Some of you may be familiar with power animals. In case you're not, I'll quote from Wikipedia:
Power animal is a broadly animistic and shamanic concept that has entered the English language from Anthropology, Ethnography and Sociology. As a tutelary entity or spirit, the ancient Anglo-Celtic Tradition also contained a comparable understanding, refer Fæcce. In the shamanic worldview, everything is alive and carries with it an inherent virtue, power and wisdom. Or stated differently, our power animal(s) represent our strengths, our qualities of character, our power.
Power animals are endemic to shamanic practice. They are the helping or ministering spirit or familiar which add to the power of an individual and are essential for success in any venture undertaken.
"... the helping or ministering spirit or familiar which add to the power of an individual and are essential for success in any venture undertaken."
Wow! Where do I sign to get one of those? I'll take a lion!
I learned a while back I've had a power animal all along. We all do. Mine's not a big strong bear or a fearless lion or a wise old owl that can rotate its head and see all, know all. It's not a wily coyote or a soaring eagle with laser-like vision.
No, my power animal is the beaver. A rodent represents my strength, my quality of character, my power.
Did the beaver come to me in a vision? Well, in a once-removed manner. What happened is I'd been to a workshop led by a Native American friend of mine. In the workshop we were supposed to enter a light trance and go back in time and talk to our illness or stress or problem. Have disease, will travel. Somehow I wound up in my first San Francisco apartment, but my illness didn't seem to be around. Then my friend said, "Well, maybe you'll dream something tonight."
Did I dream something? Not that I could recall the next morning. I did recall, however, waking up in the middle of the night. A rare occurrence. I am a very deep sleeper. I sleep through dogs barking--right there in the bedroom. I sleep through sirens and smoke alarms. Once I almost slept through a hotel fire. But I digress. I woke up in the middle of the night. And my husband was talking to me. He was speaking in that sweet, kind of private tone he reserves for me in tender moments. What he said was, "You are a beaver."
Unbridled sex talk, I couldn't help thinking.
But he continued. "You can build your house on the river and live right on the river." Then he was quiet. And I fell back to sleep.
Next morning over French roast I said, "Wow, that was something. You really think I can build my house and live on the river? Like a beaver?"
"Last night you said, 'You are a beaver. You can build your house on the river and live right on the river.' "
"I did not!"
"Yes, you did. You said I'm a beaver."
"You were dreaming, baby."
"No, I wasn't dreaming. Maybe you were. You were sleeptalking."
Then a few nights after that I woke up again. This time he was saying, "You're about to turn into a beaver and fly off on your magic carpet."
Again, I fell asleep immediately.
Still later, Bennie and I were taking a walk in the early morning. "I had this really weird dream," he said.
"You and I were in that old VW Golf."
"So it was more than 10 years ago. Right?"
"No, it was the present, but for some reason we were in the Golf. You and I were in the backseat. The kids were in the front. Flannery was driving. The car was stopped, and these beavers kept trying to get in the car. The kids and I had the windows down. We were fending them off."
"Why? Were they angry beavers? Were they armed with machetes? Were they baring their teeth?"
"Beavers always bare their teeth."
"But no, they didn't seem dangerous. We just didn't want those beavers in the car."
He had a point at that. Who would want beavers gnawing at their instrument panel?
I asked, "So what was I doing all this time?"
"You just sat there passively. You had this little smile even. It's a wonder you didn't fling your door open and start buckling one into the extra seatbelt."
This was getting weird. I googled "power animals" and "totem animals" and "animal medicine" and "beaver medicine." I learned that the beaver is in fact a noble creature to have on your side, buckled right into the seatbelt, ready to travel. Beavers have transformational powers and in the way that really counts. They work very hard. They build. And when thoughtless vandals destroy what they've built, they build it again. Probably most importantly, they work as a team. So doesn't it all fit now? The beaver used my longtime, loyal, unwitting husband as the instrument of communication.
Beaver medicine entered my life at a time when I was feeling rather frustrated. I'd just come off an illness lasting several years. I was spent. The beaver came to me and said, "You've suffered. You've been torn down. Build your house. Live on the river. Fly off on your magic carpet. Then come back to earth and make art about your journey. Your creations will sometimes be torn down. Your dreams will suffer. You will suffer. That's life. Build again. Right on the river. Don't hide in the trees for fear of having your creation destroyed, for fear of its not being solid enough. Use those trees to build. And NEVER forget the rest of the team. They're building right beside you."
I completed "Relics Adrift in Red" when all of this beaver stuff was going on. I didn't set out to paint a beaver, but for the life of me, the buyer of that painting said, "You know--I see a beaver in there--it's over to the left." Now I see it too.
Thank you for being there, Beaver.