Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Spider Power

There's an embryonic "Retirement To-Do List" floating around in the fluid of my brain, but I have not allowed it to land anywhere or begin to take any kind of real form. I won't even acknowledge the tiny prickle of guilt I feel about aggressively not accomplishing anything. I know I have things to do and places to go. But I also know that I don't have to do them or go there now. And I fully intend to stretch out this time of deliberate aimlessness to the nth degree.

Of most immediate concern is my intention to discover and explore my personal spirituality. In those last difficult weeks at the restaurant, I clung to my neophyte beliefs like a drowning rat to a floating timber. I'm convinced my little rituals gave me the peace and the balance I needed to get through that situation with my mind and my body still intact, battered and exhausted though they were. So I know there is power and truth there; power and truth that beg further exploration and devotion. And…I'm gonna get on that. Soon. Ever faithful, the Universe continues to show me things, even though I'm not disciplining myself to go out looking for them.

I've written of my desire to identify my power animal. I asked for a dream; and I thought perhaps I hadn't asked with enough conviction. Because, though crows and eagles and squirrels have showed up in my waking life, my dreams have been singularly devoid of animal characters. I thought. Then I realized there had been a dream rather dramatically featuring a non-human creature. I dreamed of spiders.

It was not a good dream, either. (Is there such a thing as a good dream about spiders?) It was creepy and shuddery. I dreamed I backed into a great, thick mat of tough, sticky spider webs, and that they (and their inhabitants) stuck to my hair and my back. And I was running all over the place asking people to brush these things off me, and nobody would touch them. Eeyuck…!

When I got to thinking about it, I realized the dream must have some significance, but I did not have a clue what that might be. Truthfully, the possibilities were too disturbing to contemplate. I filed the dream into the back of my subconscious. But the Universe was not giving up on the message.

Like most people, I have a history with spiders. I used to be deathly afraid of them. I couldn't sleep if I knew there was a spider anywhere in my house, much less in my bedroom. And I couldn't kill them, either. I would sic one of my sisters or my mother on the eight-legged offender. After I married, arachnicide became my husband's responsibility.

But in the Pacific Northwest, spiders are everywhere; once you relocate here, you begin to realize that anything that isn't moving will have a spider on it in less than an hour. So you had better get over your arachnophobia or you will be terrified to immobility. And then you will have spiders building webs on YOU within the hour. Honestly, moving to Oregon proved to be somewhat of an aversion therapy for me. Spiders are so ubiquitous that you just learn to live with them. Of course, that doesn't mean you get to like them, or anything quite so cozy as that.

So, yesterday, I decided to do some planting on my front deck. And, this being Oregon, I knew that I would probably encounter an array of multi-legged fauna in the course of this endeavor. I'm actually fine as long as I don't touch them with my bare hands or have them crawling on me. I wear gloves and go about my business, alert to the possible necessity of encouraging a fast-moving creepy crawly to creep elsewhere. So I dug, and hacked, and watered, and swept up last year's moldering debris. Gradually, I became aware…of one of the biggest spiders I had ever seen, clinging to the siding behind the planter box. Legs un-scrunched, she would easily have measured three inches from toe to toe (do spiders have toes?), at least four times larger than most spiders I had met in my life. I stopped my sweeping and bent over to examine her with a mixture of scientific curiosity and horror-movie fascination. She was so big, she became more than "just" a spider. She was a being. A creature, with a soul.

"All right madam," I said to her. "You just stay right there where I can keep an eye on you, and I won't bother you."

We spent the next hour companionably not going anywhere near each other. At the end of that time, I thanked her for not crawling on me, and she silently expressed her gratitude that I had not drowned her or poked her with a stick. And we went our separate ways.

But in the course of that hour, I contemplated animal spirits, and how not all animals are perceived as noble or majestic or smart or magical. Just because spiders are spiders, and our western culture comes complete with pathological spider-aversion, this does not mean they are evil or ugly or soulless or negligible. The Universe wanted me to know that ALL life is precious, and ALL life is connected, whether that other being is soft and furry, cute and cuddly, or black and spiny, all legs and fangs.

So what has this amiable encounter with a giant spider to do with my quest for my power animal? Well, according to the reading I have done, any time an animal or the symbol of an animal shows up in your life at least three times in a short period of time, it is carrying a message to you from the spirit world. The dream and the planting party constituted two encounters with spiders within less than a week. The third would come that very night as I headed for bed.

