Reindeer-totem of endurance(and winter)

  Reindeer: totem of endurance


I have long had a fascination for reindeer; my favourite Christmas present last year was a rather wonderful book called The Real Rudolf(a Natural History of the Reindeer) by Tilly Smith. This is a book for true enthusiasts like me and highly recommended if you wish you seek more information about this amazing deer. Mankind has had an association with the reindeer(also called caribou) since the Upper Palaeolithic era but the date for domestication is hazy. It certainly goes back many thousands of years and continues to this day. In recent history Swedish furniture giant Ikea was pressurised into removing reindeer meat products from their Swedish food shops, citing public outcry at eating Rudolf! I did rather enjoy their reindeer salami and am at a loss to understand the problem.

Reindeer are some of the most appealing deer, and have the most incredibly soft and warm coats. Indeed, externally, the only part of a reindeer not to be covered with fur is their eyeballs. There is another feature that is unique to reindeer and that is the antlers; females and young grow antlers just as the males do. The purpose of the antlers is that of giving everyone literally a fighting chance of getting sufficient food to survive. Bulls(males) shed theirs first, allowing other reindeer to compete for food. The last to lose their antlers are the pregnant cows(females). So the chances are that Rudolf and the other reindeer pulling Santa’s sledge are not only likely to be all ladies but all mothers-to-be!

The connection of reindeer to shamanic wisdom is ancient; carvings and cave drawings go back many thousands of years. Indeed, reindeer are known to eat the hallucinogenic fly agaric fungus,

 and their urine, still full of the properties of the fungus has been drunk by shaman to induce trances. Reputedly, this sort of trance has a flying element to it, linking again to the story of flying reindeer. Drums made from the skin of reindeer have been considered highly powerful tools in working with the Otherworld for the purposes of magic and healing in this one.

Animal Spirits suggest various attributes for allying with a reindeer totem:

  • Connection to home over long distances
  • Power of wandering
  • Protection while travelling
  • Social skills
  • Retention of ones power in group situations
  • Ability to go long periods in the dark


On a personal note, I own a drum made with reindeer skin, as well as a reindeer skin that is one of the most warming and comforting items I have ever known.

While the song Rudolf the Red-Nosed reindeer has only been with us since 1939, the association of reindeer with this time of year is probably far more ancient and I can think of no better ally for getting through this dark, cold time than a creature who is so admirably suited to surviving the harshest of harsh conditions.

Butterfly: totem of transformation

Butterfly/Caterpillar’s Wisdom Includes:

  • The power of the whirlwind
  • Reincarnation
  • Transformation
  • Transmutation
  • Magick


All last winter, through the misery of snow and ice and wind and rain, there huddled in a corner of my study window a small tortoiseshell butterfly, hibernating. I gave it dilute honey to drink and cherished its prescence in my room. Spring has come and the little butterfly didn’t fly. It had simply been too long a winter and it’s dead.

Walking today in the woods, I found myself buzzed by this butterfly, a different species, which came to me in total four times, until I got a decent photo of it. It’s not a small wood, but the same butterfly(I think) came to me four times. Four is a shamanically significant number, signalling truth.

The butterfly is a symbol in many cultures of transformation. My life is being transformed in so many ways right now. This little insect brought me hope through a hard winter and today brought me hope again that the creative impetus has not gone away and that beauty and truth and vision are still  part of me.

Spider as totem update, a dream

Bizarrely one of my posts that gets regular traffic but rarely any comments is one entitled Spider as Totem. This comes via various search engines and I can only hope that those who read it find it useful in some way.

I’ve begun dreaming about spiders lately. To sum up what having spider as totem means: weaving, and the weaving especially of words. Grandmother Spider is the creatrix of the world in some Native American creation stories and is also credited with the invention of the first alphabet. I often see spiders in the shadowy penumbra of sleep, but until a few nights ago I’d not dreamed about them.

In this dream I saw an immense spider, a tarantula of some sort or even the famous bird eating spider emerge from under a gate and begin to scuttle around. Now, as my brother for many years kept tarantulas, I’m not scared of them as such because I know how fragile they actually are, so in the dream I sought to capture the beast with a glass. The spider was so strong that even with a large glass tumbler over it, it kept on moving taking the glass with it like a kind of protective shell and after a short while I lost sight of it completely. Then I caught a glimpse of it around my legs somewhere and became inexplicably afraid. I wanted to scream and panic but I didn’t. In the dream I told myself the spider was more afraid of me and I relaxed and waited for it to begin to climb up me. I woke then, feeling disturbed but not actually afraid.

Now for me, the Spider is a powerful ally and one I’ve been struggling with for the last few years as though my writing is vital to my well being, I’ve been reluctant to really get stuck into projects due to all sorts of good reasons, not least of which is finding a real outlet(ie publishing). I’m reluctant to give birth to more of my special children if the world doesn’t want them.

I don’t know precisely what the dream is telling me but if one thing I can read into this, the spider I saw was bigger than any I’ve ever seen, either belonging to my brother or anywhere else, and that tells me the real importance of honouring this totem.

Just how I do this is unclear right now.

Spider as totem

I deliberately didn’t find a nice picture as so many people dislike this creature!

I grew up with a big brother who loved insects and butterflies and spiders and I learned quite early not to be afraid of any of them, or I’d find one in my bed or in my wardrobe. If you have a big brother, you’ll probably know the kind of nastiness they inflict on little and unsuspecting sisters!

Many years ago, I started seeing spiders. I don’t mean suddenly noticing them, but seeing them where they were not. When I woke or when I was dropping off to sleep, I would see a big spider, often either on the covers or the pillow or on the wall near my head. Until I tried to show my husband one on the wall and discovered he couldn’t see it, I did think they were real live spiders!

The usual routine is I see them, notice them and then they scuttle away where I can’t see them any more. Now, Spider in many cultures is a revered being. Some believe that Spider created the first writing, others that Spider wove the universe.

I believe that for me, Spider is a totem. It might not be a glamorous one, like Lion or Bear or Buffalo. But given the way a lot of people react to them, it’s still a powerful one and I do believe it’s a totem for the writer and creator and weaver of stories.

I went to try and rest this afternoon, feeling very unwell, with glands and muscles aching, and when I woke, Spider was there, and scuttled away as usual when I tried to see more closely.

Below some of the wisdom associated with Spider, drawn from the Animal Spirits website. I will put a link on my blog for the whole site. What does Spider mean to you? 

Grandmother Spider wove the fabric of the universe.

  • Master weaver

  • Weaver of the web of fate

  • Wisdom

  • Creativity

  • Divine inspiration

  • Shapeshifting

  • Understanding the patterns of illusion

  • Female energy for the creative force of life