Shadow Totem Animals – Embracing The Fear Of Creatures In Nature

For many years now I have been looking at my life symbolically and I am a strong believer in life, showing us what we need through the outer reflections we meet across our path.
After studying shamanism for a while now I love how nature reflects the lessons I am learning, the awareness that is arising and the power within me growing and expanding. And while many people believe and take an interest in animal totems and power animals (the energy/spirit of an animal that brings certain strengths from inside us out into the open) many may not recognise the powerful wisdom in the shadow totem.
The shadow totem is the animal, insect or creature that we are most afraid of and tends to represent our deepest fears and yet also brings great resources to us when we are able to fully embrace this creature.
In my past I had one main shadow totem which I was able to embrace a couple of years ago through using EFT (emotional freedom technique). It was the wasp (and the BEE) and I also had a repulsion to many of the creepy crawlers and bugs in the world. But wasp (And Bee) I used to have an extreme phobic reaction to. So much so if a wasp or bee came into my home I would scream for Michael as I was immobilised by fear. I literally cried in terror, unable to think straight. The small flying creature meant me no harm but it’s very appearance brought out a completely irrational response in me.
Now many of you who know me will know I love bees now and I like and sometimes love wasp. I even wrote a piece recently on my new-found love of bees (See: Here). I have this immense fascination with being in close proximity with bees and wasps. I photograph them up close. I talk to them, sing to them; I simply adore them.
A far cry from my previous response.
Bee and wasp was a power inside me I was unwilling to integrate and embrace in my life.
My personal feelings about bees and wasps when I feared them : Wasp represented a fear of death, being killed, powerless and trapped. Bee represented a fear of the unusual, quirky part of me, the alien me, the unknown me.
On some sites it is said wasps represent order, organisation and communication. This would make sense because I was afraid of communicating my essential authentic self and here I am ‘Kelly Martin Speaks’ on both writing, speaking on you tube and through my creativity – all communication.
The wasp is also a master architect and solitary. So my initial fear of being on my own is lessening as I spend increased time alone, Thank you wasp.
Again, bees represent communication. So I intensely feared communicating who I really was back when I had the phobia and indeed this matches my experience since embracing them.  I am now growing to love expressing my authentic self and in doing so love bee and learning to love wasp in the process.
Bees are the symbol of fertility and sexuality.
Its honeycomb, a hexagon, is the symbol of the heart and
represents the sweetness of life found within our own heart.
It is also the symbol of the sun and all its energies.
I love that bee is a miracle in itself for its simple flight process, specifically the bumble bee.
I also am in love with most of the creeper crawler species in the world now.  And if a fly or bug lands on my skin I feel immense love to the point I cry tears of love and joy for this intimate connection with who I am.
Little God/Goddess crawling and flying.
Now I have one main shadow totem to embrace. It brings up feelings similar to that of wasp before I embraced it and it is COCKROACH. Even a mere photo of the roach makes me feel nauseous, my skin crawls and I flee the scene. And so I post a photo here in readiness of embracing this primal aspect of me that needs my love.
(Posting this made me feel sick and irrationally nervous, especially as I chose one of the larger species).
God/Goddess as COCKROACH.
This creature has great wisdom to teach me and amazing strength and power within me.  To me cockroach (for what I feel at the moment more needs to unfold in my understanding) feels unclean (yet on reading about them they are not unclean at all, incredibly clean creatures) and the imagined sound of them gathering together and making noises brings up a lot for me. I have a feeling of what I am to embrace and it feels it is all to do with the changes I am opening to at this time in my life but for further info here is a little on cockroach.
From Lins domain (as above link
The Cockroach teaches us how to use what we have available to us for survival.
To clean out the dead and useless aspects of our lives.
When the Cockroach appears as a totem,
our sensitivity to subtle changes will be magnified.
It appears it is about adaptibility, protection, being able to feel safe and being responsible for oneself. It also appears to be about being sensitive to changes in the environment. I am allowing this knowledge to come forth.  Go easy on me cockroach lol!
All creatures we fear are aspects of our essential nature. If we are able to bring love where there is fear the world is our oyster. Life’s vividness flows through us. I welcome this now. It is time.
What animals, creatures frighten you? and what do you feel they may be here to show you?
P.S: Since posting the image of cockroach the fear has lessened when I look at it. Great beginning.
Kelly Martin
Kelly Martin

Kelly Martin, author of ‘When Everyone Shines But You’ is a dedicated writer and blogger who fearlessly explores life’s deepest questions. Faced with a decade of profound anxiety and grief following the loss of her father and her best friend Michael, Kelly embarked on a transformative journey guided by mindfulness, and she hasn’t looked back since. Through her insightful writing, engaging podcasts, and inspiring You Tube channel Kelly empowers others to unearth the hidden treasures within their pain, embracing the profound truth that they are ‘enough’ exactly as they are.

