Hawk Central, Part 2…and Part 3

Two nights ago, I posted here about this great double-sighting of a pair of Red-Tailed Hawks that had been perched in one of the trees above my back patio.  As I said then, one flew away toward the north, and then the second one took off on a vector heading east.  It may have taken up residence in another, more distant tree farther off in that direction, but it also may have sailed on past that tree and beyond — the tree in question stands just where my lines of sight get cut off by a busy stand of other flora, so I wasn’t sure.  But either way, these formidable airborne warriors almost never drift over this far from Griffith Park, so this was a momentous sighting for me.

And the hits have kept on coming since then, too!

First, I enjoyed another such close encounter yesterday morning.  I took up archery a few months ago over in Pasadena, and the group meets on Saturday mornings.  I was walking out of the session around noon with a married couple who joined up around the same time that I did, and this great Red-Tailed Hawk came slicing in from somewhere behind us, whipped on past maybe 25 feet beyond my left shoulder, and only 15 or so feet above the ground.  I can’t say I’ve ever seen a bird of prey flying that low, other than the occasional money shot of one diving at some doomed little varmint or other in nature footage.  This one seemed to be making a purposeful stoop just so as to say hello to us!  After it went whistling past, it banked to our right, and then took up a position in one of the local trees.  I snapped a quick photo with my phone, and the whole moment was dramatic enough that so did the other people nearby.  Here’s mine:

Apologies for the grainy quality of this shot, but hopefully you can at least make out my new Red-Tailed friend...
Apologies for the grainy quality of this shot, but hopefully you can at least make out my new Red-Tailed friend…

It was the nearness of the bird as it flew past that seemed so remarkable.  I counted myself lucky to have been so close that I could hear the wind whispering through its feathers…and then I went on with my day, assuming that if luck decided to join forces with me some other time, I might once again experience something like that.

And I did — today!

I climbed up onto my roof around sunset, as I often like to do, and while my neighborhood was still basking in that magical, crepuscular window of time we call dusk, a large shape appeared from out of the tree-line that stretches away to the south, and began winging its way toward me.  I gave out a silent cheer in my head, and I watched the dashing silhouette approach, growing larger and larger, and larger still.  At that hour, it could have been an outsized Raven or Hawk heading home for bed, or an industrious Owl rising for the night-shift…and as it neared my position, I could see that its head was too small for it to have been an Owl.  As it drew even closer, I was able to see that — like the visitors above my patio two days earlier — it had brown and white coloring rather than black, so…not a Raven.  It was another Hawk.

And then it passed by me, even closer to me than the Hawk in Pasadena had flown the day before!  This one cut through the air no more than maybe 15 feet from where I was standing all gape-mouthed and goggle-eyed, again all super-delighted by that faint sound of air kissing feathers…  And after giving me that bit of thrill, it seemed to head straight for the exact same semi-distant tree that I’d thought the other Hawk had landed in at the end of the double-sighting that had started all of this two days earlier.  In the fading light, it wasn’t absolutely clear, but if pressed, I’d have guessed that both Hawks had, after all, landed in that same tree.  I drew the sketchy and unsupported (but hopeful) conclusion that maybe we now have a mated pair nesting in that tree.  If so, I may have plenty more such sightings making me all giddy in the days and weeks to come!  No photos of today’s encounter, I’m sorry to say — too little time to bust out the phone — but I promise more if I can get some.

And what about the rest of you?  Have you been looking to the skies?  And if so…what have you seen…?

Panther Wishes and Casino Dreams…

As promised in yesterday’s post, I wanted to memorialize the most recent Panther-related dream that I was fortunate enough to be treated to — this one went down maybe a bit over a week ago now.  I’ve written up a few of these already, including one that featured a winged Black Panther, and I’m still deeply gratified at each new recurrence of this particular dream imagery…

All these dreams...I'm starting to wonder if it's not so much me dreaming of Black Panthers, as maybe it's the other way around...?
All these dreams…I’m starting to wonder if it’s not so much me dreaming of Black Panthers, as maybe it’s the other way around…?

