Tag Archives: totem

The Antlered Branch _ When Two Worlds Meet: Part 13

December 23, 2013

By the time I finally leave the house with Allegro and make my way to Aquatic Park to go look for what Oisín and the others have left for me there, it is around 5 PM. I certainly had no expectation of anything in return when I first agreed to make my place their own. I am still just as surprised as moved that they’d secure some kind of manifest world object for me to show their gratitude. I still know little about what is possible in the otherworld, but imagine that moving physical objects to specific locations is no small matter, and it is even possible that it would take tens to hundreds of otherworld people to accomplish such a thing depending on the size of the object. Even now, I have no idea how they did it.

The walk is quiet and uneventful. Hardly a manifest person is around. The water laps softly along its bank, the birds’ songs are muted, and the trees stand silent and resolute against the sky which is slowly darkening into ever more mysterious shades of twilight. This has always been my favorite time of day. As a child, I used to cherish my time outside when the sun’s light, glowing like ebbing flame starkly against the night’s deepening presence, revealed to me a world of image that usually was lost to me. Often, I’d stand precariously on the back of a swing in the yard, frightening my parents for sure, but too immersed in the ecstatic wonder of suddenly illuminated shapes and outlined objects to care much at all about something more earthly, like safety. Besides, I reasoned as only a six year old can, I had excellent balance. I could not as well leave this brilliant light behind just to heed adults who wished me to come inside.

As with then, the fading light fills me with a silent, quiet, wild joy and I still imagine myself laughing and leaping and flying through that light, which is filling every space around me now with its mystery. I walk through this wondrous world, tracking the shadows in the wooded areas to my left where I found the picnic table that I am trying to locate again.

An older man, who I met once before in passing and know is quite lonely, says hello to me and I ask whether he knows if I’m near the turn off to the table. I think I am, because there are lights above and beyond the brightly infused sky flashing in the trees at this spot. But finding a picnic table while offroading with a guide dog is a hit or miss project. He assures me I am in fact close by, and asks if I don’t mind some company. I look around and don’t see Oisín nearby, so I agree that we can talk for a little while.

The two of us sit across from each other as he shares some of his life with me and I listen. A half an hour goes by, and now I do see Oisín standing at the edge of the clearing. I send him a picture of the situation, and he says not to worry, he’ll stay until the stranger leaves. So finally I say to the manifest man, “I am really enjoying talking to you, but I have to meet someone now. Can I be alone?”

I briefly wonder, as there are no other manifest people within sight range to speak of, if the man might think I’ve had enough and am just trying to back out of talking to someone twice my age. Fortunately, he turns out to be happy to grant me my request for solitude without question, and doesn’t appear to be taking it personally. When he leaves, Oisín walks over to stand beside me.

“There are a great many trees around here,” he observes, “So I thought to come show you to the one I spoke of yesterday.” This is true enough. Together we walk over to a tree which is at a diagonal from where I was previously sitting.
Once I am standing in front of the tree, Oisín vanishes, presumably so I can discover for myself what he’s left there for me. I have to admit that I am now feeling a bit like a kid on a treasure hunt. No point in ignoring the curiosity of my inner child now, I decide.

Cautiously, unsure if I’m looking for something sturdy or fragile, I reach out my hand. The tree is eucalyptus, like every other of its myriad cousins in this area. But the branch my hand encounters is not only very detached from the tree, but is actually made of Oak. It is placed rather impossibly around the trunk, and to this day I haven’t been able to get anything else to stay up there. I’ve tried, I admit.

Antler Branch On Wall

I take the branch down from the tree. It’s big! From one end to another is approximately two feet across. There is a section of branch which is just the right size to fit my hand around. Holding it there, the rest of the branch splits into two halves that arc away from each other in a kind of narrow semicircle. On each end, two twigs stem out giving the whole of it an uncanny resemblance to deer antlers.

I know the significance of deer to Oisín’s immediate family. His father, his son, and himself were all named for this animal, after all. As a totem animal, a concept from a culture which Oisín’s clan would have never known existed, deer are usually symbolic of inner gentleness and compassion, as well as protection. I mean, that can be quite true of them and everything, but deer aren’t like that all the time! They’re also wild, fiercely territorial and adaptable, resourceful, and don’t hesitate to answer to a challenge. When I have looked into Oisín’s eyes, I have seen all these things, and more of course. I for one think that if a totem is going to give insight into the spirit of a person,, it’s probably best to recognize that nonhuman animals can have natures as complicated as any human. I digress, however.

