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Totems: Earthworm

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

My body is long, slender and soft. I am malleable because I have no bones or hard covering. It would seem as though I were closed off from the world, having no legs, eyes, ears or nose, yet this allows me to FEEL with an acuity that others might not achieve. I am extremely sensitive to vibration, especially earth vibrations. Have you ever sat atop a mountain and let yourself feel connected to power beneath you? I AM EARTHWORM. You’re likely to see me when it rains. Then I come above ground. As above; so below. There is correspondence between sky and earth, active and receptive, ether and matter.

I knew it was time to start writing about earthworm when I found the 9th one as I was taking a walk up to the ridge behind town. They had come up to the surface after a big rain. It was the 10th and 11th ones that I found on my healing room floor though, that sent such a strong sense of knowing through my body. They’d hitchhiked from the bottom of a potted plant I’d brought in for the winter. Earthworm medicine was the next totem to write about and experience their medicine. 11-11-11 brought in a great influx of Light. Numbers are powerful indicators of energetic patterns. 11 indicates mastery of the physical plane. We can already see much change globally.

According to Charles Darwin, the role of the ubiquitous earthworm may make it one of the most important members of the animal kingdom. They aerate the soil with their burrows and fertilize it with their castings. Earth would be a very different place without these underground farmers. In 1881, Darwin said, "It may be doubted whether there are many other animals which have played so important a part in the history of the world as these lowly organized creatures." Aristotle called earthworms the "intestines of the earth." Would you imagine that there are over 40,000 kinds of worms, and 2,700 kinds of earthworms. Whatever their size or color, they all have the same body plan. As annelids, they have many segments or rings with grooves between them. Segmentation, which occurs in all higher groups happened first in the earthworm. A common earthworm has 100 to 200 segments. Earthworms require under-ground tunnels or burrows where sunlight cannot reach, drying them out. Even the soil has to be damp and dark. The water element carries emotion and stimulates us to acknowledge our feelings. A worm in the light will quickly wriggle back underground if it can. Earthworm cautions not to compartmentalize painful feelings. Instead, let them rise to the light and just be with them. An earthworm only comes to the surface to mate, move somewhere else, or feed. Darkness isn’t necessarily a bad thing. From the essential void come new realizations and creations.

Earthworm displays intelligence appropriate to its functions. Darwin observed them "choosing" which leaves to use to block their tunnels. Even without eyes, earthworms can sense light through nerve cells in their skin, just as humans cannot see heat but can feel it. Earthworm teaches us to tune into the vibration of things in order to know them. Do you trust your feelings? Do you act on them?

They get around by wriggling. This is accomplished by using two different kinds of muscles. Short muscles encircle the body. When they tighten, the body thins out and lengthens; then it moves forward. The second set of muscles runs the length of the worm’s body. When they tighten, the segments pull close together. There are two ways an earthworm moves through soil. Either it pushes earth aside as it wriggles along, making a tunnel, or if the earth is hard-packed, earthworm swallows soil, making its own space. A worm ingests food through a small mouth at one end. Its body breaks down plant and animal wastes and then its own droppings form a kind of rich soil. For those working with earthworm medicine, burrowing down to issues of the past may help cast off what is no longer needed. Perhaps by asking this power animal for help bringing issues into the light, we may reshape the parameters of our worldview.

Earthworms are the plows of the animal kingdom. Plants, trees, grasses, and flowers need air and water to reach their roots. The type of soil and the nutrients that get churned up determine the quality of the soil. Many earthworms live in the top 18 inches of soil, but some kinds burrow down as much as 8 or 9 feet. If it runs into a stone, earthworm will move it. It actually can move stones 50x its weight. You’re likely to have stamina if this is your totem! Earthworm also teaches there’s more than one way to approach or get through a problem. The experiences we go through shape our character and our lives. When earthworm comes into the picture, it’s time to do a life inventory. Examining and processing what has been experienced so far can clear and reset the stage of one’s life to make a dramatic new start.

