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Posted: Nov. 17, 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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| 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.
| 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.
| 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.........
| 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.
| 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 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?
| Just Yesterday, After Getting Home From Work, Tired And Not At All... ||Jun 19th. at 3:13:34 pm EDT|
|Daven (Nashville, Tennessee US) ||Age: 33 - Email |
Just yesterday, after getting home from work, tired and not at all willing to do anything except vegetate in front of the television, a friend came over and called me and my wife outside for a few moments.
See, next door the neighbors have let the backyard of their property grow wild. Out there are weeds, overgrown places, hollows, and wild animals.
Most times these animals are not too interesting. One, the skunk, goes out of its way to make sure that no one comes too close. Among these creatures, are a stray cat and a family of groundhogs.
Well, the lady called us to see the antics of the groundhogs on this day. It seems that the mother lived in the woods nearby, and had just had pups. We only knew about one pup, but while we were watching them, another pup showed up. It was apparent to us that this was the child of the mother groundhog. As we watched, she disciplined her children, and showed her affection to them. A few moments stretched into about a half hour.
We watched the pups cavort around and play with each other and with their mother. As I watched them, I started thinking about what could be shown to me in their antics. Times like these I look for the hidden meanings behind what is going on and try to see what the Gods are saying.
Two hours after I came back inside, I realized what the Gods were trying to teach us. The mother groundhog was taking time out of her day to be with her children, to play with them, to teach them, to interact with them.
That is what I needed to know, that while it is important to work and earn my way in the world at a job, that ultimately my job is my children and my family. That just because I have expended great amounts of energy serving my business and repairing computers, that I should husband some of that strength to give to my daughter and my wife.
That time spent with our families is more important than anything else that we will ever do in our lives. That sense of unity built among several different people is what makes us human. Fostering that relationship between those we love is the one thing that we will leave behind when we are gone.
Yes, it is important to foster that relationship with others we come into contact with, but it is ultimately our families that are part of us and who will most acutely miss us when we are gone. In teaching, sharing, talking, expressing views, sharing thoughts, one forges a bond that is almost unbreakable.
Looking at the world today, most times if there are problems with someone, they did not have a sense of who they are, or where they came from. They have no sense of family.
This sense of family is what is meant by the old saying "it takes a village to raise a child". With everyone looking out for a child, then that child finds a sense of family, and thus, a sense of self worth that will remain with them for the rest of their lives.
That old groundhog mother not only taught her pups that, but she shared it with me. And now I know that sense of family is more important than most anything I can do here. Pretty appropriate for a Father's Day.
| My Totem Animal Is The Raven, The Totem Animal Of My Goddess... ||Jun 19th. at 10:16:06 am EDT|
|Emerald (Fort Lauderdale, Florida US) ||Age: 19 |
My totem animal is the Raven, the totem animal of my goddess Morrigan, the Great Queen. I met her during one of my first shamanic journeys, but I didn't know who she was until I told my Elder about the strange woman I had met in the otherworlds. The scavenger nature of the Raven sets me apart in all conflicts, so that I may function in any situation as an intermediary between the predator/prey energies. The Raven is an excellent guide, but also an excellent trickster and a creature of vengance, and through the eyes of my Raven guide Morrigan can always watch over me. Never, ever ever, ever, mess with a Raven, don't even look at one cross-eyed, and be careful mimicking their bird call. Raven guides demand respect and a sense of humor, but they can be your greatest ally and will be of much assistance in your quest for higher knowledge.
| I Find It Amazing How Many Parallels There Are Between The Practices... ||Jun 19th. at 9:27:11 am EDT|
|Sarah Boyes (Guisborough, England UK) ||Age: 16 - Email |
I find it amazing how many parallels there are between the practices and beliefs of different people.
Recently I have been visiting a chatroom called 'Spirit Guides'. When i began to question the concept of spirit guides, i found out that they are seen in two different ways; either as spirits in themselves who come from the spiritual plane and spend their lives helping others and others close to them or as parts of the subconscious that manifest themselves as 'voices' or 'presences'.
Imagine my surprise when i came to Witch Vox to find that the weekly question was about totem animals! I think i believe these are parts of the subconscious that always know the answer. It seems that the subconscious finds many ways to communicate and that totem animals and spirit guides are but two.
As for my totem animal(s), i don't know yet. I am still searching for something that feels right.