In this latest dream, I was arriving as one of a new small wave of visitors to some kind of casino — the kind where you not only gamble and gorge yourself at buffets, but you also book a room and spend a night or two in-house.  I was aware that my fellow arrivals and I were each toting or dragging various pieces of luggage, and we were being received by a casino employee, who was giving us some kind of standard welcome shpiel.  This mundane, canned intro speech suddenly seemed a bit other-than-standard, though, when the casino employee informed us that oh, yes, right, this particular floor of the casino that we were on was home to two very large Black Panthers and a Tiger, all of whom roamed the hallways pretty much free and at their pleasure at all times.  And not to worry, the grinning employee continued — the Big Cats were all exceedingly friendly and well-behaved, probably even more so than most of the human guests (ha ha: nervous chuckles all around…).

Anyway, I was still digesting this odd bit of information, when one of those Black Panthers appeared from out of the milling crowds…and it almost immediately oriented on me, and ambled over, not hurriedly or with any active menace about it, but I had definitely been singled out as the object of its focus.  I admit to feeling a bit of trepidation as the magnificent, but also gracefully fearsome and downright HUGE feline creature approached…

Imagine this great beast if it was so large/tall that its head was about even with the bottom of your ribcage when both of you were standing upright -- *that's* what came over to greet me in my dream...
Imagine this great beast if it was so large/tall that its head was about even with the bottom of your ribcage when both of you were standing upright — *that’s* what came over to greet me in my dream…

And then when this semi-enormous Cat reached me, it sort of gently butted me with its head such that I was impelled to seat myself in a large plush chair immediately beside me, and then as the casino employee geared up to resume with the welcome speech, the Panther sat down on the floor next to the chair, and very comfortably and with an air of great familiarity, took my left forearm into its mouth…and just held it there, in this very warm, sweet, companionable way.  It was like the Cat was telling the Universe, “I choose this human.  He has my protection.  We’re now officially bonded.”  It was kind of amazing.

Then, as the welcome tour continued, the Panther would release my arm so we could all walk along with the casino employee, but every time we paused, the Panther would again nudge me to sit down so it could resume holding my wrist or forearm carefully and lovingly in its mouth…

And after a few repetitions of this, I awoke, feeling kind of oddly blessed, and sort of like I imagine a Chosen One in a movie must feel.

I’m not sure why the casino backdrop.  Certainly Siegried & Roy proved to us in tragic fashion that Big Cats and casinos don’t always blend well together, so a case could be made that the dream holds an element of warning.  Then again, Roy was mauled by a White Tiger, not a Black Panther, and none of that incident had actually run through my conscious mind in ages at the juncture when I had the dream.  More likely to me is the notion that the casino represents the world at large: vast, frenetic, clamorous, filled with hordes of distractions and possible dangers…but then the Black Panther seems to be a very clear indicator of a protective Spirit of sorts, asserting its presence, and its willingness to watch over me.  Dreaming that dream was an overwhelmingly positive experience, that’s for sure…

And I also found in the past that whenever I would start to document my dreams here in this space, subsequent night-visions would start to grow more vivid and involved in the time that followed, and I began to remember more and more of their details.  These are more good reasons to record them, and I encourage anyone reading this to try the same exercise.  We spend nearly half our lives in the sleep state, so who’s to say that what happens to us there is any less “real” than what we experience in the waking world…?  With all that in mind…what have you dreamed up for yourself lately…??

Leopardskin Jasper

I’m a bit of a sucker for crystals and such.  They don’t appear in my every conversation or anything, but I quietly carry one or two along in my pockets with me on most days, and I have probably more than a few scattered around the house.  Metaphysical types will credit different types of stones with different characteristics, and while it can be fun to study up on these, it will also become quickly apparent that as with a lot of metaphysical subjects, the so-called (and self-designated…) “experts” often can’t find very much at all in the way of common ground.  You’ll often find the same stone credited with such a wide array of sorcerous powers, that it will seem possibly easier to start listing out what it can’t do.  So the best approach, then, when trying to suss out exactly what a given variety of crystal can or can’t accomplish for you…is gathering first-hand, empirical evidence.

So, something else I’ve written about in this space before that I also find myself charmed by in an ongoing sort of way, would be the animal kingdom.  I have great admiration for the animals around me in the physical world, and in the more metaphysical context, I also like concepts such as Animal Guides, and I always pay very close attention to patterns of animal appearances around me, whether these be in my waking or my dreaming states.

