Skeptophilia (skep-to-fil-i-a) (n.) - the love of logical thought, skepticism, and thinking critically. Being an exploration of the applications of skeptical thinking to the world at large, with periodic excursions into linguistics, music, politics, cryptozoology, and why people keep seeing the face of Jesus on grilled cheese sandwiches.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Guidance provided by the Sacred Weasel Spirit

I was having dinner with a friend last night, and she told me about an encounter she'd had at a party.

"We'd only been talking a few minutes," she said, "and she asked me what my totem animal was."

"Your 'totem animal'?" I asked.


"What did you tell her?" I asked.

"I said I didn't have one," she said.  "She said I did.  So she asked me what animal I dreamed about.  I told her I dreamed about my dogs because usually they're hogging the bed and snoring in my face.  I don't think she thought that was a very good answer."

So, intrigued, I started looking into it, and sure enough, there's this whole thing recently about ordinary, white-bread Americans deciding that they have a sacred animal spirit that is accompanying them through life.  On the Animal Totem website (here) there's a list of questions you can go through, to wit:

  1. Since we are drawn to that which resonates with us, what animal, bird, or insect are you drawn to?
  2. When you go to the park, forest, or zoo what animal are you most interested in seeing?
  3. What animal do you most frequently see when you're out in nature or in the city?
  4. What animals are you currently interested in learning about?
  5. Which animal do you find most frightening or intriguing?
  6. Have you ever been bitten or attacked by an animal?
  7. Is there a recurring animal in your dreams or do you have one you have never forgotten?
My question is, what if you get conflicting answers?  For example, I like all of the big cats, but I rarely see one when I'm "out in nature," given that I live in upstate New York.  Mostly what I seem to see when I'm "out in nature" is mosquitoes, and I'll be damned if I'm going to be guided by the Sacred Mosquito Spirit.  As far as being attacked, the only animal I've ever been attacked by is an obnoxious spider monkey that resided in a cage in a bio lab where I was a lab assistant in college.  His name was Buster, and he bit me once.  It could have been worse; he one time splattered the lab director with monkey poo.  As far as what animal I'm frightened of, I think it would have to be snapping turtles.  They completely creep me out.  Plus, they can bite your toes off.  Not a nice combination.

So, as you can see, there's a problem with internal contradictions.  Plus, it seems to me that there's a lot of room for just picking an animal that's cool.  Not that there's any real harm in that, but the sources I looked at clearly consider the whole animal spirit guide thing to be real:
Your guide will instruct and protect you as you learn how to navigate through your spiritual and physical life. When you find an animal that speaks strongly to you or feel you must draw more deeply into your life, you might fill your environment with images of the animal to let the animal know it's welcome in your space. Animal guides can help you get back to your Earthly roots, and reconnect with nature by reminding you that we are all interconnected.
So, what if you think wolves are cool, but you're actually being guided by the Holy Weasel Spirit?  So there you are, with wolf pictures all over your house, and a wolf tattoo on your shoulder, and completely ignoring the guidance being provided by the Holy Weasel Spirit.  I don't know about you, but if I was the Holy Weasel Spirit, I'd be pissed.  I'd probably trip you while you're carrying your coffee, or something.

Some people take it a step further, and actually change their names, or at least adopt a pseudonym.  All of them sound vaguely pseudo-Native-American.  Some of the websites I looked at were managed by people with the last names of RavenWood, Coyote, Nighthawk, StarFox, and SkyWombat.

Okay, I made the last one up.  But I did note that where photos were provided, most of these people looked like regular old Caucasians.  I'm guessing that they had real names like Harold Snodgrass.  I suppose it's understandable that you'd prefer to be known as MoonChild FlyingEagle than Bernice Fleegman, but it does seem a little pretentious.

So, in any case, I suppose the next step is to figure out what my Totem Animal is.  I'm leaning toward a jaguar, which I've always thought was a beautiful animal.  Plus, it lives where the weather's always warm, which is a plus.  On the other hand, my personality has sometimes been compared to a border collie, so that's another possibility.

Now that I come to think of it, why limit yourself to one?  No reason why you have to have just a single animal guide, right?  I could adopt the best of both animal spirits.  From the jaguar, I can learn grace, courage, strength, and skill at hunting.  From the border collie, I can learn how to be a nervous, twitchy, type-A, hypercontrolling, stress-filled cat herder.

It could work.

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