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  1. July 1, 2011 / 9:05 pm

    Wow! You are brave! That cockroach picture freaked me right out!

    I was terrified as bees as a child. Simply petrified. I remember once (as a child) there was huge bee buzzing by the front door and I couldn't go inside the house. I went to a neighbour's place and telephoned my mother to come get me and escort me inside.

    My fear of bees has somewhat subsided, but I can't say that I love them. I like your new approach to bees/wasps etc. Maybe it will rub off on me!

  2. July 3, 2011 / 5:26 pm

    I don't mind wasps at all. Bees .. I think they're ok but don't let them come too near me!

  3. July 3, 2011 / 5:39 pm

    Hiya Julia, I am amazed since posting this blog I have actually been watching videos on you tube with giant cockroaches actually moving and I have not recoiled in terror. I guess its all about desensitizing and wanting to get knowledge on the creatures we are afraid of. I still need to make peace with the smaller more faster cockroaches though.. one step at a time… Hope you find bees more easier to be around. I like to see them as simply doing a very important job, they literally work themselves to death for the hive and queen bless those ladies. Hugs xxx

  4. July 3, 2011 / 5:41 pm

    Hi Andy, wow thats interesting! as many people who maybe are okay with bees dislike wasps. I don't know if you saw my piece on bees on squidoo if not it might amuse you and soften your feelings about bees. It is in the link just above the bee photo labelled 'here' hugs xx

  5. Zane
    June 14, 2013 / 5:33 am

    Ooh this is a great article, I had never thought of a shadow totem. I just had a visit with a cockroach randomly in my house (never seen one inside before) and while trying to calm my fear I wondered what it has to say. He was safely transported outside and onto the street, but no more tonight please! 🙂

  6. June 14, 2013 / 8:28 am

    I understand Zane, I am still to face this fear. I don't get any physical visits but occasional dreams. If I go to a hot country I do panic slightly. Cockroach's are such strong creatures.

  7. Alex
    August 13, 2013 / 3:47 pm

    I still can't figure out if wasps are my light totem or shadow totem. Yellow jackets appear in numbers wherever I take up residence, and they frequently appear when I am in danger, and a couple times when I've been having arguments. I've only gotten stung once, though.

    The shadow aspect is really interesting… I hadn't thought about the fear of death, though it is completely appropriate to me! I'm always afraid their sting is going to hurt more than it actually does.

    A really interesting article. You have so much insight. Thank you for sharing.

  8. August 13, 2013 / 6:45 pm

    Thanks Alex, I have another animal/totem post coming up on the weekend if you keep an eye out. I find our shadow totems are those we are scared of, almost once we embrace them they are no longer in the shadow. I have recently embraced wasp properly now, even got stung for the first time. I still have cockroach to embrace but all in good time.

  9. Kay
    February 22, 2019 / 7:39 pm

    Yes, I agree with your understanding of the world as a mirror of our internal essence. I have had great teaching from cockroach and looking back, I would say that s/he is my shadow totem. I fear no other animal. (except maybe scorpion!)

    Like you, I used to fear c ockroach. But as I read and thought more and as I embraced animism, I began talking with them when I saw them, asking them to go on their travels around my apartment only at night when I was asleep – and they cooperated! I was so grateful and felt deep love for them. That led to my “assisting” them when dying: singing to them and then carrying them out to the grass to be with Nature in death. I tell you, they are , as you rightly say, super clean ( all animals are) and very gentle and affectionate. They love their families and enjoy being close. It truly is JUST PROGRAMMING that makes us so fearful. Let it go and wow, such beauty lies underneath!!

    A FANTASTIC AND BEAUTIFUL book about the many-leggeds or “insects” you may love is called, “The Voice of the Infinite in the Small” by Joanne Lauck. There are many chapters on bees and wasps. Others on cockroaches and mosquitoes, ants etc…. I think you would get much out of it and hope you’ll look for it. It is a book I will keep forever….

    A great 20 minute video about the differences between animal totems, shadow totems and “spirit animals” is by Teal Swan on Youtube. I think it’s called “Spirit animals”. Very good.
    I wish you well.

    • February 24, 2019 / 10:29 am

      Kay I love how you have befriended cockroach and thank you for reminding me to look into this more. Beautiful and wonderful work you are doing with the crawling ones. I will check out the video. I have the book ‘The Voice of the Infinite in the Small’ you are first person I have met who has it, it is a great book, I bought it to help me embrace those creatures I feared. I am fine with wasps and bees now, in fact love them when they land on me. Cockroaches I don’t see very often in the UK, mainly on holiday overseas, but I will work on this further.

