Arizona desert Prickly Pear cactus


Animal Life and Symbolisms

Animals of the Sedona Area

Around sunrise or near sunset are the best times to see wildlife in the Sedona area.  The diversity of geographical regions converging in and around Sedona provided natural habitats for a great variety of animal and bird species.  Everyone seems to get excited about seeing the animals and birds of the Sedona area.  Most people live in big city environments and do not see animals often in day to day life. 

If you are interested in the Native American view of life, begin to think of the characteristics of each animal.  There are no accidents in this way of thinking.  If an animal passes in front of you, it must be a message from the universe.  By contemplating the habits and intrinsic nature of the animal, you can get a clue what the universe is saying to you at this particular point in time.  In his book, Animal Speak, Ted Andrews says, " Studying the traits, habitats, and surroundings of any animal can give one an insight into its spiritual significance."

Native American names are often taken from their animal brothers and sisters.  A tribal member might come from the bear clan and have the name Standing Elk. From this name, it is likely that you can guess something about the person.  Elk is symbolic of stamina.  The standing part of the name could be for the fearless quality of the person who would not run away from danger or it might indicate a person who is proud to be in full view with nothing hidden.  Thinking about people in your immediate circle of friends or family, which ones are like particular animals?  What is your own animal totem or energetic identification? 


Black Bears

There are still black bear in the Sedona area, although they are not often seen and live primarily in the mountain areas above the Mogollon Rim.  Black bears are large animals who are usually gentle and amicable. Within every bear, there is a playful cub.  Unless you are perceived as interfering with a meal or coming between a Mother and her cub, it is unlikely that black bear will attack.  However, it is an absolute "no-no" to leave sweet foods inside your tent at night or where these bears can easily get to them.  I have seen bears go through concrete walls to get into trash bins with discarded food smells.

The American Black Bear has adapted to human encroachment on its habitat in many parts of the U.S. and Canada.  In some places the Black Bear is able to survive in populated suburban areas. The color of the American black bear ranges from black to brown, cinnamon, beige, and even pure white.

American Black Bear -- Media -- Encarta ® Online

Bears love sweet foods and will go to great lengths to steal honey.  Symbolically, if you have Bear Medicine, you seek the sweetness of life.  You will look for the good in every situation.  You also command respect from others who observe your good nature, but know that you are capable of great damage with a single swipe of your claws. 

Black Bear is to the West on the Medicine Wheel.  Just as the bear goes into its cave to hibernate through the winter months, black bear medicine tells us to go within.  The West on the Medicine Wheel is the point of "introspection," or the "looks within" place.  The symbolism of bear is connection to the earth.  Black Bear hybernates through the winter months to digest the years experiences.  Hibernating bear is connected the dreamtime or Other-Than-Conscious mind, the subconscious.  Meditation is a practice of the West medicine. 

If Bear is showing up in your life, the message might be to use discernment.  Take time to think through your present situation.  The advice given is to "go within" to find your own truth in harmony with the vibration and rhythms of Mother earth.  Answers will become clear. 

Bear is brother to man.  Bear can stand on two legs for brief periods of time.  The Big Dipper and Little Dipper star constellations are called Uva Ursi and Uva Minor.  Uva meaning bear.  In Spanish the word for bear is "Oso."


Grizzly Bears

At one time there were Grizzly Bears in the area.  Many of the early pioneers of the Sedona area were grizzly bear hunters and soon hunted out the Grizzlies.  The bane of many pioneers and Indians alike, these huge animals were revered and feared by the Native American people.  It is said that the Grizzly Bear is still honored at the Schnebly Hill medicine wheel during full moon celebrations and other ceremonies.  Grizzly Bear is a bigger-than-life power medicine. 

Grizzly Bear marks out a territory with scents and claw marks.  Grizzly Bear then defends this territory ferociously.  Grizzly Medicine people rarely have to say things twice.  Their reputation precedes them like skunk and they will act first and ask questions later.  There are no idle threats in Grizzly Bear's communication.  Grizzly backs up any violation of its territory with decisive action.  There may be no warning.  Grizzly assumes that all know the boundaries.  Grizzly Bear people can be insensitive.  Your territory is of no importance to them.  These qualities elicit respect but do not engender collaborative relationships.  Collaborative


Mountain Lion

There are Mountain Lions in the Sedona Red Rock area.  You are not likely to see a Mountain Lion as they are stealthy and agile despite their large size.  The animals are shy of people and tend to stay hidden. 

