Tag Archive for: west

bat symbolism

Spirit Animals: BAT BRAVERY

The mere mention of a bat sends many people into a panic. Conservationists have been working for decades to dispel the terrifying myths about bats and to bring humans into a greater appreciation of these flying mammals. Bats work wonders for an ecosystem keeping pest insects in check and producing fertilizer in the form of guano. Still, despite the best public relations campaigns, many shy away from bat symbolism.

Coming to Terms with Bat Symbolism

We often want our spirit animals to bring good tidings, but it’s hard to feel optimistic about bat spirit animal. When we draw a bat card from an animal totem deck, we tense up, brace for impact, and begin furiously trying to figure out how to spin this in a positive light.

At the core, bat symbolism carries an archetypal association with fear. Our gut reaction to seeing a picture of a bat speaks of this. There is really no good way to turn fear on its head so that we can feel better. Fear is unnerving, and bat spirit animal seats us firmly outside our comfort zone. If you find yourself already holding your breath, it is likely that bat is bringing to the surface the fear you’ve stored up inside.

Move into the fear and know that you have one of the best guides along for the journey in the form of a flying, furry mammal. You have an opportunity to inherit gratitude, which will be one comforting emotion during this very trying time.

Bat Spirit Animal’s Foreboding

When helping others interpret their encounters with spirit animals, I often find a nail-biting listener on the other end of the conversation. Many people fear that the message from the animal is bad news. I always want to bolster the listener’s faith in the universe by creating an uplifting reading about an animal encounter, but this can be tough to do when faced with bat symbolism. The truth is, it’s scary.

Bat spirit animal carries messages of fear, suffering, trial, initiation, and challenge. At the same time, this tenacious, outstandingly brave little creature could not be a stronger ally to have in times of uncertainty.

On the spiritual path we hope to find great rewards and even bigger favors, but coming into connection with the Divine is not a way to guarantee comfort, safety, peace, joy, or abundance. It is a way to gain fortitude and presence. To become a generous being that moves grace and love into the world.

Death & Initiation

To become clear channels for grace we have to release our egos, identity and attachments. Release is a poetic word for death. Shamanic teachers are much more candid about what this process of releasing looks and feels like. It feels like dying. Even though the physical body comes through the process, we are not the same person on the other side. Who we were has passed away.

Just like the seasons, bat symbolism reminds us that our lives move in cycles. There are times when all the old must be sloughed off so that we can move our gifts into the world without distractions or obstacles.

Traditionally, shamans understood the necessity and periodicity of these “small” deaths in our lives. They created ritual and ceremony to facilitate and support this critical component of the spiritual path. Initiates were buried up to their necks, locked in caves, left in the woods, and abandoned in their own graves. We now affectionately call these ancient and painful rituals “vision quests” which can disguise the severity of the experiences.

Today, we don’t have such rituals for better or worse, but this does not mean that many people aren’t experiencing what is known as the shamanic death or initiation. These initiations are happening in the midst of life, cloaked in the mundane, but they are no less painful.

Bat spirit animal appears during these initiations when the world seems to be falling down around us. The loss of a job, a health crisis, death of loved ones, floods, fires, lawsuits, and so forth can be the outward manifestations of an inward crisis.

Upside Down and Clinging

Bat hangs upside down from the ceiling of the cave, clinging to the rough surface. This inverted posture could be seen as everything going wrong, but I see it as a defiance of gravity. Symbolically, gravity is the past. Gravity is what weighs us down and  keeps us from moving forward into grace.

Bat spirit animal says, “I’m not going to let that bring me down. I’m climbing as high as I can and riding this one out.” There is an intense tenacity in bat symbolism, more so than you will find almost anywhere else. Even when things are at their very, very worst and it seems like we won’t be able to go on, bat is the voice deep inside us that tells us to keep hanging in there. Bat symbolism is about not giving up, not matter how hard it gets.

Is this Ever Going to End?

In the Medicine Cards by Jamie Sams and David Carson, they warn against stagnation and preventing the death-rebirth cycle from progressing, but there is an important component of bat biology that we must evaluate. Female bat has three ways to prolong her pregnancy. She can prevent the sperm from fertilizing the egg, she can keep the fertilized egg floating free awaiting implantation, or she can keep the very young embryo in a sort of stasis where it is not allowed to grow. She forestalls the development and birth of her pup until environmental conditions are more favorable.

Forbearance is another key component of bat symbolism. When everyone else is saying to get on with it, let go of the past, and start a new life, we don’t have to listen. We know when the right time is and we know when there is still more that must die. When we deny these truths it is no use. The cosmos provides more obstacles to slow us down anyways. Trust your instincts about the timing of your emergence from the cave.

Rebirth & Resurrection

Bats give birth to their young while hanging upside down. The babies come out feet, rather than head, first. This again speaks of the enormous strength and effort that is at the heart of bat medicine. Born against the pull of gravity, the force of the universe that pulls everything down, your new self is coming. It is a tremendous, heroic effort not to be taken lightly and worth every ounce of power you put into it.

At dusk every day, bats are born anew into the darkness flying out from the cave. That is why so many cultures associate bat with resurrection. We think being reborn into our new selves means we will come out into the light and have everything revealed to us. The trick of bat spirit animal is to remember that we are being born into the mystery. So much will be uncertain, but with bat spirit animal as your faithful companion you’ll be able to fly to new heights, hear the voice of the cosmos with great precision and have more freedom that you ever could have imagined.

 

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

 

 

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.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

lost wilderness of being

Lost Wilderness of Being

There’s a lot moving these days and the opportunity to shed projections and identities is abundant. The chance to move out of judgment and into our truth comes with what can be considered a high price tag. Just when we think we’ve let go of every pre-conception and belief that was important to us, the guard at the gate of our happiness ups the toll. In my own quest for joy and peace I came across the following stream of consciousness that has offered me comfort and contemplation:

Even though I did not know where I was going I still feel I have lost my way. I have lost my certainty of being me. There was no one to tell me I was long forgotten lost… forgot and lost the railway… imagination lays the tracks… tracks go one way. Steer the imagination and you are hopelessly lost.

Lost hope, lost will, lost self. In this state even the will of union seems too rigid. For in the end it’s a concept along the tracks that lead one-way to nowhere. In releasing to the process the process becomes no more. First the process becomes God, then compartmentalized, then loved, then lost… lost and forgotten.

The age old adage of “why?” Well then, “why bother?” To be free of the shackles, shake loose of the locks. But, this is not a revolution of expression. The cage door is opened, the bars are extinguished, but the bird remains. “Why?” This is not living out of hope or hopelessness. It’s just living in the lost wilderness of being.