[Totem Animal] Herring Gull

Herring Gull
Herring Gull

Last night, I decided to do a gentle bit of pathworking. I eased myself into it by visualising and “feeling” the act of getting dressed and going out. As I felt myself coming away from my physical body a bit (which was lying down in bed), I decided to go outside into my garden.

Across the road, on the grass, there was a large Herring Gull stomping on the damp ground, drawing worms to the surface. I approached hir, and sie charged at me screaming to stay back. Sie was angry because loads of her children had been killed by us this year – my local council have been clearing eggs from their nesting sites again, including my own roof!

I was feeling intimidated, but remembered my last encounter with Herring Gull, and shifted my shape a little so my wings were visible, and began shouting back. It wasn’t my fault. Sie doesn’t like being tarred as a thug and a vandal, and neither do I. There was a pause, and I asked if sie would allow me to learn from hir. Resentfully, sie agreed.

I think my first lesson here was about aggression. Herring Gulls are a very confrontational species, and their social hierachy is based on brute strength with an attitude to match. If I am going to get anywhere on this journey, I need to be far more forceful.

I invited Herring Gull into my garden, and the two of us sat at the top of the steps and chatted. I cannot remember the exact details, but sie expressed hir lack of understanding of us humans. Sie didn’t understand why we touched, spoke softly and were quiet in our interactions. I told hir I didn’t understand how they couldn’t use touch to build bonds, had to scream everything and acted like brutes.

To be fair, quite a few people around here use misplaced aggression!

I asked if sie would allow me to shift into a Herring Gull form, and sie agreed. I find bird-forms tricky – having wings instead of arms is a real challenge, and having my sight altered makes me want to vomit so I had to focus hard to keep my vision human.

My first stop was just to the end of my road, where there is a takeaway regularly visited by gulls. I flew down, feeling the breezes beneath my vast wings and rested on the roof of the building, overlooking the front of the shop. There were two carrion crows fighting over a bag of chips dropped in the street. I found it odd that I couldn’t “smell” them – I love the smell/taste of chips – but I went for them anyway, food is food.

Wings spread, I screamed and shouted and chased those bastard crows away. Bloody crows could eat elsewhere. Eating was horrible – throwing my head back and chugging. No taste and no teeth, I take both for granted. Not long after, Herring Gull flew down beside me, and chased me from the bag. This was hir spot, and I could eat when I got home.

Territory, and rights to resources, are important to Herring Gull. They aren’t co-operative, and need to be selfish in ways that I find difficult to comprehend in my cushy life. I’m grateful that I live in a place where I don’t have to fight tooth and nail just to eat.

Herring Gull told me to go exploring. So I flew West, towards the town centre.

Crossing the river, I spied a young Gull stranded on a boat between the two banks. I flew down and spoke with the kid.

He told me that he had been nesting of the roof of the high rise by the river, and decided today was the day he’s fly. Using the currents, he clumsily flew down, and made it to the safety of the boat. But now he wasn’t sure what to do. He was scared, but realised that he couldn’t stay in his nest much longer, the time had come to move on. His wings would take him where he wanted to go when the time was right.

Seizing opportunity and taking chances are important qualities in Herring Gull, a reflection/extension of their dominating and aggressive personalities.

From here, I don’t remember much more. I flew across town, and stopped on the rooftops to watch the Gulls go about their business.

I do remember returning home, and thanking Herring Gull for the chance to learn. I asked if I could speak with hir again, and reluctantly sie said yes.

Then I fell asleep!

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