Messages from Beyond - The Gateway: Hearing Messages from Beyond

Kindling the Native Spirit: Sacred Practices for Everyday Life - Denise Linn 2015

Messages from Beyond
The Gateway: Hearing Messages from Beyond

The way that the Creator (and our allies) connects with us is through signs. In the past, the destiny of a clan or tribe often depended on signs. To indigenous people, the art of reading signs is a respected talent, and much time is spent developing this ability. They believe that signs create a bridge between the realm of spirit and the realm of form. Signs are a focal point through which messages from the Creator filter into our physical reality. Ancient people knew that signs could serve as messengers of important information about present circumstances and even about the future. They could also act as reflections of where we are in life, and where we are going.

In every native culture I’ve spent time in, there was always an understanding of the power of signs. For example, when I was with the Maoris in New Zealand, the tohunga told me, “We listen to the wind’s sounds and this can tell us of sickness, death, changes with the seasons, or of people coming to visit us.”

When talking about water, he said, “The rivers, streams, and lakes can tell us many things when we observe the way they flow. The mood of the water, the color, and the flow—these are all sacred to the people.”

Speaking of signs, the Zulu sangoma Credo Mutwa said, “We live by omens, and we die by omens.” He spoke of many ways that the Zulu watch for signs, especially through the movements and kinds of birds. Signs are, of course, unique to the area in which they occur. For example, Credo said that if a rhino crosses your path, life is going against you. But if a rhino is going the same way as you, your journey is blessed.

My teacher Nundjan Djiridjarkan told me that signs govern Aboriginal life. He said that though signs come in many forms, one universal sign is the willy wagtail bird (djitti djitti). Tribal elders watch the bird’s actions to see what the gods are telling them. He further explained that the Aboriginal people use signs to communicate with one another because they often live such great distances apart. He said it’s important to stop whatever one is doing to hear the message of the sign. Examples of this kind of message might be, “I’m sick. Please come to me,” or “Uncle is speared and needs help.”

Although the exact signs vary from culture to culture, almost all native people throughout the world have gained messages by listening to the wind, watching the clouds, or observing flowing waters. Some are based on practicality; for example, if you see a shark, get out of the water. Some are unique to the area (such as rhino crossings). Though signs vary and the same sign can mean different things in different places, the importance given to signs is the same worldwide. Hence, to activate your native soul, it’s valuable to watch for the signs. They can show you the way! When you do so, you are more often in the right place at the right time; this is going to be essential in the years ahead.


Signs are usually something out of the ordinary. For example, if you see deer every day in your backyard, seeing a deer wouldn’t be a sign, but if you almost never see them and one stands on your pathway looking at you, this is most likely a sign. Signs stand out . . . because they are different than life as usual. Also, signs can be a feeling. Maybe what is occurring isn’t unusual, but the feeling or emotion you have about it is. If you’re standing outdoors and a sudden gust arises, and you feel an overwhelming wave of sadness, it might be that the wind carries the message that someone you’re close to is sad. In other words, it’s not just the gust, but it is the onslaught of emotion that it brings that makes it a sign.

A sign can be something seemingly ordinary, but it keeps coming up again and again. For example, my friend Dan saw a three-legged dog, and then later he saw another three-legged dog, and not long after he saw someone struggling with crutches. He realized this could be some kind of a sign, because it came up three times. (Usually if it comes up at least three times, it’s a message to you.) After thinking about it, Dan thought that it was a sign that in regard to his current relationship, he “didn’t have a leg to stand on.” So he decided to end his relationship. In retrospect, he was so very glad that he did; he felt so much more relaxed and stable in his life as a result.


Signs can appear to you through the natural world around you, similar to the way they appeared to your native ancestors. They can come through the movement of animals and insects, or even the movement of the wind. You can also watch the images that form in the clouds. Native people watched the way in which smoke rose from the campfires for meaning. They also looked deep into the evening fires for messages in the movement of the flames. Additionally, they used the energy of the directions to discern signs. For example, birds flying from the north might indicate a time of ending or a time to look within. In modern times, signs can be in the words that you overhear at the grocery store, or hear on the radio, or see on billboards. They can come in dreams, too.


When a sign appears to you, the meaning may be immediately obvious. However, if you are not clear about the meaning of your sign, there are many methods that you can use for interpretation. The manner in which you interpret a sign is less important than the meaning you derive from it. You may also look at your signs as separate revelations, or you may view your signs over time as a collective whole or pattern.

