(image source: http://www.alaskanart.net/terrypyles/picpages/eio.html )
There is a special branch of animal communication known as “calling”. Every human culture who has ever hunted an animal for food has practiced the sacred communication of Calling. When you’re in dire need of sustenance, it’s natural and I think it’s inevitable that the hunter will ask for help. They might pray to God, or they might speak to the spirit of the prey animal itself.
A local First Nation author named Anne Cameron recorded some of her people’s oral history in books to be shared with the public. One of her books is called “Daughters of Copper Woman”
The book includes many historical stories about the powerful roles of women in her culture. The people here, this region’s First People (hence the term “First Nation”) have lived here for more than 15,000 years. There are spiritual traditions that have been preserved, although much has been lost. Anne’s grandmother allowed these sacred stories to be documented on paper and shared with the outside world only because the last of these stories may have been lost forever, the remaining Memorizers are so few. I share Anne’s people’s stories with the most humble respect, and I hope you will keep this knowledge sacred as well.
Anne’s grandmother tells of sacred songs, prayers, for specific purposes. There were navigation songs that held the directions to traverse incredible stretches of ocean – her people travelled from Vancouver Island south to Hawaii, north to Alaska and incredibly across the open pacific to Japan and China in massive dugout canoes paddled by hand.
The book says,
There was a song for goin’ to China and a song for goin to Japan, a song for the Big Island and a song for the smaller one. All she had to know was the song, and she knew where she was. To get back, she just sang the song in reverse.
The words of the songs and the words of the purifyin’ ceremonies, and the meanin’ o the chants were all she needed to travel anywhere. And the songs found the whales for food and brought the whalers home again.
Anne’s people were whale hunters. They hunted with spears out of canoes on the open ocean. Every successful hunt was a miracle of human endurance, skill, luck and prayer, and the People needed the whales for essential fats and oils. The animals were ten times the size of the canoes; every whale hunter risked his life every single hunt. Everyone knew this.
The book says,
No woman would kill a whale. Whales give birth to livin’ young, they don’t lay eggs like fish. They feed their babies with milk from their breasts, like women, and we never killed them.
The men who killed the whale never tasted whale meat from the time of his first kill until after he’d retired as a whaler. And neither did his wife, because he had to be purified and linked to the whale and the link was through his wife, by the way of the woman’s blood and the woman’s milk. This was a promise made by Copper Woman, through the magic women, to the whales. No one linked to them will eat them. It is a promise.
For a certain time before he went whalin’, they wouldn’t touch each other like man and woman, and they prayed certain prayers and ate certain food and stored up their soul energy.
Then the woman, when she felt her energy was high, would run to the salt chuck as fast as she could and sit in the water up to her neck, and she’d watch the sea and pray.
The man would stay on the beach and pray and direct his soul energy to the woman, to help, and she’d send part of herself out to the whales and the link would be made, to him through her, because of the blood and the milk.
They’d go back to the village and he’d go off after the whales, and the whole time he was gone she’d lie in her bed and stay linked and not eat. And if he got killed, she knew it first, and sometimes she’d die, too. Not always. Sometimes.
This is one of the most remarkable calling traditions I’ve ever read.
I have experienced some success in calling wild animals I would like to see. I am not hunting them, my request is a spiritual one. I love them, and I ask if I could please see them. In this way, I have also asked for and received gifts of feathers, teeth and bones.
The thing about calling is that it has to come from a place that is separate from the part of you that *wants*. The same goes for people who are asking their beloved pets to please reincarnate and come back to them – the more desperate and clinging the call, the stronger the block to fulfillment. You have to ask humbly, but not need it out of selfishness or status. You must ask, and then let it go.
This has been my difficulty in calling the Orca. Orca are the apex predators of the Pacific Northwest. Their beauty, intelligence and awesome power is legendary, and I have loved them fiercely since I was a child. I saw an orca once at a marine park in Ontario, a sad experience I’ll never forget. Simply put: there are some animals that should never be removed from the wild.
