Eater of Souls,
of the World’s
Changeless, yet ever moving,
Singing of Ancient Wisdom,
and the endless
Circle of Life and Death…
“Beware my sharply inquisitive bite,
for a single drop of your distress
might draw a ravenous horde
to feast upon your children
they’re never so sweet
as Selkie meat!
The nose never lies,
though our senses
may deceive us.
Yet we were never born
just to doubt
our given purpose.
Season your sacred hunger
with the spice of keen senses well honed;
the Patience and Awareness
of a true hunter wisely throned…
and we will guard you,
body mind and soul,
through every journey you take,
all you create
Mind well the words
you unleash upon the World,
lest you leave torn souls
bleeding in your wake.
We reveal wisdom
hidden within your darkest corners
by hardened indecision and rigid fear.
Know the light and dark of Self
that you may best progress,
and spiritually steer,
rather than merely
Thus is forgiveness realized,
and innocence revived!
Listen to the voices of the Ancestors,
Singing down through the years…
their gathered wisdom
waiting only for a listening ear.
Heed too the guiding voice Within!
Read clearly the flow of Life around you
and navigate the World;
knowing best when to speak,
when to move in silence,
and when to unleash your righteous wrath.
None may sway the diligent
from their chosen path!"
Frankie: “Da-dum… Da-dum… da-dum, da-dum, da-dum!”
Lenny: That song gives me the creeps!"
Frankie: “What do you mean? It’s our theme song!” ~ Shark Tale (2004)
“I am a nice shark, not a mindless eating machine. If I am to change this image, I must first change myself. Fish are friends, not food.” Bruce from Finding Nemo (2003)
Family Lamnidae, Genus Carcharodon, Species Carcharias is one of five species of mackerel shark and is probably best known as the Great White Shark. This is the largest predatory fish in our world’s Oceans. Torpedo shaped with a conical face, this powerful predator is one of the few sharks capable of leaping out of the water to take it’s prey. It has recently been noted that they also engage in behavior known as “spy hopping”, in which a Great White will lift its head out of the water to view surface objects, like seals on rocks or curious people on a boat. It is assumed that the Great White is hopeful that its predatory face appearing suddenly like this might panic a seal into jumping into the water where it would quickly become lunch, or that the shark is attempting to use it’s keen sense of smell above water where scents travel better.
Powerful and efficient, sharks in general are tremendously intimidating to people. People were simply not designed to live and move through the Oceans, and tend to feel powerless and vulnerable before the might of these amazing finned Teachers. The notorious film Jaws capitalized so well on this fear that the Great White is still viewed commonly as a dangerous man-eater generations later. The truth is that Great White’s have mistaken people for their preferred food, pinnipeds like walrus and seal. Having taken that initial bite however, they will not typically pursue a swimmer once the taste has registered though, as humans are not tasty or easily digested! Our bone and muscle mass is simply too much for their digestive system.
According to statistics, more people die from being struck by lightning or stung by wasps than from an attack by a Great White Shark in any given year. This impressive Creature Teacher is a marvelous Shadow totem though, and can teach us a great deal about fear, especially those fears we hide from ourselves. It is only in recent years that any true scientific study has been devoted to these amazing creatures, and a great deal still remains shrouded in mystery. Until about the mid 1800’s, the majority of the scientific “facts” about Great Whites came from sailors’ lore. As their bones are made of less durable cartilage, there are no real fossil records to track the evolutionary progress of the Great White, and it was all too common to find a shark’s jawbones being displayed upside down. Metaphorically, their cartilaginous frame suggests a need for lifelong flexibility.
Typically between 10 and 12 feet long, Great Whites are capable of growing over 20 feet, but we are still unsure how long it takes them to grow to such a size or even if they have a maximum size. Reports of Great Whites significantly larger than 20 feet are typically viewed with skepticism, nor are we sure of their growth rate or longevity, although it is currently believed that this shark has a lifespan of about 40 years. Great Whites reach maturity around nine years old and have live litters of around 7-9 young, although the exact details of mating and gestation remain a mystery at this time. Great Whites cannot be kept in captivity for more than a handful of hours, and their fearsome reputation certainly doesn’t draw hordes of researchers into the deep waters after them!
“Oh the shark has pretty teeth, dear, and he shows them pearly white. Just a jack-knife has Macheath, and he keeps it out of sight.” Bertolt Brecht
In ancient days, the shark was linked with the Lamia which is still reflected in the Latin Family name, Lamnidae. Greek and Roman tales of the Lamia vary. In some tales Lamia was the daughter of a Greek king, who became queen of Libya and a child-eating demon. In others, she was one of Zeus’ lovers who was transformed by the jealous Hera, or perhaps the daughter of Poesidon, often associated with Keto. The Lamia was also the mother of a fearsome brood which includes; Skylla, Kharybdis, Akheilos the Lipless One (who is transformed into a shark by Aphrodite), and the Gorgons. In 1566 the naturalist Guillaume Rondelet notes the tremendous appetite of the “Lamia”, and suggested that this creature, rather than the Whale, may have been responsible for the swallowing the infamous biblical prophet, Jonah. With such an association from so long ago, is it any wonder that the Great White continues to fascinate and terrify generations of people?