Here are a few methods to discern the meaning of your sign:


A simple question you can ask yourself is, If I knew what this sign meant, what might it be? This sounds so simple, and yet this often reveals remarkable insights. And if you start thinking, Gee, I really don’t know, then a second question might be, I know that I don’t know, but if I did know, what would the meaning be? This method seems too easy to be effective, yet it appears to really work!

Ed, one of my students, told me that he was amazed when he went into his office one day and found a long line of ants making their way over his computer. He’d never seen ants in his office before. When he asked himself what it might mean, the thought popped up that ants were industrious. He then realized that he’d been procrastinating on a project. He took seeing the ants as a message to jump in and get the project done. He told me later that it was really good that he did because another bid came in right after his, and had it come in first, he would have lost the job. He was grateful for the sign.


Finding the emotion that you associate with a sign can often be a valuable clue. When you discern the emotion, the second step is perusing your past and trying to remember the last time you had that same feeling. For example, a hummingbird came to my friend JoAnn’s window right next to where she was sitting and kept zipping back and forth rapidly. She watched it and was filled with anxiety. When JoAnn scanned her past, she realized that the last time she’d had this same kind of anxiety was in college when her exams were due, and she wasn’t finished. As she thought about her current life, she realized that she was late in her assignments at work and this was creating inner stress. For JoAnn, the hummingbird was a sign reflecting her subconscious anxiety.


This method is to just free-associate what words come into your mind when you’re thinking about a sign. An example would be that your sign is a tulip. A free association might be: “Tulip, two lips, too much lip—hey, my kids are giving me too much lip! I’m feeling taken advantage of. I need to make some changes.” Or another example might be that you see a badger on the side of the road and recognize it as a sign. A free association might be “Badger, honey badger, honey badgers are fearless—I need to overcome my fear about getting a new job and take charge of my life.”


Within your heritage are signs that were used by your native ancestors. Even if you aren’t consciously aware of what those signs are, they’re still genetically encoded in your memory. For example, in the ancient Egyptian culture, the crow represented faithful love because of its monogamous nature. To the Celts of antiquity, crows and ravens were associated with the goddess of war. Depending on the Native American tribe, a crow might represent death, the trickster, a hero, or a messenger between the worlds. If you know your far heritage, then, as a suggestion, find out the meaning of various signs to your ancestors. This can often be helpful to understand the meaning of the sign that you received.


An effective method of working with signs is to designate them. To do this, you assign meaning to something and designate this as your sign. For example, in my childhood I fell in love with red-winged blackbirds. I don’t know why, but I decided that whenever I saw these signs they were good luck for me. Whatever is expected tends to be realized, so whenever I see a red-winged blackbird, I always seem to have great things happen to me. It could also be that whenever something great is around the corner, the universe conspires for me to see a red-winged blackbird. Either way, these birds continue to be a powerful sign for me. You might consider creating a journal to list all of your designated signs.


My neighbor, Jacob, knew that his mom loved dragonflies, so right after her death he decided that dragonflies would be a designated sign of a message from his mom. Jacob was struggling after her death, and during a particularly hard time, he heard a knock at the door. When he opened the door, there was no one there but hovering in front of him was a dragonfly. He broke down sobbing. He knew it was his mom sending a message that she was all right. This is an example of a designated sign. Jacob chose the dragonfly as his sign, and then waited until the universe presented him with his designated sign.



When you’re at a crossroads in life, or if you need an affirmation about the way you’re heading, you can call for a sign. To do this, simply say, “Creator, please give me a sign about which direction to go in my life.” Or you can use a designated sign. For example, if ladybugs are your designated sign, you can say, “Creator, if I’m meant to move to a new city, please send me a ladybug to indicate that this is the right path.” Or you can simply open your heart and ask that a sign to appear to show you the way. (For more information about signs, see my book The Secret Language of Signs.)


The mystic gateways are all around you. It’s simply a matter of taking a moment to step through those sacred portals to hear whispers of the universe and the messages from your spirit helpers and allies. As you watch for signs and connect with your animal, plant, and mineral allies, you increase your ability to be, more and more, at the right time and place. The deeper you go on this journey, the more meaningful the insights that you will garner. In the next chapter, “The Deepening,” you will learn how to sojourn further down that path to commune with the Creator and claim your power.