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Totems: Sea Jellies, Part 1 of 2

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


We, of the Sea Jelly nation have come to you at this time to help you simplify your life, spend more time on the things you love to do, more than the things you have to do, and to let you know that you do not have to be lonely. There are others of your kind to support you, and let you know that you are not alone in your quest for balance and higher knowledge. Now is the time to heal any unresolved pain from the past. As you do this, the current will shift to bring you more buoyant experiences of pleasure, enjoyment, and satisfaction. Happiness, like jellyfish bodies is fragile, unless based upon strengths and values within. Vulnerability is not weakness; it is the pathway to a self-love that will carry you through every challenge. If you make it a practice to appreciate what drifts into your experience, you will recognize Source Energy in everything. Now, that’s happiness! Are you ready for the change for which you have been asking?

I love writing this column, because before I begin researching, writing, and living with the new totem’s Medicine, I can never foresee how perfectly it fits current experience. And yet the Shamanic Way is always synchronous. As I began writing about jellyfish and other jellies, I figured perhaps they were popping up, because it was the middle of summer. And okay, jellies live in water, the realm of the emotions, but what specifically could they bring to you and me, in the way of assistance to help us through these tumultuous times? Read on, and you will be amazed.

On July 24th 2017, a newspaper headline and internet footage read: Fears of a Jellyfish Invasion On Cornish beach as Hundreds Wash Onto the Shore. How’s that for synchronicity? Another headline reads: 60 People Stung by Jellyfish on Florida Beaches. When I was 9 years old, my family vacationed in Florida. I remember how adamant my father was about my brother and me NOT going in the water, when there were “Portuguese Men o’War” floating in the ocean. Also called Bluebottle or Floating Terror, we recognized them by their blue dome, with a clear bladder rising above it. Like its namesake - a warship at full sail before a breeze, this marine creature continuously changes shape, as it trims itself to catch the wind across miles of ocean. The Man o’ War has tentacles that can reach 50 feet or more. The reputation that precedes them, of having one of the worst venomous stings of any creature is also the way they catch food. In the open sea, a small fish may attempt to hide in those long tentacles, unaware that its sting will immediately paralyze it, as it is slowly pulled toward its sucking mouth. An unwary human would probably feel that he or she had been stung by a swarm of bees. 

Two things about the Man o’ War: it’s not a true jellyfish. It’s a siphonophore, which is an assemblage of four separate polyps living together that are genetically identical, but which are specialized for different functions; in this case: tentacles called zooids, and cells for reproduction, feeding, and floating. Animals that have serious consequences for human lives sometimes have the most powerful Medicine. This seemingly simple creature shows us that all our parts and aspects can be coordinated into functioning well together, if we balance them. It can also alert us when its time to reorganize. While writing this article, I was balancing multiple tasks. Between doing healing & care work, taking care of a water problem at my home, editing my novel, and writing this article, the last thing I thought I had time for was reorganizing my home, garage and garden shed. Yet, I was compelled to let that reorganizing push its way to the front of the line – Spring cleaning in the summer, if you will. That’s Sea Jelly Medicine!

The other side of this razor-sharp Medicine cautions us, that being unfocused or aimless is an imbalance that will impede our progress. The key here is asking for help when direction is needed, expecting guided answers and signals, then acting on those messages/hunches, trusting that you are in a loving partnership with the Universal Forces of Life and Love. This totem also reminds us that rigid ideas, opinions or beliefs will hinder advancement. Let us ask these questions: “Are we living in a balanced manner, giving equal time to work, play, rest, and creative pursuits? Are we letting our true selves be seen, or are we being elusive and aloof? If we need some help with these things, we can ask sea jelly totem for assistance.

