Veronica's Garden

I originally started this blog to promote my novel, Post Rock Limestone Caryatids. Now I write essays and poetry about everything, including the Flint Hills, healing, parenting, etc. WARNING: emotional content, sometimes intense. Read at own risk of feeling.

Tag: wasp totem

Wasp As Totem, Another View

Animal totems are personal, and the complexities of each creature can teach us and assist us in different ways. I’ve shared my experiences and thoughts on wasp totem, but today I have some thoughts from my friend Mitra Ghaboussi, a person of diverse talents, including but not limited to shamanic healing and counseling, writing, and visual art. I asked her what she thinks about wasp totem, and this is what she said:

The wasp is a warrior and stands for decisiveness in war and business. Wasp is in nature’s business in the products they generate such as paper and so on. Wasp is industriousness as it works to feed itself and its young. Wasp is about not taking on too much but allying with the balance in nature. Anger is part of wasps message. Healthy anger is important and being aware of all your feelings.

When working with animal totems, if possible, watch your totem in its habitat. Notice what behaviors stand out, and look for how they can be related to yourself and your life. The defensive proctectiveness of wasp I wrote about previously was important to me at one time; for another person, one or more of the traits Mitra notes may be more relevant.

What experiences have you had with wasp? What message has wasp brought to you?


I asked for a wasp to shoot for this post, but apparently they didn’t want to come out on this gusty day. Who could blame them? All I could get were some blurry attempts at a black-capped chickadee, and these mushrooms, who obligingly stayed still, in one place, long enough for me to get a nice, close shot. Thanks, ‘shrooms.

Wasp As Totem, part II

I’ve noticed there seems to be some interest in wasp as totem, or perhaps more a dearth of writing on the subject. Wasp is a totem of protection and security, so it may be particularly appropriate in these days, when security means invasion of many kinds of privacy, or flying drones across oceans to kill our perceived enemies. Wasp is aggressive, and doesn’t mind hurting -in fact, wasp’s intention is to hurt that which is perceived to be a threat.

I wrote in another post that working with wasp totem is bound to lead to a sting, eventually. I’d like to clarify that I think it’s more than simple statistical likelihood (which it is as well). The sting is embedded in the form of protection that wasp offers. You might say it is the flip side of the coin, but I think it would be more accurate to say that it is the other side of the mobius, which is an object which only appears to have two sides. In fact, it has only one.

There is another aspect of wasp as totem which I haven’t seen anyone discuss. It has to do with the behavioral scripts I wrote about before. Wasp has very specific patterns of behavior. When one is triggered, the wasp goes through a totally predictable series of actions. It never varies the pattern, and in some cases will repeat the pattern as many times as the trigger occurs. One behavior I wrote about was upward flight when a wasp finds itself trapped in a confined space. It might seem obvious to humans that the way out would be to go back the way one came in; this is not among wasp’s behavioral scripts.

How could this be applied to human experience? Upward movement is sometimes a metaphor for spiritual seeking. It’s often been casually observed that when people feel trapped or threatened, they tend to “get religion,” which is to say, they begin to identify with forces more powerful than themselves. No doubt we want Divine protection from our assailants.

I would suggest that there are two lessons from wasp in this case. Wasp can demonstrate for us that flying upward is sometimes not the way out of the trap; the way out is to go against instinct, to call up one’s human ability to reason and choose new behaviors by turning around and going back, step by step, finding the way out by figuring out how one got here in the first place. It may be attractive to pray, do ritual, or read new age books, but because most of the walls we encounter are self-created, the only true liberation is to take them down, block by block.

The other lesson is that the way to avoid the protective sting is to give up protection altogether. It was shocking and impossible for me to believe when I first read in A Course In Miracles the words: “There is nothing to fear.” It’s that simple. Still, it took a lot of practice and thought before I could begin to live as if all the things I feared weren’t what my life was all about, as if everything that happens is what is intended for the greatest joy for everyone involved. It’s hard to believe on the best of days, but I find I am only free when I make choices as if this principle is true. There is no need for protection, because there is nothing to fear.

