A few words on the designs that you see on our colorful, hand-painted earthenware. Most of the creatures in these designs live in the amazing Aravaipa desert that we live in. Note that these designs vary somewhat with each pottery piece.
Armadillos prefer warm, moist climates, and thrive in forested areas and grasslands. Because they must dig for their food and shelter, they generally gravitate towards areas with loose, porous soil. Armadillos use their strong claws to dig several burrows throughout their home range in which to live and seek refuge from extreme weather or predators. Armadillos are mainly insectivores, with over 90% of their diet consisting of animal matter, like insects and other invertebrates. They’re also known to eat the occasional reptile or amphibian – especially in colder weather. We first encountered Armadillos while traveling in Texas.
In native southern regions, armadillos are nocturnal year-round, keeping cool underground during the day and foraging at night. However, because of the armadillos’ relatively low body temperature, the nine-banded species in North America tends to change its habits in the cooler months and emerge during the day to take advantage of the warm sun. The three banded armadillo instinctually rolls itself into a ball when threatened, completely enclosing its body in its armor-like shell to defend against predators. When frightened, nine-banded armadillos will jump vertically about 3-4 feet in the air. Scientists believe this is a defense mechanism for scaring potential predators. They can live 20 years in captivity.
Barn swallows feed on the wing, snagging insects from just above the ground or water to heights of a hundred feet or more. They fly with fluid wing beats in bursts of straight flight, rarely gliding, and can execute quick, tight turns and dives. When aquatic insects hatch, barn swallows may join other swallow species in mixed foraging flocks. Their sturdy adobe mud nests are popular with many species of nesting birds, who move into the empty nests when no barn swallow is around to protest. Barn swallows migrate every year. As winter ends and spring approaches, most barn swallows start their migration journey north, leaving their wintering grounds in South and Central America in February, and arriving at their summer breeding grounds by late April to early May.
The bear is one of the most powerful and frequently appearing characters in Native American stories. Usually, Bear is associated with healing ceremonies and medicine societies. The Pawnee (Plains) legend of the Bear Medicine Woman tells the story of the Bear Ceremony and the Bear Dance. Bear Medicine Woman loses her first three children because the medicine people of her camp cannot cure them. She meets a bear beneath a cedar tree who tells her to follow him to his lodge. There, he promises her two more children, and gives her the power to heal the wounded by blowing colored breath on her face. The female bear hugs her and tells her how to use cherry, hackberry, and blueberry for healing. Bear Medicine Woman returns to her camp, where she and her husband heal many wounded men and make them members of the Bear Society. She also teaches her son the bear mysteries, and he becomes leader of the Bear Ceremony. Most often, the purpose of the Bear Ceremony is to cure illness and to petition for long life. The Bear Dance, an important part of the ceremony, may involve dancers wearing bearskins or masks and imitating the shuffling or waddling walk of the bear.
The bison or American Buffalo is a symbol of abundance and manifestation. The bison usually follows the easiest path. Bison energy shows us that when we join right prayer with right action and follow the easiest path in our own lives, our goals can be achieved. However, the Bison is very unpredictable and can be dangerous. This can serve as a warning about keeping grounded as we work toward completing projects. Bison energy reminds us to be grateful for the abundance we already have in our lives and to allow the natural flow of energy to bring our desires to fruition.
As it transforms from a rather fat unwieldy caterpillar into a beautiful flying butterfly, the butterfly is the embodiment of spiritual growth and transformation. The butterfly symbolizes the path of setting everything that was once known aside to embrace a new way of being. The butterfly totem is here to guide us on our journey, as we let go of the past and self-destructive thoughts and behaviors and move toward becoming more compassionate and aware. Butterfly represents grace, beauty and personal growth, and demonstrates the magic of transcendence.
Male and female cactus wrens mate for life and are similar in appearance. They protect their established territory (where they live throughout the year) and aggressively defend their nests from predators. Cactus wrens also destroy the nests of other bird species, pecking or removing their eggs. There are many symbols that have been attributed to the wren by the Celts, some of which include creative, quick, active, free spirited, friendly, determined, light-hearted, quick witted, and always willing to share. Wren reminds us of the medicine of using what is available to us and shows us the most effective ways to build in our own circumstances and environment.
