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Totems: Grasshopper

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

Though it feels difficult to shed one's skin, when outer trappings are stripped away, you can experience the freedom to recreate yourself anew. Often you have to give up things that feel intrinsic to your nature. I know this. I AM GRASSHOPPER. I shed my entire skin six times, so I understand how easy it is to get used to things being a certain way, then suddenly it's all gone, left behind. Change can be quite uncomfortable. So why is it worthwhile? Life is constantly evolving and creating; no standing still or going backward. What forsaken dreams would you pick up again? Take a leap forward. Jump, and feel the extraordinary power in change!

In the series, Kung Fu, David Carradine plays Kwai Chang Caine, a Shaolin monk who was raised at the monastery by his mentor, the blind Master Po. He developed spiritual and mental powers as a priest and martial arts expert. Soon after the boy Caine is accepted as a pupil, his venerable teacher, Master Po asks Caine to close his eyes and tell him what he hears. "I hear the water. I hear the birds," he responds. Do you hear your own heartbeat? asks the master. "No" is Caine's answer. Then his teacher asks, "Do you hear the grasshopper which is at your feet? Caine asks, "Old man, how is it that you hear these things?" The master replies, "Young man, how is it that you do not?" From then on, the boy Caine was called Grasshopper by his teacher.

Historically, grasshoppers have either been representatives of good fortune or scourges. To the Greeks, they were noble. They meant good luck to the Japanese. The Chinese felt grasshoppers embodied their ancestors. To the Iroquois, grasshopper totem is a harbinger of good news for the whole community. During this writing, I had an encounter with a beautiful 2-inch grasshopper. For a while it jumped away from me. Then I talked softly to it. It remained transfixed, watching me as I spoke. After a blissful interlude, I backed away to prove my no-harm intentions.

Grasshoppers are all about three things: jumping, attracting a mate, and eating. What if, over a period of time, all the people and things you relied upon for support, context, and a feeling of well-being went away, dried up, disappeared from your life? What would you do? Would you crawl into the fetal position bemoaning your fate, or would you make a gigantic leap into your own personhood? Grasshopper is the totem that can help you with this. The jump of a grasshopper is a remarkable thing. It can leap twenty times its body length, which would be like me covering a football field in three broad jumps, or leaping over a five-story building. 3,500 muscle fibers in the hind legs are capable of generating a takeoff thrust eight times grasshopper's total weight in as little as a thirtieth of a second.

Are you different from your family or friends; an innovator who uses unorthodox means to effect change? Some people periodically make big leaps in understanding and ability that upsets those around them, because it changes the status quo and people's roles. Friends are often lost along the way for folks with a grasshopper totem, or those in a strong grasshopper phase, unless the person's new vision can be understood and embraced by those around him or her. The changes can be significant, involving a considerable degree of growth. Like grasshopper's molting, the ease of the process depends on how far from the authentic, natural self a person is at any point. Grasshopper's later stages are winged and leaps are powerful.

Grasshoppers are members of the order Orthoptera (meaning straight-winged) characterized by those powerful hind legs, body noises (males "sing" to attract females), chewing mouthparts (ideal for cutting, tearing, shredding or drilling into their food), and ears (their ears are tympanal organs on their abdomens). Other than that, there are many differences. Some grasshoppers use camouflage, often bearing uncanny resemblances to twigs, leaves and lichen; even stones. They can look like other species, especially unpalatable ones, which protects them from predators like mammals, birds, lizards, frogs, spiders and other insects. If a predator spots a grasshopper, camouflage is of no use; however, a sudden display of color or bright patterns may buy a few seconds to escape. Some species produce poisonous chemicals. Bright colors warn they are a toxic meal. The above photo of the red and green grasshopper that I took in Costa Rica is an example of this. Grasshoppers who live above ground have keen eyesight; there are others, near-blind, with shovel-like legs, who live in burrows. There are a few families where males and females sing mating duets, but mostly it's males of the species that "sing" by rubbing pegs on the hind legs against hard, vein-like ridges along the wings. This is called stridulation. Sometimes males take turns courting, yet even if no females are around, the males may sing in unison in a kind of male anthem. Men with this totem often participate in lodges, fraternal organizations, or men's groups. Long-horned grasshoppers rub their wings together. A few grasshoppers use crepitation, which is snapping their wings while flying, causing a clicking sound. Others click mandibles together. When grasshopper comes around, it's time to express yourself verbally or in singing. Make music. Try sitting outside in the summer while grasshoppers, crickets, katydids and cicadas are expressing their songs, letting their sounds move through you. Perhaps ancient spirits will give you a message or a memory.

