“. . . ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds of the air, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish of the sea inform you.” (Job 12:7-8 NIV)
“. . . the mind in its natural state presupposes the existence of . . . projections.” (L. Levy-Bruhl, “How Natives Think”)
“It is the symbol that carries the unconscious projection.” (Jung)
“It is the symbol that moves the energy from one realm to another.” (Jolande)
Lessons From Rabbit
In August of 2011 I find a dead rabbit between my house and the neighbor’s house. Its top half is partially eaten by maggots, so there is a big hole in its chest area. I feel the need to somehow dispose of it respectfully. I pick the rabbit up and move it to the back of the lot, along the tree and fence line where there is tall grass and thicket. I cover the rabbit with grasses to honor it in some way and give it a proper burial.
The rabbit has a history with me. A few years ago while meditating and prior to starting my journey into shamanism and energy medicine, a rabbit spontaneously showed up in my meditation. I asked the rabbit, “what are you doing here?” It jumped up on a table stretched out, put its head on one of its feet, crossed its legs, taking on a cartoon quality and said “Lighten up.” At that time I interpreted that message in three ways: (1) lighten up, meaning don’t take things so seriously, (2) lighten up, as let go of stuff I”m carrying, like guilt, anger, regret, etc. and (3) lighten up, as in energetically, vibrating at a higher level. Now that rabbit had entered into my life again I felt compelled to discover its original message to me. Why, at this point had a dead rabbit showed up in my life?
In the years between rabbit’s original appearance in my meditation and finding the dead rabbit in my yard, I had become a student at the Healing the Light Body School of the Four Winds Society founded by psychologist and medical anthropologist, Alberto Villoldo, studying and receiving training in energy medicine and shamanic healing. This training provided me another way to explore the question as to why rabbit had showed up in my life again, and this time dead.
“In shamanism, animals are sacred guides who have the ability to share their knowledge, wisdom, medicine, power, and spiritual gifts with us.”1 Animal medicine refers to the healing aspects that a particular animal brings to our consciousness. That would mean anything that supports, strengthens, restores, empowers, or revives us.2
I decide to use a method called shamanic journeying to inquire what message rabbit might have for me. I prepare for the journey by opening sacred space, opening my Mesa and rattling. As I journey I come to a space that is surrounded by trees and bushes, like an enclosure, or a grassy, meadow like space with high grasses that is surrounded and protected by trees and bushes. I enter this space and find rabbit in the tall grass. (I had placed tall grasses over the dead rabbit when I had placed it along the fence row among the trees, grasses and thicket). I don’t have any particular conversation with rabbit, but I get this telepathic awareness that “the dead rabbit I found represents the death of fear, or the transmutation of fear.”
Rabbit is interpreted in different ways in different cultures, linked to good fortune and the moon to being known as timid, shy and afraid, the rabbit is sometimes referred to as the Fear Caller.3 This is because it is believed that the rabbit calls upon himself the things he fears the most. The story used to illustrate this aspect is that the rabbit lays his eyes upon a coyote and calls out to him to stay away. When the coyote doesn’t notice the rabbit, rabbit calls louder until the coyote notices him and then attacks. This is the kind of personality the rabbit is believed to have among the Native Americans.4
This tale of the rabbit and coyote illustrates one of the meanings of the rabbit archetype: how we sometimes call onto ourselves the very things that we fear or believe ourselves to be. For example, if I believe that I am a “bad object” or even fear that I am a “bad object” I run the risk of calling to me situations or people that make me the “object” of that belief or fear. From the energetic point of view, I carry within my luminous energy body the blue print or pattern of the “feared object.” I therefore attract people and situations that make me the bad object.
Consider the person who believes that she has been made the bad object in an organization. How did her belief that she is a bad object or even the fear that she might be a bad object call to her the attacks by other members of the organization? Exploration into this person’s life story reveals that she was seen in her family as the “inferior one, not as good as her brother.” Thus the belief or fear of being the “bad one” created the potential for her to become the carrier of the “bad object” projection in the group.
