Sunday, May 24, 2015

Queen of Heaven

T’wixt fiery Sun and empty Sands
a potent shadow soars.
Boldly this Singer comes
to teach us of Life’s grand score…

“I was given no voice with which to sing,
yet my lessons are inevitable,
vital as the Spring!




Actions speak louder than any words,
revealing your true worth
No matter your position,
someone is bound to have it better,
and others… far worse!

Do you see the energy inherent in all things?
I will teach you to understand,
direct and properly employ
the silent powers of Life,
as all around you dances, sings

Bearer of the fire divine,
I feed upon death,
yet administer the breath of life
Bringing harm to none!

I deliver subtle signs
reveal Truth and Transcendence
Adorn ancient shrines
Teach balanced independence
Dispel disease
I even teach all women
to move through each phase of life
with ease!

Herald of Mother Isis
Ma'at weighs your heart
against a single feather 
from my coat.
I am Life’s first mortician.
I both inspire and ease disgust, fear…
yet I am the first to aid in all transitions."

For those new to the game, each poem is inspired by a Teacher found in Nature; a star, stone, animal, plant etc that holds lessons of Wisdom for us. Can you guess who is singing today? 

“Without an understanding of myth or religion, without an understanding of the relationship between destruction and creation, death and rebirth, the individual suffers the mysteries of life as meaningless mayhem alone.” Marion Woodman

“When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.” Audre Lorde

“The mere possession of a vision is not the same as living it, nor can we encourage others with it if we do not, ourselves, understand and follow its truths. The pattern of the Great Spirit is over us all, but if we follow our own spirits from within, our pattern becomes clearer. For centuries, others have sought their visions. They prepare themselves, so that if the Creator desires them to know their life’s purpose, then a vision would be revealed. To be blessed with visions is not enough…we must live them!” High Eagle

“We’re your friends… we’re you’re friends… we’re you’re friends to the bitter end!” the Vultures from Jungle Book

Turkey Vultures are large carrion birds who, until recently, have been categorized as Raptors. In 1994 though it was discovered that the American or New World vultures (seven different species including the Condor) are actually more closely related to the order Ciconiiformes (family Cathartidae); Ciconiiformes include: storks, spoonbills, herons, egrets and ibises. Old World or European vultures are only superficially related to the Cathartidae and are found under the order Falconiformes (raptors), family Accipitridae. There are 15 different species, including the Egyptian Vulture. Buzzards, a term frequently and incorrectly linked with this Teacher, actually refers to the soaring raptor Buteo Buteo, or Common Buzzard, which looks much more like a Redtail Hawk.

New World vultures don’t have the strong gripping feet and powerful beaks that helps to put the Old World vultures into the Raptor category. So New World vultures can’t lift or carry off food, or handle some of the tougher bits of a meal like their Old World cousins. As always, particular attention should be paid to the specific Creature Teacher you feel drawn to, as well as the rest of their immediate family and near relations. In other words, if you feel called by the Turkey Vulture, you should examine all 7 species of New World vultures as well as the 15 European ones. For our purposes here, I will speak about vultures in general with specific references to the Turkey Vulture, the Condor, and the Egyptian Vulture.

While most vultures are carrion eaters and prefer the freshly dead to the long dead, they are not particular about what kind of deceased carrion they eat other than showing a marked preference for herbivores over carnivores. Some, like the more aggressive Black Vulture, will occasional pursue and kill small prey like rabbits or mice, but vultures are just as likely to sit down to a nice meal of decaying bear as they are to enjoy a squashed roadside turtle. Should this Teacher appear to you in conjunction with another Creature Teacher, say feeding on a deer carcass, then I would examine that specific Teacher as well.

“Purification of the mind is attained through humility, integrity, and a sense of justice.” Sri Sathya Sai Baba

“Life is pleasant. Death is peaceful. It’s the transition that troublesome.” Isaac Asimov
Vultures have several interesting defenses to protect them from the many harmful bacteria encountered while chowing down on their carrion. Firstly, their featherless heads make it less likely that they will collect and retain bacteria from sticking their heads in an out of a carcass to eat. Their excrement and their urine acts as a sanitizer as their uric acid is so strong it kills bacteria! This is one reason why the vulture will urinate on its own legs, to cleanse itself of any bacteria collected while standing in and moving around its food. Because they don’t sweat, the other reason is to cool itself off when the heat gets to be too much.

Another defense from bacteria is known as the horaltic pose, and Turkey Vultures are often seen standing about in a sunny spot holding this pose with their wings spread. They use the heat of the sun not only to dry off wings after a messy meal, or to warm their bodies, but they literally bake off bacteria! Perhaps this seemingly reverent pose directed towards the sun, along with their amazing soaring ability, is why they have such a close association with solar energy and sun deities. They are often viewed as unclean animals because of their feeding habits and close association with death and disease. However, this Teacher actually accentuates the importance of Purification of body, mind, and especially spirit!

“In Southern Africa, the name for an Egyptian vulture is synonymous with the term applied to lovers, for vultures like pigeons are always seen in pairs. Thus mother and child remain closely bonded together. Pairing, bonding, protecting, loving are essential attributes associated with a vulture.” Ma-Wetu, The Kiswahili-Bantu Research Unit for the Advancement of the Ancient Egyptian Language

“For she is a fair maiden, fairest lady of a house of queens. And yet I know not how I should speak of her.” J.R.R. Tolkien

Vultures in general are rather gentle and non-aggressive creatures. Their link to Death is obvious in their feeding habits. However, they create Life by feeding on Death which shows their association with not only Life and Death, but the entire process of Rebirth. Masters of Transition and one of our most important members of Nature’s clean-up crew, the Vulture is actually a very ancient symbol of maternity and rebirth! 

