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Totems: Octopus, Part 1

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

There is a similarity between the way I propel myself through the water and Time. I can aim my funnel, which siphons water through it, in any direction to propel myself forward, backwards or sideways. Outside of your 3-dimensional world, time is like that. It is not really linear – that’s just the way the senses cope with having a physical body. All time exists simultaneously, and in fact, your actions, thoughts and feelings appear to make it go slower, faster, backwards or even sideways.
If, like me, you spill your body out of the cave of your existence, then you discover that all is awareness, pure consciousness. Whatever is focused upon comes front and center to be understood, felt or emphasized. Knowing that everything is the present gives some intimation of what eternity is and means.
I AM OCTOPUS. Be like me. Untethered by time, I float in a rhythm of well-being when I am not being called to action. Even if your life is busy, behind it know that all is well, and ultimately perfect. Then you will take the frantic edge off your existence, and the anxiety that goes with it. Perhaps then, you would really be here now, knowing you could make this very moment feel like heaven or hell!
… maybe you didn’t expect anything profound to come from me, your octopus totem? Tsk, tsk ….

(CS: actually the tsk came in as a kind of clacking noise, like two parts of a beak hitting together, but it had the feeling of tsk, tsk).

Octopus means ‘eight-footed’ in Greek. There’s something mysterious about octopuses. They challenge a hubris that might assume that a malleable invertebrate is not intelligent or perceptive. Part of the mystery is that they usually live in the depths of the ocean, an environ-ment least explored by scientists. The other part is that we instinctively know that the unexplored watery depths of the ocean reflect the emotional, intuitive depths of our human nature. For many of us, this aspect of ourselves is least explored.

Believe it or not, octopus is part of the group of molluscs without a shell called cephalopods. The term cephalopod means “head-foot” as if to highlight the fact that the head and foot are merged. They have no spine, no bones. An octopus has a head with two eyes above a braincase of cartilage, a remarkably large brain, and a visceral mass that contains its organs. A hard-beaked mouth to pierce through the shells of prey is on the underside of the body. However, its most outstanding feature is its arms.

Those arms! Eight tentacles of the same length surround the head, with suction discs on the undersides called suckers, designed to hold prey. These suction cups are very sensitive to touch and taste, even through the water. They also use them to pull themselves along and crawl over ocean rocks. Yes, octopuses swim, but more often, crawl. When one does swim to get away from a predator for example, the octopus does so rapidly by jet propulsion, (usually backwards) inhaling water into a mantle cavity and squirting it out a siphon or funnel near the mouth. The funnel can be aimed in any direction to help it move forward, backwards or sideways. Octopuses can also sense gravity, which lets them know when their bodies need to turn or change position.

Imagine what you could do with eight arms instead of just two – at the least, you would be amazingly efficient at tasks. This has piqued the human imagination to create myths. In his book, Keepers of the Animals, Joseph Bruchac tells a story by the Nootka people of the Pacific Northwest. In this story, Octopus and Raven are protagonists. Octopus is walking along the beach, digging for clams. Her hair is long and strung into eight braids. Raven watches her digging up clams, and goes to bother her by asking over and over, “What are you doing? Are you digging for clams?” At first she ignores him, but finally, she drops her digging stick and her braids turn into long arms. Four of those arms wrap around Raven while the other four wrap around a rock. Then, while the water of the incoming tide gets higher and higher, Octopus answers his annoying question as many times as he’s asked it. Eventually, Raven drowns – but don’t worry. Raven is a trickster; his cousin is Crow who brings him back to life the next day, to cause more mischief – if a bit more chastened than before, of course.

It’s probably no surprise to you that the number 8 is a power number - double the foundation energy of the number 4. Eight also builds upon the manifestation energy of 7, which it follows. Eight is the number of government and big business. Many are urging them to be more accountable to people, and to use their power for good. Looking at the figure 8, one can see a figural representation of, As above, so below, amplifying the need to balance the physical world with the spiritual. This is especially important now, as we attempt to transform to “paradise on Earth.” The symbol eight also produces tension between its two halves signifying that the tension between parochialism vs. expansive freedom can produce great art form. We can see a physical representation of this expanding consciousness not only in the figure eight, but also in the spiral that the octopus body creates.

It is widely accepted that besides marine mammals, the octopus is the most intelligent creature in the sea, with the most highly developed nervous system. Octopuses can discriminate shapes, thread through mazes, and remember events. The eyesight of their two prominent eyes is highly developed, and similar to that of vertebrates. If you are in a time of octopus energy, be observant, and pay close attention to your intuition, acting on what you see with your inner sight. On an energetic level, this ‘seeing’ ability encourages one to develop intuitive and psychic abilities. This may also be a time to go with the flow. As one changes and grows, it becomes a powerful time to explore the deeper dimensions of life. An octopus can see how light or dark different objects are, kind of like an old black and white movie shows gradations of light and dark, and many shades of grey.

In a chapter by William A. Mason from the Nat Geo book, “The Marvels of Animal Behavior,” he illustrates the extraordinary determination and ability of an octopus to learn, adapt and strategize in order to get food. Mason shows pictures of the octopus first entering a jar through an uncorked hole in order to get shrimp. (Octopuses are carnivorous). The octopus then masters knocking aside a loose stopper – no problem. Ultimately, the octopus drapes itself over a stopper that is jammed into the jar, rocks it back and forth with those sucker-fortified tentacles until it comes out and finally slips inside the jar. How can a foot-long octopus with a body as big as a tennis ball squeeze through a half-inch hole, you may ask? Well, remember that they are invertebrates and have no bones. The qualities of intelligence: learning, reasoning, strategizing and adapting are all part of octopus’s Medicine. When there’s something you want, or want to accomplish, take time to make a plan, strategize the best approach in presenting it, check out the ideal timing, and of course, learn all you can about your subject matter.

So let’s talk about flexibility. Since the octopus virtually embodies the fluidity of water itself, and since its body moves with grace as well as agility even in small spaces , we must explore the Medicine of flexibility – one that is often hard for humans to emulate. To be flexible in our opinions and beliefs, one must conquer fear. To conquer fear, one must know who one is, and that one is connected to Source, so there is no fear of being alone on a planet spinning through the Universe.

Even for this solitary, territorial creature, there is a time for mating. In fact, the whole mating process is fascinating and specialized with macabre twists. But back to the beginning: the male has a specialized tip of one tentacle called the hectocotylus, (which means ‘hollow thing’) smeared with sperm, to deposit it into the female’s oviduct. Okay, here’s twist #1 – it breaks off, and remains in the female. The male has to grow a replacement. Oy! Oh, and then he dies soon after. Twist #2 is that the female octopus - after faithfully guarding, cleaning and aerating the eggs - foregoing food the entire time - then dies after the eggs hatch. Quite the reproductive tragedy, eh? The young hatch from eggs on the rocks where the mom has stuck them. When a young octopus hatches from its egg, it looks just like a tiny adult. They mature between five months and two years. When young, they often float and swim near the surface of the sea, but many grow into adults that live on or near the sea floor.

Cie Simurro ~ Thunderbird Starwoman has been a healer and writer for more than 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. For 16 years, she has been a contributing writer for Wisdom Magazine. For healing for you or your animal, training, or to purchase her book, Totems for Stewards of the Earth ($22 to PO 295, Shelburne Falls MA 01370), call 413 625-0385 or email: 

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