lupagreenwolf: (Default)
[personal profile] lupagreenwolf posting in [community profile] totemists
Does anyone find that the personalities, such as they are, of totems are more expansive and complex than of individual animal spirits? That's generally been my experience, simply because totems are "made of" the many physical animals of their species, as well as the relationships those animals have with other species, including humans (which also brings in mythology and folklore and....yeah...you get the run-on idea).

How about the rest of you?

Date: 2011-05-22 08:23 am (UTC)
paleo: Grey Wolf as Totem (Grey Wolf)
From: [personal profile] paleo
I see totems as being very akin to gods because they are beings that represent Grand Ideas. Just like it is probably impossible to experience in one sitting the totality of something that represents War or Light, I don't think we can fully grasp everything the Universe puts towards manifesting the idea of Elk or Snake. So totems, like gods, parcel out portions of who they are when they contact us. I think if a totem is your primary teacher it will eventually manifest most or all of its traits. If it is just stopping by to guide someone for a few days or months, it is likely to focus on the aspects of itself that are important to getting its message across.

The complexity of the personalities of individual spirits varies depending on what you mean. A spirit once housed in an actual body (ghost for lack of a better term) is probably going to have as compact and definante a personality as the physical animal it once was. A spirit who happens to be an animal but that never was incarnated physically as that animal can fit anywhere between the poles of "solid personality" and "complex of ideas".

Date: 2011-05-22 10:31 pm (UTC)
ariestess: (Default)
From: [personal profile] ariestess
Oh, I like this explanation. It makes total sense...

Date: 2011-05-22 09:46 am (UTC)
lyonesse: (coyote)
From: [personal profile] lyonesse
i agree. i've particularly found this with animals that have been through a lot of environmental change and adapted to it -- coyotes, squirrels, skunks, raccoons, birds like pigeons and bluejays, where some members have learned all kinds of crazy new tricks about garbage cans and public transit (see icon :)

animals with more narrowly-defined niches, i personally find less "flexible" or "expansive" (i'm not sure what term i want). (ime i refer to lion, though as a city dweller i admit i'm more familiar with more-adaptable critters anyway.) i would guess most "apex predators" will have this issue, just because they clash with humans so much (i'm thinking of bears?) -- the individuals rarely have much latitude to change in response to human pressures anyway. i can also see this happening with animals that have narrow niches for other reasons, like the dietarily-specific koala.

Date: 2011-05-22 10:16 am (UTC)
moonvoice: (totem - common bronzewing)
From: [personal profile] moonvoice
I definitely find that they're more complex and expansive than individual spirits. I mean, as someone who writes an animal dictionary and devotes around 4 full written pages per totem animal, I know that there is so much I'm missing and that - additionally - at any specific time I'm only interpreting what the totem wants me to convey in the moment and that it could change from second to second, day to day, week to week. It's the same when I illustrate totems. I've drawn some totems five or six times now (like wolf), and each time, wolf asks for something a little different. Different colours, lines, symbols.

Then again, for other animals, it stays almost the same. At least in illustration, Hellbender salamander has asked for identical colours and a similar composition each time. It makes me wonder if some totems are more expansive than others, which is understandable, given that some animals are more adaptive or more able to learn new tools than others (like omnivores or non-obligate carnivores, like ravens and wolves respectively.) Imho, the western brush wallaby, who has eaten the same foods for tens of thousands of years and hasn't adapted to live in any other habit, is far less expansive or complex than say raven or even common bronzewing, who has colonised urban areas.

With my own personal totem, and animal guides (that I guess others would consider secondary totems), our relationship changes and evolves like a real-world relationship would; with the additional complexity of the totem itself being a distillation of so much more than a 'single person in a two-people relationship/friendship.'

Date: 2011-05-23 02:21 am (UTC)
feralkiss: Arabic calligraphy by artist Malik Anas. (arabic)
From: [personal profile] feralkiss
Some people do not view totems "made of the many physical animals of their species" as much as "the essence common to all animals of a given species". I think there are different schools of thought about what a totem is exactly and they would answer your question quite differently (with the example I gave, the totem might not be as expansive and complex, unless you consider the potential of diversity as an integral part of the esssence).

Date: 2011-10-08 07:02 pm (UTC)
all_adream: (Default)
From: [personal profile] all_adream
Yeah, I'm more in the 'essence of' camp on this, since sure, each being, each human, animal, or other, is 'of' that bunch and whatever went into it, but I think that totem animals seem most often in my experience to be more embodiment-of-essence-manifest-as-potential-and-traits as opposed to something like, "Hard luck! Your totem frog is a complete dimwit due to inbreeding or pollution--but its brother was a Buddhaform who could have *really* helped you! Irony! Oh well, the luck of the draw!"

Date: 2011-05-23 04:02 pm (UTC)
spider_fox: (Default)
From: [personal profile] spider_fox
In terms of what totems present themselves as, I do not get the impression that they're comprised of many individuals' experience of the species. They act as an individual at that moment.

Now, that being said, if I were to run into the totem again then it would act like a different individual, but still as if it was one.

This is when interaction occurs, rather than observation. I don't know if that's because my own "filter" needs to simplify things down in order for me to make sense of them, or if it's because that's how they really "act".

Date: 2011-05-23 04:03 pm (UTC)
spider_fox: (Default)
From: [personal profile] spider_fox
I refer to "spiritually" interacting with the totem btw, not running into a wild animal and automatically assuming it's a totemic experience.

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