As we use earthworm medicine to dig deep, that loosens things up. Exploring and transmuting our recent and deep past, we fertilize our lives with a healthy mix of nutrients by which to revitalize our lives. For earthworms, moving is helped by 4 pairs of tiny hair-bristles on each segment. Slime also helps earthworm to move through and harden the soil. But slime does more. Extra slime is emitted with an alarm pheromone when earthworm is attacked, warning others. Slime or mucus allows earthworm to breathe. Since an earthworm has no lungs, it breathes through its body surface. Oxygen dissolves in the moist slime, passing into the body and bloodstream. Slime is also the substance that holds earthworms together while mating. Now it gets interesting! Earthworms are hermaphrodites, meaning each earthworm has its own eggs and sperm but they must mate to exchange sperm. Lying side by side, for one to four hours, heads in opposite directions, a sheath of mucus binds them. This alignment allows a tube to form, picking up both eggs and sperm. Afterward, each worm begins to make cocoons. Inside are the sperm and egg cells that will make 3 to 4 young worms in each cocoon.

When earthworm comes to the surface, it is vulnerable to predators. Earthworm cautions us to think twice and then again before jumping into something new. Be grounded. Fish, reptiles, amphibians, burrowing animals, and many birds are among those that eat earthworms. Though most worms come out after dusk, an astute bird might find one and grab it. Then a tug of war begins. The bird pulls and the worm clings to its tunnel. The bristles help anchor it; so do the long muscles. Folks with earthworm medicine are no pushovers. They are tenacious and life-affirming. If you want to change their mind about something, you’d better have a pretty persuasive argument in your favor, or they will uphold their position like it’s anchored.

In the ancient Mystery schools, adepts were taught how to regenerate parts of their bodies. The simple earthworm has retained this ability. Take that bird tugging on the worm. If it gets a piece, earthworm will regenerate new segments to replace the lost ones. That’s powerful medicine. What would you do if you were given a second chance at life? Would you use it for self-healing and renewal of the earth? What would you regenerate?

It’s a good thing there are so many earthworms. A million can reside in a healthy acre of soil. That means in a single year, they can turn over more than 40 tons of earth. That’s quite a turnover. How do they do that? They eat litter. In one acre, earthworms may eat 10 tons of decaying plant and animal matter a year. If earthworm has wriggled its way into your life, this is a time of preparing, or laying the groundwork for projects that will later bear fruit. Humans usually have a hard time with the concept of decay. We don’t like things to end or die. It may help to remind ourselves that the earth would have perished long ago, inundated by dead matter if it did not break down, and release minerals, to be used again by living plants and animals. When we are deep in earthworm’s potent energy, we may experience a kind of death or letting go before our energy rises again and is recycled into our lives in a new way. You might say earthworm is one of the original recyclers. Green plants are the only things that make their own food out of carbon dioxide, water, and minerals. These are eaten in turn by plant eaters, which are eaten by meat eaters. When they die, earthworms turn these back into raw material for plants again. If you have earthworm medicine you are one who enriches the lives of others. Perhaps you are a teacher or coach. Maybe you are a gardener, landscaper, environmentalist, or have started a recycling program in your town. If you have kinship with earthworm, you conserve water, are careful of what goes into the earth and try to balance the abuse and lack of respect of others. Earthworms have 5 hearts. When I told this to my friend, she said, "They must love the earth so much." Do you heart the Earth?

Past Totems columns can be found online at www.wisdom-magazine.com  (click Article Archives)

For Healing for you or your animal, Training, or Totems for Stewards of the Earth ($22 to PO 295, Shelburne Falls MA 01370), call 413 625-0385 or email: cie@ciesimurro.com

Cie Simurro ~ Thunderbird Starwoman has been a healer and writer for over 35 years. Her work is to bring forward and disseminate the healing arts and ancient universal wisdom through writing, teaching, and healing, facilitating the mystical reunion of humans with Source and Nature, in all directions, in equal balance, allied with the Elements, acknowledging the divine within all.

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