The Shitehawk, the Slug and the Stag

Power animals.

Totems.

Obviously Native American, but if we look for evidence of tribal totemism within ancient British society it is there, and now within modern Paganism many people have been called by the power of certain beasts to take them as inspiration to be better, stronger – to absorb the essence of that animal into their own being. For me it was the Stag, Damh. I’ve always been in awe of the Deer – their grace, their power. The Red Deer is our largest mammal here in the UK, and there is no denying why the word Stag in some cultures literally means The Animal. It is probable that our relationship with the Deer was very much like that of other tribal cultures who rely on the movements and availability of Reindeer. Not just for food, but for clothes, shelter, you name it.

gull.jpegThen about 8 years ago a new totem entered my life and for a while I thought it would take over from Damh. It was the Seagull, the Shitehawk. To me they represented freedom. They were the Stags of the Air. My song Learning to Fly from Herne’s Apprentice documents this time of my life perfectly. Just like the Rat, they get a bad rap, but they are the ultimate survivors, and fiercely independent. I’ve seen these birds learn behaviour from other birds that, for a seabird, would be completely unnatural, but they do it anyway. That was the kind of energy I needed at the time, and there it was, in the form of the Gull.

I still love the Gull now. I find their call wonderful, and it always reminds me of my County of birth, Cornwall. It’s also quite a coincidence (whatever that is, I’m still not sure!) that my local football team is The Seagulls! But although the Gull is still with me, Damh has never left, and still brings me strength, and a somewhat independent nature… between the Gull and the Stag, they look after me to this day.

Which leads me onto another thought. I know a man who had a Donkey as a Totem, and it truly suited him too! And another person I know has a Mole, again it suits him. But I wonder if there is anyone who has a Slug as a Totem beast, or another unusual creature. Is there someone out there who works with the Earthworm as Totem, a truly noble and spiritually under rated being!

23 Comments

  1. Alison Cross February 25, 2008 at 8:52 pm - Reply

    Oh I can’t be doing with the shitehawk! I live at the seaside in Scotland and the gulls are a damned nuisance – on the coast and inland too.

    They rip open bin bags and rifle their way through them looking for anything to eat….and don’t ask me what the roof of my mini looked like after being ‘visited’ by a seagull that had dined on a curry carry out. All I’ll say is that the paint has never been the same since.

    The worst thing about the gulls is that they like nothing better for a snack than a tasty little duckling from the castle moat.

    I *know*! Isn’t that yeuky? Cannabalism in burds?!

    Given that my animal totem would appear to be a duck, you can see why I’m not that enamoured of the seagull.

    Damh – stick to the stag as your totem of choice – at least no one will have had their car sh*t on by a deer.

    As for my duck? I meditated and waited expectantly for a sexy wolf or tiger or something, but only a little duck waddled into the clearing. C’est la vie. C’est le cannard.

    Bring on the earthworm totem!

    AX

  2. damhbard February 25, 2008 at 9:57 pm - Reply

    I know what you mean, but I just can’t help admire their nerve and instinct for survival. I guess it’s like urban foxes – we create the bin bags after all, and to them these things we throw away still contain some very tasty grub 🙂

    I remember going to a zoo with my youngest Son – he must have been 8 at the time. We were watching the Meercats when a sparrow flew into their enclosure, and they pounced on it and ripped it apart for food. Children ran, parents hid their eyes. My boy just turned to me and said, “Well, that’s nature for you.”

  3. magpieschest February 26, 2008 at 1:03 pm - Reply

    I think this is our impact on nature. The seabird now living inland successfully on landfill sites or in fishing lakes – the source of plentiful food.

    I seem to live on a flightpath for geese and swan – and their “bombing campaigns” would make the American air force proud! 😀 After one such campaign I had to wash the car, the driveway, the front door AND the garage door!

  4. Michael Bark February 29, 2008 at 10:17 am - Reply

    A few weeks ago I was contemplating the Bull, firstly exploring what the animal meant to me, matching these thoughts to common symbolic meanings and relating to how the Bull expresses himself through my character. My birth sign is Taurus, but to be honest I am sceptical of astrology. That aside, I came up with a number of allegories that before that time never consciously occurred to me. I also noted how some of its ‘negative’ aspects seem to occur in my character, including the habit of rushing in head first, and a lack of subtlety.

    Due to reading your post a couple of days ago, I again turned my thoughts in that direction. And yesterday started to consider the exploration of a more ‘nimble footed’ character. I immediately thought of the local Gecko lizards (Dalmatian wall lizard) who are now beginning to take a peek at the growing spring, and of the red squirrels who I occasionally see in the local woodland (no grey squirrel invasion here yet).