The cat is admired for its independence and prowess as a hunter. Cats have been companions to humans for thousands of years. In Egypt, they were highly valued for their ability to kill rats and mice that got into the food storage bins. Cats are respected mousers, though they love to hunt birds and other moving things. Cats are night creatures and their reflective eyes may have contributed to superstitions about their magical nature. Territorial, contrary and affectionate on their own terms, cats continue to amuse and receive lavish devotion from their keepers today. All cat pieces are hand made by Mana founder, Immanuel Trujillo, who has been making art in the southwest for over 50 years.
Cougar or Puma Lion
The cougar (Puma concolor) is a large cat native to the Americas. Its range spans from the Canadian Yukon to the southern Andes in South America, and is the widest of any large wild terrestrial mammal in the Western Hemisphere. It is an adaptable, generalist species, occurring in most American habitat types. Due to its wide range, it has many names including mountain lion, puma, red tiger, and catamount. It is the second-heaviest cat in the New World after the jaguar. Secretive and largely solitary by nature, the cougar is properly considered both nocturnal and crepuscular, although daytime sightings do occur. The cougar is more closely related to smaller felines, including the domestic cat (subfamily Felinae), than to any species of subfamily Pantherinae, of which only the jaguar is extant in the Americas.
The coyote claims the most extensive range of any carnivore native to North America, which may help explain why Coyote is the most widely appearing and best known figure in Native American legend. Also, the remarkable physical adaptability of the coyote probably inspired the multi-faceted and colorful personality of coyote. Above all, Coyote is a trickster. He is known as a greedy and lustful liar, who is able to change his color and appearance and to change his skin with others at will. He is always in motion, often traveling with his brother, his family, wolf or fox. Coyote is often portrayed as a creator, since he helped Silver Fox prepare the world and name everything in it before the arrival of the first people. Although he appears in many stories, the story of his own origin is rarely told, but the Pima (Southwest) believe he is the offspring of the moon.
The Peyote plant has been considered sacred and used in religious ceremonies for thousands of years. Like Wily Coyote, Peyote is known as a spiritual trickster revealing inner truths while opening our hearts. Peyote is catalyst, teacher, trickster and healer. Because of its trickster role, we present the image of the Peyote plant dancing. This design depicts the Holy Sacrament in a more animated form just as its spiritual lessons teach mindfulness through personal examples and visions delivered during spirit walk.
Dancing Peyote Couplet
This Dancing Peyote design represents the regenerative power of Peyote. Peyote can often be found with multiple heads on a single root. As Peyote has both male and female flower parts it can create new life by making seed containing pods and it can also regenerate from a cut. Here the mother-father Peyote has a “baby in the bun” but actually it is carrying new life it generated just because it could. Peyote is a magical plant reminding us that we live in a magical existence. S/he dances with joy as she spins our reality.
The deer represents gentleness and innocence. The deer is found in many myths as it has been hunted for food by many cultures. In some popular myths, the deer lures the hunter deep into the woods where he becomes lost and begins an adventure. Deer’s senses are acute. Their vision is designed for distance. Anyone who uses deer energy will find an increasing ability to detect subtle movements and may notice that they hear the unsaid thoughts of others. The deer loses its antlers every year for their first five years. Sightings of deer may be significant to the observer, who can learn more about its significance in their lives by counting the points on th deer’s antlers and using numerology to gain more information. The doe raises her young alone. Newborn fawns do not move for the first few days, except to nurse. Giving the young a brief opportunity to be still and get acquainted with its place in the physical world can be a guiding principle for humans and their young.
The dolphin is the keeper of the sacred breath of life and the teacher of how to release emotions through dolphin breath. Dolphin creates rhythm, expelling then taking a breath coming out of the water. The way dolphin breathes before submerging in the ocean demonstrates the control we can use to create relaxation. Dolphin teaches us how to use life manna through our breath. All communication is pattern and rhythm. Ride the waves of laughter spreading joy. Breathe and experience the Mana freely given. Connect to the dreamtime.
The word dragonfly has its source in the myth that dragonflies were once dragons. The dragonfly, in almost every part of the world symbolizes change toward self-realization, mental and emotional maturity and understanding of the deeper meaning of life. The dragonfly’s scurrying flight across water represents an act of going beyond what’s on the surface and looking deeper.
