When I was out for one of my walks yesterday, I found something unusual: A "Spirit Bear."
According to the mythology of the Zuni Tribe (located in New Mexico and Arizona, primarily), Bear has the power to heal and to transform human passions into true wisdom. Bear represents the power of healing through introspection and "going within" for answers... and reminds us that, to some, the period of hibernation may appear like a form of depression when-- in fact-- it is a period of healing and gaining strength for new challenges ahead.
Traditionally, Bear is also considered to be the Guardian of the West. Interestingly enough, I found this Spirit Bear as I was walking home towards the west, towards the setting sun. At first, I thought it was just a gray rock, but when I held it up to the sun... it became obvious that it was actually a piece of banded agate.
Pictured here are a pair of modern Zuni fetishes featuring bears. On the left, a more "realistic" style; on the right, a more stylized version... closer to the traditional native carvings. As you can see, the shape of the "natural" bear does bear quite a resemblance (no pun intended) to the deliberately carved shapes.