The second thing about the Man o’ War is that it has a symbiotic relationship with a little purplish fish called Nomeus, a.k.a. Bluebottle fish, that lives among the poisonous tentacles, eating scraps of food left by its host, and indeed, dining on the Man o’ War’s tentacles and (ouch!) gonads. It seems that a lot of extra vertebrae help the fish maneuver in tight spaces – that, and having 10x greater immunity to the Man o’War’s toxin than other fish. The advantage to the Man o’War is that the fish is a lure to other fish, which can then be stung by the barbs on its tentacles, which inject poison. We can extrapolate the Medicine here: Sometimes an innocent heart can go places that a cynical one can’t. Perhaps that is why children are universally appreciated for the purity of their hearts.

True Jellyfish or Jellies are marine animals of the phylum Cnidaria, which include jellyfish, corals, sea anemones, and hydroids (fern-like animals). None of them are fish at all, but gelatinous zooplankton. Cnidaria comes from the Greek knide, meaning nettle, a plant famous for its stinging thorns. Here, we’ll talk both about jellies and their relatives. Scientists speculate that jellyfish have been on the planet for at least 500 million years, and probably closer to 700 million. To put that into perspective, they predate dinosaurs by hundreds of millions of years! Though they are incredibly ancient, you won’t find many fossils of these creatures, because they are 98% water, and transparent. Like the air element’s families of bees and wasps, they all have stingers.

At first, researching their biology was confusing. They used to be classified in the phylum Coelenterate, and some books (especially older ones) still classify them as such. There is also contest as to what are true “jellies” and what are not, but they all have radial symmetry (as opposed to the bilateral symmetry of humans.) Some Box jellies, a.k.a. sea wasps’ (hint, hint) with venom 700 times more potent than even a Man o’War are the most poisonous sea creatures. Most jellyfish don’t have eyes, yet they have chemical receptors, which give them the ability to smell and taste; they use “touch receptors” to feel around for food, but Box jellyfish have 24 eyes, in four groups of six; two which can see in color, and two which can navigate – not behaviors we usually associate with a creature without a brain.  They can also see in a complete 360-degree circle. In a case of parallel evolution, it turns out, that their eyes are built with many of the same genetic building blocks as ours. 

So – no skeleton, no brain, no heart, virtually no organs, but they have a mouth, stomach, and special sensory organs called Statocysts that keep them balanced when they tilt too far in one direction or the other. Statocysts stimulate nerve endings, contracting particular muscles. Otherwise, they float and are bandied about by wind and ocean currents. As ocean drifters, their whole existence is being swept endlessly throughout the world’s seas. Their buoyant gelatinous forms meet no resistance. They would seem helpless, but there are times when going with the flow, and moving forward are signs of strength and wisdom. Jellyfish can float and move themselves. They can fill up with water, using special coronal muscles, then shoot it out, pushing through the water, to catch prey or escape predation themselves.

A group of jellyfish is either called a bloom, a swarm, or a smack. Every night, in the darkest depths of our oceans, the largest migration on the planet takes place. From the depths, bioluminescent jellies rise to the surface. Bioluminescence is the ability of living creatures to communicate by producing light. Almost every animal in the depths of the ocean, where light does not reach, uses bioluminescence as communication. Such light acts as a lure to draw prey closer, or to attract a mate. If attacked, some animals use light like a flashbulb in the face, perhaps hoping a larger predator might come along and eat the attacker. Bioluminescent chemicals are already being used in medicine. Marine scientists now use biologically produced, enhanced, fluorescent proteins (dGFP), for neuronal imaging, engineered from jellyfish DNA. The Light has been a metaphor and a reality for God, or Ultimate Reality, since the beginning of time. Every human is naturally drawn to light. Perhaps one day, humans can recognize that the Light leads all to the same destination - to unity, no matter the path. Sea Jelly totem shows us that even in the deepest darkest times, the Light is present. Given faith and acceptance, it will illuminate the way. 

Cie Simurro ~ Thunderbird Starwoman has been a Healer, Writer, Minister, Advocate and Steward for the natural world for over 40 years; author of this column for 17 years. For Healing for you or your animal, or to buy a print or e-version of Totems for Stewards of the Earth go to www.CieSimurro.com, or send $22 to PO 295, Shelburne Falls MA 01370. Phone: 413 625-0385 or email:  cie@ciesimurro.com


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