In Egyptian lore, Nekhebet, the vulture goddess, and her sister Uadjet, the cobra goddess, are closely linked (reinforcing that connection between Snakes and, apparently, all Ciconiiformes). Together they represented this eternal cycle. Nekhebet was a mother goddess who gave the pharaoh his divine nature, and is often depicted wearing the White Crown of Egypt. She suckled royal children and gods, represented sovereignty, ruled over all wild birds, and was a guardian of childbirth.

Mut, one of the most ancient Mother deities, was placed even higher than Isis (also associated with the vulture) in esteem and is also closely associated with the vulture. Ma’at, an underworld goddess, was not only present at all funerary events but also judged the dead. Her red feather was placed on the opposite scale from the heart of the deceased, and how it weighed out determined their afterlife. These ancient associations have the Vulture hovering protectively over kings, adorning the crowns of queens, flying in protective formation along the roofes of tombs, attending births, deaths and the funerals that send us off into the afterlife.

“Oh you sing,” said the Gryphon, “I’ve forgotten the words.” Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carrol

“Change is the constant, the signal for rebirth, the egg of the phoenix.” Christina Baldwin

“Do not boast, old woman. Your death sits in that cage and she hears you.” The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle, in which the Unicorn speaks of Celeno, the harpy

The vulture has also been long associated with the mythical Griffin. The Griffin combines the energy of Eagle and Lion, and symbolically they have represented: the sun, wisdom, vengeance, strength, duty, justice, royalty, vigilance, guardianship of divinity or Fae, and salvation. Embodiment of Nemesis, this regal creature has also represented the divinity of Jesus Christ (eagle) combined with the earthy energy of humanity (lion). Symbolically, I can see how the Vulture was easily linked with all of these things. 

Personally though, the Vulture has always reminded me of another mythic creature, the fabled Phoenix who lived immortally through a continuous cycle of rebirth from it’s own ashes. The Vulture’s long association with Rebirth, Maternity, Transition, and Divine or Queenly women has made her a symbol of the Triple Goddess concept in my mind. With her clear sight, gentle manner, strength of purpose and awesome survival abilities the Vulture is a wonderful Teacher to ask for aid in our own transitions through life no matter what gender you may be.

Perhaps the first mythical creature that would leap to mind when discussing the vulture is the Harpy. Daughters of Typhon and Echidna in Greek mythology, harpies were originally described as beautiful winged women, and only later took on the form of a bird (always a raptor-like bird, sometimes an eagle body and other times a vulture) with a woman’s head. Most famous for their persistent torment of Phineus who had angered Zeus by revealing too much with his seer’s gift, harpies are most often seen as agents of punishment, violence or sorrow personified; cruel, greedy, vengeful, and destructive spirits of the Wind. Valkyrie-like, they have an Angel of Death aspect and are closely associated with various winds and storms. Totemicly, it would be reasonable to relate the worst qualities of the Harpy with unbalanced Vulture energy, or the best qualities of these mythic creatures with this very real Creature Teacher.

The California Condor, the largest flying bird in North America, is also considered by many to be the legendary Thunderbird of Native American tales. One of the few recognizable cross-cultural elements of Native North American mythology, the Thunderbird was a powerful spirit creature in the form of an incredibly large bird who could bring thunder with a clap of his wings, and lightning with a clash of his mighty beak. 

In some traditions this bearer of storms was a benevolent spirit and in others quite malevolent. Anyone who has ever witnessed first hand the awesome power and majesty of the California Condor can easily see the link between it and the magical Thunderbird. This bird is easily the largest flying or soaring bird in all of North America. It can reach wingspans of 9 feet and a weight of just over 18 pounds, which is even larger than the mighty Eagle! A condor in motion is absolutely breath-taking, and the closer they come the harder it is for the mind to accept just how large they truly are!

“It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.” W. Edwards Deming

“If we human beings learn to see the intricacies that bind one part of a natural system to another and then to us, we will no longer argue about the importance of wilderness protection, or over the question of saving endangered species, or how human communities must base their economic futures – not on short-term exploitation – but on long-term, sustainable development.” Gaylord Nelson, Founder of Earth Day

Once plentiful, this incredible Creature Teacher has almost been wiped from existence by the predations of Man. It is estimated that there were roughly 150 condors in the wild as of 1950, and only 21 as of 1980! In 2002, a pair of captive-reared California Condors broke the 18 years of failure that the breeding program has struggled with and successfully bred. As of 2005, estimates put wild condors at around 270 with an additional 125 successfully released from captivity. Very good news indeed!

Aside from size and general appearance, the condor differs from the vulture in a few ways. It does not have the extremely keen sense of smell that turkey vultures possess. Condors tend to be more gregarious than the more solitary turkey vulture, although they do not nest in colonies like so many of the Old World vultures. While the condor’s nests are not large or elaborate structures, they do build nests unlike the turkey vulture who lay their eggs directly on ground, in caves or crevices, abandoned burrows, in hollow logs, under fallen trees, or even in abandoned buildings! 

Condor’s lay only one egg at a time and the youngling is dependent upon it’s parents for more than a year. Thus, condors typically only breed every other year. Young condors do not acquire full adult plumage or breeding capability until they are 6-8 years old! Turkey Vultures clutch 1-3 eggs at a time and young hatch 30-40 days after laying. Parents will care for the hatchlings for 10-11 weeks and family groups will remain together until the fall.

Despite similarities, the Egyptian Vultures are dramatically different from both the Condor and the Turkey Vulture. Their adult plumage is predominately white with black flight feathers at the wingtips and their bald head is yellow rather than red. Their mating displays are more reminiscent of Eagles than either the Condor or the Turkey Vulture. Their nests are much more permanent structures, lined with rags, fur, or skin and cemented with droppings. These are often used for years! Their young fledge (become fully feathered and leave the nest) anywhere between 70-90 days after hatching. Egyptian Vultures achieve adult plumage at 5 years although they may breed before that age. This vulture is noted for it’s tool-using abilities, and also for it’s tendency to clean leaving cattle of parasites like ticks!

