Posts Tagged ‘totem animals’

Pileated Woodpecker, Minneapolis, Minnesota, February 2009, photo © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Pileated Woodpecker, Minneapolis,
Minnesota, February 2009, all photos ©
2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

woodpecker drumming
beetles hidden under bark;
dig deeper for truth


Woody Woodpecker, Minneapolis, Minnesota, February 2009, photo © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

I was surprised to hear drumming in the woods behind our house last Friday afternoon. After standing in silence for a time, I spotted three pileated woodpeckers in the oaks, males checking out new territory. Though the downy and hairy woodpeckers are often seen at our feeder, I had never seen a pileated that close to our home. The last was at the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and Bird Sanctuary a few years ago.

There are about 180 species of woodpeckers in the world, each spending nearly their entire lives in trees. They are climbers and prop their stiff pointed tail feathers against a support while shifting leg holds. With body close to the trunk or branch and head bobbing, the bird is nimble and fast, darting sideways at such incredible speeds that predators have difficulty catching them.

It is my belief that animals and birds show up along our path to help us find our way. There are many cultures that honor the otherworldly role of animals in our lives. There are birth totems and spiritual totems, and those who appear once in a blue moon to remind us of what might be important in that moment. Birds link the Spiritual and the Earthly, the Upper and Lower worlds.

Woodpeckers with their erratic flight patterns and rhythmic drumming are one of the heartbeats of the Earth. I saw the three pileated woodpeckers as a sign in changing times — everything will be alright. According to one site about woodpeckers as spiritual guides, here are some of the characteristics and wisdom of Woodpecker:

  • woodpecker flight patterns are unique; honor personal rhythmic patterns, stay grounded to obtain goals
  • be open to self discovery; by pecking into bark and dead wood, hidden layers of the psyche are revealed
  • woodpeckers are active birds; caution is advised to maintain balance when reviewing any situation or issue. Don’t be too focused on the mental; too much analyzing can result in procrastination.
  • woodpecker finds food hidden under layers of bark and wood teaching us to dig deeply to find truth and deceptions. Woodpecker energy is associated with prophecy and the ability to see deeper than surface lies.
  • even if something seems difficult to do, do not give up. Do what works, even if it is unconventional. Set your own pace, your own rhythm.
  • people born under the woodpecker sign need safety and security and are often wary because of their extreme sensitivity to their surroundings; learn to move through life with perseverance and inner strength
  • woodpecker folks are able to “ride the flow of life” and to receive in silence. They are gentle, sensitive and dreamy folks who tend to both absorb and reflect things around them. They are here to learn more independence and stability.

Pileated Woodpecker Longshot, Minneapolis, Minnesota, February 2009, photo © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Earth Drummer, Minneapolis, Minnesota, February 2009, photo © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Pileated Woodpecker, Earth Drummer, Minneapolis, Minnesota, February 2009, all photos © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

pileated (from the Online Etymology Dictionary)
1728, from L. pileatus “capped,” from pileus “felt cap without a brim,” from Gk. pilos. Applied in natural history to certain birds and sea urchins.

To learn more facts about woodpeckers, visit these sites:

-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, March 1st, 2009

-related to post: haiku 2 (one-a-day), PRACTICE – Roadside Attractions — 15min, What Is Your Totem Animal?

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Splash Fire, Minneapolis, Minnesota, November 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Splash Fire (Dreamscape), Minneapolis, Minnesota, November 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Winter Solstice is peaking in the Great White North. The darkness of winter reflects off the cold blue snow. Yesterday we had blizzard conditions and the cottage sits behind a wall of white. I wanted to get up and write in the shadows, calling upon dreams I wish to bring into the light.

Mr. StripeyPants sits beside me on the couch, trying to keep warm. Kiev and Liz are still asleep. Chaco, bless his heart, is spending the weekend in an animal hospital. He declined quickly this week and, after two visits to our vet, we had to make the hard decision to put him in emergency care over the weekend.

The doctor called last night to say he is steadily improving. At 12 years old, he is experiencing the beginnings of kidney failure. We are not sure how long we’ll have with him. Quite a few tears were shed this week. Into the fire it all goes. I can release the grief and pain. I don’t have to carry the burden.

