Working With The Animal Totems
Recently I went on a five-day expedition to the northernmost part of Maine for a Unity College freshman initiation to meet the Aroostook Band of Micmacs. Over the course of these five days that I camped on the grounds, I visited the tribe's museum, decorated a sacred ground, canoed with the Micmac youth, talked to and weaved baskets with elders, attended a tribal council, and danced and sung with native drummers. However, my last day was most influential to me. I was able to participate in a sweat lodge ceremony with a Micmac representative, Norm, and his younger relative, Nate, as well as others from my college. I had never done anything like this before, but I was plenty excited and inquisitive. I hoped to pray to my totem, the Black Wolf.
I had spoken to an elder, Mary Sarah, about the Black Wolf that appears in my dreams and sleeps next to my right and how I may interpret it. She was impressed by my keenness with totems in my past and by me having such a powerful totem as the wolf by my side. She told me that I should see this Wolf as a comforting companion that brings peace and harmony to my life, and will appear when I need it most to keep me calm or, the contrary, when it needs to let me know that I am in a safe and peaceful place and need to upkeep that tranquility in mind and spirit. And though paths may become less clear in the future in a material world, I should always attain to my wild spirit and know that the Black Wolf comes to me to slumber beside me and assure that I am safe and sound. I felt very secure hearing this wisdom, and wanted to pursue communication with this totem past the dream world.
The sweat lodge was a very different experience. I sat on the left of Nate, one of the tribe members about my age, who kept me comfortable with humor and assurance that the ceremony is powerfully uplifting and cleansing. The Grandfathers were taken off the fire outside and placed in the center of the lodge, the heat of the rocks quickly making their strong heat known, and the ceremony commenced, the door closing for darkness but the red glowing of the Grandfather rocks. As Norm sang and prayed in the four directions and poured water on the rocks to send steam pouring on us and sweat pouring down our faces, Nate sang along and prayed as well. At a point in the ceremony, praying to the North (for ourselves), Nate's singing on my right side brought a presence of Black Wolf to me, and I could feel him in his singing and his own heat. It was the first time that I felt his presence in the Waking World, outside my dreams, brought to life in this new friend. It made the intense heat relaxing, and as some people had to leave the lodge for discomfort or difficulty breathing or overwhelming intensity, I felt no difficulty in sitting there praying and taking in the cleansing, because I felt my Wolf there next to me, telling me that it was amazing I was there and trying to become closer to him. It was haunting for the rest of the day, and about a half hour after the ceremony, I felt like I had just taken a shower after four days in the woods.
That night I slept in a wigwam, a tee-pee, that we had all built together that morning. As thunderstorms rolled over the crackling self-tending fire, the Wolf kept me asleep for the whole night, while I could hardly sleep other nights in my tent.