Kelly Spencer - Happy Healthy YOU
(A wellness column by Kelly Spencer: writer, life coach, yoga & meditation teacher, holistic healer and a mindful life enthusiast!)
Many cultures use animals and birds as meaningful symbolism.
The Chinese animal zodiac, or shengxiao (/shnng-sshyaoww/ ‘born resembling’), has each new year represented by an animal and its reputed attributes. The 12 animals are: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, Pig. In eastern and western astrology, seven of the 12 astrological signs are animals, arachnids or fish. In fact, Scandinavian mythology, Celtic civilization and our earth's older continents such as Africa all held meaning in animal symbolism and medicine.
Through the years I have had some strange encounters with animals and birds. Approximately 15 years ago, I came across a book Animal Speak: The Spiritual & Magical Powers of Creatures Great and Small by Ted Andrews. Since then I have studied other authors on animal medicine and the gifts and symbolism that each animal offers. I was often astonished just how accurate the meaning matched what was happening in my life, in that moment.
I pay attention now to the creatures that make themselves seen or heard. I am not talking about an animal or a bird just randomly sitting in a field or tree and you happen to notice it. But rather I am speaking of those times when you have no choice but to remember the experience.
One time I watched about 13 squirrels run rapidly in single file on a lawn, do a giant circle with each following the one in front, cross the street, run across another lawn and up a tree right beside me. They spread out on the tree, each on their own branch. It was crazy and wonderful, and I was in awe.
Many years ago, I was out for a walk by my house. There were lots of crows out making noise. A couple of them would “ca” very loudly at me as I walked by them and then fly ahead to the next tree and make noise when walked by them again. They had my attention. I started to wonder if they had a message for me or if the crow stalking was just comical coincidence. That is until I was walking across a field looking up at one of the noisiest of the bunch, and a crow literally flew out of the ground at me. There must have been a hole he was camping out in. I literally screamed loudly and I imagined the other crows mocking me like the laughing crows from the movie Dumbo.
“If men had wings and bore black feathers, few of them would be clever enough to be crows.” - Henry Ward Beecher
Crow medicine, or as the Cherokee call it 'Koga Nvwati,' gives us the ability to make decisions, open ourselves to change and experience magic in the world around us. The crow is a shapeshifter, thought to dwell in both the physical and the spiritual world simultaneously. The crow message offers insight into our core beliefs and values. They have known darkness and are willing to guide us through our own to bring us to a higher perspective.
“When you meet crow, he could be telling you that there will be changes in your life and that possibly you should step by the usual way you view reality and look into the inner realms... walk your talk... be prepared to let go of your old thinking and embrace a new way of viewing yourself and the world.” – birdclan.org
This was exactly true of this moment, in my life.
Last month, a friend and I went to the lake to take in the four elements (water, fire, earth, air). It was sunny and cool as we headed out on a pier. Sitting on a bench on the pier was a large white bird. It looked too big to be a seagull. As we approached, we could see this beautiful snowy white owl. He stared at us. We stared at him. Then he took flight, so beautifully, down the pier to the next bench.
We continued to videotape, snap pictures and be mesmerized. It's not every day you spend time with a snowy owl. We stopped walking and just took it in. Suddenly a crow started flying above the large white bird and swooped down a couple of times toward the owl. Abruptly, both birds flew off together out above lake water. They separated doing a big swooping circle in opposite directions only to reunite and fly more together before leaving each other. It was a goose bump moment watching them dance in the sky together.
Aware of crow medicine, I couldn’t wait to look up the symbolism of the owl.
Most websites shared the symbolic meanings for the owl as intuition, ability to see what others do not see, transition, and change, and wisdom and sacred foresight. “When the owl shows up in your life, pay attention to the winds of change. Perhaps you are about to leave some old habits, a situation that no longer serve you or bring something new in your life.” - spiritanimal.info
Something inside me knew that the two of these birds together held some significance.
Indeed, this was true.
The Inuit legend of the snowy owl and the raven tells us both birds were once white, and the owl and crow were good friends. Crow got bored of being white, so he and Owl decided to paint with some oil on their plumage. Crow got bored painting owl and decided to fly away. Frustrated, owl grabbed crow with his talons and dumped the oil on top of him making him solid black.
Mythic historical stories of why the crow is black is peppered throughout history with varying tales from Hindus, Greeks, Romans, Muslim and Indigenous people all over the world. Many of these stories talking of the love/hate relationship between the two power medicine birds.
Together, the black and white birds magically danced for us down at the lake, reminding us of the paradoxes that co-exist and reminded me to honor the need for balance in life: the mindful balance of masculine/feminine, light/dark, above/below, conscious/unconscious, inner/outer and yin/yang.
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