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Totems: Badger

by Cie Simurro, a.k.a. Thunderbird Starwoman

I am the one who makes good use of anger. There is a place for this. It can be used to stimulate creativity. It can be used to direct attention in a powerful way towards something. I AM BADGER. My reputation for fierceness precedes me. As long as I don’t get caught in my own drama, as long as I can release the anger, it is most useful. Especially if not used too often.

I am the roundness and the bristle of Grandmother's medicine bag. I am the redress of grievances; stimulated power. I am self-containment. I am the sword and both edges. Think twice before calling on me. And when you come, do so respectfully. Honor the power of aggression and it will not own you. Use it like a broom to sweep out the corners of your heart where you are still nursing resentment, righteous indignation, and things you've avoided. How long will you wait for the world to give you what you want? Stop wasting time being what others want you to be; go get it for yourself. Be not wanton in dealing with me. Be care-full, meticulous. Use advisement and caution. Yet I am fair. I am ruthlessly honest, and this can be a blessing and a curse. If not tempered, it can alienate. It can hurt. But when used properly, honesty and clean anger can defend the downtrodden, give rise to the underdog, encourage the meek and let them know their true power.

Mother Nature has given badger one ingenious skill in the process of evolution: it can dig deeper and faster than just about any other mammal – like three feet a minute if it's hunting one of its favorite delicacies: ground squirrels, prairie dogs, or rabbits! This phenomenal ability enables this otherwise short (up to 34 inches), stocky, flat, almost fat member of the weasel family to get both food and shelter. Five long, strong claws (paws the size of a man's hand) on each front leg are designed for digging, but will deliver a tearing, raking swipe if necessary. Accompanied by badger's ability to shove loose earth with its powerful shoulders, this makes badger a top-notch burrower.

Thinking of selling your house and buying a camper or RV to wander the upper 48? If you have wanderlust or never live in the same place very long, badger may be your totem animal. In warm weather, they change dens almost daily, unless they've killed some larger prey like a rabbit. Then they will hole up for a few days. Other than that, and giving birth, the American badger's life is all about digging a new burrow every night.

Badgers are members of the family Mustelidae like otters, skunks, fishers and other weasels. They are rarely seen because either they're in their burrows or out at night. If you live in their area, you are probably aware of them mostly for their strong scent, pungent and foul. Unlike their European and Asian counterparts, who live socially in setts, American badgers wander alone except at mating time. Males (boars) have aggressive mating practices. In fact, sometimes mating is not voluntary for the female (sow). She may be accosted and held down, often with a neck bite. The lengthy, vigorous copulation releases an egg and ensures fertilization though implantation may be delayed. The egg "floats" in the uterus until auspicious conditions mysteriously signal the egg to implant on the uterine wall and begin to develop; therefore, gestation may total seven months (5.5 months delayed). Females have one to five pups in spring. Giving birth makes her stay in one burrow for about a month, until her babies are able to go with her to seek out another home, and another….

Not usually the most sociable of animals, badger shuns contact with humans. You may think the meaning of the word badger – to harass or worry – came from behavior on badger's part. It did not. In partnership with man, badger has gotten the short end. Badgers used to control prairie dog populations. As man poisoned and otherwise eliminated prairie dogs, badgers, who would normally help man control rodent species, disappeared. Unfortunately, this four-legged who would rather be left in peace was once trapped and baited in a barrel against dogs in Britain for sick sport. You see if cornered, a badger will fight fiercely, even to the death. Badger (and folks who carry this medicine) will not back down. In nature, if a dog tries to grab a badger with its teeth, the dog has the disadvantage, for though badger looks like he's wearing a baggy hide, that loose skin enables him to turn in his own skin and bite back. All that being said, it is crucial for those with badger as an ally to temper responses to injustice with non-violent means. Then badger will defend you from dark forces. Having the power of badger carries responsibility for its use.

Badger has other significant physical characteristics. Powerful jaws interlock and the teeth are real crushers. If you are experiencing badger medicine, you are likely in the middle of something intense, and you will not let go until it's finished. This can be only for a period of time, or it can be the way you operate in life. Just be sure to use your aggression for good. That wide white stripe that travels from badger's nose (what it knows) all around to the back of its head, represents the path of the shaman: a path of light bordered by the darkness the shaman transmutes. Sometimes, shamans are territorial. Badgers leave signs to mark their territory, food caches and to communicate with other badgers. Have you wondered how badgers can furiously dig through soil and not get dirt and dust in their eyes? They have a third eyelid called a nictating membrane. This indicates an ability to "see" with other faculties besides physical eyes. You might find you have an ability to see beneath physical appearances to the heart of the matter. Certainly, if you are in a healing profession, your ability to diagnose and treat with herbs, roots and plant medicine is vast. Often you just know what to use for various conditions, before even doing research. Powerful medicine women often have bags made of badger skin to hold the healing roots that hang from badger's burrow. Healers with badger medicine use the most aggressive healing techniques and never give up on a patient. From badger's heightened sense of smell and hearing, they sniff out the roots of illness. They may also use sound, gemstones, and crystals to heal.