Winter Solstice in Minnesota hit her highpoint around 6 a.m CST. From that moment on, each day takes us more into the light. The Universal Time for Winter Solstice in 2008 is 12 21 12:03:34 UT. In the Midwest, we have to subtract 6 hours to arrive at the accurate time zone. (To learn more about Solstices and how to translate time for your part of the world visit the links and comments in Solstice Fire In Winter or Winter Solstice — Making Light Of The Dark.)

Around Noon we will head over to our friends’ home for a Winter Solstice celebration. They usually use the dried and cut Yule tree from last year’s season as kindling to start the fire. On the longest night of the year, we’ll draw on the cave-like energy of Bear, Spirit Guardian of the North.

Bear is feminine reflective energy. She is known across many cultures as a symbol for divinity and healing, and a powerful totem. According to the Animal Spirits cards, illustrated by Susan Seddon Boulet, the Ainu people of the northern islands of Japan believed the Bear was a mountain god. In India, bears are believed to prevent disease and the cave symbolizes the cave of  Brahma. And among the Finno-Ugric peoples, the bear was the god of heaven.

Many Native American peoples regard Bear as a Spirit helper. Here is an excerpt from the Medicine Cards by Jamie Sams and David Carson:

The strength of Bear medicine is the power of introspection. It lies in the West on the great Medicine Wheel of Life. Bear seeks honey, or the sweetness of truth, within the hollow of an old tree. In the winter, when the Ice Queen reigns and the face of death is upon the Earth, Bear enters the womb-cave to hibernate, to digest the year’s experience. It is said that our goals reside in the West also. To accomplish the goals and dreams that we carry, the art of introspection is necessary.

To become like Bear and enter the safety of the womb-like cave, we must attune ourselves to the energies of the Eternal Mother, and receive nourishment from the placenta of the Great Void. The Great Void is the place where all solutions and answers live in harmony with the questions that fill our realities. If we choose to believe that there are many questions to life, we must also believe that the answers to these questions reside within us. Each and every being has the capacity to quiet the mind, enter the silence, and know.

     -from the Medicine Cards by Jamie Sams & David Carson


Bear is the West, the intuitive side, the right brain. Bear invites us to calm the chatter and enter the silence. To hibernate, Bear travels to the Cave, seeks answers while dreaming, and is reborn in the Spring. In the Dream World, our Ancestors sit in council and advise us about alternative pathways leading to our goals. They open doors to inner-knowing where “the death of the illusion of physical reality overlays the expansiveness of Eternity.”

My Grandmother Elise’s birthday is on Winter Solstice. And I often think of her this time of year and call her Spirit into the Circle; I can feel her looking down on us. Solstice is a time of release, a time to consider what to leave behind in the dark, what seeds we wish to plant that may mature with the light of Spring.

Happy Winter Solstice to all. The dark New Moon signifies the beginning of a new cycle that will come to fruition at the next Full Moon. May you celebrate with open hearts. Merry meet, Merry part, and Merry meet again.

     Bear Breathing Fire, Minneapolis, Minnesota, November 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.    Bear Breathing Fire, Minneapolis, Minnesota, November 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Bear Breathing Fire, Minneapolis, Minnesota, November 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

-posted on red Ravine, Winter Solstice, Sunday, December 21st, 2008

-related to posts: 8 Minutes, and 10 Things I Learned Last Weekend (Solstice x Number)

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Hitchhiking Bird series, friendly bird at a Valles Caldera scenic overlook, August 3, 2008, all photos © 2008 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.

-Related to post What Is Your Totem Animal?

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I pulled the little frog out of the metal, feather shaped case where she is stored. A Zuni carving, a fetish, a gift from two friends who have traveled to the Southwest many times over the last 20 years. Traditional storage is clay. But I like her inside the feather.

The frog is carved from serpentine, and has 5 small pieces of turquoise on its back. And 2 pieces for the eyes that fall in front of the rough outcroppings behind them, the parotoid glands. It’s the place where they store their secretions, sometimes poisonous, released when they are stressed. There are 7 pieces of turquoise, total. The frog fits comfortably in my hand or pocket.

Frog is about cleansing, refilling the well. And purging negative energies, people, places, and things that no longer serve the higher good. It’s a good time for me to carry her. When my friends gave the Zuni frog to me a few decades ago, I couldn’t relate to her purpose. I was more connected to the 7-year mysteries and cycles of the Lynx and the Snowshoe Hare, or the aerial view through the eyes of a Red-Tailed Hawk. Something as grounded as a frog, a tadpole, a pollywog, I had never been drawn in that direction.

