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Totems: Toad, Part I

by Cie Simurro, a.k.a. Thunderbird Starwoman

The body of our Mother, the Earth is going through a cleansing. Can you see it? Can you feel it? Are you experiencing a tremendous amount of change in your own bodies? Relationships? Your lives? I AM TOAD. Hug the earth as I do, hunkering down, continuing with your lives, but opening, opening more to developing the totality of yourself. Let your love and your deep connection with the Earth sustain you, ground you and support you. In this way, you will know yourself more deeply and be able to thrive through change.

Can you hear my trilling, thrilling call - for all people to unite for the welfare of the four kingdoms of the earth? Two-leggeds are the determiners for the animal, mineral and plant kingdoms. Draw on your ancient wisdom, ye old souls. The silver lining of great change is that we get a chance to do it differently this time. The unification of the kingdoms is at hand.

It was the night before my birthday; a sweet, warm, end of summer night. Friends had just had me to their farm for dinner and a night of rousing conversation. Opening the screen door, I stepped onto their flagstone patio, and looked down upon the biggest, roundest, wartiest toad I had ever seen. It was chocolate brown and beige, with dark brown trim on the legs and sides of its body. A beige center-line went down its back from nose to bottom. This was bufo pardalis, a Leopard toad. Sometimes called the snoring toad, it emits a call every three or four seconds, that is, except when a relatively large human is standing over it.

My main concern at the time was finding a new place to live. I didn’t know how I would marshall the energy, time, and resources to find the right place to perch and nest, go through all my things, clean out, pack up, and actually move. Seeing toad directly in my path, stock-still, reassured me that somehow I would find the inner strength and resources to do what I had to do. Toad reminded me to take an inventory of my many skills and aptitudes. Even if I hadn’t had to use some of them for quite a while, they were still there – dormant, but there. Following toad’s example during hibernation and estivation, I would rise to the occasion. When needed, my adeptness would once again surface, in perfect timing, to succeed.

Toads (family Bufonidae) lead double lives. Amphibian literally means that. Amphi means "both" and bios means "life". Are you an "old soul?" Considered wise? Amphibians have existed for at least 230 million years. They are descendants of the first vertebrates to come onto land, and ancestors to reptiles (by at least 50 million years), then mammals and birds. Amphibians typically inhabit water in their early lives; afterward changing into primarily terrestrial forms. Gills change to lungs; fins to legs; and in many cases, a vegetarian diet changes to meat. Adult toads feed mainly on insects, worms, beetles and slugs. Check in periodically to see what kind of diet your particular body needs.

Folks with this totem or those experiencing a "toad" phase of life, are apt to experience their lives in distinct stages. One period of life may be so vastly different from another that it doesn’t even seem like you are the same person. As one who has experienced this phenomenon, I sometimes say I am in my 9th lifetime in this one - still the same book, but different, stand-alone chapters. People with this power animal have lots of change in their lives. If you are feeling toad’s influence, change is right around the corner. If you have a choice, experience the biggest transitions in spring or summer, for like toad, that will be your highest energy point.

And whenever there is change, there is cleansing going on. Toads and frogs both have this Medicine; it just looks and feels different, depending on which anuran it is. The classifications of frog vs. toad are scientifically fuzzy, and always changing. In addition, new species are constantly being discovered. Because as a rule, toads are more terrestrial, their Medicine usually deals more with earthy issues, like one’s home, vocation, and abundance or lack thereof. This is a good spirit animal for children and teenagers, who are in a state of continuous change. Toad, being more terrestrial may be able to help them focus, which is beneficial in academics.

Both earth and water elements are important to you. You are likely spiritual in your outlook, but also down to earth in your approach. In relationships, it would be wise to be transparent with loved ones. Don’t muddy things up. Forego any hidden agendas. You often make decisions from your emotions, and steer relationships from them as well. This works well for you, if you are in balance. Otherwise, you may either be overly sentimental, or bottle up your feelings. At times, it may be difficult to communicate with you. Usually though, one of the finest traits of folks with this totem is their empathy for others. They are usually very understanding of the plights of others, and will help when they can. For family, and those close to them, they will do most anything – except when they feel dismissed or threatened. Then their reaction can be as severe as parched earth in a drought. These are folks who can take care of themselves, and not run from confrontation.

What are the differences between toads and their cousins, the frogs? Frogs have teeth; toads don’t. Toad skin is dry, rough, and bumpy, whereas frog skin is moist and smooth. Most frogs typically spend their lives in or near water; most toads do not need to live near water. They return to it when they mate and lay eggs. Toads lay their eggs in strings; frogs in gelatinous masses. Toad legs are shorter because they usually don’t hop as far as frogs, or move as quickly. Toads jump three to five times their body length, no matter their size. Some toads will burrow. They might also play dead. If feeling really threatened, from large parotoid glands behind the eyes, they exude a milky fluid (toad’s milk), which is poisonous if exposed to your eyes or mouth. Most predators, having tried to devour a toad will never do it again. The exception to this are snakes. Most toads have L-shaped cranial crests. Energetically, this emphasizes the crown chakra for those with this totem. The crown chakra is one’s link to the Totality.

What do you do when you feel threatened? No wonder the toad on the flagstone was so big and round. As a defense, toads will puff themselves up to appear as big as possible. Some though, do hop quickly away, confusing their predator by frequently changing direction. This brings up an aspect of toad Medicine to be conscious of. Stick to your course of action, even if things get challenging. Toad totem folks sometimes leave things only partly-done, because they’re busy hopping from one thing to another.

Are you a night person? Many toads hide during the day and emerge at night, especially after a heavy rain, to look for prey, which they snap up with long, sticky, pad-like tongues attached in the front of the mouth at the jaw. A few months after a loved one died, I went to Costa Rica for three weeks, in order to heal. I stayed at an artist’s colony. Walking at night required flashlights, which inevitably revealed many toads upon the wet stone walkways.

Toads are less streamlined than frogs. They can’t jump like frogs do; they are slower. Their eyes are larger too, because they use vision to detect their food (reacting to small, irregular movements), and perhaps because they hang out at night. Oh yes, those eyes! Can you handle all that you see? Do you easily get overwhelmed? You may not have to do anything; just let yourself see and be.

Toads have a larynx, a true voice-box producing sound, an expandable vocal sac (especially handy for mating vocalizations), and a Jacobsen’s organ, which detects pheromones. The tympanum (eardrum) transfers sound vibrations to the inner ear. Ever thought of being a drummer? Though adults have lungs, they obtain most of their oxygen directly through the skin. Toad totem folks are often more sensitive to their surroundings, and may react to pollutants faster than others; especially to chemicals in the atmosphere. Like canaries in a coal mine, they are one of the first species to let us know there is an environmental problem.

Is it time for you to replenish your energy? Feeling stuck in the mud? Do you need to hit the "refresh" button to clear away miasms of negativity in order to begin a new cycle of abundance and fulfillment? Everyone needs a break now and then, if only to kick back on some lily pad or other, and get a different point of view.

Next issue: Part 2 of Toad Totem

For almost 40 years, Cie Simurro ~ Thunderbird Starwoman has been bringing forward the healing arts and ancient universal wisdom through her writing, healing work, and teaching. For 12 years, she has been a contributing writer to Wisdom Magazine. For healing for you or your animal, spiritual training, to invite Cie to give her presentation: "Our Partnership With Nature" in your area, or purchase her book, Totems for Stewards of the Earth ($22 to PO 295, Shelburne Falls MA 01370), call 413 625-0385 or email: cie@ciesimurro.com

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