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Totems: Alligator, Part 1

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

Though I am fearless, I use my strength and power wisely, conserving energy, waiting for the precise moment to strike. Then, when I do, I put my entire self into it, so much so, that at one moment, I may be floating, and the next, my entire upper body is lifted out of the water.

When I am not pursuing the object of my attention I am rather shy, preferring to exist in tranquility. I AM ALLIGATOR. I may not survive this age, but I have been here since antiquity. I am therefore, a treasure trove of knowledge for those who approach with courage, respect and honoring. If you have these qualities, you will be amazed at who I am, how I am, and what I do. I will reflect my best qualities back to you like a mirrored water surface, so that you may see the greatness of which you are capable.

One side of my persona is a gladiator. I am the protector of my clan. Are you willing to be initiated? The other side of me is soft and full of light like the color and texture of my belly. I show this benevolent side to my family, especially my young. How are you with your children and your family? Out in the world? Can you be strong, yet vulnerable? Those who do not understand the powers and destinies of the animal world are unaware that we move and have our being the way we were created: to be companions to the other kingdoms, especially humans, and as sources of wonderment and awe. Do you not know that we reflect aspects of that eternal energy of Love that is your Source and mine too. We are relatives, you and I. Remember that as you make decisions that determine my fate.

Though I love writing this Totems column, and always look forward to carving out days and weeks for research and writing, it was challenging attempting to wrest time from the extra-busy, freezing cold in New England that was my January, in order to hand this totems article in by deadline. I enjoyed the challenge though, because the astonishing vitality of Alligator Medicine cut a swath through the other responsibilities of my life, though clearing my schedule of other pressing concerns was sometimes like wrestling with an alligator. Alligator Medicine was ultimately healing. Those big teeth took a sizeable bite out of everything in my life, helping me to accept what was on the menu and digest it too.

Do you often wrestle with life to find a balance between work, play and time for your spirit’s realization? Struggle to grab from your day, a few moments of enjoyment? Is there freedom, growth and joy in your life? Do you work at a job, hoping to make enough money so that you can eventually do what makes you happy, or does your life work for you now, and each day? Let us see if Alligator Medicine can help you.

There are very few sights quite as ominous as an alligator gliding like a log, across undisturbed still water, only eyes, nostrils and a bit of gnarled, ribbed back showing. Recently, at a Rescue Center in Homosassa Florida, this apparition appeared (See photo #1) in a pond while I was walking on a bank crowded with ancient oaks draped with shrouds of Spanish moss. Though I knew I was out of reach on a wooden walkway, still, a shiver of apprehension shot through me, as I felt this alligator’s power and menace. Then, just as quickly, I saw the second alligator, (see 2nd photo) right leg hoisted on a log, upper body completely out of the water. Most remarkable though, was what looked like a big ole’ grin across the entire side of its face.

This so-called grin is actually one of the main differences between the teeth formation of crocodiles and alligators. The American alligator has between 74 and 80 teeth in its mouth at any time. When they wear down, they are replaced, so one alligator can go through up to 3,000 teeth in a lifetime. In crocodiles, the teeth intermesh, and you can see both rows of teeth. In alligators, the lower row of teeth projects upward into a series of pockets in the upper jaw so that when the mouth is closed, the only teeth exposed are the upper teeth, which gives the appearance of ‘smiling’ when viewed from the side. So no, he wasn’t leering at me or visualizing his next feast!

Their snouts are peppered with little black dots, especially around the jaws that are known as dome pressure receptors. These DPR’s are so highly sensitive that they can sense the slightest ripple of a wave on the water. That, and their propensity for detecting movement allows an alligator to communicate with other alligators, and to be very successful at catching prey (really, when was the last time you saw an emaciated alligator?). Those jaws are so powerful, with one gulp they can eat a small mammal whole. Eyelids half-open give ‘gators a sleepy look in repose, but once they’re in action, watch out!

Alligator helps us to flow with life’s surprises. Just as it drags its prey underwater and stashes it under a log for tenderizing, so too, we often need time to adjust to new conditions, and maybe alter our usual way of reacting. When someone is being difficult, we can initiate a new attitude within ourselves; a new way to respond. For example, although it may initially feel a bit bizarre, instead of getting into a tense situation with the other person - say a child or a sibling - you can find the quirky, silly response, like telling them if they don’t change their attitude, you are going to regale them with kisses. If they act difficult later, you can remind them humorously, saying, “Is it time for a kiss?”

‘Gators can stay perfectly still for ages, watching and waiting for the right time to strike or act. Here’s what they teach us: when in doubt, do nothing. Wait for the right moment; in fact, go play, and while you are playing, inspiration may very well strike. Or go meditate. They teach us to take time each day for a touchstone like meditation - something that will draw us into the kind of clear awareness that is always waiting for us just this side of intention.

Millions of years older than humans, American alligator (Alligator mississipiensis) is one of four members of the order of Crocodilians. The others are crocodiles, caimans, and gharials. About 250 million years ago, reptiles were the first vertebrates to develop shelled eggs, providing the embryo with a tiny aquatic environment in which to develop. This allowed reptiles to live terrestrially. Another adaptation was feathers. Birds either evolved from feathered dinosaurs or early reptiles. In fact, as a member of the Crocodilian family, alligators are considered more closely related to birds than to other reptiles. The two surviving lines included extinct dinosaurs, and the other line was birds.

Alligators and Crocodiles are the largest reptiles in North America – and also the loudest. Whereas reptiles are usually quite silent, a mating alligator male, called a bull inflates his throat, emitting a low-frequency sound that literally makes water dance upward along his back. The sizzling water dance of one bull instigates the same in others. After this or occasionally before, the bull raises his head and tail out of the water. He waves the tail back and forth, splashing and slapping the water noisily. This is followed by lusty bellowing for three or four seconds, and can be heard at least half a mile away. Bulls do this throughout the spring mating season. They also use those head slaps to warn away rivals. Way back in 1944, the Museum of Natural History conducted an experiment where every time the musician played B-flat notes and only B-flat two octaves below middle C, it always stimulated bellowing in the male alligators present. But wait: males aren’t the only ones that bellow. Females bellow too, as well as cough almost caressingly. In their complex mating ritual, the couple nuzzles, presses, bumps and rubs. There is much head stroking, especially along the highly sensitive sides of the face. The two swim together, touching snouts and vocalizing for nearly an hour before mating.

Cie Simurro ~ Thunderbird Starwoman has been a healer and writer for 40 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, allied with the Elements, acknowledging the divine within all. For 13 years, she has been a contributing writer for Wisdom Magazine.For healing for you or your animal, spiritual training, to invite Cie to bring her presentation: "Our Partnership With Nature" to 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

Be sure to look for Part II of Alligator totem in the next issue of Wisdom Magazine

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