And that sting? It’s not something to fear, either. So far I’ve successfully avoided it, even when one once flew into my face while I was escorting it from a small room with a broom. Still, it’s always a possibility, just as there may come a time when wasp protection might be what I need. I may not notice, though; I’ll be too busy dismantling walls.

Wasp as totem

Note: For those who come to Veronica’s Garden to find insight into Wasp totem, there is a follow-up to this piece, which you can find here.

When I moved alone to Strong City, Kansas, it was perhaps not a coincidence that I often found myself praying for strength. I’d cut to long-distance status my relationship with the man I was in love with. My Dad was disabled and my Mom’s mind was decaying into dementia, and while I was supposedly here to help them, I struggled with the old roles and self-perceptions I’d been given in my childhood: the baby of the family, the kid with too much book smarts and no street smarts, the absent-minded-but-desperate-to-please-adults little girl. I’d had a pretty decent life in Chicago, but I walked away from it. What if Kevin decided it was too much trouble being involved with a woman eight hundred miles away? What if I died in a car accident on my commute to Emporia, and never saw him again? Everyone always said I wasn’t a very good driver. I had moved at the prompting of signs, but now I felt unconnected from everyone and everything. I hadn’t prayed regularly before then, but now I prayed every day for strength and protection.

Wasp entered my life. Ted Andrews says of insect magic: “Many modern shamans issue precautions about working with insect totems, implying that the archetypal force or spirit behind it is too primitive and difficult an energy with which to effectively work.” Nonetheless, I took the appearance of wasp as an answer to my prayers. Some days I’d watch dozens of them dancing in the backyard, the late afternoon light glinting off their wings. One day on the front porch I saw what looked like a tiny earthenware jug on the side of a hanging plant, and only had to wait a few minutes for the little wasp to come home, carrying a limp spider, which she placed delicately in the jar. I felt privileged to be in the company of wasps. They were my protectors. I chose to feel safe in their presence, to believe that the powerful sting would never be aimed against me, because they were my friends. When they started building a nest above the front door, I felt it was a bit too close, and I asked for permission to kill them. I received permission, but then they quietly left before I did it.

Still, they were an ally. One summer afternoon I went for a drive in the country, exploring the back roads of Chase County. As I drove over the rough gravel, out where you can see the horizon in every direction, but not a single building, I noticed a wasp buzzing around in the back window. Was it telling me to go back? I didn’t, and after a few minutes it disappeared. Hours later I finally found a way into Emporia, lost, thirsty, and hungry. I stopped for a quick bite and when I got back to the car, I had a flat tire. Then I knew the wasp had been warning me. If I’d needed help out there on the back roads, who knew how long it would have been before somebody came by?

Eventually, however, I began to see the limitation of the wasp totem. Observing them at every opportunity, I saw certain problems recur. If a wasp flies into a building, why can’t it find the way out? It clearly can’t remember and retrace its path in. What it usually does is fly up, which naturally doesn’t work in a room where the only way out is a door; it hits the wall above the door, moves away, circles, and repeats. Even if it’s a wide open door, the wasp doesn’t know how to find it. Finding isn’t the way, flying up is the way. If it doesn’t work, wasp doesn’t appear to be able to try something different. They do respond to their environment, but only with an extraordinarily limited repertoire of behaviors. It so happens that one of those very few choices is to sting. That means that if you spend enough time with wasps, there’s a pretty good chance the sting will come sooner or later.

When I saw this, I understood what Andrews was talking about. While wasp had been the totem I desperately needed for a while, I’d best let go of wasp before I got stung. Paradoxically, the power of wasp to protect can also get turned inside out, into danger. It was time to let go of my need for protection, to allow the unfolding of events with confidence that I could handle what would be given to me. To this day I consider wasp a friend, but one from which I keep a safe distance.

Eventually I married the man I was in love with, and together we bought a motel in Strong City. Here, a new wasp has entered my life, the great golden digger wasp. I’ll save that story for tomorrow.

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