Totems: STARFISH, Part 2 of 2
The first time I ever heard that starfish regenerate limbs, also known as rays, I felt this would lead to a new era in medicine and spirituality. After all, wouldn’t that be a leap in both the area of prosthetics and in consciousness – a tearing down of barriers to what we humans think is possible? Now, probably the regeneration of human limbs is going to take a while to become commonplace in our world, but regenerating our mental attitudes and our emotional life is within the scope of what we can do now. Like starfish, we just have to let ourselves feel. Really feel. Feel what we really want in life – that’s focus; feel what others are feeling – that’s empathy; feel unconditional love for all of creation – that’s what will heal the Earth. Let us be willing to feel. The possibility of humans feeling what other humans, or other species might feel is the pathway to a new earth – one where peaceful co-existence takes a big leap. What would you choose to be more sensitive to? Would you like to expand your ability to radiate love? What would your life be like if you followed through on the things you feel passionate about? What changes for the better would you like to see on Mother Earth?
Another aspect of starfish medicine is rebirth. How many times have you wished for a do-over for some part of your life? This totem helps facilitate that, if you have a true desire for change. Not all starfish have 5 arms, but many do. The significance of 5 is man and matter expressing itself in this world. Versatility and change is always involved. Each arm symbolizes one of the elements: earth, air, fire, water, and spirit or ether. A true, deep knowledge of the nature of the elements correlates with the development of our own intuitive and empathic abilities. Of course, empathic powers come with the challenge of how to channel our sensitivities. Those with this power animal are more sensitive than most, and must take care not to let themselves get drained of energy by the state of the world, or by those who would pull on them, and suck their energy with their neediness.
At the same time, starfish is a reflection of our fascination with the power and wonder of the stars above married to the deepest depths of possibility exemplified by this creature of the ocean. As above, so below; the perfect balance between two worlds. One is reflected in the other. So, in the realization of starfish totem energy, the expression of our physical nature is perfectly mirrored in the fulfillment of our spiritual nature. Since we are both physicality and spirit, our destiny is to learn how to spiritualize matter. This can help prevent a tendency to see things in their polar opposites, like black and white, up and down, in or out. You know – extremes! The middle road may be the least taken, but it is usually the best one to choose.
Often, we feel inspired when we look up at the stars from our earth home. Contemplation of the Universe through observation of the stars emboldens us to broaden our concepts of who we are, where we come from (the star nation) and where the known Universe is heading. The stars encourage us to think big. All the qualities we associate with the moon hold true for star energy too: beauty, magical feeling, heightened perceptions, moonlight, and mysticism are all part of starfish’s medicine.
Stella Maris is an ancient title for Mary, mother of Jesus that means “Star of the Sea.” She was held as a protector for sailors, and for those who made their living on the sea. Another connection with Stella Maris is the ancient Egyptian goddess, Isis, whose star, Sirius was also called Stella Maris by Greek seafarers from Alexandria, Egypt. Both Mary and Isis were considered divine mothers and protectors. The Egyptian symbol for the stars was a five-pointed line drawing, resembling the starfish that inhabited the Red Sea. In older examples, the drawing has rounder ends, and two concentric rings mark the center disc. And the body of the Egyptian sky goddess, Nut was decorated with 5-pointed stars.
In Roman mythology, the starfish is a symbol of the love goddess Venus. She was born from the foaming tides of the Adriatic Sea. Some paintings depict her with a shell in her hand – others with a starfish. Venus shares a connection with starfish because she is a goddess of the sensory realm, as is the starfish. Like the waters she is born from, Venus is a goddess of feeling and emotion. She is also a goddess who governs tactile, physical attributes. Venus and the starfish make a symbolic duo of love, sensitivity, emotion, and physicality. In the year 139, Venus joined Mary and Isis, when the emperor Hadrian made Venus the mother and protector of the Roman state.
Studies by the University of Washington marine biologist, Robert Paine led him to develop the concept of keystone species. Just as a keystone holds an arch together, a keystone species is a dominant predator that determines community structure. Starfish live in the oceans of the world. On the Pacific coast, in the rocky zone between high and low tide, the Ocher Starfish is a keystone species because it has such an influence on its many prey animals. The predominance of mussels would easily crowd out other prey of the starfish, but it turns out, starfish like to eat mussels the most, thereby keeping mussels from taking over, and therefore maintaining the intertidal community’s diversity. However, the reverse is true of the Crown of Thorns Starfish. As their numbers have increased, they are having a devastating effect on coral reefs in the Pacific Ocean, and the Coral Sea, especially the Great Barrier Reef, because this starfish feeds on coral.
W.C. Allee, a pioneering investigator of animal social behavior in the 1930’s demonstrated that if starfish are deprived of their natural sea grass cover, they will clump together, using each other as substitutes for strands of tall, wavy sea grass that would normally provide them with a place to hold onto.
The variety of color and design in sea stars is almost unimaginable. The Smooth Sun Star lives in cold water from Massachusetts and Puget Sound north to the Arctic Ocean. It may be purple, pink, red or orange. The range of the Common Starfish on the Atlantic coast is from Maine to Mexico. You can find them from the shoreline to about 90 feet deep, in tidal areas or tide pools, on rocky bottoms. Their color may be orange, green, purple or brown.
Chocolate Chip Starfish may look and sound good enough to eat, but don’t. Way too spiny. A sting from one of those spines can be very painful. They really do look like cookies though. Many species of starfish use camouflage to blend in with their backgrounds. This helps them hide from starfish predators, such as sea otters, gulls, fish, and yes – other starfish.
I leave you with a great Starfish Story by Loren Eiseley, anthropologist, philosopher, and nature writer:
“Once upon a time, there was a wise man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work.
One day, as he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself at the thought of someone who would dance to the day, and so, he walked faster to catch up.
As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, and that what he was doing was not dancing at all. The young man was reaching down to the shore, picking up small objects, and throwing them into the ocean.
He came closer still, and called out “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”
The young man paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean.”
“I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?” asked the somewhat startled wise man.
To this, the young man replied, “The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them in, they’ll die.”
Upon hearing this, the wise man commented, “But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can’t possibly make a difference!”
At this, the young man bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it into the ocean. As it met the water, he said,
“It made a difference for that one.”
So, my friends, make a difference for at least one other being today, and be blessed, ya’ll.
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.