Grasshopper's elements are Air and Earth. Air: When sound waves vibrate grasshopper's skin, receptors relay the vibrations to the brain. Some forms of sound healing, all carrying vibration are singing bowls, drums, rattles, other musical instruments, and the voice. Earth: Are you grounded? How are you connecting with Mother Earth? When you leap, do you trust that you will land on your feet? What do you do to take care of the Earth? Are we respecting the gifts and resources of the Mother? Taking more than our share? Is corporate greed creating human locusts, destroying our beloved planet's delicate balance? What are each of us doing to restore balance? Do we really need to use so much paper, chemicals and packaging? Still buying water in plastic bottles for the home, instead of using a good water filter, which saves money and gives better water quality? Do you try to find multiple uses for the resources that you do use? Print on both sides of the paper? Do you plant extra for the animals and insects who live in your environ? Perhaps all you see of grasshoppers is that they eat your plants. If they threaten the very existence of your garden, consult other organic gardeners for ways to discourage too many sharers in yours.

Orthoptera is divided into two suborders: Ensifera, which includes long-horned grasshoppers and katydids, and Caelifera, which contains short-horned common grasshoppers and locusts. Grasshoppers live all over the world except in polar regions. Females lay 30-100 eggs in the ground, or on bark or detritus. Nymphs, in their six stages to adulthood look like adults, except have buds for wings. This reminds us that we may look and act like adults for a long time, but it is not until we reach spiritual maturity that we are fully fledged (realized) beings. That means completely giving up dependencies for the willingness to be truly, deeply, unflinchingly, blissfully, our True Self – being who we are. This is not selfish; it always is selfless and compassionate.

The changes that produce adult grasshoppers are biologically inherent in the earlier stages. As transformation continues, the only proviso is that the behaviors of the young must eventually give way to the adult. So also, in spiritual growth; there is no going backward. The changes each species goes through varies as with people (when and how much). How long does this take, one may well ask. Well, the answer is equivalent to partial metamorphosis. For people, look for change/growth cycles to last 6 days, 6 weeks, 6 months or 6 years, depending on how gigantic the leap is. A grasshopper's six stages of development (instars) between the newly hatched nymph to the fully-winged adult is like living six lifetimes in one (some eventually fly). Each of the many tiny facets in grasshopper's compound eyes is hexagonal. Get ready to see new things, that is, if you're willing to accept responsibility. The number six is tied to earthly materials, possessions and planetary issues. Six offers the opportunity to wipe the slate clean for a new layer of consciousness. Right now, if there are enough of us to facilitate a paradigm shift, then this is the time for a rejuvenated planet. There are six points to opposite, intersecting triangles a.k.a. the Star of David, whose ancient meaning is aspiration toward, and response from Divine aspects.

Short-horned grasshoppers (Acrididae) have two phases: solitary and gregarious. Migratory or desert locusts start out solitary, and end up in swarms if conditions warrant. Their strength is in numbers. They teach us the importance of balance, and sharing Earth's gifts; when to be alone and when to be social. Their green body color darkens almost to black when large numbers of them gather to forage. This enables them to absorb more sunlight, creating more frenetic energy for the swarm, which can consist of billions of individuals, miles long and wide. How do locust swarms get started? When the rains come and green plants are plentiful, locusts are solitary, their green color matching the plants. Females take advantage of lush conditions by laying eggs rapidly (up to 1,000 eggs in rapid succession, in 10 clutches). Encounters between grasshoppers become more frequent as their numbers exponentially increase. Rain continues, but plant life cannot accommodate the millions extra. Bands join together, becoming a moving air swarm when the food supply is exhausted in that area.