All three of these Teachers are all but silent, making no sounds other than hissing and occasional grunts. They will defend themselves, as adults and nestlings, by vomiting. Predators either catch a stinging eyeful as the vulture makes it’s escape, or is more interested in the food left behind than in pursuing the bird! All three are soaring birds, and have the ability to see thermals. Thus, they expend less energy to stay in the air longer than most other birds.

“The human race is challenged more than ever before to demonstrate our mastery, not over nature but of ourselves.” Rachel Carson

“It is our task in our time and in our generation, to hand down undiminished to those who come after us, as was handed down to us by those who went before, the natural wealth and beauty which is ours.” John F. Kennedy

“All that is gold does not glitter, not all those who wander are lost; the old that is strong does not wither, deep roots are not reached by the frost. From the ashes a fire shall be woken, a light from the shadows shall spring; renewed shall be blade that was broken, the crownless again shall be king.” J.R.R. Tolkkien

The Vulture holds lessons on the proper use of energy, no more or less than necessary. Those called by this Teacher may find that they begin to see the energy or auras of people and things, and Vulture is an excellent Singer to turn to if you would like to develop this ability or need help in gaining, storing, or properly utilizing energy. Once the Vulture has claimed you it will stay with you throughout this life and likely on into other lives! 

They ask us to soar to our highest potential, over all perceived limitations, and into the realm of creative thought and progressive action. Vulture people, like vultures themselves, should be judged by their actions rather than appearances, but sadly many people today never look beyond the surface of anything in life. Well-balanced Vulture people can expect to contend with others’ misconceptions and perceptions of them.

Unfortunately, Vulture people often seem to have difficult, unpleasant or just plain messy situations collect around them as they are often so good at turning negatives into positives, destructive situations into constructive ones. Thus, they can gain a reputation for attracting bad luck, or in a more positive light but equally burdensome to the Vulture individual, a rep for being an amazing problem solver! 

We must have faith in our Creator that not all things are ours to correct or even to interfere in, and sometimes you just have to “let go, and let God.” Unbalanced Vultures might suffer from stress, depression or suicidal thoughts, doubt about the Universe’s ability to provide for them, uncertainty about their place in the Universe or their life goals, or may actively encourage those messy situations that crop up!

Aromatherapy is useful to those called by the Vulture with it’s keen sense of smell. The turkey vulture’s sense of smell is so keen that it can smell mercaptan, the gas produced by the beginning of decay, even under a dense forest canopy! Perhaps more than any other lesson though, these Teachers assure us that despite the many trials and hardships so plentiful in life, we can overcome great odds to achieve constructive goals in life with proper focus, intent, and awareness.

There’s a big world out there. Bigger than prom, bigger than high school, and it won’t matter if you were the prom queen or the quarterback of the football team or the biggest nerd. Find out who you are and try not to be afraid of it.” Josie from Never Been Kissed

No matter who you are in this life, no matter what you have experienced, you are guaranteed that someone has it worse and someone has it better. Comparing our experiences with those of others is, most often, a waste of time. Vulture would be the first to tell you it is best to stay focused on your own personal goals. The only person we are ever truly in competition with is ourselves! Besides, change is the only true constant and whatever circumstances we are dealing with are only temporary in the grand scheme of things. 

Vulture often appears to us when we are being asked to deal with a particularly messy or unpleasant situation; to transform it into something positive and constructive. Well-balanced Vulture people often display the same patience and resourcefulness so easily seen in the life of this self-assured Teacher. Because the Vulture has no real voice, it is very important for Vulture people to always be mindful that actions speak louder than words. It is not enough in life to go about talking endlessly about all that we would or could do, we must take action.

Particular attention should be paid to the health of your digestive tract and bowels. Vulture people may find that their dietary needs will change. Something that we once enjoyed eating and had no trouble with may become unpalatable or upsetting, and foods that we once avoided may suddenly become very compatible. Overheating, another potential physical difficulty, is pleasantly solved by taking the time to soak your legs and feet. I recommend a nice bubbling stream, personally.

First letter of the Egyptian hieroglyphic alphabet, symbol of queenly motherhood, master of all transitions; The Parsees of Bombay did not believe it proper to bury the dead or cremate them. Instead they left their dead to be devoured by this sacred bird! Revered by many cultures, the Vulture brings harm to none, creates life from death, holds eternity in it’s regal claws, and , in some tales, sacrificed it’s beautiful head plumage to set the sun in the sky for all to benefit from. This powerful Singer can teach us how to look within the darkness of our own Shadow, recognize and overcome all that we most fear. How does this magical Teacher appear in your life?

