White sulphur-crested cockatoos have been my personal totem for years. In the wild they are a noisy, curious, intrusive bird that many people regard as pests, in spite of their beauty. They have a tendency to destroy verandas and windowsills (retaining their habit of ripping up dead wood to get at the insects they expect to find) and their call is loud and raucous. I’ve always loved them, although until recently I hadn’t lived anywhere they existed in large numbers. But now I’m living in the Blue Mountains I find myself surrounded by them.
It’s an interesting concept – that I’ve become local to my totem. I’ve chosen, eventually, to live where they live. As if I’ve been courting them for years and finally we have a good enough relationship that I can move in, onto their territory. I remember swirling flocks of them above me in the blue sky in a forest of ancient Antarctic beech, and I remember them out above the valley on previous trips to the Blue Mountains, climbing and swooping through the mist at my own height as I stood at a lookout. I made up a story about that harsh screeching call of theirs; how it was the sound that ripped open the night of the universe, back at the very beginning of time, and their gold-and-white heralded the the coming of light. They are iconic light-bearers with that white body and yellow crest, yellow blushing the underside of their wings.
About ten years ago I was working magic, looking for a way to speak up; both energetically and vocally – to become louder in the world – and I chose them as a totem, a beckoning reminder for how to sound out loudly through the air. They’ve been wonderful as mentors and totems, floating silent above me at surprising times or greeting me with a harsh call when I arrive somewhere. I’ve taken their appearance as encouragement, as a reminder to speak up and out and as a comfort. Their presence let me know that magic was alive and around me. I am much, much louder now than I was ten years ago, and when they call out overhead I call back to them, filled with pleasure at their existence.