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Totems: Snail

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

It has taken me a long time to be who and where I am. Show respect! Show respect for my spiral journey. Be respectful of me because I am a creation of Nature, just like you. I AM SNAIL. I slide upon Earth care-fully. I ask you to do the same, with emphasis on "care". All that is required is that you CARE for the smallest, the least among us. When you do, all the magic and mystery of life, with us as companions is yours. Make room for us in your world. We are amazing, a design miracle worth the price of a few plants required for sustenance.

Pay attention to your waters - the waters of the earth, water that you drink, the water in your body. Bless your water. Put it in a container and be grateful. Bless it, allowing it to become vibrationally unified with your body. If there were no clean water for you to drink, how precious would it be to you? Apply now, the reverence you would feel at that time, to your respect for water. In this way you will forego a future crisis. All of life is energetically interdependent. Make no mistake: the love and respect that you offer the rest of creation is foresight. Aum-Ho

There is so much fascinating about snails, both biologically and as a totem, I hardly know where to begin. Snails are fascinating in themselves and in their diversity. I became interested in them when I learned that land and pond snails are hermaphrodites – bearing both male and female reproductive organs. During courtship, they stroke each other tenderly, for 3 to 8 hours with long feelers. After simultaneously shooting a "love dart" of mucous-covered calcium carbonate, they mate. A chemical signal carried in the mucous allows for sperm storage. Whether hermaphroditic, or trans-gender (Atlantic Slipper males change to female as they grow) snails have everything they need to live and propagate, which is biologically convenient since they move in such small social circles.

If snail is your totem or is in your life, this can have advantages and disadvantages. You have longevity. Snails have been around 500 million years. Possibly you live "off the grid" in a remote area - a recycler relying on green technology, such as sun and wind power. You spend a lot of time alone, and are an independent thinker. If that leads you into deep experience of yourself, all the better. Left alone too much can result in an isolated world; yet even that can turn into an advantage, if used to stretch oneself to change. Deep yearnings are the way we move deeper into life. The disadvantage of unbalanced snail energy is that experiences can cause one to create a hard shell, rather than safeguarding one’s heart. When threatened, a snail will withdraw into its shell and hide until danger passes. Snail’s shell is meant to protect delicate inner organs.

Like turtle, snail carries its home on its back – a beautiful home with a logarithmic spiral as its growth pattern. Most snails are dextral (shell spirals sunwise). Some are sinistral (moonwise). As a snail grows, its shell grows too. The amount of whorls varies. The sacred spiral is an ancient symbol of cosmic force in action: birth, death, regeneration, each time coming into new awareness and a different set of experiences. Galaxies, pineapples, pinecones and sunflowers grow in spirals. In the human body, our pattern of hair growth, the ear cochlea, and DNA are spirals. The spiral pattern of the heart’s bioelectric impulses causes the chambers to beat with a spiral pulsing rhythm. Brain waves flow along the neurons and down the spine in a spiral pattern. The spiral shape of tornadoes, hurricanes, whirlpools and whirlwinds fascinates us. Snail advises us in this age of Earth changes, to check our homes for water-tightness, and safety if gale winds should occur.

Snails are gastropod mollusks with a shell manufactured from calcium, carbon and oxygen, secreted by its mantle, the fleshy envelope that surrounds its other organs. Snails are pretty low on the food chain, which makes them attractive eating to many predators, including carnivorous snails like conches and whelks. Other predators are the snail kite and song thrush, turtles, beetles, salamanders, snakes, rats, muskrats, human gardeners, and those the French have turned on to eating snails as a delicacy. Snails are ubiquitous. They are in every state and county, coastal plains, mountain peaks, and even deserts and cities. Although there are at least 80,000 different kinds of snails, they fall into two categories: water snails (greater numbers) and land. Although one - the apple snail has one lung and one gill, most water snails, living in oceans and ponds breathe through a gill. They eat dead fish and algae crusted onto water plants. Land snails (pulmonates) require humidity. They breathe through a lung. Their curled brown shells look like jaunty hats tilted to one side. Beneath it are four tentacles. The two lower ones are touch feelers to find food and sense danger. The two upper stalks have an eye at each end that looks like a black dot. These can stretch or retract an inch; each can move in different directions at the same time. If injured, a new one will regenerate.

