I get a lot of questions about totems from individuals who struggle in their relationships. It makes sense since the word itself "totem" implies "relations." There are no better teachers than animals, plants and stones when it comes to understanding "how to live together." Just a few weeks ago my husband and I took a weekend trip to the country. On the way there we noticed a few areas where there had been rockslides. As we drove around the stones we were pretty amazed at the size of them. Both my husband and I pulled different lessons and wisdom from the incident.
He said: "I wouldn't want to be in the way when one of those cliffs let's go of something major."
It brought us to discuss the relationships of a few couples in our lives. The kind of individuals who need to constantly vent about their mates but don't have the courage to be forward and clear with them. They often argue and put a damper on those evenings we were all looking forward to enjoy.
ET asked: "What are you supposed to do stay clear of them?"
It just seemed to me that it was exactly what the rockslide was advising. From my side I was more impressed with the beauty and precision of the crack. All through their youth, I've been watching my kids move through several relationships. It's the age where we learn about "relations": What it takes to make them work.
What always impresses me is how the Universe triggers the end so to speak and makes it crystal clear. It takes listening to the facts and accepting to move on. All relationships bring us to grow but the lasting relations are about growing together.
As a child I always said that I was a wolf growing in a family of cats. My father and mother were so much like Lions. My mother took care of us kids and worked full time, my father was a traveling salesman and showed up every now and again. My brother was actually born in July and he certainly carried the Leo personae stereotypically. And then there was my sister the cub who often behaved like a stray cat. Honestly, I found it difficult to grasp the feline mentality. As a Wolf I seemed to respond to a completely different set of rules.
Unfortunately, I left home at the age of nineteen years old after a catfight with my mother. Looking back I wish we could have agreed to disagree rather than constantly fight for territory. Still, I admired the strength and endurance my family possessed literally in every scenario. They taught me to be stubborn, strong and independent. My Wolf learnt to lead and to grow into an Alpha from a household of felines.
Cats are resilient and perseverant. When they are not happy they make you feel it. They are solitary creatures. As I was growing up it often felt like it was always about them: Their feelings, their goals, their fears, and their due. And it was! Cats often give you the sense that they are entitled to pretty much everything. Looking back at my mother's story as well as my sister's it seemed they often walked around the element of Love. I learnt really early in life that stray cats have torturous, hard lives; while those felines that get adopted into good homes where they are loved unconditionally usually grow into affectionate pets who know how to give back.
I taught my Beagles to track cats, squirrels, rabbits, mice and chipmunks. They were pups when they learnt not to hunt skunks, they always seem to leave you smelling horrible for months. All I have to do is say the words and they'll literally go on alert and start searching. They never fail, if you want them to find a cat it's exactly what they'll do. If you say "skunk" they'll shake their heads and sneeze. I find it incredible that they can tell the difference between one animal and another with just their sense of smell. I certainly taught me to develop my senses and be better skilled at identifying these different totems in the crowd of people around me. It's through working with our totems that we learn more about ourselves, and others.
When I met my husband I knew that we shared traits in common. We both excelled through team work; knowing when to jump in and surrender. We had predator perspectives; enjoying the hunt / journey above and beyond the outcome. We never stopped until we got the tasks, chores or projects done. We were always practical, loyal and committed individuals. We believed in being attentive to our environment. It wasn't just about us. Nevertheless, I saw right away from the beginning that I needed pack members and possessed the skills to find them and bring them together. He could work with whatever he got... At work he excels with people in general. I need individuals who share a common perspective.
It took a trip out west in 1986 to discover that my husband was not a Wolf but an Orca. He became totally fascinated with these whales especially after witnessing a pod of them during a boat excursion. They scared me; but with him it was like finding home. The exact feeling I had with Wolves. It was then that we started pointing out the similarities between the Killer Whale and the White Wolf. We learnt that these whales were actually referred to as the Wolves of the Sea. Interestingly enough learning about these creatures showed us why "we work" and "why sometimes we need to shift perspective to work."
From birth we knew the totems of our children. It's not always the case especially in families, which have lost touch with nature and totems (the fact that they are related to all things). Our son is Wolf like me, and our daughter is a Bear. It was interesting at first to watch our children interact. It often did look like a Bear swiping at a barking, growling Wolf. By being aware of these animals and loving their individual totems, both our kids developed into the strength and beauty of these creatures and learnt to share the forest. Today they co-exist wonderfully.
It doesn't surprise me that having babies is more important to my daughter, while the band and the guys (musicians) are a must to my son. We embody the characteristics and sometimes should even follow the diet of our totems to actually feel balanced. It's quite impressive the way totems affect relationships people-to-people level and relationships at the Me/Myself level.
At the beginning of the blog entry I spoke of plants, animals and stones to show that totems reach beyond the animal kingdom. I've always loved trees. Several years ago I decided to take my students out on a field trip. I wanted them to have the experience of trees. To dream their stories. It was interesting how some people related to some trees and not others. After a bit of research many of them came back acknowledging that the trees they had connected to represented them and their attitudes as well as issues.
I've always loved red Maple trees. As soon as I planted a few I discovered that they had a slow growth. Yet, once they reach 25 years and over they strive and get noticed. So much about their story resembles my own. No doubt my parents were conifers. They often pointed out as we were growing up how much they loved Pine trees. We never had a home without the presence of a Pine tree.
As I was discovering my tree totems I discovered I was Pine at the soul level. Suddenly a few of the puzzle pieces fell together. I understood better some of my life scenarios as well as the roles my family members played in my growth development. Today, I teach this aspect of the Medicine Wheel and try to explain to people that it's not about giving reason to the negative in our lives but also perceiving the positive; building on goodness...
There are countless ways to explore relations and each exploration brings forth the mystery, magic, and of course challenges, which exist between people / or fragments. MR and I for example (authors of this blog) connected at the Butterfly level. The fact that we were both born on the same day (June 16th) and are Gemini, allowed us to confirm that we are together to explore "the air element." We always manage to deeply connect at the intellectual / psyche level. It made sense that we would become both teachers of the Medicine Wheel, writers and lecturers. Friends, sisters, family seems to be the way of this insect.
I recommend that you all start looking at your relationships as well as your environment as a constant totemic discussion. This way you'll learn so much about yourself, your family and community as well as your World.