Dark Totems and Animal Shamanism
Hello fellow Gatewalkers! Warlock has been kind enough to allow me to share some of my findings on the Nec and related topics with you on this blog, and I’m very grateful! I hope that this blog will assist you in your own adventures in the worlds both spiritual and mundane.
One of the wonderful things about our Necronomicon is that it touches on so many diverse topics within esoteric and occult practice and history. A single verse, for the right person, can be a jumping off point for explorations into unique schools and traditions of both magic and mysticism. One such area that the Necronomicon touches upon is the ancient shamanism of animal magic, which most esotericists are familiar with. The Necronomicon draws attention, however, to a collection of animal totems that are often overlooked or even avoided in popular esotericism. I refer to this collection of animals as “dark totems”; animal totems that have a long history of association with left-hand, or goetic, operations of magic and mysticism.These creatures feature prominently as the forms taken by “evil” goetic spirits in the grammers of medieval Europe.
Having overcome the underworld with the aid of Enki, Ishtar left Ereshkigal’s domain flanked by a band of “demons” that went to both escort her and keep an eye on her. This parallels the saturnine initiation of systems like Abramelin, in which death and rebirth into communion with one’s Holy Guardian (or Watcher) Angel grants one power to summon and control goetic spirits and utilize them for practical purposes. Our author tells us that he waged warfare against eastern powers through the command of such demons. I have made good use of such goetia myself, and began to really investigate the Necronomicon around the time that I was completing theurgic initiation through the planetary gates.
I offer the following paragraphs as food for thought on this immense and fascinating subject. Each Gatewalker will find themselves drawn, through their nature and experience, to particular animal totems suited to their personality and endeavours. Though all the animal spirits will interact with us through our journeys, a couple will remain close and dedicated friends, and usually one or two in particular will assume a central role in our magical identity and lives. Animal totems connect us to our own animal natures, which still reside within our brain, body, and blood, and affect us just as much if not more so than our “higher” and more abstract mentalities.
WOLF: “The wolves carry my name in their midnight speeches, and that quiet, subtle Voice is summoning me from afar. And a Voice much closer will shout into my ear with unholy impatience. The weight of my soul will decide its final resting place.”
Wolves have been demonized throughout much of history. They were said to be the servants of Angra Mainyu (Ahriman), the evil or adversarial principle in Zoroastrian doctrine. Humans fell into competition and conflict with wolves, fighting against them both to preserve their livestock and their expansion out into “hostile” nature. Wolf shamanism played a strong role in European magic and mysticism for many centuries, and is grimly and dimly remembered through the mythos of the werewolves. Older and more original tales of the werewolves indicate shamans who voluntarily assumed wolf forms through magic and ritual means, such as via special belts, salves and oils. Although the power and association of the wolves with the moon they howled at was undeniable, the belief that werewolves were cursed and forced to become bloodthirsty monsters under full moons is, I believe, a later development. It begins with the Olympic takeover of Greek culture and religion, which moved Greece away from Cthonic religion. “The word [lycanthrope] has also been linked to the original werewolf of classical mythology, Lycaon, a king of Arcadia who, according to Ovid’s Metamorphoses, was turned into a ravenous wolf in retribution for attempting to serve his own son to visiting Zeus in an attempt to disprove the god’s divinity.” Medieval lore, especially French, has rich and varied stories about werewolves, which I encourage the reader to investigate. A definite link to shamanism seems likely, as werewolves and “witches” were often conflated.
Although werewolves were believed to be hounds of hell, “A notable exception to the association of Lycanthropy and the Devil, comes from a rare and lesser known account of a man named Thiess. In 1692, in Jurgenburg, Livonia, Thiess testified under oath that he and other werewolves were the Hounds of God. He claimed they were warriors who went down into hell to do battle with witches and demons. Their efforts ensured that the Devil and his minions did not carry off the abundance of the earth down to hell. Thiess was steadfast in his assertions, claiming that werewolves in Germany and Russia also did battle with the devil’s minions in their own versions of hell, and insisted that when werewolves died, their souls were welcomed into heaven as reward for their service. Thiess was ultimately sentenced to ten lashes for Idolatry and superstitious belief.” (Wikipedia) These practices seem to parallel those of the Benendatti, “good” witches of Italy who flew on night journeys to do battle with evil forces that threatened the people and lands they served.
