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Spirit Animals & Celtic Spirituality

Date: 03 Feb 2019


When I was eleven years old, I found a baby sparrow hawk that had fallen from its nest. Because it is always best to return infant animals to their mothers, we spent hours unsuccessfully searching for the nest and the parents,. Since we never found the sparrow hawks parents and knew it was far too young to survive on its own on the ground, I brought the hungry hawk home to raise. The white, downy chick grew into a striking bird with beautiful markings of slate blue and deep orange. Eventually, the hawk matured and began its first efforts at flight. It would fly high into the treetops in the evenings, and in the morning, I would wake expectantly at dawn and search for the hawk. After calling for it for some time, I would always find it in the high branches of the trees in the woods behind our home.

I remember the first time it spent a night out on its own, and after searching anxiously for over an hour, I finally found it at the very top of one of the tallest maple trees deep in the woods, its shiny feathers, glistening in the new light. As I called to it from the ground, it leaned its head to the side with one of its large dark eyes staring at me as if I were a strange being. Just a single night out under the brilliant stars had brought out the wildness in it. I called my familiar call and waited with bated breath, not knowing what it might choose to do, since it had awakened to its hawk-ness. After some hesitation, it flew down to the ground about eight feet away from me. As I put out my hand towards the hawk, it momentarily lifted its talons in a show of growing independence. I encouraged these independent forays so it could be returned to the wild once it was an adult.

My relationship with sparrow hawk was an important one that shaped my youth in key ways. The timing of my relationship with the sparrow hawk was important, as it helped me to define and understand the growing independence as one moves from childhood to young adulthood. I now refer to the sparrow hawk as my firstborn “son,” and I understand the spiritual connection that I have with sparrowhawks. While I cared for the hawk, raised it, and trained it to become wild, I believe that I learned more from this intelligent creature than it did from me.

 

Celtic Symbol [IM16]

 

When I began to work with animals and gain a greater understanding of their ways, I grew to understand that the sparrow hawk’s spirit was reflected in abilities that came naturally to me. Animal allies often reflect potential qualities of our being. By developing our spiritual relationship with an animal, we can learn to unleash those qualities. We all have at least one animal ally that can assist us. As in the case with the sparrow hawk, we may encounter animals in the physical form first, prior to understanding our relationship with their spirit. This is why recalling your real-life experiences with animals can be a first step toward discovering your spirit animal and why childhood experiences, in particular—when we are still so open to the world around us—can point to important animal allies.

Spirit animals can also come to help people through a guardian, family, clan, or community. For example, I was very fortunate to benefit from the spirit of the turkey at a young age through one of my godmothers, Marjorie. Two magnificent bronzes, life-sized turkeys stood on pillars at the entranceway of Marjorie’s beautiful estate. These striking statues would later be seen as the obvious signs of her alignment with the turkey later in life, when I became more aware of the power of animals and their spirits. Marjorie never had children of her own, yet she inspired many people with her generous nature and joie de vivre. Marjorie exhibited one of the deepest spirits of the generosity of anyone that I have ever encountered. She gave one of her homes to a family that was struggling to make ends meet, helped others who were struggling financially, and sent several young people to college who could not afford to go. Beyond her financial support, she also offered sympathy and moral support. Today, I always give support to charities and people that I care about as one small way to let the spirit of the turkey flow through me.

This explains why many indigenous people, like Native Americans, often have spirit animals, called totem animals that protect the entire community. In the case of the Crow people, each individual member benefits from an association with crows, and each individual of the tribe can also have their own totem animal(s) that may be different than a crow. Today, a group may link itself to a specific animal as a clan, or a team mascot, or even a national or state emblem. Our MacGregor clan crest has three animals, a crowned lion, a stag and a unicorn, surrounding a tree and sword to represent our “family” name.

For the Celtic peoples, who also believed in power animals and pilgrimages into nature, dreams, shamanic journeys, animal experiences, and even a personal quest into the wilderness all helped to bring one closer to understanding themselves and the universe around them. No matter what method was or is used, the discovery of a personal animal spirit guide is always a voyage of self-discovery and unfolding.

 

I help people discover and benefit from their personal spirit animal through shamanic journeys, dream recall, remembrance and intuitive means. I am pleased to help you discover your spirit animal.

 

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