“Moderation is the secret of survival.” Manly Hall

“In a world where change is inevitable and continuous, the need to achieve that change without violence is essential for survival.” Andrew Young

“We live in a time of transition, an uneasy era which is likely to endure for the rest of this century. During the period we may be tempted to abandon some of the time-honored principles and commitments which have been proven during the difficult times of past generations. We must never yield to this temptation. Our American values are not luxuries, but necessities – not the salt in our bread, but the bread itself.” Jimmy Carter

Potential Balancing energies: Birds like Crow/Raven or Heron ,Deer , Skunk , Sheep and Cattle, Buffalo/Bison , Rabbit , Snake , Flies , Hawk , Eagle and other Raptors , Earthworm, Fish like Salmon , Rodents like Mice or Rats , Mushrooms and Fungi, the Sun, Trees like the Oil Palm (espcecially for Palm Nut vultures), bacteria, hyenas, Lions , cougars and other cats , Wolf /Fox / Dog /Coyote , plants like pumpkins (Turkey vultures adore end of season pumpkins and, in warmer climates, overripe coconuts!) , Sunflowers , thyme, asclepias or angelica, Lepidoptera like the Monarch , Ants , Bees , Spiders , Dragonfly and other Insects, Elephants , Bears , Otters , Frog/Toad

Key Concepts: Transition/Transformation, Feminine power/strength/intuition/divinity, Life/Death/Rebith cycle, Faith, spiritual growth, removal of decay, Solar energy, Transcending Fear, Shadow self/work, Purification, Visioning/Shamanic journey, Patience, Silence, Healing, Problem/Puzzle solving, Compassion (Golden Purifier), Seeing/Working with Energy, Strength through Gentleness, Vigilence, Natural Law/Magic, Order from Chaos, Coupling Right Thought with Right Action, Inspiration, Fertility and Motherhood/Sisterhood

Associated with : Griffins, Phoenix, Harpies, the Sun, Isis, Mut, Ma’at, Nekhebet, Nemesis, Ares, Prometheus, Hercules, Zeus, Hades, Nasur, Neret, Urubutsin, Heresa Heri , Pallas Athena, Fene-Ma-So , Arawn, Dis Pater, Saturn/Cronus, Sumul

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Leaping the Moon

Bountiful and Benign 
I sing 
All Life is Sacred 
Honor life with Generosity 
Giving of yourself draws you closer 
to the Divine

Majestic Lord
Ruling with the creative strength
 of the Sun

Lady of the horned crown
Gentle Mother to all the World 

Our cloven dance 
upon the Earth 
cannot be outdone

Courage like a banner unfurled!
Milk of Kindness feeds every soul
Gentleness is an inexorable force
Follow us,
and the World will become Whole
We will turn over every stone in your path
Bear you to the Sacred Source”

For those new to the game, each poem is inspired by a Teacher found in Nature; a star, stone, animal, plant etc that holds lessons of Wisdom for us. Can you guess who is singing today? 

“The cow is of the bovine ilk;
One end is Moo, the other, milk.” Ogden Nash

“I’ve never seen a purple cow, I never hope to see one. But I can tell you anyhow, I’d rather see than be one.” Ogden Nash

“They passed down all the roads long ago. And the Red Bull ran close behind them, and covered their footsteps.” The Butterfly from Peter S. Beagle’s The Last Unicorn

The family Bovidae is a large one. Buffalo/Bison Totem has been covered in the poem Grandmother Speaks to Me Like Thunder and as a member of the family should also be considered by anyone who feels called by the specific Bovidae teachers we will discuss here. Other related species should also be studied. This article will primarily focus on Cattle (Cow and Bull), but I’d like to take a quick peek at one or two of the other Teachers in this family as well.

Merriam-Webster defines cattle as “domesticated quadrupeds held as property or raised for use; specifically : bovine animals on a farm or ranch.” The words cattle and chattel are closely related. Archaically, cattle was used to refer to all such quadrupeds much in the way that the word deer referred to all wild four-legged ruminants. Cows are breeding females, and Bulls are breeding males. Oxen are castrated males used for labor. Bullocks or steer are young castrated males. Heifers are unbred young females who are beyond the calf stage. Calves are young from birth to weaning age when they are referred to as weaners, and young beef cattle raised for food are referred to as feeders until they are slaughtered. Bovines have one stomach with four chambers, each of which performs its own function.

They are Ruminants, which means that their digestive system allows them to eat otherwise indigestible food by repeatedly regurgitating and re-chewing. This is referred to as a “cud” (formed and kept in the first stomach), and by re-swallowing the cud bovines are able to break down and eventually digest this tough foodstuff through it’s complex stomach. As a Totem, this denotes a need to chew over all information and process everything in stages. Cow people do not adapt rapidly to change, and will find that they are not truly comfortable with such transitions until they have had time to chew, swallow and digest a given issue thoroughly, however long the process may take. Sheep, goats, alpacas, llamas, giraffes, buffalo/bison, yaks, deer and camels are also ruminants, and share this trait indicative of either patience or a need for patience.

One stomach, referred to as the reticulum or hardware stomach, is where all truly indigestible matter lodges. Are we harboring useless matters within us like scraps of fencing? While this may or may not harm the cow, it does indicate a level of potential to survive that exceeds that of other Cousins. It has the potential to be lethal, so isn’t it best if we pay particular attention to what we ingest whether it be food or dialog? You are what you eat is a good rule to live by for anyone who considers themselves called by one of the Ruminants. Goats are particularly noted for their eat anything capabilities and stubbornness. Magnets are used to prevent hardware disease in cows, and magnet therapy is worthy of exploration by people as well. Humor is often linked to bovines, although I couldn’t really say why cows are funny. I do know that a good sense of humor is needed to help maintain many of the ideals taught by this Singer.

“We willfight for bovine freedom,
and hold our large heads high!
We will run free with the Buffalo, or die!
Cows with guns!” lyrics from Dana Lyons’ “Cows with Guns”

“When a cow laughs, does milk come out her nose?” Author Unknown

“Expecting the world to treat you fairly because you are good is like expecting the bull not to charge because you are a vegetarian.” Dennis Wholey

“Good for the body is the work of the body, good for the soul the work of the soul, and good for either the work of the other.” Henry David Thoreau

Worldwide, there are 140 species of Cattle, and over 1000 species of sheep; 45 species of deer, 84 species of antelope. Goats are one of the oldest domesticated species, and there are currently about 210 different breeds being raised worldwide. That’s a big family with a lot to consider, so please, take your time in pondering the traits and the particular characteristics of whomever may be calling you! I cannot stress enough that looking at the World through the eyes of All Our Relations is a life-long individual course of study. After looking at the relevance of color, consider the four legs of our Cousins. Aside from the numerical symbolism of the number four, this Teacher’s stance indicates a solid connection to Earth, stability, abundance, and the Four Immeasurables: Joy, Compassion, Love, and Equanimity.

