Read Part One Here:
The Bear Kind Part Two: Interpretation and the Primary Totem
Now that we have explored how the Bear kind relates to their environment, including other animals, we can apply that information to how a Bear seated as a human totem, particularly the Primary totem, responds to various situations, thoughts, and conflicts within a human soul.
As the Primary totem reflects the entirety of a human soul, someone with one of the Bear kind as their Primary totem will reflect the most Bear-like qualities in their character, instincts, and behaviors compared to having a Bear in any of the other totems.
Because of a Bear’s immense size and their predisposition to hibernate in winter in a burrow or cave, they carry a strong Earth elemental association; some species may also carry a Dark/Night energy association if they are nocturnal.
The two largest effects on a Bear’s behavior (and in turn, on its influences when seated as a totem) are its large size and solitary nature. As a kind who sometimes hunts and is never prey, and who lives alone and minds its own business the majority of the time, the Bear kind is simply not at all predisposed to mind the presence of other animals one way or another. It does its own thing, and there isn’t much that can be done to influence it to change its mind.
From a productive and positive position, this gives those with Bear kind totems an unshakable self-sufficiency and an independent sense of their own power than is almost always unflappable.
From a less-than-productive position that is more of a detriment to human character, Bear kind totems (like all solitary animals) have little to no ability to work with others, lending to difficulty instinctually navigating any social and/or group dynamic. Further, Bear totem people may have difficulty remembering to be aware of other people: of their needs both emotional and physical, or of their intentions both positive and negative. The words “self-centered” might be dropped into the conversation, but with Bear totems it is less a matter of being consciously selfish and more a matter of erroneously assuming all other animals (and people who bear them as totems) are as self-sufficient and independent as they are themselves.
When considered as one of the six elemental totems, the bearer of a Bear kind totem needs to keep in mind that it may be difficult to get that totem to interact with its opposite totem in a cooperative way. (According to our tradition, the six elemental totems are situated around a person at the six cardinal directions, and a totem must always balance its influence with the one on the opposite side to it, usually Fire against Earth, Water against Air, and Dark against Light). This is a handicap of most all solitary animals, as they possess little instinct for how to “get along” in a group dynamic and therefore no instinct for how to work together with, rather than against, their opposite totem.
However, there is an avenue of resolution for the solitary elemental totem. In the Bear kind’s case, one should look back to what I mentioned earlier regarding the Grizzly/Brown Bear’s relationship to the Wolf. Not only do they appear to share kills with less fuss than you’d imagine, on some occasions they have been observed to eat off a carcass at the same time as Wolves. So long as there is plenty of food, and so long as neither makes a show of aggression against the other, both animals are content to share. Similarly, the Grizzly are known to feed on Salmon during their run, and dozens if not hundreds of Bears have been observed to feed at the same river at the same time— a situation that otherwise would provoke aggression between adult Bears. The lesson to take away for the totemist is that Bear will accept the presence of other animals in its territory so long as there is plenty of food— IE, so long as its needs are met. Coordinating the influence of a Bear kind elemental totem is a matter of ensuring the emotional, spiritual, and/or physical needs it represents within you are regularly met.
Now, as to a Bear’s strength, it is not completely impenetrable. Sometimes Bears do feel threatened, for themselves or for their cubs in the case of a female, and the Bear kind is likely to easily deal with most threats with a growl and a deadly swipe of a bear paw. Their strategy of “ignore or attack” works against 99% of the threats they will encounter in life. In some cases, especially with female bears, a person bearing it as a totem may have difficulty with judging what is and is not a credible threat, and when it is and isn’t appropriate to lash out at said threat.
However, on the rare occasion that something does get past Bear’s impressive defenses and actually harms it (either physically or, in the case of totems, emotionally or spiritually) it is the Bear kind’s instinct to retreat to a safe space to heal, regroup, and emerge at a future time ready to fight again. This strategy applies to physical injuries, in which a Bear may retreat to its den to heal, as well as to the broader threat of the scarcity of winter, in which a Bear will retreat to its den for hibernation.
When seated as a totem and applied to a human character, this characteristic of the Bear kind lends itself to a personality prone to retreating or hiding from their problems, or emotionally shutting down in the face of confrontation. On the one hand, this instinct to step away from difficult situations for a time and return with a fresh perspective can provide a valuable lesson for all sorts of conflict resolutions. But if left to run amok in an undisciplined mind, it could predispose a person to avoid dealing with difficulties in their life, or even to mentally or emotionally shut down when things get too hard.
Overall, Bear Primary totem people are strong, secure in their own sense of self, and quite independent and able to care for themselves. They are rooted in the physical, in the Earth elemental energy. And they might be loners, they might have a temper, and they might have a predisposition to hide from problems.