This is the first piece of the three-part collaborative series by Staff of Asclepius contributors.
“When we learn to speak with the animals, to listen with animal ears and to see through animal eyes, we experience the phenomena, the power, and the potential of the human essence, and it is then that the animals are no longer our subordinates. They become our teachers, our friends, and our companions. They show us the true majesty of life itself. They restore our forgotten childlike wonder at the world, and they reawaken our lost belief in magic, dreams and possibilities.” (Andrews, Ted. Animal-Speak: The Spiritual and Magical Powers of Creatures Great and Small, p. x)
One of the biggest ways I draw strength from nature is from my relationship with animals. When I am crying my dog, Rosie, will lick away the tears until I am laughing with joy and ruffling her fur. When I am sick or depressed lying on the couch or in bed she stays by my side. I also have spirit animal familiars or what can also be called totem animals.
“A totem is any natural object, animal, or being whose phenomena and energy you feel closely associated with during your life.” (Andrews, p. 7)
Spirit animals come to us during astral travel, shamanic journeys, meditation, ritual, or literally crawl, walk, or fly into our lives. They can also be insects. I work with mainly with five various beings.
I was at an Autumn Equinox ritual in rural Missouri dancing ecstatically to the beat of the drums before a large fire. Suddenly I was underwater in the murky depths. Light filtered in from above making plants visible. A frog swam before me, green and perfect in every way from its large eyes to it its bumpy skin and moving legs. We made a connection and I knew it was my totem animal.
Frogs are amphibians that travel and live between land and water. To me they mainly represent traveling between worlds. Andrews says that frogs represent power over the weather, especially rain, and that they represent fertility and metamorphosis. The shamans of North and South America believe the voice of the frog can call forth the rains. The idea of metamorphosis comes from the life cycle of the frog from egg, to tadpole, to adulthood. I call upon frog now at times when I want to astral travel or move through the upper or lower worlds. I have a small collection of frogs everything from knitted, sculptured, stone, and musical instrument that is wooden and strummed along to back to sound like croaking.
In a dream, a brown bear attacked me across my chest, leaving painful gashes in my flesh. I asked a shaman friend of mine what this meant and he said the bear was angry at me for not paying attention to a message. I meditated on this and came to realize that I was being told to take on the attributes of a bear such as protecting myself. Just as a mama bear would protect her cubs or a grizzly protecting its territory. Andrews also says that bears represent awaking the powers of the unconsciousness. Years later while living in California, a friend of mind felt it was important to give me a gift she had received. I hadn’t told her about the dream, and I was stunned and grateful when she handed me the claw of a brown bear. I was once again reminded of the message the bear had brought me. This time I needed to awaken to my true self and seek medical attention for my mental and health issues.
Sometimes we are called to a specific creature and turtles are a reptile that I work with because of their connection to the Earth. I am a Neo-Pagan Gaian, so I revere the Earth and the Goddess Gaia.
“The turtle is one of the oldest reptiles and thus has one of the most ancient mythologies surrounding. It has been a symbol of Mother Earth, for longevity and for the awakening to heightened sensibilities.” (Andrews, p. 365)
At first you might think that having a bee totem is a dangerous thing because they of their stinger. However, in lore the stinger is actually a phallic symbol though for me I don’t see bees in that way. To me they represent warmth and the sun since they only come out and fly when the weather is over fifty degrees and it isn’t raining. The honeycomb is constructed into hexagons which has a mystical significance. It is the symbol of the heart and the sun. Bees, and honey bees especially, work as a community to gather pollen and create honey. Hence, I call upon the honey bee when I need to strengthen communication and cooperation with a group I belong too.
It was a bright warm day and I was attending a ritual about ecstatic dancing. As I found my from totem through ecstatic dancing so did I find my bee totem. A honey bee flew up to me about a foot away near my face. It hovered and then started to mimic my moves. When I danced left it buzzed left. When I went right it moved right. I crouched and moved quickly left to right and the bee dove down to eye level just inches from my face. We connected and moved together.
The most unnerving totem I commune with is the arachnid because I have a fear of spiders. They represent creativity and the weaving of fate. Perhaps this is one reason I have such a fear. I am a writer though I struggle with my art. And who isn’t afraid of their own fate at some point? We have to face accepting it or changing it and either choice is a great challenge.
I once lived in an upstairs apartment and one night Michael, my husband, and I stood on the balcony enjoying the night air and the sounds of the Mississippi River just a few blocks away. I noticed a spider glowing silver and hanging from a thread. It then began to spin and twirl leaping at such a furious pace it appeared as a blur. In a matter of moments it’s web was complete.
Spider was in my dreams as a child often gigantic and attacking me forcing me to face my fears.
The one time I am not afraid of Spider is when I am working with it for magic. “The spider … has come to be associated by mystics and mythology with three predominant expressions of magic. The first is the magic and energy of creation.” Second, it is associated with the assertiveness of that source. “The third predominant magic of the spider is associated with its spiral energy, the links with the past and the future. The spiral web, converging at a central point, is something to be meditated upon by this totem.” (Andrews p. 354)
Cosmic Spider has taught me to see how events converge on the web of fate. There have been times when I placed symbols there to shape the things to come. I spoke with Taylor Ellwood recently over the phone about the Weaver, which we both view as the spider on the space time web. He mentioned how he’s used the web to move backward in time to review past lives.
Now that I’ve told you what animal totems I am close to, what are some encounters you have had or totems/familiars you are connected to?