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Posted: Sep. 8, 2002
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Question of the Week: 46 - 6/18/2001
Predator and Prey - What Beasts Live Within You?
The circle dance between predator and prey in Nature works to keep things in balance. If you follow a shamanic path, what totem/guardian animals do you hang out with? How did you find your totem/guardian animal? What do think the choice of a certain totem animal says about a person? What about yourself? If you are Pagan, but do not follow a shamanic path, what role or lessons can be learned from the predator/prey relationship? Do you use or were you taught about this concept in your spiritual training? If you are 'none of above', then in our best Barbara Walter's voice we would ask you, 'If you were an animal, what animal would you be?" (Just trying to be inclusive here!)
| Reponses: There are 44 responses posted to this question.
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| The Animal That Has Walked With Me Nearly All My Life Has... ||Jun 20th. at 8:27:28 am EDT|
|Brighid (Kaikohe, New Zealand) ||Age: 58 - Email |
The animal that has walked with me nearly all my life has been the pig, in all her glorious manifestations. As an 11-year-old, I was told to choose an animal to do a project on at school. The pig was my first and immediate choice, and stayed with me since then in spirit until nearly 30 years ago, when I was at last able to have real ones to look after. I now have a couple -a black boar and a white sow, both of the breed known as Kunekune (short, fat and friendly, with tassels under their chins, and 'native' to New Zealand). Every now and then they produce cute piglets of varying colours and personalities.
It has struck me in the last week or so since reading Witchvox articles on Shamanism just how many concepts can be seen here. The Celtic trinity, for instance - the pig as predator (the wild boar attacking lambs on a back-country sheep run, and ripping the guts out of a hunter's dog); the pig as prey (the fat sow as bacon and her suckling children roasted with apples in their mouths);and the pig as scavenger(cleaning up fruit under the trees in an orchard or dead bodies on a battlefield).
My fat white sow's ancestress is the White Sow of the Celts, a representation of the Great Goddess, and my boar's head with his savage tusks graces my clan badge, that of the McKinnons of Mull and Skye.
How could I fail to love them all?
| The Constrictor, The Non-venomous Snake. That Is My Totem. Interestingly I Found... ||Jun 20th. at 10:25:32 am EDT|
|Caliana (Aurora, Colorado US) ||Age: 22 - Email |
The constrictor, the non-venomous snake. That is my totem. Interestingly I found a fondness for reptiles early on, however I realized I really loved snakes, not only were they fascinating they were creatures of instinct. They didn't over analyze things as I was prone to as a child, they simply stayed warm, ate, and slept. They were always aware of the environment around them, and were not afraid to strike out with lightening reflexes when threatened.
In addition while they could be taught to not strike they could not be made to preform tricks, nor could the wild streak every be removed from their character.
Thus I strive to be more like the snake, less tame and more wild, listening to the voice of the Great Mother more and over analyzing less.
Love and Light
| The Earliest Shamanic Dreaming I Recall Was As A Raven, Gliding Above... ||Jun 20th. at 5:08:09 pm EDT|
|Ravan Asteris (Cupertino, California US) ||Age: 39 - Email |
The earliest shamanic dreaming I recall was as a raven, gliding above an active battlefield shrouded in mist and spattered with blood. An outsider, watching, waiting for my turn to come. The clash wasn't mine, but I would see it ended, and have my pick of the pieces. I also saw the big picture far better than those entwined in the struggle, and was amused -- it was petty, senseless, and both sides were wrong. I laughed with the caw of raven. I felt no pity.
Morrigan, Odin, and even the Trickster resonate deeply with me. I have always been somewhat of an outsider, even in the pagan community, preferring to walk my own path than be spoon-fed someone else's. I see things as a balance, rather than as a dark/light, predator/prey type of dichotomy. Sooner or later, everything is scraps for the scavenger. I tend to mediate and try to solve disputes, although sometimes I unsettle people by being outside of their games -- the raven doesn't care what colors you wear, blood is the same, regardless. Needless to say, I'm a devout omnivore, but I don't gnaw bones.
Recently I have discovered that I also have an affinity for the panther, and by extension whatever cute and fluffies it eats. This comes into my life when I have to act proactively, rather than stand by and let the chips fall. As such I still skulk in the shadows and tall grasses, acting only when my goal is in sight, with speed and force. I even have my cute and harmless side too.
Still, both predator and prey are food to the raven.
| In Irish, The Word For "totem Animal" Is Beirmhil, With Subcategories Of... ||Jun 20th. at 6:00:51 pm EDT|
|Aedh Rua (Prophetstown, Illinois US) ||Age: 35 - Email |
In Irish, the word for "totem animal" is beirmhil, with subcategories of nascmhil, an animal totemically linked to you through your name, and claenmhil, an animal linked to one's family. These terms are from Sean O Tuathal's Focloir Draiochta, which has so far proved a very reliable, though not infallible, source.
