Perhaps there will be those who protest even at the title of this blog because it would seem to hint at erasing history and the meaning of spiritual symbols and practices. And to that I say “Let’s do, and let’s keep moving!” For eons our species has both vilified and worshipped the other species on our shared planet and still do. Sometimes animals are both light and shadow, sometimes plants or crystals or a combination of all three with our not seeing them for the crystal clear mirrors they are and always will be. And out of all the questions I am asked on a regular basis the one that I grow most weary of is – “what is my totem animal?”
Historically, the purpose of a “totem” symbol is that it served primarily to unite a group of humans, who would seem to need a purpose for gathering together under an outward sign and with mostly physical attributes as the defining markers. Can you say speciesism? As if being one with each other needs to be somehow linked to the physical world, anchored in another being that is of this Earth rather than being something that happens with each breath we take, each beat of our hearts together and without any external symbolism. Animals don’t use other animals as totems because their connection with each other within the web of Nature is what serves as outside structure for their own tribe’s identity – prey or predator, wings or no wings, etc. Yet even with these categories all are equal and one is never over the other or put on a pedestal ever – their need is mutual and given without regard.
And in this moment of choosing an animal under which to bond with our own species is when the birth of an “us” and “them” occurred and when we became disengaged with our wild animal relatives and ourselves. Those very beings whose purpose I believe on this planet is that of star beings with enlightened intelligence and intuition far greater than our own and who would love nothing more than to serve alongside us in enjoying the bounties this planet has to offer all earthlings became subjugated. They become part of the illusion that our species labors under – and boy, do we labor – that this planet is nothing more than a hierarchy of takers and you’d better be a taker if you want to continue to live but make sure that you bring with you what we authentically and intuitively sensed was the magic of the world – animals. We’re not immune to that magic because a part of us – sometimes unconscious and small – understands that we are that same magic.
We saw how they fit exactly into the web of Nature, their lives, and how they thrived when we were having difficulty doing so ourselves. So we asked for their blessings and put them on pedestals for worship rather than join them in the place of energy they beseech us to enter continuously where everything in possible in a place of harmony and peace. The innate partnership between our species and all others on the planet was eroded because we gave them our magic rather than keep it for ourselves and both cursed and praised them, our totems, for when our lives did or did not go well – so much easier than accepting responsibility and remaining neutral in the face of adversity.
Now more than ever it is time to drop the pretense of being any less magical than the animal with whom you wish to partner. They are you, you are them and nothing less than that will suffice for your life or theirs. Claim your rightful place in the connectedness of all that is so that the animals can climb down off of those totem poles and become very real partners in energy as you move through your lives – together. Photo credit: Totem pole, Butchart Gardens, Victoria, BC, by Todd Jones, resized.