Eagles weigh an average of 12 pounds with a wingspan of up to seven feet and a body length of nearly three feet. Eagles are lighter than they appear, as the bulk of an eagle is its feathers. An eagle’s eyes are up to eight times sharper than that of humans and contain many more color-sensitive cones. Located on the side of the head, their eyes provide a wide field of view.
The Native Indians saw the Eagle as a symbol for great strength, leadership and vision. If an individual has been going through a hard time, eagle not only signals a new beginning, but provides that person with the stamina and resilience to endure the difficulties.
The Earth Mother design represents “Mother Earth.” Mother Earth is the Bringer, the Nourisher, and the Protectress of life. She contains, and provides, all the minerals and nutrients that are necessary for human, animal, and plant life to begin, grow and mature. She is the mother and there is nothing separate from her. All things come from her, return to her, and are her. She produces everything, inexhaustibly, from herself. She is the eternally fruitful source of everything.
The high-pitched whistle of the rutting elk echoes through the forest. Also known as red deer or wapiti (white colored deer), the elk is the largest deer in North America. Elk were once found throughout much of the Northern Hemisphere, from Europe through northern Africa, Asia, and North America. A bull (male) elk’s antlers may reach 4 feet above its head, so that the animal towers 9 feet tall. Elk are social animals and live in herds, which are often quite large, with 200 or more members. The herd is often segregated by gender, with males staying in one group and females in another. Though segregated, herds are matriarchal, which means a single female runs each herd. A dominant male will have a herd of around six females and their yearlings. If you see an elk or it appears in a reading it means you are in a time of plenty, and that you can carry a project to completion. It also indicates a need to spend more time with individuals of your own gender.
The red bird, called a Firebird, is a depiction of a cormorant, bearing sacred symbolism to some Native tribes. In the teepee ceremony of the Native American Church, the firebird is created using the red coals of the central fire. The ashes are stirred and shaped into a bird design. On the pottery, the upward facing bird represents our prayers going to spirit, and the downward facing bird represents spirit’s answer to us.
A number of pagan traditions across the world depict the fish as a symbol of female fertility and inspiration. There are also certain fish that are considered to bring good luck. Additionally, the fish presence stands for adaptability, transformation, happiness, knowledge, and the power of prophecy. The fish symbol is possibly most famous for its use in the very early Christian Church, when the Ichthys was used to covertly recognize other believers, in defiance of extreme Roman Empire persecution. Water holds ancient symbolic meanings dealing with the subconscious and depth of knowledge. Water contains all the mysteriousness of the unknown. The fish swimming in this mysterious realm is the bearer of mystical messages.
The Apache people are generally thought to be a single tribe of Native Americans. In actuality, the Apaches are an assimilation of various Apachean tribes thought to be a subgroup of Athabaskans, who migrated south from Canada and Alaskan regions. The Apache believe that there was once a time when their ancestors lived alongside supernatural beings (Gahans). The common belief, even today, is that there are spirits that live within certain mountains and underground realms. The Devil Dancers or Crown Dancers are not considered to be supernatural beings themselves, but are humans who, when dressed as the Gahan Dancer performing the ceremony, are believed to possess the “special ability” of summoning these mountain spirits. They are a link between the supernatural and natural worlds to ensure the well-being of the people, protecting them from not just their enemies, but epidemic diseases.
Life is not always as it seems. Pay attention to your dreams. Gecko (or lizard) represents the medicine of dreaming. Dreaming is going into the future. Gecko medicine is the shadow side of reality where the dreams live. Gecko may be telling you to pay attention to your dreams. All levels of awareness are accessible through dreams.
The gray hawk is found from Costa Rica north into the southwestern United States. Gray hawks feed mainly on lizards and snakes, but will also take small mammals, birds and frogs. It usually sits on an open high perch from which it swoops on its prey but will also hunt from a low glide. The gray hawk is monogamous. The males court the females by rising and falling flight, calls, and nest building. The male and female together will build their stick nest in tall trees. The chicks will begin fledging in 6 weeks, but they will not reach sexual maturity until they are least 2 years of age.