Anyway, I have never done the kind of specific magical rituals to determine my beirmhil in a really traditional way, so I cannot be totally sure what it is. However, I do have a strong link to cats of a number of kinds, including European wildcats, North American wildcats and cougars, and lynxes, which are found in many parts of the world. This is interesting, because cats are not seen well in the Celtic world, usually being an animal of ill-omen. How much this may be a matter of modern Christianized prejudice influencing the Celtic peoples is hard to say.
That cats had a somewhat better, though still rather problematic, reputation in Pagan Ireland than in Christian Ireland is made likely by the existance of a number of clans and tribes bearing cat names, of which the most famous is the Scottish Clan Chattan. Still, the many stories of monsterous Otherworld cats suggest that the cat was regarded as fierce and uncanny at best. The exception to this may, or may not, be the lynx, which might have been associated with Lugh.
My links with Danu/the Morrigu also produce some links with ravens and crows, though they are not totems as such. They are however, most useful to me for divination.
Other than that, I don't know.........
| There Is A Difference Between One's Totem, One's Guardians, And One's Power... ||Jun 21st. at 2:01:31 am EDT|
|the ShadowDancer (Tucson, Arizona US) ||Age: 47 - Email |
There is a difference between one's totem, one's guardians, and one's power animals-- although they may overlap. The terms are not automatically interchangeable.
I was first introduced to my power animals in a beginner's shaman training taught by Michael Harner a few years ago. I was going to support my wife, and did not expect to have my life changed around(I was polytheistic, but certainly did not aspire to shaman practices or communing directly with spirits). My major power animal is a top predator from the Asian continent, and was with me prior to our introduction. During the workshop, we participants traveled to the lower world to retrieve another power animal for eachother. The one who had compassion and volunteered to come to me is a major prey animal from the South Pacific. Since then I have acquired a third. Each comes to me for different purposes-- but primarily when I enter shamanic states of consciousness(like now, writing to you).
(I mention the prey/predator duality only because it is part of your question. It is not an issue in the realms (other than this Middle world), where I primarily "hang out" with my power animals. There is existance, but no eating: emotion, but not physical pain. You are given power according to your ability and willingness to be of service, and power animals volunteer accordingly.)
I subscribe to the shaman belief that as long as you have power, you can't die or be harmed. But sometimes you can suffer power loss. At such times, you must be careful, and need someone to intercede for you. Shamans can travel to find a compassionate (animal) spirit to volunteer to lend power to the individual during times of power loss. Prayer can also sometimes fill this function, esp. community prayer.
Additionally I have guardians, 6 in number-- above, below, and at the 4 directions. I called them to guard and support me for years before it occured to me to ask their identity. Their identities differ, but the one to the North is a powerful animal spirit, now extinct in this middle world. Another is an animal spirit that is worshiped as a god to the South of where I live. The others aren't animal spirits, per se.
My totem is the Dragon. This is not a matter of my choice, or of the Dragon's choice either. It simply is. Although I think it sort of a silly, the ShadowDancer is my Dragon name. The Dragon searches for the pearl of wisdom, ultimate knowledge-- and propels me in my searches and researches. This is the spirit that lives within.
| I Just Realized That I Practiced Shamanic Rituals. The Animals I "hang-out... ||Jun 21st. at 10:55:57 am EDT|
|PanRaven (Detroit, Michigan US) ||Age: 14 - Email |
I just realized that I practiced shamanic rituals. The animals I "hang-out" with the most would have to be felines, ravens, wolves, and rabbits. I first found he wolf, and the way I find them is by "listening" to the way my energies respond to them or anything relating to them, then if I can, I make contact with the animal and see how they respond to me (felines are most responsive). The choice of a person's totem animal may show their strenghts, weaknesses, or personality in general. My totem animals show my personality. My spiritual path (Paganism) introduced shamanism to me, but I had not intended on practicing.
| When My Car Broke Down On A Small Two Laned Highway On... ||Jun 21st. at 2:20:16 pm EDT|
|Thora Wodenshild (Texarkana, Texas US) ||Age: 42 - Email |
When my car broke down on a small two laned highway on a sultry August day, (the kind of sultry day that brings out mosquitoes the size of f-14's) I got out of my smoking Caprice, and heard someone laughing. Shocked and angry that someone would dare poke fun at being stranded on a country road in the middle of nowhere, I looked over the hood of the car (which was still pouring smoke) and saw to my surprise, a pair of crows perched on a barbed wire fence laughing their tail feathers off. I had to laugh with them. The crow, since then has become one of my totem animals. They've taught me to laugh at myself and not to take myself (or situations) too seriously.
| Very True-the Relationship Between Predator And Prey Is All Around Us, Even... ||Jun 21st. at 9:17:04 pm EDT|
|Jenn (Nashville, Tennessee US) ||Age: 22 |
Very true-the relationship between predator and prey is all around us, even in our own human lives. (A recent incounter with my mother reinforces this for me-she is ALWAYS the predator in our relationship! You've heard about how some animals eat their own young? *grin*) Although I do not walk the path of the shaman, I do have a totem animal. Cat has been with me since Imbolic of 1998 (right in time to help me deal with a very tramatic time in my life!), and He is definately one of my favorite members of the Siprit World. (And he keeps my own kitty on his toes-my witchkitty not only plays with faeries, but has a spirit Cat hanging around, too!) I guess the point of this rambling is that no matter how many people there are that are "smaller" than you ("prey"), there's always that one "bigger" (predator) person that can take you down a notch or two. A lesson in this, perhaps? (Or am I just talking?)
