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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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| 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.
| Okay, Have To Say It - Where Are All The Cute Fluffy Animals... ||Jun 23rd. at 9:08:38 pm EDT|
|MachaCrow (Charles Town, West Virginia US) ||Age: 30 - Email |
Okay, have to say it - where are all the cute fluffy animals? Okay, who has Squirrel or Opossum as their totem? Ahem, that said...
Man is animal, however bright he is. I think our attraction is in what we perceive we have lost. That deep dream to run wild, living on insinct. Kill or be eaten. We respond to that part of the animal, be it wolf, cat, raven, etc., that we miss most in ourselves. Or that we most recognize in ourselves.
And I think in some cases, the animals themselves can see in us that "spirit within". It's a mutual attraction.
All said, I picked and seemed to have been picked by crows. If you don't believe me, hang out. It worries my friends the raport I have with a bird most think of as disgusting, loud, pests. I find them daring, brave, intelligent and not without a sense of humor and cunning. They tend to remind me of those parts of my character that at times are well, less than attractive, but at the same, what make me who I am - loyal and from what I understand a likeable person.
We just seem to understand each other. Whether enjoying some gossip in the garden or sharing a snack at lunch. And even a few times warning me of danger, keeping me alert to trouble.
We can learn from the animals what we choose to, we just have to take the time and make the effort to learn, to listen and at times to speak.
| Merry Meet, All! To Me, It Would Seem That The Relationship Of... ||Jun 24th. at 1:54:50 am EDT|
|Liz (Wrightwood, California US) ||Age: 17 - Email |
Merry meet, all!
To me, it would seem that the relationship of predator and prey shows somthing that many do not understand: the difference between living and killing.
Killing to live is what a predator does. There is nothing wrong with it. On the otherhand, living to kill is a human trait, steming from greed, anger, and a host of other aflictments to the human race. We, as a society, must learn the difference between living to kill and killing to live.
This idea also spreads light upon the subject of "harm none". Could it be that this rule or law, mattering on how you view it, is actually designed so that when you do harm something, which occurs naturally, it is in acordance with killing to live? Perhaps it is like a fail safe, guarding against "living to kill" actions and agresions.
I love to hear from you all!
| For Years, I Have Admired The Wolf. I See It To Be... ||Jun 24th. at 2:47:43 am EDT|
|Amanda (Anoka, Minnesota US) ||Age: 16 |
FOr years, I have admired the wolf. I see it to be one of the strongest, most intelligent creatures on this planet. For the few years I've been following my path, trying to discover who I truly am, I've changed. I used to adore cats. THen again, I used to adore make-up and Rainbow Brite. Since I began to rediscover myself, I have changed. I feel as if I have the spirit of a wolf. I am given strength and stamina when I need it. I have the ability to be as tender and gentle as a mother, but I have a habit of trying to snap at anyone who gets too close. The wolf is my spirit animal, as it is part of me. I cannot help but think that somewhere, sometime, perhaps I was one of those lovely creatures...and perhaps I will be again. For the time being, I can only close my eyes on a crisp, full moon night, and dream of running with my furry brethren.
| I Was Soured To The Idea Of Totems Pretty Early In My... ||Jun 24th. at 8:36:25 am EDT|
|Joy Harwood (Asheville, North Carolina US) ||Age: 28 - Email |
I was soured to the idea of totems pretty early in my pagan path after other people beat me over the head with their wolves (happens WAY too often in this community). That's still a sore topic with me, as we are supposed to live and let live, believe and let believe. It really burns me up to have someone else essentially tell me "No, THIS is the way it is, and you have to play MY silly game when I won't play yours." That violates everything I believe in.
However, more recently I have (quite by accident) contacted various animals, including the wolf, during a group trance dance. They are all out there and I could work with pretty much any, not wanting to concentrate on one or two. I love cats and goats, but that doesn't mean I especially have them as totems.
I could have had this experience a lot sooner if other folks hadn't been so forceful with their own beliefs. Some pagans are very close to a certain
animal and understandably defensive where their totems are concerned. And of course in many cases, there's the wish to preserve a certain kind that's endangered. But unfortunately, some cross that thin line between defense and offense.
