Totem Animals

Page 128

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By CinnamonMoon

African Porcupine

*Ted Andrews/Animal-Speak:
Keynote: Renewed sense of wonder
Cycle of Power: Autumn

Porcupines are fascinating mammals that are often misunderstood. The porcupine is a member of
the rodent family. It is sometimes called a hedgehog, but this is a mistake--the true hedgehog is
an entirely different animal.

Porcupines are rather good-natured, and they shuffle along at their own pace. Though they look
clumsy and slow on the ground, they are excellent climbers and can climb 50-60 feet. The legs
are short but strong, and they have a unique ability to use them to test the strength of the limbs
they may climb upon.

Porcupines live in arboreal areas, mostly in pine forests. They eat the barks of various trees and
evergreens, and they enjoy blossoms, young leaves, and water lilies. They also have a great
craving for salt and will eat anything that has the faint flavor of salt. Individuals with this totem
may need to watch their salt intake. There may be a tendency to crave and overindulge in salt.
I encountered my first porcupine in the wild in northern Ontario, Canada. I had to portage my
canoe, and as I came to the next stage of the river, a porcupine was at its edge, about three feet
out, feeding on waterlilies. It looked up more curious and amused, and then simply resumed its
feeding, more fascinated by the lilies than it was by me.

This reflects much about the personality and character of the porcupine. It has a good nature, and
it seems to enjoy just about anything that it does. It has a strong sense of curiosity, and seems
amazed and filled with wonder at most things it encounters. It is this same quality that the
porcupine can awken in those with it as a totem. Although it has poor eyesight, it remains
extremely curious, and not overly cautious in response to its visual limitation.

The most noticeable characteristic about the porcupine is its quills. This is also the most
understood. The quills--around 30,000--cover all parts of the body except the face and the
underside of the belly and tail. The quills are controlled by a layer of muscle and they can be
made to lie flat or straight up. When molested, disturbed, or threatened, they stand up. The quills
are filled with air, making the porcupine buoyant in water. This reflects the ability of the
porcupine to swim and move in emotional areas (symbolized by the water).

The porcupine does not shoot its quills. When threatened the quills stand up. To protect its face,
it will lower it between the front legs so that the quills guard it. The quills are loosely attached
and easily discarded. It will lash out with its tail, usually aiming at the predator's head. If it hits,
the quills are left.

There is no venom on the quills, but they do have barbs on the end. As the quill penetrates the
skin of an opponent, the barb expands. Each movement of the predator then causes the quill to
work deeper in. It is impossible for other animals to remove them.

The porcupine's greatest predator is the fisher, a member of the weasel family. For many years,
naturalists believed the fisher flipped the porcupine on its back to kill it, but they now know that
it grabs the porcupine by the nose, biting its face repeatedly until it dies. The fisher is so good at
preying on the porcupine that it is becoming more and more scarce in the wild. Anyone with a
porcupine totem should also study the weasel family, and especially the fisher member.

Cougars are also successful at preying on porcupines. They have learned the knack of flipping it
onto its back, exposing the vulnerable belly. The cougar should also be studied by those who
have the porcupine totem.

Porcupines usually live in hollow logs, caves, and holes. In the winter, they will spend a lot of
time in trees. It is easier for them to climb than it is to shuffle around through the snow.
Porcupines are usually born one at a time, although occasionally there are twins. They mate in
the autumn, and the young are born about 7 months later. Only the mother raises the young.
Porcupines can live to be anywhere between 9-15 years.

As the young get older, they are often seen standing upon their hind legs and rocking to and fro,
waving their paws. This is a rhythmic exercise. When observed, it looks very much like a dance,
and porcupines can help us come into a new rhythm in the dance of life--one that will awaken
wonder. Dance is also an avenue of pure enjoyment that anyone with a porcupine totem could
find great pleasure and relaxation in.

Porcupines are also susceptible to snuffles. This is a flu-like disease that affects animals. It is
usually the result of a lack of nutrients. Anyone with the porcupine totem should be careful to
have a diet rich in nutrients and vitamins. Especially eating green vegetables will be beneficial to
the health, as the porcupine is a herbivore. If you feel your energy weakening or are coming
down with cold and flu-like symptoms, check your diet.

Porcupine people have a knack for sticking it to people sharply and intensely if aggravated. They
have a knack for saying or doing that which will cause the most hurt for the longest time--like a
quill barb working deeper into the skin. They do not always use it, but when they do the point is
well taken.

