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Animal Symbiosis as a Model for Approaching Difficult Astrological Aspects

June 2010

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Following the Wolf as Wolves Follow Ravens

In this series of posts so far, I have been exploring the use of astrological symbolism as a point of departure for a much deeper journey into the unconscious realms. In the previous post, I discussed how animal totems can be potent guides to this journey, using my own association of Mars with the wolf as illustration of this possibility. The wolf, who came to me in a dream during a transit of Mars to my natal Mercury-Mars square, has become a guide to understanding and becoming more conscious in relation to this difficult aspect in my chart. In this post, I want to continue this story more deeply into the lair of the wolf to see what else it has to teach us.

To continue the story from my book, The Seven Gates of Soul (pp 366-369):

"As I was moving back through the memories of my cyclical history, I was drawn to make note of a book I happened to be reading at the time of the accident in August, 2001. The book was entitled The Mind of the Raven. Why I felt compelled to note this particular book, I don’t know. I just trusted the fact that I did, and then moved on with the cyclical history. Often this is the way we begin to flesh out aspects of the resonant pattern that are inaccessible to our conscious mind. If something intuitively seems important, it probably is, at least within the subjective context of soul space. In any case, it turns out that I had bought the book on a trip to Arizona, when Mars was opposed my Mercury, one half cycle before I actually started reading it. Now my sense of resonance is aroused, since buying and reading the book are part of the same astrological cycle. In light of this information, I feel fairly certain I have stumbled onto an important clue that will take me more deeply into the area of soul space associated with this pattern.

It was also interesting to me to note how I bought this book, for it was an unusual process. Normally, when I buy a book, I either know what I am looking for, or I find something while browsing in an area of general interest, but this book caught my attention somehow out of the corner of my eye, as I was about to leave the store. I could not see the title, nor even the cover when I was pulled to walk over to it, but once I picked it up, I knew I had to read it. So I bought it – one of the few impulse buys I have ever made. Though it would not have occurred to me at the time, I can see now how this kind of peripheral vision is, in its own way, an antidote to the vulnerability I experience when I am broadsided, albeit in a very different way than through the assertive focus of the wolf.

As I discovered when I read this book, which is subtitled Investigations and Adventures with Wolf-Birds, wolves and ravens have a long-standing symbiotic association. Ravens follow wolves, because at the end of the trail, they know they will likely find a fresh kill, of which they may be lucky enough to partake. But wolves also follow ravens, because ravens can see what wolves cannot - namely potential prey too far away to be seen on the ground. The ravens find food, and the wolves secure the food for themselves and the ravens, while keeping competitors away. Without the wolves, the ravens would often be last in the pecking order of those in line to eat, but without the ravens, the wolves would be less successful in finding food. It is a symbiotic arrangement between two radically different species, in which strengths and weaknesses complement and counterbalance each other.

Similarly, the astrological square between Mars and Mercury in my chart is also an arrangement between two radically different species, where the challenge is to find ways to counterbalance weaknesses and synergistically complement strengths in order to more effectively deal with whatever opportunities for learning and growth – such as the tendency to be broadsided – the square might attract in soul space. Could it be that this symbiotic relationship between wolves and ravens might somehow serve as a symbolic model for handling this challenge? Could it be that bringing peripheral vision together with an assertion of masculine energies associated with Mars would provide a more effective antidote to being broadsided than either resource could alone? This, at least, is what the symbolism suggests – something I did not consciously recognize, by the way, before I began this foray into the unconscious dimensions of soul space.

Ravens and Mercury

As it turns out, the raven has many attributes that are traditionally associated with Mercury – it is highly intelligent, curious, resourceful, socially gregarious, mischievous, and playful. Ravens are also mythologically associated with the archetype of the trickster, which is a cosmic function associated with Mercury. Does this mean that Mercury and the raven are somehow generically equivalent? No, not necessarily. Intellectually it is tempting to make this connection, although others far more deeply versed in these matters have cautioned against it (Karl Kerényi, “The Trickster in Relation to Greek Mythology,” The Trickster: A Study in American Indian Mythology, pp. 188-191). More important than a recognition of any intellectual rationale for this symbolic equivalency, however, is the fact that within the context of my own experience, these two symbols seem to converge. In fact, during the years that I was identified with the medicine name of Redwolf, I remember being “followed around” and taught valuable lessons by ravens.

Once while handing a raven feather to a woman whom I wanted to acknowledge for her contribution to a workshop I taught, a raven swooped down to buzz us, something I had never seen a raven do. Years later, when I was contemplating doing something foolish that would have taken me on a detour far removed from the path I had chosen through life, I walked out to my car to find the biggest raven I had ever seen, perched on the hood, cawing loudly with a sound that I could have sworn was laughter. During the first Gulf War, when I was camping in a remote spot in New Mexico, I had an important encounter with ravens, in the midst of one of those broadsided experiences of vulnerability related to this pattern I am exploring.

About that experience, I previously wrote (“Raven’s Joy,” Full Moon Meditations, p. 171):

'I was standing in a field of green... the sky was ultra-blue, and the serenity was tangible. Into the midst of this idyllic scene ripped two stealth bombers, burning through the entire expanse of sky in seconds. One of them flew directly overhead, its sleek robotic underbelly displayed in frightening detail. I went numb. A Pavlovian ripple of fear coursed up my spinal column. It was instinctual. I thought immediately of the war now going on in the Persian Gulf, and felt my fear smolder at its core with anger.'

This will no doubt by now be familiar to the reader as yet another expression of the pattern we are exploring – complete with emotional transition from well-being to sudden vulnerability to anger. What happened next was the symbolic antidote to this habitual response offered by the ravens (“Raven’s Joy,” Full Moon Meditations, p. 172).

'In exactly the same formation the jets before them had taken, two ravens flew above me - one directly overhead, the other to its left at a distance. This in itself would not have caught my attention, as ravens fly overhead all the time in this place. But these ravens were not just flying. They were riding the thermals, wings outstretched, effortlessly. Most remarkable of all, as they caught an air current, these ravens would abandon themselves to it, roll onto their backs, and coo. I had never seen or heard anything like it.'

The last post in this series is Into the Realm of the Gods Where Astrology is Rooted.

To read more blog posts, go here.