I imagine that if clan Baiscne, to whom Oisín belongs, had a family emblem, I am holding a representation of it in my hand. I have too many thoughts and feelings occurring at once. I am astonished and happy and wondering how many people it took to get this branch here—it’s so big. I am moved by how one physical object could convey so much meaning to me. If I had ever worried about being accepted, it looks like that worry is both unreasonable and I not only belong, but somehow have been accepted into Oisín’s family. This realization overwhelms me. It would be hard to believe if I weren’t holding tangible proof of it.

Equally overwhelming, however, is that, as I gaze at the branch in my hands, it seems to emit a soft, continuous glow, as if the very wood could radiate that divine spark at the heart of itself out into the changing clay world. This is all quite enough to take in, so I do what I usually do when I have more energy than I know what to do with: I choose a direction and take off. Full of a wild inexplicable joy that seems to suddenly come upon me, I gather up Allegro and we walk so fast that we are practically running. I’ve never run with a flashlight, having never had the need for one, but the blazing light around the antlered branch in my hand illuminates the night, casting bright shapes across the landscape. Sometimes, when I look through the middle where the branch splits in two, I feel like I am almost catching someone’s eye. I definitely do not feel like I am walking alone. There are no manifest people in the park at the moment. Somehow everything around us holds still, while we, myself and what feels like many who I cannot see but seem to be with me, traverse the trail back to my apartment. I, or perhaps we, make it home in record time, and the whole return journey has oddly felt effortless.

Once I walk through the door into the kitchen, I carefully set the branch down while I go get a vase from above the refrigerator to place it in. This is not because it needs to be placed in water, but just because I can’t think of another way to make sure it won’t fall or get broken. I’m trying to grab a glass vase precariously from a cupboard which is slightly too high for me to actually reach safely. But I’m in a great mood and not alone. This means I’m determined to attempt to accomplish what I’m aiming to do successfully, since I feel I can do just about anything at the moment.

“Don’t do that, you’ll get yourself hurt,” someone is saying with concern, and when I turn around I see Oisin standing behind me.

“You think so?” I ask cautiously, “I think I can reach up there. I’ve done it once or twice before.”

“Well, it’s not a great idea for what you are aiming to do at the moment. Are you sure you are not actually trying to do something again beyond your limits to prove to yourself that you are worthy of our company?” Oisín asks, challenging me with his compassionate, yet wildly fierce eyes. “We want you safe, child.”

Is that what I was really trying to do, I ask myself a bit reluctantly? Well, okay, yes that was a substantial if far from explicit part of my motivation. It would be too awkward and self-defeating to deceive myself into thinking otherwise.

“Thanks,” I say, and grab a chair from the kitchen table to stand on. The particular vase I need, it turns out, is behind a bunch of other smaller vases and would have been impossible to grab from my earlier vantage point on the floor. I am growing, even now, but I just have to remember that won’t translate into physical height.

The antlered branch is still shining with otherworldly light where I’ve placed it on the counter. It’s amazing in its own right, but perhaps more, well, awesome still is that I have become like family to Oisín and the fianna. I am trying to integrate this into my world and it’s happening very slowly. Attempting to sort out my thoughts, one in particular suddenly comes unbidden into the forefront of my mind. Is it possible, the thought interjects, that I have always been a part of this family and just don’t know it for certain yet? How else to explain why I’ve felt like Oisín is a long lost grandfather? Why else does he call me child? But I can’t even entertain the idea. I almost desperately shove the thought out of my head so that I don’t have to possibly face another instance in so many days of my beliefs being turned upside down.

So instead, I turn to Oisín to thank him properly. In response, he simply fills the room with light. We are, I realize, speaking without words. And in the silence there is understanding, of what is, which words don’t ever seem to capture adequately. I’m glad that I can let go of trying to put everything into language and can communicate through wordlessness. This wordlessness is, I am beginning to realize, the grammar of being, it is why silence is intelligent, and how existence speaks for itself.


Ridiculous Animal Totems Deserve Ridiculous Responses Martha Beck,

Martha Beck, http://marthabeck.com/, author of the book “Expecting Adam, A True Story of Birth, Rebirth and Everyday Magic,” is a life and relationships coach, new age practitioner, and mother of a wonderful boy with Down Syndrome.  Today she posted a hillarius newsletter entry on “marginalized and disrespected” animal totems. 


Many people think they have an animal spirit guide, such as the bear, wolf, tiger, snake, deer, even hedgehog or badger.  But have you ever begun a shamanic journey to find your one true totem animal and discovered (perhaps to your horror?) that it was




the roundish flat worm? 