That’s not true of Liz. I think Frog is one of her totems. Last weekend when she was mowing the lawn, I heard the lawnmower come to a dead stop – she bent down gently, and picked up a toad that was crossing her path, then carried him, cupped in her hands, over to the neighbor’s yard. I was looking out the window at them. The next thing I knew, he had the toad cupped in his hands and they were chatting about the release to freedom.

Later, after seeing ybonesy’s New Mexico photographs of toads, I asked Liz what color the Minnesota toad was. “Dark, toad-colored,” she said.

Frogs breathe through their skin. Tadpoles have tails they lose in adulthood (not unlike the lowering and flattening of the human butt in middle-age). The mythology of Zuni afterlife takes them, not underground, but deep under a lake where frogs, tadpoles, fish, and other water creatures protect and keep them safe. Frogs connect and restore.

I grew up with many superstitions about frogs – warts if you touch their backs or they secrete their fluids on you. I still cringe a little when I go to pick one up. But none of that is true. Fairytales from the storytellers of yore. I have never kissed a frog. But when I was out playing one sweaty summer day, a neighborhood boy named Buddy, who went to the same elementary school, blew one up with a firecracker. I’ll never forget that sound.

It’s been raining and thunder storming all week. I’ve been thinking about the frog’s association to the cleansing rains. Unlike the Southwest, it rains often and for long periods of time in Minnesota. It is green and wet and lush. Frogs and toads are everywhere. I’m listening to them as I tap these letters out on black keys, Frog resting quietly on the keyboard in front of me. He looks more like a horned toad. The serpentine is mottled, dark brown mixed with a cream yellow. I just realized I called him a him; earlier in this write, I called him a her. S/he is androgynous.

I’m going to carry her in my pocket for the weekend. Protection for when the green tornado skies belt out the siren song of the Midwest storm corridor. Mom called a few minutes ago to see if we were okay. She said there’s a lot of red on her screen indicating turbulence over south central Minnesota. For me, sitting here staring out the window, it draws its own picture of swaying, rattling oak leaves, frog choruses croaking from the pond, chimes going crazy, banging on the deck, and the remnants of last weekend’s storm piled in the front fire pit ring of Jade Creek rocks.

The 5th day of gray. Last night at the poetry group, thunder rumbled after one woman read the first Rita Dove poem. And it rumbled again when we sat in the silence. We remarked later how it sounded like an airplane, high above the horizon. Then the rain came, pummeling the grass outside the alcove windows. It was the perfect night for poetry. And after Rita Dove read Geometry, after passing around Gary Soto’s moving postcard, after hot tea and chocolate, we walked outside to see a pink-hued, rosy green sky, daylight filtering through streetlamp midnight.

And I thought of Frog, or maybe Toad, burrowing into the earth, reclaiming the 120 frog species we have lost since the early 80’s, waking us up with frozen spring rains, hiding from the cold in the Arctic Tundra. Back down to earth in humble Minnesota. Reclaiming the green sky slickness of Frog, the bumpy dry, water tank skin of the toad, the hundreds of thousands of lakes, calling me home.

-posted on red Ravine, Friday, June 6th, 2008

-related to posts:  WRITING TOPIC – TOADS & FROGS, Green Is As Green Does, PRACTICE — Pink Frog Moon – 15min

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By Sharon Sperry Bloom

QM and YB got me thinking about what my totem animal might be.

I’ve always had cats, my whole life, and I’m uncomfortable without one in the house right now. I think we probably have exchanged a few traits along the way, like a love of solitude and sleep.

I love dogs, especially the sweetheart who lives with us now. Two-Socks is a “rez” rescue and came to me via a friend at work who could no longer keep her. She is the most loving and obedient animal I’ve ever known.

I’m not big on fish; I feel they’re pretty but boring, but it’s likely just my lack of trying to find their personalities.

Same with turtles and rabbits. I never knew a gerbil or hamster.

I had a bat squeeze it’s way into my apartment once back in Michigan. I really liked having it there. We were peaceful with each other. I opened the front door and it eventually flew out.