Equanimity is defined as “not distinguishing between friend, enemy or stranger, but regarding every sentient being as an equal”. It is a “clear, and tranquil state of mind, not overpowered by delusions, mental dullness or agitation”, in which we do not discriminate between friends and enemies because we want to help all sentient beings. This is the stable base necessary to build a life of unconditional love, compassion, joy, and sacred abundance. Equanimity, fertility, abundance; Bulls and Cows have represented these qualities since time immemorial. Living your life in a manner directed towards helping All can most definitely be a laborious task equal to that of the Oxen used to haul heavy loads and till fields. In fact there are days when it begins to feel as if even Apollo’s cattle would not be equal to the task. Yet, the crops that we can lovingly harvest are well worth the effort for generations to come! Cattle also remind us that labor is a good and necessary part of life, and that all things are worthy of respect, all things have a place within the cycle of Life.

This Teacher has been associated with Osiris, Isis, Ra, Zeus, Apollo’s golden cattle, Apis, Inanna, Hera/Juno, Freya, Frigg, Pan, Dionysus/Bacchus, and Gobniu the Celtic smith god who kept the Cow of Plenty. Cows are linked with lunar and feminine energies. Bulls with solar and masculine energies. Together they can represent Yin yang, a sacred connection to both physical and spiritual worlds, earthly abundance, labor and sacrifice. Krishna’s life as a cowherd. Jesus; a shepherd born amongst the lowing Cattle. Abundance, the sanctity of all Life and the Earth which gives us all while asking nothing in return… These are all lessons in Divine Humility, Universal Love and Loving-Kindness. The least we can do is be kind, allow All Our Relations space, and share some food now and again, right?

“The management of fertility is one of the most important functions of adulthood.” Germaine Greer

“Hey diddle diddle,
The cat and the fiddle,
The cow jumped over the moon
The little dog laughed to see such sport,
And the dish ran away with spoon.” a nursery rhyme

“To live a pure and unselfish life, one must count nothing as one’s own in the midst of abundance.” Buddha

In my eyes, People have been bent on self destruction for about as long as there have been people. We have agreed for a long time that War is not really an answer, yet we continue to participate in this destructive activity. Domestic violence, spousal or child abuse, children raised without a positive role model for either gender, and a wide variety of violent crimes are all commonplace events in today’s society. Native Elders have said for many generations that we (white people) are set on a death path, and I believe that only a conscious choice made by all people collectively will truly banish this from our world society.

Cattle speak to us about the importance of gentleness and modesty. In Hinduism, the Cow represents the giving, gentle, and humble nature of all Life embodied in the Sanskrit word “ahimsa”. Ahimsa is defined by Merriam-Webster as the "Hindu and Buddhist doctrine of refraining from harming any living being ". In these troubled and turbulent times, perhaps this is the greatest of Cow’s lessons to us. Kamadhenu, the Cow of Plenty in India, was one of the great treasures revealed during the churning of the oceans. She grants all wishes and desires. It is said that the Brahmans who recite the sacred scriptures and the Cow were created at the same time. These holy people, and the cows who produce the butter used in sacred offerings, are meant to teach others how to live good lives. Clarified butter is a sacred offering in India, but every part of the cow has religious significance. Kamadhenu is known by a variety of names (Surabhi, Kamadugha, Kamaduh, Savala) and is believed to be the Mother of all Cows. These animals represent Dharma. Kamadhenu and other lore about Cattle make an interesting study for people drawn to this Teacher.

As is often the case, there is no equivalent word for Dharma in the English language. The word Dharma is derived from the root DHR, “to hold”, and its etymological meaning is ‘that which holds’. Whether referring to this world, the many people of the world, individual action, or the whole of Creation, Dharma is Truth, the underlying Law of our Creator, Divine Law, Piety, our sacred duty to All Our Relations as well as our Selves and our Creator. This Teacher asks us to try to understand these unifying, sacred, healing and constructive concepts, and more importantly, to incorporate them into our every day lives. In essence, to live our lives in every moment as our most heartfelt prayer.

“Practice what you preach.” proverb

“Students of Buddhist should treat the study of the Dharma as more important than anything—more important than their studies at school, more important than their business and livelihood.” Venerable Master Hsuan Hua

“Our own physical body possesses a wisdom which we who inhabit the body lack. We give it orders which make no sense.” Henry Miller

In India, when a herd of cows wanders into town, people feed them. Milk is offered to cobras, Monkies, elephants, blackbuck antelope (also Bovidaes), eagles and many other birds are all fed freely and with love. For all of us are sacred spiritual beings on a physical journey. The roads of Life can be rocky. The least we can do is offer a bit of Kindness to each other. Even the rats have a sacred temple in which they may live, breed, and eat! Together with gentle strength, steadfast hearts, in this way… We may make the World a better place.
Some people eat meat. Others do not.

I know without a doubt that a vegetarian diet strengthens one spiritually, and fasting itself has been used in just about every culture as a means of connecting to our higher selves and spiritual purposes. I, like many of my carnivorous Cousins, eat meat. On one hand, this draws me closer to some of my Relations, but it also distances me from others. Some say this fosters animal qualities, and while this is true it is not necessarily a bad or evil thing. A lion, a lamb, a vulture, a beetle… they are what they were made to be. Diet, while only one aspect of life, is an important one. To me, it is not necessarily what you eat as how you approach what you eat. I will not tell anyone what they can and cannot eat, nor condemn anyone for what they decide is “right” or “wrong”. Speaking for myself, I consider the Grain as sacred as the Bull, and I am grateful for, revere, and eat both.