| My Clan Name Means Sons Of The Seal. When In England I... ||Jun 22nd. at 7:35:45 am EDT|
|Heather (Auckland, New Zealand) ||Age: 52 - Email |
My clan name means Sons of the Seal. When in England I was walking by the sea and I thought I saw a woman drowning, but it turned out to be a seal rising high in the water,
Later, back in New Zealand, I heard a man reading his Pacific totemic poetry and felt urged to write my own which has been published in a couple of anthologies.
I am seal woman
See me slip beneath the waves,
Cold without but hot within.
I rise up on the waters,
Looking at you.
When the sun comes up
I shed my skin,
Stroke my breasts. thighs
And ample bum and sing a
Son of man with hard on tight
Then hide my pelt beneath his bed,
Pray to his stern god.
But when his god has set
And he in slumber lies,
I pull and shake my evening coat and,
Warm beneath the silver queen
Slip silent to the shore to join my sisters
And feast on fishes slipped from his god's net,
The sweetest kind.
Sometimes I see a daughter on the cliff
In human form, but still
She looks to me wth recognition
Dawning in her eyes,
And thinks she sees her grand dam
Then shakes her head to c lear her sweet confusion.
I send her blessings and a tear,
For she is destined to the fate
We seal women all must bear,
To be harpooned by men.
Thanks to Brighid for her editorial input and to the brandy.
| The Animals Are For Me, The Most Dominant Aspect Of My Spiritual... ||Jun 22nd. at 2:38:39 pm EDT|
|Sky (St Augustine, Florida US) ||Age: 32 - Email |
The Animals are for me, the most dominant aspect of my spiritual training. They are the guides, teachers, ("trainers") friends, and protectors who led me to and along the path I walk (in the physical and in the spirit world).
I have been taught that when working with or learning from any Animal it is good to look at the Animal's predator/prey correspondence and consider that Animal's gifts and teachings as well. This relationship is the essence of the dance of life, and the balance therein.
The Animals chose who, when, where, and how they come (to me) in both physical and spirt form. I strive to hear all of their messages, learn all of the lessons they present and give them all, (great and small) equal merit and gratitude. They represent aspects of myself, lessons I have completed, lessons yet to be learned, and my connections to All things. There are those whom have always been with me, others who present themselves along the way, and those who come and go.
I think we all can learn from the Animals on many levels. We are connected with them as we are to each other, with the Earth Mother, the Sky Father, Nature, and All of Creation.
| Even As A Young Child I Always Knew Animals Of All Shapes... ||Jun 22nd. at 10:57:58 pm EDT|
|Artemis (Seacoast, New Hampshire US) ||Age: 36 - Email |
Even as a young child I always knew animals of all shapes and sizes would be a part of my life and I remember paying attention to them long before I knew what I was doing had a name. The cat has always been a staple of mylife, from the cat my parents picked out for me days after my birth to the stray that wandered to my doorstep last summer. But the one that made itself known most clearly was the snake. They were forever slipping across my feet and legs whenever I sat on the grass when I was young. As I got older, I paid attention to what was going on in my life whenever I spotted one and I considered it a good omen if one shot across my path whenever I went for a walk. I have had friends refuse to go for walks with me because snakes always show up. I was even born in the Chinese Year of the Snake.
I have also had several other animals make appearances at times when I have asked the Goddess for help. The fox is another predator who has made an appearance several times when I've needed some cunning and invisibility in my life. but I have also been visited by the sparrow and the deer at times when i've needed to be reminded of gentleness and humility.
One of the most important lessons that I always remember came from my close association with the snake. She taught me to know when to strike, when to slip away, and how to choose between the two.
| For As Long As I Can Remember, Cats Of Any Sort Have... ||Jun 23rd. at 4:55:01 pm EDT|
|Silverflame (Saskatoon, Saskatchewan CA) ||Age: 17 - Email |
For as long as I can remember, cats of any sort have been very important to me. As I have traveled my path, I have found them to be more than companions. They provide me with inspiration through their enigmatic stares, and to have a cat in or around the circle while performing a ritual has improved both my focus and my results. I also find myself talking to crows as I walk down the street, and sometimes they talk back! Wolves, dragons and bats are other animals that have provided me with guidance and assistance. These experiences have ranged from the dragon I once met in a moment of astral projection to the bats that flew overhead the moment I completed my first-ever Samhain ritual to the wolves I saw and heard in the trees around me while consecrating my scrying sphere. I have noticed that I have never been assisted by a creature which would normally be considered "prey." I can only speculate about the reason for this. My animals may be needed to balance my usually extremely gentle nature, or they may represent my rarely seen fire. Whatever the case, I do believe that most people end up with a totem or guardian who either complements or balances them-sometimes both.
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