Friday, February 27, 2015

Her Shadow Across the Moon

“Herald of Athena,
the Battle Maiden,
I am the bright Moon’s hawk.
Silent Death,
I speak of many lives,
bring Wisdom from Blue Road to Red,
and teach you how best to walk.

Who hears all hidden messages?

Who knows Truth from Lie?

Who teaches the shifting of shape, 
and warns of Reaper’s stroke 
with eerie cry?

Darkest night cannot withstand
my penetrating gaze
swinging from side to side
Patrolling silently
dusk til dawn
Roosting safely at last
to sleep away the day
talons gripping
our Dreams

My mate and I 
contented songs,
Wisdom and Visions
as we journeyed.

Magic and Mysteries 
sift from every plume,
as endless as Mother’s love.
Nothing remains hidden from our sight.
We bring messages from Creator.
a Parliament of Strigidae
ruling the night.

For those new to the game, each poem is inspired by a Teacher found in Nature; a star, stone, animal, plant etc that holds Wisdom for us. Can you guess who is singing today? Congrats to Sacred Rememberance/Jaguarwombyn, Jan Neavill Hersh, and Shay for naming this Teacher; well done!

“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely of places. Those who don’t believe in magic, will never find it.” Roald Dahl

help me always
to speak the truth quietly,
to listen with an open mind
when others speak,
and to remember the peace
that may be found in silence.” Cherokee Prayer

“A wise old owl sat on an oak; The more he saw the less he spoke; The less he spoke the more he heard; Why aren’t we like that wise old bird?” Edward Hersey Richards

There are over 200 species of Owl most of which are nocturnal and live solitary lives. Found everywhere in the world except Antarctica, Greenland and some remote islands, owls are a specialized member of the Raptor family, order Strigiformes, that is usually kept separate from it’s diurnal relatives. Owls have fixed forward-facing eyes with special facial disc feathers surrounding them, and they can turn their head 135 degrees in either direction for an extremely wide field of vision. Their binocular vision which is so keen in low light also makes them unable to see anything clearly within a few inches of their eyes. Their hawk-like beaks and mighty talons mark them unmistakably as Raptors. 

The Great Horned Owl is one of the most widespread of this family, and can be found from Arctic tundra to the tropical rain forest. Being a top predator, Owls have very few enemies other than Man. Although young owls can be snatched by foxes or snakes while nesting or learning to fly, and owls are often harassed by other birds like Crow, Blue Jay, and other Raptors. The Welsh story of Blodeuedd who was made from flowers to be the wife of Lleu ends with Blodeuedd being transformed into an Owl for her betrayal, condemned to be harassed and hated by all other birds. Several cultures have tales to explain this harassing behavior from other birds.

Owls are strongly associated with Death in many cultures. In Arabia the Owl is a bird of ill omen, an evil spirit that carries children off during the night. In ancient Sumeria the goddess of death, Lilith, was attended by Owls. Many Native Traditions also fear this Teacher as a harbinger of Death, a deliver of ill omens, curses, and view the Owl as the familiar of demons and evil witches (male or female). In some cultures people will not even name this bird, calling it by some other name like “the bird who makes you fear”. Not everyone views this mighty hunter with such fear and anxiety though. 

In Afghanistani tales, Owl gave the gifts of flint and iron to man, the ability to make fire, and we gave the Owl his feathers. In ancient Babylon, Owl amulets were given to protect women during childbirth. Aborigines believe bats represent the souls of men, and owls the souls of women. A Belgium legends says that a priest offered Owl his church tower as a home if this fearsome hunter would keep the place free of the rodents who plagued it. Romanians believed the Snowy Owl was the soul of a repentant sinner flying off to heaven. And in China, the Owl is associated with lightning and thunder. Placing Owls at each corner of the home will keep it safe from lightning. It is also considered a symbol of too much Yang (positive, active and masculine energy).

All birds are Messengers of the Spirit World, and each Owl will carry it’s own specific lessons for those who follow it. Screech Owls, for example, teach you how to be more vocal, to fearlessly express yourself yet still cooperate with others. Snowy Owls with their dramatic black and white coloring are especially adapted to the cold of Winter. They teach us how to stay alert through periods of transforming hibernation so that we may grow in the best way possible. They combine the mothering wisdom and compassion from the North direction on the Medicine Wheel with the transcending wisdom that comes from beyond the Void, our intuitive and emotional selves that rests in the West.

