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Poof! You’re a Toad (the dangers of totem-assignment)

Sunday, July 24th, 2011

Personal Investment is Key to Totem Identification

Don’t let the title of this blog post fool you.  I’m not waving my rowan-wood wand, turning folks into toads (yet, lol).

Rather, this post is about the tricky business of assigning animal totems to folks wanting to know.

Not a day passes when someone doesn’t send in an email with a question like: “Avia, can you tell me what my animal totem is?”

On the one hand, I’m thrilled with these inquiries.  It suggests a desire to re-connect to animal kin.  It’s a sign that folks are becoming more attuned to the wild and wonderful realms of the Mother [Nature] – and that is uber-awesome.

On the other hand, I’m often distressed by the lack of personal investment in re-connecting with our animal brothers and sisters.  Connections to our animal kin is a deeply personal act.

What’s even more irking is the idea that a virtual stranger can arbitrarily assign a totem to another person.  To explain, I’ve been known to listen in on certain radio show discussions about totems and neo-shamanism.  I’m not naming names, but I’m suspect when these totem-experts get callers on their show with the inevitable question: “Can you tell me my animal totem?” and I’m floored when the totem-practitioner pops off a critter to the caller – essentially assigning a totem to him or her in the span of two seconds.

How can that cosmic connection be gleaned from a distant second party?  It feels like “slot-machine logic” – an answer spit out at random.  I could be wrong. These totem experts could be mightily connected to their spiritual council, and so they are fed this totem information to present to the caller.  Still, I have doubts.

On my most connected days, in which unification with my own Spirit Council is super-tight, I am fed information in terms of “seeing” woodland creatures or other critters scampering around my client’s energy.  These visions give me a good idea about the inquirer’s totem affiliations.  Nevertheless, in the midst of these visions come strong admonishments from the Council.  Admonishments like: “These are the animal energies communing with the human – but he/she must establish the connection.”

Historically, shamans could succinctly identify totems to the members of their tribe/village.  There’s a reason for that.  Shamans, elders, seers, and wise-women of a tribe typically hold their positions in the group over long spans of time. They live, learn, love together in a tight-knit community, intrinsically linked to the clan members. They often oversee the birthing of new members, and are participants of that member’s life from day one.  This gives them special knowing, they see the patterns between a tribal-member’s aura, energy, personality that link to the like-energy of their totem.  Simply put, tribal shamans have had a long-standing connection with their people, and are therefore in a better position to identify the individual totems of their tribesmen and women.

So what if we don’t live in a native setting in which an Elder knows us and can help us retrieve our animal totem identities?

The onus is on us.  We must be the ones to invest the time to re-connect with our animal guides and guardians.

Asking others to identify our totems isn’t a bad thing, but I’d be leery of pat answers from virtual strangers.  Those who ask me what their totems are often get frustrated with my round-about answers.  I offer information that my Council feeds me, but not without belting out a few paragraphs about the importance of personal meditation, research and investigation into the matter.

Let’s face it.  Most of us wouldn’t ask a stranger “Who is my life-partner?” and then marry the first person named Joe or Suzie just because we’ve been given a pat answer to this question.

In my opinion, re-partnering with our animal totems is no less serious.  Our animal totems are profound partnerships – indeed, a marriage.  They deserve our time and attention to get to know them.  We deserve the investment to familiarize ourselves with our connection to them.  So, be wary of the “poof! you’re a toad” syndrome.  Pat answers to complex questions like these are to be approached with caution.

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Reborn Through Art and Ink (a personal essay)

Saturday, July 9th, 2011

The Journey of a Tattoo

The tattoo gun murmurs its Morse code on my Manubrium, the hard bones perched just above soft curves of cleavage.  From the first tip of costal cartilage, down to the fourth Line of Union on my sternum, I feel the tattoo engraved upon my chest and the fusion is finally complete.

When I discovered the tattoo design, I knew it would be mine.  I knew where it would float above my bones and swim inside my skin.  I wondered, only briefly, about the implications of tattooing a corporate logo on my outrageously anti-establishment design.  But the Nippon Gaikku logo was born in the 1800s, and was crafted with integrity, a brand of honor that now chokes on the smog of modern-day mechanization.

The tattoo design on my chest is the progenitor of the Yamaha logo, the very first to establish its presence for proud craftsmanship of elegant musical instruments.  The tattoo-logo is a Hoo (pronounced haw-oh). It’s a Chinese Phoenix with a tuning fork clamped solidly in her beak.  The Hoo and I may have been married through ink and blood only two years ago, but our journey began many years prior to her debut on my chest.

History between this Yamaha Phoenix and I started in elementary school.  Crippled by grade-school awkwardness, I recall gimping into a tiny music room.  My ungainliness swelled at the site of Mrs. Roan.  She was my 3rd grade music teacher and the object of my youthful and bungling adoration.  Her dark beauty, her zeal, her penchant for tailored white suits and black paten leather shoes with killer heels and pointy tips – so exotic, and all so uncharacteristic of the school-marm stereotype.   I remember the silk of her pant suit elegantly shifting as she walked around the stuffy music room, rounding all her students up in a circle.  She passed out a series of musical instruments to each of us, the first of which was a Yamaha French Horn, an instrument Mrs. Roan professed being quite adept at playing.

The horn was passed from one pair of grubby hands to another round the circle.  Each child attempted, unsuccessfully, to birth sound from the bowels of the nickel-plated beast.

