Lupa’s Den – Creepy-Crawlies and Heebie-Jeebies
I had a nightmare last night — about bugs. Scorpions, spiders, biting flies, centipedes, and other creepy-crawlies that could potentially do damage to the soft flesh wrapping my endoskeleton. (Why couldn’t it have been butterflies? Or snails?)
Back when I was a kid, I spent countless days when the weather was warm overturning rocks to catch various insects and other bugs. I walked through the grass scaring up grasshoppers, and while I never touched spiders, I did marvel at them, particularly the big, fat yellow and black garden spiders in their webs with the little zigzag. I had no fear in handling what I found, as long as it wasn’t poisonous. However, as I got older and more detached from the natural world through circumstance, I found myself picking up the common revulsion associated with bugs. Instead of being wowed by the structure of an arthropod’s body, I found the prickly, sharp sensation of the exoskeleton to be unnerving at the very least. Eventually I found myself yelping in fear at the sight of a bug on the floor, no matter what it was. (To be fair, I got startled as a child whenever I found bugs in the closet, or under the bed, or wherever else they hid themselves in the house — but it wasn’t as bad a reaction!)
I find myself regretting this change in my behavior. While I’m still quite comfortable with the warm-and-cuddly animals (and even the cool and scaly ones), the creepy-crawlies still bother me to a degree they didn’t used to. As I’ve become a grown-up and, unfortunately, lost some of the seemingly easy connection to Nature that I had as a child, my discomfort with the “icky” things in Nature has grown. Like most Americans, I’ve become antagonistic towards those parts of Nature that don’t fit my comfort level.
There’s a lesson in all of this, of course. A large part of why I became a neopagan in the first place was to reconnect with Nature, to try to rebuild what I lost somewhere in my teens. For years I focused mainly on the abstractions, the symbols, the nice, safe, distant representations. Once I began practicing (neo)shamanism a couple of years ago, though, I could no longer distance myself, and was in fact encouraged to dig in to the earthy, raw bits of Nature as much as I could. It’s been good for me — I’ve come to appreciate the joys of compost as I’ve gardened, and I’m more liable to let myself go out and get muddy in the wetlands near my home. But I still have issues with the bugs, and that’s who I need to be learning from.
Some people would try to categorize the totems of these species as “shadow totems,” totems which scare us and, through that fear, teach us about things we may not want to face. If that’s the case, then I have a lot of shadow totems to work with! However, this is a complex situation. It’s not just a matter of “I don’t want to get my clothes dirty” or “EEEEK! SOMETHING JUST LANDED ON ME!” It’s an overarching detachment from the natural world, through my perception of it, as well as the decrease in the amount of time I’ve spent in it.
I can shut myself away from lions, tigers and bears, and so forth. However, the Little Ones won’t let me forget that, even in my nice, warm home, I’m part of Nature. From the tiny brown ants that persist in poking into the kitchen and garage (and occasionally the bathroom), to the moths that attempt to gain access to the pantry, to the wandering spiders who find shelter and food in the corners of my home when it rains, they all let me know that there’s no place to go where Nature doesn’t touch me. If it weren’t those critters that were reminding me, it would be the tiny beings in my digestive system, or the food that I eat. It just so happens that the creepy-crawlies are the ones who make the biggest impact, for all their size, right now.
And I write this as I have a healing spider bite on the inside of my left elbow, probably sustained while I slept. (There was no dead spider in the bed, so I’m guessing it got away!) I’ve been thinking about the creepy-crawlies in the couple of weeks since that happened, because if nothing else the bite made it clear that I do have to live with their existence, even in the comfort of my own home. This is my decision on how to deal with it, rather than the typical “GET OUT THE BUG BOMB!” reaction that most Americans would have.
I am a natural being; I am a mammal. I eat, I breathe, I drink, and I live in an environment populated by numerous other beings, large and small. They don’t exist according to my convenience, and the creepy-crawlies especially remind me of that. Time for me to remember that lesson.
Lupa is the author of Fang and Fur, Blood and Bone: A Primal Guide to Animal Magic, A Field Guide to Otherkin, and co-author of Kink Magic, among other works. You can read her blog at http://therioshamanism.com and see her website at http://www.thegreenwolf.com.
Edited by Sheta Kaey