Life moves in cycles, and I always kind of accepted the Seven Year Cycle philosophy, because whenever I took the time to reflect, it seemed as if major changes happened on, or at least very near, the seven year mark. I started writing this with the thought that lately it hadn’t exactly happened that way, however, again after mathematical reflection, I was wrong.
In 1996 my son went to prison, which I must say is a drastic life change, more so for the prisoner, but anyone who has had a loved one in prison knows you do the time with them. Also in 1996, I became involved with a man for the first time in a long time. Seven years later, 2003, my love interest was living in Florida and I started college—the first one in my family. My son was out of prison four years by then. In 2010—seven years—I put all my life’s accumulations into storage, moved into my daughters basement and tried to decide what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I thought about teaching overseas and even got TEFL Certified, and I thought about just expatriating completely since America was not headed in the wrong direction but no direction at all. I reined myself in, refocused on my original dream from as far back as I can remember—retire to the mountains and write—and I went in search of the dream. That particular seven year life cycle has taken a full year to complete.
Another change I had made in 1996 was spiritual. I began to meditate and explore Native American spiritual traditions. I don’t believe I chose that particular path, I believe, for various reasons, that I was led to that path. The traditions, beliefs and practices came easily and felt natural. I remember that year, I was so calm and at such peace with myself and my space, that even the mosquito’s left me alone. Not one single bite, whether sand flies at the lake, or huge forest mosquito’s when hiking, not a bite.
At that time, I did a Medicine Card reading for myself to find my animal totems. After my son’s sentencing I had wandered around some campgrounds for several days and one morning woke to my hand around a fallen branch. This branch was in a complete circle, one end touching the other. It was the only tangible item I brought out of the woods that day. I used it to construct my personal Mandela with deerskin strung taut, beads and several found feathers. I performed the Medicine Card reading to incorporate my power animals into the Mandela.
One card is drawn from the deck for each direction: East, South, West, North, Above, Below, and Within, in that order. The significance of each is:
East: Greatest spiritual challenge. Guards your path to illumination
South: Protects the child within
West: Leads to personal truths and inner answers
North: Gives wise counsel and teaches thankfulness for blessings
Above: Guardian of the dream time
Below: Inner truth
Within: teaches how to find hearts joy and protector of your sacred space
My totems as drawn were:
East: Grouse reversed
South: Elk reversed
Below: Dog reversed
Within: Buffalo reversed
The reverse is when the medicine card appears upside-down, meaning the powers of that animal are being neglected or are contrary (in the current situation) to what they should be. So here are the meanings and powers of my totems:
In the East, my greatest spiritual challenge and guarding my path to illumination was the grouse reversed. The grouse represents the Sacred Spiral (pictured in skin painting above) that symbolizes personal vision and enlightenment. Reversed, the grouse means a dissipation of energy and a lack of control and discipline. This ‘still’ remains by greatest spiritual challenge.
In the South, my protector of the child within was the elk reversed. To natives, the elk represents stamina, and of course, reversed, represents a lack thereof.
My Western totem who will lead to personal truths and inner answers was the owl. In many cultures the owl symbolizes wisdom. Some natives call owl feathers “deceiver feathers” because they are silent. Owl medicine is magic medicine and helps me to see the truth of people.
In the North, giving me wise counsel was the butterfly which symbolizes transformation. I have been transforming constantly.
My Above totem who is the guardian of dream time was the eagle, who symbolizes the power of the Great Spirit and the connection to the divine. The eagle medicine constantly reminds me about that connection.
Below, the totem that represented my inner truth, was the dog reversed. Even in Western culture the dog symbolizes loyalty—“man’s best friend.” Reversed means a lack of that quality, primarily, loyalty to self. Particularly, in the position of inner truth!
The protector of my sacred space of the Within who will show me how to find my hearts joys was the buffalo reversed. Buffalo symbolizes abundance for it gave every inch of itself to the people for life. Reversed means having forgotten how to seek help and accept the abundance. This is the one I write about today.
When I created my Mandela I was hoping for a buffalo skull for the center position, the Within position. I had painted an eagle above and hung owl feathers I found along a hiking path. I’d also had a few butterflies that had died in their migration that year. Butterflies that had visited my campsite and fluttered in my hair, lighted on my knees, and sat on the edge of my breakfast plate. A very strange and wonderful experience. A buffalo skull was not so easy to find. My ‘boyfriend’ at the time who would later move to Florida, found a ceramic one for me. I tied it to the Mandela and hung it on my wall.
That Mandela followed me through several moves and life changing situations. One day in 2002, it just fell off the wall, breaking the buffalo skull in three pieces. For me, that meant that I had not only forgotten how to accept the abundance but I was completely blocked and shut off from any abundance. I felt that physically and emotionally for many years after.
It took me five years before I put the skull back together, but I just never had the energy to reattach it to the Mandela. The skull collected dust on a shelf and the Mandela hung naked on the wall. Until today. After unpacking and settling into my dream mountain home, I reattached the skull to the Mandela and it hangs whole on the wall to my right.
It is not complete though. It will never be complete because it represents my journey which has not ended yet. Next, I will paint mountains on it, blue ridge mountains, which are also a symbol of great abundance in the native tradition.