The Cappy Thompson window at SeaTac Airport. "I Was Dreaming of Spirit Animals," is how the artist herself sums up this piece...
The Cappy Thompson window at SeaTac Airport. “I Was Dreaming of Spirit Animals,” is how the artist herself sums up this piece…  So, apparently I’m not the only one!

With all of the above in mind…last week, I stumbled across a passage on the internet stating that a certain stone called Leopardskin Jasper is excellent for use in either discovering one’s Animal Guides, or, if they’re already known, firming up ties with them.  This interested me: I have a small bowl full of Jasper, all of which I got quite a long while ago when I found heaps of it for sale at a local Occult shop at some irresistibly low, low prices.  I filled my pockets at the time, trundled home all this Jasper-y goodness…and haven’t done much with it since.  This online reference, though, decided for me that it was time to revisit my Jasper holdings…

Now, like such stones as Agate or Calcite, Jasper comes in a whole slew of specific varieties.  You can’t just start holding forth about “Jasper,” and expect people to know exactly what you mean with any real specificity.  There’s Red Jasper and Yellow Jasper…there’s Polychrome Jasper and Brecciated Jasper…there’s Picture Jasper and Picasso Jasper, and there’s Ocean Jasper and Rainforest Jasper…there’s Cobra Jasper (sometimes King Cobra Jasper), Zebra Jasper, Dalmatian Jasper…there are the intriguingly named Mookaite Jasper and Kambaba Jasper.

And then there’s Leopardskin Jasper:

Leopardskin Jasper: not quite as suggestive of the Leopard's distinctive markings as its name might suggest, but this is the stuff!
Leopardskin Jasper: not quite as suggestive of the Leopard’s distinctive markings as its name might suggest, but this is the stuff!

So as it turned out, I had no less than three separate pieces of this rather shamanic-sounding stone in my little Jasper collection.  I decided to give them a mild test-drive by sleeping with them under my pillow, which is often a thoroughly interesting way for me to see if I have any real connection with a given stone.  In brief, here’s what happened:

Night #1: I dreamed at one point that I was outside in a green/wooded area, but still within what we like to think of as “civilization”…so I was under some kind of structure of sorts.  Just ahead of me and a few feet up, at about the height of a standard basketball hoop, was a thick wooden cross-beam connecting one part of the structure to another.  Two birds landed on it, but this was at the upper limits of my vision at that moment, so I couldn’t see them at first.  Tilting my head up, I just barely caught one of the birds stepping along the beam so as to more or less vanish from my sight, the beam itself separating us.  The other bird, though, was eminently, vividly visible: it was a large Raven, glowing with detail.  I could see the slightly down-curving beak, the small tuft of minute feathers where that beak met the Raven’s face, the main body of feathers as glossy and black as ink fresh from the inkwell…  As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, the Raven is a special creature for me, and I wear its likeness in tattoo form on the underside of my wrist…  Score one for the Leopardskin Jasper (and I should note here that I’ve never been the type to be able to successfully “program” myself to dream about anything in particular, so if you want to credit my subconscious or my dream-warrior self with me having this dream on this particular night, you’re free to do so, but I lean toward chalking it up to the Leopardskin Jasper, especially if you factor in…well, read on…)…

Photo by Marcin Klapczynski, not me, but this pretty well captures what I saw in my dream, although my Raven was facing toward my left if you want to get nitpicky...
Photo by Marcin Klapczynski, not me, but this pretty well captures what I saw in my dream, although my Raven was facing toward my left if you want to get nitpicky…

Night #2: I was traveling somewhere by ship, and in this dream, I chanced to gaze out through a convenient porthole.  It was very misty outside, very wet, although not actively raining.  As I looked out at the dark air, guess what happened to be flying by outside…?  It was another Raven!  This one was just cruising along, unbothered by the prodigious dampness of the air, aside from having to flap its wings a bit more than Ravens seem to like to do whenever I see them out in the physical world (like the large Hawks and Owls I’ve seen, Ravens prefer to glide whenever possible, models of efficiency who are much too cool to need to actually exert themselves to get where they need to go — the wind seems to want to do the work for them, for the most part).  So I could probably write up an entire post on the symbolism inherent in the ship, the wet weather conditions, the mist, the active wing-beating of the Raven versus its usual glide…but I feel that the main point to be taken from the dream here is simply the fact that for the second night in a row with the Leopardskin Jasper under my pillow, I dreamed of what some might refer to as one of my “Power Animals.”

