Totems: NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD, Part 1 of 2
Using your talents is what keeps you happy and full of life. Think of how you feel when you’ve accomplished the exquisite execution of a song, sculpt the form of something in Nature, blend colors harmoniously in a painting, master a complex math problem, cook a meal everyone raves about, see the results of your planting grow into something beautiful in your garden, build a chair, choreograph a divine flow of bodily movement, or finish writing a book!
The accomplishment of any of these things exercises your brain, your body, and your spirit. That is why it is so satisfying – so replete with intelligence. I, MOCKINGBIRD also possess divine intelligence, appropriate to my species. All life does, for we are all a part of the same Energy, are we not?
I delight in the numberless versions of my songs. I keep adding to my repertoire. When I master a new sound – of another bird, your voice, or a creaking gate, I trill the thrill of accomplishment. I am able to adapt my song instantly, with infinite variety. How good are you at adapting to changing circumstances? If all your comfort, or your home, or your work vanished, would you still be able to navigate your sacred life path? Take in my talent for being resilient and flexible in changing times. All my talents are for your use, as we are One, together, in collaboration with the Medicine.
All right you guys, put down your work gloves, pens, books, and devices. It’s time to sing. Sing? Yes, time for singing and beauty. There hasn’t been enough of that lately, has there? Or joy, or fulfillment, or seeing the world, slowly but surely getting better.
Singing is one of my favorite things in life. I even sing in my sleep. I’m not saying I am a great songstress – just that I really like to sing. How about you? There’s nothing like singing to make us groove with life, is there? A beautiful melody opens the heart right up. Rhythmic songs with a good beat make us want to dance. Singing stirs up any embers or sparks of life force that may have almost gone out. There’s something so satisfying about a song well sung. Maybe that’s why there are so many talent shows around. Now, who will our choirmaster for this songfest be? Why Mockingbird, of course. Don’t be fooled by its somewhat plain appearance. Mockingbird’s songs are quite beautiful.
Do you have an overwhelming urge to sing? Each of us has a sacred song to sing that expresses who we are. Mockingbird may be showing up now to reveal to you your inner talents. Do you know yours? What gives you the most joy? Purpose? Fulfillment? That’s your sacred song. After all, what else would you share with the world? Sing out your magnificence, your unique inner song. It takes courage to follow your soul’s path. Folks with this totem are courageous. Mockingbird also lends its ability to see others for who they truly are. There is more than one type of language. Besides the words others use, there’s the way words are used in manner and tone. Sometimes, seeing the truth about a person involves looking behind a fixed smile or an action. Body language also cues us to the other person’s qualities and intentions. This makes one with this totem an astute observer of human nature – or Nature itself, for that matter.
Mockingbirds are a group of thrushes from the Mimidae family. They are related to catbirds and brown thrashers, who are pretty good singers in their own right, but the mockingbird rules the bird kingdom for singing. Mockingbirds are famous around the world for their singing, considered finer even, than the famous nightingale of Europe, also renowned for its singing. The Northern Mockingbird is the only mockingbird commonly found in North America. This bird is mainly a permanent resident, but some mockingbirds that live in northern climes may move south in winter. Perhaps that’s why five southern states – Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, Florida and Texas – have chosen the mockingbird as their state bird. In many Native traditions, the South is the home of Summer, midday, harvest, the Sun, the element of Fire (action), the physical life and the Child. We honor the qualities of courage, compassion, warmth, passion and playfulness in this direction.
