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Totems: Falcon, Part II

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

Flying is the most amazing thing falcons do. They are highly specialized flying machines, like living jet fighters. Creatures of the wind, there is a graceful quality to their flight that translates into graceful movement for folks with this medicine. Flight begins between 42 and 45 days. 4+2=6; 4+5=9. Both 6 and 9 build on the initial awareness of power that 3 brings in. 6 investigates and accepts the power and potential within the Self, and 9 brings this realization of potential to its highest consciousness.

Being streamlined minimizes wind resistance; falcons are helped in acceleration by gravity - they coast on downwinds, soar on light breezes and ride turbulent winds like a champion. This totem’s energy is fearless. Plummeting earthward - 20 feet above the ground - falcons may scoop their wings, drop their secondary feathers and brake. Although a falcon will not hesitate upon spying its target, a falcon will also sit for hours non-plussed, waiting for the right moment to strike. Because of this, falcon medicine can also teach you patience while waiting for the perfect time to act. When not flying, Peregrines fold their wings to their body in elegant fashion.

Because they hunt during the day, their eyesight is the second most amazing thing about them. Black pupils fill the entire eye socket. They have an eight to one advantage over man, because their retinas have 1.5 million visual cells to man’s 200,000. A comb-like structure called a pectin lifts blood vessels away from the retina, which furnishes it with extra blood. Compared to man’s vision, falcons see like they have binoculars, as well as close-up like a magnifying glass. Nictating membranes slip across the eye and lower eyelids close upward to blot out daylight. The ability to focus, hone in, and when opportune, take aggressive, decisive action is one of the qualities falcon totem can bestow on those within its sphere of influence. In this time of great change, let us call falcon into our lives to help us negotiate our life transitions gracefully and forthrightly. Let all our choices lead us to greater freedom. This is not only a time of great change; it is a time of great vision. Falcon totem is a guardian of visionaries. Under falcon’s influence, your life purpose can become lucid and clear to you. You step up, discovering your unique service to the world - a time to go through the crucible, into the illumined life awaiting you. Above all things, the cycle we are in is a clarion call to sacrifice our illusions in order to see with the sharp clarity of falcon, that we are not separate from the greatness of All That Is, and that all creation is interdependent.

Both the loud, penetrating "kak kak kak" sound of an adult peregrine, or the shrill begging calls of the eyasses are captivating. "Psee, psee" they cry. "Feed me". They have to eat often because they grow quickly. At two to three weeks, young will also hiss. After fourteen days, the second coat of natal down comes in so they can regulate their temperatures. When flight feathers appear at four weeks, down disappears. At this point the eyasses are able to feed themselves. Essentially they are grown at six weeks of age and begin to attack the parents. This tendency of an eyas is similar to that of a child with falcon totem. They have an overwhelming need to express themselves as individuals. Self-expression through acting, dance or music are good outlets. When this need is frustrated, outbursts and tantrums may result.

Death by starvation comes quickly to a bird of prey and strength returns just as quickly. If this is your power animal, eating small meals frequently throughout the day will maintain your naturally high energy. Eat even more before the cold of winter sets in. Falcons bulk up before migrating to South America for the winter. Arctic nesting falcons fly as many as 15,500 miles to South America. Not all falcons migrate. Eastern ones who do, use the Atlantic Flyway, the angle of the sun, and the magnetic field of the Earth to do so.

Though falcons have few predators, man and his creations are always threats. Being shot, eggs stolen from nests, airplanes, reflective glass, electrocution on utility poles, poisoning and habitat destruction comprise the greatest threats. Despite the unceasing warfare that humans, especially farmers, hunters and egg collectors have waged on peregrine falcons and other birds of prey, they maintained a fairly stable population. That is, until the 1960’s when use of DDT and dieldrin (chlorinated hydrocarbons) reached saturation in the environment. After WWII these pesticides were widely applied. The pesticides caused reproductive failure – delayed breeding, failure to lay eggs altogether, drastically thin or broken shells, and high mortality in Peregrine embryos and fledglings. The reason is that by the time toxic chemicals work their way through the food chain, they may be several million times more concentrated than when they are first applied to the environment. Small birds and mammals ingest prey contaminated with the pesticide. Raptors feeding on the contaminated birds and rodents are then in turn, poisoned by a progressive build-up of the pesticide in their bodies. We see more toxins concentrated in birds of prey because they are at the top of the food chain above plants, insects, birds and small mammals. We humans are also at the top of the food chain, ingesting all the pesticides and fertilizers of all beneath. Does that encourage you to grow, buy and use only organically grown food and products? DDT has been outlawed since the 1970’s in the U.S., but there is no dearth of harmful chemicals being invented and widely used by agribusiness and even local farmers. Another threat for falcons is that DDT and its derivatives are still used in South America where falcons migrate.

Historically, Peregrines nested widely in the eastern U.S. in eyries used by the same pair year after year. It’s been a tough job hacking them back to survival numbers. Hacking is the term by which a species is re-introduced into the environment. It is a gradual release of captive-reared birds into the wild, without the interaction of adult falcons. Peregrine falcons from various sources are used as breeding stock. Chicks are hatched and raised in captivity and then "hacked" into the wild. A week before they are ready to fly, chicks are placed in a special box high up on a cliff, building or tower. Staying out of sight so the young birds don’t imprint on them, humans daily provide food, water and protection from predators until the fledglings can completely feed themselves. To imagine the immense amount of time and effort necessary to establish even 146 successfully breeding pairs, mull over the fact that it would take yearly releases of 250 falcons over a 15-year period to accomplish this.

The captive breeding and release program has been successful, but concerns remain. In order to maintain a healthy population of Peregrines in the East, nesting and wintering habitat must be preserved. Peregrines still need to be protected from killing or capture. With help and support by the public, the Peregrine falcon will continue to be an awe-inspiring sight on the East Coast.

You can’t keep a great species down, just like you can’t keep a person down who has falcon medicine. They will use their challenges to get more focused on solutions. Falcons adapt, even if it means going urban. In 1983, the first two nesting pairs returned to NYC on the Verrazano and Throgs Neck Bridges. In 2010 there were 15 active nests in the 5 boroughs, many of them on skyscrapers. Due to the aggressive efforts to revive Peregrines, 70 pairs are believed to live across New York State. In 1987 a nesting pair was found in Boston. As of 2011, 25 nesting pairs live in Massachusetts. Falcons have been nesting in the city of Springfield and on top of the University of Massachusetts Library. There is a special quality that folks with this totem have. Often they have experienced real hardship or tragedy in their lives, but manage to come back from it. Not right away maybe, but eventually. Once they focus on a goal they are bound to it like a tractor beam. They are known for their driving energy.

A caution here is to stay with a project instead of flitting from one new thing to another, or squandering opportunities. Unless wounded, these folks have a well-developed sense of altruism and generosity. Falcon folks are also self-starters. Their forte is initiating projects, and they usually are strong individuals. It’s important for them to balance their fiery, impetuous, individualistic tendencies with discernment, seeing others’ viewpoints, and getting involved in their community. Falcon’s extraordinary ability as a hunter is reflected in people with this totem by their ability to grasp new concepts easily and quickly, by their illumined ideas, and by the focused enthusiasm with which they meet challenges.

For almost 40 years, Cie Simurro ~ Thunderbird Starwoman has been bringing in the healing arts and ancient universal wisdom through her writing, healing work, and teaching. For 12 years, she has been a contributing writer to Wisdom Magazine. For healing for you or your animal, spiritual training, to invite Cie to give her presentation: "Our Partnership With Nature" in your area, 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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