Projection is an unperceived and unintentional transfer of subjective psychic elements onto an outer object.5 Through projection an object becomes an image or a carrier of symbols–symbols that reflect products of the unconscious.6 One of the goals of psychotherapy is the reinterpretation of our projections which represents an assimilation through reflection, through which the psychic energy of the projected content flows back to the person and raises the level of his or her consciousness.7
In my journeying to rabbit, rabbit tells me that finding the dead rabbit “represents the death of fear or the transmutation of fear.” Death of fear suggests that fear will no longer be an operant in my psychic life, that I will not live from a place of fear. Transmutation means “to change from one form, nature, substance, or state into another; transform.”8 Transmutation of fear means to change or transform the energy of fear into another form or state. Finding the dead rabbit is spirit’s way of saying “Sheldon, it is time to let go of your fears, to die to your beliefs that you are not good enough and that you’re not doing it right. It is time to “lighten up” and stop taking yourself so seriously, as the rabbit who showed up in your meditation several years ago instructed. It is time to embrace the other aspects of rabbit such as guile, paradox and contradiction, living by one’s own wits, receiving hidden teachings and intuitive messages, quick-thinking, humility, moving through fear, and strengthening intuition.9
Yes, rabbit became a carrier of my projection and a symbol of my fear. Carl Jung noted that most human thought and behavior is symbolic rather than literal10 and states that “empirical truth never frees a man from his bondage to the senses; it only shows him that he was always so and cannot be otherwise. The symbolical truth, on the other hand, which puts water in place of mother and spirit or fire in place of the father, [or in this case rabbit in place of fear] frees the libido. . ., offers it a new gradient, and canalizes it into a spiritual form.”11 The “symbolical truth” connects the person to the transcendent level and moves him or her into the transpersonal meaning where the archetypal core of the complex can be addressed and healed. If one wants to prevent the renewal of a projection, the content must be recognized as psychically real, though not as a part of the subject but rather as an autonomous power.12 Rabbit is more than the carrier of a projection, more than a symbol. Rabbit is a manifestation of spirit, an autonomous power, an archetype. As such Rabbit has a life of its own, a life with its own knowledge, wisdom, medicine, power, and spiritual gifts.
In honoring the archetype of rabbit and getting its message I can now say “thank you, rabbit, I have your lesson. While my fear of being wrong, not being good enough, spurred me to excel, to seek out the answers, to leave no stone unturned, all which has served me well, that fear kept me from stepping into my own truth as a healer and energy worker. Now I can let go of fear and step into my becoming.
Looking back over the year since I did this work with rabbit, I realize that it has been a year of letting go of fear, a year of transformation and change, a year of stepping into my own medicine, of stepping into my soul’s next manifestation. (See the Welcome blog for explanation of this reference).
So if an animal crosses your path, pay attention. That particular animal might have a medicine for you, medicine that will change your life.
1Rainer, Maria. Animal Totems
2 Standley, Loretta. Tribal Member of the Easter Band of Cherokee Indians).
3Sams, J. & Carson, D. Medicine Cards, p. 158
4Woolcott, Ina. “Rabbit, Power Animal Symbol of Creativity, Intuition, Paradox and Fear
5Jung, “Concerning the Archetypes,” CW9(1), pars. 121ff
6von Franz, Maria-Louise. Projection and Re-collection in Jungian Psychology, p. 20.
9Woolcott, Ina. “Rabbit, Power Animal Symbol of Creativity, Intuition, Paradox and Fear
10Barnhouse, Ruth. Homosexuality: Symbolic Confusion
11Jung, Carl. CW5, p.226.
12von Franz, Marie-Louise. Ibid., p.13
L. Levy-Bruhl, “How Natives Think”; cited in Jung, CW8, par. 507 and Jung, CW11, par. 389
Jung, CW14, p. 476
Jolande, Complex/Archetype/Symbol, p. 100