The Shield and the DrumII
 by Robyn

     There's an old military expression that goes, "Suit up, we're going in,".  It's more than a macho one-liner;it's also a very effective way to prepare for a confrontation, for cold weather, for a walk across a dark parking lot, for an average work-day. A warrior always "suits up".

 The opening of Xena, Warrior Princess shows Xena pulling on her boots and suiting up.  Xena could fight without her chakram and sword, but she'd rather not.

 Women in Western European and American culture are rarely exposed to this concept.  Women's magazines advise us that "the right lipstick is your best armor".  This mind-set puts women at a terrible disadvantage. True shields, true armor, can help us prepare ourselves for unforseen situations, keep us stealthy and alert, and protect us and
those we love.  Statistically, a woman living in an urban area is likely to be the victim of violent crime twice in her lifetime.  This is two times too many.  It is precisely the attitude that would keep us
vigilantly aware of the state of our lipstick, rather than a good scan of a parking lot, that makes us sitting ducks. This is not a coincidence.

Most ancient cultures had some form of religious tradition in shape-shifting.  At the risk of oversimplifying, I will say that when a shaman shape-shifts, she takes on the qualities or form of a particular animal and the special abilities of that animal.  The turtle is an ancient symbol of Mother Earth.  The turtle is also powerful protective medicine, because she knows when to draw quickly into her shell and stay
there until the coast is clear. The ancient Romans had a battle strategy called "The Turtle", which they used in case of arrow fire from above.
They would assemble tightly together, holding their shields overhead to form a protective shell, and could then move as a unit out of range.
There are valuable lessons to be learned from all wild creatures about shields, and they can offer clues to our own strategies of self-protection.

I once worked in a place where the women had a kind of club called "The Pride".  The idea for this was based on the social units of lions.
Lionesses form the core of lion society; many animal societies are constructed this way.  They do most of the hunting, and usually hunt as a team.  They raise each other's cubs.  They watch each other's backs.
They protect each other from hyenas. They do not compete for males. These women had their own child-care network, their own "helpline", and so many of the basic structures and support systems that make up an efficient social unit. These women had adopted the lioness as a sort of
medicine animal and teacher, and the results were very successful.
There is evidence to suggest that cro-magnons and other developing primates learned important survival skills from other animals.  It is in our blood to do so.
In her masterpiece, "Women Who Run With The Wolves", Clarissa Pinkola Estes draws connections between the nature of wild wolves and the nature of the feminine psyche. Her list of the "Top ten wolf rules
for life", validates the instinctive impulses we all feel in daily life. Her work on instinctive feminine wisdom in this book is unparalleled.

In the American Southwest, the Zunis are known for their beautiful carvings of animals, also known as "fetishes".  The uses of these little stone carvings are varied.  When a hunter is seeking a kill, she may use
a fetish carved in the form of that animal's most successful predator; for instance, if she is hunting rabbit, she might use a mountain lion fetish, to inspire her and imbue her with the heightened senses and skills of this predator.
 Almost everyone has a favorite animal, or many.  Do you admire wolves, their stealthiness, their strong social unity, their unfailing affection for their cubs?  Are you surrounded by hyenas at work?  (Of
course the hyena is a beautiful, sacred creature created by the Mother. I am using a metaphor that can be helpful in mental self-defense.) The
term, "berserk" comes from a band of ancient shamans who dressed in bear skins and attacked their enemies with unequalled ferocity. I am by no
means suggesting that you run out and buy a hunting license in order to better your self-protection skills, but that you take a fresh look at situations that you find yourself in.  You might find new solutions.

 I was once taught by a self-defense coach that if I ever found myself in a situation in which I feared for my life, that I should become "a raging, snarling badger". This is good advice.  It can be quite suprising to the common opportunist to find that his "prey" has claws
too sharp, a voice too shrill, and wildly windmilling arms.  This form of surprise can be discouraging, making it more trouble than it's worth.
I studied the badger.  They are indeed fearsome animals when threatened, however, they don't go looking for trouble.  A badger has her own
agenda; she's got holes to dig. She simply does not hesitate when she needs to defend herself.  Most animals will back away from an angry badger.  Another powerful protective medicine comes from the common
white-tailed deer.  She never hesitates to run if she feel she feels the need.  She is ready at any moment to bound away, and she is incredibly swift.
In the case of a violent attack, use of both badger and deer medicine can be very effective.  An immediate, ferocious retaliation followed by quick escape can be an effective combination, but the best assets you have are your instincts.  In a situation such as a car
accident, rather than ferociously attacking someone or running away, it may be best to "turtle", to settle down, keep your fingers and toes in,
and wait for help.

At all times, listen to your instincts. But if you find yourself
being bogged down in everyone else's idea of you, if you find yourself walking into the same traps over and over again, if you ever feel a deep craving for an ally, it may be helpful to take a different tack on things.
Consider exploring your feelings about animals.  This costs
nothing.  You may want to brows through a NationalGeographic or two at the library. Explore how you feel inside when you see particular animals, how they hunt, how they play, how they discipline their cubs,
how they protect themselves, how they love, how they draw alliances and stand by each other, or how they stand alone.  Exploring these feelings is one way of beginning to make your shields.

           Recommended reading:

          "Intimate Nature, The Bond Between Women And Animals",
          edited by Linda Hogan, Deena Metzger and Brenda

          "Women Who Run With The Wolves",
          by Clarissa Pinkola Estes

          "The Hidden Life Of Dogs", and "The Tribe Of Tiger"
          both by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas

          "Zuni Fetishes"
          by Hal Zina Bennett

          "The Spirit Of Place"
          by Loren Cruden

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