Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Unmasking Wisdom

“I steal across the midnight of your soul,
revealing truth behind my ever shifting mask.
Mystery, magic, and true dreaming,
or larceny, fraud, and self-deception…
which you may truly desire in your life
is the question you must ask.

I teach balanced sensitivity,

When to awaken and when to rest,
How to wash away deception and negativity,
Though I am oft considered
a rabidly unwelcome guest!

Clean hands make for true heart.

Sort the treasure from your trash! 
I will show you how healing
and transformation start.
Be daring, but never brash!

Washing Bear

Masked Dog
Thieving trickster
Clever leader,
I always leave a scout behind
guarding our foraging gaze.
Clearest vision, even in darkest night,
I know when to slip away unseen, 
and when to stay and fight.

Follow my rings of wisdom

from Underworld to Sky.
I will guide you on shamanic journeys,
although my humor might
be mischievously awry!"

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? Congrats to Chris, Jan Neavill Hersch for naming this Teacher!

“It is a mask of truth, for to wear it is to look inward – toward a true reflection of yourself. Yet some of us can bear to hold the mask for only one brief glimpse.” Brian Froud
“Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.” Oscar Wilde
“Why do you wear a mask? Were you burned by acid or something like that?”
“Oh no. It’s just they’re terribly comfortable. I think everyone will be wearing them in the future.” Fezzik and Wesley from The Princess Bride
Raccoons belong to the New World Family Procyonidae which includes coatis, kinkajous, olingos, ringtails and cacomistles. Raccoons have been introduced in parts of Europe and Asia through escapes and through choice, expanding their potential habitat. Fossil evidence from France and Germany suggests that first known members of this family lived in Europe about 25 million years ago, coming to the Americas across the Bering Strait about 19 million years ago. 
Their teeth and skull formation indicates that they might share a common ancestor with weasels, but molecular analysis shows a much closer relationship between raccoons and bears. The Native Nations throughout the Americas had many names for this audacious little Teacher, many of which make reference to bears or dogs. Perhaps none too surprising, names for this Creature Teacher across Europe reflect a similar impression on people there.
Here are just a few names Raccoon has been known by: Mapachitl (from Aztec, meaning “they take everything in their hands”, Ah-rah-koon-em (from Algonkin meaning “they rub/scrub/scratch”), Weekah tegalega (from Dakota-Sioux meaning “magic one with painted face”), Shiuaa (from Hopi meaning “painted one”), Macho-on (from Cheyenne meaning “one who makes magic”), Macca-n-e (from the Sioux meaning “one who makes real magic”, Asban (from Abnaki meaning “one who lifts up things”, Mayuato (from Guyana meaning “doglike leaper”), Wacgina (from Klamath meaning “tamed like dog”), Ausup (from Narragansett meaning “night doglike one”), Nachenum (from Lenape meaning “they use hands as a tool”, Siah-opoots-itswoot (from Chinook meaning “long-tailed bearlike one”), Mauyato (from Guyana meaning “doglike leaper on crabs and crayfish”), skjob (from Danish fur traders meaning “fisher”), raton laveur (from French meaning “little washer rat”), Siupp (Finnish for “fisher”), washbaer (from Germany meaning “washer bear”), jenot (from Russian meaning “fisher”), and sunluskis (from Lithuanian meaning “dog-bear”). As one might expect, Raccoon is a Teacher with many faces!
“People who cannot invent and reinvent themselves must be content with borrowed postures, secondhand ideas, fitting in instead of standing out.” Warren G. Bennis
“The most important kind of freedom is to be what you really are. You trade in your reality for a role. You trade in your sense for an act. You give up your ability to feel, and in exchange, put on a mask.” Jim Morrison
“In order to keep anything cultural, logical or ideological, you have to reinvent the reality of it.” Ani Difranco
Raccoons tend to be solitary creatures, but recent evidence is pointing out that raccoons are more socially involved with others of their species than previously thought. Females from the same family will often share a common area, and meet in feeding, playing, and foraging areas. Raccoons working together as a raiding party, complete with a lookout, is a rather common sight! Unrelated males might form groups of up to 4 so that they are better able to hold their territory against other males or other potential competition, especially during mating season when territories are widened in hopes of finding new potential mates.
The size of a raccoon’s home range can vary, anywhere between 0.01 square miles and 7.4 acres, depending on their abilities, needs, and location. Those living in cities, for example, may need to range a wider territory to meet their needs. Wherever they call home, however, they won’t be far from water. Raccoon people, like their furry Teachers, revel in their individuality but often work best one on one, or in small groups where a bond of respect has been established. Raccoons, and Raccoon people, do like their solitude though and are very independent creatures.

