The BEAR is one of the most powerful and frequently appearing characters in Native American stories. Usually, Bear is associated with healing ceremonies and medicine societies. The Pawnee (Plains) legend of the Bear Medicine Woman tells the story of the Bear Ceremony and the Bear Dance. Bear Medicine Woman loses her first three children because the medicine people of her camp cannot cure them. She meets a bear beneath a cedar tree who tells her to follow him to his lodge. There, he promises her two more children, and gives her the power to heal the wounded by blowing colored breath on her face. The female bear hugs her and tells her how to use cherry, hackberry, and blueberry for healing. Bear Medicine Woman returns to her camp, where she and her husband heal many wounded men and make them members of the Bear Society. She also teaches her son the bear mysteries, and he becomes leader of the Bear Ceremony. Most often, the purpose of the Bear Ceremony is to cure illness and to petition for long life. The Bear Dance, an important part of the ceremony, may involve dancers wearing bearskins or masks and imitating the shuffling or waddling walk of the bear.
The BISON or AMERICAN BUFFALO is a symbol of abundance and manifestation. The bison usually follows the easiest path. Bison energy shows us that when we join right prayer with right action and follow the easiest path in our own lives, our goals can be achieved. However, the Bison is very unpredictable and can be dangerous. This can serve as a warning about keeping grounded as we work toward completing projects. Bison energy reminds us to be grateful for the abundance we already have in our lives and to allow the natural flow of energy to bring our desires to fruition.
The CAT is admired for its independence and prowess as a hunter. Cats have been companions to humans for thousands of years. In Egypt, they were highly valued for their ability to kill rats and mice that got into the food storage bins. Cats are respected mousers, though they love to hunt birds and other moving things. Cats are night creatures and their reflective eyes may have contributed to superstitions about their magical nature. Territorial, contrary and affectionate on their own terms, cats continue to amuse and receive lavish devotion from their keepers today. All cat pieces are hand made by Mana founder, Immanuel Trujillo, who has been making art in the southwest for over 50 years.
The COYOTE claims the most extensive range of any carnivore native to North America, which may help explain why Coyote is the most widely appearing and best known figure in Native American legend. Also, the remarkable physical adaptability of the coyote probably inspired the multi-faceted and colorful personality of coyote. Above all, Coyote is a trickster. He is known as a greedy and lustful liar, who is able to change his color and appearance and to change his skin with others at will. He is always in motion, often traveling with his brother, his family, wolf or fox. Coyote is often portrayed as a creator, since he helped Silver Fox prepare the world and name everything in it before the arrival of the first people. Although he appears in many stories, the story of his own origin is rarely told, but the Pima (Southwest) believe he is the offspring of the moon.
The DEER represents gentleness and innocence. The deer is found in many myths as it has been hunted for food by many cultures. In some popular myths, the deer lures the hunter deep into the woods where he becomes lost and begins an adventure. Deer's senses are acute. Their vision is designed for distance. Anyone who uses deer energy will find an increasing ability to detect subtle movements and may notice that they hear the unsaid thoughts of others. The deer loses its antlers every year for their first five years. Sightings of deer may be significant to the observer, who can learn more about its significance in their lives by counting the points on th deer's antlers and using numerology to gain more information. The doe raises her young alone. Newborn fawns do not move for the first few days, except to nurse. Giving the young a brief opportunity to be still and get acquainted with its place in the physical world can be a guiding principle for humans and their young.
The HAWK is one of the most mystical of the birds of prey. It has a keen eye and a bold heart. The Red Tailed Hawk, a resident of our Aravaipa Valley home, mates for life, which can be about fourteen years. They feed on rabbits, rodents and snakes, making them a welcome guest. Both the male and female take care of the young. Hawks are the messengers, protectors and visionaries of the air. The hawk image represents a messenger from the gods or spirit world. To the Ojibwa people, the hawk represents leadership, deliberation and foresight. Hawk medicine teaches one to become observant of life's signals. The image of it awakens our vision and inspires us to a creative life purpose.
The arrival of the HORSE had great impact on Native American life, especially on the Plains. Here, the land was well suited to the development of a nomadic lifestyle, which revolved around the horse. Using horses, the Plains people were able to hunt more buffalo, to travel greater distances, and to trade with more people than ever before. However, they had to move camp more often to find food and they always had to look out for horse thieves. Horses appear often in the art and ceremonies of the plains nations. The Ogallala Sioux used horses in a type of religious ceremony called Horse Dance, which revolved around a vision quest inside a sweat lodge. Four groups of four horses and riders decorated and painted themselves to represent the four cardinal directions, and then surrounded the sweat lodge. When the sweat ended, the horses were rubbed down with sage and the participant gave thanks for the vision experienced and for the horses.
