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Occasionally I wandered in where I was not wanted and gave truthful answers.
Sometimes I even did it deliberately. A little disruption now can prevent disaster later.

Totems I have known

For a long time I depended too much on “totems,” helper spirits of a sort.

Strictly speaking, these were’t “totems” in the normal sense. They probably didn’t already entirely exist. The face or persona probably came from me because I thought it was cool. Making lower elementals isn’t really all that hard. Making lower elementals that stick around can be difficult, but I’ve got a flair for it. It made my childhood interesting, some of my “imaginary” friends were really there.

Anyway, I only called three totems. That was before I understood all the cultural implications of that word. I would have said then that they found me. Now I am not so sure. I know that they spent a lot of time discussing me and my actions and I was the only one who seemed to hear them.

Yes, I know about the psychiatric and psychological implications there. Let’s just accept for the moment that those disciplines do not have all the answers and often owe more to poetry than science.

I don’t hear them in my head that much any more. I’m still not sure if that was my choice or theirs. It was a good choice though. I depended on them far too much.

What I can say is that many of my personality traits draw on these totems. I don’t hear their voices as often as I did, but I still feel them. They share part of my life and I share part of their perception.

The first was Bear. A very studious and thinking Bear, which is why this picture is one of my favorite Bear statues. I have a
bookend just like this one on the pine hutch that sits on my desk. I identify heavily with Bear. Not the same way as certain gay men, I don’t have nearly that much body hair and I don’t have the physical build. But personality, certainly. I’m an instrospective loner with only a few people that I care about deeply. I’d rather watch a tree or a mountain than peoplewatch. When I do peoplewatch, I prefer to be left alone. But inside my head, the wheels are spinning and I’m constantly looking for new patterns. That’s Bear’s curiousity. When I instinctively know “right” from “wrong” or the balance point between choices, that’s Bear.

Coyote is seen as a Trickster in many cultures. And he is.

Except when he’s not.

I was lucky to hear some of the Diné Coyote stories and then a few of the Hopi Coyote stories. It took a lot of study and a lot of thinking, but I finally figured out what the nature of a Trickster is. Sure there’s the fun aspect and the irreverence towards authority, but that is not what makes Coyote so important.

Coyote like all Tricksters is the
balance. When there are too many rules, Coyote breaks them. When there aren’t enough rules, Coyote helps make new ones. When you’re worrying too much about the rules, Coyote just has to tell you how silly they are.

Which reminds me. There’s something I need to share. Originally
I saw this in a LiveJournal entry years and years ago.

The Commandments of Coyote.

I. Thou Shalt Have As Many Gods and Spirits and Personal Trainers and Gurus As You Like Before Me, But You Shalt Not Let Them Block the Exits, and More, You Shall Not Permit Them To Take the Last Beer, For That Beer Is Mine. Seriously. Don't.

II. Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbor's Wife, But Thou Art Totally Welcome To Admire Her Ass When She Walks By, and If It Happens To Come Out That They Are In An Open Relationship, Dude, Tap That Ass As Much As They Are Willing To Allow. Same Goes For the Ladies. Coveting Is Sort Of Stupid, But Sex Is Just Plain Fun, Unless Thou Art Doing It Entirely Wrong.

III. If Thy Neighbor Says 'Hands Off My Wife, Dude', Thou Shalt Listen and Back Off, Because Otherwise, Thy Neighbor Will Be Totally Justified In Hitting You About the Head and Shoulders With Gardening Tools, and Don't Think That I'm Going To Step In There and Stop Him.

IV. Adultery Is Actually Pretty Fun. Commit It All You Like. Just Make Sure Everyone Is Cool With It, Or I Will Not Help You Out Once the Hitting Gets Started.

V. Thou Shalt Not Eat Poisoned Bait. If You Do, Don't Come Whining To Me About It, Because I Am Very Unlikely To Care. Once It Is In Your Mouth, It Is Your Problem, Not Mine.

VI. Of Course Thou Shalt Kill. Carnivores Do That. Also, Swatting Mosquitoes, Sort Of Instinctive. But All Creatures Are Alive Before You Kill Them, and So Thou Shalt Respect Them In Their Lives and In Their Deaths. Thou Shalt Not Kill Without Reason. Thy Neighbor Tapping Thy Wife's Ass? Is Not A Reason. Don't Make Me Set A Plague Upon Thy Ass. Thou Wouldst Not Enjoy It, I Promise.

VII. Thou Shalt Not Hoard. Seriously, Here. If You Have Enough, Share. Only Asshats Bogart Life.

VIII. Thou Shalt Not Be A Martyr. If You Have One Beer, Drink It. Do Not Give It To Me and Then Expect Adoration. Dude, That Was Your Beer, I Did Not Break Your Arm To Get It. Give What You Can Give, and Expect Neither Praise Nor Worship. You Are Not Being Morally Superior, You Are Being A Decent Human Being. There Is A Difference.

VIV. Assume This Is It. Maybe There Is Reincarnation; Maybe Not. Not Only Am I Not Saying, Please Consider the Fact That I Probably Get A Say In Whether You Come Back, and If You Are the Sort Of Person Who Doesn't Do Anything With One Life, Why Should I Waste My Time Giving You Another One? Live Like You Get No Second Chances. You Will Have More Fun.

X. Are You Going To Eat That?

The only absolutely certainty about Coyote is that when you hear his laugh, things are going to change.

I’ve said that Raven’s friendship was the death gift of a Diné hand trembler that I was honored to work with a few times. He wasn’t exactly a drinking buddy, but we talked many times while staring into a fire. So with all that, you’d think I’d get a “Navajo” Raven, right?

The first time I met Raven on my own, he started reciting poetry. Epic Norse poetry that I’ve never heard before or since. It wasn’t Navajo, but he knew about the Diné.

And that was his first lesson.

Raven is about bridging the worlds. He’s not about what you expect, he’s about showing you what
is.

No totem is really confined to one culture, one time, or one place. More than most Raven reveals that.
Thought and Memory indeed.

I love ravens in the desert. Lately I’ve been wondering about the one with patches of white. They’re still some of my favorite conversationalists.

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