Mating season begins in February and can extend into June depending on the weather and location. Gestation is about 65 days, and average litters are from 2 to 7 kits which will be raised by the mother until they go their separate ways, typically after the first year. Young are born blind, usually in a tree where the mother has made her den. Raccoons have been known to den in a wide variety of places though, including; city sewers, abandoned buildings, under porches, in hollow logs, or the abandoned dens of badgers, groundhogs, etc. The kits open their eyes for the first time in 18-24 days, are capable of foraging with their mother after about 20 days, and are completely weaned after about 70 days. They may go their separate ways late in the fall, but quite often won’t do so til early spring. Either way, kits don’t have to travel too far from their birth nest to set up a successful den of their own.
Adult raccoons are typically between 4 and around 22 lbs, and about 24-37 inches (603-950 mm)long, depending on general health, available food supply, and gender. Males are generally 10-30% heavier than females, and raccoon tails typically make up 40- 50% of their overall length, however raccoons who have lost their tails to accident or predators are fairly common. They do put on fat for winter , and may be found sleeping many cold winter days away with little activity, although they are not actually winter hibernators. They can achieve a 50% body fat mass to see them through those lean months, although usually only reaching that kind of ratio in the more northern areas. This mammal’s distinctive black, white, silver/gray and reddish brown markings, especially it’s black and white facial mask and ringed tail, make it instantly recognizable.
As one of the masked Teachers, Raccoon can teach us when and how to awaken a sleeping part of ourselves when it is needed, and put to rest the part that is not needed at the moment. This little wood witch is a master shapeshifter who teaches us how to recognize masks (either our own that we wear for others or those worn by others), when to wear them, when and how to change them, and when to remove our masks to reveal a hidden truth. Masks (from designs painted directly on the face to elaborate constructions) have been worn for many ceremonies from cultures around the world for a wide variety of purposes. 

