In Your Element: Ancient Wisdom for Modern Times

In Your Element: Ancient Wisdom for Modern Times

by Michael White, Linn Wiggins


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Are you seeking to understand yourself better? If so, In Your Element can provide you with wisdom to aid you in that quest. It combines the knowledge regarding the early use of personality profiling and animal totems to describe the inherent differences in the way people approach life and learning.

This book explores how other cultures have used this knowledge to help guide people throughout their lives, helping them to embrace who they are as individuals. It outlines some of the many historical approaches taken to this topic, and then overlays the use of simple lifestyle changes, food as medicine, and Australian traditional remedies as time honoured ways for people of all ages to enjoy better health and emotional wellbeing.

The simple truth that people are different-not just in appearance, but in thought and perception as well-needs to be acknowledged. What might work for one person may not have the same effect for another, even down to the medicinal properties of plants. Our modern way of life too often fails to take our inherent psychological and physiological differences into account, a fact supported by substantial research and documentation.

Authors Michael White and Linn Wiggins offer a map for both unravelling some of the mysteries surrounding who you are and learning how to influence your physical and emotional health in a positive way. This ancient wisdom for modern times can not only bring you closer to the truth of who you are, but to the people around you as well.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781452510873
Publisher: Balboa Press
Publication date: 08/07/2013
Pages: 184
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.42(d)

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In Your Element

Ancient Wisdom for Modern Times

By Michael White, Linn Wiggins

Balboa Press

Copyright © 2013 Michael White and Linn Wiggins
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4525-1087-3


Animal Totems and the Medicine Wheel

Animal totems pervade many ancient myths and cultural traditions and have been used for centuries to foster spiritual growth and guide people in their lives. Knowledge of animal totems can enhance our understanding of the innermost aspects of human nature by revealing more of a person's innate character. By borrowing from the wisdom of these ancient cultures, we may enrich the modern approach to life, one that has all too often failed to recognise the inter-connectedness of all things.

An excellent example of the use of totems is seen among some of the North American native tribes, where a child was taught at a very young age about the four great powers of the medicine wheel, which are inherent in each of us. These powers are each appointed a place on the wheel at one of the four points of the compass, north, south, east and west, accompanied by a specific set of gifts or characteristics, as well as a symbol represented in the form of a medicine animal and a colour.

In the north we discover wisdom and logic, the colour of which is white and whose medicine animal is that of the buffalo. It is in this aspect we learn how to receive with our minds.

In the south we learn about innocence and trust, the colour of which is green and whose medicine animal is the mouse. Here we are able to learn the subtle lesson of how to give freely.

In the east we discover illumination and enlightenment, where we are able to see things clearly far and wide. Its colour is gold like the morning star, and has the eagle as its medicine animal.

In the west we find the 'looks-within' place, representing the sometimes introspective and insightful nature of humanity. Its colour is black and the bear is its medicine animal.

The story of the medicine wheel states that when we are born, each of us will adopt a beginning place within these four directions, which in turn will give us our first perspective of life.

This perspective is destined to become our easiest and most natural way of experiencing the world. Once we have learnt to appreciate this way, personal growth can then occur for us by seeking a greater understanding of each of the other three directions. Only in this way can we become whole, and capable of making balanced decisions for our lives, not just relying on one, single perspective.

Many indigenous Australians also use animal totems. This gives them a strong connection to their environment and, since they are never allowed to harm or eat the flesh of their particular animal totem, a deep respect for nature.

This message of respect for nature is something that Aus Identities™ is also seeking to encourage. We want to help reconnect people, especially our young people, with the natural world of plants and animals, as well as demonstrating a historical precedence for the basic need to develop a strong sense of identity for ourselves.

Incorporating aspects of ancient knowledge and contemporary research, we hope this book will give you a greater understanding of who you are and of your strengths and weaknesses.