Puma -- Media -- Encarta ® Online

It is known that mountain lions can travel a hundred miles in a night of hunting.  In the spring after a rain is a good time to look for mountain lion tracks.  I followed Mountain Lion tracks while hiking near Cathedral Rock.  Each paw print landed about 8 feet from the last and they were almost as big as my hand with fingers outstretched.  When I returned to the trailhead, I found prints of the cubs all around the prints of a large male.  While Mom hunts, Dad looks after the kids.  Mountain Lion mirrors the feminine ability to cut to the heart of an issue and take incisive action. 

Mountain Lion is a take charge totem or energy.  Mountain Lion people are such natural leaders that others tend to take their leadership for granted.  If no one else is leading, Mountain Lion will naturally take over.  Mountain Lion is not often allowed to show vulnerability.  Mountain Lion is graceful and balances intention, strength and responsibility.  Others are always safe when Mountain Lion is in charge.  However, Mountain Lion does not think twice about taking on all the work.  Examine whether you are delegating effectively.  When you do everything for others, you train them to depend on you. 

It is the female Mountain Lion who is the hunter.  It involves lessons in the use of leadership.  It is the unusual individual who has not abuse power the first time in a position of leadership.  Mountain Lion is an energy that cannot be caged.  If you try to manipulate and control a Mountain Lion person, it will backfire.  Mountain Lion needs to be free and unfettered. 


Bob Cats

Bobcats are also called Lynx and belong to the family Felidae. The Spanish lynx is classified as Lynx pardinus, the more common bobcat found in the Sedona area is classified as Lynx rufus.

Bobcats are smaller catlike animals with large hind legs and a bobbed tail.  Other distinctive features of Bob Cat include tufts of hair on the ears and jaws.  Bob Cat also looks like the Linx although Linx are larger and grayer in color.  Symbolisms are similar.  They are keepers of secrets.

Bob Cats seem to be reclusive and shy.  You are not likely to see one in the wild even when they are near.  Bob Cat keeps away from view and those with Bob Cat energy tend to be a loners.  Dealing with loneliness is an important aspect of Bob Cat medicine.  If you have Bob Cat medicine, people tend to share confidences with you and tell you their secrets.  Be careful to keep these confidences. 

Bobcats are night hunters.  They have excellent eyesight.  This excellent night vision is indicative of seeing through situations that other do not.  Bob Cat knows the secrets and sees people for the way they are at a level the person may not even be aware of.  Look beyond the obvious and discern what is hidden. 

Bob Cat also has a sexual mystique.  They mate in late winter and then their separate ways.  The short tail is black at the end and on top.  It is white underneath.  The male may range over fairly large territory in the late winter mating with up to five or six females who occupy smaller territories.



Coyote is a carnivore and has proliferated throughout the U.S.  Coyote is closely related to wolf and dog.  

If you are in Sedona as you read this, be sure to leave the volume on your television low at night.  You will hear Coyote howling his songs.  In Native American folklore, the coyote is a "trickster" character who participated in the creation of the world and gave names to many of the other creatures and things of the earth.  Sometimes the Coyote character was so mischievous and involved in his own trickery that he would trick himself.  According to Trickster myths, this is why there are so many mistakes in the way things are in the world (Sams 89).  In the Native way of thinking, Coyote medicine is in the world to teach us to laugh at ourselves and not take things too seriously.  There are thousands of stories about Coyote, the Trickster. 

Coyote -- Media -- Encarta ® Online

Coyote is playful and fun loving and is usually found to the South on the Medicine Wheel.  A Navajo friend says he watched a Coyote suddenly jump up in the air for no apparent purpose except for the fun of it and then continue on the previous path across the desert. Coyote reminds us to bring the happy childlike quality into our adult lives. 

I have heard a story of a young shaman apprentice on a quest in the desert where he could find no water.  The young apprentice saw Coyote and followed him.  The Coyote went to a certain place under some cactus and dug a hole.  When underground water filled the hole, small animals came to drink and became Coyotes dinner.  If Coyote medicine is in your life at this time, take a good look at what you are doing and with whom.  Someone may be trying to trick you or get you to do something you would not ordinarily do.  Coyote is also clever, but often looks for shortcuts that get him into trouble. Are you fooling yourself?  Coyote often tricks the learner into learning a lesson.  The antics of Coyote are entertaining.  The magic of Coyote is like an illusionist who is skilled in directing your attention to one place while the magic feat is going on just beyond your awareness.  Then the learning becomes unavoidably apparent.  

