I am reluctantly admitting I have a spider totem. Reluctantly, because who wants to associate with spiders? Reluctantly, because scientists don’t tend to have totems.
Symbolism is a means of communication and animals are common symbols. Animals are in tune with the world around them in instinctual ways, ways in which we humans no longer connect as strongly. We can observe and learn from them. For my purposes, a totem is an animal with a lesson to teach. Or in this case, an arachnid.
I have an agreement with the spiders in my home: they can share my house as long as they stay in hiding. I will blithely pretend they don’t exist, and they can eat the bugs. But they must NEVER surprise me or I can’t be held accountable for my actions.
I’ve been sharing my bathroom with a big, hairy, ugly spider for months. When it would come out, I’d splash it with water to warn it to stay behind the shelving. Recently it got brazen and came out in the open more often, so I sent Abby after it. It would run and hide its eight eyes under something nearby, as if I couldn’t still see its big butt and eight unshaved legs! This worked with Abby, actually — as long as it didn’t move, she couldn’t see it.
The other morning, however, there it was just sitting on my bathroom rug. I called Abby and she got it this time! Except, instead of feeling relief, I felt bad. I felt that I should have faced my fears and relocated the agreement repudiating spider to the outdoors.
To make amends, I decided to face my fears and learn more about spiders. I scrolled online through picture after picture of terrifyingly hideous, fanged monsters. I was mentally aware of the physiological panic inside my body — heart racing, pressure in my chest, difficulty breathing, light-headed. Knowing I was merely looking at pictures of harmless spiders, I allowed myself to feel the panic beyond my rational control, and did not stop my pursuit of spiderly scholarship.
I learned that my totem was a common wolf spider — innocuous to humans and a bit similar to me in some ways. Loners, like me, they build themselves a little secluded web hammock to hide out in. I love secluded hammocks! They do their own thing, staying out of the way of others, just trying to eat and avoid being harassed — like me. Rather than build a web, they patiently await their unsuspecting prey, then use their speed to rush, pounce, flip upside-down, wrap all their legs around it, and bury deep their fangs to suck its blood. Not very much like me (I assure you).
I went to bed stiff with horror, feeling the tickle of imaginary spider legs all over me. I realized I was going to have to do something about this or I would have nightmares. So I took a deep, deep, deep breath until it felt like was breathing up through my feet, then let it out in a huge exaggerated sigh and mentally released the fear along with. I shook myself out, and decided to change what I was thinking about spiders in my mind.
I like spiders! They are kind of cute. Well, industrious and clever anyway. I have to admire them for having all those eyes and silk. I’m glad I live with harmless spiders who stay mostly out of my way and eat the filthy bugs.
After doing this over and over for a bit, I could really feel the difference. I felt calm and amused. I fell asleep quickly — all that terror must have worn me out. I didn’t have nightmares about spiders. Later, I felt a little bit less fear looking at spider pictures for this post.
Thank you spider totem. I think you may have taught me something about conquering fear. From now on, the spider will be a reminder to me to examine my thoughts regarding what I fear.