We have also included tools to help you to take better take care of yourself. We have taken some concepts of self-awareness and good health and applied them in a holistic way, with the aim of allowing you to address your deepest physical, mental and emotional needs and bring you back into balance again.

We hope this also allows you to bring out more of the best of yourself so you can enjoy a greater sense of self-acceptance and more success and fulfilment in your life.


Story Medicine

Stories of indigenous animals and plants, the surrounding natural landscape and the seasons were often interwoven with tales about human nature and passed down generation to generation as part of the myths and legends of a particular culture.

These were quite literally "stories as medicine", explaining day-today life challenges and the qualities that needed to be developed if these were to be overcome. Other stories were about common character traits, and how these were similar to the qualities of familiar animals and plants.

"Storytellers speak in the language of myth and metaphor. They tell us a truth that is not literal, but symbolic. If we hear the stories with only the outer ear, they can seem absurd and untrue, but when listened to with the inner ear, they convey a truth that can be understood and absorbed on a deeply personal level. In this way, stories help us connect with our inner world, to the natural rhythms and cycles of the earth, and to the power of our intuitive wisdom."

... Anita Johnston. Eating in the Light of the Moon.

Native North American tribes used the power of storytelling to highlight aspects of human nature. In the story of the medicine wheel, which Michael talks about in Chapter 1, we discover that early on, when we enter the wheel, we create our own personal mythology. Along with our life experiences, this leads us to create a story or a set of beliefs about who we are. Animals also appear on the wheel to highlight inherent qualities, and stories are told about their great acts of bravery, compassion, daring and the like, in order to imbue a healthy mindset among young people.

Archetypes, which essentially are universally understood symbols, terms, statements, or patterns of behaviour, are often used in myths and storytelling across different cultures. The classical mythology of ancient Rome that is embedded in western culture and forms the basis of many of our society's archetypes, was used by the eminent Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung to explain the western mindset. Put simply, archetypes are a way to better understand people.

Being Australian, I have been also exposed throughout my whole life to aboriginal dreaming stories and legends about our native flora, fauna and natural landmarks, which have been generously shared with the "white fella". Though originally from the UK, Michael has been living here for many years and is now a naturalised Australian so has also been exposed to some of this knowledge. There is something about this land, the animals and plants (the first flowering plants in the world) that gets into your soul, even if you are white.

"Songlines, also called dreaming tracks by the aboriginal people, are paths across the land (or sometimes the sky) which mark the route followed by the local creator-beings during the Dreaming. The paths of the songlines are recorded in traditional songs, stories, dance and painting.

A knowledgeable person is able to navigate across the land by repeating the words of the song which describe the location of landmarks, waterholes, and other natural phenomena.

By singing the songs in the appropriate sequence, aboriginal people could navigate vast distances, often travelling through the deserts of Australia's interior. The continent of Australia contains an extensive system of songlines, some of which are a few kilometres, whilst others traverse hundreds of kilometres through lands of many different peoples, who speak markedly different languages and have different cultural traditions.

Languages are not a barrier because the melodic contour of the song describes the nature of the land over which the song passes. Listening to the song of the land is the same as walking on this songline and observing the land.

Traditional Aboriginal people regard all land as sacred, and the songs must be continually sung to keep the land "alive"."

While we would like to share more of these stories regarding the dreaming with you, it is considered disrespectful to aboriginal culture for white people to teach aboriginal culture or to tell their traditional stories. For that reason we have refrained from doing so. We leave relating dreaming stories to those whose stories they are to tell, the aboriginal people of our ancient land. They are beautiful stories full of wisdom, and we hope you seek them out from their custodians.


The Four Temperaments

Four seasons make up a year
Four chambers reside in our hearts
Four lobes compartmentalise the human brain
Four human blood groups exist: A, B, O, and AB
Four basic elements are distinguished: earth, fire, water and air
Four basic states of matter are: solid, liquid, gas and plasma
Four is the number of points on a compass
Four is the number of gospels in the New Testament
Four is even made up of four letters

What do you think? One big coincidence?
Not on your life ...