I can stare into the soulful faces of the sea otters and seals at an aquarium all day. Once on a family outing to the Albuquerque Zoo, my husband had to literally drag me out of there because one sea otter kept stopping to stare at me each time he took a lap around the tank. We were communicating I tell you!

I like most animals. Unlike many folks, I don’t mind mice or snakes. Even cockroaches don’t freak me out. I wish they’d stay out of my house, but they don’t give me the heebie-jeebies.

Bees and wasps leave me alone as I watch them in the flowers. Even scarabs can be nice. I once came home and found a huge jewel-green one just sitting on my front door! It was beautiful.

I really had to think about this totem animal issue. And what I came to realize is that I’ve been sharing my life quite comfortably with big spiders.

I’ve seen some big wolf spiders in my travels around the state of New Mexico. I’ve always liked tarantulas and daddy-long-legs. And every summer here in Albuquerque, I have lots of black widow friends.

Yes, friends. There are some that live behind the potted roses on my porch. After a particularly windy few days, if the dust and dirt piles up, I may sweep them into the flowerbeds while cleaning the porch, but otherwise, that is their home. They stay outside and don’t seem to mind when my husband and I sit out there.

And there are the ones in our garage. The building is more of a carpentry shop than a place to park anything, and I am frequently in and out getting tools or making a frame for a canvas.

This past summer and fall, there was a big black widow female who had a web near an area I frequent for gardening tools. Every time I went in the garage, I would talk with her and tell her what I was going to do and where I needed to be. She was very accommodating.

I also warned her to move her web when I knew my husband would be near her space. I suggested either down very low, since he’s a tall man, or up very high where the shelves are filled with things we don’t much use.

She tried low for a while, but her choice wasn’t great. She was too close to the car jacks and Bill uses those to change the oil. So she moved up high, near the overhead door. I would tell her I was coming in before I opened the door so she could scoot out of the way if she was too close. Usually she would just hang out and watch me when I was in the garage. I talked to her. If anyone else came along, she’d scamper to a shadowy spot and hide.

I miss her now that it’s winter.

Spider. Creator. Grandmother. Delicate and strong. Shy. Dream weaver.

Charlotte’s Web
Charlotte’s Web, image supplied by Sharon Sperry Bloom, who calls
this book one of her favorites.

Related Links:

      spider-web.jpg    spider-web.jpg    spider-web.jpg    spider-web.jpg    spider-web.jpg

Sharon Sperry Bloom is an artist living in New Mexico. She wrote this essay based on a writing practice inspired by red Ravine post, What Is Your Totem Animal?

You can see Sharon’s art and read about her creative process in the post Under Your Voodoo.

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The January Wolf Moon was wide and full, smeared across the morning sky the way an artist rubs a chalky finger across gray charcoal on paper. It was Liz that pointed it out to me, half asleep in the kitchen making coffee. By the time I got to the window, she was already out the door with her video camera, taking a long shot of the moon. She still had her pajamas on. It was -5.

January in Minnesota has lived up to its name this year. I become reclusive in cold. My dreams frozen and bending back on themselves like the ice folds on the back roof. Last Thursday, there was such a loud pop at the eaves, that it jolted me out of sleep. I woke Liz up and we both went and stared out the window into the black cold. Helpless. Humans have no recourse against the harshness of winter. If your car or furnace breaks down, or your pipes bust open, it is an instant time machine to the way things used to be.

When the roof jumped out of its skin, we did, too. Liz stuffed her hair under her hat, pulled on her boots, and walked out with a flashlight to inspect the roof. It was 3am. The crunch of her feet on top of the snow sounded like she was in the living room, right beside me. Sound travels quickly through frigid, thin air. I stayed behind, looking up ice dams on the Internet. Turns out, all of this creaking is normal for sub-zero temperatures. But, I tell you, it’s hard to fathom that the roof is not going to just cave in around us.

I have felt a lostness, is that a word, a directionless month. Trying to get on my feet, find my ground. I pulled a Medicine Card yesterday and it was Bat – reversed. The reversed cards are about lessons that need to be learned, an unwillingness to embrace the individual power rolling your way. Bat is about Rebirth. In the reversed stage, she is telling me to get going, to move on toward my dreams and goals. The Universe is supporting me. But if I can’t let it lift me, or push against it with resistance, all those dreams will come tumbling down.

