Spirit Animal Messages: Woodpeckers

Guess who’s been showing up all over the place around here?

Yep. I went from never seeing one of these little guys to having them fly back and forth in front of my face. Okay, Woody! I see you…

Woodpeckers knock, knock, knock on trees. Their knocks are reminsicent of “opportunity knocking,” and the birds are indeed considered opportunistic. Where others see dead trees, Woodpeckers see sustanance and shelter! They know when to leave a perch to catch insects in the air or on the ground. They work with what is at hand and do not easily give up.

Woodpeckers appear in many myths. They are frequently associated with weather forecasting and, not surprisingly, thunder. Between the noise and their distinctive coloring, inconspicuousness is definitely not one of this bird’s gifts!

The Woodpecker is especially connected to Mars. According to Roman lore, the twins Romulus and Remus were sons of a Latin princess and Mars, the God of War. The boys were cast into a river, where they were rescued by a she-Wolf and Picus the Woodpecker fed them. This allowed one of the brothers–after a murderous spat with the other–to found this city of Rome. Picus himself was previously a priest, especially gifted at reading the signs of birds. When he rejected the advances of Circe the witch (preferring to stay faithful to his nymph wife), Circe turned him into a Woodpecker. Crummy for him, but nice for us!

Faithfulness and feeding abandoned children could be seen as positive character traits, I reckon. Har!

Woodpeckers are usually pecking for insects under the tree bark.  Do you look below the surface, beyond the obvious?

They may hear an echo from their rat-a-tatting and create a sound wave to blast out insect prey. They expertly aim sticky tongues into the holes to harpoon dinner.  The very specific way they use barbed, sticky tongues and strong beaks as tools suggest discernment and power surrounding the spoken word.

Are you aware of the “sticking power” of what comes out of your mouth? Are your words carefully aimed?

Woodpeckers are very helpful in the natural cycle of decomposition, making dead trees accessible to foragers. So in this sense, Woodpeckers are trailblazers. The red on most Woodpeckers; heads suggest careful analysis and new ways of thinking, heightened awareness. They see opportunity where others see but dead wood and their pecking opens the field for those that follow.

Do you listen to your inner sense of what’s worthwhile? Are you brave enough to lead the way?

The steady rhythms of pecking emphasize rhythms in life, remaining in tune with natural cycles.

Do you follow the moon cycles? Seasonal cycles?

To some Native Americans, the Woodpecker is known as Earth’s Drummer. Shammanic journeys via drum rhythms may be a good option for Woodpecker people.

Woodpeckers have very powerful neck muscles and a huge amount of persistence, making it possible for them to literally carve holes in trees, thus making a home. Woodpeckers do defend their territory. They don’t actually create nests in the holes they peck in trees, but open a space and line it with bark chips to rear their young. So they use what’s at hand.

Do you aim to carve out a personal space with whatever resources are available? Are you prepared to defend your personal space?

Sharp claws let these birds scurry up and down trees. Stiff tailfeathers help them keep balance. They prop their tailfeathers against a support while shifting legs to climb up or down. The bird can move very quickly in all directions via this method, making it difficult for predators to keep up.

Are you flexible, maintaining a steady, supportive foundation? Do you remember to ground yourself? 

Woodpeckers also have especially thick skulls to protect them. I’ll leave you to ascertain what a thick-skulled, hard-headed animal totem may suggest!

Woodpecker teaches us how to lay foundations wherever we are in life. Instead of looking for their place, they make it! They act with a sense of purpose, determination, industriousness and drive that anyone would do well to copy. They remind us to stay hard-headed when it comes to trusting the inner voice, forging our own path and not being afraid of being different (or conspicuous)–while remaining mindful of the power of our words on others. They lead primarily by example, showing others the way.

Do you have a connection to the Woodpecker? What have you noticed about this totem?

p.s. If you want to talk about your spirit animal friends (or anything else), hit me up for a session!