Several years ago, our daughter found a gray hawk chick on the ground, a rattlesnake moving its way. She stopped the snake’s forward momentum by picking up the chick. About six weeks later after Joy’s tender nursing and weeks of feeding it mostly rattlesnakes we had killed, lizards, trapped mice, and some canned cat food, a healed and hungry hawk chick started to fly and was soon calling out for food. Fairly quickly an adult hawk approached and fed the chick. We were grateful to see that the hawk chick started flying with the adults and when it came time for Southbound migration, he went with them. We like to believe he came back with family. We now have many gray hawk families living near the Church.
The hawk is one of the most mystical of the birds of prey. It has a keen eye and a bold heart. The Red Tailed Hawk, a resident of our Aravaipa Valley home, mates for life, which can be about fourteen years. They feed on rabbits, rodents and snakes, making them a welcome guest. Both the male and female take care of the young. Hawks are the messengers, protectors and visionaries of the air. The hawk image represents a messenger from the gods or spirit world. To the Ojibwa people, the hawk represents leadership, deliberation and foresight. Hawk medicine teaches one to become observant of life’s signals. The image of it awakens our vision and inspires us to a creative life purpose.
The arrival of the horse had great impact on Native American life, especially on the Plains. Here, the land was well suited to the development of a nomadic lifestyle, which revolved around the horse. Using horses, the Plains people were able to hunt more buffalo, to travel greater distances, and to trade with more people than ever before. However, they had to move camp more often to find food and they always had to look out for horse thieves. Horses appear often in the art and ceremonies of the plains nations. The Ogallala Sioux used horses in a type of religious ceremony called Horse Dance, which revolved around a vision quest inside a sweat lodge. Four groups of four horses and riders decorated and painted themselves to represent the four cardinal directions, and then surrounded the sweat lodge. When the sweat ended, the horses were rubbed down with sage and the participant gave thanks for the vision experienced and for the horses.
The hummingbird is the most skillful and fearless flyer of all birds. It can hover, fly backwards, forward and sideways, symbolizing an ability to explore the past and draw from it nectars of joy. Hummingbirds are very playful. They are also fiercely independent. After mating, the male leaves the female to tend to their young alone. Because of its iridescent colors, many hummingbirds have been named for jewels, like the ruby throated hummingbird. It has also come to be associated with the Faerie Realm. One species is called the purple crowned fairy. To the Pueblo people, the hummingbird’s rainbow coloring, its great strength in flying, and its hovering about flowers has associated it with various rituals, particularly those involving the rainbow of promise that follows the rain. The hummingbird symbolizes finding joy and sweetness in any situation. Its swiftness is a reminder to seek joy while you can.
The javelina (collared peccary) is not found in traditional Native American Art as it is a newcomer to the Southwest, having migrated from South America. It resembles a wild boar but is unrelated to the pigs. It has a heavily built body covered with coarse hair, a heavy snout, and a distinct collar of light-colored hair around the neck. These animals are common in the southern desert regions of Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, where they frequent the shrubby areas and canyons. They roam the desert in loose groups of 8 to 12 (but up to 30) individuals, each group being led by an older sow. They are territorial. Their favorite food is prickly pear and other fleshy cacti – they eat vast amounts of prickly pear pads and are undeterred by the spines. They also dig up roots and bulbs. Here at the church, we have close encounters with these night marauders as they love nuts and frequent our “back yard” when the pecans drop. They are nearsighted and timid, but can be frightening and dangerous, especially if you are in their path when they are running away from a real or perceived danger. Javelina babies are very small and cute, resembling puppies in size and “bark.”
Kingfishers are usually thought to live near rivers and eat fish, but many species live away from water and eat small invertebrates. They nest in cavities, usually tunnels dug into the natural or artificial banks in the ground. Some kingfishers nest in arboreal termite nests. Kingfishers are generally shy birds, but in spite of this, they feature heavily in human culture. The sacred kingfisher, along with other Pacific kingfishers, was venerated by the Polynesians, who believed it had control over the seas and waves. Occasionally we see a kingfisher by water sources here in the Aravaipa Valley.
The earliest known petroglyph showing the kokopelli dates to about A.D. 1000, by an Anasazi artist. There are many legends surrounding this character. One Kokopelli legend has it that he was a Mayan trader of goods, news and entertainment. As such, he could travel freely and unharmed from pueblo to pueblo playing his flute. The feathers which appear on his head were actually those of his pet Macaw bird, which traveled on his shoulder. Honored as a god because of his unusual appearance, he had the choice of women in each pueblo and was nicknamed “the god of fertility.”