And as a footnote, is Jiminy Cricket a totem animal in disguise??
| I Have Shamanic Tendencies, But Not The Luxury Of Time To Pursue... ||Jun 19th. at 1:48:30 am EDT|
|Laurie E. Smith (Winnipeg, Manitoba CA) ||Age: 37 - Email |
I have shamanic tendencies, but not the luxury of time to pursue them as they deserve (and perhaps not the bravery, either, since the ordeal of initiation is a terrible one). What I do have are two guardians who have been with me all my life: Crow and Prairie Dog.
Crow kept me alive through a hellish childhood. He (sometimes she, Crow is of mutable sex) is my tenacity, my courage, and my ability to laugh in the face of disaster. When I'm suicidal (which happens fairly often on the healing journey I'm on), Crow is the part of me that refuses to give up and slip away. Crow is gallows humor and the unquenchable spark of life itself.
I've always loved crows. I drew pictures of them, wrote poetry about them, studied them. When I came to Wicca they presented themselves to me as companions to one of my patron deities, the Morrigan. In the winter I put out offerings to the local mob, and silently greet them when I meet them in the street. Once I had them follow me through a large cemetary, circling me widdershins until I was almost at the gates. Although they were probably just seeing me out of their territory, I thought it was a magickal experience.
Prairie Dog, though always present, didn't emerge until later in my life, and is the animal I associate with Brigid, my other patron deity. She (always she) is the other side of the coin from Crow: settled instead of transient, nurturing instead of surviving, the strength of community versus the power of the individual. Crows can work together, and often do, but they are self-suffient creatures -- and who has ever seen a happy lone Prairie Dog?
Prairie Dog knows the secrets hidden deep in the cool earth, through complex tunnels that she has made herself. Her wisdom is different from raucous Crow's: quiet, stable, patient.
Crow has little patience. He is always ready to pick things apart to see how they work. He asks awkward questions, pokes and prods, pisses people off. Prairie Dog sits and smiles quietly, and listens. People usually like her better than Crow, who won't let them get a word in edgewise sometimes.
So, I have a scavenger and a prey animal. Where is my predator? I don't know; I haven't seen it yet. I suppose I'll meet it one day if it's meant to be. Hawk, perhaps? Something to think about, anyway.
| I Am Not Sure What My Totem Is, But, I Am Connected... ||Jun 19th. at 12:06:53 am EDT|
|Ember (Salisbury, Maryland US) ||Age: 23 - Email |
I am not sure what my totem is, but, I am connected to many reptiles. I am born year of the snake, and snakes are very much connected to the Goddess. I have also had dream about snakes and turtles. In my youth I realy like fish and dolphins, I think I have grown out of that though. I also like dragons, which goes along with the reptile thing... On the other hand, I am a Leo, and I love my kitties, Shadow the Grey Gargoyle pretending to be a cat, and Blimpie, the Goddessmother ("godfather") of my home :) Though I am not particularly "turned on" by Lions. I collect feathers, and love finding toads, though I don't take them home! LOL I enjoyed the article about totems and never before considered the predator/prey connection in reference to animal totems, but I have heard that an animal that you fear is also a posible "shadow" totem. I don't realy have any particular fear of any animal.... So I duno... I did a meditation and saw a tiger.... I have a BS in biology and well I just love them all! Oh and I am also into Cryptozoology, the search for animals that may or may not exist.... from bigfoot, to finding living examples of animals thought to be extinct.... so hey maybe the tassmanian devil is realy my totem..... bet ya I won't find a book including that one! LOL
| My Totem Animal Is The Bat. I've Long Been Drawn Towards Flight... ||Jun 18th. at 9:30:04 pm EDT|
|Stormwind (London, Ontario CA) ||Age: 23 |
My totem animal is the bat. I've long been drawn towards flight, so much so that I became a private pilot, but for some reason "choosing a bird" as a totem always felt wrong and forced, and besides, your totem picks you... As a child I developed a fascination with these flying mammals that so many people find loathsome and hideous. They're no more unpleasant than any other animal, but they are very misunderstood. Still, they go about their business by night, helping people by keeping the mosquito population down. The biggest lesson I have from the bat is to keep trying to do your best for people and the world even if it misunderstands you, fears you, and/or hates you. I'm also almost wholly nocturnal....maybe I can blame the bat for that ;)
Other cultures consider the bat a symbol of luck and creativity, a far more positive image...
I'd never considered that predator and prey dynamic before. I guess that means my other totem animal is the mosquito...and I don't know /what/ to think of that. ;)
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