Eurasian Jay Totem
So, lately, I’ve become more connected to Garrulus glandarius, something that seemingly doesn’t happen to a lot of people, since so little information about this bird comes across in shamanistic circles. Indeed, there’s a surprisingly small amount of mystical associations with this bird; even fairly obscure corvids like the Western Scrub Jay have well established places in all shamanic lists.
Nevertheless, as the jay called for me, I obey, and here’s my essay on the Eurasian Jay as a totem.
As said previously, the Eurasian Jay has surprisingly few refferences in folklore and mythology, in spite of it’s range across the entire Eurasian landmass. This is a massive contrast to the vivid myths and legends about other corvids. Among the few associations is the celtic name for the species, “schreachag choille”, “screamer of the woods”, a name that might imply a similar symbolism to the greek god Pan, as a symbol of fear and the wild nature of the forest. The term “jaywalking” seems to be derived from an attribution of a trolling personality to the jay, something not unexpected as corvids are known for mischief.
This is largely my intuition, but I feel that the Eurasian Jay is sacred to Balder, Shamsiel, Apollo, Lugh, Belanus and Endovelicus, and to a lesser extent Adonis, Freyr, Helios, Abraxas and Magec. All these deities are Indo-European (emphasis on “european”) solar gods, with an expertise in healing and life, illumination and/or enlightment, magic mysteries and the occult. Apollo and Lugh both have an history of association with corvids; Apollo, as a god of prophecy, had crows, ravens and to a lesser extent magpies as sacred to Him, and ornithomancy was a theurgical practise of His worship. Lugh literally means “Raven”, but as a god of light and with ravens and crows taken by Morrigan, I think the Eurasian Jay is a more apropriate symbol. Both Belanus and Endovelicus were healing gods, while Adonis, Freyr and to a lesser extent Helios represented the Sun’s ties to nature, as the provider of life.
Shamsiel, Abraxas, Helios and to a lesser extent Magec and Apollo are all associated with the magickal aspects of Sun Theurgy, especially in relation to mystery religions and the occult. All corvids are ultimately related to what christians probably see as satanic, with the esoteric truths of enlightment and illumination. These birds, being the animals closest to sapience besides humanity itself, have an air of mystery about them, and their ties to prophecy don’t hurt either.
My experiences with the Eurasian Jay
For most of my life, this bird has been a stalker. It has awaited in the shadows of the forest all over Portugal, waiting to strike. Sometimes I got glimpses as it flew from tree to tree, but it kept it’s chilling silence.
Then, this Summer, my encounters with jays have increased twicefold. It all culminated when I was near a swimming pool, and a jay seemingly deliberately left a wing feather nearby (or accidently lost it, whatever). I kept it for several days, and I tried several things, including using it as an athame. It finally dawned (as you will see, “dawned” is quite meaningful in this context) on me to sacrifice it, and in an novertly complicated ritual to Shamsiel, nI burned it in a candle. Since then, I’ve had some improvement in my theurgical works.
When I came to Amarante, more jays came into my life. Two of them seemingly reside in the chestnut tree forest, though they appear irregularly. They keep the general jay behaviour, watching me from the trees, waiting.
Today, I went to a small zoo (more of a rehab center for injured animals, but they’re on display, so…), and I spent some time interacting with a family of jays. The family was composed of two adults (unknown genders; don’t even know if they’re mates, given the unorthodox family structures of some jays), one juvenile and a chick that can’t yet fly. Each of them had an unique personality, almost to sitcom family comedy levels: one adult was calm and “motherly” (though likely not female), another was the Homer Simpson of the family, flying around chaotically and stealing food from others, both chicks were curious, with the flying one cautious while the flightless one kept looking as if it want to jump on me.
They were understandibly a bit weary, but their curiousity kept them from flying away. Eventually, I felt a need to give them gifts – not an unusual thing among wild corvids or even among most wild Higher Landbirds – and so I searched a nearby forest for things to give them. Sticks, bark, rocks, nuts. Eventually, they accepted acorns as gifts, and I went back and forth fetching acorns for them. It was tiring, but I could tell they enjoyed those acorns.
I ended up learning quite a bit from those captive jays, though other birds in the wild provided more information.
