What is your animal totem?
I see this question a lot on the internet. Some people answer it seriously, others take the piss. Those who take it seriously always choose glamorous creatures as their totems, tigers, wolves, snakes, bears, eagles, etc, whereas the ones who take the piss often choose the less favoured creatures, cockroaches, wasps, rats, pigs, cuckoos, etc. Both approaches are very interesting, and revealing.
There are many websites dedicated to animal totems. They explain the various methods of discovering your personal animal guide, and they give detailed descriptions of the animals.
I had a dream once in which I discovered that I had a tattoo covering my entire back. It depicted three animals interwoven together. I knew they were my animal totems. I was impressed and awed as they were very powerful animals, and I became over-excited, which woke me up. The sudden awakening erased the dream almost completely. I could remember the tattoo, but not the animals which it depicted. So that was that. Part of me felt that the dream was a genuine totem animal dream, and the more practical side concluded that I was being fanciful, wishful dreaming.
Sometimes an animal will appear in our lives, not as a totem, but as a messenger of nature, to relay some important information which is relevant to us in the moment.
I often dream of wasps trying to sting me when there is something or someone in my life attempting to make a painful point. I dream of swimming in deep water, knowing there are sharks lurking underneath, whenever I am out of my depth in a situation. If I actually see a shark, then I know that it represents a hidden aspect of myself which may well be trying to sabotage me.
The messengers do not exclusively visit us in dreams. They often appear in the flesh. They might even create a disturbance to get our attention, causing a problem to help us solve one.
Flies, for instance. This entire Summer has been flymageddon in my home. I have an old chimney which the flies treat as an amusement park ride, they come whizzing down it and into the room, then they zap around ignoring open windows, bashing into the closed ones, and circling my head, landing on me, generally being a nuisance. Chasing them has become my exercise routine.
At first I just saw the flies as a normal, yet annoying, part of the season. Then, one day, when there were about ten flies doing loop-the-loops around me, and I felt my stoic endurance give way to complete furious irritation, a teeny light flickered on in my head.
At the time I had been feeling a bit vulnerable in my relationships with people. It was especially apparent on Facebook. Every time I posted something or commented, or PM’d, I was overcome with a sense of my own nuisance factor. I would post something, then delete it. Comment, then immediately regret the comment. PM and wish that I could un-PM. It was getting worse by the day. I felt as though I was a big pain in the ass to everyone. No one had said anything to me, and when they did they were always kind to me. This was a self-created emotional drama born out of an old wound which had never healed, and was still festering away attracting flies. The flies were all parts of me, insecurities, hang ups, issues. I saw myself as a fly buzzing insistently around people, annoying them, and I wanted to squash myself.
I wondered what the fly meant as an animal (yes, I know it’s an insect – this brackets note is for my punctilious internal editor) messenger. None of the animal totem experts seemed to want to tackle the meaning of the fly, and I almost gave up looking, but then I found the very brilliant work of Ravenari, hostess of Wildspeak.
“Fly as a shadow aspect also challenges us to review our own self-image. Do you think of yourself as annoying, disgusting, unimportant or worthless? Do you attach negative words to your own view of yourself? Fly tells you to stop this behaviour and replace it with positive reminders of your beauty and inherent worth in order to find your way to health and nourishment.” – © Ravenari
She wrote a magnificent interpretation of fly as a totem and messenger, all of which made sense to me, but these words in particular struck at the heart of the matter.
I decided to retreat from the world, for a while, into myself, to heal this wound. I was using others as a weapon to hurt myself, to keep the wound open. This was not fair to them, and it was not fair to me. Why must we insist on being so cruel to ourselves, when all we really want is love. We give it to others, why is it so hard to give it to ourselves.
I deleted my Facebook. I didn’t see this as squashing myself, but as ushering my fly self out of an open window.
Flymageddon ended. The flies disappeared, and I thought I had understood their message. I moved on.
The past couple of days the flies have returned. I wondered if perhaps this was triggered by an email I sent to someone I am fairly certain finds me incredibly annoying. I am very curious, and I often ask people questions about themselves which to me seem fairly basic, but later I realise they might have been a bit too prying. These flies are bigger than the previous ones, does this make a difference, are they telling me the same thing or is this an evolution of the previous message.
The wound is not healed, but it isn’t festering anymore. I cleaned it, applied some ointment, and a bandage. But I think that the bandage was a bad idea, so I have removed it, and am exposing the wound to the air, and the light. For all to see.
So, what is your animal totem?
* I knew that I’d written a post about animal totems for tumblr last year. And I knew, yesterday, that when I wrote about animal totems that I was repeating myself, or at least bits of what I’d said before. I just didn’t realise I’d mentioned cockroaches. So… I thought that choosing a cockroach as a totem was taking the piss. Hmmm. I’m a bit of an ass at times. I also contradict myself regularly. Change my mind about things and such. And I’m one of those people who often uses humour to express a truth which I find difficult to do when speaking seriously. I thought it would be fun to post this after yesterday’s La Cucaracha post as a comparison. Or something of that sort. Past me versus Present me. Weird off!