They have about 3000 serrated teeth, with rows behind the permanent set to replace teeth as needed. These rows of teeth are unattached to the jaws, and retractable, like cats’ claws, thus only visible when in use. They rotate on their own axis (outward when the jaw is opened, inward when closed), and are directly connected to pressure and tensor-sensing nerve cells. Which gives this Teacher not only highly efficient teeth for rending and eating, but teeth with exceptional tactile sensitivity!
Metaphorically, teeth are considered to be representative of power, the available energy or health of our physical or spiritual character, communication, and our ability to break things down into smaller more easily digestible pieces. If you are experiencing difficulty “getting your teeth” into something important in your life, or are feeling overwhelmed in the face of a task before you, the Great White is a marvelous Teacher to turn to, especially where fear and distress are involved.
The Great White Shark does not possess a swim bladder, and must maintain some movement, although it can keep itself warm in colder waters as it is partially warm-blooded as it has a rete mirabile; a thickly clustered web of complex veins and arteries located along the shark’s lateral sides. People called by this Teacher tend towards the workaholic as they need to feel as if they are always moving forward in their chosen endeavors. While a great deal about this Teacher remains a mystery, it is believed that overall sharks have changed very little since their first appearance, and being highly resistant to change or ones own progress are indicators of potentially unbalanced Shark energy.
There is a great need for people called by this Teacher to be aware and conscientious of what they say and how they express themselves verbally, as it is all too easy for a Shark person to cause serious damage to other people with their biting wit and razor sharp retorts. Shark people excel in challenging fields where they can use their uncanny senses or ruthless efficiency to their best advantage.
In addition to its highly specialized teeth, the Great White is gifted with Ampullae of Lorenzini which allows it to sense over great distances the electromagnetic field emitted by the movement of any living animal. It’s relatively weak eyesight, which is still greater than ours, is not the predatorial asset that it’s Electrosense and Mechanosense is, or it’s sense of smell. Great Whites can smell one drop of blood in 25 gallons (100 liters) of water! Their noses are used only for the purposes of scent too, as they breathe through gills.
Coupled with it’s strength, size and excellent natural camouflage, the Great White is truly an awesome force within the Sea. It’s no mystery how they acquired the nickname White Death! Typically viewed as solitary creatures, they can be found in pairs, and recent observation is beginning to show evidence of various social behaviors; like interaction and communication through body language, and establishing a dominance hierarchy.
“The defeats and victories of the fellows at the top aren’t always defeats and victories for the fellows at the bottom” Bertolt Brecht
Great Whites are apex predators that command a great deal of respect. Yet, they are not indiscriminate eating machines. People called by this Teacher are challenged to succeed without causing unnecessary damage to others. Masters of survival, they are extremely adept at reading situations and people correctly, and picking up on subtle signs that others miss. It is important for such people to recognize and develop their intuitive abilities with focus and awareness. As such, this Teacher can be linked to the root chakra which governs ancient instinct and primal knowledge.
The Great White is a wonderfully balanced Yingyang of Creation and Destruction. It teaches us how to sense opportunities before others and seize the moment. It teaches us how to rise above our own emotional dischord, and meet Life head on. Great Whites are masters of Transition, thus extending their guidance and potent protection beyond this World and into others; including Dreamtime.
They teach that Death is just another transition, not a thing to be feared or avoided. The Great White views Death as a gift equal to Life, and as such is a marvelous aide to those grappling with a fear of Death or grieving over the loss of a loved one. This Teacher helps us to break it all down into smaller pieces that we can digest and learn from more readily; removing the stigmas of fear and sorrow. In the eye of this wise Teacher there is no shame in making a brave transition from Life to Death, anymore than there is shame in a life well lived.
Often viewed by us as cold and devoid of emotion, rather the Great White is a master of emotion. She teaches us the importance of being highly aware of our own and others emotions without being consumed by them. The greatest example I have ever seen of this Teacher’s phenomenal depth is Ed, the Master Shark from Diane Duane’s Deep Wizardry, and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in either Shark or Whale. Ed is the most masterful illustration of Shark wisdom that I have seen anywhere.
