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Totems: American Goldfinch

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

What is your definition of wealth? Is it the same as abundance? Do you think you’re smarter than everyone else, or are you in right relationship with others? For if you think you “smartened” your way to the top, then surely your ride to the bottom is just as sure. Mere wealth as in money or gold is certainly a roller coaster ride, with as many ups as downs. In fact, it is very similar to my flight pattern. I AM AMERICAN GOLDFINCH. Wealth does not accrue from hard work, influence, or cutting corners. Wealth comes from the automatic response of the Universal Forces to your undeniable vibration of abundance. You must already have that to manifest what you want. If fulfillment is wealth for you, then you are full o’ fortune indeed. Don’t forget to share. Prosperity and abundance will follow as you giveaway a part of your good fortune to all that has helped you get to your current place.

Sounds of distress made my eyes fly open from a deep sleep. No doubt about it! Some bird or animal was in trouble. Grabbing a robe, I raced downstairs to the front porch. Sure enough, Petey, the tuxedo cat from next door was up on the railing, pawing the bottom of the birdfeeder I had hung under the eave, well out of reach, I thought. The noise was coming from within the feeder! Yes, even though the openings were so small, a terrified male goldfinch had squeezed in with the thistle seed in the center of the feeder to escape the great hunter. “Petey,” I chastised, using my ‘I’m not happy with you’ tone. Immediately, Petey jumped down and gave me a dirty look. Ignoring him, I carried over a stool to reach the birdfeeder, and brought it into my hallway.

Well, the goldfinch may have pushed himself in there, but my hand definitely was not going to fit. I went upstairs for a pair of pliers, determining that I would have to break open the plastic feeder; however, as I approached with the pliers, my goldfinch friend decided outside was better than inside. He flew up the stairs and proceeded to fly back and forth from one end of the landing to the other. Birds instinctively fly as high as they can, looking for release.

I opened the porch door, but Petey appeared too interested in the proceedings, so even though it was only early March, I opened the hall window as wide as possible, and propped the feeder in the window hoping the goldfinch would find his way out. I hoped to lure him further outside with more food on the windowsill. It drew other birds in from the outside to nibble on the seeds, but did not persuade the goldfinch to leave.

Eventually I had to leave for awhile, so I hoped peace and quiet would do the trick. When I returned and didn’t see the goldfinch, I was delighted – that is, until I heard a rustling sound in the far corner. Sure enough, my poor, little exhausted friend was perched there. I quickly communicated to him that I would help him, pouring love toward him. He cocked his head, got still, and let me wrap my hand around him. All the way down the stairs, I sent vibrations of healing and safety into his little body. When I opened my hand at the porch railing, he looked up, not quite believing he was actually free, but he took the opportunity to fly to a nearby bush to sing a delightful version of the goldfinch song. The notes tumbled over each other like a canary’s, their song alluding to their other name: wild canary - that, and their brilliant yellow.

The name goldfinch (Carduelis tristis) comes from the Latin Carduus, which means ‘thistle’ their favorite food, and from ‘tristis’ meaning ‘sad,’ referring to their rather mournful sounding melodies in autumn. More typical though are the joyous bursts of song coinciding with peaking, swooping flight ~ per-chick-o-ree interspersed with chirps. Their connection with thistle probably accounts for their odd breeding season. Unlike most birds, which mate in the early spring, goldfinches don’t mate until thistles are in bloom in July and August, or even September, with variations depending on which part of the U.S. they live in. They follow the seeds: in May, the seeds of elm; in June, dandelions by the roadside, and evening primrose in the fields. If enough food is available, some hardy flocks may stay near their breeding grounds for the winter, finding shelter in evergreen thickets, eating birch or alder seeds, and not seeming to mind the cold.  

Do you have liver or gallbladder issues? The active ingredient (silymarin) in milk thistle protects the liver from toxins. I could hardly keep the feeders full of sunflower seeds and thistle. That year the flock my goldfinch friend was from was huge. I saw 12 males at a time, feeding and trying to push other males away. Except for breeding time, goldfinches flock. Breeding males have brilliant yellow coloring, with a black cap and black and white chevrons on the wings, while females have a more olive tone. That’s their breeding plumage. In Fall and Winter, one may wonder where all the males have gone because all the birds have olive mixed in with yellow.

Yellow is a color usually associated with mental acuity. In some traditions, yellow is the color for the East, also associated with the element of Air, Dawn, and New Beginnings. Have you made a move, begun a new endeavor, job or relationship? If goldfinch is prominent, look to see the whole package. Babies come with diapers to change, lovers with families, and business comes with ethical choices. If you are female, there may also be a connection with a new writing project. When the female goldfinch makes her tightly built cup nest, she lines the nest with thistledown, and binds it entirely with spider silk. This makes the nest so watertight that a heavy rainstorm can drown the chicks.

Spider is the totem of the writer, so you may be getting two totems for the price of one. For around 12 days, the female incubates 4 to 6 bluish eggs. After connecting with goldfinch, get as much of your new seed idea down on paper as you can during this time period. If your partner is experiencing goldfinch’s medicine, be as supportive and helpful as possible. Take on more of the household chores, especially food shopping. If you’re a couple with a new baby, take over some of the feeding times with a bottle or expressed milk, as your mate will surely be exhausted after getting up every 3 or 4 hours to nurse. Men with goldfinch energy are good providers. Male goldfinches at incubation time are very busy finding food. After the chicks arrive, he even shucks the hard shells, chews seeds, crushes them in his crop and regurgitates them for the mother, who in turn, gives them to her young.

Back to that yellow color - the golden color suggests that people with this totem attract wealth. Sometimes, this takes a persistent belief in one’s own vision or dream to make it a reality. If you’ve been implementing someone else’s dream, perhaps it’s time to bob and weave through the ethers, singing your own bright song now. No other bird sings with greater ecstasy and abandon. It’s also good to later remember where your good fortune came from. Who or what fed your dreams? Those who succeed, believe in themselves and allow themselves to be in partnership with the unseen world of allies helping you achieve your goals. Ask for help. They respond to pleas, and in fact, cannot interfere unless asked for help.

Mid to end-of-summer is the high season for folks with this totem. You will have the most energy then. Socialize; travel, sing; dance; begin an art form. This is a time for those with this power animal to let loose of the cares and responsibilities of their working life; a time to rejuvenate and rest up for future activity. It’s hard work creating, sustaining, and guarding a fortune, isn’t it? Or is it? Remember goldfinch’s message. Give back to whatever has nourished your mind, body or spirit. Whenever someone pays me for my work, I hold it, bless it, and ask that it return to them 100-fold.

After the summer, the males soon lose their brilliant yellow because this striking color was also a message to other males to stay away from their food or mates. Being aggressive all the time can be very stressful. Did you hear that men? Find outlets for your energy and aggression. Learning peaceful ways to mediate conflict is an important part of living with others. This is actually one of the most crucial lessons for all humans on the planet at this time. There is no threat from diverse cultures as long as people direct their thoughts and actions to what they want, not what they don’t want. There’s plenty of room on the planet for everyone’s ideologies, as long as they don’t require others to believe and behave as they do. For most of the year, goldfinches are a great example of living together peacefully. Even “most of the time” would be a good start for humans.

Cie Simurro ~ Thunderbird Starwoman has been a Healer, Writer, Minister, Advocate and Steward for the natural world for over 40 years; author of this column for 15 years. For Healing for you or your animal, Flower Essences, Training, or 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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