07/10/13: House of Cards / Tower Rx


The Tower reversed—better than the Tower upright, I think? Eh. Although I repeat over and over, “There are no ‘bad’ cards,’ I’ll acknowledge the Tower as one of my least favorites. It’s not that I am uncomfortable with Mars energy on the whole (association of the Tower card), but more that when it shows up, there tends to be significant disruption and stress. That Tower is always coming down!

Inverted, though, the impact is going to be less severe. Think of it as either more minor disruptions or the period of disruption coming to an end. I like that better. In my work, I do find that the Tower is a card of integrity, in the sense that whatever revealed by it’s fall is always TRUTH. Those caught in it’s fall have tended to avoid hard facts, either consciously or unconsciously. That is helpful to know.

Truth trumps deception. The Tower is a reminder sometimes the process is sudden, startling and harsh. Reversed, though, I’m inclined to say it probably wasn’t unexpected. Perhaps the warning gave you enough time to step back a little from the party that ended so badly? If not, back away now, because delays or no, the Tarot Tower is never a permanent structure.

Think “house of cards.” Because this is what the Tower energy is like: an impressively high house of cards that people inhabit with the assumption it will always be what it appears to be today. Inverted, maybe the collapse is finishing, less severe than it could be, or just delayed. Either way, be wary of the house of cards. All houses of cards are inherently instable.

Are you seeing the disruption of a House of Cards?

Shadowscapes Tarot
by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law

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11/01/12: Softer Landings | Tower Reversed


I’ll spare you my “there are no bad cards” spiel and just acknowledge up front, the Tower is a challenging energy. The card is ruled by Mars, the God of War for goodness sakes! There’s nothing soft about it.

Old school, the Radiant Rider Waite here with the Tower reversed. While reversed cards can be rather off-putting in general, I kind of like getting this one inverted because it seems to mitigate the disruption.

In short, it’s not the end of the world. Not even close. Also, probably not anything you didn’t see coming. Is it disruptive? HELL yes! But how far and hard you fall here, how much damage is done, is probably very much related to how you orient yourself during the fall. You catchin’ what I’m laying down here?

Don’t deny! Don’t avoid! Accept whatever responsibility is yours, and for God’s sakes, let go of whatever is not! Most of us have enough to carry already, ya’kno? Just call up a little faith and by God, learn whatever lessons are in it for you so you don’t have to deal with repeats. The seem to get harder on each successive go-round.

Your decisions, on when you address what, makes all the difference in the world. If you want to be a victim, I can’t talk you out of it. But if you want to address the writing on the wall—and decide never to ignore it from here forward—well, then that landing will be a little softer.

Do you have disruption going down?

Radiant Rider-Waite Tarot
by Us Games Systems

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09/20/12: Warning Bells | Tower

20120916_183602 (374x620)I had been operating under false assumptions. I knew, it smelled funny; the situation bugged and nagged at me from the outset. It kept bouncing around in my head, it wouldn’t go away. I knew it in the pit of my stomach.

But I ignored the feelings, activated my rational mind, came up with excuses and reasons and explanations for why it was perfectly fine. None would jibe with my gut. But my head was relieved.

This is the kind of warning you get, when that Tower is getting ready to come down. You may look for external cues, but everybody around you is going to be acting like everything is fine.

You have two choices in this situation:

  1. Rationalize and ignore, keeping your happy face on tight; or
  2. Get the Hell out of that Tower.

The first is more comfortable in the beginning. The second is a lot less painful in the end.

Are you feeling this? (I actually hope you’re not, but I gotta ask, man!)

Legacy of the Divine Tarot
by Ciro Marchetti

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Rude Awakenings with the Tower

There’s been a very Tower feel out there lately, so I dug out this post to talk a little more about the Tower’s energy.

Like pushing the gas and brakes at the same time. Ouch. Yep, it’s a Mars card. Like you wouldn’t have been able to tell, just looking at it. Don’t let yourself get burned.

The Tower is another one of “those cards” people hate to get. It’s disturbing, especially with the figures free-falling. When the tower appears, the phrase “rude awakening” is usually not far behind.