Through balancing our Earth and Water natures, Snowy Owl brings great visions and prophetic dreams. The European Eagle Owl would combine the lessons of Owl and Eagle to serve as a special messenger from Creator. One Winter Solstice, I had a very vivid dream that was completely silent until the final moment. In this Dreaming I found myself surrounded by a Henge of  Standing Stones. The Moon was balanced in a keyhole frame of stone, the last rays of the Sunset still lingering on the opposite edge of the Sky. Dazzled momentarily by the brilliant Moonlight, I suddenly realized that the only sound was the barely audible sigh of Wind and every Stone had an Owl perched on it, staring at me! 

While looking into the red amber eyes of one Owl and asking for their message to be made clear to me… Owl cried out in a thunder-loud voice, waking me even as they all flew towards me. After combing through all kinds of information on owls, I discovered that these special messengers had appeared in the form  of the European Eagle Owl, a species unknown to me until this powerful dream. For this article though, I will stick to another favorite of mine, the Great Horned Owl.

This is one of the most widespread of the Owls, and can be found from Arctic tundra to the tropical rain forest. As adults Great Horned Owls reach sizes between 18-25 inches in body, 40-57 inches in wingspan and 32-88 ounces in weight. They are easily recognized by their large ear tufts (which are not actually ears) giving them the “horned” appearance, and their plumage (which will vary with terrain) is a barred mixture of reddish brown, gray, black, and white with a white throat patch. 

They are feathered right down to their gripping talons. Females are larger than males, a common trait in Raptors as it is the female who guards the nest. Though smaller, the male has the deeper voice, and hoots more during the courtship. At first, the male keeps a distance of 45 to 60 feet, flying from branch to branch, bowing to the female. If she is somewhat unresponsive at first, he will bring her a gift of food. With eyes closed, she will accept the gift, the encouraged male moves closer, and they begin hooting and chirring at each other often spreading wings and bowing.
Owl courtship is actually quite vocal and amusing to watch. 

Eventually they will end side by side gently stroking each others feathers. Young produced will vary with breed, genetics and food supplies. A mated pair of owls may produce anywhere from 2 to 6 young at one time! Owls are shy and rather reclusive creatures that actually need to overcome their fear of another Owl in order to pair up! Owl people can be very similar in behavior; shy, quiet, solitary, but fiercely loyal and dedicated friends.

The favorite food of the Great Horned is the bold and confident Skunk, so those drawn to this Totem should take a close look at that Teacher as well. Great Horned Owls will also eat other Raptors, and they have kept the numbers of Osprey and the Peregrine Falcon in check in many areas. Their diet is primarily made up of small mammals like rabbits, rats, bats, shrews, weasels, gerbils, mice, squirrels, and even porcupines! They will eat amphibians, insects, and reptiles, but they often hunt larger prey like small deer, geese, great blue herons, opossums, raccoons, ducks, small dogs and cats! 

Fierce and fearless night hunters it is no wonder that they have so often evoked fear! In many cultures, to hear or see an Owl is a fearful visitation and a message of imminent death. I often wonder if this is where the concept of the Beansidhe (Banshee) began, and there are several tales which point in this direction.

While this Teacher may be warning of an actual physical death, it is important to remember that more often than not, She is telling us of a metaphorical Death which is a reason to rejoice. New life cannot begin without Death making way for it, and we cannot grow beyond our self-imposed limitations, habits or other harmful situations without first allowing for the death of that cycle. It is important for Owl people to remember that often the best lessons are unsought and rather painful, like most change. Resisting the motions of change will bring greater pain and perhaps even more profound troubles! 

Owl people need to develop comfort with transition, learn to surrender “control” without resentment, and embrace the Life Lessons we encounter with trusting faith. Remembering that every change is an opportunity for growth, not a threat or punishment, is often a Big challenge! When we learn to meet Change in this positive way, we can become successful assistants to others facing this challenge. Death, after all, is just one portion of the motion that is Birth, Life and Rebirth. 

