I don’t write much about archetypes. However, I do consider the symbolic meaning of many animals, monuments, and special natural sites. I look for the symbolic meaning inherent in the attributes of such things. I also consider spirit animals or totems. I think these can be special spirits that choose to share their spiritual existence with us. In that way, I think some could be teachers, guides, mentors, guardians, or even malevolent spirits that seek to trouble us.
In another context, I think the symbology of spirits is important to remind us that we are also nature. I think we, as humans, think we are above nature. We often talk about nature as if we are separate from it. Not to start a great debate, but the distinction we make between natural and man-made is a great example of this thinking. Do we call a birds nest a bird-made object, or a spiders web a spider-made object? We think that only humans are capable of creating something unique and outside of nature. Anyway, I think considering the symbolic meanings of nature is a good way of remembering our place in nature.
By the way…
Diane Cooper has written an interesting book that looks at the spiritual life of animals and their spiritual purpose on earth. It’s called The Archangel Guide to the Animal World. Check it out if you’re interested in learning more about the ideas that animals have souls and a purpose on earth.
With that being said, I should also mention how thankful I am to work as a gardener. My job allows me to work outdoors with plants everyday. It also gives me much time to think. I often feel like a monk, working in a temple garden, in contemplation. I joke with my coworkers about finding my zen through gardening. It’s only a half-joke.
Now, over the past couple of weeks I have found 2 praying mantises hitching rides on my shoulder. I never see them in the plants. I only realize them when I feel them gripping me through my shirt. Neither of them seemed to flinch when I finally noticed them. Both of them were put back into a plant so they could continue to hunt. As a professional gardener, I recognize that these are friends of the garden.
But, since praying mantises aren’t as common as bees or ants, I wondered what symbolic meaning they have. So, I did some google research and found a few common symbolic meanings.
- Having proper timing
- Peace and Understanding
- Stillness and Focus
- Prophecy, Clairvoyance
In general, the ideas are that the mantis is patient, still, and calm. It waits until the perfect time to strike its prey. It’s also mindful of itself and its surroundings. Going a little farther, in Greek the word mantis means prophet or seer. It some parts of Africa it symbolizes god.
“The praying mantis will become your animal totem once you have learned to take your time and live your life at a silent and reflective pace. You should make all choices with a sincere commitment to careful thought and contemplation.”
That statement means the most to me at this point in my life. I think that is the type of life I am trying to live and enjoy the symbolic confirmation of my intent. It might not be much but sometimes we humans can be too brutish and we miss these little details in the world around us. It’s my attempt to become more aware of my surroundings and the more delicate details of reality. I hope you make the attempt too!
By the way…
If you’re interested in learning more about spirit animals and animal symbolism here are a few books you might be interested in reading.
Discovering Your Spirit Animal: The Wisdom of the Shamans by Lucy Harmer
This link goes to animal spirit divination cards. I have these cards and I like them because they have left some of the cards blank so you can fill in with animals important to you. Medicine Cards: The Discovery of Power Through the Ways of Animals with Cards by Jamie Sams.