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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.

Symbolism vs Superstition

Sunday, February 20th, 2011
Symbolism vs Superstition

Symbolism vs Superstition

Symbolism vs. Superstition, what’s the difference between the two?  This question came from an email sent by an avid fan of (thanks Annabel).  It’s an uber-valid inquiry, so I thought I’d devote a little time to the debate on this blog post.

First, a word from your pal and mine, Mr. Webster (Webster’s Dictionary):

Superstition: An irrational belief in or notion of the ominous significance of a particular thing, circumstance, or occurrence.

Symbolism: The practice of representing things by symbols, or of investing things with a symbolic meaning or character.

Big difference, eh?

The key phrase here, I think, is “irrational belief.”

Interpreting symbolism runs counter to irrational belief.  In fact, the realm of symbolism is highly appealing because it requires a logical approach.

Symbolism Superstition
Relies heavily on logic Feeds on ignorance
Encourages independent and critical thinking Encourages no thought, blind acceptance
Encourages anthropological/cultural research for greater understanding Requires no understanding or research, concepts taken at face-value
Requires interpretation and exploration from the observer Must be accepted as truth or fact without substantiation
Offers insight according to the observer’s needs Keeps banal value, with the gist of meaning left unchanged
Lends itself to improvement of the human condition Keeps humankind stuffed in a dark hole of ignorance

Symbolism is an interactive practice, requiring the discernment of humankind to flesh out meanings according to his/her own perspective at the time of interpretation.  Superstition asks no such thing of us, and that’s my main gripe.

If you want answers in your life about synchronicities, oracles, signs and other meaningful phenomenon it seems to me you have a choice.  You can go the quick-and-easy route, the route requiring little to no effort on your part – a pat answer typically based upon fear-driven concepts, by all means, let superstition be your guide.

If, however, you find yourself to be more refined, more evolved, and so require a sophisticated approach to interpreting uncommon events in your life – an approach that encourages expanded perception, open-mindedness and soulful sensitivity – then symbolism might be your bag baby.

You Are Not Alone

Thursday, July 29th, 2010


You are not alone.”

Some of us know this instinctively.  We feel the presence of supporters – as close to us as our skins, as intimate as the inhalation of air. 

Whether we call them gods, goddesses, angels, higher selves, animal guides…by whatever name – we are aware of intangible energy buoying us with assurance and support.

However, others of us feel a ring of isolation, preventing us from feeling that consistent presence of energetic support.  Some of us incorporate techniques, rituals or healing habits in order to gain etheric unity for the purpose of becoming saturated by the varied presences of the divine. 

I was philosophizing on this with a friend of mine.  We discussed varying reasons why some people – even if they’re locked in a box on some remote island – will tell you they are never alone.  Why can some people feel the presence of supportive energy no matter how removed they may be from everything?  Conversly,  why do other people feel completely remote, and unable to grasp the presence of divine help, healing and guidance within their midst?

Those who find themselves feeling hermetically sealed in a vacuum of solitary confinement may wonder what the trick is to ripping off the lid and encountering divine accompaniment.  How to feel the buoying presence of profound support on a daily (or even moment-to-moment) basis?

Pulling ourselves from the attic of our minds helps.  Walk “downstairs” into the body

That means making connections with movement, breathing, heartbeat.  It means listening to our own blood as if it were an exotic music.  And if it is music, then we must acknowledge a composer, a conductor and a collaborative orchestra rendering that specialized music from within. 

Each cell within the body represents an individual life.  We forget the billions of individual consciousness’s residing within ourselves because they function so elegantly as a whole. 

To be sure, the body is a multiverse and tapping into that diversity of consciousness is a vital step to feeling less of a stranger in a strange land.  

One of the most (deceptively) simple ways I’ve found to dissuade the mind of its separation is to draw attention to the wilderness within the body. 

Try it some time.  If you’re feeling that ring of isolation squeezing the joy from you, and you’re seeking divine connection and communion – try a dreamtime ride within the subway system of your arteries.  Listen to your aortic tympani.  Start a discussion with your intestinal bacteria (don’t laugh! They can be stimulating conversationalists!).

My point is this:  Indeed, we are inseparable from all manner of divine energy whose presence and purpose is to accompany each of us on our life-journey.  Being alone is an impossibility

Nevertheless, some of us feel the austerity of seclusion more often than divine companionship.  So, if that’s the case with you, I’m suggesting a move out of the mind and into the body.  It’s an effective first step to becoming intimate with the reality of inclusion and consistent support.