Happy Canada Day! I thought that it might be fun to celebrate Canada Day by sharing the meaning and magick behind a few of Canada’s national symbols.
One of the most striking of Canada’s national symbols is the maple leaf that adorns our flag. Something that people come from all over the world to see is the beauty of our maple forests in Central Canada showing In the fall. Though at this time of year, the leaves of the Canadian maple are still green. This is one and the same with the famous maple tree that produces the sap that becomes maple syrup.
In this capacity the leaf represents our sovereignty. It’s a symbol of the land itself, probably because the vast rolling hills of autumn maples is a striking sight that made a powerful impression on the early settlers. The maple leaf flag design was proposed by George Stanley to replace the Union Jack, and it was based on the flag of the Royal Military College of Canada.
Magickally, the maple tree is associated with elemental air and the planetary energies of Jupiter; as such, it could be used in magic associated with study, travel, spirituality, leadership, enlightenment and politics. It’s also used in magick for love or money, and it is a traditional wood for magick wands. It is said that a child passed through the branches of a maple tree will have a long life.
There was a maple tree in the front yard of the house where I grew up, and it was struck by lightning twice. I’m not sure if that was just freak luck or if something in the maple serves as a lightning rod. I saved a branch for a wand when my parents sold the house, and twenty years later I finally made an amber and jet wand out of it.
Sap comes up out of the sugar maple in February and so it’s also a great symbol of renewal and the Imbolc energies of spring’s return.
Okay, let’s face it – the real reason that the beaver became Canada’s national animal is that our country was founded on trading in its fur to make hats. But it has lots of powerful totemic symbolism as well.
The beaver is known for its amazing construction work. It makes complex dam structures to control the flow of water through its home and to protect its babies. Naturally it has become widely recognized as a symbol of industriousness, purposeful busyness, and cleverness. It’s also a very social animal, and so it’s a symbol of the bonds between family.
Call upon Beaver to summon the focus and industriousness to take on projects of importance; any magick involving housing or shelter; for finding a new job, especially in trades; for any work of construction or engineering; for blessing or building a home; to build bonds between family; and perhaps, by extension in the modern era, for works of electricity or power, since their activities are like those of a hydroelectric dam in miniature; or indeed, for any magick surrounding the proper building and functioning of any work of technology.
Most commonly the moose is seen as a comical symbol, but I think that’s just because the closest most people have been to a moose is Rocky & Bullwinkle. Real life moose are not funny. They’re some of the biggest animals you’ve ever seen, for one thing; bringing back ancestral memories of being trampled by megafauna. I’ve heard stories of a bull moose charging a bus on the highway head-on and walking away from the crash. The bus didn’t. Driving past them in Canada is a freaky experience because they walk all over long stretches of treed highway in the middle of the night like deer, and they’re at least twice as big as your car.
On the other hand, the fact that the moose is often seen in a comical role is perhaps commensurate with our Canadian brand of self-depreciating humour. Yeah, okay, we’re kind of funny, and we’re willing to laugh at ourselves; but once we decide to charge your car . . .
Ironically because there are so many of these birds in Central Canada, most people there see them a bit like pigeons or seagulls; a public nuisance. Especially as they flock together for the fall migration their droppings get everywhere, as do the feathers of their molts. When geese take up residence in a place and lay eggs, they defend that place aggressively, and while in my home town the couple that took up residence at the park by the local city bus terminal have become a fixture we’re happy to indulge, where there are so many of them, they can cause a real problem and a safety hazard to small children. In the West, however, we cannot help but be amazed by the long vees of flying birds, nor haunted by the plaintive loneliness in their call.
The goose comes to us with both European and First Nations’ associations. In European myth it symbolizes good fortune (goose that lays golden eggs) or completion (your goose is cooked). It makes frequent appearances in fairy tales and Celtic myths as a symbol of enchantment or intelligence. To First Nations’ peoples it symbolizes the importance of respectful communication and teamwork; geese take turns leading the vee and thus, being the one to break the wind, and thus they all share in the responsibility and it’s never one person’s work alone. Because they are also very protective of their young they symbolize family and the protection of babies as well.
Call upon Goose to increase your creativity; to build community; to bless a journey, especially one that is long or spiritual; when entering a new relationship; to protect your family; or when you want to have children.
The ᐃᓄᒃᓱᒃ is more closely pronounced inuksuk, but inukshuk is the more commonly-known English spelling; though the Canadian Government tries to promote the Inuit-preferred spelling (and there are many regional variations). The word comes from the Northern Aboriginal morphemes inuk meaning “person” and suk meaning “ersatz” or “substitute.” An innuguaq ᐃᓄᙳᐊᖅ, or “imitation person” is a related structure, such as the one featured a the logo of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, but though it’s been conflated with the inuksuk, it’s not precisely the same thing. An ancient Inuit cultural symbol, in recent years it has increasingly been seen as a Canadian cultural symbol.
Inuksuk were used by Inuit and other peoples north of the Arctic Circle as guideposts and waymarkers, especially over long stretches of tundra with few natural landmarks. They may have been used in navigation, to mark caches, fishing spots, travel routes, food caches, hunting grounds, and sacred places. The Inupiat in northern Alaska used inuksuit to help guide caribou into contained areas for slaughter. An inuksuk presides over Vancouver’s English Bay, and it is meant to symbolize welcome to the world; but Canadian soldiers erected one on Hans Island, along with a plaque and a Canadian flag, as a way to claim it in Canada’s long running territorial dispute with Denmark over the island. Many inuksuk have been donated by the Canadian government to cities around the world as gestures of friendship. In the past several years many Canadians have been guided to build inuksuk along the Trans-Canada highway, and park rangers have a continual problem with Canadians erecting inuksuk in national parks, since they might confuse travelers and be mixed up with actual waymarkers.
So the inuksuk is kind of a Canadian totemic figure. It symbolizes territory and sovereignty, but also welcome and friendship. It symbolizes the coming together of different peoples, but it also symbolizes borders. Use inuksuk to invite friendship; to mark a sacred journey; to guard and protect property and borders; to protect sacred ground; or to invite blessings on a meeting or on a hunting trip.
Happy Canada Day, and happy Independence Day to my American friends!
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