A Dialogue on Totems and Tao

An Enjoyable, Spirited Conversation

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by Neva J. Howell unless otherwise noted

Learning from Non-Human Teachers

This email dialogue started when my friend, Casey Kochmer, commented on a post I had made about Fly as a Totem. I wanted to share the conversation as an example of how we can learn from one another and share our spiritual teachings and awareness in a way that enriches all involved. Our dialogue started when Casey wrote to me that Wasp was one of his Totems.

Me to Casey:
I know what wasp shows up to teach me….wondering what it teaches you, since it’s one of your guides?

Casey to Me:
I kinda see the world a bit differently than many people. This is a case of that. I can’t place into words what my various spirit totems tell me since it isn’t something which could be considered human in translation.

The closest I can say what it would be in human terms is: I share life in acceptance with my spirit totems… in that we move together and live together in the larger connection of the world… so

It’s not a teaching; rather, it’s a sharing of the larger world together as is.
Me to Casey:
Do you mean your path is of harmony and peaceful co-existence and the spirit totems bring you opportunities to practice that truth?

It is different than working consciously with the animal or insect to allow divinity to bring a specific message to you about your life path, which is how I work with my totems. I know they show up to tell me something about how i’m living my life at that moment.

OK, first a forewarning. English language doesn’t convey the truth of what I will describe, as a result everything I say will be both true and not true…

So as a Taoist Master I have embraced my nature as a larger combined set of concepts. But keep in mind to take what I say lightly rather than embrace as a single statement.

In this, westerners like to separate out terms like mind body and spirit… and ego tends to keep those items separate and distinct.

Our reality is much larger, in our reality a person is composed of: appearances, perceptions, ego, mind, fetches, spirits, soul, body, memories, etc.

In that combination. we form a complete being. Due to ego many people view spiritual guides as outside of themselves and from that perception this is true.

From my perception I view myself as a collaborative set of principles and forms.

Our totem guides and ourselves are part of the same larger nature.

A very very simple comparison could be your eyes are part of your body. Your sight doesn’t teach you something new…but your eyes do show you the world. In the reality of my fetches and spiritual guides we are all separate, yet we are all one.

So as a collective we view it as just enjoy each others company and share in the journey of spirit.

It can be viewed as I am myself complete with my spiritual aspects of my being. Together we simply accept life as it happens and go from there.

It’s not a way or a path most westerners would understand or would embrace due to the egos’ fear of losing control.

I hope this explains it a bit better… words really don’t capture this very well. The way you see spiritual guides and totems is also correct, and also very powerful. It’s just I have a Taoist / different perception of the inner interpersonal relationships you could say.

So instead of working with Totems as a source of teaching etc, I dissolve my being / nature to merge back into the larger collective universe and when I reform myself, the answer I was embracing is simply is there…It’s the way Taoist’s use their third eye and touch wisdom.

My totems and I simply enjoy exploring the wonder of the universe together as the same being and yet also each separate…

Me to Casey:
Yes, words are very often inadequate to express Truth.

Yes, agreed, we are one. yet you are expressing as Casey and I as Neva. In my awareness, the totems may also seem to express outside of me what I may not be able to see in me at the time of that expression, until I see it appearing to be outside of “me”.

Yes, I am a part of them and them of me and both of us part of that greater energy. I can see the value of both the Native American practice and the Taoist. Perhaps I will now embrace both.

The only thing I did not understand was your use of the word “fetches”. I’m assuming that’s a taoist word? What does it represent?

Casey to Me:
Fetch is a wonderful Norse concept. The Norse had a surprisingly rich and deep language for describing this conversation we just had actually. A fetch is:

The quick answer
The opposite half of our visible nature
Some would say it’s our angel
It is many things

A fetch in form is a mirror being to your form and will be of the opposite sex.

In the movie, a golden compass, the daemons were actually fetches (the movie incorrectly used the term soul to describe them).

Me to Casey:
OK, thanks Casey. Your wisdom is appreciated.

Casey to me:
I love the way the Native American share life with totems. Some of the cultures in Mexico believe, that when you are born, an animal is also born, and the two of you share life and wisdom. This one struck me since it reminds me of the idea of the western familiar. Except the lore was richer and deeper.

When you look all around the world, the ideas are so varied and yet independently so many of the same truths are embraced.

Someday if we meet you will have to teach me more of the way you walk with your totems, I enjoy learning from all the different perspectives of life as I wander. It’s part of the wonder of life.

Me to Casey:
I have walked a path that included Native teachings and ceremony but most of what I learned about working with my Totems and Power Animals, I learned from experience. I’m always happy to share that teaching with anyone who asks but also have to be very careful to say that I am not a keeper of Native-American traditions and do not follow any particular Native-American path. I embrace Truth where I find it, whether Native-American, Christian, Taoist, Buddist or other path of faith.

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