When I wrote the conclusion for New Paths to Animal Totems, I included the following passage:
Animal totemism is not just about knowing what your special animal is. I’ve shown you ways in which the totems can help us to be more aware of the physical environments we are a part of, and not just the human-made portions. It is crucial that we make our decisions with these ecosystems and bioregions and their denizens in mind; totemism allows us to make these even more personal. The totems introduce us to their children, and by extent their homes.
But it isn’t just about what’s around us. Our behaviors as individuals and as a species start within. If the well our actions spring from is poisoned, then we spread that poison wherever we go. By knowing ourselves more deeply and working to become healthier, more complete human beings, we can then spread that greater health throughout a world we have sickened so extensively.
This goes for work with plant and fungus totems as well. You’ve probably noticed that one of my takeaway points of this book is to stop taking the fungi and plants for granted. This isn’t just so you don’t hurt their feelings and make them feel unappreciated and unwanted. It’s also because we forget that they are just as much a part of the world as we and other animals are, and in some ways they are even more important than we are.
Much of what has been written about working with totems, spirits, and the like is very anthropocentric. It’s more about what we can get from these beings than about what we give to them. There’s nothing wrong with asking for help or wanting assistance, but it’s a two-way street. And we as a species have taken much more than we have given.
Look again at how much our current spiritual paths center on what we can get from the world. Christianity says that humanity has dominion over the earth. Pagan practices routinely involve taking items from nature and giving nothing in return. The healing of the human spirit is internal, but sometimes everything outside us seems to be a tool to further that goal.
That being said, spirituality can also be a great invitation for us to connect to something bigger than ourselves. For some it’s God, several deities, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster. For others, it’s the grand cosmos in which we all live, seeing ourselves as an integral part of the vast, intricate set of interwoven systems that make up our universe. But we can’t just stop at being aware of that connection. We also have to act with the knowledge that we are connected, that we are not isolated little blips in a sea of nothing. So spirituality also carries responsibilities.
That being said, there’s no single right way to make that happen. If you just want to blend a little fungus and plant totemism into your practice, that’s okay. If you want to make it the backbone of the path you walk, that’s okay, too. But you have the opportunity, either way, to use these connections to make the world a better place. I invite you to explore that possibility, and to find a way that uses your strengths, respects your limitations, and creates a little more goodness in the universe.