One thing the Animal Father had recommended to me a couple of weeks back was to talk to the four directional totems (the totem animals that I call on in each quarter) and to ask them why they, specifically, were the totems who worked with me in that capacity. So since I am designating Full Moons (or close to them, anyway, depending on work schedule, how tired I am, etc.) to totem-specific rituals, I decided this would be a good opportunity.
So I went upstairs to the ritual area and got prepared. At first I had intended to just talk to Wolf, the totem of the North, and save the rest for later Full Moon rites, but as I progressed I got the distinct feeling that I should talk to all four, that Wolf wouldn’t be doing anything so intense that I had to focus only on him. So around the circle I went, talking to each totem in turn. For ritual structure, I dropped the “draw the pentacle in the air” portion of the evocation since it’s pretty much extraneous at this point, and rather than vocally/verbally calling on each totem, I drew on the internal energetic connection that I’ve formed with each of these totems over the years, doing the usual, brief energetic shape-shift as a way of calling on each one. It was quite effective, and in fact without the distraction of the pentacle and the words, was more intense. I still used my ritual knife to “pull” the elemental energy from the top of the ritual sphere to the bottom, creating a quarter sphere each time. So in the North I sat in a lush green forest, while in the East I soared through sunny, clear skies; the South was a dry, colorful desert, and West was a crashing waterfall. All of these are the usual settings for the quarters, the way I visualize each element, but they were much stronger this time. So I know I’m doing something right.
I asked each totem, “Why are you my totem of this direction?” Wolf’s reply was thus:
“Because I am the animal that represents Earth to you, and green growing things, and the grounded energy. More than any other element, you are attuned to this element, though you are attuned to the others as well. But this one strikes deeply. I am always in contact with the Earth, paw pads on cool dirt, claws digging in. I am keenly aware of the need for the Earth. Also, humanity has often treated me the same as the Earth, for good or for ill, often more than any other animal in places where I am found. and that is why I am your totem of the North.”
Then I evoked Hawk in the East; he said:
“Because I soar on the wind, and I am swift like thought. I am quick to strike, as you are intellectually, though you have learned to have more discretion since I first met you. And you love the light of the sun, the warm air, as do I. You seek to spread your mind’s wings and soar ever farther, and I am with you in that. And I am familiar to you, though my physical presence has diminished some due to where you now live. But I am still here, and I remain.”
Next I called to Fox in the South, and s/he replied:
I am magic, and I am sex. I am passion, and I am clever in my creativity. I am the Fire of Life, all the things that make Life worth Living. I am change, and magic is change, and I am passionate about that. I am the heat that crackles in your very cells, and I work with Hawk’s intellect. I ignite the fire of sex, and the intensity of my red coat is the Fire I bear. But beware the blackened paws, for fire can burn–but oh, is it worth it!”
Finally, I came around to the Bears in the West, and their answer was:
“We are of the emotions; we are here to keep your ego in check. We remind you that you are a powerful being, as are we, and that your emotions can both harm and heal. We teach you to know the difference. But we can also rage like whitewater; we are not always calm and placid. We will help you heal the body at a later point, but for now, heal yourself and those around you, and learn when harm may be necessary–but also the impact. The very water in your cells holds us. We fish in the water, but we do not live there, nor do you, just as you do not live in the air. We and Hawk balance each other out in this manner.”
Then I sat in the center, and this is what I learned from all of them at once:
“We are all of you, and we are here to surround you. We are your animals of the elements, though we are each so much more. We teach you the elements, and we want you to be aware of the elements as much as possible–the basic building blocks of life. Together, we form you, and we ask you to always call on us, not just for protection, but to remember us. The Animal Father has his own elemental totems, but we are yours. You need not dance us; simply call us at your rituals, and remember what we stand for to you. Remember us, whether you are in the wild or not. We are here.”
I felt the strength of them within and without. They welled up inside me, and I felt the immersion in the elements I feel when I am out in the middle of the wilderness. For a time, everything I sensed translated into elements–the air I breathed, the fire in my cells, the solid earth of my body, the water in my veins, as well as the things I saw around me. I was acutely aware of how they all fit together.
The totems told me not to banish them, but to go and spend the next month paying conscious attention to the elements in my life and how they are imminent. (Obviously not to the point of distraction.) So I left without banishing, and felt the totems both in the ritual area and in myself. I grounded by eating, but I still notice the elements in my everyday life. I know what they want; they want me to try to increase the awareness I get, like when I am out in the wilderness, only more frequently. It’s something I can do relatively easily; they just want me to make more of a habit of it. And it’s also not just the outer elements, but also the internal elements, both physical and nonphysical.
Admittedly, this is a pretty basic thing; a lot of newbie pagans do elemental attunement rituals of this sort. However, it’s appropriate and timely, given my refocusing and construction of a path. The directional totems wanted me to be quite aware of their presence in my life, which has intensified quite a bit since I first started working with them over a decade ago. (They’re quite insistent that they stay in my life as well, which wasn’t really an issue anyway.) But I want to increase my awareness of their presence in my life as well as the presence of the elements they represent to me. Too often I think I’ve given lip service to the elements, and not really made them imminent in my life. However, if my path is to include greater awareness of the world around me and the interconnection among all things, it’s only common sense that this would start with a greater awareness of the basic elements that compose both the microcosm and the macrocosm.