Saturday, September 22, 2018

The Spider Totem

It's Wednesday, March 14, 2018. I'm one week into my month-long yoga training in India. It's the wee hours of the morning, and I gotta pee like a banshee.

I raise my hand to the light switch, just above the pillow. As I flick the switch, light disappears the darkness. I glance up towards my hand. All of a sudden, I'm awake. Very awake. Just inches from my fingers is this:


Ehhhhh, dear god almighty! That spider is bigger than my hand! That thing surely has gigantic teeth...and a deadly bite!

I run to the bathroom to pee. On the way back, I grab my Teva so I can send this mutha fucka to oblivion. Already, the spider has made it clear to the other wall. With those insanely long legs, that thing can really move! I muster the courage to get within arm's reach of the spider, and then -- BAM! -- I slam the sole of my sandal against the spider.

Are you friggin' kidding me? I missed! I missed!

With haste, the spider runs to where the wall intersects the ceiling. The intersection of the ceiling and wall is quite high; it's not your average eight-foot ceiling. I don't think there's any way I can reach that spider -- even if I were to pile every piece of furniture one-on-top-of-the-other, Tom'n'Jerry-style.

I don't want to wake everyone up with my ruckus. Plus, I am deadbeat tired; I have to wake up in just a few short hours for the 6am meditation. After thoroughly checking under the sheets, and after ensuring the flat sheet is complete tucked under the mattress, I crawl back into bed. I pull the covers entirely over my head, leaving just a wee bit of breathing space -- hopefully too small of an aperture for that ginormous spider's body. Eventually, I fall back asleep. I'll deal with the spider in the morning.

Though the spider was long-gone in the morning, thoughts of the spider lingered in the forefront of my mind. I shared my story (and the above photo) with my fellow yoginis around the breakfast table.

The majority of my fellow classmates, mostly female, were aghast. I'm guessing they were secretly thankful it was me, and not them, who had the run-in with the spider. (Little did they know that soon, big ole' spiders would be sneaking into many of their rooms!)

Brigid, an Australian who is not easily frightened by anything, identified the spider as a Huntsman. She said that although they are large, Huntsman spiders are harmless.

Me and Brave Brigid.

Thank you, Brigid!

Vanessa, another Australian, said I should be grateful for the sighting.

Me & Valiant Vanessa.

Grateful? Seriously? Do explain, Vanessa.

Vanessa explained that the spider was my totem animal.

My totem what?

She continued. Totem animals have spiritual significance. By paying attention to creatures that make an appearance in our lives, we can learn lessons and obtain guidance in how we live our lives. She recommended I look up the significance of a spider sighting.

Because Vanessa is herself an embodiment of spirit, I Googled "spider totem animal" as soon as I could. I learned that spiders symbolize many things.

Just as spiders weave intricate webs that are engineered with incredible strength, we, too, have the ability to create delicate objects and ideas that are impressively strong. The intricacy of the webs reminds us that the past is always interwoven with the future and that we need to integrate the "puzzle pieces" of our personal lives to gain coherent perspective. The appearance of a spider calls on us to consciously weave our own webs and to view our webs not as entanglements, but rather as networks and roads of opportunity and creativity.

In building their webs, spiders casts a strand, hold on tight, and let the wind carry them. Known as "ballooning," there is a minor degree of calculating direction involved with casting. But for the most part, spiders can never be certain where the wind will take them. The appearance of a spider calls on us to let go of control and to trust that our journey will be a safe one.

As the creator of the web, the spider is seen as a symbol of feminine energy. The appearance of a spider calls on us to connect with our feminine energy.

Just as spiders wait patiently for their prey, we must show patience in whatever it is that we are trying to realize. In being patient, we need to be incredibly sensitive to the minor vibrations of our webs, as this is how we sense the world around us. The appearance of a spider calls on us to exhibit patience and an amplified degree of sensory observation. 

Spiders inspire unfounded fear. The appearance of a spider calls on us to muster courage to examine and overcome our fears, critical thoughts, and imperfections, which are often baseless.

Every single one of the symbolisms above was relevant to something-or-another going on in my life at the time the spider made an appearance. In that way, totems are similar to horoscopes; regardless of what they say, you can always find a way to apply them to your life. I'm okay with that. Anything that makes a negative seem neutral or positive is fine in my books.

From then on, I was no longer afraid of seeing the Huntsman spiders. Viewing the spider sighting as a totem helped me realize that when we face our fears head-on, we discover that 99% of the fear-factor is imaginary. That's not to say I would choose to sleep in a room with a spider that is bigger than my hand. It is to say that I am not going to lose sleep over cohabitating with a spider.

Thank you, Vanessa. I can now view my spider visit as a blessing.

For what it's worth, the Huntsman never made another appearance in my room; it had made his lesson evident to me. And so on he went to spread his gospel to my fellow yoginis.

Megan, the other American in the course, sent me a photo of the spider that appeared in her room a few days later:

A photo sent to me by Megan, at 4:50am,
with the caption, "Kill me."

Obviously, Megan's spider has experienced some trauma, as it had lost two legs. Perhaps those two legs were stuck to the bottom of my Teva!

In retrospect, I'm grateful the entire spider didn't end up smooshed on the bottom of my Teva. There must have been a magical hand reaching out from somewhere to interfere as I attempted to aim my sandal at the spider. For one, I should not have attempted to take that spider's life -- all beings have a right to live. For two, had I ended up killing the spider, who knows what might have happened to my totem spirits.

On a superficial level, the spider totem helped me diminish my fear of the Giant Huntsman. On a deeper level, the spider totem reminded me to examine all my fears, to call on my feminine energy, to practice patience, and to work on weaving a intricate-yet-strong story that is my life.

You can imagine how differently I looked upon the visit of a mouse to my room later that same day.

The next time you see a spider, or a mouse, or an eagle, or a frog, or any sort of animal, consider that its appearance is trying to tell you something. If nothing else, have fun with it -- surely you can find a way for a totem's significance to apply to your life.


  1. I LOVE THIS!!! I have a friend who is deathly afraid of spiders, but the totem quotes would resonate with her. Still wonder how you missed though.

    1. When you boil it down, fear is really all about perspective.

      Ha, my hand-eye coordination is pretty rotten. Don't ever try and give me a high-five or else I'll likely end up slapping you in the face. :)

  2. Good post, Sarah! I appreciate that you stay grounded in skepticism about totem animal significance while not letting that stop it changing your perspective on spiders. That thing is huge, gives me the willies!

    1. I think it's ok to be grounded AND have the willies. :)

      Thanks for reading, Andy.


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