“There exists no politician in India daring enough to attempt to explain to the masses that cows can be eaten.” Indira Gandhi

To keep the body in good health is a duty… otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear. Buddha

“Your body is a temple, but only if you treat it as one.” Astrid Alauda

Perhaps their will come a time in my life when I no longer feel the physical need to eat meat, and there are certainly are times when I abstain from this food source. Long before I learned that my birth Totem was Deer for example, I had a curious aversion to this particular meat that had nothing to do with either taste or texture. To this day I eat venison only during times of great need or as a special reverence to Deer. As a child around five, I cried when my mother fed me lamb, and began to truly think about how I could happily eat any of the animals that I had loved so long as family. I suddenly realized that others were sacrificing their lives so that I might eat. Looking back on this event, I remember how seriously I thought with my child’s mind on this subject. I looked at my plate and my glass of milk, and realized that my body craved these things, even though I doubt now that I knew even the definition of the word “crave” at that age.

I simply felt my body pulling me towards these foods. With a child’s clarity and innocent simplicity I thought, “Whoever made us all surely knows more than me. Other animals eat meat, maybe I need to too. Besides… I wouldn’t want even a carrot to give up its life only for me to waste it!” Teary cheeked, my heart swelled with love, I was grateful, and finished my meal. As time has gone by, it has become more and more important to me to find ways to supply my family with healthy, organically and locally raised foods as much as possible. No easy task in today’s society, especially on a limited income!

Not only do I consider it unhealthy to tamper with our food by adding chemicals and hormones, but I also object to animals slaughtered with wholesale inhumanity. Just looking at beef alone, about 80% of our cattle raised for consumption is handled by four major corporations. Such cattle are typically raised untended; left to themselves for months or even years before being rounded up and driven to slaughter. ( 

This means that hundreds of cattle from all over who have received the bare minimum of care are driven to the slaughterhouses and sorted. Those of us who eat meat are eating of animals who were not only not revered, but are not in the best of health, have been neglected or abused, may even be in an “acceptable” range of disease, and then terrified before being harvested for our tables. I find this appalling.

“I guess cows aren’t into the four food groups, especially when they are two of them.” Anthony Clark

“I have been stressing the vital importance of people giving up this habit of eating non-vegetarian food even from my boyhood days. Meat eating fosters animal qualities in man making him descend to the demoniac level; it is a heart-rending sight to see cows being slaughtered to serve as food for man.” Sri Sathya Sai Baba, an Indian Spiritual leader born in 1926

Neglect, fear, anxiety, panic, abuse, pain, illness; these are common conditions for all animals slaughtered for food by today’s factory methods. If you are what you eat, is this really what we want to be taking into our bodies? I do urge everyone to truly consider this aspect of our society that many hardly ever think about. In our commercialized and disconnected society, the only way to really change this is by large numbers of people paying attention to how their food is raised and insisting on our food being raised humanely, tended reasonably, and harvested in as reverent a manner possible. I feel this is just as important with our fruits, vegetables and grains as it is with our meats.

We are feeding ourselves with foods that lack savor and nutrition because they have been pumped full of chemicals and hormones, or grown in ground that has not been allowed it’s proper time to rest, or factory processed in such numbers from so many areas that nearly every month something is being recalled as unfit for consumption. From fresh spinach to food for our pets, we are slowly, and in most cases blindly, poisoning ourselves and loved ones. All because the majority of us are more interested in reaping the bigger better profit, thoughtless convenience, or simply can’t afford a better way of life. These numbers certainly outweigh those who are befittingly grateful for the World and All Our Relations which give so generously of themselves that we might continue to grow and learn as spiritual beings on physical journeys. 

I hear and understand the wisdom contained in the quote by Sri Sathya Sai Baba, and it certainly has validity. To many people for many reasons the eating of meat is as wrong as the notion of the eating our own dead, which was once considered a sacred duty in some societies. While I am not a cannibal and a non-vegetarian diet is considerably more common and acceptable than this dramatic comparison, I personally consider all of those plants and animals that provide me with food to be sacred; entitled to reverence, respect, and gratitude.

I believe that our current attitude towards the raising, tending, slaughtering/harvesting, and processing of our food has much more of a profound and destructive impact upon us than we realize or typically think about. I do ask that you give it some thought and ask yourself if it is more important to you that your food be convenient or healthy in all aspects?

“When Rome’s youth became debased and enervated, when regard was lost for men’s honor and women’s purity, when the sanctity of the home was violated, when her literature became cynical and debased, her dominion ended. The moral life of any people rises or falls with the vitality or decay of its religious life.” John Bonnell

“The mere lapse of years is not life. To eat, to drink, and sleep; to be exposed to darkness and the light; to pace around in the mill of habit, and turn thought into an instrument of trade-this is not life. Knowledge, truth, love, beauty, goodness, faith, alone can give vitality to the mechanism of existence.” ~James Martineau
“Take karma, make dharma.” Gary Gach

From eating healthy grass-fed beef we receive: vitamins A, E, and B complexes, Omega 3 fatty acids, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), protein, iron, zinc, niacin, and phosphorous. Vitamin A is vital to good vision, bone growth, reproduction, cell division and differentiation. Vitamin E helps prevent oxidative stress, protects us from ultraviolet light, prevents cell damage from free radicals, promotes cell communication and helps to protect us against cancer and Alzheimer’s. B complexes are excellent for healthy skin and nails, relieving stress, depression or anxiety, and aid in retaining mental agility. Omega threes help to reduce inflammation throughout our bodies, keep our blood from excessive clotting, helps to relax and dilate arteries, and is useful in combating depression, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, fatigue, dry skin, brittle hair, brittle nails, joint pain and lack of concentration.