When Sweetie & I moved to Ucluelet in 2009, we found our first home beside a fish plant. The lower docks of the plant was a popular hangout for a small band of sea lions – these are also animals I’d observed in captivity. The magnificence and power of a wild sea lion is such a far cry from the performing circus animals I saw at the Toronto Zoo, I couldn’t help but long to see my beloved Orcas in their element, in the wild.
And so I started to call them. For four years, I’ve been calling them.
Everyone else I know has seen them. It started to get comical – I would arrive at the harbor and hear the Orcas had just left. Ten minutes after leaving home, a small pod of Orcas would swim past our living room window to hunt sea lion, and teach their offspring to kill. They were like the Polkaroo – I couldn’t quite believe they existed in my reality, because I always seemed to just miss them. They answered my call many times in dreams. In one recurring dream, they swam right up to the dock by our house and sank it.
This year I began to realize that if I was ever going to see them in the wild, I had to let go of that yearning, that urgency, and just create as many opportunities as possible for them to come to me.
Every time I went to the beach (every day!) I looked out for their dorsal fins. Several times a week I would detour on my way home to check the harbor for their spouts. I’ve been out on numerous whale watching trips, they continued to elude me.
I had to trust that they’d come when the time was right.
This past Friday was my maternal Grandmother’s funeral. She joined my grandfather on the other side almost a year after his passing. I’ve been holding her and my mother in my thoughts for a couple of weeks now, and I was especially thinking of her yesterday when Sweetie and I went on a boat trip out to Hot Springs Cove.
Hot Springs Cove is located in Maquinna Provincial Park, (corrected Mar 2018) and it’s a traditional First Nation’s site for purification of the body and the spirit. It takes an hour and a half by boat to get there, detours not included, so there is plenty of time and opportunity to see wildlife along the way. I didn’t want to even hope that I’d see Orca, because the day was so incredible. The weather was perfect. We got to visit our beloved sea lions and their new pups! We saw beautiful harbor seals and their snow white pups. We saw pacific loons, cormorants and all sorts of offshore sea birds you don’t get to observe from land. Of course we basked in the steaming waterfall of the spring heated by the sulfurous blood of the earth herself.
It was a perfect day.
We were ten minutes from Tofino, almost home, when the boat driver announced, “I just got word of some Orca up ahead. We’re gonna go and check it out.”
Yes, there they were.
A small group of female transient Orca, likely sisters, with their nearly newborn babies. The orca calves were barely the size of a harbor porpoise. Instead of the white marking of adults, the calves eye and saddle markings were still the orange of infancy. It was the orca equivalent of seeing young deer fawns. The mothers were HUGE. Massive, powerful, fearsome – one mother Orca rocketed to the surface and launched herself out of the water in a spectacular breech!
That’s when I started to cry.
For fifteen minutes, we watch the pod of orca mothers teach their young children how to celebrate a kill. One adult spy-hopped out of the water to take a good look at our boat which was drifting by, engines silent. We’d see a huge tail lift out of the water and come down in a large, powerful SMACK! Then we’d see the little baby tail flail around out of the water, trying to imitate his mother.
How different they were from the Orca I saw in Marine Land, twenty years ago. Here was much of the same behavior, but no confining swimming pool and no human with a whistle and behavior modification training. Here was Orca in their element, with a fresh kill, teaching their babies how to be happy. Mothers and their babies, finding joy in being alive.
The sun was setting behind the watching boats, creating this picturesque vision of orange, crimson, azure and violet. Clouds stretched above us in cotton-candy pink, reflected in the blue water that sparkled in the sunlight. And then, as if it wasn’t ridiculously beautiful enough, two rainbows appeared on either side of the watching boats.
Orca playing at sunset, with rainbows.
It was absolutely unreal.
It wasn’t until we got home that it occurred to me that my recently deceased grandmother might have something to do with the miracle we had witnessed.
Today I spoke to my mother and she told me that two rainbows had appeared in the sky during the graveside service at my grandmother’s funeral.
This is the awesome and humbling nature of our world. We can call, but the power is not in the calling.
The gift is in the answer of the call, the message. I will be forever grateful.