The number 'Four' has always been strong in our universe.

Ancient Wisdom

In ancient times, knowledge about the Heavens, nature, the seasons, animals, plants, people and medicine was all held by the holy men and women—the shamans, medicine men, wise women, priests, priestesses, druids and many others.

The planets and constellations were named after gods, goddesses and significant animal totems, all of which had meanings and characteristics attached to them. These traits were relayed through symbolism, myth and legend. Stories were used as medicine every bit as much as plants were.

These keepers of the wisdom knew about the interconnectedness of the cosmos, the earth and all life. They believed that humans were simply one part of a greater whole. They understood the benefits of working with the invisible laws of nature within this bigger scheme of things, as opposed to being separate from or against it.

Life was challenging for our ancestors, in different ways to how it is today. Clinical trials were unavailable to them so systems, especially those concerning health and medicine, were developed over long periods of time, often as result of trial and error. If something didn't work, they simply stopped using it. If they discovered something that worked better, they used that instead.

Some renowned academics and healers of antiquity developed their own systems and made such an impact in the world of healing and philosophy during their lifetimes that hundreds, even thousands of years later, the professions of naturopathic medicine, personality typing, and much of modern psychology remain heavily influenced by them.

Hippocrates was one such person and the first proponent of the four temperaments, a philosophy that still forms the foundation of personality typing today. Galen was a Roman philosopher who expanded upon Hippocrates' theories; the names of his four personality types are still in use today. Paracelsus brought this paradigm into modern times by linking the temperaments to the four elements.

Indigenous cultures the world over each had similar systems of four, with animal totems and/or compass directions assigned to each type to help explain characteristics and differences in behaviour.

In ancient times, there were no pharmaceutical medicines, drug stores or chemists. Herbs were, by and large, the traditional medicine used and their healing qualities have been passed down in the oral tradition since the dawn of time. Doctors were in fact predominantly herbalists well into the Middle Ages.

The first apothecaries (originally herbal medicine compounders) appeared in the Arab world in the late 8th Century A.D. and rapidly spread throughout Europe from the 11th Century onwards, as herbal and healing knowledge that had been lost for centuries was re-introduced. The very first pharmaceutical "drug" manufactured in the modern world was Aspirin (made from White Willow Bark) in 1898.

Some prominent names feature in the practice of both the four temperaments and herbal medicine.

Pedanius Dioscorides (1st century AD) was a doctor and surgeon who travelled throughout Asia Minor with the Roman army. Roman armies took their own medical team with them, along with herbal medicines and seeds to grow more. They planted as they went, teaching the locals how to use the herbs. Local herbalists exchanged their knowledge about the healing qualities of their own plants in return.

Dioscorides set out to write a book about as many medicinal plants as he could document. He wanted his Herbal to be practical, accurate and comprehensive. The result was "De Materia Medica", which included a drawing and description of each plant, its medicinal qualities, how to prepare it as a medicine, suggested dosage, and a warning if it was potentially toxic or poisonous.

This information is the hallmark of any serious herbal book even today (the sort practitioners respect and use). My own herbal medicine teacher, Dorothy Hall, devoted her 60 years of clinical practice to testing out whether the herbs within various classical herbal text books (ancient and modern) performed as promised. Only if she had proven results in her own clinic would she teach that information to her students. Dioscorides had her utmost respect.

Hippocrates (1st Century B.C.), considered the "Father of Modern Medicine" wrote the original Hippocratic Oath, still taken by western medical doctors until the 1970s. Searching for a means of both understanding people on a deeper level and a possible link between personality, behaviour and disease, he was the first to put forth the system of four temperaments, which remained entrenched in western medicine until the late 1800s. His writings remain in print today.

He named his four temperament types Cheerful, Calm, Enthusiastic and Sombre.