CLA assists in weight loss, the conversion of fat to lean muscle, and has shown itself to have strong anti-cancer properties. Our bodies use protein to build and repair all tissues in the body.Iron helps us to produce red blood cells. Zinc is vital to many biological functions including: immune resistance, wound healing, digestion, reproduction, physical growth, diabetes control, taste and smell. Niacin helps in maintaining healthy skin, increasing ones circulation, regulating circulation, and can also help lower high blood pressure by promoting good cholesterol and reducing bad cholesterol. Phosphorus is needed to maximize calcium’s bone-strengthening qualities. It is necessary for the formation of healthy bones and teeth, allows proper digestion of riboflavin and niacin, aids in the transmission of nerve impulses, aids kidneys in their function, aids in releasing stable and plentiful energy to cells, may help block cancer and forms the proteins that aid in reproduction.

The woolly sheep, the horned cow, the persistent camel, the cloven-hooved goat each carry their own messages, but are all Ruminants and from each of these Teachers we learn that our hair, skin, teeth and nails are important. If you feel called by one of the these Teachers and you are a nail-biter, I urge you to bend all efforts towards stopping. This has been one of my own worst habits since childhood and it is only recently that I have gained any success in giving up this nervous habit. The general condition of our skin, hair and nails will tell alot about our general health both physically and emotionally, and this is an aspect of our physical selves that is especially important to these Teachers. We should pay attention to our dietary needs as well as tending to the needs of our skin, bones and teeth.

“The body is your temple. Keep it pure and clean for the soul to reside in.” B.K.S. Iyengar, Yoga: The Path To Holistic Health

“As for butter versus margarine, I trust cows more than chemists.” Joan Gussow

“If happiness truly consisted in physical ease and freedom from care, then the happiest individual would not be either a man or a woman; it would be, I think, an American cow. " William Lyon Phelps

“Trust your own instinct. Your mistakes might as well be your own, instead of someone else’s.” Billy Wilder

Symbolically, horns of any sort indicate a special link to the realms of thought and spirituality. How your particular Teacher may use or grow their horns might indicated different things. For example, Bighorn Rams have large strong curled horns that play an integral part of their lives. This could indicate a strong thinker, someone who defends their turf aggressively and intellectually from rivals. Around 7 years old these rams begin to experience difficulty with their peripheral vision because of the length of their curled horns, and they will deliberately break off the ends to keep their field of vision clear! This is a reminder that we all have blind spots and if we don’t take actions to not only be aware of them, but to counteract them… we may fall off the mountain or even end up as dinner for a mountain lion!

Intuition should be heeded by those called by these horned Teachers, and they should pay particular attention to keep their thoughts positive and flexible. Bulls, camels, goats…. many of these Teachers are noted for their stubborn natures! The rectangular shape of the pupils of goats, sheep and horses is a reminder to see the world with Equanimity; balanced and rational as well as loving and kind. Tails are an additional reminder to stay grounded (tails pointing downward), or to stay linked to spirituality and thought (upward pointed). Cloven feet indicate a tendency toward or a need for tenacious stability and extreme agility. Mountain goats and sheep are especially noted for those abilities. Your window of opportunity may not be wide, but you have an excellent chance of making the most of it!

For positive and negative traits of Cow/Bull people, you can begin by examining the Zodiac sign of Taurus, just as one who feels called by Bighorn sheep might examine Aries. In the language of symbols, hair is representative of spiritual antannae, protection, thought, wisdom. If your cattle bears a mane from shoulders to head for example, this could indicate a need to pay particular attention to how your thoughts affect your actions and work, or even simply to concentrate while working. Like horns, this is a reminder too to keep your channel open, be receptive and aware. Beards, for another example, indicate a need to pay particular attention to how you speak, as well as symbolizing virility and wisdom.

“Not what we have but what we enjoy constitutes our abundance.” Epicurus

“Life in abundance comes only through great love.” Elbert Hubbard

“You pray in your distress and in your need; would that you might also pray in the fullness of your life and in your days of abundance.” Kalil Gibran

Typically, domestic cows have their first calf when they are about two years old. The gestation period is nine months, and calves are fed by their mothers for about nine weeks. Only a cow with a calf can produce the milk harvested on dairy farms and typically such cows are kept for 3 or 4 years. Dairy cows provide 90% of the milk used by humans around the world, and it is the cow’s ability to provide and feed others without sacrifice of its life that has given it the moniker of Mother to the World. A good milk cow can produce over 25 gallons (400 glasses) of milk a day! That is a lot of milk, butter, cheese or ice cream. Males are typically used for either breeding, labor, or slaughtered for their meat and hides. The Bull therefore speaks of sacrifice in a different manner than the motherly Cow.

While fat intake is a consideration, milk has been helpful to us by providing us with calcium, protein, vitamin a, vitamin B-12, vitamin D, potassium, phosphorus, niacin, and riboflavin. Eating beef provides one with complete protein, including sulphur-containing proteins like cysteine. Vitamins B 6 and 12 are abundant in beef. Taurine and carnitine help build healthy eyes and hearts, and minerals like magnesium and zinc are also found in this meat. 

While vegetarianism is an excellent way of life for some, some of us were born to be meat eaters. Sometimes nothing else will do but a thick rare steak with all your favorite trimmings, and with each of my pregnancies I craved liver, something I never ate before, within the first trimester. My iron levels were never an issue. To my mind, it is more important to concentrate efforts on insisting on sources of healthy local animals than to completely eliminate meat from my diet. I believe that you are what you eat. I do NOT want to be eating an animal that suffered, was miserable, traumatized, abused, pumped full of chemicals and hormones, or lived in fear. I respect my Cousins for their sacrifice and am grateful that they are willing to give of themselves that I might prosper.