  10. Chelsea
    December 2, 2020 / 6:31 am

    I came across this because I actually just learned this lesson for myself today. It finally hit me why I have had this deep set paralyzing fear of snakes. I had no idea that shadow totems were a thing. I had no idea you could actually be afraid of a spirit guide. It makes so much sense now but it never crossed my mind until today when I randomly came across a lovely little tidbit about snake symbolism and how they literally have to either shed their skin or die… They are masters at the art of letting go. Again. Didn’t know any of this even though I’ve been doing research on them here and there just trying to find some kind of appreciation for them to maybe help me become less afraid. I knew that animal totems visit in your dreams but I guess I was just too blinded by fear to realize what was right in front of my face for the majority of my life. I dream of snakes monthly. I have ever since I can remember. Sometimes I will dream of them every single night for weeks at a time. When I’m out in nature, they seek me out. I can be in a group of 50 people at a swimming hole and if there’s one around it will single me out. Which only intensified my fear naturally lol. But now it all makes SO MUCH SENSE. And at the end of 2019 I started to have more dreams of them than I already was but something began to change. In a few dreams I was still scared, but I was less scared. And at the same time, I started really doing a lot of shadow work. Had no clue the two were related but around that time was when I started being able to let go of things that I clung onto for dear life because I thought I needed them to survive. Turns out those things that kept me alive for all those years were actually starting to suffocate and hold me back immensely because I no longer needed them but I didn’t know how to live without them. Needless to say, I get it now. I have a newfound appreciate for snakes and I think it’s so freaking cool that it was right there all along, I just needed to shed some layers to be able to see them for what they truly are. I feel incredibly lucky and grateful to have such a powerful animal as a guide and I know I will be able to overcome my fear of letting go and start thriving instead of just surviving.

  11. Abaddon
    June 7, 2021 / 1:40 pm

    Hallo. Wie Geht’s?
    I know the roach is my shadow totem. Its the one thing on this planet that scares me to the point of visibly shaking, sweating, and screaming.
    I saw three last night in my bedroom alone. I haven’t slept. Paranoid.
    I know I need to make peace with them. I dont hate them or wish them ill in any way.
    They just need to kindly stay away from me.
    Everything roach is about is going on in my life right now. Changes, trying to be unafraid to be a part of a community. (Lots of parental abuse when I was younger) Even now because of the old houses here and the hordes of bugs I want leave to again.
    I just moved back.😵
    Fox has been present too.
    I know I am safe.
    I know the grass isn’t greener but…nither is here.
    I am just hoping it gets better. I am hoping my roomate keeps her word and cleans up her 5 year hoarding mess.
    Otherwise no deal. She had a year already while I was gone.
    Like Mr. Roach I am a clean loving person.
    Any advice on how to be less afraid?
    Even pictures of roaches make me sick from fear.
    I’d like to be able to sleep without fear of them. They were here first long before this house.
    What can I do?
    The lack of sleep is making me see more where there are not. Every tickle, black spot, black object, sound or movement is setting off my buggy paranoia. 😭

  12. Tala
    June 28, 2021 / 12:50 am

    I can relate so well, honestly all this talk of the C is getting my visual brain active and getting me paranoid too despite living in a cold climate country 😅. For me it is spiders, although it has gotten better now that I am doing shadow/Psyche work. before, if I saw one, I couldn’t even kill it nonetheless put it outside so my mum who is also afraid of it had to do it for me and I would always be on lookout , looking behind me and such for the second one. It was like a deer in headlights.😖 Thing is they always came to me, in the living room there were 3 hiding by my sofa, sometimes in my bedroom, never with my mum and I have this ability to see them coming in the corner of my eye from across the room even!😩. I was painting once and a spider just decided to freefall and plop right in front of me with a taping noise as if to get my attention…🙈 Ironically, this was the day I picked the spider oracle card.I have this joke that they do this because they know I’m scared so I call them agents of archons😁. They have appeared in my dreams a couple of times as well.. All in all I was considering if I had a connection to them somehow, I thought it would be weird to be scared of a totem animal but this article has made me rethink that. Perhaps working with archetypes related can help too like arachnide from mythology. The spider represents feminine energy and weaving. It is related to creativity and manifesting our reality, their 8 legs symbolise key aspects of spiritual creation/balance?( something like that) I’m not sure on the creativity part as I draw plenty but I did have difficulty manifesting my wishes and goals properly due to doubt, confusion and procrastination. This totem is confusing to me as it’s vague and I’m too freaked by the images to want to look it up but it’s good to see why I have this and that I’m not the only one. I get freaked by moths too but I am ok with them as long as they don’t fly at me so agressively. My Animal totems would be the wolf and cat on the light side.

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