Spirit of Bear

Kermode bear/Spirit bear.Commons:Category:Ursu...

Kermode bear / Spirit bear.

Yes… well… bear…

Regular readers may have noted that a pattern of posts deteriorated after the initial introduction to bear. She should have made a return many posts, and many months, ago outlining the teachings of my time spent with her.

Whilst the first animal totem is considered that from which the trainee has most to learn, the second is often much more profound, deeply personal, and, as has transpired, not at all easy to find words with which to share.

Working with bear, to be honest, was a bit of a rollercoaster. Despite the initial success, sniffing around down at the river, I found bear elusive and difficult to maintain a connection with. One day, I dropped the fetish, resulting in a rather unfortunate “nose job”. That did the trick – from then on, she was much more approachable, though no less troublesome in day-to-day life.

The Zuni, in common with many native groups, used the Great Bear to explain the seasons.

It rises in the spring, waking the earth and bringing things to life. As summer approaches, The Bear runs across the top of the heavens, avoiding hunters; its hot breath flows across the land making the world hot and sweaty. In August, the bear gets caught by the hunter, and shot, falls on its face. The blood of the bear falls to earth, resulting in showers and turns the leaves red and orange. Through the winter, there is no life in the bear and thus the earth is cold and lifeless. In short, the bear gave life to the land and was, therefore, a Mother-symbol, fiercely protective of her cubs.

And that’s where the trouble started. For the entire month I found myself defending “my cubs”, entirely inappropriate for someone in a middle management position. On several  occasions I found myself defending subordinates who didn’t deserve the benefit of the doubt, even employing, at least, one “no-hoper”. Not that it was all hugs… when mamma gets angry, you better run!!!

Bear’s other characteristics include protection, courage, adaptability, leadership, strength and even great love. They are quick, big and powerful, and considered extremely clever; out-fighting cougars and wolves. A Zuni with the word bear in his name was considered to be an excellent provider as well as a powerful warrior.

Many tribes considered that “Great Spirit” often took on the form of a bear which would lead hunters on great chases. Bears were mythical and “magical” creatures that would die in the autumn, only to be reborn in the spring.

Footnote: The Kermode Bear (picture above) is a white bear, in some areas known as spirit bears. These are not polar bears, but result from a recessive gene found in Black Bears. They were gifts of the “Great Spirit” to remind people that they once lived in a land of ice and snow.

About Running Elk

My given native name, Running Elk, was bestowed in 2008 as I took my first steps as a fully fledged Medicine Man of the Zuni tradition. A most unlikely candidate for the role, my journey as a healer began some four years prior. The detour onto the shamanic way was most unexpected, yet has been one of the most rewarding challenges to date.
This entry was posted in Introduction to shamanism, Zuni beliefs and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Spirit of Bear

  1. Another fascinating post! I totally enjoyed reading it. Sounds a bit rough going at times.

    • Running Elk says:

      Hehe… only in hindsight did I realise what was going on 🙂 Funny, rereading now, there is one thing which I probably should have shared, as it opens up to some correspondences with the Western tradition. Feel a Bear II coming on…
      Thanks for stopping by. xx

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