As I emerged from the bathroom after brushing my teeth and donning my pj's, a largish dark spot high on the very white wall of our bedroom caught my eye. Sure enough, up near the crack between the wall and the ceiling squatted yet another largish arachnid. Not nearly as remarkable as my friend on the front deck, but big enough that I knew I didn't want to share my sleeping quarters with her.

Normally, I would deal with these issues myself, but since she was out of my height-challenged reach, I bade the husband to dispatch her. So, armed with a plastic cup and a flimsy piece of cardboard (I told him he needed to fold it in half…!) he clambers up on the ottoman and prepares to do the deed.

Husband claps the cup down over spider. Success! Spider is running around frantically inside the glass, not pinned or squished under the rim. Husband waits until her panicked revolutions reach the bottom of the glass, slides the cardboard between spider and wall. Another victory. Spider is still frenetically mobile, indicating that once again, husband has avoided injuring her in the process of capture. Unfortunately, in the course of transferring spider capsule from wall to hands and stepping down off the ottoman, the operation falls apart and spider tumbles from her enclosure to the top of my dresser., where I have assembled the paraphernalia I use for my smudging ritual. Including the velvet bag I put these things in for travel. Which is where the spider has softly landed, and has stayed put long enough for husband to rediscover her and clap the glass back over her.

And so Ms. Spider is gently transported, atop the turquoise and beaded velvet splendor of my sacred bag, down the stairs and out the front door, where she is deposited on the deck and encouraged to "go be a spider."

Trudging back up the stairs after the completion of that delicate operation, I smiled inwardly, in a chagrined sort of way. Okay, so my day had pretty much been All About Spiders. Spider as a Power Animal? I shuddered. What would that make me? Some kind of ghoulish Transylvanian priestess? It behooved me to commence a literature search to see what this might mean.

First, I consulted my reference book: Steven Farmer's Animal Spirit Guides. In this book, Farmer lists a couple hundred animals and gives an accounting of what power these animals might have and what messages they might bring from the spirit world. I reluctantly thumbed through the book looking for "Spider," half hoping I would not find it. But, there it was, and what I read surprised me:

"If Spider is your Power Animal: …You're in touch with and express a very powerful feminine creative force, whether you're male or female. …You have a knack for writing, with the ability to weave words together in new and creative ways, often affecting others profoundly with their magic."

Zap! Right between the eyes…

At the very least, this encouraged me to dig a little deeper. An online search taught me that Grandmother Spider is featured prominently in shamanic lore. She is said to have carried on her back, in a basket woven by her, the gift of Fire, which she then presented to the People. Other stories have her web binding all things together and forming the foundation of the Earth. Obviously, the ancients revered spiders, as they revered all life. They certainly didn't see them as something to be screamed at and stomped on!

So what does all this mean to me? Is Spider my Power Animal? Is she simply bringing me a message? If so, what is it? I'm not jumping to any conclusions quite yet; but I guess I could do worse than to walk with an Animal Spirit associated with a strong feminine creative force and a knack for writing. Right now, I'm quite taken with this little tidbit I unearthed in my literature search:

"Spider's message to you is that you are an infinite being who will continue to weave patterns of life and living throughout time. Please do not fail to see the eternal plan of creation."

I'll content myself with contemplating that for awhile.


  1. I love this, and I agree you've got a lot to contemplate here. I think I may have to look for that book. While you're getting spiders, I'm getting snakes -- by my front door, on the walkway to the same door, in my carport and in my dreams. I may have to look into the symbolism there.

  2. Lisa, I did not know about this blog. Thanks for directing me here. This is a wonderful story! And its wonderful you have beings responding to your request for connection. Always remember the biases we were raised with of "good" and "bad" animals are completely ridiculous - the result of limited human vision and a human-centric view. From Ted Andrew's Book, Spider: Creativity and the Weaving of Fate. I had a spider dream once where there were large orb weaver webs everywhere, but instead of being afraid of them, I just afraid of hurting them as I tried to pass. That's a big difference from the fear I used to have.

  3. Cynthia,
    Snake, sperpent, or as we say in our home, "sachamama"... with each fire ceremony in our home as we open the directions: "teach us to shed the past as you shed your skin and become shiny and new, to walk gently on the earth and to touch everyone with beauty."

  4. Could you look up kingfisher in that book of yours?

  5. This is really fascinating and it makes me wonder what messages I'm missing by not being aware of what's around me. I could really use a clue from the universe.

  6. Hi Lisa, Miss you. Didn't know you had a blog. You are a very good writer. Glad I stumbled upon it.