Lastly, the bright, silvery horn was passed to me.  Its metallic skin was bruised from peanut butter and jelly smears left by chubby kid fingers, still unwashed from consuming cafeteria lunches.  I cradled the horn lovingly and I remember whispering to it: “I know you’re magic. You’ll play for me.”

My tiny lips pressed against the cold metal mouthpiece.  With the corners of my mouth downturned, brows furrowed, mind honed on the bull’s-eye of sound, I willed my lips to putter quickly through marble-like mouthpiece.   My efforts were rewarded by a crystalline bellow, a clear herald of the horn’s brilliance, a solid ‘middle c’ note emanated from the horn.  Mrs. Roan stood akimbo in response, her cinnamon eyes glowing in approval at my victory; I won her favor, a cold rose plucked in a moment of sun-kissed glory.  I coaxed sound from this mass of twisted tubing and unlikely metal.  Magic was mine.

Standing in the center of that circle, horn in trembling hands, my peers beamed at me with tooth-missing grins.  In that moment I recall feeling gift-wrapped in attunement;  a Yamaha French horn trumpeted the surprise arrival of homeostasis, and magic.

Years passed and I continued to cut my embouchure on dented King’s and tinny Conn’s – all rented French horns of  dubious quality.  But I persistently played these metal beasts – chromatic scales groaning through the walls of school practice rooms and childhood hallways.

The Summer transitioning between junior and senior high school was one of prolonged anxiety;  try-outs for high school concert band were held the first of August, and I was struggling to spin melodic gold from a deflated, barren Elkhart horn.

A fluke of nature intervened. A serious eye infection threatened to take my vision that July, which would make my right eye a vacuous hole of non-sight.  Laying in the hospital, agony scraping at my optic nerves, my dad fidgeted by my bedside.  My awareness flickered between pain and pain-killers, but I remember my dad’s words uttered from the anxiety of his daughter facing a life of half-blindness.  “Make it through this,” he said, “and I’ll buy you the best damn French horn you’ll ever lay hands on.”

I made it out of the procedures with eyesight intact, and dad made good on his promise.  He bought me a Yamaha 668, the elite of the fleet for its day.  A professional horn with seamless nickel streaming like smooth ripples of water in my hands.   It resonated in my arms.  Within this bright horn, there was music tingling, aching, itching to be released.  I was reborn after playing the new horn for the first time.  The sound I could produce was tangible lusciousness, like being robed in musical satin. That horn took me to 1st chair all through high school, prestige in college years, and even serving as a free-lance musician for both symphonic bands and chamber orchestras.

Now, decades later, sitting in a battered dentists chair doubling as a recliner for tattoo initiates, I think on these memories mixed with melodic overtones.  As my friend and tattoo artist coaxes life from ink, etching the Yamaha Chinese Phoenix on my breastbone, I reflect on the appropriateness of the symbolism.  Reborn indeed.

Was it happenstance that my eyesight was saved?  I don’t think so.  Rather, I believe it was the restorative power of my heartfelt devotion for creating good music, and my love of the French horn rescued me from  living a half-blind life (physically and metaphorically).

Thankfully, it’s not the first time artistic expression has lifted me out of a pile of life’s potentially suffocating ashes.  Good music, played rightly, is nothing short of pure enlightenment and I’m lucky (despite my uber-awkward youth)  I found illumination that day long ago while rendering clear tones from that sticky silver horn in the third grade.

The tattoo gun finally ceases hammering at my breast plate, and I walk to the mirror to behold the new scenery on my skin.    Looking in the mirror, I could swear the phoenix winks back at me – a knowing wink, a shared acknowledgement of restored vision, a confirmation how the drive for creative expression can give way to ascension, leading a willing heart out of the dark.

Avia V.
11/28/10

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Animal Messages: The Good News

Thursday, April 28th, 2011

Animal Messages - It's All Good

In one capacity or another, I’ve been dipping into animal consciousness and interpreting symbolic messages they contribute to the greater/global consciousness.

An email I got from a reader of my main website (whats-your-sign), asked a great question:

Hi Avia, I love your work and reading your animal insights have really helped me on my life’s journey.  A few years ago I was having a terrible spell of bad circumstances.  The Owl kept visiting me, and I was convinced it was a bad omen.  Do you remember me emailing you about this several years back?  You responded with a link to an article you wrote about symbolic Owl meanings, and it helped.  It also made me explore more of your animal interpretations, and I noticed something.  All your interpretations are positive.  It seems there is nothing but good news coming from our birds, fish and mammals from your perspective.  Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a criticism, but even your ideals about Snakes and Spiders (critters who aren’t my favorites, lol) are positive and uplifting.  Can you tell me why is it all good news?  Don’t animal messages sometimes include negativity, or at least a warning of bad things to come?  Thanks for your work.
Love,
Beth

Beth makes a good point.

I look at animal consciousness as an extension of the Unified consciousness (call it the God, the Goddess, Christ consciousness – by any name,  it’s that omnipresent, pervasive, supportive intelligence unifying all energy).  I mention on many occasions that the creatures of our planet are (mostly) clarified energy – they don’t have the weirdies of mentality like humans often exhibit.  Because our creatures are clarified, they’re a pure channel for Unified consciousness.

So, when I dive in for data about animal messages, animal meanings, etc., it just makes sense the information retrieved will be a bright reflection of the Unified field – supportive, buoying, brilliant.  In short, the Natural Realm lives closer to, and indeed, is one with God.  Naturally, their communications will reflect that relationship.


If you dig this post, you might also like:

Getting Messages from Nature

Nature Symbols

Animal Totems & Animal Symbolism

Tips to Knowing Your Animal Totems

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