“In Life’s name and for Life’s sake, I say that I will use the Art for nothing but the service of that Life. I will guard growth and ease pain. I will fight to preserve what grows and lives well in its own way; and I will change no object or creature unless its growth and life, or that of the system of which it is part, are threatened. To these ends, in the practice of my Art, I will put aside fear for courage, and death for life, when it is right to do so — till Universe’s end.” “The Wizard’s Oath” from Diane Duane’s Young Wizard series

Cow and Bull teach us that hard work is required for a good life, and sacrifice of ourselves for the greater good is a worthy gift to give to our people as well as to All Our Relations. Our individual generosity, in whatever form it takes, is the gift we give back to the World to show our appreciation of Life and the many gifts we are given by our Creator. While the Cow speaks of a softer, more nurturing generosity, the Bull as the embodiment of fiery creative male energy gives of itself more dramatically. This is a message to us that women need to not only acknowledge our nurturing nature and motherly generosity, but also to embrace it, be comfortable with this aspect of ourselves.

Men need to feel that they are actively and definitively giving of themselves in a protective and productive way to families and even communities. The Cow is linked with the Moon, and the Bull has likewise been linked for centuries with the more fiery and active energy of the Sun. Together though, in harmony, this feminine/masculine energy of Cattle represents the fertile Earth and Yin-yang. Those called by this Totem who are unfamiliar with the Yin-yang concept should devote some study to it. While we as men and women have our individual approach, in the end it is just as important that we all have a truly balanced approach.

Ultimately though, service to others is a Cattle lesson in whatever form we express it that transcends something as earthly and mundane as gender. These concepts of service to others, dharma, reliability, nurturing are vital elements in society that are suffering a rather severe setback right now. For many reasons, we as a People have become so insular that we certainly no longer rely on, or care for our family, friends and neighbors on a day to day basis for our needs. In most cases don’t have the support of a strong, reliable, or extensive network when we truly need it. We most often feel utterly isolated within society and disconnected from the World around us.

While individuality is a wonderful and worthy thing, this “every man for himself” attitude is detrimental for our selves, our loved ones, our communities, and the World in general. In the not so distant past, when there was a major task that needed to be done, the people gathered together and accomplished the task. Today, people are often reluctant or unable to ask help of anyone, even their own families. In the end, this is a destructive path both individually and collectively. Just as “bull-headed” stubborness, anger, aggression, and blind emotional reactions are harmful to our selves and others.

“Reasoning at every step he treads,
Man yet mistakes his way,
Whilst meaner things, whom instinct leads,
Are rarely known to stray.” William Cowper

“My actions are my only true belongings. I cannot escape the consequences of my actions. My actions are the ground upon which I stand.” Thich Nhat Hanh

“Thoughts lead on to purposes; purposes go forth in action; actions form habits; habits decide character; and character fixes our destiny.” Tryon Edwards

“There are the waves and there is the wind, seen and unseen forces. Everyone has these same elements in their lives, the seen and unseen, karma and free will.” Kuan Yin

The constructive side of a Cow or Bull person might be: earthy well grounded individuals displaying reliability, warm and loving hearts, persistence, determination, stability, and a generally peaceful nature. The destructive side might exhibit: jealousy, possessiveness, resentment, inflexibility, self-indulgence, greed, impatience, coldness, unreliability, lack of drive or follow through, instability and aggression or mood swings. Foster temperance and equanimity in all things, feed and share the loving and patient side of your self.

Are you being too stubborn or rigid? Are you too self-indulgent or aggressive? Are you rushing in blindly and aggressively like the proverbial bull in a china shop? Are you allowing yourself enough time to process and truly think about you current situation or issues? Are you like the infamous Celtic Queen Maeve who felt driven to steal the Brown Bull of Cooley; too concerned with your possessions, position, appearance and wealth to the detriment of your loved ones? All of these are potential issues for those called by this Teacher.

Cosmically connected, the sacred Cow brings abundance, awareness, a fertile spark into our lives. She feeds the world. Steadfast, gentle, courageous, crowned by thought and spirituality the Bull lends us his strength, helps us to till the fields of our life, and teaches us how to lovingly bring about a bountiful harvest; sacrificing himself utterly for the feast. How does this Teacher appear in your life?

“Maeve was a queen with a passion for war.
She had riches and wealth, but still wanted more.
She wanted the bull that dwelled in Cooley -
a magnificent beast that she longed to see.” Brown Bull of Cooley lyrics

“Cows are my passion. What I have ever sighed for has been to retreat to a Swiss farm, and live entirely surrounded by cows… and china.” Charles Dickens

“The most decisive actions of our life… are most often unconsidered actions.” André Gide, The Counterfeiters, 1926

“The child’s world has no beginning or end.
To him, colors are neither beautiful nor ugly.
The child’s nature has no preconceived notion of birth and death.
The golden mountain is solid and unchanging.
The ruby sun is all-pervading.
The crystal moon watches over millions of stars.
The child exists without preconceptions. " Chögyam Trungpa

Key Concepts: Nurturing, Motherhood, Fertility, Compassion, Self Sacrifice, Standing for Truth, Nourishment, Renewal, Stability, Lunar Energy

Potential Balancing energies: Grasses , Grains, plants like dandelion, daisies , blackberries, plantain, sunflowers, milkweed, violets, clover , angelica , Trees , Insects like Crickets/Grasshoppers or Bees , Lions , Wolves and other Canine Teachers, other horned or antlered Teachers like Deer, other hooved Teachers like Horses , “Snakes”: , and birds like Crow