Clan of the Hawk…?

As I write this, my uncle — my mom’s older brother — and his bride are out here on the west coast, trekking down the length of this great state of California as they pursue a string of family-related activities.  They started way up north in Chico, and as they made the long automotive pilgrimage down toward San Diego, where my cousin resides, they stopped off here in LA for an overnight stay.  It was my pleasure to get to meet them for breakfast yesterday, and over the course of a long, leisurely repast, we covered a lot of conversational ground…not least of which involved a very interesting tale that my uncle related to me…

So the relation of this tale was kicked off when the sleeve of my sweatshirt rode up a bit, and my aunt noticed the tattoo that I bear on the underside of my left wrist (I seem to mostly visit the family back east during colder months, so my arm ink is generally obscured beneath the sleeves of several layers of clothing when I’m there, and she’s therefore never had opportunity to really spot this particular image that I wear…).  The tattoo is an image of a Raven — a Bird with whom I feel a very strong bond — but it’s in silhouette form, and I’ve had it mistaken for other Birds more than once, including an Eagle, and even the mythical Phoenix.  So while my aunt was taking a moment to try to guess what Bird this was, my uncle jumped in, and asked if it was a Red-Tailed Hawk.

Now that’s a pretty specific guess, which was immediately interesting to me, and not solely due to that specificity — visitors to this blog may recall that a few weeks ago, I’d ventured into nearby Griffith Park for a hike with a friend and her little dog, and the hike turned into a long afternoon’s excursion after we managed to get all turned around and onto a different trail than the one we’d been seeking…  During that sojourn, we stumbled upon this remarkable meeting of Ravens, and also a few Raptors of some sort  — Hawks or Falcons, I wasn’t positive, as I’m not a full expert on Birds of Prey just yet — were woven in and among the gathering, too.  At one point, nearly a dozen Ravens dotted a particular tree near us, and several more began wheeling about at extremely close range to us overhead…and in that tree, seeming to watch the proceedings like a visiting dignitary, was a single one of those Raptors.  After returning home, I hit the internet hard in a quest to identify that Raptor…and it turned out to be a Red-Tailed Hawk…

Buteo jamaicensis -- the Red-Tailed Hawk...
Buteo jamaicensis — the Red-Tailed Hawk…

So before even disclosing any of this episode to my uncle, he then described to me an experience he’d had, in which he went to visit the gravesite of my grandmother — his mother.  This was way out on Long Island, on the opposite side of the country from where I currently reside.  This is my uncle’s tale, and it’s not for me to air the details here, but the important part of it is that while he was there at the gravesite, he was visited by…a Red-Tailed Hawk.  This Hawk had a very profound impact on my uncle, and it seemed to him to be very connected with my grandmother.

All of which made me reflect on the fact that representatives of this same species of Hawk had appeared to both my uncle and me, and on opposite sides of a vast continent.  Of course, the Red-Tailed Hawk turns out to be the single most common variety of Hawk we have here in North America, which might seem to siphon off some of the extraordinary quality of these twin sightings of ours…but yet it doesn’t do so for me.  I’m still very struck by the “coincidence” of our visitations by the Hawks.  And it calls up for me the concept of the “Totem Animal”…

Could my family be a sort of "Hawk Clan"...?
Could my family be a sort of “Hawk Clan”…?

As I understand the term, “Totem Animal” is frequently misused among New Age types who are trying to speak of what might better be termed a Spirit Animal, Power Animal, or Animal Guide…that is, a sort of animal spirit that has a special relationship with a person throughout the course of that person’s life, advising the person, protecting them, teaching them, and bestowing their own attributes upon that person.  The key element to note here is that this animal is bonding with an individual.  A Totem Animal, on the other hand, is one that puts its stamp upon a group of people: a family, a clan, a tribe.

And to be honest, in all my studies in this area, when it came to my own self, I was always focused in on the individual-centric Animal Guide kind of presence — it never occurred to me to wonder if my family as a whole might share a Totem Animal.  My uncle’s tale, though — which features the strong connection between him and my grandmother — coupled with my own recent encounter with the same exact species of Hawk, has me wondering if maybe my family as a whole shares this Red-Tailed Hawk connection among us…?  I can’t answer that without polling some of the other relatives, but I do like the idea of there possibly being this linking affinity…and plus, the Red-Tailed Hawk is apparently held to embody some pretty great attributes, such a keen and far-sighted vision, a strong bond with the Earth, and the ability to bridge the mundane and the otherworldly.  I aim to continue on probing into this possible familial connection, and I meanwhile also offer up here this notion that while we all may have our individual Animal Guides looking out for us, it might also be worthwhile to consider the possible presences of more group-based Totem Animals in our lives, as well…

2 comments

  1. “in all my studies in this area, when it came to my own self, I was always focused in on the individual-centric Animal Guide kind of presence — it never occurred to me to wonder if my family as a whole might share a Totem Animal. ” Did it ever occur that you are the Hawk? All hawks?

    • Hi, Erik–

      Well, I know that your personal — what’s the right word? Doctrine? Tenet? — your belief is that (if I understand it properly), we are all of us…everything. So in that context, I’d be all Hawks…and all other animals…and they’d be me…we’d be us…etc. Is that an accurate summation?

      And I actually feel there’s mad Truth in that view. I guess I was just saying, though, that if I look at things voluntarily through that Veil of Illusion that says we’re all separate things, then I’d never really taken up the Totem Animal or the Hawk as a personal concept for myself before.

      Hopefully that all made sense…?

      But I think I do get what you’re saying, and will ponder it as I head off to the gym (an hour of cardio exercise actually offers pretty good potential for meditative thought when I can manage to screen out my immediate surroundings)…

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