Most of my totems that I’ve written about here and back at Therioshamanism are ones I’d consider rather uncommon. I talk about the totems of plants, lichens and fungi because I want to reinforce the idea that they’re out there and are every bit as important as their animal compatriots, and even the animals I’ve written about, like Dusky Arion, aren’t the big, popular totems. This time around, though, I want to talk about one of the more ubiquitous totems that I’ve been working with for a decade now: Red Fox.
As I mentioned in a previous post, 2004 was kind of a rough year for me, but it also produced a great deal of growth. During this period of chaos, I was going through a lot of internal changes and realizations, and it wasn’t a pleasant experience. Some of my worst traits came out under the stress; as is common with primary totems, I identified quite deeply with Gray Wolf, and all too often under stress my fangs were showing. I’ve talked about secondary totems as those that enter into our lives to help us through a particular period of time or teach us something specific. And that’s where Red Fox came in.
In some ways, Red Fox is much like a gentler Gray Wolf–still a predator, still possessing sharp teeth and keen senses, but not quite as aggressive a totem. My relationship with Red Fox started with her helping me calm down some, finding a bit of focus in these hard times. I did a great deal to invite her into my life more, even dyeing my hair red with henna for a number of years, and that helped to break me out of my usual headspace and introduce me to new ways of viewing the world. It didn’t fix everything, but it helped.
See, I had a very lupine-centric narrative of myself (not at all surprising). There were certain expectations of myself that I had, behavior patterns that I’d always exhibited that weren’t especially healthy, but that I just assumed were permanently a part of me. And Gray Wolf didn’t really have answers for me as to how to fix them. Other totems I worked with didn’t really have a deep enough connection with me to be doing that sort of intensive internal work–except Red Fox. She helped me to learn that I could change, that i wasn’t destined to stay the same person forever, and at a time in my mid-twenties where I really felt I was far behind other people my age as far as life developments went, it was incredibly good for me to be shown that I wasn’t a complete failure.
And the work we started together a decade ago never really ended, either. Red Fox has ridden every shakeup with me, every time I’ve blown my life up and put a new life together from the pieces. She encouraged me to write my first book, and she rode with me across the country to the Northwest. She sat with me through divorce, through grad school, through living alone and moving in with my current partner, through working for others and working for myself. She was one of the totems to encourage me to look beyond the animals and explore the world of plant and fungus totems, and even further into the totemic ecosystem than that. She was there for every crisis of faith and deep realization, and no doubt will continue to witness my ongoing evolution, even as its rate levels out some with age.
I don’t do a lot of ritual work any more, but when I do, I still call on the animals of the four cardinal directions. Red Fox is my South, my fire, my Change. She is the shapeshifting force in my life, and with her, I’ve become so much more than I thought I would be. I am still a Wolf’s child, of course; my name is still Lupa. But Red Fox is right there, working with Gray Wolf and alone as well, adding her fire to the metamorphosis of my life.
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