Wisewomen of the forest,
and wild Sages of the fields,
In voices loud and clear
their wisdom is revealed.
Begin each day with gratitude
for blessings given or yet to come,
and gradually your heart and ear
will attune to the Earth’s sacred drum.
Give generously of all that you have
all that you are, or yet may be,
and you will find the fruits of wisdom
become your gift from the Axis Mundi.
when all is said and done,
we are already One.
or plainly seen
bind us together,
though in this life
we may never convene.
Saints and Shamans
have clung to my tail,
knowing all Life is sacred,
despite our woes, conflicts or travail.
It is only shadows we must conquer,
only ourselves over which me must prevail!
Our dusty robes, like daily habit,
in shades of ochre, copper and black
are but a gentle reminder
that staying grounded and humble
will keep you on the right track.
Gather in fellowship,
and feast on joyous Wisdom!
Fertility and abundance
follow in our wake,
as we dance gently
around the Wheel,
and the Winds’ holy rattles shake."
“Those who dwell among the beauties and mysteries of the Earth are never alone or weary of life.” Rachael Carson
“We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude.” Cynthia Ozick
The wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) is native to North America. It was nearly driven to extinction until a breeding and reintroduction program began in the 1930’s. There are five subspecies of wild turkey; Eastern, Osceola, Rio Grande, Merriam’s and Gould’s. Easterns are the ones I am most familiar with, distinguished by it’s chestnut brown tail-tips rather than the white tips of other breeds, and they are the main inspiration for this piece.
Thinner than domesticated species, adult Easterns males average between 2 1/2 – 3 feet tall, 11-24 pounds, with a wingspan of about 49-57 inches. Females are typically half that size, although they can certainly grow larger than the average. The largest game bird in North America, they spend a majority of their time on the ground, although they most often roost in trees at night to safeguard against predators. They can reach running speeds of up to 25 miles per hour, and flying speeds of an estimated 35-45 miles per hour!
“God gave you a gift of 86,400 seconds today. Have you used one to say “thank you?” ~William A. Ward
Turkeys are polygamous with males vying with each other to gather the largest harem of breedable females. Around April, hens beginning going off by themselves to establish a viable nesting area. Indifferent nest-builders, they usually make do with convenient natural depressions, sheltering undergrowth, or scrape out a rough hollow amidst the litter of the forest floor. A typical clutch averages between 10 and 15 eggs laid over a period of 12-18 days.
Hatching occurs around late May through early June, and young are capable of moving competently with their parent shortly after hatching.
Although poults (young) are vulnerable to a wide variety of predators, cold wet weather is often the cause of death for these youngsters. The first three weeks is their most crucial as they are not yet large enough to learn how to fly up to roost in trees. Several hens and their young will usually winter together to go their separate ways with the return of spring and breeding season. Males have no part in the rearing of the young, but are certainly social creatures who typically remain in co-operative bachelor flocks.
“Good instincts usually tell you what to do long before your head has figured it out.” Michael Burke
Males, known as Gobblers or Toms, are larger than females (hens) with more iridescence of red, copper, bronze, green, purple and gold than their earthier females. Their natural camouflage is quite effective, and both genders can be difficult to spot in their environment unless they are moving or out int he open. While both genders sport featherless heads, the males are again more colorful, especially during mating season. At that time, their heads, wattles and the fleshy flap over the bill (known as a snood or dewbill) become engorged giving them a colorful red, white and blue appearance.
Males also sport “beards”, a cluster of coarse modified feathers at the center of their breasts. As parasites can generally dull the coloration of either gender, good coloration often indicates good health. Toms with their boastful strutting displays are often symbols of male virility, and masculine pride. Hens with their earthy coloring, and primary responsibility for the well-being and training of the next generation are often symbols of Grandmother Earth, her abundance, and feminine energy/wisdom. Turkeys are associated with the Brow Chakra, or third eye, which is the seat of our feminine energy and higher vision.
“Everything you need you already have. You are complete right now, you a whole, total person, not an apprentice person on the way to someplace else. Your completeness must be understood by you and experienced in your thoughts as your own personal reality.” Wayne Dyer
These birds have three-toed feet with spurs at the lower back of each leg, although only the males’ spurs typically grow beyond the button stage. Their razor sharp spurs help them to defend themselves against predators or fight for dominance during mating season. Rarely, females may also develop beards, and/or full spurs. While the purpose of the spurs is obvious, science has yet to understand the exact purpose, beyond mate attraction, of these beards.
Full grown adults are also covered with about 5000-6000 feathers! Their feathers serve to keep them warm, dry, and able to fly up to their nightly roosts, as well as being an attractive display to potential mates. Symbolically, feathers represent transcendence or ascension to a higher plane of spiritual evolution, and connection to the element of Air. Often used to invoke spirits of the Air, Thunder and Sky beings, or Deities who preside over some aspect of the air.
In ancient Ireland, Druids wore ornate feathered robes to connect to this element or the Deities who ruled over Air, Sky or Thunder. In ancient Egypt, Ma’at, Goddess of Justice, Truth and Balance, weighed the souls of the newly dead against the weight of an ostrich feather (her symbol, and centerpiece of her crown) to judge their suitability. In Christianity, feathers most often represent Virtues (temperance, justice, wisdom, courage, charity, kindness, humility, etc), and the image of three feathers to represent the favored virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity was quite popular for use on signet rings or seals.