A Golden eagle with a wingspan of over six feet might prey on a badger. If a cougar or coyote cannot get an easier meal, a young badger will do. But this story has a twist. Just as Navajo stories tell of badger and coyote "cousins" hunting together, so in Mexico, Talcoyote is the Indian name for badger. Coyote runs fast, but cannot dig deep like slow-moving badger. A coyote might wait at a burrow exit, while badger digs at the entrance. To eat, sometimes they partner up. Since on occasion coyotes will eat badgers, how does the badger know when it is safe? In Africa, honey badgers raid bee nests after the honey-guide bird leads them to it. After badger has torn open the nest and gorged himself, the honey-guide partakes of the wax comb. Badger's skin is so tough bee stings cannot pierce it. Badger fur is so stiff, it was used to make shaving brushes. The Zuni called badger "little brother to the bear" for his fierce heart. In other tribes, expectant mothers would call on badger to help them have a brief labor. They saw its burrowing prowess helpful to the newborn making its way into the world.

So why do a totems column on a foul-smelling, fierce, unattractive mammal that mostly stays under cover? Because badger has strong medicines for this time. This is the time of Badger. I was wondering how I was going to access badger's medicine. I was in a too-busy cycle, trying to do the work in front of me, initiating new projects, and taking care of all the responsibilities of modern life. I worked on a little boy with a bad cough. I knew I was run-down, but I did it anyway. "No problem," said badger. "I'll use that to connect with you" – and bam! I was laid up in bed for the rest of the week. Even when I moved around at all, it was at less than half-throttle. Time to make new decisions about the use of my time and energy! Badger will help with time management, and is a meticulous organizer. Badger's home consists of neat areas for eating, sleeping and food caches. Who wouldn't like some help with home and time management?

Badger will take you into solitary stillness where you connect deeply with who you are. In an age when we are daily bombarded by too much info, ideas, and ever more clever marketing ploys designed to take our time and money, one needs a true sense of self, and badger's ability to fight for the way we want to live. Like badger, we can't give up. Badger is just the one to teach us about chosen solitude, either for certain periods of life, or after being a householder and experiencing the end of a marriage, death of a spouse, or a family grown. Solitude is an essential stage in realizing the true self. Can you think of any Master or Enlightened Being who has not experienced it? How else can we come to know and depend solely on ourselves, save through solitude? Even in partnership, we must become independent – not co-dependent, in order to discover wholeness. Badger sets the example. Badger knows itself and lives its truth, no matter what. Think how much less anxiety we would have if we explored who we are and what we believe in, not what we have been taught - and then lived it unequivocally. Yes it's difficult. Lonely? Yes. However, once we know who we are, what we believe in, and are living it, we experience inner joy. Then we are able to love all life unconditionally.

There are other up-sides to being solitary. It tends to make you graceful. What do I mean by that? The self-knowledge you achieve gives you a certain presence that people respond to with confidence and with secrets. People want to confide in you. They will say things around you, without even realizing they are revealing more than they intended. Badger's ability to sniff out the deepest truth of a situation gives badger people an edge in meetings.

While I was experiencing all of badger's energy, the oil disaster in the Gulf kept spreading, and more disasters barely kept at bay, because greed and corruption often still trumps finding a way to live on the Earth with benefit to all. It is time to burrow beneath all the affectations and desires of the ego, to the treasure that is at the core of each of us. Badger has been backed into a corner. Badger tells us to get real now. What can each of us let go of as an egotistical way of life? We must dig deep with badger's claws to reveal our own similar attributes. It does no good to condemn an oil company's arrogance, greed and stupidity. If we want things to change, these are the things that must be excavated on a personal level. We must tunnel into ourselves to heal the Mother who bleeds daily. Put values into action. Badger says its time to step up to the plate. Visualize and enact the healing of the breach between Gaia and ourselves. Let us ask ourselves what we are still doing to desecrate the sacred earth home we live on. Still using excess chemicals or flushing pharmaceuticals? Not recycling? Which of the Mother's gifts and resources have we wasted today? Badger doesn't care if it is the only one fighting for what it believes in. The snarl and spit are real and ferocious. Badger teaches us to bravely stand our ground, while fighting for the health of the planet.

Cie Simurro ~ Thunderbird Starwoman has been a healer and writer for 36 years. As an interfaith minister, advocate and steward for the natural world, Cie lives and works shamanically, with light and sound, offering healing for animals and humans. For healing in person or by phone, for you or your animal, spiritual training, to attend Cie's Arts Salon, or purchase her book, Totems for Stewards of the Earth ($22 to PO 295, Shelburne Falls MA 01370), call 413 625-0385 or email: cie@ciesimurro.com

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