That’s right, Martha Beck’s disenfranchised totem of the day is the round flat worm and I found it ridiculous and funny enough, as much hopefully as she surely intended it to be, to blog it and add a few grubby tidbits of my own.  I’ve put her words in quotes and added my ramblings wherever I found it most inappropriate.  (Please note this is taken from Martha’s newsletter and I am unable to find a direct link to the quotes I cite here.  You can sign up for her newsletter on her website.)




“Lame Animal Totem: The Roundish Flatworm”



“The roundish flatworm is the hypothetical earliest animal ever to have developed bilateral symmetry. Its proper name, “urbilaterian,” is just its way of trying to sound important. Roundish flatworms are profoundly unevolved. They carry the energy of unintentional rudeness, deep insensitivity, and naïve indifference to suffering.”


Really? Or are they just part of the biological evolution of the planet minus anthropomorphic negative connotations?  Methinks thou dost protest too much!  Can you site sources? Please?  Did Darwin ever speak of the deeply insensitive flat worm?


“If the roundish flatworm is your totem, then like your animal, you probably focus most of your time sucking food through muscular mouth parts located directly over your stomach. This is why no one ever asks you out for coffee, or any other activity that might offer you a chance to develop social skills. No worries—you wouldn’t care anyway.”


Come on, quit making fun of how I look.  Just because I look terrifying and have a mouth on my stomach does not mean I lack a conscience.  Weird anatomy doesn’t make one immoral.  Go back to first grade and relearn the bit about we’re all unique and special even if we all don’t look the same, we all want love and acceptance.  I just wanna be loved… nobody likes me guess I’ll go eat worms…oh wait that won’t work. 🙂  Show some tolerance for the stomach-mouth people!  We demand respect, just like our round worm counterparts!


“When the roundish flatworm convulses its way across your path, consider it an invitation to offer only primitive reactions to people around you. Ignore all thought-provoking ideas. Be sexist and politically incorrect. Laugh when people trip. If anyone complains, say, “Hey, I’m bilaterally symmetrical! What more do you want?” The roundish flatworm has been using this line for millions of years, and so far, it’s worked just fine.”


Goes to work and gives it a try: You good for nothing *****************! Oh wait did I make you mad?  But I am bilaterally symmetrical.  Man why didn’t that work on my boss.  Now I got fired. Waaaaaaaahhhhh.


“Periodically in this newsletter and on my FB page, I’ll be sharing the animal totems you wish you knew more about: the marginalized, the disrespected, nay I say, the lame.  You’ll learn the illuminating messages they hold for you. You’re welcome. ~Martha.”


Lame?  That’s totally politically incorrect.  Are you sure you’re not projecting?  Maybe you’re bilaterally symmetrical too.  Wait, you mean I might not be alone?  Yesssss!  Can we be friends?  I won’t care that you also eat through your stomach and will constantly treat me with insensitivity and primitive political incorrectness.  We can act like we’re the ooze on our shoes together!  Please?  Let’s be friends.  I don’t have any friends. Can’t I just worm my way into your life?  Whine, whine… well, in a wormy sort of way.


And I couldn’t resist a little make believe vignette.  What precisely would go through your mind if you learned your totem was the roundish flat worm?  Here’s one possibility.


Dear Universe,

I had a dream last night in which I was given the roundish flat worm totem.  A woman in a long black dress and funny hat, which immediately belied her authority, appeared holding the primitive, rude, and belligerent creature.   Actually, the worm was  too lame to be belligerent:  rather it was noncommittal and sluggish if you ask me.   Anyway, the woman announced that from now on I would identify with the flat worm.  She said this in some foreign language I’d never heard– perhaps Swedish, unless you’re Swedish, in which case the language was probably Turkish.  The pronouncement gave me a creepy crawly — or should I say squidgy– feeling.  Anyway it made me squirm.  I then had a replay of my whole life as if on a movie screen and realized in horror that no one has ever asked me out to coffee or on a date, and I was suddenly ashamed of the way I eat.  I thought everyone ate through their stomach.  Am I the only one? Really, really? No don’t tell me that, don’t, just… don’t!  But wait, if I really had a flat worm totem, I wouldn’t care.  I was so disgusted with myself that I ran to the shrink… I lied, I squidged over to the shrink on my belly.  Wait, that also isn’t how other people get around? Noooooooooo!  Don’t erase my slime trail…er I mean don’t burst my bubble.  Come on, how would you feel if your only merit was being bilaterally symmetrical?  All I could think was… I couldn’t think.  And then I got stepped on.  I’m so glad it was just a dream, but what if this says something about my personality?  I’d better go eat breakfast and take an empathy test, just to be on the safe side.