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The Llewellyn Journal
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Winter Animal Totems

This article was written by Robin Ivy
posted under Pagan

With the arrival of winter, some of the animals that inhabit our natural environment show themselves less often. Migration and hibernation mean some of our furry and feathered friends will not return until spring. Still other animals remain or make mainly winter appearances. In our backyards, daily walks, and on all our winter travels, we encounter some of the most adaptable animals. Many make do with stored food, tree bark, seeds, or whatever they can prey upon during these colder months. These winter animals are our messengers while the nights are long and dark and greenery is sparse. Your animal totem may appear to you three times or in a group of three or more. Then again, a one-time visit from a rarely seen creature may be taken as a sign in itself. If you suspect an animal is appearing as your totem, meditate on her qualities and explore how you might learn from him. Do you need to be more adaptable, more conservative or assertive? Do you need to be more a productive part of a group or contribute more to the energy of your family? Listen as the animals speak to you and you may bring forth an underdeveloped trait that becomes very valuable to your experience this season or in the coming year. Take note of the animals that cross your path and find out more about their habits. How they mate, communicate, adapt, interact and survive may hold a surprising message just for you.

Red Fox
They’re fast and startle easily, so you may only catch a glimpse of a red fox, perhaps near dawn, as he hunts for mice or rabbits or as he looms outside a chicken coop at dusk, hoping for a chance to steal your fowl. Red fox are curious and sharp witted. Traps may not fool them. In fact they often make up games of exposing traps and leaving droppings or other signs showing they’re not easily outsmarted. Leaving traps uncovered may also be a way of communicating with other foxes as a means of survival, decreasing the chance another could be caught off guard. If the red fox appears to you, it may be time to outsmart your competitors or detractors and band together with your own kind. Using all your senses and being observant may help you escape traps you could fall into. The red fox tends to prefer open areas with good visibility. Their eyesight is excellent and they use their senses of smell and hearing to avoid danger and find food as well. You could say the red fox is almost always on alert. Sharpened senses and quick reactions may also keep you or a loved one out of harm’s way if the fox appears to you.

Sexuality and feminine energy are also the domain of red fox. This creature is long associated with the female in folk tales and legends. The fox may enter to stimulate your second chakra, opening you to sexual energy, the energy of life force and procreation. For a woman, the fox may also be a sign to bring home and children back into focus since the female is very domestic, often returning to and improving the same den year after year as she prepares to give birth. The fox is generally monogamous as well, reminding both husband and wife to honor their commitment and bring playfulness and spontaneity back into relationship. Male and female foxes do work together as father/hunter and mother/caregiver to new litters, so parents raising young children may take the fox as a sign of surrender into traditional roles, at least until their “pups” are old enough to leave the den.

The Snow Goose, the Canada Goose, and his salt water cousin the Brant make winter appearances in farm lands and at the coast. If geese show themselves as your totem, consider your role in your family, workplace or community. Geese form strong family units that stay together beyond the breeding season, traveling to winter territory and later returning to familiar grounds. Could it be time for a visit home? Their usual flight pattern in the "U" or "V" shape is no coincidence of nature. The formation conserves energy as each pulls the weight of the group by reducing drag. In fact, geese can expend up to 50% less energy this way! If the goose is your winter totem, it may be time to reach out for help or support and work together to accomplish more than double what you can do alone. Geese travel in groups that can reach the tens of thousands, so joining a large organization and striving for the greater good may be your charge now. Some, like the Canada goose, have a distinctive marking. The white band on the Canada goose's throat and face help us distinguish him from other species. Are you also identifying yourself in a similar way with a ribbon, armband or other physical representation of your clan? The message of the goose is to band together and enjoy the benefits of cooperation and belonging.

White Tailed Deer
A deer totem signifies a time of blending physical and spiritual energies. When the deer appears as your guide, you might consider how you take in food since the deer is an herbivore and often reduces consumption in winter to conserve energy. If losing weight or eliminating animal fats or toxins is one of your objectives, the deer may appear as a source of encouragement. Like the deer, being more mindful of what you eat may help you achieve better health and energy.

Deer with antlers also represent spiritual attunement. The white tailed deer sheds his antlers each year, and for the first five years, he grows a larger and larger pair with an annually increasing number of points. The antlers are like antennae, sensitive to signals and external energies. When the male deer appears you may be reaching new levels of psychic awareness or developing a more spiritual outlook. Your heightened awareness could mean you’ll be more easily overwhelmed by noise, commotion or tension. At the same time you can benefit from strong powers of observation and subtleties in communication. The deer can help you tune in to what is unspoken and read between the lines. Could you be gentler with someone’s feelings? Or do you need to accept and acknowledge your own emotions? When the deer appears as your totem, pay attention to the simple things, clear out useless clutter and chatter, and listen to what your body, spirit, and relationships really need to grow and thrive.

Considering their reputation as nuisances and their sharp quills, the porcupine is probably not the totem you were hoping for. However, if this rodent takes up residence or leaves his distinctive path in your back yard, you may benefit from his lessons. Let’s begin with that path he retraces every day. The porcupine finds a simple den and feeding area, and that is all she really needs. Life is uncomplicated in the porcupine’s world. He is not particularly fearful, nor is she especially adventurous. Curiosity and a savoring of the moment seem to be the porcupine nature. Their eyesight is very poor, so they may not see you approach and unless you pose a particular threat, the porcupine may not pay you much attention. Observe a porcupine climbing a tree, slowly shuffling down his usual path, or rocking back and forth in her distinctive way, and you will see that very little disturbs him. Do you need to be more like the porcupine? If you’ve reached a point when every little thing irritates you or you’re too preoccupied to stop and smell the roses, the porcupine may appear to remind you of the joy in everyday routines and experiences. Porcupines are mainly solitary and entertain themselves. They use their quills as defense when threatened. You may want a little more distance from other’s opinions or interference when the porcupine is your totem. A time of developing independence and self-reliance may follow. Finding your own hobbies and enjoying free time without intrusions from the outside world are ways of incorporating porcupine energies.


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