Imagine a wet Raven flying along from left to right not too far away outside this porthole, and you'll have the essence of what I saw in my dream...
Imagine a wet Raven flying along from left to right not too far away outside this porthole, and you’ll have the essence of what I saw in my dream…

Night #3: On the final night of this bit of experimentation (I decided to give the Leopardskin Jasper a rest after three nights, regardless of results), I was again privileged to receive a visit from an animal I view as having great personal importance for me: this time, it was a very large Black Panther that came padding up to me from out of the dreamscape.  I’ve lodged several posts in months past about how I first encountered a real Black Panther while scouting a site for a personal artistic video project I was working on, and how I then began receiving visits from the sleek and beautiful beasts — one even with great black wings! — in my dreams after that encounter.  This one was no less impressive and gratifying!  In it, I was standing about kind of idly, not doing much of anything, and in otherwise unremarkable surroundings, when an enormous Black Panther strolled up to me from out of the hazy middle-distance, clearly coming right toward me.  It showed no apparent malice in the moment, but it seemed to be heading my way with pretty obvious purpose, like it felt we had some definite business to attend to together.  As it reached me, I felt the barest twinge of apprehension, but then it turned and leaned its great shoulder into my thighs, causing me to replant my feet for balance, while it basically let me know that it simply wanted me to pet it.  Happy to oblige, I laughed, and then bent forward to work at the task with both hands, doing my best to grant the stunning creature the greatest petting that any feline had ever received.  It twitched its tail with pleasure and kept leaning into me, hundreds of pounds of streamlined muscle and potential ferocity bent toward the joyous objective of receiving some basic affection (and okay, no small amount of awe).  And then I woke up from the dream…

When a Black Panther requests that you pet it...you oblige.
When a Black Panther requests that you pet it…you oblige.

And on Night #4, when I didn’t have the Leopardskin Jasper under my pillow…I didn’t dream of animals at all.

So what does this all mean?  Does it mean that if you, too, sleep with Leopardskin Jasper under your pillow, you, too, will dream dreams of your own Spirit Animals?  Well…not necessarily.  We’re all different, and what seems to work for me may not work for you, and vice versa — like I said, gathering first-hand, empirical evidence is the only way to determine these things for sure.  But on the other hand, my own experiences here do nothing in my own mind to dispel the idea that Leopardskin Jasper may indeed have some shamanic/animal-related metaphysical properties beyond what simple chance might account for.  If nothing else, you should be able to find a piece of this particular variety of stone pretty easily and for a pretty affordable price, and you can then experiment a bit yourself…and if animals do pop out of the dreamscape for you, too, I’d love to hear about it!

Animal Magnetism

Certain animals attract us.  And the ones that appeal to me and the ones that appeal to you might differ entirely…and the next person might come along with yet another wholly different set of favorite beasts…  This is all pretty obvious stuff, of course…but as the holidays and other assorted wellsprings of busy-ness conspire to keep me further from this space than usual, I thought I’d leave you with a nifty animal-related exercise to try that’s designed to tell you some things about yourself.  You can think of it as a sort of zoological version of an inkblot test…

Inkblot!!  What does it look like to you...?
Inkblot!! What does it look like to you…?

And to be fair, and give credit where credit is due, this exercise was related to me by a good friend, and is not my own invention — I can’t tell you who originally cooked it up.  But if you’re okay with not knowing its murky origins, here’s the gist of it:

First, without deliberating too much, answer off the top of your head, this question: What’s your favorite animal?

Don’t worry about any “wrong answer vs. right answer” kinds of concerns — there are none — and don’t second-guess yourself.  Just note which animal it is that most draws you, intrigues you, delights you.  And once you have the right creature in mind…jot down three reasons why this animal so appeals to you.  And none of these reasons should be of the “It just looks cool!” variety.  Aim for something a bit deeper.  Try to capture certain specific qualities of the animal that resonate for you or that describe its impact or presence in your own life.