As the daytime turns to dark, the landscape belongs to Coyote.  While camping near Dry Creek with a group of people who were getting quieter after a beautiful sunset, suddenly the call of Coyote cut the silence.  All grew quiet noticing how close the howling seemed to be.  Soon another howl, farther and to the north, immediately followed by another to the south.  Then several other Coyotes began their howling song together, letting us know that we were on the only creatures to inhabit the night.  They raised their voices together. 

When Coyote has something to say, the communication is usually clear.  Coyote are notorious for leaving their scat on rocks that are right in the middle of hiking trails.  You will recognize Coyote dung by the location and by undigested part the berries they like to eat. 

Coyote hunts in groups and mostly at night.  In the hunt, Coyotes work together as a highly organized team.  One coyote will chase small game and then the next Coyote will take over and then the next until they run down their quarry.  If Coyote medicine is in your life, look at your social interactions.  Are you a good team member? Do you share the rewards of your successes?  

It is common to see a Coyote cross your path in broad daylight as close as 20 or 30 feet away.  Typically Coyote does not seem to be concerned about you as long as you keep doing whatever you are doing and do not make movements toward him.

to have fun.  Coyote reminds us to keep humor and bring the child in us out to play.



Deer make up the family Cervidae of the order Artiodactyla.  The mule, or black-tailed, deer as Odocoileus hemionus.  The white-tailed deer, or Virginia deer, is classified as Odocoileus virginianus.

Especially around sunrise and sunset, it is common to see deer.  These are primarily mule deer, although white tail deer are sometimes seen in the Sedona area.  As you drive by, the deer will usually stop and listen.  Sometimes they stand as if they are waiting for you to take a photograph.  The mechanical sound sometimes causes them to bound away. 

Deer -- Media -- Encarta ® Online

Deer is in the South on the Medicine Wheel.  Deer is innocence, kindness, unconditional love.  Mythology of the deer often includes a luring of man into the wilderness.  Deer has a wild heart and is timid.  Deer senses danger and is gone in a heartbeat leaving only glimpses of the white tail of Deer's backside.  Although Deer is food for many, Deer will stand still, posing for you or continue to savor succulent leaves when Deer recognizes that you are no threat.  

My friend and fellow Tour Guide Todd tells of his time studying with a Quechqual medicine man in Mexico.  Todd sings the song of his Deer Clan affiliation that calls the deer.  Todd demonstrates the Deer Dance and bangs out the drum-beat on his leg as he tells the story and the learnings of characters.  Todd calls the Deer.

Male Deer grows antlers that are used as protection and the Deer sheds them in the 



On the Mogollon Rim and back into the mountains of the Coconino, you will find elk, sometimes in herds with dozens of members.  If you ever have the opportunity to be close to a large group of elk, listen for their bugling.  It is an eerie and impressive sound.  While deer tend to run from the sight of an approaching vehicle in the woods, it is common for elk to simply stand and look quizzically at you, as if wondering to themselves, "Well, what kind of elk is that?"

They are beautiful and majestic animals.  A full-grown bull elk will have a large rack of antlers several feet across.  The natural question upon seeing these creatures is, "How is it possible for this animal to run full tilt through the forest without colliding with branches and other obstacles?"  Around the Flagstaff area and west toward the Mingus mountains, antelope can sometimes be seen.

Elk is of the North?? on the Medicine Wheel and is symbolic of stamina.  Majestic Elk can outrun and outpace many predators or can turn and fight.  Elk enjoy the company of others of the same sex.  Driving along a mountain road, I glanced to the top of a small hill to see three Elk with the three biggest antler racks I have seen.  They were standing side by side apparently watching me.  In mating season the Bull Elk become competitive as they pair off with cows. 

Elk tells you to pace yourself.  Be aware of your health and do not overextend for long periods of time.  Elk may remind you to seek the company of others of your own sex.  Or it may be that you should venture out to meet those of the opposite sex. 



In the more desert like areas around Sedona, you might find an animal called a "javalina." Javalina are wild pig-like animals.  They do not have the tusks that are found on wild boars in other parts of the country, but are communal animals somewhere in the rodent family.  These animals eat the prickly pear cactus, needles and all.  They have very tough digestive systems.

These creatures are usually docile and busy in their search for food.  Some people have reported, however, that they can become cantankerous and attack people.  I presume that this is when they have had too much prickly pear cactus to eat.  They are also said to be communal to the point that if one is separated from the group that it will commit suicide.  You might imagine a lost Javalina climbing to the top of a cliff and leaping off, or overdosing on prickly pear, but I believe what is meant is that they will quit eating and starve themselves to death.