The distinctive “strut” of the Turkey during mating season inspired a dance, the Turkey Trot, which was replaced by the more popular Fox Trot not long after in 1914. Their mating display and dance was also the inspiration for several Native American dances, and the feathers of this bird are prized for the making of ceremonial smudging, dance, or prayer fans, as well as decoration for other ceremonial items like Talking Sticks. Many Native American traditions honor this bird, which is reflected in the names given to it; Peace Eagle, Ground Eagle, or my personal favorite – the Give-Away Eagle.
“Whatever we are waiting for – peace of mind, contentment, grace, the inner awareness of simple abundance – it will surely come to us, but only when we are ready to receive it with an open and grateful heart.” Sarah Ban Breathnach
As a creature that regularly gives up it’s life to feed other Relations, the Turkey symbolizes the importance of Sacrifice in our lives. This clever Teacher lives each day of it’s life in Harmony with the world around it, never taking too many resources at one time from any given place in their territory, and they often work cooperatively to survive and thrive. Many times, I’ve seen a male or female flock designate a watchful sentry while another is chosen to fly up into an apple tree to peck free the ripe fruits for those waiting below.
Young poults need a large amount of protein at this stage and their diet is primarily made up of insects. Grains, fruits, nuts, seeds, berries, corn, grasses, and even small amphibians can all be found in a typical Turkey diet. They benefit best from a home area that provides them with wooded shelter for the night and open fields to forage in during the day. They begin their daily routes at dawn with a rest around mid-day and more foraging during the afternoon. This canny Teacher can reach and maintain a large healthy flock in a relatively small area thanks to it’s fine foraging abilities. Thus, it makes perfect sense that this Teacher has such a strong association with the lessons at the heart of the Native Tradition, the Give-Away Ceremony. Still practiced today, this ceremony is meant to bring a community closer.
The Give-Away fosters feelings and habits of respect, co-operation, community support, and fellowship; all lessons of the Turkey. Useful items, items of great personal value or beautifully crafted items are given away, usually on the last day of a ceremony or Pow-wow, to show appreciation for those who have traveled so far to participate, appreciation of local Elders and community members who have gathered for the ceremony, to return the honor given by the tribe to the individual/s hosting the Give-away, or even in respectful memory of a loved one.
“If you have much, give of your wealth; If you have little, give of your heart.” Arabian Proverb
Infamous as the main feature at the dinner table between Native Americans and Pilgrims, this Teacher remains popular today as a symbol of Thankfulness, brotherhood, earthly abundance, shared blessings, and positive community spirit. As a Creature Teacher with many predators, the elusive and canny Turkey helps us to understand and utilize our environment while living in Harmony, to be courageous in the face of what we may fear most, how and when to take pride in our selves, to know our Truths with unshakable faith and not be afraid to give them clear voice at the appropriate time. Turkeys rely heavily upon Oak trees, and the acorn yield of any given season can directly affect the well-being of the flocks; clearly an important Balancing Energy that should be examined by those drawn to Turkey. The “Wind’s holy rattles” in this poem alludes to the Turkey beneath Oak’s leaves rattling leaves.
Turkey people are often presented with many challenges in Life, but most often they recognize each one as an opportunity to learn, grow, and be grateful for the opportunity! A well-balanced Turkey person also understands that a great deal of Responsibility and Duty come with living a life that respects all Life as sacred, that views and treats all of Creation as a relative to one’s self. An inability to see any of Life’s challenges in a positive light, to accept All Our Relations as sacred and worthy in their own right, feeling emotionally overwhelmed in the face of life challenges, an inability to change one’s mind or adapt to new situations even when we recognize the need for change may indicate unbalanced Turkey energy.
Turkey makes an excellent Shadow Totem for guiding us through these issues. Their earthy coloring and close association with the Earth reminds of the importance of staying grounded, properly humble, connected to and respectful of the natural world. Turkey understands that to truly understand or be at peace with Self, we must take the time to understand and live at peace with our world. How does the virtuous Peace Eagle soar in your life?
“For me, the essence of a medicine man’s life is to be humble, to have great patience, to be close to the Earth, to live as simply as possible, and to never stop learning.” Archie Fire Lame Deer
“You may call for peace as loudly as you wish, but where there is no brotherhood there can in the end be no peace.” Max Lerner
Key Concepts: Gratitude, Sacrifice, Natural Cycles, Virility/Fertility, Abundance, Renewal, Generosity, Awareness, All Life is Sacred (All Our Relations)
Associated with: Thanksgiving, Shared Blessings, Harvest, Abundance, Give-Away Ceremony, Pride, Autumn, Family, Humility
Potential Balancing Energies: Fox, Wolf, Dog, Coyote, Bobcat, Frog/Toad, Lizard, Salamander, Snail, plants like Grasses, Grains, Poison ivy, Wild Grape, Hazelnut, Dandelion, Blueberry, or Chokecherry, Trees like Oak, Pine, Dogwood, Hawthorn, Apple, Cedar, Sage, or Aspen. Raccoon, Skunk, Opossum, other Birds like Ruffed Grouse, Quail, Crow, Owl, Eagle, or Hawk, Snake, Squirrel, Insects like Spider, Ant, Grasshopper, Cricket, Millipede, or Earthworm.
It’s been awhile since I wrote about any new Creature Teachers. Each poem is inspired by a Teacher found in Nature… an animal, plant, tree, star, stone, etc. It’s a game that has no wrong answers, so Please don’t be afraid to guess many times! Each answer shows me new connections and brings new insight, new inspiration. If no one guesses in the first 24 hours, I will post additional clues. If no one guesses on that day, I will reveal the Teacher on the following day. Can anyone guess who is singing here?