Raccoon can teach us how to release our inner Shaman, guide us through the transformational and powerful experience of conducting a ceremony and becoming a vessel of Divinity during such ceremonies. Lessons on how and when to reinvent ourselves to meet the shifting challenges in life are more common perhaps, but make no less of an impact.
One of the most basic of Raccoon lessons is the value of pretending, “putting on a brave face”, until the aspect we wish to bring to fruition in our lives ripens into a reality. There have been plenty of times in my own life where the last thing I felt like doing was interacting positively with anyone or making the effort to even smile. Yet, by putting out that effort and going through the motions even though I wasn’t truly feeling them, I’ve been able to turn things around until I’m genuinely feeling content, sociable, uplifted and positive.
Stealth and disguise are key aspects to the masked Teachers (like other Procyonidae, Fox, Skunk, the Small-Footed Bat, etc.). Like Fox (one of the potential balancing energies for Raccoon), Raccoon people may find themselves disappearing in a crowd when they feel threatened, nervous, or excessively stressed as this Teacher may boost your natural ability to hide behind a mask in a protective response. People will simply not notice you, even when you are standing in plain sight. If you find that people are frequently forgetting to include you, aren’t recognizing you or mistaking you for someone else, if people keep walking into you, or startling because they “didn’t see you there”, you may be experiencing an imbalance in your Raccoon energy. This ability can be tremendously useful though when properly employed, and the temptation to use such Raccoon gifts for nefarious purposes is a large contributor to this Teacher’s reputation as a thief and trickster.
Raccoon can teach us how to properly utilize such skills like few other Teachers though. Raccoon people are often drawn to theater arts where their skill with personal reinvention and masks can really shine. If we look at our stories about masked individuals, we begin to see themes and archetypes which we can apply to our own lives. Don Juan, Phantom of the Opera, Zorro, Casanova, Don Juan Demarco, Lone Ranger, the Joker, the Mask, Jason Voorhees, Wesley (from the Princess Bride), and comic book heroes and villains of just about every stripe are just a few individuals known for their masks.
Some show us the value of defending those weaker than ourselves and promoting justice in society. Others use their shifting mask skills to deceive others, feed off of society and enrich themselves. Some use their masks to hide their most monstrous selves, usually from themselves. And still others use their masks to protect their identity and heighten the sexual tension, as they successfully dance from one lover to the next! Some study on Archetypes and Shadow self will be useful to those called by Raccoon.
“Some people are uncomfortable with the idea that humans belong to the same class of animals as cats and cows and raccoons. They’re like the people who become successful and then don’t want to be reminded of the old neighborhood.” Phil Donahue
“So, you think they have enough? Well, they don’t. For humans, enough is never enough! And what do they do with the stuff they don’t eat? They put it in gleaming silver cans, just for us! Dig in!” RJ the Raccoon from Over the Hedge
Raccoons are omnivorous opportunistic creatures who are infamous for using their sensitive and dexterous paws, along with their exceedingly clever minds, to successfully get into an amazing variety of places and containers, usually for food. They will be utterly unconcerned with your presence, and proceed to raid your camping supplies, garbage or any other item that catches their interest perhaps sparing you a rather disdainful and amused look as you stand helplessly by. Raccoons can create quite a mess and are capable of doing a fair amount of damage in their efforts to get in or out of something that has caught their interest.
Raccoons aren’t particularly intimidated by humans or other large creatures. They will stay far calmer in a potentially confrontational situation than one might expect from a wild creature, and are more likely to be a nuisance than an actual threat. However, if defending kits or pushed into a corner they will defend themselves quite fiercely considering their size. This penchant for mischief along with their 
susceptibility to the rabies virus has given this Teacher an indelible reputation as both a bandit and potential menace. Raccoons are very adept at assessing a situation to it’s own advantage. If they don’t see a likelihood of success for their goals, they will slip away before you have time to react. Raccoon people are also quite good at assessing their odds in any given situation. Perhaps this is why the audacious Raccoon is a patron of gamblers!
Like Raven or Crow, Raccoon warns that his lessons, powers and wisdom can be used for either great good or great harm. It is up to those called by Raccoon to choose to use their gifts and live their lives as conscientious, responsible and compassionate individuals. This Creature Teacher has quite a reputation among the Native Nations as a master of natural magic, a seer of spirits, and a guide for shamanic journeys. Their black and white masks have been likened to the ceremonial paint used by Medicine People, and creating law out of chaos in a naturally flowing rhythm to meet life’s constant challenges is an important Raccoon lesson.
However, Raccoon is equally notorious as a splendidly accomplished Trickster, another caution to be aware of what we are doing and why we are choosing to do what we do. In other words, like the Raven/Crow, it is vital that Raccoon people be completely honest with themselves, to choose truth over deception (especially self deception), and to walk our talk. In some tales, Raccoon has been so sly and clever, he has even outsmarted Raven and Coyote!
There is a touch of the Heyoka, the Sacred Clown, to this masked black-handed Teacher. Quite often they will use Humor to open a door of enlightenment for us… although we don’t always receive it well! Raccoon people will also find that Humor is an important element in their lives, however their sense of humor may not always be understood as humor or received well by others. Raccoon people, like their Teacher, are often a curious mix of charming sociability and shyness. Being either too introverted or brashly extroverted is a sign of potentially unbalanced Raccoon energy.
“Children reinvent your world for you.” Susan Sarandon
"Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body." Elizabeth Stone
“Too often we give children answers to remember rather than problems to solve.” Roger Lewin
As the female raises the kits on her own, Raccoon is often viewed as a strong mothering figure who raises her children to be capable and independent leaders. They will pass on every skill they know to their kits to better equip them against the many predators and dangers they will encounter. Protecting those not able to do so for themselves, and especially empowering others are key Raccoon lessons. Raccoon likes for everyone in the group to feel competent, useful, and confident. This is a wonderful Leadership quality, and Raccoon teaches that the best leaders encourage the skills and best attributes of each member in a group because they know that this makes for an elite team that can get any job accomplished successfully. The mating habits of the Teacher indicate a tendency for Raccoon people to hold back a piece of themselves from children or spousal figures which can be seen as cold or aloof behavior, especially by people who need a constant intimate connection. In reality, this bit of Raccoon wisdom is often misunderstood or rejected out of hand.
In a tale from one of the Native Nations, After a terrible fire in the forest it is the Raccoon Tribe that provides everyone with food using their thiefly skills. Mother Raccoon works so hard trying to tend everyones wounds and needs that she ends up collapsing. Only then can she hear the voice of Mother Earth saying, “You have given all your strength away without considering the consequences.” Now, Raccoon teaches others to give to the best of our abilities without depleting our health or sense of well being. This lesson is vital for any parent, perhaps particularly important for mothers to remember, as they tend to put the needs of the family before their own consistently. If we don’t take care of ourselves, if we give away all that we have without saving something for just ourselves, then we won’t be strong, balanced, clear-minded and capable enough to be there for our loved ones.
Perhaps the first thing everyone identifies with the Raccoon is their habit of “washing” their food. Raccoon’s five-toed paw is very nimble, allowing them to handle and successfully manipulate a wide variety of items, including door handles and jar lids, despite the lack of an opposable thumb. If you looked at their paws closely, you would see the vibrissae located around their non-retractable claws. Water softens the vibrissae, increasing the Raccoons already well developed tactile sense as they “wash” their food. According to studies, almost 2/3 of the raccoon’s brain area responsible for sensory perception is specialized for interpreting tactile input! This allows the Raccoon to identify objects without ever seeing them! Feeling blindly along stream beds hunting for fish, crayfish, or other tasty morsels is such common behavior that their reputation as a successful fisher is known wherever raccoons live.
Many theories have been put forward on why raccoons wash their food, but the one that makes the most sense to me is that they are using this heightened sense to check their food of inedible matter, like bone or shell pieces. This particular association with water and the motions of cleansing make Raccoon an excellent Teacher for learning how to keep ourselves spiritually clean, how to clear an area or other person of accumulated negativity, and how to wash away lies to reveal truth, especially self-deception. While they are excellent swimmers, their fur is not water resistant.