    I set a task to look out for the ‘suitable candidate’ and see who turned up first.

    Last night I was set to meet some friends for a celebration, arriving early at the meeting point I decided to sit on some stones by at the sea shore. Sitting down, a few joggers running past, I settled into the light body exercise. And who turns up…… a Rat. 🙂

    Unfortunately it wasn’t close enough to indentify as either the ‘Brown’ or the ‘Black’ Rat. But as I saw it running from shoreline rocks I’m assuming it was the Brown. So that’s who I’m going to be exploring for a while! 🙂 🙂

  5. damhbard February 29, 2008 at 11:10 am - Reply

    Great story Michael, thanks for posting it. As I said in my post I think the Gull and the Rat have quite close parallels. I’m sure you’re going to learn a lot from Rat.
    In peace
    Damh

  6. Robin March 15, 2008 at 6:59 pm - Reply

    Hello,
    I am replying to the post of whether anyone has an Earthworm as a totem. My animal totems began to come to me about 9 years ago and today the most beautifully extraordinarily large Earthworm came to me. As I reflect I have always walked with the Earthworm but none as huge as this and I had not really gave any thought to the earthworm being me totem, until today. This extra large worm began to come towards me to get my attention and a very nice gentleman picked up the worm and I was able to get a much better view and even touch. The revelation just came to me that this is why as a young child when I went fishing with my dad, I did not want to use worms to bait the hook and I refused to participate if it involved using a worm of any kind. So now that I am aware….a seeing your posting made my awareness more clear and I thank you for sharing and asking…because now I know.

    Can anyone please tell me what is the native american meaning of Earthworm? Can anyone direct me to a website or resources where I can explore more directly the meaning of Earthworm?

    Thanks for sharing,
    Robin

  7. theadeaus April 4, 2008 at 8:37 pm - Reply

    Actually i found this post in your blog while trying to help someone that does have Slug as a totem. I have been looking for any information above what i can think of for slug as a spirit or even any good myths or legends of slugs. which is of course complicated because evidently people sharing rides in america are known as slugs and of course slugs being the solid bullet parts of ammunition and all sorts of other slug stuff that has nothing to do with land slugs. and of course a LOT of stuff about how to kill them… sigh

    I personally have amoung the beasts that help me Cockroach. talk about survivor!

  8. Magdalene June 12, 2008 at 1:29 pm - Reply

    Hi,
    love the post, found it by googleing seagulls and power animals as I have had one enter my dreams a lot lately. I agree they are survivors. very adaptable. I live pretty far inland, Hereford and there are a whole bunch of seagulls that live here.
    So a seagull suits me well. Loud, opportunistic and definately a survivor. I’m happy to have one as my totem.

    Mags

  9. damhbard June 12, 2008 at 8:14 pm - Reply

    A wonderful Guide 🙂

  10. Gail October 6, 2008 at 2:33 am - Reply

    I too have had the stag for the longest time. Then just today, I received the seagull as my power totem. No coincidences!
    So now I’m on a quest to find out all I can about this bird I grew up around here on the New England East Coast of the US.

    I don’t know anyone who’s had a slug for a totem, but one day my cat came in with a tiny one stuck to his fur. I took it off and had a conversation with it. It was one of the most fun and enlightening inter-species communications I’ve ever had.

    I asked it why it was so slimy. It told me that was it’s personal roadmap. Then I asked why it moved so slowly. It replied simply- “to conserve energy, and besides, I am never in a hurry.”
    I then asked if it wanted to go back outside and it said, “yes please.” It was a very polite little slug.

    So what does the slug say when riding on the back of a turtle?
    “Wheeeeeeee!” :~)

  11. Rebecca December 1, 2008 at 5:40 am - Reply

    I found a slug in the garden yesterday. It had crawled onto the brick pathway and was in danger of getting stepped on. I moved it out of the way, and I reflected a lot about slugs. Even though people find them disgusting (-I- personally think they’re cute), they really are beautiful. They leave a silver trail and glisten in the light. They eat dead plants and help gardens grow. Some eat live plants and are regarded as pests, but eating living plants ensures that the plant is strong. Strong plants will live and weak ones will die. Slugs, like gulls, are opportunistic feeders, eating everything from earthworms and fungi to anything dead, and even other snails and slugs!! They are eaten by as many things as they eat. They are preyed upon by birds, toads, snakes, beetles, hedgehogs and even humans (escargot, anyone?). Beyond that, their slow pace reminds us to step back and take things a little slower, observe more, appreciate things you normally don’t. Maybe you’ll even notice the way slugs glint in the light.