The thing to remember when you see the tower is that the structures crumble when they’re not built on truth. You may get some shocking news, but the old worldview it replaces just wasn’t accurate. Just like lightning flashes can suddenly illuminate a dark night, the lightening striking the tower, setting it ablaze, illuminates sometimes harsh truth.

This may or may not touch you personally, but it’s probably touching someone around you and definitely hitting the world at large. It’s not like you’ll be able to miss it.

Remain balanced, fair, and do your damnedest to maintain your own sense of integrity. Be as mature as you possibly can with everyone around you. Boundaries are also a major plus here, limiting the potential for burns.

Whatever comes down will come down because it has to come down. When the blazes abate, we can see what’s still standing and start from there. But until then, don’t hold your breath.

Are you (still) feeling this?

Tarot in Real Life: Tower Moments

Sometimes the Tower’s energy can save your life—or make it worth saving.

I squirmed in a folding chair on a Saturday afternoon, wishing I were anywhere else on the planet. Three other folding chairs faced me in a semi-circle, filled with the middle-aged asses of my father’s friends, church elders wearing polyester suits and stern expressions. The church was empty save for me and my “Judicial Committee.”

They lectured, but not much registered above the din in my head. I struggled to stay in my body enough to respond. They pulled Bibles out and read scripture, expecting me to read along. I managed to look like I was. For emphasis, I’d sometimes be instructed to read a passage. At nineteen, I found that humiliating, like being in the 3rd Grade. Except in the 3rd Grade, I enjoyed reading aloud.

The lecturing was punctuated with questioning—accusations, more than anything. A confession, a confession! Let’s see if we can break her down or trip her up. Does she admit her sins? Is she repentant of them? I did my best to comply without selling my soul in the process. At that point, I was still hoping for a compromise.

“Do you believe this is the Truth, Dixie? Do you believe this organization represents the Word of God?”

I sucked in my breath and hesitated. There’s never been a more pregnant pause.

I didn’t know what to think or how to feel. I’d been brought up this way. This religion was the center of my family’s life, and all I’d ever known. You have to understand, I really wanted to believe it! Do you have any idea just how much?! I WANTED to. My life would have been so much easier.

I didn’t care about practicing by that point—I only went through the motions to appease my family. I didn’t feel conviction but was willing to acknowledge there could be something wrong with me. Wasn’t that what everybody thought? Finding out I was crazy may have been preferable than having my life erased. I didn’t want to get kicked out, mandatorily shunned by family and friends. (But I didn’t actually believe I was crazy.)

“I don’t know,” I responded truthfully. I left the “probably not” part sit in my head. But I still knew as I said those words, I was pulling the trigger of my fate. It was a Tower moment.

The meeting broke up shortly thereafter, as there wasn’t much left to say. My committee no doubt had much clucking to do over my unrepentant attitude. As I was getting up to leave, my father’s best friend said something about me dressing provocatively.

“What?” I had no idea what he was talking about.

“The slit in your skirt,” he told me. The insinuation was, I’d showed a little leg, slit coming up to just below my knee, in order to convince their penises to be lenient.

“It’s my mother’s dress,” I barked back, disgusted. I guess that pretty much says who they thought I was. That tower was coming down.

This isn’t a story about having a crappy family. Honestly, it would be easier if I merely had a crappy family. Then, I could be resentful. I could get therapized. I could declare myself “An adult child of religious fanatics” or something. But that really isn’t true.

My family believed I cashed in my ticket for a perfect, eternal life in paradise out of sheer stupidity. I was living in sin, smoking pot and shacking up with a schizophrenic dude in a divey trailer. That doesn’t exactly impress anybody! I didn’t know what I was doing, lost as Hell and most anybody looking at me would have considered me a bad bet.  Hell, many still do!

But it was my path out. I would not change a thing. I will also NEVER tell someone else what to believe and this is exactly why. Is this not a  precious insight? It had better be, because I paid dearly for it.

Don’t tell others what to believe. It is, for each of us, a sacred path to discover own truth. And never assume you know who someone is by what you see on the outside. You could have just caught them in a Tower moment.

Can you think of your own Tower moments? What have they done for you?