River Totem

I belong to the Muscogee (Creek).  Our name for ourselves is Mvskoke.  The European settlers called us Creeks, because of our proximity to water.   We originally lived along the waterways in what are now the northern parts of Georgia and Alabama, before The Removals in the 1830’s.   My people lived beside water because water is the First Medicine.

I have a river-drifted stick with a very powerful presence.   I drilled a hole through it so that I can wear it around my neck.  This totem symbolises my connection to the Mvskoke and to the spirit of the river.

It reminds me that I belong to the Muscogee and of the river of blood which flows through my veins.  My ancestors walked the Trail of Tears;  we lost our homeland and many of us lost our language and the Knowing of our traditional ways,  but the river of blood still flows through our veins.  A hidden river that carries our grief and our memories, our hopes and our dreams.  The river has carried me to where I am.  I carry our story into the world, through my words and my art work.  I have been learning about my ancestors, our history and contemporary life in the 21st century, as well as the Muscogee language.  Hvcce poyvfekcv means ‘river spirit/soul/ghost’ , pronounced /hácci poyafíkca/.

Today I set my easel up and got out my (mostly grey) chalk pastels to draw my river totem.


It was so fascinating to really look at it and follow the shapes and patterns with my eyes and to try to capture their fluency on paper.

A magnifying glass helped . . .

It looks a bit like a person, or an animal.  Perhaps it has something of the shape-shifter and Trickster Rabbit, Chufi.


Hvcce poyvfekcv – river spirit, 38 x 69cm

The word totem comes from the Ojibway word dodaem and means “brother/sister kin”. It is the archetypal symbol, animal or plant of hereditary clan affiliations. People from the same clan have the same clan totem and are considered immediate family.  The Ojibway scholar Basil H. Johnston defines dodaem, or totem, as “that from which I draw my purpose, meaning, and being,”

Source :: wikipedia


We’re having a protracted winter here in the UK.   This has been the coldest March since 1963 and one of the coldest winters since records began.  Apparently, many of our Spring visitors haven’t arrived or blossomed yet.  A lack of certain insects will have a knock on effect on the animals and birds that feed on them.  Some people are worrying.  Is this due to global warming, the beginning of the end?   I don’t know.  I do know that I have faith in nature and the seasons.  Spring will arrive, it’s just a bit late in coming this year.

Many human UK residents are flocking in record numbers to warmer climes for an Easter holiday.  But some of us regulars have been toughing it out.   On this Easter Sunday, a jackdaw couple was out beneath grey skies.  But, look!  A ray of sunlight is coming through.


A week ago, we went for a walk on the south side of the River Teign at Step’s Bridge, about four miles from home.  I love this spot where a fall of water from the rim of the Teign Valley finds level ground and flows for about 50 yards before joining the river.  It feels fresh and alive.  Wild daffodils and wild garlic grow at the edges of the running water.  This stream flowing into a larger river is called a tributary.  I thought about the meaning of ‘paying tribute’  –  making a gift  in acknowledgment, gratitude, or admiration.  This little stream feels like my everyday and ongoing actions, dreams and goals which stream into my ‘big l’ Life, the ‘reason why I am here’ Life.  It feels important and good to remember and acknowledge this from time to time.

I felt renewed just standing there and feeling the energy flow all around and through me.  It is Springtime and new life is returning.  We are all flowing into and with the great river of life.  I hope that you are celebrating the resurgence and renewal of Springtime in both your little life and your big Life.



vigil, n., a purposeful watch maintained, especially at night to observe or pray.

Steve and I went to visit our friend who has recently moved to a new home near the River Exe.  We went for a walk after dinner, down to the river. The air was moist and heavy and the trees were summerlush.

Looking towards Exeter

The river ran calm and wide, before flowing into turbulence over the weir.

Philippa told us that during the heavy rains a few weeks ago, the river burst it’s banks and several waterbird’s nests were swept away.

This swan was poised on the edge of the coming night, waiting and watching and holding the balance between the dark and the light.

Harmonious chaos

Turbulent river roils,
eurthymic chaos.
Journey with me –

God spede.

– Melinda Schwakhofer, 2012

eu·ryth·mic, adjective, (esp. of architecture or art) In or relating to harmonious proportion