“Our lives can be considered a sacred quest. It is a quest which may have begun in this lifetime or many lifetimes before. It is a quest to find ourselves: who and what we really are. To do this we must first cease to pretend to be what we are not. We must cast away our Persona or mask. We must be prepared to confront the Shadow, that which we are and rather were not. Only then can we unify our conscious and unconscious minds and so give birth to the hidden Sun – the Self.” Vivianne Crowley
Thus, Raccoon invites us to explore our emotional selves, to dip into the stream of the collective unconscious and heighten our ability to feel, to empathize, but only to fully immerse ourselves when truly necessary as we are likely to take on too much if we aren’t careful; throwing ourselves out of balance and becoming bogged down, overly emotional, and generally less able to maintain the calm calculating mind of Raccoon which is so valuable during any crisis or stressful situation.

Symbolically, hands represent either giving or receiving, and Raccoon will often show up when we are holding ourselves up by clinging to something when we should be letting go. This Teacher reminds us that we won’t be able to receive whatever new treasures and lessons Life is trying to bring us, if our hands are already full! As a Teacher of Natural Law, Raccoon likes to keep the many Wheels we move across in life moving smoothly, making him an excellent guide to turn to when we are feeling stagnate or stuck.
Skills that require clever hands and keen mind are often of interest to Raccoon people, and they often make very talented crafters of all sorts, jewelery smiths, artists, surgeons, detectives, magicians … or pickpockets, safe-crackers, conartists, and general light-fingered individuals! Kleptomania could indicate imbalanced Raccoon energy. The study of massage therapy, acupressure, or Reiki can be highly beneficial for those called by Raccoon, and a wonderful way to use their natural abilities to help others. The study of marital arts, yoga and meditation are all personally valuable to Racoon people.
Spiritually cleansing activities like smudging, meditation, communion with Nature, sweat lodge, etc. are a must for those called by this Teacher as these are vital tools to maintaining a healthy Balance and clear truthful perspective. By working to properly maintain these aspects in our lives and participating regularly in activities that keep us well grounded, we are best able to receive the spiritual enlightenment and natural wisdom held by this Teacher, and so frequently offered to us by the Universe in other forms as well. Establishing a personal routine which incorporates a cleansing activity with some form of prayerful meditation in which we return feelings of love and gratitude to All Our Relations is also highly beneficial.
Raccoons are frequently found either climbing or living in a tree. They are one of the few creatures able to climb down a tree head first, and they are as comfortable in the highest branches as they are in a den at a tree’s roots. Like Trees, this Teacher speaks to us on the importance of maintaining and being a part of a healthy and connected community. Like so many of our Relations, Raccoon longs for our people to become more aware, connected and responsible in our interactions with everything around us. Those called by this Teacher should also closely examine Trees, Bear, and one of the canine Teachers like Dog or Fox.
“Always tell the truth. That way, you don’t have to remember what you said.” Mark Twain
“Truth comes as conqueror only to those who have lost the art of receiving it as friend.” Rabindranath Tagore
Raccoon understands that sometimes the Truth must come to us disguised and clouded so that we can become involved in the process of stripping away that which deceives, reveal Truth, and become enlightened. We must be most alert for self-deceptions of all sorts as these are most often the first dangerous step out of Balance and Harmony with our selves, universe, Relations and Creator. Raccoon can help us see clearly both our selves (flaws and strengths) and our situations so that we can make the best decisions possible. We all experience those “dark nights of the soul” where we are being tested and tempered by, usually, a traumatic or otherwise profoundly challenging experience. Raccoon’s keen sight allows us to see every nook and cranny as we negotiate our way through such moments. We cannot successfully walk our talk if we can’t see where we are truly going!
Well balanced Raccoon people can be both shy and charismatic, sociable and solitary, playful as a child and wise beyond their years. They tend to be endlessly curious, excellent puzzle-solvers with a strong sense of adventure and humor. Serene under pressure, a well-balanced Raccoon makes an excellent leader who is less concerned with putting themselves forward or seeking praise, and more concerned with utilizing all skills available to achieve the chosen goal. Good parents who provide for their children and focus on equipping them with useful life skills, Raccoon people should work to stay connected and involved with the lives of their loved ones. Finding a proper balance between generously giving and wisely holding back for one’s self is always a challenge!
This clever Teacher encourages us to develop our understanding of and skills with Masks, as well as cautioning us to use what we learn for the good of all around us. Macho-on teaches us how reinvent ourselves to meet the needs of the moment, and how to awaken or put to rest parts of ourselves as needed. Raccoon excels as a guide to connecting us to the Spirit World, as well as how to properly navigate for ourselves once there, making this Master Shapeshifter an invaluable companion on any shamanic journey. Raccoon asks us to be honest with ourselves and keep our hands clean so we can live as an example to others. With their five-fingered forepaws and footprints so like our own, Raccoon reminds us that we are more alike than we are different, but more importantly we are all connected and what we do impacts on the lives of everyone around us. How does this Teacher appear in your life?