When porcupine shows up, take a look at your life. Are you allowing other people's opinions to
prevent you from exploring activities that could otherwise be fun and enjoyable? Do you have
recreational time in your life? Are you overly sensitive to the barbs of others? Are your barbs
inappropriate or taking the joy from others? Are you still allowing the barbs from long ago to
aggravate you and sting you? Sometimes it is necessary to remove the old barbs, no matter how
painful, so they do not fester and poison the system.

Porcupines can show you how to resist the barbs of others. They can teach you how to enjoy life
and maintain a sense of wonder about it, in spite of negative conditions. They can show you how
to shuffle along, without too much seriousness, and still achieve. They can teach you how to
protect the inner child from all of life's barbs, and can show you the strength in your

*Patricia Telesco/The Language of Dreams:
Defense mechanisms working overtime. Metaphorically bristling at any new ideas, possibilities,
or relationships for fear of failure or being hurt. You may be threatening others in order to get
your own way, whether or not you actually intend to follow through on the warning given.

*Bobby Lake-Thom/Spirits of the Earth:
Porcupine, a good sign, usually brings messages about the weather or about hunting. My friend
Tony Gall, who is a Pit River Indian from California, told me that every time he sees a Porcupine
when he is hunting, it is a good sign that he will see and kill a Deer. My friend Darryl Wilson
from Pit River said the Porcupine warns about weather changes. For example, if a person sees a
Porcupine close to the house during late fall, it is a warning that an early winter will come in on a
cold wind.

*Denise Linn/The Secret Language of Signs:
Is there a prickly situation in your life? Or is there something you want or need to stay away from?

*Jamie Sams & David Carson/Medicine Cards:
Innocence. The South of the medicine wheel is the place of childlike innocence and humility. it
is the home of playfulness, and the position of Porcupine on the medicine wheel of life.
Porcupine has many special qualities, and a very powerful medicine: the power of faith and trust.
The power of faith contains within it the ability to move mountains. The power of trust in life
involves trusting that the Great Spirit has a divine plan. Your task is to find the pathway that is
most beneficial for you and that uses your greatest talents to further that plan. Trust can open
doorways to the creation of space. The space thus created allows others to open their hearts to
you and to share their gifts of love, joy, and companionship.

If you were to observe Porcupine, you would immediately notice its quills. These quills are only
used when trust has been broken between Porcupine and another creature. Much like Otter,
Porcupine is a gentle, loving creature, and non-aggressive. When fear is not present, it is possible
to feed a Porcupine by hand and never get stuck by its quills.

Through understanding the basic nature of this animal, you may come to understand your own
need for trust and faith, and for becoming like a child again. In today's society, this is a needed
reminder to honor the wonder of life and the appreciation of each new day as an adventure of

Porcupine sat silently, looking at a hollow log. she wondered if it was a playhouse that nature
had created just for her. Porcupine envisioned all the things she could do with the log. She could
climb on top and make the log roll from side to side. She could go inside and see if there were
any juicy worms for her dinner. She could also scratch her back on the rough outer bark if she
wanted to.

Just as Porcupine was pondering what to do next, she saw Bear approaching. Bear was big and
black and looking for honey. "Oh, another playmate to share my log," she thought.
"Hello, Bear," she cooed. "Do you want to play and share my log with me?
Gruff old Bear snorted, "Porcupine, don't you know that I'm too old to play? You're in my way.
I'm looking for honey. Go away!"

"Why Bear, you're never too old to play," she replied. "If you forget what it was like to be a cub,
you always be as impatient and gruff as you are now."

Bear began to think about what Porcupine had said. Maybe she was right. All the other creatures
had run away from Bear in fright. Even the other Bears had turned up their noses when he
growled at them. This little Porcupine was certainly trusting him not to eat her. She even offered
to be his friend.

The old Bear looked at Porcupine and began to feel something move inside him. He started to
remember the games he had played as a cub. Joy started to live in him again.

"Little Porcupine, you have reminded me that in becoming strong and seeking answers, I got
caught in trying to be an intellectual. I became afraid of what others would think if I dropped my
mask of gruffness. I was afraid they wouldn't take me seriously anymore. You have taught me
that in being a fuddy-duddy, I was causing others not to care for me. Thank you. I'd love to play
with this old log."

And so it was that Bear became childlike again and learned the innocence of Porcupine.
In choosing the Porcupine card, you have given yourself a gentle reminder not to get caught in
the chaos of the adult world where fear, greed, and suffering are commonplace. The medicine in
this card is that of relief from seriousness and severity. Open your heart to those things that gave
you joy as a child. Remember the preciousness of fantasy and imagination, and the making of
some game or toy from nothing but scraps. Honor the playfulness of spirit that lets everyone win.