Smaller Animals

There are also raccoons, skunks, porcupines and a variety of squirrels and chipmunks.  Rabbits, both cottontails, and jack rabbits are plentiful.  That keeps the coyotes well fed.  You will also see small lizards darting here and there between rocks.


Raccoon [sacredness of life, curiosity, dexterity, adaptability]

In the book Seven Arrows, Storm describes Raccoon as a holy or sacred creature who washes his hands before eating.  Raccoon is quite capable of unzipping your pack or untying knots on the food containers in your camping gear or opening latches or doorknobs.  The dexterous little hands of Raccoon can get into whatever you do not want them to get into.  Raccoon is a great little thief.  The black mask-like face of Raccoon seems to be no coincidence. Raccoon eats mostly fruits and vegetable matter. 

Raccoon is distantly related to Bear.  They do not hibernate but do have heavy sleep times when they live off their own body fat.  If Raccoon is in your life, contemplate the roles you play and go to your source to find answers to a life empasse.  Sleep on it a while and let the other than conscious mind bring truth to the surface.

The mask of Raccoon connotes a magical and transformational quality. Masks have been used in every culture throughout history.  In Shamanistic rituals the mask transforms the individual into some other entity embued with special powers.  Hidden behind the mask, the wearer can easily believe that he or she can do things they would not ordinarily do.  It is the ability to cross the threshold of new experience.  When the Hopi Indians do their ceremonial dances, they believe they will literally embody the force of nature represented by the Kachina God they will represent by the particular costume they wear.  The dance moves to regularly measured beats of the drums as the power comes down to earth. 

One summer when I was in my early twenties, I set off hitchhiking and backpacking through New Mexico and Colorado.  Somewhere along my journey I met a man who became my teacher for a time.  This older friend was, in the vernacular of The Teachings of Don Juan by Carlos Castaneda, a Man of Knowledge.  My journey was clearly a pilgrimage to find myself and it took an unexpected turn and I found myself in Mexico. 

One day, my friend and teacher told me that "God wears many faces."  That statement had a profound affect on me since our discussion concerned judgements we have of other people.  I maintained that I was a "cool" kind of person with no prejudices.  I saw that through my upbringing in the southern states, that I had developed a negative judgement about "rednecks."  I realized that not only was I bigoted in my view, but that it was even worse.  In many ways, I was a "redneck."  Accepting that mask set me free for experiences with people that I would have otherwise avoided through my life.  The use of Raccoon Medicine involves lessons in being adaptable and accepting what is. 



You can find both Cottontail and Jack Rabbits in the Sedona Red Rock area.  Rabbit has played an important role in the folklore of cultures throughout history.  In Chinese astrology, the year of the "hare" is quite fortunate.  Rabbit is generally regarded in myth and folklore for the ability to procreate.  In Native American folklore Rabbit is symbolic of how we deal with fears.  In many stories, Rabbit started as a fearless warrior until some trust was broken.  Rabbits are food for many predators, including Coyote, Hawk, Eagle, Bobcat, Snake, and Man. 

Female Rabbits can bear a new litter every 28 days and is connected in mythology with the lunar cycle.  Typically rabbits bear 2 to 5 litters per year.  Rabbits may symbolize the ability to hop or jump over obstacles in life.  They also run very fast for brief distances when frightened.  The first defense of Rabbit is to run for a distance and then stop and wait.  Rabbits apparently believe they are invisible while they listen to see if further distance is required.  Rabbit leaps and jumps and can turn so unexpectedly that a predator may give up before catching Rabbit. 

Fear is a difficult thing to come to grips with.  Some amount of fear is a healthy thing that serves the purpose of protecting us.  The challenge is first to determine where our fears are irrational and secondly to find strategies to overcome or transform the fear.  A phobia is defined as an irrational fear usually with an inability to control emotional and physical reactions. 

Exercise for Irrational Fear:

When you identify an irrational fear that you no longer want to have in life, try this mental exercise.  Start with a point-of-reference state.  Think of a time in your life when you accomplished something that caused you to feel incredibly confident about yourself.  As if you were in the event now, remember this time when you felt excited and pleased with yourself.  OK?  Good.  Allow yourself to be in and experience this state completely over at least a minute.  At the peak of the state, look at your hand and snap your finger while saying, "YES!!!"  Say it out loud.  Shift your attention to where you are.  Look around you.  Now, be aware of how good it felt to be in the confidence state.  You can get back there anytime you want, can't you?  Do it now by clicking your fingers and saying "YES."  Excellent!