The rest is easy from here on out:

Next…write down your second-favorite animal, and an accompanying three reasons why that animal takes the Silver Medal in your own personal menagerie.  If you can, try not to repeat the reasons that you already gave for your first animal, but if they’re honestly very similar, don’t stress too much about this — record them, and then move onward.

And finally…do the same with your third-favorite animal.  Again, you shouldn’t spend too much time doing left-brain analysis on this — you want intuition and instinct rather than deliberate calculation.  Just write down the animal that most catches your fancy after the first two that you listed, and add three reasons why that’s so.

That’s the work part of the exercise — and now you’re done with the work!

But now it *is* quitting time!  Now you *can* put down your tools!  On to the results portion of the exercise...
But now it *is* quitting time! Now you *can* put down your tools! On to the results portion of the exercise…

So…the results!  What, exactly, was the point of all this…?

Take a look back at that first animal that you listed…  In this exercise, that animal represents what you’re striving to become.  It’s the you that you hope to evolve into: that animal’s qualities are the qualities that you’re seeking to build and achieve within yourself.  That favorite animal stands for your own personal, self-directed aspirations.

The second animal you chose, the one you like second-best in all the world…  That animal represents the kinds of people that you like to surround yourself with — as this exercise would have it, you tend to enjoy being in and among those people who embody the traits that you wrote about liking in this particular animal.  This animal signifies “your people.”

And finally, the third animal…  This creature symbolizes where you, yourself, are at in your development right now.  While you hope to become your most favorite animal in the future, this third-favorite creature is you in the present.  This is your here and now, and you exemplify the three characteristics that you found noteworthy and pleasing in this animal.

And it’s as simple as that: the three animals are, in order, who you hope to be, who you like being with, and who you are at this moment in time.

So what do you think?  Does it all ring true?  Does any of it?  I can say that when my friend first sprung this test on me, I found the results to be pretty accurate…and as she pointed out, even if it doesn’t land for you, personally, it makes for a great conversation-starter at parties!  Virtually everyone can relate to the feeling of being attracted to certain animals like metal to magnets…and I believe that this kind of “animal magnetism” must certainly mean something, and must say something important about each of us…and this little exercise isn’t a bad starting point for examining what that meaning might be!

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…

Very unexpectedly: Jupiter!!

I’d like to keep this post on the briefer side today if I can, as I’m still battling a fairly whopping case of strep throat, and I didn’t sleep much last night because of it…but that lack of sleep also gives rise to the subject of this post — Jupiter! — so it can’t be all bad, right?

Jupiter: in a lot of ways, this is our Planetary Top Dog, more than twice as massive as all of our solar system's other planets combined!  That's its moon, Ganymede, at lower left...
Jupiter: in a lot of ways, this is our Planetary Top Dog, more than twice as massive as all of our solar system’s other planets combined! That’s its moon, Ganymede, at lower left…

So I’ve mentioned here in multiple posts that since I moved across town — three months ago now! — I’ve made it a habit to climb up to the roof right around sundown if I’m home, so I can watch the celestial proceedings.  It’s really meditative, and sometimes I see some great stuff down here on Earth, too…like last night, for instance, I not only saw a Hummingbird careen past me as I ascended the ladder to get topside, but I was privileged enough to finally catch sight of an Owl again (I feel compelled to capitalize these animal names, which will annoy technical writing curmudgeons, for which I apologize, but it’s happening…).  Consistent readers may recall that quite a few weeks back now, I enjoyed the rare delight of seeing — on two consecutive evenings — an Owl leap silently out of the trees that rise up from behind the house here, and then go gliding across the little valley of streets below us toward the opposite hillside (or maybe it was a different Owl each time, but that seems less likely to me).  Anyway, I’ve been hoping for yet another repeat performance ever since, and last night, that wish was granted!  But that’s not the actual subject of today’s post.  As mentioned above, that role belongs to Jupiter…

If you’ve ever suffered through a case of strep throat, or any other infection-based kind of ailment (like bronchitis, which loves me, and which seems to be attempting to crash the strep party here…), you know that in order to kick them good and proper, you often need antibiotics, and you definitely need lots and lots of righteous, rejuvenating, recuperative sleep.  Which I did not get much of last night.  I was too busy coughing and hacking and trying to swallow through an inflamed throat (but no more gross details, I promise…).  Anyway, I woke for good around…4:00 or 4:30, I think, but I didn’t admit defeat for at least an hour.  Then, after more tossing, turning, re-tossing, and re-turning, I recalled how I always joke that while I love dusk, I never see the dawn unless I actually stay up until its arrival (being so not an early riser by nature…).  I was then struck by this odd compulsion to put on some warm clothing and climb up to the roof to watch the sun rise for once instead of set (you know, if I was apparently going to be awake anyway…)…