Contrary: In pulling the Porcupine card reversed, you are giving yourself a timely warning that
you cannot win the game of life if you are too serious. In some area of your life, you may be
feeling hurt or afraid of trusting again. It is possible that life has recently dealt you a hard blow.
If this is so, it is time to begin again by placing your faith in your ability to overcome the lesson
with joy. Are you willing to trust yourself? If so, you might begin by writing down the feelings
that come out of the situation. How can you, as your adult-self, comfort you, the child within,
and teach your inner child how to have faith and trust again?

The ill-dignified Porcupine is belly-up, with its quills stuck in the ground. This is a rather
defenseless position. You may be forcing yourself to be vulnerable so that you can regain your
hope. Perhaps you needed to roll over to get your tummy patted. This position could therefore
indicate that you are ready to accept a little love from others. In any case, if you are not willing
to trust again, this card is forcing you to look at why. Or at why not!

*Mary Summer Rain/On Dreams:
Porcupine characterizes one's tendency to utilize subconscious defense mechanisms to obtain
personal desires and goals. This is usually a strong warning to stop manipulating others. The
symbol also means an instinctive responsiveness to "bristle and hide" from new ideas,
relationships, or situations. The quill illustrates personal defenses.

*D.J. Conway/Animal Magick:
The porcupine is a large rodent with sharp, barbed quills mingled with the hair. Their food is
primarily bark, buds, and foliage of trees. The Old World variety, Hystrix, and the New World
ones, Erethizon and Coendou, are not closely related. The Central and South American tree
porcupine, Coendou, has a prehensile tail. Fossils of porcupines have been found in Argentina,
Europe, and Asia.

The name porcupine means "pig with spines." The Crested or Old World porcupine is found over
most of Africa, all of south Asia, and throughout southeastern Europe. It is unlike its New World
counterpart, although they both have quills. When disturbed, the porcupine rattles its quills on
the tail in warning.

Among Native Americans, the porcupine represents the South direction and represents faith and trust.

Porcupines can seriously damage or kill trees by eating off the bark. This is a continuing problem
of orchardists whose land borders on wild areas.
Superstitions: The porcupine shoots its quills at attackers. Not true; the barbed quills are driven
in by a sharp swing of the tail.

Magickal attributes: Mind your own business, but be prepared to sharply defend yourself if
threatened. Trust in the guidance of spirit. Creating your own path in life. Learning what to say
and what not to say when caught in an argument, yours or between others. Learning to be prickly
if others overstep their bounds.

*Lady Stearn Robinson & Tom Gorbett/The Dreamer's Dictionary:
This prickly creature is another good news-bad news omen. You will have increase in prestige
but it will be accompanied by an increase in business worries.


Here is an interesting link, how Porcupine hair (not quills) are/were used in ceremony, in dances


The porcupine is found only in North America and Africa. I found this little bit about the
bushman beliefs about porcupine.

From here: thinkquest.org-Mantis and his Family

The bushmen don't regard the Mantis as god but rather a superbeing. They are not the only
civilization who has this belief and other African tribes do see it as a God. Even the Greeks
believed it had divine and magical powers. Mantis is a Greek word meaning divine, or
soothsayer. All over the world many legends is told about this magical creature. To the Bushmen
however he is a "dream Bushman". He is very human. Many paintings of the bushmen figure a
Bushman with the head of a Mantis.

Mantis also has a big family. His wife is Dassie (rock hyrax). His son is also a Mantis and he
also has an adopted daughter, Porcupine. Her real father is the evil monster called the AllDevourer
who she is too afraid of. Porcupine is married to a creature that is part of the rainbow,
called Kwammanga. They have two sons, Mongoose or Ichneumon and then Kwammanga, after
his dad. Mantis also has a sister, Blue Crane that he loves very much.


Libraries are on this row
INDEX Page 1
(Divination & Dreams, Guides & Spirit Helpers)
INDEX Page 2
INDEX Page 3
(Main Section, Medicine Wheel, Native Languages & Nations, Symbology)
INDEX Page 4
(Myth & Lore)
INDEX Page 5
(Sacred Feminine & Masculine, Stones & Minerals)
INDEX Page 6
(Spiritual Development)
INDEX Page 7
(Totem Animals)
INDEX Page 8
(Tools & Crafts. Copyrights)

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