Shortly after I married my husband (strange phrase–he’s my husband because I married him, right?), we were strolling along the harbor area in Annapolis, MD, when we ducked into a shop and he bought me a beautiful Zuni fetish.(**see note)
It was a bronze coyote, (the one on the photo, alongside the badger), and it began a collection that I continue to this day. I don’t have any particular personal connection to Native American culture, but the little carvings fascinate me. They are small, so they were easy to collect while in the early days of our marriage when we had to move several times. They were relatively affordable, since my husband was a medical resident and we were living primarily on my earnings. And they spoke to me. Each one has a distinct personality.
After a while, I began to recognize similarities among certain carvings and discovered there were carving families and that each animal represented certain personality characteristics.
One of the things I love about they symbolism of the fetishes, is that the personality traits are both positive and negative and that there’s no value judgement placed on it. A great example of this is the badger, who symbolizes both persistence (a positive trait) and stubbornness (a negative trait.)
I suspect that my own personality has much of the badger nature in it. As you might expect, this is both a good thing and a bad thing. My ‘inner badger’ is part of why I continue to write, hone my craft, and send new projects to my agent. That persistence is what drives me to write a book a year, every year and to believe that each one can and will sell. Badgers don’t give up.
The problematic side to my badger nature is (to use another animal metaphor) that when I get my teeth into a problem, I can’t stop until it’s solved. That leads to many, many late nights on the computer when I can’t get a photo to format correctly in an eBook conversion. When I’m attacking a problem like that, I get tunnel visioned and nearly disassociated from my body. I’ll pound on the keyboard and sit in increasingly awkward postures without feeling any discomfort until I’m finished and try to get up. Or the inability to let an argument go without getting the last word in. (Yes, it pains me to admit that one.)
I am slowly learning that making yourself right and the other person wrong is a losing proposition for relationships. That’s when my ‘badger’ needs a time out.
I think it’s helpful to look at personality traits as having both positive and negative aspects–both for understanding oneself, but also useful for a writer to understand her characters. Lydia, from THE BETWEEN has a bit of the badger in her nature, as does Ro, the main character from the SF novel I’m drafting now. Perhaps that is because the character I imprinted on most as a young reader also was ‘badger’–Meg from A WRINKLE IN TIME.
Other character traits that have mixed aspects and make for interesting characters (if not complicated relationships!) are loyalty, ambition, passion, and independence. Most often, it is a person’s or character’s strengths that are also their greatest weaknesses.
What are the positive and negative aspects of your own personality traits? If you are a writer, what about your main character? And if you’re a fellow ‘badger’, my sympathies. 🙂
**I want to be clear here–I’m not making any claim to have a totem animal. It is not my intent in any way to co-opt Native American culture. I appreciate Zuni fetishes as items of beauty that are sold as pieces of art by Native artists and have enjoyed learning about their traditional symbolism.