Galen (2nd Century A.D.) studied at the Hippocrates medical school in Alexandria, Egypt. He expanded upon Hippocrates' four temperaments, naming them after the four body fluids; blood (sanguine), phlegm (phlegmatic), yellow bile (choleric), and black bile (melancholic).

He postulated that each temperament was predisposed to certain behaviours, and illnesses, due to an abundance of a particular fluid in the body. These were referred to as "the humours".

Court physician to successive emperors, he was such an influential herbalist that for the next thousand years every reputable herbal text included the words "Galen says ..." in the discussion of the healing properties of most individual herbs.

He was also extensively plagiarised (without acknowledgement) in countless other herbal writings down through the centuries.

Hunayn bin Ishaw al-Ibadi (809-873) translated the works of Dioscorides, Hippocrates and Galen into Arabic, after which the great hospitals of the Arab world were founded and this system of medicine used, producing many great physicians including Avicenna.

Over time, others added information about hundreds of Arabic herbs, plus all those they had imported from Persia, India and The Far East via their extensive trade routes. The result was an even more extensive Herbal, in Arabic.

Avicenna (980-1037) learnt the best of Greek and Roman healing, along with the updated Arabic version of "De Materia Medica". He particularly resonated with the humoural system of Galen and wrote a lengthy text "Canon of Medicine". This became as widely respected as the work of Hippocrates, Galen and Dioscorides.

Constantine the African (died 1087) undertook the huge task of translating the expanded Arabic texts back into Latin. These translations soon began to filter back into Europe via the most prestigious medical school of its time, which was based in the village of Salerno, Southern Italy.

Though fragments of some of the manuscripts of Hippocrates, Dioscorides and Galen had survived in the UK, much of the medical knowledge from ancient Greece and Rome had been lost to Europe for centuries by this stage. Thus the new Latin translations by Constantine were akin to discovering a lost treasure.

Hildegarde von Bingen, (1098-1179) was a visionary abbess, theologian and composer and a highly regarded healer of her time. She wrote extensive works on medicine that remain in print 800 years later. Her book "Physica" details the healing qualities of individual herbs and another, "Elements", explains the four humours. Her herbal medicine methods are still taught and practised worldwide today.

Hildegarde was of the firm belief that emotional discord and negative attitudes have an adverse effect on physical health, and that these need to be brought back to a state of equilibrium for true physical healing to occur. She often collected dew from flowers at dawn and gave this to her patients to help facilitate emotional healing.

Modern flower essences, made by replicating this ancient process, are considered to be potent natural mood medicines, and are fast gaining in popularity.

Paracelsus (1493-1541) was a widely travelled and much respected medical doctor, with extensive clinical experience, who also had a great respect for folk medicine and gypsy herbal cures.

Although he took the four humours into consideration when diagnosing and prescribing, he did not blindly follow them as he thought the system was not infallible. This sort of thinking was quite a radical break from tradition at the time. Instead, he relied upon acutely honed patient observation skills and an extensive knowledge of the healing qualities of individual herbs.

Excerpted from In Your Element by Michael White, Linn Wiggins. Copyright © 2013 Michael White and Linn Wiggins. Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Endorsements....................     ix     

Foreword....................     xiii     

Preface....................     xv     

Chapter 1 Animal Totems and the Medicine Wheel....................     1     

Chapter 2 Story Medicine....................     5     

Chapter 3 The Four Temperaments....................     9     

Chapter 4 Aus Identities®....................     21     

Chapter 5 Plant Medicine....................     25     

Chapter 6 Discovering your type....................     33     

Chapter 7 The Dolphin....................     43     

Chapter 8 The Eagle....................     65     

Chapter 9 The Kangaroo....................     87     

Chapter 10 The Wombat....................     109     

Chapter 11 In Conclusion....................     131     

Acknowledgements....................     135     

About the Authors....................     139     

Appendices....................     145     

Resources....................     161     

Bibliography & References....................     163     

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