Lovebirds are monogamous, and continue to mate with the same partner for life. Their courtship behavior varies from species to species. Some feed one another to strengthen their bonds, while others sing or dance. Mating begins with courtship behavior, and can continue throughout their roughly 15-year lifespans. If a mate dies or gets separated from the flock, its companion exhibits erratic behavior that some have likened to depression. Monogamy is essential to the social stability of flocks and underlies much of their social behavior.
Often after a long separation or stressful period of time, breeding pairs of lovebirds feed each other to re-establish their bond. One bird transfers food to the mouth of its mate, a feeding technique reminiscent of affection in humans — hence the inspiration for the bird’s name.
It has been suggested that lovebirds influenced the creation of Valentine’s day as a day to celebrate love because of a poem which combines romantic love with the religious celebration of Saint Valentine’s day. The poem, “Parliament of Foules,” by Geoffrey Chaucer features two birds which exhibit all the markings of human love. (Or was it the example of the devotion of this species of bird observed in nature which inspired the behavior in humans?)
In ancient Egypt, mushrooms were a rare delicacy and were associated with immortality and were being consumed with meals as long as 4,500 years ago. Mushrooms are associated with longevity and strength, partly because some of the most popular mushrooms are known for stimulating the immune system. Shiitake and maitake mushrooms, in particular, have been used in herbal remedies for centuries. Mushrooms have been used by many cultures throughout time as part of ritual and religion. The toxin psilocybin is found in certain mushrooms, and the use of psychedelic fungi has been documented in rituals dating back thousands of years.
The earliest depiction of entheogenic mushroom consumption might be a cave painting found in the upper Tassili plateau of northern Algeria that dates to 5,000 B.C. The Mushroom Shaman is depicted as a glowing light-being with mushrooms protruding from all parts of his body. His turban is actually his pet snake wrapped turban-like around his head. Entheogenic drinks were believed to be a gift from the gods that allowed individuals to temporarily shed their ego and find deeper levels of connection with other people.
The owl is a mysterious night bird surrounded by superstition. The owl is thought to possess wisdom and powers of magic. In some cultures it is believed to be the reincarnated soul of ancestors or a messenger from the spirit realm. Owls have excellent vision and hearing and are effective hunters. One pair of nesting owls can kill as many mice as ten cats. They see well in the daytime and at night, being able to switch rapidly from distant to microscopic vision. Their hearing is also acute and they use clicks to echolocate prey. Owl energy is associated with clairvoyance and clairaudience. Owl’s wings are designed so that they can fly silently. People with owl energy tend to be very perceptive, and seem to perceive our deepest unexpressed thoughts.
Pelicans frequent inland and coastal waters, where they feed principally on fish, catching them at or near the water surface. They are gregarious birds, travelling in flocks, hunting cooperatively, and breeding in colonies. They also have a long history of cultural significance in mythology. In Ancient Egypt the pelican was associated with death and the afterlife. It was depicted in art on the walls of tombs, and figured in funerary texts, as a protective symbol against snakes. The pelican was believed to possess the ability to prophesy safe passage in the underworld for someone who had died.
Peyote is a sentient plant species of the succulent family. The plant top is revered by Peyotists for its spiritual and healing properties and is used ceremonially. As Peyote is an endangered plant species, we revere both the green top and its sacred root. Only the Peyote top is taken when harvesting for spiritual use. As Peyote cannot exist without the root it should never be taken from the garden. The root and enough green plant material must be left in the ground as it will regenerate and create a new top. The root can regenerate a new crown or top within several years of the top being harvested. Magical indeed!
Peyote Guardian Spirit
The sacred Peyote plant has been used in religious ceremonies for thousands of years. In the sacred Peyote gardens are keepers and helpers. There are snakes to keep rats from eating the tender flesh. Insects provide the needed pollination for seeds. On a more spiritual plane, the Peyote Guardian Spirit symbolizes the role of fertility and protector, and the great mystery of the visible and invisible. Peyote Guardian Spirit (sometimes called Butterfly Girl) represents transformation, awakening the inner light, touching the Spirit Realm, and providing a channel from the spiritual to the material world, sometimes bringing messages. This faerie or sprite presents herself to human eyes as a butterfly or winged insect and pollinates the Peyote flowers.