Swarms can also develop when drought occurs. Food resources dwindle; the nymphs molt into brighter colors by ingesting toxins from poisonous plants. They become gregarious (safety in numbers) which helps protect them from predators. If it rains, these changes are reversible for a while; otherwise, they swarm. Crowded females lay hundreds of eggs in the ground, covered with a frothy secretion to keep eggs moist. Once-solitary females produce offspring that are born genetically gregarious. Eventually, the swarm will remain at a suitable food site to mate and lay eggs, often giving rise to another swarm. If conditions are unfavorable, they will starve, die of disease, or be blown out to sea and drown. Individuals are normally restrained eaters, but a swarm defoliates vast areas of food, causing intensive crop loss. Africa, the Middle East, Australia, India, Asia, and North and South America have all been susceptible to locust swarms. There is no single method for coping with locusts, though introducing predator species (along with the danger of those species becoming imbalanced in a strange environment), using insecticide dust or bait, and manually or mechanically trampling the eggs, using smoke or steep-sided ditches, or using food mixed with oil or molasses to capture them are methods that have either been used in the past or are currently still used. More recently, bio-pesticides and pathogens are being tested. Satellite imagery plus aerial and ground surveys in breeding habitats has had some success in preventing upsurges by containment. As humans are part of the equation whenever there is an imbalance in nature that affects them, isn't it far better to employ solutions that have a comprehensive approach in which all species can thrive, in balance? Indigenous people have always lived this way.

In some parts of the world, grasshoppers are supper. Are we grateful to plants and animals whose lives we take? If there were any doubt that Gaea wants her children to survive, consider this survival mechanism: if grasshopper is caught by the leg, it will sacrifice it by contracting the muscle at the base. A small diaphragm immediately closes the wound and prevents infection or massive blood loss. What are you willing to let go of to survive and grow? Let us admire the elegant, finely-tuned characteristics of grasshoppers and other insects, instead of being repulsed by them or merely considering them pests. Grasshopper is a perfect totem for singers, musicians, dancers and choreographers, intuitives and visionaries. Grasshoppers delight us with their movements and song, stimulating our sense of wonder and beauty.



Cie Simurro~Thunderbird Starwoman

A grasshopper

the color of green meadows

jumps on my hand. I marvel

at its translucent delicacy

and boldness

until it bites me hard

A dragonfly

lights on my elbow.

Deep in its eyes I remember

who I am

as it bears seductive illusion

away on gossamer wings

I begin my healing ceremony

afraid of losing


fingertips clutching.

Will it be taken away

before I am ready

On the tree stump, I bend

from hips that bore a child

I am ready to birth again

this time, a being


I surrender to Shiva, palms open

Kali-Ma destroys

argument and illusion

effort and compulsion

They are polarities of one

moving to stand still

Sacred water

drips over crown and mouth

and scorched breast

Unrestricted, the water

streams into lavish birthing gardens

of new creation

True Self floods inward and outward,

Kali and Shiva together.

The grasshopper comes back

I quell doubts, kneeling again

to welcome its medicine.

This time it doesn’t bite.

copyright Cie Simurro July 2011

Cie Simurro ~ Thunderbird Starwoman has been a healer and writer for over 35 years. Her work is to bring forward and disseminate the healing arts and ancient universal wisdom through writing, teaching, and healing, facilitating the mystical reunion of humans with Source and Nature, in all directions, in equal balance, allied with the Elements, acknowledging the divine within all.

For healing for you or your animal, spiritual training, to invite Cie to bring her presentation: "Our Partnership With Nature" to 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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