“Whosoever wishes to know about the world must learn about it in its particular details. Knowledge is not intelligence. In searching for the truth be ready for the unexpected. Change alone is unchanging. The same road goes both up and down. The beginning of a circle is also its end. Not I, but the world says it: all is one. And yet everything comes in season.” Heraklietos of Ephesos
“I do not think the measure of a civilization is how tall its buildings of concrete are, but rather how well its people have learned to relate to their environment and fellow man.” Sun Bear of the Chippewa Tribe
Key Concepts:
revealing Truth, Natural magic/law, Shapeshifting, Curiousity/Exploration, Cleansing/Purification, Creativity/Creation, Dexterity, Disguise/Camoflauge, Masks, Cunning/Planning, Transformation, Adaptability, Mystery/Secrets, Shamanism/Shamanic journey, Healing, knowing when to let go and when to receive, Receptivity, Feminine energy/power/wisdom, Self-Reliance/Independence, Leadership, Co-operative effort/Empowering others, Shadow self/work
Associated with:
Largely a New World Teacher, Raccoon could none the less be associated with Old World deities who deal with Truth, Magic, Masks, Wild animals, Trickster energy, Luck or the Moon. Like- Ma’at, Alethea, Bagalamukhi, Diana/Artemis, Hermes/Mercury, Cernunnos, Dis Pater, Pan, Herne, Cerridwen, Syn, Isis, Hecate, Freya, Danu, Ganesha, Fortuna, Tyche, Daikokuten, Eshu, Ptah or Veles. This Teacher is also associated with Fae energies and the Underworld.
Potential Balancing Energies:
Trees, Fox/Coyote/Wolf/Dog, Cats (both domesticated and wild), Frog/Toad, Salamander, Crayfish, Fish, Dragonfly, Grasshopper/Cricket and other Insects, Fruits and Nuts (like persimmon, cherry, acorn, grapes, apples, corn, etc. Or Tomatoes, which are usually avoided by Raccoons as they are too acidic), Water, Earth, Bears, Birds from Sparrow and Chicken to Raven and Crow, Owls and other Raptors, Snakes, Earthworm, Butterfly, Raccoon Dogs, Clams, Turtle, and other Procyonidae


  1. Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone
    For this critter were no boon.
    Should have stayed out under moon.
    Instead you're now a cap of coon.


    1. <3 <3 <3 the poetic response :o) This Teacher is the wily Raccoon! Congrats Chris, informative bit will be up as soon as I can finish it. ~wishing you laughter