Snails have neither nose nor ears. The mouth has over 25,000 studded teeth, which saw back and forth on a raspy tongue called a radula. Most snails are vegetarians. Land snails eat fresh garden plants and crops, but they also keep the forest floor clean, as well as gardens and lawns. They are sometimes known as Nature’s carpet sweepers, because they eat slightly rotted leaves. They are part of a group that keeps a balance in Nature, recycling decaying plants, fruit, and leaves. Because snails eat fungus, you might want to put one in your aquarium to keep the tank wall clean. Integral to snail diets are bits of limestone, which they then convert to calcium for shell building. If the shell is injured, lime stored in the body will fill a crack.

People with snail totem may be late bloomers, or need time to become proficient in their field. Slowly but surely they become experts. Land snails can remain dormant for a long time, even years, until conditions are wet enough for them to emerge from the shell they have sealed with blown mucous bubbles. The hard under-plate of marine snails (operculum) acts like a trapdoor sealing the opening. Snails like it cool, damp and dark. The shell can store water, which is absorbed through the skin. In the desert or in drought, a snail can go for three or four years without eating or drinking while in aestivation. In northern winters, snails hibernate until the first spring rain, then awaken and break open the seal and eat it. Water is an essential element, for they will dry up and die without it. Snail tells us to use water for cleansing and refreshment. Economic predictions say water will be as valuable as gold, maybe more so. Rather than continuing to poison our waters with more toxins than the Mother can handle, let each of us steward water, conserving, appreciating and blessing it.

The same thing that may disgust you about snails is also a miracle of locomotion. A snail moves by contracting its long and flat body, ironically known as a foot. The foot acts like a suction cup, which even enables them to hang upside down. People with this totem are sure-footed, perhaps gymnastic. To lessen friction, a tiny pore near the mouth in the front of the foot emits a sticky mucous. This is called glide or slime, enabling the snail to move forward more easily. Snail totem teaches us to ease our journey with the least amount of friction. Glide is also a scent trail for other snails. Predators also recognize the shiny, silver trails snails leave. Snails move very slowly, so motion is inadequate as a protective mechanism. Do you think of snails as slow? We have developed such expressions as, "a snail’s pace" or "snail mail." However, this totem moves deliberately - about 2 ½ inches a minute at top speed! Snail teaches us to take the time to observe and appreciate the intricate relationships in Nature and not to interfere with Her precise and interdependent creations; to go very slowly before we change or think we are improving Nature. Every time we alter the natural world, we move into chaos, or what the Hopi call Koyaanisqatsi, a world reeling out of balance.

Do you listen to your body when it tells you what it needs? Being so close to the earth, there is sensuality to this totem. How does the air feel on your skin? Do you ever move in a languid fashion? Perhaps we need to observe the seasons like other animals. Do you slow down in winter? Time your major projects so you are gliding with the flow? Life requires endurance. If unwanted conditions are not met with equanimity, surely we will be unhappy much of the time. Perhaps snail comes to teach us how to adjust to current conditions, neither unduly bothered, nor overly sensitive. Ask snail to help you be protected without walling up. Let us make peace with our shadows, the part of the psyche that furtively acts out fears, anger, violent imaginings, negativity, and paranoia. In whom and what can we trust? When you awaken with the world crashing over you, questioning all you’ve been taught and told, fighting worry, fear and change, ask yourself what you know? What is real? Like snail, take time. Let life force shower over you. See what good nestles you this day. Decide to trust. Focus on the positive because, creators that we are, we are all self-fulfilling prophecies. Find love. Make love, and give it to someone today by being kind, acknowledging someone, touching, blessing nature, writing a poem, singing a song. These things are worth something. They are efforts that have value, for they connect us with mystical power and life-giving energy.

Cie Simurro ~ Thunderbird Star-woman has been a healer and writer for 34 years. In 1994, she became an interfaith minister, and began advocacy work for the natural world. Cie lives and works sha-manically, using Light & Sound, and her love for the Mother in healing with animals and humans. For a healing session for you or your animal companion, a reading, spiritual training, or to attend Cie’s Salon for Expressive Arts, or if you wish to 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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