Guess who’s been showing up all over the place around here?
Yep. I went from never seeing one of these little guys to having them fly back and forth in front of my face. Okay, Woody! I see you…
Woodpeckers knock, knock, knock on trees. Their knocks are reminsicent of “opportunity knocking,” and the birds are indeed considered opportunistic. Where others see dead trees, Woodpeckers see sustanance and shelter! They know when to leave a perch to catch insects in the air or on the ground. They work with what is at hand and do not easily give up.
Woodpeckers appear in many myths. They are frequently associated with weather forecasting and, not surprisingly, thunder. Between the noise and their distinctive coloring, inconspicuousness is definitely not one of this bird’s gifts!
The Woodpecker is especially connected to Mars. According to Roman lore, the twins Romulus and Remus were sons of a Latin princess and Mars, the God of War. The boys were cast into a river, where they were rescued by a she-Wolf and Picus the Woodpecker fed them. This allowed one of the brothers–after a murderous spat with the other–to found this city of Rome. Picus himself was previously a priest, especially gifted at reading the signs of birds. When he rejected the advances of Circe the witch (preferring to stay faithful to his nymph wife), Circe turned him into a Woodpecker. Crummy for him, but nice for us!
Faithfulness and feeding abandoned children could be seen as positive character traits, I reckon. Har!
Woodpeckers are usually pecking for insects under the tree bark. Do you look below the surface, beyond the obvious?
They may hear an echo from their rat-a-tatting and create a sound wave to blast out insect prey. They expertly aim sticky tongues into the holes to harpoon dinner. The very specific way they use barbed, sticky tongues and strong beaks as tools suggest discernment and power surrounding the spoken word.
Are you aware of the “sticking power” of what comes out of your mouth? Are your words carefully aimed?
Woodpeckers are very helpful in the natural cycle of decomposition, making dead trees accessible to foragers. So in this sense, Woodpeckers are trailblazers. The red on most Woodpeckers; heads suggest careful analysis and new ways of thinking, heightened awareness. They see opportunity where others see but dead wood and their pecking opens the field for those that follow.
Do you listen to your inner sense of what’s worthwhile? Are you brave enough to lead the way?
The steady rhythms of pecking emphasize rhythms in life, remaining in tune with natural cycles.
Do you follow the moon cycles? Seasonal cycles?
To some Native Americans, the Woodpecker is known as Earth’s Drummer. Shammanic journeys via drum rhythms may be a good option for Woodpecker people.
Woodpeckers have very powerful neck muscles and a huge amount of persistence, making it possible for them to literally carve holes in trees, thus making a home. Woodpeckers do defend their territory. They don’t actually create nests in the holes they peck in trees, but open a space and line it with bark chips to rear their young. So they use what’s at hand.
Do you aim to carve out a personal space with whatever resources are available? Are you prepared to defend your personal space?
Sharp claws let these birds scurry up and down trees. Stiff tailfeathers help them keep balance. They prop their tailfeathers against a support while shifting legs to climb up or down. The bird can move very quickly in all directions via this method, making it difficult for predators to keep up.
Are you flexible, maintaining a steady, supportive foundation? Do you remember to ground yourself?
Woodpeckers also have especially thick skulls to protect them. I’ll leave you to ascertain what a thick-skulled, hard-headed animal totem may suggest!
Woodpecker teaches us how to lay foundations wherever we are in life. Instead of looking for their place, they make it! They act with a sense of purpose, determination, industriousness and drive that anyone would do well to copy. They remind us to stay hard-headed when it comes to trusting the inner voice, forging our own path and not being afraid of being different (or conspicuous)–while remaining mindful of the power of our words on others. They lead primarily by example, showing others the way.
Do you have a connection to the Woodpecker? What have you noticed about this totem?
p.s. If you want to talk about your spirit animal friends (or anything else), hit me up for a session!