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THE SPIRITUAL AND MAGICAL ROLES
There was a time when humanity recognized itself as part of nature, and nature aspart of itself. Dreaming and waking were inseparable realities; the natural and thesupernatural merged and blended. People used images of nature to express thisunity and to instill a transpersonal kind of experience.
In the past shamans, priests, and priestesses were the keepers of the sacredknowledge of life. These individuals were tied to the rhythms and forces ofnature. They were capable of walking the threads that link the invisible and visibleworlds. They helped people remember that all trees are divine and that all animalsspeak to those who listen.
The early priest/ess-magicians would adopt the guise of animalswearingskins and masksto symbolize a reawakening and endowing of oneself withspecific energies. They performed rituals in accordance with the naturalrhythms of the seasons to awaken greater fertility and life. To them, everyspecies and every aspect of its environment had the power to remind them ofwhat they could manifest within their own life. It was an aid to bridge the naturalworld to the supernatural, awakening the realities of both within the environsof their own lives.
Though these rituals and behaviors may seem primitive and even silly to therational minds of modern society, they are no less powerful today. And the lawswhich govern themphysical and spiritualare no less viable. Different societiesexpressed these lawsin their own unique ways, but probably the most distinctlyexpressed is the ancient Hermetic Law of Correspondence: "As above, so below;as below, so above."
This principle teaches that all things are connected and have significance. Wecannot separate the physical from the spiritual, the visible from the invisible. "ThisPrinciple gives one the means of solving many a dark paradox and the hiddensecret of Nature.... The ancient Hermeticists considered this principle as one ofthe most important mental instruments by which man was able to pry aside theobstacles which hid from view the Unknown ... (it) enables man to reason intelligentlyfrom the Known to the Unknown."
It is for this reason that a study of Nature Totems is essential for understandinghow the spiritual is manifesting within our natural life. A totem is any naturalobject, being, or animal to whose phenomena and energy we feel closelyassociated with during our life.
We can use animal imagery and other nature totem images as a way to learnabout ourselves and the invisible world. We do not have to believe that theseimages and totems are beings of great intelligence, but there are archetypal powersthat reside behind and oversee all manifestations in Nature. These archetypeshave their own qualities and characteristics which are reflected through thebehaviors and activities of animals and other expressions of Nature.
When we pay attention to and acknowledge a nature totem, we are honoringthe essence that lies behind it. We are opening up and attuning to that essence. Wecan then use it to understand our own life circumstances more clearly. We canshare in its power or "medicine." Nature totemsespecially animalsare symbolsof specific kinds of energy we are manifesting and aligning with in our life.The animal becomes a symbol of a specific force of the invisible, spiritual realmmanifesting within our own life. The characteristics and activities of these totemswill reveal much about our own innate powers and abilities. By studying thetotem and then learning to merge with it, we are able to call upon its archetypalenergy whenever needed.
Terrestrial animals have always had a strong symbology associated withthem. They have represented the emotional side of life, often reflecting qualitiesthat must be overcome, controlled, and/or re-expressed. They are also symbols ofpowerpowers associated with the invisible realm that we can learn to manifestwithin the visible.
Birds have often been considered the symbols of the soul. Their ability to flyreflects the ability within us to rise to new awareness, bridging the earth and theheavens. As totems, birds each have their own peculiar characteristics, but theycan all be used to stimulate greater flights of hope, inspiration and ideas.
Aquatic life can also be a totem. Water is an ancient symbol of the astral planeand the creative element of life. Various fish and other forms of aquatic life symbolizeguidance to specific expressions of intuition and creative imagination. Theycan reflect the feminine side of our essence.
Insects are also a part of Nature, and they can be totems for us as well. Fromthe bee of fertility in Egyptian myths, to the Mantis of the African Bushmen, to themany tales of the Spider Woman who created the universe, they hold a dynamicplace within the spiritual scheme of Nature.
By studying and reading about the animals, birds, fish, insects, reptiles, etc.,you encounter in your life, you can understand more about the circumstances youalso encounter. You can learn much about the kind of energies you are most likelyto confront and those you are most able to manifest within your own day-to-daylife circumstances. You will learn how to draw upon those energies mosteffectively in dealing with life situations.
Nature has bestowed upon its inhabitants a natural ability for adaptation.This enables the animal to live in a particular place in a particular way. There areboth physical and behavioral adaptations. A common example is the manner inwhich some animals may adapt to the cold, either through growing thicker fur oreven migrating.
An animal such as a mountain goat has a dynamic adaptive ability for survivingin its mountain environment. Its feet are developed in such a manner thatthey can grip more strongly and securely. It also has more red blood cells, whichassists it in surviving the colder temperatures in the mountains. By learning howour totems adapt to survive can assist us with our own lives by applying thosesame principles to our life circumstances.
This book's purpose is five-fold:
1. It will help you to determine your Nature totems.
2. It will help you in learning how to honor, attune, and invoke their energies more effectively into your life.
3. It will assist you in discovering the hidden powers and significance of yourself, as is reflected by your totem.
4. It will help you in applying the skills and adaptive powers of your totem to your own life environment.
5. It will help you to learn the language of Nature (physical spiritual, and magical) as it speaks to you every day; to read and apply what it says (through signs and omens), and in doing so help you to develop a greater reverence and respect for all life, and greater power and control in your own.
The true shaman, the true naturalist, works to reconnect conscious humanlife with Nature and Spirit through totems and ritual. The images of the animalsand the expressions of Nature help us to transcend our normal, waking consciousnessso that we can more easily attune to ethereal realms and beings. Thefirst step begins with realizing that all vision and imagery, originating in Natureor the inner mind, has validity on some level.
What gets most of us into trouble is interpreting what is seen in the mind orin Nature itself. Reading, studying, and learning about what you see and experienceis what will facilitate relating them to yourselves. Don't accept Nature totemswithout question. Put them through the verification process that you will learnlater in this book.
Don't discard a totem simply because it may not seem glamorous or as powerfulas your ego wanted. The totem may be quite appropriate for empoweringyour life. Sometimes it is only through study and exploration of the specific totemthat its significance will become clear. Remember that searching out the significanceof Nature's expression to you is a way of honoring it.
Humanity has lost that instinctive tie to the rhythms and patterns of Nature,and with that loss has come a loss of the reality of magic. Nature tries to show useveryday that all forms of life can teach us. As we learn to listen to Nature, webreak down our outworn perceptions. We find that magical creation is the force oflife inherent in all things. And it is this, above all else, that Nature teaches to thosewho will learn from Her.
Excerpted from ANIMAL-SPEAK by TED ANDREWS. Copyright © 1993 by Ted Andrews. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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