    I know next to nothing about totem and spirit animals, but from what I can derive from my biological knowledge, perhaps we can view slugs a providers? They do so much, both for humans and other creatures, and are considered only a step above pond slime. If memory serves, they are used in some types of Chinese medicine (then again, what isn’t?), and “snail/slug” magic is a part of the Japanese folktale “the tale of the gallant Jiraiya.” Wikipedia (how reliable is that, though?) says that inhabitants of rural Italy use a certain slug and its mucus to treat a plethora of ailments.

    So perhaps slugs are healers and providers that are unsung and looked down upon. Yet despite being downtrodden, they continue to survive and thrive, even in obscurity. Despite their strong survival and adaptability ratings, they are easily squashed and killed. In their slowness, they must also be patient, right? They are delicate, yet strong. Kind and giving to the point of their own disadvantage.

    If you’ve managed to get through all that without a hemorrhage, what do you think?

    • Amazed!!! August 15, 2009 at 3:26 am - Reply

      Hello there.

      I am amazed to have stumbled across this web page. To imagine that there were a whole bunch of people talking about slugs in the context of totem meanings.

      I have been wondering about it myself for a long time. And I stumbled across this page whilst researching it. I particularly liked your description of it too. And you have found out as much about it as I have. I smiled too when you referenced the Jiraiya Legend. I am familiar with that. And Naruto 🙂

      I don’t know too much about animal totems or power animals, but i do believe we make relationships with animals for a reason. And I’m positive that the animals we feel connected to represent some significance in the person we are.

      I have always felt something towards The Raven or the Crow, as my last name has always been referenced with the Greek word for Crow. I have read that the Raven represents playfulness, teaching and intelligence. I have always been playfully annoying and a bit of a prankster when young, and I am the only one of my siblings who has held to my education and and learning. So much so that I came to study education at Uni.

      Then recently, the Slug entered into my life. And they came after a great turn in my life. I was at my farm a year later after moving to the city for Uni. And i couldn’t love being back in the country anymore than I did. When I came back to the city, the only bit of earth that i had was a small thin strip of weeds out the back of my flat. I was out there one night just observing and i noticed a slug. I realized I knew nothing about them. So i began researching slugs and snails and I was shocked to see that most of the information there was on the internet about slugs came from pest control sites.

      I began to tend to the slugs in my back courtyard. At this point I had overcome my fear of insects and came to respect spiders and their webs, I decided to study acupuncture and Chinese medicine, I started studying the philosophy of Taoism, I started Tai chi and meditation and I ultimately became conscious of the great concerns of the world and of my being, and also the ignorance of mankind and the trail of destruction we each leave in our places.

      Crows represent my first decade of life. It signifies my family and my heritage. It represents the time I realized I need to learn and how powerful education is.

      Slugs represent my second decade of life. The growing from youth. Prosperity of life. The Balance of Nature. Healing and strength. And lastly, of patience and subtlety. To be a lone, in quiet.

      The Cougar has appeared now. At the beginning of my third decade. It means power, leadership and swiftness. I need to become strong.

      Thanks for reading

      ciao

      Thanks for this opportunity to share Damh

  12. Ben January 21, 2009 at 10:38 am - Reply

    Hi Damh,

    Have you ever read Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach. If not, I recommend it 🙂

  13. Eir March 10, 2009 at 5:36 am - Reply

    While I’ve seen many animals or themes reoccurring in my dreams or waking states there have been three totems which always return to assist me on a frequent basis; spiders, bears, and crows.

    Crows tend to come before a time of great crisis/illness to help me adjust and bears usually appear when the events are occurring; offering holistic strength and speedy recoveries/adaptations.

    Very recently spiders have been in my dreams again and to me they’re a sign that I should take the initiative and create a new and wondrous adventure into my life.

    Spider as inspiration, Crow watching my back, and Bear to protect/heal my wounds. It’s quite an amazing combination.

  14. ranee May 19, 2009 at 1:22 am - Reply

    wolf came to me about five years ago. He was white and the third time he came he was man-like, standing on two legs and had wolf clothing on. He told me he was my spirit animal. Just the other day, slug came to me. slug told me about happiness. he had a much less easy to translate language than that of wolf but i am sure that these two are thus far connected to my journey.

  15. Changing Man May 26, 2009 at 10:15 pm - Reply

    Osiyo Oginali,

    Nice bit of writing there; There’s only a few things I feel compelled to comment on…

    For starters, we Indigenous persons of the Americas don’t have any sort of “copyright” or similar nonsense on Totems and Power Animals. It’s a human thing, brother! Keep in mind, at one point or another, all tribes and nations were just that- tribes, and connection to power animals and totems is a very, very old thing and pretty much universal. To be fair, however, “Civilization” has done wonders for removing the human animal from their integral connection to nature (or attempted to, at any rate), and despite being of the “Five Civilized Tribes”, we’ve still managed to keep those connections intact. “Obviously Native American”? Hardly. It’s everywhere.

    Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice to be “blamed” for good things, but it’s also not fair to get credit for something that’s not exclusively ours. If anything, I’d encourage persons of all nations to dive deep into their own history, and I’m certain you’ll find more than enough Totemism to fulfil your needs without having to trouble yourself with our traditions.

    Secondly… Sh*thawk? Aww man! I know you mean it in a good, humorous, and friendly way, colloquial even, but sheesh! My poor feathered brothers and sisters! (this is a good-natured jab in the ribs, Damh, so take it as such!). Perhaps all the defecation is directly in response to being referred to as “Sh*thawks”… Revenge of the birds… But alas, the rain (and sh*t) falls evenly upon the just and the unjust…

    (For what it’s worth, I’m AniTsisqua- Bird Clan- so I feel for my poor, feathered relatives. And I have to say, I am considerably annoyed with the poor treatment of Pigeons in the city here where I now reside. But I digress…)

    Finally (I could go on much longer, but this is your Blog, not mine), I just wanted to mention that “Power Animals” and “Totems” are not the same, at least not from a Native perspective. I have a whole article to this effect (which I need to get put up on my site) where I address this matter, but we actually differentiate considerably between “Totems”, “Power Animals” and “Helpers” (Although all are/ can be “helpers”, but I lack a better definition for the term). Think of it in stages ranging from Archetypal Powers to individual entities, and you’ll get the general idea.

    Oh yes, I almost forgot- in case you’re wondering who this crazy babbler is, Damh, we met in Vienna, Austria last year at the PF Pubmoot…

    Dohiyi,
    -Changer

  16. s. loam August 31, 2009 at 10:36 pm - Reply

    Slugs! Yay! I was just posting about them in my garden. They have been my totem for as long as I can remember, though it’s only been in the last 10 years or so that I’ve been able to accept that. I have an incredible love/hate relationship with them. Their medicine is so strong! And so very important to the world right now. When I listen, they guide me to some wonderful ways of being!

  17. Lisa August 3, 2010 at 4:56 am - Reply

    Hi there –
    Came across this as I was looking up some healing ideas for an injured slug.
    Just to give a little info, yes, it is one of my totems – in addition to the bear, and the snake.
    I did a little research on them a while ago, and it turns out that their vulnerability is also their strength. Thought you’d all be interested in this link, or at least, those with questions about the slug in particular.
    http://spiritlodge.yuku.com/topic/837
    Blessed be,
    Lisa

  18. Suzanne November 26, 2010 at 9:38 am - Reply

    Hello Damh, slugs no, but mine is a snail, not very helpful when firewalking, but great at dancing. The snail left me for a while, whilst I was pregnant, but on starting the Ovate Grade, there he was waiting for me. six foot snails are fab totem animals xx

    Stags, young stags helped me give birth to my daughter Ceridwyn, young stags, with velvety antlers, the midwife was a tad confused, when I shouted out “velvety antlers” but they were there, telling me when to push etc. Bless them!

  19. AmericanCrow August 31, 2014 at 1:36 pm - Reply

    My spirit animal/totem is the Crow, but I have had very meaningful, magical experiences with other animals including hawks, vultures, seagulls, toads, and recently SLUGS! I came here hoping to find more about the meaning of these slugs. I had a really powerful dream in which my entire body was covered in slugs, and I had to pull them all off (about a week ago). This morning there was a HUGE 6 inch slug on the front window of my house. Now another huge slug has joined the first and they are hanging around my front door.
    The Morrigan is my matron Goddess… a couple of weeks ago she sent a bunch of toads onto my path. I think I figured out the meaning of the toads, but the slugs are even more intriguing. I haven’t completely figured out their meaning yet.

  20. Tiffany April 10, 2015 at 3:06 pm - Reply

    I actually have slug as a totem and was very surprised at how well it fits me. It didn’t make its presence fully known to me until last year when I was diagnosed with PTSD and wouldn’t leave my house and was horrified of everything around me. Since then it’s helped me move on and realize I need to slow my life down, one of the things my doctor had told me helped lead to my break down. I bounce between earth and water energy also and slug helps me balance the two and stay centered.

    • Damh the Bard April 10, 2015 at 3:40 pm - Reply

      The Spiritual gifts of the animal kingdom are amazing. Thanks for the comment.

Leave A Comment