What type of earth magic exists where you are? What is the local nature of air, fire and water? How do you make magic with the living forces all around you – not as they appear in books, but as you see and experience them when you step outside your front door? Every locality has its own flavours, energies and secrets… and when we work our magic and ritual in alignment with our locality we enter deep into the earth’s living magic.
Local Totems: White Cockatoos in the Blue Mountains
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.
And now I’m living in their land, the Blue Mountains. This morning when I went for my walk I passed a dozen or more of them, strutting over a grassed area searching for the seeds and insects they eat. Later on the same walk I found one of their wing feathers, carefully held down by a stick and I picked it up and took it with me. They swoop low past my desk window; they settle in pairs and groups in the banksia out near the road; I see them in the morning flirting through the tops of the trees across the road as they fly rapidly off on some urgent business; they’re everywhere. It used to be I took the appearance of white cockatoos as a sign – to pay attention, or a token note from the universe – now they are just all over the place; I’m practically one of the flock.
Animal totems are personal to each one of us. But I wonder how often we choose a totem that lives in our area, as opposed to a more glamorous option (panthers, stags and eagles come to mind) which we might never actually see from one year to the next? White cockatoos have been interesting in this way; indigenous to this country, they weren’t especially common in the places I’ve lived over the last twenty years. But now I’ve come home to them and I sense that their role in my magic is just beginning.
In Local Magic what is around us is of primary importance – not what we read in books or imagine in our heads. Many of us probably have relationships with totems from traditions and lands other than our own – Native American, Celtic or Norse – and they can be wonderful guides and inspirations. But finding or choosing a local totem, if you don’t already have one, is a different level of magic and engaging with the earth; the particular piece of earth where you live. A creature that breathes the same air you breathe, drinks the local water and eats the local food. One that’s part of the land you live on. Imagine a magical relationship built with this bird, animal or insect; one you can see around you, maybe every day or maybe seasonally. Relating to the place where you live, both in the mundane and magical worlds, is an essential part of Local Magic, and finding one or more local totems is an entry point into that magic.
Do you have a local totem, one that lives in the place you live? Post a photo, or write something about it…
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