Spider spirit animal has crept into your unconscious to help ensnare the fears and bring them out into daylight. It’s time to stop blindly running into traps and instead weave the life you envision for yourself.

You are not a victim here. You have the power to navigate your way down the strands that will unlock an unlimited number of options for you. Like spider spirit animal at the middle of the web, you have the potential to go any way you choose. Getting those fears out of the way is the key.

 

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

 

Help Overcoming Fears

Spider symbolism is powerful and the presence of mother spider in your life is not to be taken lightly. She has come to help you work with your fears. Ask spider totem animal to help you muster the courage to look at the fears that are behind the negative, critical thoughts of yourself and others.

Often when we get critical it is because we are trying to protect ourselves from something we are afraid of. It’s as simple as the arachnophobic person saying, “I hate spiders”…. the truth is “I fear spiders”.

Allow all the little fears to pour out of you into your journal. It is these fears that are preventing the creativity in your life, not the judgments of others. You’ll find that spider spirit animal will come to collect all the little eggs of fear and transmute the energy into creativity, hatching dozens of creative helpers in your life that can help you spin beautiful webs.

Weaving a Written Web

It is said that spider created the alphabet and is the mother of the written word. There is no better companion to welcome to your home to help you wield your words on paper. What more is a story than the creation of a new reality?

In spinning a web, spider literally weaves a new plane of existence, an entirely new world. This world can be flat, round, linear or circular. It all depends on what species of spider you are watching. Each has their own unique weaving style. What is the signature of the species you watch now? What does this mean about the paths you have available?

The spider has eight legs, so spider symbolism is associated with infinity like the number 8. Imagine you now stand at the center of a web of possibilities with an unnumbered variety of paths to follow. Which is yours?

Spider meaning is strongly tied to the networker archetype who expertly crafts webs of interconnectivity.

Burrowing Spider Symbolism

If you find yourself face-to-face with a non-spinning spider such as a wolf spider or tarantula you’ll be examining a different aspect. Rather than hanging suspended by a thread and opening up to possibilities, what is needed now is to burrow into the unconscious.

These spiders dig burrows in the Earth and wait patiently for their next meal to pass by. Go inside yourself. Snuggle into the smell of the soil, know who you are and be grounded in that. Here you are safe to confront your fears. Here spider spirit animal will find you and use the effective poison in her bite to transmute those fears into true power.

All you need will pass by the door of your tunnel. Turn inward, be brave, and trust that you are safe. There is no better companion to have accompany you on any forays into the unconscious to uncover the meaning behind WHY you do the things you do.

Spider spiritual meaning is about being incredibly sensitive to vibrations and sensing things you hadn’t felt before. Spider spirit animal can help you navigate the darkness and the fears and view them from a new, less threatening perspective.

World Travelers

Spider symbolism is about about the journey. Spiders are known to fly for hundreds of miles, even across open oceans, by casting out a strand of web and allowing the wind to take them thousands of feet aloft. This is know as “ballooning”. They have absolutely no control over where their journey will take them or how far they will go. They could go 20 feet or 20,000 feet.

Think about the amount of trust it takes to cast that strand and not know. Let go of control. Face the fears that cause you to try and be in control. Know that there is no such thing as control. Ask spider spirit animal to help you see that you are already on this unknown journey. Anything else is just an illusion.

I love this excerpt from David Abram’s book The Spell of the Sensuous about spiders:
It was from them that I first learned of the intelligence that lurks in nonhuman nature, the ability that an alien form of sentience has to echo one’s own, to instill a reverberation in oneself that temporarily shatters habitual ways of seeing and feeling, leaving one open to a world all alive, awake, and aware. It was from such small beings that my senses first learned of the countless worlds within worlds that spin in the depths of this world that we commonly inhabit.

 

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