“Thinking no more of the carvings, save that they might be the work of a king to mark some ancient victory over an enemy, I built a fire at its foot to protect me from the wolves that wander in those regions and went to sleep, for it was night and I was far from my village, being Bet Durrabia. Being about three hours from dawn, in the nineteenth of Shabatu, I was awakened by the howl of a dog, perhaps of a wolf, uncommonly loud and close at hand. The fire had dies to its embers, and these red, glowing coals cast a faint, dancing shadow across the stone monument with the three carvings”
In the dark traditions that the Necronomicon embodies, wolves are messengers and symbols of nocturnal initiation. Wolves are the cause of the Mad Arab’s first initiatory experiences, and at the conclusion of his concord with the exoteric powers, they come once more to announce and escort him towards the culmination of his Work:
“The night has now grown silent. The howling of the wolves has grown quiet, and can scarce be heard. Perhaps it was some other that they sought? Yet, can I tell in my bones that this is not so?”
TOAD: Although the figure of the toad may strike us as unintimidating, they have a long history of goetic connection for many reasons. Toads sing “the music of the night”. Their skin often exudes a noxious substance which can be either poisonous or hallucinogenic (my understanding is that the effects are based on alkaloid chemistry which also defines the use of deadly nightshade, belladonna, aconite, and other “witches’ herbs”). Toads also reside on toadstools, which themselves are often powerful hallucinogenic mushrooms. They dwell in both land and water, the passive elements primary in goetic magic, which in Mesopotamian tradition would connect them to Ea Enki. In Taoism, the toad immortals could utilize the life energy of Ki/Chi/Qi to become lighter than air and jump up and over great distances. This real and historical practice was beautifully rendered in the movie Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
SERPENT/SNAKE: Serpents are creatures of Earth, both in the sense of the land they slither over and our Planet Earth. They have a special place in Cthonic religion, and serpentine god figurines have been found throughout the Near East. Serpents embody a pure strain of the life force, flowing through all three dimensions of material existence. In our bodies, the spinal cord and brain stem are our “reptilian” brain that connects us to this legacy. The serpent is connected to blood and its power, DNA itself being an intertwining of two serpents not unlike the caduceus staff of Thoth Hermes, and of Firik and Pirik. Enki and his followers adopted serpent symbolism and shamanism as special symbols of earth connection, and hence “the old serpent” is blamed for the “fall of man” and his expulsion from Eden/Edin.
DRAGON: The telluric ley lines of the Earth’s energy are called dragon currents, and cultures that honor the Earth have historically planned their architecture and buildings around these currents to take full advantage of their blessings and effects. I have personally been to several of these sites and can attest to the great power and beauty that comes with attuning to them. Dragons, or Wyrms, are related to serpents and other reptiles, but take on a special place because of their great size, ability to fly, and their “fiery breath”. When dinosaur bones were first unearthed, they were said to be the bones of dragons, and its interesting to ponder if a connection might exist. The highest initiates of the Tree of Life are called “Dragons”, because through their accomplishment they have mastered the 7 planets and the 4 elements, posessing great power to both create and destroy.
DOG: Dogs are the domesticated cousins of wolves, and generally represent canine nature that favors humans and civilizations, rather than opposing them as wolves often do. The Tarot card of “The Moon” features both species honoring Luna, alongside the Crab who moves with the watery tides. Dogs are fiercely loyal and protective but can carry this to the point of codependence. Esoterically, Dogs are connected to the Canus constellations and especially to the “Dog Star” Sirius, which the Dog-an tribe of Africa hails from in their religion. The seven fallen Annunaki are said to manifest as dogs. Dogs are often considered unclean animals because of what they are willing to eat, including the dead. Along with Ravens, they are thus associated with the dark goddess Hecate.