I personally have deep-seated issues with using a predatory species as a role model. I'm sure someone else out there has been in a predator-prey situation before and understands what I mean when I say I would like to move beyond that sort of relationship. Just because I have been hurt doesn't mean I should do the hurting this time. It doesn't make me any more powerful. It just continues the suffering.
Yes, I understand that humans are a part of the food chain, and I know nature can be cruel. But I don't want to be cruel. When I am financially well and don't need to depend on others, I usually don't eat meat (although if others do, that's okay).
As humans, we have so many more ways of dealing with life and reality than other physical creatures do. I would like to explore those ways as much as possible. For me, looking to a different creature as a role model is selling myself short and not having enough hope in my own kind. I can learn from other species, but I don't set them above my own. My $.02.
| In Most Indigenous Cultures, It Is Completely Normal For Everyone To Have... ||Jun 24th. at 8:27:34 pm EDT|
|Gordon Cooper (West Seattle , Washington US) ||Age: 43 - Email |
In most indigenous cultures, it is completely normal for everyone to have an animal relative, either by birth or adoption. However, these people have a lifestyle that is very different from most of us who hunt only in a grocery store. We are usually not raised with the detailed information on ecology, food gathering, animal lore and stalking that the Lakota, Asmat, or others have. Most Americans cannot identify, let alone imitate the birds in their backyards. If we do not understand Nature that is outside our window, how can we possibly build an intimate spiritual relationship with any animal beyond a pet (to use the ancient Irish word for a domestic familiar)?
In cultures that have shamans, EVERYONE has a power animal. These beasts and fowl, mythic and other, live in a complex web of relationships that requires care to access and maintain. Just as in the wild, mutual support, cooperation, and even play are more important to survival than predation or simple flight. Crows, ravens, jays and other birds form natural support groups. Zebras look out for hippos. The Russian naturalist Kropotkin noted over a century ago that cooperation was the primary mechanism evident in nature, not predation.
That said, life requires death, save for the bacteria living in the crust of the earth. We cannot live without the death of numerous plants and animals, even if we choose to be vegans. Our society has a casual attitude towards all of life. I would like to see EuroPagans restore the sacred to the acts of eating and life in general. If we eat meat, we can support Islamic and Jewish kosher meat shops and eliminate the terror faced by the animals that die so we can live. We can be less wasteful in our lives, recognizing the enormous costs to nature that our extravagent lifestyles impose.
As I walk the salmon creek in our neighborhood, I pray for the health of the animals and plants, recognizing that even small actions can make the difference between life and death for salmon, the most mythic of the indicator species in the Puget Sound. If I do not take powerful action to preserve the animals, how can I expect their spirits and the Spirit of the Land to deal kindly with me?
| My Totem Animal Is Wolf. I Have Felt Something Special For/about... ||Jun 24th. at 9:06:07 pm EDT|
|Betsy (Somerville, Massachusetts US) ||Age: 38 |
My totem animal is Wolf. I have felt something special for/about/with Wolf since I was a very small child; this feeling of kinship with Wolf was one of the things that led me to Paganism in the first place. What does it say about me? I am not entirely sure, but some of the ideas are self-reliance within a small, trusted group, willingness to work with others, willingness to *act* when it is necessary, comfort with the 'messier' aspects of the natural cycle, kinship with wilderness and the animals that live there...
I find that Wolf gives me the guts to go and *do* when it's gotta get done and it's gotta get done *now*. It hasn't really been a big aspect of my training so far, not formally, but Wolf gives me the courage to do things, even when I'm scared. And Wolf reminds me that all things die, including Wolf, and are reborn as something else.
I find Mouse also speaks to me. Small, squeaky and cute -- that's Mouse. Mouse runs and hides, raises lots of children, and if allowed, lives in little family groupings. Mouse reminds me of the transitory nature of our existence, and the eternalness of life itself, for while one mouse dies, Mouse goes on. And surprisingly, Mouse is one of the prey animals that Wolf eats at times, so there's a connection there too.
Lastly, if I were an animal, I would be some sort of feline.
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