Animal Totems


Animal totems are an interesting subject that piqued my interest many years ago. Animal totems are a part of Native American spirituality and have also been associated with spiritual practices found in Africa, Asia, Australia and Europe. An animal totem isn’t necessarily an animal that shares traits with you. Most often, an animal totem is a teacher or a guide that can point out areas in your life which may need work.
The first time I heard about animal totems was in a spirituality/meditation class in Dix Hills some 12 years ago. The instructor mentioned a fabulous book called, Animal Speak by Ted Andrews. It’s a book that has seen a lot of activity over the years, which is why it’s held together with a very large rubber band. Whenever anyone in our family comes across an animal not normally seen in our area, I’ve referred to the corresponding page in Animal Speak to find out why the animal might have shown up. Often, it’s to teach us a lesson or help us through a tough spot.
One animal that constantly shows itself in my life, especially when I require reminding to sit down and write, is the spider. Spider is known as the “weaver of webs,” which can also be creatively taken as “weaver of tales.” While a student at SUNY Farmingdale’s nursing program, I realized that I’d run into a wall as I wrote a paper and patient care plan for my OB-GYN rotation. I procrastinated about the paper until a week before it was due. I went into the bathroom to comb my hair and saw something on the top of my head. It was a spider that had fallen on me as I was gardening in the yard. I wrote my paper as soon as I removed the arachnid.

I began to write in a journal when my daughter was in preschool, which brought me peace. As anyone who has raised children knows, it’s one of the most stressful times in a person’s life. Whenever I sat down to write, I could feel my cares melt away. There was something cathartic about writing, and I always felt better about whatever had been going on in the house at the time.
My daughter had an issue with a bully in first grade at Woodland Elementary, which brought both of us a tremendous amount of anxiety. I walked her to school and discussed the importance of speaking up if the bullying continued. When I returned home, I made myself a cup of tea and a bowl of oatmeal, hopeful that the combination would settle my nerves. I looked down into the bowl, only to find a large spider who had attempted multiple times to remove himself from the mucky oats. I saved him from my porridge and tossed the rest. With a new outlook on the situation, I wrote a short story in my journal about bullying and honoring one’s own differences, which benefited both my daughter and me. Although never published, the story helped to solidify my daughter’s confidence and enabled her to face her challenges head-on.

Several weeks ago, “writer’s block” had surfaced and caused a sudden lack of creativity. Without a muse, I decided to grab a cold drink with hopes that it might spark an idea. As I drew in a long sip through the straw, I felt something shoot into my mouth. Without hesitation, I spat the water back into the kitchen sink. A small white spider, who had made a cozy home within the straw, sat in a pile of water that puddled on the stainless steel. I patted him dry, still thoroughly disgusted, and set him outdoors on a nearby shrub. This column is the product of Spider Totem’s visit.

Spider, a totem of creativity and feminine energy, is the skilled storyteller. If she has crawled into your life, perhaps it’s time for you to be patient in all endeavors. Spider can teach the ability to be receptive to new ideas or weave something creative and strong out of the most delicate things. Spider also represents a strong feminine energy found in mothers. Spider medicine can also teach you to balance past and future, male and female. She is strength and gentleness at once, as manifested by the delicate but strong webs she weaves. She also traps other insects, so she’s a great friend for your garden.
For more information about Spider Medicine and Spider Totems, you can find them in the Ted Andrews book, Animal Speak. You can also find a wealth of information on websites such as, and Next time you see a spider, you might evaluate your current situation to see where Spider Medicine can help you on your journey.

Patty Servidio is an Anton Media Group columnist.

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