Keynote: The Use of Appearances
Cycle of Power: Spring
A number of years ago when my workshops were just begining to grow in popularity, an individual in the metaphysical field was spreading rumors avout me among certain groups, to undermine my work. Apparently he felt threatened by the increasing attention I was receiving. After a workshop one evening, several people spoke to me about what was being spread around. I remember fuming all the way home. I couldn't believe this person would make up stories--after all we had done some traveling together. I knew that I was going to have to confront this person.
When I got home and raised my garage door, my headlights flashed on a pair of eyes in the back of the garage. An opossum had taken up temporary shelter. I got a broom and tried unsuccessfully to sweep it out. Finally, I left the garage door open, hoping it would leave on its own and went into the house, temporarily distracted from my fuming.
About an hour later I went outside to check the garage, and the opossum had disappeared. I drove the car into the garage, and pulled on the garage door. It only moved about five inches and then locked. I pulled again and still it locked. Since it was dark, I couldn't tell if the runners on which it sat were jammed or what was going on. Finally I grabbed the handle with two hands and yanked as hard as I could. The door freed and came down. As it did, the opossum tumbled off the top of the garage door and fell on top of my head. I must have jumped six feet. I don't know who was scared worse--me or the opossum. Apparently it had climbed on top of the garage door and was lodged in a way that hindered closing the door.
It left rather abruptly, after bouncing off my head and hitting the ground. It appeared just as dazed and unhurt as I was. I tried to get my heart started. I began laughing as I walked back into the house. My anger from earlier that evening was dissipated. It was then I decided not to respond. I would just appear to play dead or ignorant to the rumors. Within several weeks, the rumors had ceased and numerous phone calls reaffirmed that I had responded appropriately. No one was believing the rumors, and my invitations to teach and lecture increased even more.
Opossum teaches us how to use appearances. Sometimes it is necessary to "play dead." Sometimes it is necessary to put up a particular front to succeed most easily and effectively. This is what the medicine of opossum can teach. It also can show you when others are putting up false fronts and deceptions. Opossum has an archetypal energy that helps us to use appearances to our greatest benefit and that helps us to recognize when others are creating false impressions. Opossum can help us learn to divert attention or to get attention any way we need.
Sometimes it is necessary to behave or act in a strategic manner. We may need to appear fearful or fearless in spite of how we truly feel. We may need to show submission or aggression. We may need to be apathetic or extremely caring. Opossum is the supreme actor, and those in the acting field or that need to learn something of it can do no better than to work with the opossum.
The opossum is a nocturnal animal. It is the only marsupial on the North American continent. Marsupials are animals that raise their young in a pouch on the abdomen. When the young are born, they are blind, but they are still able to climb up into the pouch immediately after birth. There they stay for about one month.
During the spring, I often stop and check opossums hit and on the road. There may be young in the pouch if it is a female opossum. The young can live for a while in the pouch even after the mother has died, but only for a short while.
In the pouch are located the nipples. Most opossums have 13 nipples. In a litter, there can be many more than thirteen young, but only thirteen will be able to survive. This number is very symbolic. Although many associate it with bad luck, it is also a symbol for the one great sun around which the twelve signs of the zodiac revolve. It is a symbol of the sun within.
The pouch, especially in regards to the opossum's defense of "playing dead," links it to the aboity to help us draw from our own bag of tricks that which will most benefit us. It can show you which appearance to draw from the pouch to use for the greatest success. The milk of the mother is rich in calcium, as young opossums need high concentrations of it. Those with this totem should examine their own calcium levels.
The playing dead that the possum is famous for is a self-induced state of shock. The pulse becomes minimal. The heartbeat slows. A musk scent of death is released, and for all appearances it will seem dead. The opossum can enter and leave this state abruptly--pretty much at will. This act serves to confuse many predators. The surprise distracts them, and the opossum is able to make its escape. It is this kind of flexibility and ease of appearance that the opossum can teach to those wit hit as a totem.
When opossum shows up as a totem, ask yourself some important questions. Are you acting or about to act in an inappropriate manner? Do you need to strengthen your own appearance? Are others putting up false appearances in front of you? do you need to divert attention away from some activity? Are others trying to divert your attentiojn? Is it time to go into your bag of tricks and pull out some new strategy? Learning to pretend and act in ways and with realism is the magic that opossum teaches.