Sunrise: okay, this is Angkor Wat, not Los Angeles, but I'd have taken even a fraction of this kind of majesty, you know...?
Sunrise: okay, this is Angkor Wat, not Los Angeles, but I’d have taken even a fraction of this kind of majesty, you know…?

So I donned some polar fleece and stepped out onto the stone patio, where I was immediately greeted by the sight of my old friend, the constellation Orion, sparkling up above.  Quick digression here: Orion was the very first constellation I was ever taught to recognize as a youngster, so he remains a personal favorite, and as a devout Scorpio, I also feel a connection to The Mighty Hunter…  You see, in Greek Mythology, Orion and a huge Scorpion proved to each serve as the other’s doom, the Hunter’s club and the Scorpion’s poisonous stinger both landing on-target simultaneously when they had their fateful encounter.  Zeus, the King of the Olympians, to soothe the sorrow of his dear daughter, Artemis, who loved Orion as a sort of Soul-Friend and Comrade-in-Arms, hung both Orion and the Scorpion in the nighttime sky, that they might be remembered forever, the former gracing us in the wintertime, and the latter in the summer, each chasing the other around the arc of the heavens for all eternity…

All of which is to say that seeing Orion glittering away up there in such refined fashion — my first glimpse of him this year! — was like answering an unexpected chime of the doorbell at some ungodly hour, and finding a dear friend standing on my doorstep!

Orion in the sky: Johannes Hevelius gets it done for us in this work from his Celestial Catalogue, circa 1690...
Orion in the sky: Johannes Hevelius gets it done for us in this work from his Celestial Catalogue, circa 1690…

Anyway, after greeting Orion, I looked up…and saw an extremely bright point of light almost directly overhead…a point of light that did not twinkle, as stars always do.  This told me I was looking at a planet.  Now, I should say that as my passion for Astrology grows, I’m of necessity learning bits of data from the field of Astronomy, as well, but I remain kind of a rank amateur in my knowledge there as of yet.  In other words…I had no clue which planet I was looking at.  I know that Venus can and will at various times serve as both our Evening Star and our Dawn Star, so it occurred to me that this was possibly Our Fair Lady up there, although I had my doubts — for some reason, I had this nagging suspicion that Venus is only doing evening duty around this time of year.  But that left me with…well, I can name plenty of other planets, but I’m going to have to turn to total guesswork when it comes to stating which ones might appear overhead when and where,  and I really wasn’t about to climb down the ladder, fire up my computer, hit the internet to research out which heavenly body I was ogling, and then re-ascend — a strep-stricken guy can only do so much in the stark fields of time that separate night from morning…

So I finished breathing in the wind and the sky, the trees and the stars, and when dawn still showed no signs whatsoever of making her entrance, I packed it in, went downstairs, got maybe another half-hour of sleep, and then went through the whole tossing/turning/etc. process for a while again.  And then when I did hit the internet…turns out it was big, brawny Jupiter I was looking at up there, super-bright and bountiful.

And since this post is spiraling out of all control already now, length-wise, let me try to rein it in and wrap it up:

I’ve been posting recently about Locational Astrology — this offers us information as to which parts of the world may have which effects on us should we visit them, based on the times and places of our birth.  As I’ve become a new enthusiast here, I’ve been daydreaming about traveling to some of the more intense Power-Points for myself that exist around the globe.

In Astrology, the Planet Jupiter represents things like expansion, optimism, growth, generosity, abundance.  Where it appears in your birth chart can signify where you might be especially lucky in life, and where you might discover more joy and success than sheer probabilities might account for.

My own natal Jupiter appears in my Ninth House…and the Ninth House is known as “The House of Long Journeys.”  This refers to long journeys of both a figurative nature (studying “big” and “deep” fields such as philosophy and religion, for instance) and long journeys of a literal nature: actual, physical voyages to far-off places.

