Totems: SPARROW, Part 2
The HEDGE SPARROW has such a need to feed whatever is in its nest, that it keeps bringing insects to feed even interlopers, and long after they’ve outgrown the little nest. Some even perch on the backs of the so-called adopted chick’s back to continue doing their job. Maybe it should have been named OCD sparrow???
One of the largest sparrows is the FOX SPARROW, so named by the fox-red color on its upper parts. You may find it scratching vigorously with its unusually large feet and claws along the ground for seeds, small fruits, and insects. It attacks leaf litter by jumping forward and backward, sending crisp, dry leaves scattering in all directions. Fox sparrow’s distinctive voice sounds like a run-on sentence of rich, often slurred whistles.
ANTING is a behavior of sparrows and other birds, where the bird picks up a bunch of ants and rubs their bodies against its feathers. No, it’s not a highly sexual sparrow tendency, though we’ll get to that later… the formic acid from the ants helps to kill feather lice and other parasites. Are you letting anyone or anything take advantage of you? The appearance of sparrow in your life might prompt you to ask yourself if you are in an environment that is stifling your creativity, either because of demands made on your time, or because it’s time to change your work or lifestyle.
Now, as promised – on to sparrow’s sexual predilections. ROCK SPARROWS are polygynous. The male mates with a second, and even third female after the first begins building her nest by herself. She feeds insects to her young, and supplements her own diet of grass and weed seeds with berries and insects while breeding in spring. Sparrows often rely on song to attract a mate. Males also squabble fiercely as they compete for mates. This Totem is not above presenting us with a contradiction. Sparrow was the favorite pet of the Greek goddess, Aphrodite, and as a totem that was sacred to her, sparrow symbolizes real love and deep connection between two humans, not just lust; however, sparrows in their natural habitat are extremely active sexually. Both Chaucer and Shakespeare made reference to the lusty nature of sparrow – not to say lecherous – though both authors did.
Ancient Egyptians believe sparrows were soul catchers of the recently deceased, taking them to heaven. In Europe, a sparrow entering one’s home meant impending death, while in Indonesia, it meant good luck, or a wedding happening soon. So, it seems it would behoove us to use our power to ‘decide’ what we will or won’t invite into our lives. We do that by focusing on what we want. Resistance only brings in the things we don’t want, because our attention to something, whether positive or negative, starts us vibrating to it. As we know from physics, vibrating energy creates matter. And like attracts like.
Sparrow was a symbol for the peasant class in the Middle Ages. It gave hope to people who were either indentured or broken, that their inherent dignity did not depend on their circumstances. The sparrow’s presence in the Bible amplifies the great truth that to the Maker of all, there is no creation that is insignificant or worth less than another. Another proof that size does not determine value.
So why has sparrow flourished, when other species have not? Well, for one thing, sparrow is always bustling about, being productive, whether foraging for food for herself and her babies, or building and repairing her nest. Birds that adapt to what man has created survive the best: gardens, orchards, towns and cities, roadsides and farms. Here, size is an advantage for sparrow. However, even with all the species of sparrows, they are not immune to extinction. Remember the millions of passenger pigeons? In 1987, the last dusky seaside sparrow died in a Florida zoo. His name was Orange Band. He and 6,000 other DUSKY SEASIDE SPARROWS had lived in a 10-mile stretch of marshlands near the NASA space center – their only home. But humans burned the marsh plants for agriculture, began grazing their cattle there, and built canals and roads. The clincher was the insecticide used to control the mosquito population.
The WHITE-THROATED SPARROW is a curious bird. If you whistle in imitation of its notes, it will come in response to your call, just to see what’s going on. (But that is not recommended, as it can have a negative impact by distracting the birds from avoiding predators, feeding and resting). The White-throated sparrow will chirp, look, and crane its neck with great curiosity. This is fairly rare in birds. They migrate south for the winter. Audubon wrote that some folks in Louisiana sometimes killed them with blowguns. Law now protects them, though natural predators still include the screech owl, sparrow hawk and the sharp-shinned hawk.
Sparrow can teach us a lot about metaphorically taking flight. Lightness is essential to flight. Besides lungs, air sacs like bubbles, enable the bird to use the air it breathes quite efficiently. They also act like a mammal’s sweat glands to cool the body temperature down. How we humans would love to soar, right? What we can do is create a lightness of being. Remember to ask for help with that, and you will surely receive tangible assistance – either expanding qualities that will master the situation, or changes in the situation itself.
Sparrow lets us know that the amount of glam in our lives is no indication of how valuable we are. One’s dignity has to do with how much a person cares for self, other humans, the natural world, and Mother Earth. It always amazes me when people of low consciousness make judgments and assertions about others based on formal education, the lightness or darkness of their skin, how much money they make, or who their parents were/are. It’s time we started seeing with inner sight, as well as with our powers of observation. Speaking of sight, the acuity with which a sparrow sees is a marvelous thing. They have both a built-in telescope and magnifying glass in one. Eyes are set more to the sides of the head, rather than center, to help them avoid predators.
If you’ve been losing heart because you’re only one small person trying to make a difference in the level of misery and pain on the earth plane right now, be advised that healing and energy don’t work within a narrow band. Everything we do exponentially affects everything else. For those of us who are terribly dismayed by the actions of some Americans in positions of leadership at this time, sparrow is here to remind us that by flocking together in ever-greater numbers, we can accomplish great things and right terrible wrongs. Banding together with pure hearts and determination, we have reason to believe things can change, even after a long time of suffering. Like sparrow, we must be persistent and work together. Our country has been going through much turmoil these last years, especially since the 2016 elections. Was it a coincidence that a little sparrow sat on the speaker’s lectern when Bernie Sanders, the man of the people was giving a speech?
Sparrow teaches us resilience. The BLACK THROATED SPARROW actually seems to thrive in one of the harshest environments in North America, the desert. Black Throats get all their moisture from the seeds, plants and insects they eat. At dawn, atop creosote bushes and cacti, they belt out their loud, clear song, as though saying, “Is that all you got? I eat adversity for breakfast!” The WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW does all that, and then some. It nests in alpine regions and up in the Canadian sub-arctic, but brightens the day of any who see it with its song and beauty.
Sparrow teaches us how to endure, even in tribulation. A FIELD SPARROW couple, for instance, sometimes has to rebuild their ground nest up to seven times a nesting season to successfully raise a brood. A male will fiercely defend his territory by chasing other males, sounding alarms and challenges, or even doing battle if necessary. This of course, does no good against mighty farm machinery mowing nests down. Though these birds will never win beauty contests, they are valuable allies eating the insects that farmers consider pests. Males sing for most of the spring and summer – and then when nesting season is over, for the joy of it.
Singing brings me great joy, not because I am such a fantastic singer, but because singing raises one’s vibrations. Sparrow reminds us to play, praise, rejoice, mourn, and sing out our truth through using our throat chakra. Not all sparrows have a song, but the ones that do, sing it without restraint or constraint throughout the spring and summer, and some at night. The VESPER SPARROW sings in warm, fluid tones as evening approaches, and the bustle of daytime seems to get quiet – and then sometimes, it will thrill us with a wild, ecstatic melody while in flight. So we have to ask the question: Is ecstasy too much to hope for in this crazy world, or are we willing to let Sparrow mentor us in the art of ecstasy?