The HUMMINGBIRD is the most skillful and fearless flyer of all birds. It can hover, fly backwards, forward and sideways, symbolizing an ability to explore the past and draw from it nectars of joy. Hummingbirds are very playful. They are also fiercely independent. After mating, the male leaves the female to tend to their young alone. Because of its iridescent colors, many hummingbirds have been named for jewels, like the ruby throated hummingbird. It has also come to be associated with the Faerie Realm. One species is called the purple crowned fairy. To the Pueblo people, the hummingbird's rainbow coloring, its great strength in flying, and its hovering about flowers has associated it with various rituals, particularly those involving the rainbow of promise that follows the rain. The hummingbird symbolizes finding joy and sweetness in any situation. Its swiftness is a reminder to seek joy while you can.
The JAVELINA (COLLARED PECCARY) is not found in traditional Native American Art as it is a newcomer to the Southwest, having migrated from South America. It resembles a wild boar but is unrelated to the pigs. It has a heavily built body covered with coarse hair, a heavy snout, and a distinct collar of light-colored hair around the neck. These animals are common in the southern desert regions of Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, where they frequent the shrubby areas and canyons. They roam the desert in loose groups of 8 to 12 (but up to 30) individuals, each group being led by an older sow. They are territorial. Their favorite food is prickly pear and other fleshy cacti - they eat vast amounts of prickly pear pads and are undeterred by the spines. They also dig up roots and bulbs. Here at the church, we have close encounters with these night marauders as they love nuts and frequent our "back yard" when the pecans drop. They are nearsighted and timid, but can be frightening and dangerous, especially if you are in their path when they are running away from a real or perceived danger. Javelina babies are very small and cute, resembling puppies in size and "bark"
The earliest known petroglyph showing the KOKOPELLI dates to about A.D. 1000, by an Anasazi artist. There are many legends surrounding this character. One Kokopelli legend has it that he was a Mayan trader of goods, news and entertainment. As such, he could travel freely and unharmed from pueblo to pueblo playing his flute. The feathers which appear on his head were actually those of his pet Macaw bird, which traveled on his shoulder. Honored as a god because of his unusual appearance, he had the choice of women in each pueblo and was nicknamed "the god of fertility."
The OWL is a mysterious night bird surrounded by superstition. The owl is thought to possess wisdom and powers of magic. In some cultures it is believed to be the reincarnated soul of ancestors or a messenger from the spirit realm. Owls have excellent vision and hearing and are effective hunters. One pair of nesting owls can kill as many mice as ten cats. They see well in the daytime and at night, being able to switch rapidly from distant to microscopic vision. Their hearing is also acute and they use clicks to echolocate prey. Owl energy is associated with clairvoyance and clairaudience. Owl's wings are designed so that they can fly silently. People with owl energy tend to be very perceptive, and seem to perceive our deepest unexpressed thoughts.
Because QUAIL are considered good eating, they have come to be associated with nourishment. Their frenzied mating habits have also earned them a reputation for sexuality and fertility. Quails live in groups called bevies. In cold weather they will often nestle together to keep warm. They often congregate in a protective circle, tails in and heads facing out so that they can easily spot danger and in retreating startle the predator by flying off noisily in all directions. Quail can teach us to be mindful of danger and how to explode to safety when threatened. The message of quail is "Don't hesitate in times of crisis."
The RABBIT is the favorite of the Greek Goddess Hecate. It is fleet footed but also a master of stillness. The rabbit represents fertility because of its ability to produce litters of 3-6 young as many as five times a year. The twenty eight day old bunny is capable of caring for itself. Individuals born under the Chinese Astrological sign of the Rabbit are considered to be sensitive and artistic, and possessing powers of the moon. The individual whose spirit animal is the rabbit will see their projects progress by leaps and jumps. Mastering the art of keeping still and knowing when to act and move quickly are the rabbit's gifts.
The ROADRUNNER is a ground dwelling cuckoo that lives in cactus and mesquite areas, feeding on crickets. Though it can fly, it relies almost completely on its running speed, which can reach 18 mph. The Roadrunner's tail works like a giant air brake, allowing the roadrunner to stop and change directions rapidly. The roadrunner totem represents mental speed and agility, indicating a person whose mind is always working, able to change directions and adapt ideas easily when situations require it.
The TURTLE is one of the oldest reptiles on the Earth. It lives near water but lays its eggs on land, combining Water and Earth energy. The turtle can see some colors and has excellent hearing. People who have turtle energy tend to be clairaudient. The turtle represents awakening the senses. It has a slow metabolism and so represents being slow to anger. Patience and longevity are turtle's gifts. The turtle is also associated with motherhood and longevity.