So to my fevered brain, it seemed very possible that making the unusual decision to go for a rooftop jaunt in the pre-dawn cold and dark, and seeing kindly Jupiter up there — and especially as I had no clue that Jupiter is even visible to us in this locale at this time of year, and catching a glimpse was certainly not a part of my conscious intent — well, it seemed like yet another sign that there might be even more to this Locational Astrology thing than I’ve been thinking!  Of course, I need to put down the strep bug with some authority and finality before I can even really leave the house, much less the state, country, or continent, but I’m thinking I might have good old Jupiter in my corner, helping me out…  Jupiter!!!!

A walk in the park…with Ravens!!

Yesterday, I went for a hike with a dear friend of mine, and her little toy poodle.  This was originally intended to be something on the order of 60-90 minutes in Griffith Park, enjoying the semi-cool Autumn weather, and the less dense crowds that would be washing up there now that school is generally in session for the youngsters of LA…

For good or for ill, though, our plans went awry!  We traveled way out along one path, got a bit turned around, and then when we tried to retrace our steps, we got even more turned around.  I’m not sure how you go about taking a wrong turn when you don’t actually take any turns, but somehow, we managed it.  Our quick stroll through the Park turned into a four-hour trek (and we still emerged far from the car, and we were lucky that a friend had been set to come by to borrow something anyway — we transformed his visit into a rescue mission!).  Interestingly, the night before, we had just watched the new film, Gravity, in which Sandra Bullock struggles mightily to survive being stranded alone in space, and then to somehow reach the safety of home.  Our hike started to feel kind of like that after a while…

A view of LA, as seen from Griffith Park (photo by Boqiang Liao)...
A view of LA, as seen from Griffith Park (photo by Boqiang Liao)…

The adventure was not without some fabulous upside, though.  For one thing, it was just plain enjoyable — my friend and I never suffer for lack of conversation, and it was a terrific bit of additional bonding.  For another, the sweet little pup got to get out into the open air and stretch those tiny legs a bit.  And for a third…the wildlife!!

It was a real clinic in seeing some sensational flora and fauna, both, not to mention the interesting rock formations, too.  What really landed with me, though, were the animals.  First, we saw a few horses (they were being ridden by people up various trails, but I was way more focused on the horses than the riders).  Being a Year of the Horse baby (that’s Fire Horse, to be utterly specific…), I’ve come to really appreciate these great beasts and friends of humanity (I was also surprised, abashed, and gratified all at the same time to spot a painting of a horse on our eventual way home from the Park, on a piece of permanent city equipment near home that I’ve passed dozen of times before, but until yesterday…I’d never noticed that painting…).

In addition to the horse appearances, though, even more meaningful for me were the birds…

Now, I’ve devoted entire columns here to the concept of the Spirit Animal (or the Power Animal, or the Animal Guide — I use these terms as more-or-less synonyms for each other).  I’m happy to speak about these things in general, but I’ve been kind of reluctant to talk much about my own such connections, mainly because they’re very personal things.  I’m going to admit here, though, that one of my most overwhelmingly primary such connections is with the Raven (yes, I’m intending to capitalize that for the duration of this article — blogger’s option!).  When I was in the early stages of getting all metaphysical, I did this guided visualization aimed at revealing one’s Spirit Animal, and while I went into the exercise with some serious suspicions about what animal might be revealed, I came away surprised to find out that I’d flashed on the Raven.  This is a bird I’ve always admired, but which had not been anywhere near the forefront of my conscious mind as a possible candidate for Spirit Animal-hood for me.  That was, though, part of the reason why it seemed like such an intense result: I wasn’t just seeing what I wanted to see, you see…  And after accepting that I’d seen a Raven during this meditation/visualization, I realized that I’d actually had numerous significant contacts with this bird throughout my life at various times, yet had somehow never managed to recognize the pattern (and pattern-recognition is something I’m usually pretty good at, too).

