June 01, 2015
Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!
One of the reasons there has been a resurgence of interest in the teachings of the indigenous is that our own “civilized” culture has become so out of balance. We have our noses stuck in our phones instead of meeting eye to eye. We take walks in Nature looking at our emails and social media networks instead of interacting with the plants and animals who live there. Unfortunately, the further we get from connecting in with the implicit spirituality in our environment, the easier it is to forget our actions have consequences and the more out of balance we become.
Indigenous people are profoundly connected to Nature. While our cultural psyches are more recently rooted in a dualism that singles Man out from Nature and gives him dominion over it the indigenous recognize that we are all part of the same web that flows through all of creation. At the very core of their practices is a deep respect for the powers in Nature. Animal allies, for example, are important vehicles for connecting in with the Web of Creation. Each animal has certain aspects or characteristics that give it particular powers or energy to draw from. Power Animals, Totem Animals and Animal Archetypes are all ways the indigenous engage with the natural world regularly.
Power Animals are gifts of consciousness that come to us, at the individual level, to help develop specific strengths we are lacking due to past wounding. They often come to one who has had soul loss, for example. Soul loss occurs when we undergo an experience that is too painful to live through, so the innocent part of ourself leaves. Power Animals return to us the instinctive properties we may have lost in that event. We may have lost curiosity, for example, and it is returned to us in a monkey or courage is returned to us as a lion. When these Power Animals restore our instinctual selves, the part of our soul that we lost often feels safe enough to then return.
Totem Animals are animals that represent the ancestral lineages and myths within a clan or village of people. While the term "totem" is Ojibwa in origin, a number of cultures worldwide use totems to represent aspects of their clan. Totems are found in regions of Africa, Arabia, Asia, Australia, Europe, and the Arctic. One might belong to the Bear clan, for example and draw great strength from the properties, or “medicine” of the bear. The Ojibway scholar Basil H. Johnston defines a totem, as "that from which I draw my purpose, meaning, and being."
Animal Archetypes are different from Totem Animals and Power Animals in that they are profound, Universal organizing principles. In Jungian psychology, archetypes are defined as highly developed elements of the collective unconscious. They are constructs for tapping into the universal web, for interacting with, and calling upon, the Sacred or Divine in a particular way. In the Q’ero traditions of Peru, for example, the archetypes of the Serpent, Jaguar, Hummingbird and Condor are called upon to help orchestrate their worlds. Calling on Serpent helps us shed old stories, like a skin, and connect in deeply with the earth, belly to belly. Alternatively, to get out of the chaos of the mental, emotional world we call Hummingbird. This steps us out of time and connects us in more deeply with the nectar of our world instead.
It is our ability to work with, instead of dominate, Nature that will restore our humanity. Remembering the wisdom of our indigenous ancestors, bring balance back into your world by calling on the Web of Creation through Nature. Take a walk in outside today, without looking at your phone, and ask yourself: What are my Totem Animals? What animals can I call on to orchestrate my world?
Christina Allen, Healer, Teacher, Mentor and Founder and Director of Austin Shamanic Center, combines a strong science background (BA Physics, MS Neuroscience) with decades of applied ancient spiritual wisdom (Master Yogi, Reiki Master, and Shamanic Healer based on Q’ero Indian traditions of Peru). Available by private appointment at (512) 391-9829. Learn more about sessions and upcoming classes at Austin Shamanic Center.
© Austin All Natural, June 2015