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.
Then 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!