Friday, January 20, 2012
Musings Monday: Shifting Bear (And Why I Distrust Totem Dictionaries)
Below is a stream-of-thought writing I did when I brought my small Bear statue home from goodwill. I could feel him "pulling" my spirit from across the room the entire night, and finally I let him pull me into himself. Often I work with primal spirits whose best teaching is done from the inside of their skull. I'm a very visual person, and I learn in a decidedly non-verbal way, so most of my Spirit adventures revolve around literally becoming Animal.
His name, he told me, is Tutkalut.
"SHAPESHIFTER, I WILL TEACH YOU POWER, AND GRACE, AND HUMILITY, AND STRENGTH. I WILL TAKE YOU TO THE PLACES YOU NEED TO SEE AND GO. I WILL SHOW YOU THE PATH."
I feel power, rippling through every muscle, I feel it in every nerve. My human muscles twitch as if I’m running, inside this great spirit.
I feel a joy, a joy at having so much power, so much pent up energy, the ability to spring and cut and bring down something twice my size at a moment’s notice. I feel what a predator must feel, knowing it can cause harm but also knowing restraint from harm. I feel a pure joy at running in the newfallen snow, the mountains at my back and the wind in my fur. I feel the frozen river on my back, but it gives me no quarter.
I feel the loping gait of the bear, running beneath me, inside me, we are the same being, melding and de-melding all in the same moment. I feel my claws grabbing the earth, throwing it up behind me. I feel my shoulder muscles, tensed and released. I feel, more than smell, the entire world around me. I know the trees, I know the sky, I know every bird that flies overhead. This is my land. I know it with every fiber of my, the bear’s, our being.
I have shifted Wolf (my 'Totem') before, but while canines seem to WANT to know everything---Bear seems to just know. Wolf is too cerebral, Bear is physical.
I often have problems with the 'New Agey Totem Books' (you know the ones, such as Animal Speak) that describe an animal in an easy to digest way that supposedly applies to all totems and guides of that sort. In many cases I find it utter, delicious bullshit. I post this Shift experience to show you how different my experience of Bear is to the 'normal expectation'. Animal Speak will attempt to describe Bear energy as all about hibernation, or looking within.
If I had to describe my Bear energy in one word, it would be Power. It wasn't the sort of Power that makes one want to express it. It was the sort of solid, muscular, very physical power that gives one the self assurance that one is undoubtedly King on this landscape. It wasn't pride. Not nearly. It was just this sense of intrinsic knowing that nothing could challenge you, and though you took no pride in that, you realized it would be no contest and you had the ability to remove any and all blockages in your way.
I work with Deer in a deep way as well. If you peruse a Totem dictionary you may get some nice shiny easy-to-digest BS about gentleness and quietness. Have you SEEN deer? Have you seen two males fighting in the mating season? Gentle my ass. I work with Deer to learn the cycle of predator and prey, life and death, and how to easier transverse the boundaries between the two. Deer is one of the prey animals that has an excellent and peaceful relationship with death and its boundaries. But gentle? Deer is as much a gentle teacher as a wolverine.
I take issue with anything that claims to blanket-label Spirit-types as one thing or another thing. My Wolf totem is as much about loyalty and community as a rock. No. Teaching, yes. I can see that. But there is so much more than the pretty surface description of the animal. Totem dictionaries seem to do, for me, what a bad writer can do for a main character in a book. Give a flat, lackluster summary/description and the character seems 2D. The character seems unbelievable, like it can't exist in a realistic fashion, and so we find it hard to connect with that character. The same thing happens in many 'new agey totemic' descriptions. No wonder so many have trouble connecting to Primal energies--look at how they are being described.
I implore you to look beyond surface definitions and really ask your Totem/Guide WHY it takes an animal shape. Does it do so to relate to you better? Does it do so to demonstrate what you're lacking? Really ask it what it has to teach you. And don't expect it to be what you read in a book, either. Really open your mind. Don't take my word for this, either. I want you to really dig deep and think about what your specific guide/totem is doing in your life and why they are what they are.
And hey--sometimes your Guides don't take animal form. Some people just can't work with animals in that way. And you know what? That's fine. I don't usually have human teachers since I can't understand them, either. Don't expect to have 16 'totems/guides' because a book told you so. You can have 0 guides or 13 guides, and a book sure don't know that until you find out yourself. Totems are not collectible trading cards. They are living, breathing beings who have important shit to teach you, they're just waiting for you to stop reading totem dictionaries.
-Love the Spirits