Raven as a Totem


Totems are a difficult concept to explain, but you need an understanding of what a totem is before you can understand what it means to follow Raven.

A totem is a spiritual creature, but it is not a god. You do not worship a totem, you follow it. A totem embodies a certain way of life - a representation of a set of ideals. The ideals are usually personified in the form of an animal, but can also be as abstract as the chinook wind, or grandfather thunder.

"You do not choose your totem. Your totem chooses you"

That is one of the most common phrases I've heard or read about totems. It reflects one of the basic principles of totems - You don't control them, and you can't explain them... but something deep inside you responds to the totem's call. When you follow the way of a totem, it just "feels right".

That isn't to say a totem's way is that of least resistance. Following a totem often puts certain demands or restrictions on you, and it isn't always easy. The Way of a totem is something you aspire to - rather like someone who aspires to live according to a code of honor.

The ideal which a totem calls you to pursue is reflected in the totem's nature. A hawk totem teaches watchfulness, patience, and alertness. A rat totem shows resourcefulness, ingenuity, and survival. Followers of Wolf learn honor, courage, and self-sufficency, as well as the importance of working within a pack. Rabbit shows its followers to listen to everything, watch carefully, and to never underestimate the little things. Raven... well, Raven teaches his children many things.

Raven is a very special totem. They're all special, of course, but Raven holds a unique place in many native myths. Raven is a creator - he is mankind's protector and sometimes saviour. He brought light and fire to the early people so they would not die. He gave them salmon so they wouldn't starve. In some stories, he even brough water to break a terrible drought. He is a cultural hero.

He is also a Trickster. Raven steals from man, and from other spirits. He plays jokes on us, and he laughs at mankind's expense. Sometimes his tricks go awry and he ends up the butt of his own joke, but even then, there is humor.

Raven is a juxtaposition of opposites: A provider and a thief. A hero and a fool. He brought light out of darkness, but he is himself cloaked in midnight black. He is a symbol of dark brooding sadness, and of death, yet he brings life, and unrivalled joy. He is credited with creating the earth and all its mysteries, but even the smallest secret attracts his attention. He is a silent spy, and an unstoppable chatterbox. He is many things.... And sometimes he is nothing.

That is Raven.

Raven's children must understand the value of humor. They need to see the joy which pervades all living things, and bring that joy to others. They also need to develop their sense of curiosity. So many fascinating things happen around us all the time - and raven's children want to know about all of them. They also want to bring things into the light. Some people might not want to see what Raven's brood expose to the bright light of day, though... since many people have secrets which they'd prefer to keep hidden. Those who follow Raven aren't always appreciated for what they do, but they still share a certain satisfaction at a job well done when they make someone stop and reevaluate themselves or the world around them.

Does Raven call to you?


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Last modified February 7th, 1998