Arms raised to the sky in worship, the Praying Woman gives thanks to Earth Mother for the gift of life and the beautiful home in which she lives. She also gives thanks to Sky Father for invisible blessings. She offers herself as a servant to the divine.
Because quail are considered good eating, they have come to be associated with nourishment. Their frenzied mating habits have also earned them a reputation for sexuality and fertility. Quails live in groups called bevies. In cold weather they will often nestle together to keep warm. They often congregate in a protective circle, tails in and heads facing out so that they can easily spot danger and in retreating startle the predator by flying off noisily in all directions. Quail can teach us to be mindful of danger and how to explode to safety when threatened. The message of quail is “Don’t hesitate in times of crisis.”
The rabbit is the favorite of the Greek Goddess Hecate. It is fleet footed but also a master of stillness. The rabbit represents fertility because of its ability to produce litters of 3-6 young as many as five times a year. The twenty eight day old bunny is capable of caring for itself. Individuals born under the Chinese Astrological sign of the Rabbit are considered to be sensitive and artistic, and possessing powers of the moon. The individual whose spirit animal is the rabbit will see their projects progress by leaps and jumps. Mastering the art of keeping still and knowing when to act and move quickly are the rabbit’s gifts.
The raven carries the medicine of Magic and is considered a bringer of magic. The blue-black sheen of Raven Feathers contains an iridescence that speaks of the magic of darkness. Raven magic is a powerful medicine that can give you courage to enter the darkness of the void /Great Mystery. Raven is the courier of healing energy. Call on Raven when you need to clarify your intention about a task, relationship or your spiritual path.
The roadrunner is a ground dwelling cuckoo that lives in cactus and mesquite areas, feeding on crickets. Though it can fly, it relies almost completely on its running speed, which can reach 18 mph. The Roadrunner’s tail works like a giant air brake, allowing the roadrunner to stop and change directions rapidly. The roadrunner totem represents mental speed and agility, indicating a person whose mind is always working, able to change directions and adapt ideas easily when situations require it.
Sacred Blue Corn
Corn is the only grain developed in the Americas, and was so essential that it is often featured in Native American art. The blue variety is well known to be drought resistant and delicious, and is high in anthocyanins. It is also higher in protein than yellow corn. It was originally developed by the Hopi, and remains an essential part of Hopi dishes. When this sacred corn grows, its stalks will not look like the uniform rows of the modern varieties. Some will be tall and some short, and their bright blue ears just as randomly placed. The Ponca tribes of Nebraska and Oklahoma believe the creator gave this corn to them not only as food, but also as medicine. Blue corn continues to be a favorite Southwestern food used in tortillas and chips.
Weaver of Life Spider
Reactions to spiders range from fascination to revulsion. Observers cannot help but admire spider’s intricate and beautiful webs but express fear at the sight of the “wee” creepy critter. In Navajo, Keresan, and Hopi lore, spider woman is the creator of the universe and is associated with the emergence of life on earth. Some Native American tribes believe it is bad luck to kill a spider. To the Osage, spiders were a special symbol of patience and endurance and to the Blackfoot, they represented intelligence and skillfulness. The spider’s ability to move in all directions symbolizes dexterity, ingenuity and fulfillment of wishes. »more Native American meanings at native-languages.org
The Thunderbird, a sacred symbol found in Native American mythology, is a spirit bird thought to control storms, hence the name. It is often seen as the most powerful of all spirits. By its work, the earth is watered and vegetation grows. Lightning flashes from its beak, and the beating of its wings create the rolling of thunder. The Thunderbird is universally symbolic of profound power, protection and transformation, being a courier from another realm.
The toad is a very important insect eater and environmental barometer. Toads have sensitive skins and when there is a problem in an environment they are the first to reveal it. They may not be pretty but they are harmless to most other animals.
The turtle is one of the oldest reptiles on the Earth. It lives near water but lays its eggs on land, combining Water and Earth energy. The turtle can see some colors and has excellent hearing. People who have turtle energy tend to be clairaudient. The turtle represents awakening the senses. It has a slow metabolism and so represents being slow to anger. Patience and longevity are turtle’s gifts. The turtle is also associated with motherhood and longevity.