THE SPIRITUAL AND MAGICAL ROLES OF NATURE
There was a time when humanity recognized itself as part of nature, and nature as part of itself. Dreaming and waking were inseparable realities; the natural and the supernatural merged and blended. People used images of nature to express this unity and to instill a transpersonal kind of experience.
In the past shamans, priests, and priestesses were the keepers of the sacred knowledge of life. These individuals were tied to the rhythms and forces of nature. They were capable of walking the threads that link the invisible and visible worlds. They helped people remember that all trees are divine and that all animals speak to those who listen.
The early priest/ess-magicians would adopt the guise of animalswearing skins and masksto symbolize a reawakening and endowing of oneself with specific energies. They performed rituals in accordance with the natural rhythms of the seasons to awaken greater fertility and life. To them, every species and every aspect of its environment had the power to remind them of what they could manifest within their own life. It was an aid to bridge the natural world to the supernatural, awakening the realities of both within the environs of their own lives.
Though these rituals and behaviors may seem primitive and even silly to the rational minds of modern society, they are no less powerful today. And the laws which govern themphysical and spiritualare no less viable. Different societies expressed these laws in their own unique ways, but probably the most distinctly expressed 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. We cannot separate the physical from the spiritual, the visible from the invisible. "This Principle gives one the means of solving many a dark paradox and the hidden secret of Nature.... The ancient Hermeticists considered this principle as one of the most important mental instruments by which man was able to pry aside the obstacles which hid from view the Unknown ... (it) enables man to reason intelligently from the Known to the Unknown."
It is for this reason that a study of Nature Totems is essential for understanding how the spiritual is manifesting within our natural life. A totem is any natural object, being, or animal to whose phenomena and energy we feel closely associated with during our life.
We can use animal imagery and other nature totem images as a way to learn about ourselves and the invisible world. We do not have to believe that these images and totems are beings of great intelligence, but there are archetypal powers that reside behind and oversee all manifestations in Nature. These archetypes have their own qualities and characteristics which are reflected through the behaviors and activities of animals and other expressions of Nature.
When we pay attention to and acknowledge a nature totem, we are honoring the essence that lies behind it. We are opening up and attuning to that essence. We can then use it to understand our own life circumstances more clearly. We can share in its power or "medicine." Nature totemsespecially animalsare symbols of 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 realm manifesting within our own life. The characteristics and activities of these totems will reveal much about our own innate powers and abilities. By studying the totem and then learning to merge with it, we are able to call upon its archetypal energy whenever needed.
Terrestrial animals have always had a strong symbology associated with them. They have represented the emotional side of life, often reflecting qualities that must be overcome, controlled, and/or re-expressed. They are also symbols of powerpowers associated with the invisible realm that we can learn to manifest within the visible.
Birds have often been considered the symbols of the soul. Their ability to fly reflects the ability within us to rise to new awareness, bridging the earth and the heavens. As totems, birds each have their own peculiar characteristics, but they can 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 plane and the creative element of life. Various fish and other forms of aquatic life symbolize guidance to specific expressions of intuition and creative imagination. They can reflect the feminine side of our essence.
Insects are also a part of Nature, and they can be totems for us as well. From the bee of fertility in Egyptian myths, to the Mantis of the African Bushmen, to the many tales of the Spider Woman who created the universe, they hold a dynamic place 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 you also encounter. You can learn much about the kind of energies you are most likely to confront and those you are most able to manifest within your own day-to-day life circumstances. You will learn how to draw upon those energies most effectively 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 are both physical and behavioral adaptations. A common example is the manner in which some animals may adapt to the cold, either through growing thicker fur or even migrating.
An animal such as a mountain goat has a dynamic adaptive ability for surviving in its mountain environment. Its feet are developed in such a manner that they can grip more strongly and securely. It also has more red blood cells, which assists it in surviving the colder temperatures in the mountains. By learning how our totems adapt to survive can assist us with our own lives by applying those same 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 human life with Nature and Spirit through totems and ritual. The images of the animals and the expressions of Nature help us to transcend our normal, waking consciousness so that we can more easily attune to ethereal realms and beings. The first step begins with realizing that all vision and imagery, originating in Nature or the inner mind, has validity on some level.
What gets most of us into trouble is interpreting what is seen in the mind or in Nature itself. Reading, studying, and learning about what you see and experience is what will facilitate relating them to yourselves. Don't accept Nature totems without question. Put them through the verification process that you will learn later in this book.
Don't discard a totem simply because it may not seem glamorous or as powerful as your ego wanted. The totem may be quite appropriate for empowering your life. Sometimes it is only through study and exploration of the specific totem that its significance will become clear. Remember that searching out the significance of 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 us everyday that all forms of life can teach us. As we learn to listen to Nature, we break down our outworn perceptions. We find that magical creation is the force of life inherent in all things. And it is this, above all else, that Nature teaches to those who will learn from Her.