Greetings Wildheart Families! We have been spending a lot of time in our classes this fall discussing the importance of kindness and compassion. In that spirit, I want all of you to know how much we love and appreciate you and your beautiful children. This community of wonderful people is what makes Central Oregon our vibrant home in the desert. I’m telling you this because I believe the world would graciously open its arms to more compliments, gratitudes, and kindness. Thank you for supporting our work with children and for supporting the growth of your beautiful and gifted little ones. And please accept this invitation to share a compliment, gratitude, or kind words with someone you meet today.
Thanksgiving has inspired us to not only share more compassion with the world, it has also got us thinking about the American staple of Thanksgiving symbolism: the Turkey. For most of us, we rarely give a second thought to the bird that has captivated our nation’s feasting. After all, it is a domesticated animal and we like to assume that this means it is a common thing. However, when investigated more thoroughly it becomes apparent that the turkey is no common bird, by any measure.
Firstly, the turkey is unique bird to North America. No other place on earth has turkeys roaming naturally. They are extremely smart and clever, as any hunter can likely tell you. I once watched a couple men leave on a three-day turkey hunt in northern Arizona. Twenty minutes after they left, a flock of nearly one dozen turkeys popped out of the exact trail the men departed from and hunted bugs in the field. The turkeys hung around for about three days, roosting and strutting on the property. Before the hunters returned, they vanished back into the thicket and did not show themselves for the rest of the season. The men came home empty handed, convinced that this was a bad year because they did not see or hear a single turkey. Tales like these abound when it comes to this impressive bird.
Turkeys have a very strong association with the masculine. The males strut and face off in battles similar to a grouse, though not usually as violent. If you have ever encountered a gang of turkeys on a farm, you probably know exactly what this strut and ‘gobble’ sounds like. They are also associated with the feminine, as they live most of their lives on the mother earth. These two energies find a great balance within the turkey.
Perhaps the greatest lesson of the turkey people is one of giveaway and abundance.
Successfully hunting a turkey in the wild means several meals for you and your family. On days of big holiday feasts, a single turkey is enough to fill a whole family’s belly, and leave plenty for the days to come. When we are blessed with the gift of a turkey, we understand how much it has to give away. The sacrifice of life was considered to be one of reciprocity in many cultures, meaning they felt a successful hunt was partly due to the animal choosing to offer itself. Turkeys were thought to be one of the greatest gifts because one hunter could carry several birds to feed many families. This was a rare thing in ancient times, for sure.
Not only would a turkey feed your family, it also offered it’s feathers to fletch arrows. To this day, there is no better and more often used fletching (for traditional archery) than a turkey feather.
Digging a little deeper into this truth as a metaphor, turkey feathers send an arrow of our prayers straight and true to the Spirit. Ceremonial arrows are often created with turkey fletchings because it is believed that this will give them a true line toward whatever intention they are created for. One of the reasons they work so well as fletchings is because they are tough as nails, at least in comparison with other feathers. Many who have feathers for ceremonial or religious purposes will use turkey as their ‘work horse’ feathers because they can take a great deal of abuse and are thought to hold an even greater deal of power.
From a symbolic standpoint, I could talk about turkey for days! Their feathers often have a black and white stripping which symbolizes light and dark, the void and the manifest. In addition to black and white, there is a good deal of iridescence and rainbows in their plumage. This is a powerful symbol of the illusion, and their ability to master it. For example, did you know that they are excellent flyers when they want to be? If they had you fooled, don’t feel bad, they are masters of illusion! The turkey people remind us to cut though the illusion and see the truth our life’s gift and beauty.
Their willingness to offer themselves (when they are not outsmarting humans) for our survival teaches us how to let go and surrender the give and take of life.
Many have called upon turkey medicine to help them let go of some situation or energy and call in a new phase of abundance. They are so invested in helping us as a species that they have allowed themselves to become domesticated for our benefit. Not only does a turkey in your flock mean a great deal of feasting to come, but they also will protect the other birds from predators. When confronted, they can be fearless and fierce, showing how a balanced warrior acts in the face of opposition.
Reflecting upon all of this, it is hard not to feel a deep sense of reverence and gratitude for this humble bird that is so generous to us humans. Just because they are commonly seen in the stores and during the holidays does not mean they are an ordinary being. On the contrary, they are perhaps more incredible and awesome when we realize how much they bless our lives.
Whether or not we choose to eat turkey this Thursday, we can honor its gifts as we come together with friends and family this time of year. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and we look forward to seeing you again you when the time is right.