I then went through a brief phase of questioning the result, and then worrying that the Raven might seem too cliche a “choice” of Spirit Animal (although as it’s so often said when dealing with this topic, it’s our Spirit Animals who choose us, not the other way around) — wouldn’t every Goth on the planet cite a bond with the Raven, not to mention fans of Norse Mythology (Odin, the All-Father and undisputed ruler of the Norse Pantheon, has two Raven familiars who always feature as part of his iconography…), people drawn to Native American imagery (where the Raven is viewed as a Creator-figure, a trickster on a par with Coyote, or both…), Bible aficionados (Ravens play occasional important roles, such as feeding the prophet Elijah when he’s alone in the wilderness…).  Happily, almost immediately after this phase of questioning began, though, I came upon a passage in a book I’d been reading about trance-work, in which the author, Diana Paxson, spoke of undergoing a ritual in which she was trying to meet her Spirit Animal, and a Raven appeared to her, and she then fought back feelings revolving around how cliche such a result might be for exactly the reasons I myself was tripping over…so her grapplings with the identical result and reactions thereto really helped me to just wholeheartedly accept my own result.  From that point on, I was — quietly, but surely — all about the Raven.  And they make for a pretty superlative Spirit Animal, too — if you research the meaning of the Raven in such a role, you’ll see that most sources of authority will cite the Raven as a representative of such outstanding concepts as travel between worlds, transformation, ingenuity, versatility, excellent communication, and the big one for me: Magic itself…

And on a more everyday level, they seem to love Los Angeles, too, and they appear very regularly hereabouts, which delights me greatly.  Yesterday was no exception, and they really made their presences known during our sojourn through the Park…

Just a couple of the Ravens that accompanied us on our stroll through Griffith Park yesterday...
Just a couple of the Ravens that accompanied us on our stroll through Griffith Park yesterday…

Until now, I’ve been under the impression that Ravens will mostly travel either alone or in mated pairs, and it’s their close relative, the crow, that prefers to flock in greater numbers.  Maybe Griffith Park is just a special place for them, though, as there seemed to be quite a bit of group activity going on, with gatherings in mid-air or on trees that numbered in excess of a dozen attendees.

We also saw the occasional hawk, as well, which is another bird not uncommon to LA, but which I personally see far, far less frequently.  This also cheered me as we trudged along…  And then…the Conclave!

It was like this spot that was the Secret Meeting Place of Birds!  We came upon this one area where close to 20 Ravens were decorating a few neighboring trees, filling the air with their distinctive cawing sounds, and a solitary hawk — a Red-Tailed Hawk, if I have to guess — touched down among them.  I’ve never seen so many Ravens gathered together in one place, and the Hawk was like an emissary from another tribe or nation, sent perhaps to negotiate something, or strengthen ties among their respective kinds.  It was like we were suddenly privy to this spectacular bird-event that most humans would never witness.

As my friend and I spoke briefly below the trees in question, the Ravens began to take wing, probably irritated by our human jabber.  Slightly dejected, but still feeling all suddenly super-charged by our proximity to such a remarkable gathering, I started to follow my friend along the trail again…and the Ravens came back, filling up a different tree nearby, along with the ambassador from the Hawk Nation.  Not only did they perch and begin to converse again in fairly loud voices, but more Ravens began to wheel overhead, rather close to us, I’ll add, performing this phenomenal aerial ballet.  I was kind of giddy at this point, but my friend, who doesn’t share my love of winged creatures, was starting to get a slight Tippi Hedren vibe, so we said our farewells to the Conclave of Birds, and took our leave…

Raven dignitaries alight near the Hawk representative, while my friend and I watched...
Raven dignitaries alight near the Hawk representative, while my friend and I watch…

After four hours of tramping around in direct sunlight, and on totally empty stomachs to boot, I was a bit tapped out, but I was also elated — I felt (and still feel now) that I’d been permitted in on a secret meeting of multiple embodiments of my own personal Spirit Animal (with the very cool addition of that Hawk!).  It was one of those moments where it seems that the Universe is reaching out directly to say, “It’s not all random — there’s a plan, and you’re a very welcome and important part of it.”  I’m still feeling kind of bouncy today for having experienced that, and it’s not just the sunburn talking!  I can’t recommend enough the idea of cultivating a relationship with one or more Spirit Animals if such a thing holds any appeal for you.  And if you’re interested, but not sure how to go about something like this, post a comment here or drop me  line directly, and I’d be happy to share some pointers…

For now, though, I’m off to take care of some errands, and you can bet I’ll be scanning the skies as I go!