In Hopi creation myths, mockingbird first taught the people to speak. To Southeast Native cultures, mockingbird was a symbol of intelligence. Its scientific name in Latin, Mimus polyglottos means mimic of many-tongues. In Colonial times, the first chronicler of the mockingbird reported that the Native people in South Carolina called mockingbirds, Cencontlatolly – meaning, Four Hundred Tongues. Indeed, Northern Mockingbirds are best known for their habit of mimicking the songs and calls of other birds, as well as the sounds of insects and frogs croaking, often loudly and in rapid succession. They can replicate the sound of a dog barking, machinery, doorbells ringing, and people whistling. Oh, and – ouch my ears – sirens! For humans, that mimicking Medicine has up and down sides. On the positive side, it’s wonderful to speak more than one language. If you are a polyglot, you probably have an active intelligence, and are interested in world cultures. On the down side, it might be time for you to sing your own song instead of imitating another’s. Is it time to strike out on your own; make your distinctive mark on the world? If you study with a spiritual teacher, be sure to find the Godness in yourself as well. A true teacher will steer you to that.
All adult mockingbirds sing during the day, but only a male seeking a mate sings at night, especially moonlit nights. Take heart if you live in a house with one of those gardens that mockingbird occupies. The night music that’s driving you crazy from early spring to midsummer is a love song. If his singing is keeping you up, it won’t go on forever. As soon as your mockingbird wins his mate, he’ll stop singing at night. Your challenge is to weigh sleeping on the one hand, and Mockingbird’s Medicine on the other – that’s what you have to choose if a serenader is singing outside your window. If you choose the Medicine, perhaps you can have both. Mockingbird’s song can become like a lullaby. Meanwhile, try listening to him, and see what his song might be bringing to you. How many different songs can you distinguish? Can you pick out the sounds of other birds embedded in mockingbird’s melodies? You might hear the cheer-cheer-cheer of the cardinal, the screech of a jay, or the warble of a house wren. Is mockingbird’s song abrupt, or gradual, loud or soft? Isn’t that just the way you are at different times too? Let mockingbird’s Medicine help you to understand all the parts of yourself.
Men who have mockingbird as a totem win favor with women who like their men to be romantic. And if you’re thinking of courting someone, ask mockingbird to show you creative ways to make the object of your affections feel special. In the mockingbird world, mimicry is essential for sexual selection; the larger the male’s repertoire, the greater his attractiveness to females. What female doesn’t love a great singer! Mocker’s flight song gives him a chance to display his striking wing flash pattern. Check this out: He begins from a high branch, jumps into the air, turns a slightly clumsy somersault, and comes down still singing like he’s in a parachute.
The mocker sings a medley of songs belonging to other birds, repeating each phrase six times or more, and incorporating them into his own songs before moving on to the next. He has an enormous collection of songs because no two songs are the same. Most songbirds learn all the songs they’ll ever sing before they’re a year old. But mockingbird continues to expand his catalogue of songs throughout his life. We’re talking about at least thirty other species of birds here! If you’ve lost your joie de vivre, are approaching a milestone birthday, or haven’t had an adventure for a while, maybe, like the mocker here, you could take up parachute jumping, or bungee jumping, or some other daring endeavor (but first, please take training, and make safety precautions, of course).
Mockers generally nest low down in trees and shrubs; also, at farms with hedgerows, roadside thickets by utility poles, or roofs with antennas (males like to sing loudly from high, commanding perches, especially when singing at night). Only the female performs the incubation and brooding of young nestlings. Both male and female take part in parental care and building the nest, which is a cup of twigs and rootlets, lined with soft plant fibers. Three to five blue-green eggs liberally spotted with brown hatch in twelve to thirteen days. Two weeks later the young take off on their own, so two broods, sometimes three, are raised each year. As a result of their adaptability, mockingbirds have thrived. This is one of the primary qualities of their Medicine. Have you noticed how much adaptation is necessary for each of us in these changeable and chaotic times?
Part 2 will be in the Nov/Dec issue of Wisdom
Cie Simurro- Thunderbird Starwoman has been bringing forward the healing arts and ancient universal wisdom for over 40 years, through writing, healing work, and teaching. For 18 years, she has been a contributing writer to Wisdom Magazine. For healing for you or your animal, spiritual training or to buy a print or e-version of Totems for Stewards of the Earth go to CieSimurro.com, or send $22 to PO 295, Shelburne Falls MA 01370.