What the Eurasian Jay represents as a totem
This is what I learned from the eurasian jays, in captivity and in the wild:
1- Like all corvids, the Eurasian Jay is associated with mind magick. Being ostensibly the most intelligent animals after Homo sapiens, corvids are by default associated with intellect, information, fast thinking, problem solving, theft, memory, creativity, learning, and the dark arts of prophecy, mind alteration and destruction, divination and control. The association with the mind is often attributed in neopagan circles to the element Air, hence why I corvids can pretty much be considered the pure embodiment of Air itself, though other traditions link the Air with the soul instead, and the mind is thus given dominion of to Water or even Light. Indeed, given that many light related deities are associated with mind magick (the Light Chakra, after all, is the Ajna, the Eye of the Mind), if corvids help in any elemental works, light magick would probably be that.
That said, the Eurasian Jay is unique among corvids in that it is mostly associated with Ancestral Wisdom. While most corvids are concerned with the mind as a whole, the Eurasian Jay is more concerned about information gathering via spiritual working. If Air is associated with the soul rather than the mind, then the Eurasian Jay bridges the mind to the soul, Light with Air. In it’s connection to the forest, the jay has an at least vague comprehension of the bigger picture, something other corvids lack, and as such instead of just searching for information, it opens itself to higher calls, apreciating the patterns in it’s ecosystem. A crow looks at an acorn and sees edible food; a jay looks at an acorn and sees edible food and a seed that will produce more food if conveniently “forgotten”. Ravens see seasons as potential torrents of opportunities or times of hardship; the jay sees that, but also apreciates the cycle, seeing life blooming and decaying as the year progresses. As such, the Eurasian Jay has a sense of spirituality only rivalled by primates.
In practise, this means that, by understanding the forest, both on an operational and spiritual level, the Eurasian Jay is symbolic of illumination/enlightement, and as such it represents the theurgical side of working with the mind. It can obtain information on both the physical and otherwordly realms, and most importantly, it can apreciate it on a symbolic level.
2- As hinted previously, the Eurasian Jay is different from other corvids in it’s close connection to the forest. Some other corvids also called jays also have close connections to their habitat, but to most corvids, the land is just a place of habittation, not a home. As such, because of this connection to the forest, the Eurasian Jay is open to the spiritual side mentioned previously, and can even manipulate it’s habitat. It is the gardening bird, planting acorns and other seeds either by accident or purpose, and harnessing the living energies of the forest to allow faster plant growth. In combination with it’s connection to enlightement, it represents a growing resolve: spells become faster and more potent, and the very mind becomes a plant, blossoming thoughts.
That said, the Eurasian Jay is not above urban living. They can be found on city parks, after all. So long as there are trees and fertile soil, the bird can thrive, and it will inevitably try to expand the forest, planting acorns where it can. In a way, it is proselyting, though I don’t think the Eurasian Jay symbolises assimilation.
3- The Eurasian Jay, like many jays, has strong family bonds. Sibilings often stay for an year or so to help raise their younger brothers and sisters. This can be seen as an appeal to tradition, but rather it is symbolic of unorthodoxy in regards to family units. To the Eurasian Jay and it’s relatives, it doesn’t matter if it’s a mated male/female pair, a bunch of siblings, homosexual pairings, a single parent, or any combination of those. To the jay, so long as it’s a loving family, it’s a family; there’s no need for nuclear families. As lovers of the dense forests, jays don’t like nuclear things anyways. Except the Sun.
4- As previously stated, the Eurasian Jay is a solar bird. Corvids within the Corvus genus have been associated with the Sun in Europe and Asia, generally due to the connection of the mind with light. More so than their relatives, Eurasian Jays are closely connected to plant life, and display a more fiery brown and white plumage. Their unique relationship to the oak tree – sacred to many sky deities – is also worth noting. In particular, the Eurasian Jay is connected to the life giving essence of sunlight, and as such to sun gods more associated with fertility, the wild, and healing magick. Worshipping solar deities with an Eurasian Jay as a familiar, or sacrificing feathers and maybe blood (if extracted painlessly) to the Sun greatly increses theurgical work.
5- Like all corvids, verbosity, trickery, playfulness and troll behaviour are also associated with the Eurasian Jay.
As with all shadow totems, if you hate or fear the Eurasian Jay, something of the above is lacking in you.