At the extreme, the resistance of reversed Bat leads to a lifetime of saying, “I’m going to do that tomorrow” – and then I’m at the end of my life and the things I dreamed of have not been accomplished. If everything is laid out for you, why not take the bait? Usually, for me, it is fear. Or not having a solid practical plan. I am good at dreaming. For follow through, I have to make a structured plan.

I’ve been resisting. Because I know how much work it’s going to take to move forward. I have had the luxury of time to rest the last month and a half. I am deeply grateful for that gift. Now, I need to take action. I feel overwhelmed. I need to remember, day by day, one step at a time. I don’t have to do everything all at once. One step at a time. Never give up on your dreams.

So when the Full Wolf Moon slid a dewdrop of reflected sunlight through the slats in the blind, and Kiev was running around like a maniac last night, I tried to pay attention to my dreams. But I was so tired, all that came was sleep.

In the morning, French Roast helps a little. And thinking about the death of Heath Ledger. So young. It makes no sense. There is nothing like death to wake you up. I just took a swig out of the amber Taos Mountain Outfitters water bottle and thought about walking around Taos. Water and caffeine dehydrate; water and mountain drench. The cells have everything they need to climb. Now – take the next step.

-posted on red Ravine, Wednesday, January 23rd, 2008

-related to posts, winter haiku trilogy and What Is Your Totem Animal?

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Mr. StripeyPants bolted off of his gentle resting spot, purring and catching some z-z-z-z’s on Liz’s side this morning. I knew he’d heard a noise. With the frigid, stony, -24 degree skies, and all the creaking and popping ice on the roof this weekend, I got up to see what the fuss was. The kitchen cabinet was propped open, contents splayed all over on the kitchen floor, Pants’ butt sticking out, tail wagging with a fury.

After further investigation, there is was: a Bigelow Mint Medley herb teabag with chew holes, ant pile of tea leaves stashed in the corner, and a trail of mouse droppings under the sink. If you followed the droppings, they created a pebbly map, cairns along a super highway to the garbage can. And when Liz peeled back the plastic, there it was: the chewed ear off the fire red top of a Wendy’s chili order. Yes, our mice love Wendy’s chili!

There’s a mouse in the house! We’ve got the contents of the cabinet laid out on the floor as I write. And now we’re trying to decide how to plug the hole around the PVC pipe where they are making their grand entrance.

We hate to use traps. Any other ideas?

In the meantime, I’m off to go deal with the mice. And Liz just piped up from the kitchen, “Isn’t it comforting to know that Mr. StripeyPants’ totem animal is Mr. Mouse?!”

-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, January 20th, 2008

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Baby Back, Baby the Snake active one day in mid-November 2007, photo © 2008 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.

Last night at a friend’s birthday dinner, after we’d finished off the Nuts & Birds, curry chicken, wasabi shrimp, and several scoops of green tea ice cream, the question came up. What is your totem animal?

One person’s was the gentle giant, elephant. I said immediately, “Mountain lion.” We looked at Jim — his must be the hummingbird.

One person said a snake, although he didn’t mean it. Two of us thought that the snake as totem animal would be pretty cool.


The idea of the totem animal comes from Native American cultures and traditions. These animals, it is believed, accompany us in both physical and spiritual worlds.

There is no deep mystery to identifying your totem animal. Simply think about different animals. Which do you feel most connected to? What animal has always interested you, or what animal have you seen in unusual places? Your totem animal is that which you feel closest to through interest, dreams, physical proximity, or any other way.

I understood my totem animal to be a mountain lion via two guided exercises, one being a past-life regression. The last close encounter I had with a mountain lion was in the Pecos Mountains of New Mexico, on a hike with Jim. We didn’t see her, but we smelled her and felt her nearby.

If you can’t figure out your totem animal by meditating on the question, you can always take this test (because, of course, on the internet there is a test for everything).

Once you know what your animal totem is, there are a host of resources regarding the traits of different animals. Here’s one, and here’s another. According to this one, my totem represents power of feminine energy.

You know what? I always knew what my totem animal was yet I never looked up what it meant. Now that I know, I realize it fits.

So, what animal are you? I want to know.

Baby Box, Baby showing off her entire body one day in mid-November 2007, photo © 2008 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.

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