Where other birds have stiff feathers that make a whooshing sound when they fly, owl feathers have softened edges that allow them to fly in eerie silence. This is important for owls, and allows them to swoop down on prey without being heard. They fly low to the ground and pounce with a dazzling speed and strength.  

Silence is very important to Owl People. It is important to set aside time in today’s busy world, to sit in silence and listen to all that is being told to us. If we are never silent, we are never listening, and if we do not listen, we cannot learn. The combination of Knowledge and Wisdom that Owl represents begins and ends with Silence. Only in the Silence can we turn within, and only there will we hear the voice of Creator most clearly. 

Owls have very strong connections to female energy, magic, the moon, knowledge and wisdom that are evident throughout history and in every culture. Perhaps it is their connection to the Moon, and goddess like Athena and Diana that strengthen these ties to the feminine and magic in general? Owls speak of feminine intuition, the Divine feminine, the cyclic nature of Triple Goddesses, all with the hidden 4th face that symbolizes Rebirth. Athena’s owl was her constant companion. It is the Owl’s great vision which allows it to see unerringly in the dark which gave this goddess the power to see through the surface to the truth in all things.

In our darkest moments, in our greatest pain and fear, there is always a lesson and there is always something to be thankful for. Knowledge cannot come without some sorrow and loss of innocence. Strength cannot come without challenges or exercise. Wisdom cannot come without many experiences, a willingness to sacrifice even if it is only pride that you give up, a willingness to serve others, to accept change both within and without Self. 

In these ways, Owl teaches us to better our selves and our world with wise and loving hearts. Owls have been represented as great Dreamers, Teachers, Guides and Messengers in everything from children’s movies like Disney’s Bambi to ancient myth and legend from cultures around the World. Often a guide to psychics, shapeshifters, and clairvoyants, Owl teaches us to have courage and face our fears, to look clearly into our darkest shadows within to hunt successfully for spiritual growth.

“We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature- trees, flowers, grass-  grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence. We need silence to be able to touch souls.” Mother Teresa

”Learn to get in touch with silence within yourself, and know that everything in this life has purpose. There are no mistakes, no coincidences, all events are blessings given to us to learn from.” Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross

“You must understand the whole of life, not just one little part of it. That is why you must read, that is why you must look at the skies, that is why you must sing, and dance, and write poems, and suffer, and understand, for all that is life.” Krishnamurti

Key Concepts: Lunar energy, Wisdom, Knowledge, Birth/Life/Death/Rebirth cycle, Transition/Transformation, Shapeshifting, Natural Magic, Courage/Facing Fears, Femine Intuition/Power/Wisdom, Silence, Dreamtime, prophecy, clairvoyance/clairaudience, foresight, Spirit world, Watchfulness, Gaurdianship, Protection of the Dead, Mystery, Secrets, Transcending Darkness, Shapeshifting, Trust

Associated with: Bad omens, Death, the Grim Reaper. Xibalba. the Underworld. the Moon and Night. Blodeuedd, Hecate, Diana, Athena, Selene, (Fate and Crone aspects(, Hulda/Holla, Arianrhod, Yama, Lilith, Inanna, Mictlantecuhtli, Lakshmi. shamans and witches from various cultures, and popular stories from Merlin to Harry Potter

Possible Balancing Energies:
Animals like Bat , Rat/Mouse, Voles and other rodents, Skunk, Rabbit, Bear, Squirrel, Porcupine, Raccoon, Dog, Coyote, Wolf, Fox, Cats, Deer, and Horse. Birds like Red Tail Hawk and other Raptors, Sparrow , Chickadee , Crow/Raven, Great Blue Heron ,Swan. Trees like Pine , Cacao , Cottonwood, Oak , Apple , Rowan/Mt Ash , Amphibians and Reptiles like , Frog, Toad, Newt, Lizard and Snake. Dragonflies, Flies, Moths, Glowworms, Bees and  other insects. Arachnids. Earthworms. The Moon and Stars. Plants like Triphysaria, Mammillaria parkinsonii, Juniperus virginiana, Tobacco, Sweetgrass, Moonflowers, Night Jasmine or Cedar. Stones like Gold Calcite, Agates, Moonstones or Malachite. The direction East and element Air

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