The Gnostics were right, to know yourself is to know the divine.
How can you discover a totem? They show up in your behavior and aptitudes, in your dreams, and sometimes even in your physical relationships. Discovering ones totem is a deep process in a way.
Is it always another living thing? No. It can be a type of tree, or some spirit of the wind, or fire, some spirit of the earth, even something seen in the stars, but also yes. Because in the shamans world, it is all a living thing. They made an alliance with fire. They didn’t tame it.
Every totem has it’s hidden place, the unseen aspect of its world that is rarely seen, and that rarer side of itself that only shows up in seasons of distress. Wolf the man hunter, bear the blind berserker, raven the eater of eyes, but they all have this side to them as do we. Those animal guides, that show that dark face to you in your journeys, have not declared themselves your enemy. There are no enemies there, because the spirit world stands eternally. Nothing to be broken and thus make an enemy.
When an animal guide shows it’s dark face to you, it’s because the connection between you and it is through your own dark side. When wolf bares his teeth and goes for your throat, it’s because you are aggressively competitive. When raven screeches and plucks out your eye in a journey, it’s because you are determined to see all, know all.
Who we think is our enemy is usually just going about their business. I guess everyone is not really out to get us. Exactly.
So some guides are always dark and others have both day and night sides and we can engage with either side? Yes, but now with the always part. Some may show their dark side to you for a long time, but nothing stays fixed as a rule. Your biggest adversary may become your most dedicated ally in time.
I didn’t realize wolves were nocturnal. Wolves are just on the night side of diurnal and will hunt late at night. Sometimes you encounter something that is just a shape changed face of another spirit. Sometimes coyote masquerades as dog, or as rabbit, or anything else really.
Even the dark ones can be good friends. Yes. Even dark guides can be as much a sacred ally as the eagle or turtle. We often don’t recognize an elemental when we encounter one in dreams or in journey practice. If you dream of maggots eating your flesh, that may be an earth elemental. If you dream of leeches or fish devouring you, that might be a water elemental, or it might be a fish, remember the shape shifting. But the shamans transition is typically a spiritual death. The spirits tear you apart so that you might be reborn with greater strength in the spirit world. Those animal guides that challenge you are the keepers of your initiation.
Typically an adversary will attempt to devour you? Or some part of you though sometimes they just bar your progress, and sometimes you might mistake an ally spirit for an adversary. Sometimes an ally will behave in a threatening manner to warn you off of a dangerous course of action.
There are even plant totems. You have heard of corn woman, no? The Celts had tree women as well, so did the Greeks.
Your thoughts are welcome. Be well friends.