Adam’s Apple

I’m not sure which animal totem I’m most drawn to. I feel like there are merits and special qualities that typify each one.  I relate to different spirit animals at different times in my life.

Right now, I’m focused on the gecko, because of the Progressive car insurance ads. Just kidding.

I am doing sketches of geckos. One because I have only one canvas, which is kind of small. Two, because there are tons of them on this island. Three because I’ve seen quite a few of them, crawling up and down the walls of the house I’m presently staying in.


I’ve been reading something about each animal that I draw and paint, before I get started. I believe that most of the subject matter that I’m using as reference material is loosely based on Native American spirituality. Or at least one aspect of it.

Being that I am a white, Jewish woman, I sort of wonder if I have a right to access this rich heritage. It kind of appears that the New-Age movement has taken information borne of many different cultures, and watered it down enormously. I would like to think that I’m better than this, but I’m not sure that I am.

Maybe I should think of some Yiddish term for the animals that I’m painting? Or, tie the Kabbalah into the titles? I don’t know if they’d sell as well, but perhaps that’s not the point. For whatever reasons, the Torah doesn’t get into Power Animals. They refer a great deal to cows, and other animals that were slaughtered as offerings to God, but that’s about it.

Of course there is also the story of Adam, Eve, and the serpent. In the New Testament, Jesus rides a donkey into Jerusalem(I think.) I don’t know a lot about Jesus, beyond the fact that he was a nice Jewish man who preached love and acceptance. There is also a lion somewhere in the bible. Somehow, I don’t find the bible to be inspiration for painting. I am not as inventive or gifted as Da Vinci, or Michelangelo.

Animals are so varied and interesting to paint. I am most inspired to attempt to capture the essence of each one. I think this is why the whole Power Animal theme appeals to me.

Geckos, for instance, are very quick, can fit into tight spaces, can survive all types of weather, and lose their tails when a predator catches hold of it. One of the things that I remember about Gecko’s as totems, is that if they cross your path, you are being urged to let go of something that is no longer useful to you. I don’t think this means a body part. I don’t think this means an old car, either.

I believe it’s about releasing old fears and behaviors that hold us back, and weigh us down in life. Easier said than done, right? Reading about these animals, and of their significance reminds me of deeper issues within myself. Maybe by painting them, and understanding them somewhat from a spiritual perspective, I am connecting with the eternal aspect of myself.





  1. I think that you’re possibly ok here, since you are actually looking into it beyond a superficial “oh, this looks cool” level. Cultural appropriation doesn’t attempt to learn the meaning behind such things; it just steals them because it looks cool. If you have doubts, find someone who is of the culture you’re referencing and have her/him help you reference respectfully.

    My husband is Chickasaw, and I have some Chickasaw jewelry. We made it a point to buy from Chickasaw artisans so I’m not being disrespectful of some sacred symbol. I also made a point of learning the history/legends behind the pieces I bought.

    It’s good that you’re concerned about cultural appropriation. Too many people are all too willing to trample all over the history and culture of the oppressed.

  2. Thank you, Cynthia. Some valuable wisdom in your thoughts. I wasn’t initially thinking about the fact that I might be wrongfully appropriating subject matter from Native Americans. It just sort of slowly crept up on me. It’s important for me to be mindful.

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