GOAT & GOATFISH: Capricorn is a symbol that is associated with Enki, because as the fish he can swim to the deepest depths, and as a goat, climb to the highest mountain peaks. Again, the “negative” elements of earth and water are emphasized. Goats are symbols of ruggedness and even sexuality. Pan and the satyrs were depicted as goats from the waist down. The goat takes on a sinister (left-hand) association through the legends of Azazel, the watcher leader who led his compatriots to descend from Mt. Hermon and forever change the history of Earth by interbreeding with human women and teaching them the secrets of magic and civilization. Infernal rites of both Europe and Latin America involved kissing a goat’s backside in order to receive magical power and acknowledge and humble oneself before the dark powers. This may be where our phrase “kissing ass” comes from. The Templar figure of Baphomet and the Sabbatic Goat of Egypt are also associated with this tradition.
SCORPION: Scorpions symbolize sexuality and the powers of both life and death. Although Scorpio is one of the four cardinal signs of the heavens – one of the 4 “pillars” that upholds the caelestial vault – it is often replaced by Aquila, the Eagle, which seems to represent a higher sublimation of the scorpion’s base energy. As Warlock has pointed out before, Scorpions are keepers on the Tantric mysteries. Scorpions must eventually “betray” their students in order to force them to adapt and become spiritually independent. An old fable relates that a scorpion asked another animal to ferry it across a river, only to sting it more than halfway across. This endangered both scorpion and friend, but the scorpion replied that it was simply his nature to do so. The Scorpion Man, in the Necronomicon, reveals many secrets and mysteries that the Mad Arab himself could not, but eventually “betrays the elder gods” to begin a student’s draconian initiation into the rites of the Ancient Ones.
LION:Lions embody kingly pride, and with their golden color are associated with the Sun. Ishtar and other “Beast Ladies” are often portrayed petting or being escorted by two lions, and this shows up in the tarot card “Strength” or “Lust”. Depending on what is required, the Lady may be silencing and taming the lion, or riding and encouraging its royal power. Elizabeth Haitch, in her book “Initiation”, declares that in ancient egypt, Lions were pets and steeds for the great priests and priestesses, but could only safely be handled by those with great spiritual power.
BOAR: The Boar is both a highly intelligent animal and one that throughly enjoys the pleasures of earthly life, delightfully rolling in the mud and digging for treasures in the earth that others disdain. This totem offers great luck and fun to those whom it graces, as well as a high sexual nature.
RAVEN: Symbols of Dark Wisdom, ravens play a critical role in Native American religion. Noah sent forth a raven to see if the flood had ended before he sent out the dove, but the raven was unable to find what the dove brought back. Edgar Allen Poe’s famous story about this animal meditates on death and the cruel realities of life the bird seems to refuse to explain.
INSECTS: Al Azif, which was the original name of the Necronomicon in Lovecraft’s stories, denotes “the chittering of a thousand insects”. Simple, direct, hungry, and powerful in great numbers, insects perform essential functions of decomposition within nature, without which waste would accumulate to unbearable levels. Ants symbolize teamwork, group effort, and single-minded purpose. Bees add a royal parallel to these same qualities, producing golden honey and being the symbol of royalty on Egyptian cartouches. Butterflies symbolize transformation and the wandering mind.
BATS: Flying through the night, seeing clearly in the dark, and living in the caves during the day, bats are guardians of the infernal mysteries. Bat’s blood is called for in many of the old goetic operations of Solomonic Magic. Devils are often pictured with bat wings, and bats are also associated with vampires and their mysteries. The modern mythos of Batman is that of a “dark knight” who can pierce and gaze through the night and utilize the forces of fear to overcome the horrors that threaten humanity.
BUNNIES: Why on Earth, you ask, would I include this animal in the list? Bunnies have come to symbolize a very humorous and important message in the modern occult community – be substantial! Have more bravery and toughness in yourself and your spirituality, else you be easily frightened and more easily squished. Nonetheless, I have heard tales of a mad rabbit with vicious fangs that preys upon those who mistake its soft and adorable surface, and this reminds us not to underestimate the contributions or strength of both the New Age movement as a whole and of neophytes in particular.
“Bunnies aren’t just cute like everybody supposes,
They’ve got them hoppy legs and twitchy little noses.
And what’s with all the carrots?
What do they need such good eyesight for anyway?
Bunnies, bunnies it must be bunnies!
…or maybe midgets.”
And it is with that in mind that I wish you Peace, Love, and many Fluffy Bunnies in the years to come.