Now, remember a specific instance of your irrational fear.  As soon as you feel as the fear is too much for your control, stand up and shake your body.  Shake it off!  Snap your fingers while saying "YES!"  Remember the event that caused you to feel confident.  That's right! 

Now imagine you are in a movie theatre, sitting in a seat and watching the fear event on the screen in front of you.  Does the intensity of the event seem different? Is it more or less intense?  Good!  Now imagine you are in the projection booth of the theatre looking through a small opening and seeing yourself in the chair watching the movie of the event.  Now, has the intensity of the event less intense.  If you have not significantly diminished the intensity, imagine you are outside the open door of the projection booth, seeing yourself watching yourself sitting in the chair in theatre through the small opening.  Congratulations!  You have done something that changes how you represent the fear to yourself.  You have taken some control.   Now, fire your confidence anchor.  Snap your finger and remember that time.  You can do this anytime with any fear, can't you.  Of course, you can.  Put your right hand up over your left shoulder now, and pat yourself on the back.  Good job! 

Famous Rabbits:

Famous rabbits include the precocious Bugs Bunny from American cartoons and Lewis Carroll's rabbit in Alice in Wonderland, and the Brer Rabbit stories of Southern United States.  In the cartoons, Bugs is always outsmarting the hunter Elmer Fudd, often drawing the hunter deeper and deeper into the forest or into some scheme.  Alice follows the rabbit into a hole that opens up to a bizarre world of strange experiences in a dream-like place with strange characters.  Brer Rabbit tricks a predator into throwing him into a briar patch because Brer Rabbit convinces him that the last thing that he wants to land in the Briar Patch.  Of course, the briar patch is where Brer Rabbit lives and quickly scurries to safety. 

Rabbits sometimes lead us into other realities.  They use trickery or strategy to escape those who threaten them.  They sit back and laugh at the folly of those who fail to catch them.  Rabbit is not dull.  He has a personality that people can always relate to. 



The reputation of skunk precedes this furry critter.  I have been camping when a group of skunk sauntered into my camp.  One went to my pack and with great dexterity untied the outer flap and started to go through all the little bags of Trailmix and other goodies I had prepared for hiking that day.  I made motions toward the skunk and threw small stones, trying to scare him away.  The fearless skunk just turned his head and stared at me as if saying, "What are you going to do?  Do you know who I am and what I can do?"  He seemed to be daring me to make him stop, knowing all along that I would not take the chance of being sprayed.   Skunk is confident and self assured and threatens the senses.  Skunk brings us lessons on giving and eliciting respect and is connected to issues with self-esteem.  Examine your self-image and what you project to others. 

Skunks are sometimes seen in the Sedona area and more often you can smell them.  People with skunk medicine tend to be charismatic.  People seem to be naturally attracted to skunk medicine people.  Skunk medicine asks you to take a look at yourself to see how you are using your energy, especially your sexual energy in attracting or repelling others.  Are you sending false messages to someone?  Be aware of how you are impacting people. 

In thinking about skunk, it is interesting to consider that anytime you are involved in a conversation or even in the same room with other people, you are giving off and receiving pheromonal messages that float through the air.  We are always interchanging molecules with others.  Who have you allowed to inhabit your immediate proximity in life?  What messages are you picking up?  Are you easily influenced by these other-than-conscious messages?  Do you feel comfortable with the people in your life or do you feel the need to block off the constant assault on your senses?  These are questions you might consider if skunk is in your space. 

The sense of smell operates from a very old part of the brain that is often at the instinct level and beyond conscious thought.  Are there people you meet and have an immediate dislike that you cannot explain logically?  Trust yourself.  These instincts developed for a reason.  Olfactory researchers have learned that people are physically attracted to potential mates that have very different pheromonal components.  This may be a genetic method of reducing the chances of inbreeding. 



Squirrels are happy little creatures.  They collect nuts and store them away in neat little caches for future use.  Sometimes they even forget where they left the caches, but to be sure, they will have enough to sustain them through the long winter months. 

Squirrel is clever.  I heard a story from a man who said that ….



Sometimes there are tarantulas, especially after a big rain might knock them out of thier homes. 

Occasionally you might see a Rattlesnake.  There are several varieties of rattlesnakes including the Arizona Black, actually a black Rattlesnake.  Although these snakes were treated with great honor among Indian tribes in the area, it is hard for most people to think of these critters in a positive way.  The good thing about Rattlesnakes, is that they make noise.  Turn around and go back the other way.

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