We can also see the struggle between ability and reason displayed in the children’s film Finding Nemo with
Bruce and his buddies’ self-help group. Watching them try to save both Bruce and their new fish buddies during an “intervention” brought on by accidental blood in the water is hilarious. These fellas are obviously rather skilled at digging into their own psyches and conquering their demons… and more than willing to offer their expertise to others whether that was their goal or not! A wonderfully humorous illustration that such study and self improvement is important to this Teacher. None of us are perfect, but we will never get over our particular issues if all we do is avoid or deny them.
Bruce: “All right, anyone else? Hello, how ‘bout you, mate? What’s your problem?”
Marlin: “Me? I don’t… I don’t have a problem.”
Bruce: “Ooooh, Ok…”
Bruce, Chum & Anchor: “Denial.”
“I think that I am familiar with the fact that you are going to ignore this particular problem until it swims up and bites you on the ass!” Hooper from the film Jaws
Forgiveness of self or others is often an issue for people called by Shark, which makes it vital for such people to allow themselves a time and place for proper expression. Solitude, silence and time for ones self are as necessary to such people’s renewal as a means to express their darkest fears and disappointments with either self or others. Remember Shark people, your ability to rend with words is just as easily turned upon yourself as others! So don’t beat yourself up or bottle things away unsaid inside you. One of the common Shadow lessons of this Teacher is learning to properly express ones anger, hurt, disappointment or fear without placing blame.
Clearing negativity, stress, panic, and torment from our lives is obviously important. Working to create such emotions and feeding off of them is a sign of unbalanced Shark energy, just as surely as avoiding the underlying issues that might cause such emotions in our lives. Dealing with such stresses in a quick, efficient, focused and healthy manner is sign of well balanced Shark energy. Whatever it’s particular message for you, if the Great White has swum into your field of notice you are most likely being asked to employ all your powers of observation and understanding.
Great White teaches us that all of Life is movement and transition, and guides us in how best to nourish ourselves and find renewal during the constant stresses we encounter as we move from Wheel to Wheel in our Lifepath. For, there is no magical “someday” coming in which we will have all the time and tools we might think necessary to relax, enjoy life and renew our resolve or energy. Masters of watery camouflage, the Great White can show us how to cloak our great inner power and move unnoticed as we observe and learn the lay of a situation.
Both a Master Maker and Unmaker, the Shark has perhaps developed its strongest spiritual ties through ancient Hawaiian traditions. There these dreaded predators are linked with powerful but benevolent spirit guides, re-embodied Ancestors known as ’aumakua, who are there to protect the family. The distinction being between the physical and the spiritual; a shark is an apex predatory uniquely designed for its environment while an ’aumakua is a deific embodiment of an Ancestral spirit there to protect and guide. Tales from this culture supply an image of this Teacher that sings wisdom through dreams, delivers warning omens, and saving lives.
“An ‘aumakua was actually a dead ancestor’s spirit that was deified into an entity. Could be clouds or trees or animals.” But the best known of the ‘aumakua seems to be the shark. Why? "We’re ocean people," said Maxwell. “In ancient times, you either lived in the mountains or the ocean. The owl, the eel and the whale were also famous ’aumakua.” Kahu Charles Kauluwehi Maxwell Sr.
Great White teaches the difference between assertion and aggression, how to establish and maintain proper social boundaries, how to effectively communicate our moods and needs to others, how and when to properly display our inner strength, when to resist change in order to keep a vital part of self as well as when to embrace change and evolve with our needs, how and when to fight for what we want and be relentless in the pursuit of our goals; embracing our predatorial subconscious. For those drawn to this Teacher, I highly recommend the fictional work Deep Wizardry by Diane Duane. The Great White draws order out of chaos, and finds renewal even in the greatest transitions, like death. How does this amazing and mysterious Teacher appear in your life?
“I am the shark among fishes, and the Ganges among the rivers.” Bhagavad Gita
Keywords: Ancient, powerful, perceptive, instinctive, forward progression, efficient, primal energy, mystery, shadow self/work, emotional sensitivity/wisdom, survival, forgiveness, reclaiming innocence, sacrifice, Ancestoral power/wisdom, fertility, death, transitions
Associated Deities/Popular figures: Lamia, Keto, Kauhuhu, Akheilos, Mamala, Ouha, Ka’ahupahu, Kahi’uka, Dakuwanga. popular references in Jaws (1975), Bruce, Anchor and Chum from Finding Nemo (2003), Lenny, Frankie and Don Lino from Shark Tale (2004)
Potential balancing energies: seal, walrus, other sharks, manta rays, fish, whales, orcas, sea otters, sea turtles, water, air, dolphins, lampreys… other grief healing or transitional Teachers like Pine tree or Butterfly.
Each of my Who Sings Now? poems is inspired by a Teacher found in Nature. Can you guess who is singing?