Reptiles Can Be Your Friends

I think I’ve always liked reptiles, especially lizards. Growing up in Northern Arizona lizards and horned toads were pretty abundant and I remember catching dozens of them. I wasn’t crazy for snakes. I didn’t fear them but I had a healthy respect for them since poisonous snakes are common in Arizona. It’s been more recently in my life that I have really been drawn to snakes. And in recent years I have also developed a fascination with alligators. So it seems that I am drawn to reptiles in general, which tend to be animals that many fear and misunderstand.

Reptiles in general have some interesting shared characteristics. For starters, they are cold blooded; therefore they are dependent on their environment for survival. For people with reptile totems this can manifest as sensitivity to one’s environment. Reptile people can easily sense the energy of a place, and that energy can alter their mood.

Most reptiles shed their skin, which holds a ton of meaning if you really think about it. And imagine if every few weeks your outer skin dried up, separated from your body, then completely peeled off. Weird. But it’s pretty easy to see how this process represents transformation, removal of dead or used energy, regeneration, and rebirth.

These are very ancient creatures, and some survived through whatever killed the dinosaurs. Reptiles are common to every environment except those that are very cold, and appear in prominent positions in the lore of many cultures.

Rico, one of my beardies.

Rico, one of my beardies.

I am an owner of reptiles. I have two bearded dragons and an albino corn snake, and I love them. They have distinct personalities and I would go so far as to call them cute. All three of my reptile boys are friendly and for the most part reptiles make great pets. But let me add that I think a lot of their great petness depends on their size. Big lizards and snakes like iguanas and boas can be quite difficult to care for. And when I got my snake I had decided that I would never get a snake, or any pet for that matter, that could eat the cats or a small child should it escape. Because I own reptiles I don’t necessarily see them as totems, but they do have lessons to teach which I do my best to learn.

My snake Nando, in his representation of unity..

My snake Nando, in his representation of unity.

Reptiles are incredibly patient. They can stay in the same position for hours on end and remain completely content. But when they do move they are very quick, and when they strike they are fast and accurate. In reptile symbolism this can be taken a few ways, but I see it as this. Sometimes it’s beneficial to be a silent observer and listener. Choose the right moment to speak up, or strike, and make sure your words or actions are appropriate and hit the mark.

Reptiles are very sensitive. They easily feel vibrations in the ground and the air. This behavior tells me to be open and sensitive to the different vibrations around me, and learn to recognize what the different vibrations are telling me. Is there a vicious predator approaching? Or maybe my next meal is coming down the bend. Whatever the case may be, there are other ways to sense what’s happening without using the eyes. I’ve actually heard that lizards can only see movement. Remember that from “Jurassic Park”?  If you’re being chased by a giant lizard, freeze.

They are also very quiet and only a very few species make any noise. Even when they move they are able to do so very silently. This teaches me to remember the importance of silence, and taking the time to let the brain and the body quiet down. I can also channel that energy if I need to perform any sneaky maneuvers or ninja skills.

And of course there’s that skin shedding thing. For me, I see it as a symbol and a reminder to frequently shed my emotional and material junk. I think I’m better at the regular emotional shedding, and I need to put more practice into the shedding of material goods, like the way to many clothes and shoes in my closet.

Although I go back and forth on whether or not I view lizards and snakes as totems, I do see alligators as such. The first time I saw an alligator in the wild was amazing. It was in a very safe way, but seeing such a powerful, mysterious animal just out doing its thing was intense.

Alligators are interesting because although they are reptiles, not amphibians, they spend a good portion of their lives in the water. They are like the gatekeepers between two worlds because they sort of patrol the shore. Some people see this as a guardian role akin to that of dragons. Alligators are the guardians of the mystical, emotional, watery world in which they can completely hide with only their eyes showing. They possess a special ability to slip between two worlds and live successfully in both. Although, they need both worlds to survive. They cannot live with only land or only water.

A very cool picture taken by my brother at my favorite spot for gator viewing.

A very cool picture taken by my brother at my favorite spot for gator viewing.

This duality gives them associations to mother earth, and through that to motherhood in general. Alligators are very good mothers, take excellent care of their babies, and guard them fiercely. As I am not a mother to any human children it’s difficult to see this in my life. But then I take a closer look. As a teacher I provide guidance to many students, and I have other relationships in my life that I would call motherly. I work a lot with people who are significantly younger than me and often times these relationships have something of a mothering quality. I can identify with the mother role even though I myself do not have any children.

I have a lot of dreams about alligators. Sometimes they are fierce and attacking me, and sometimes they are being harmed and I am trying to protect them. But my favorites are the dreams where I get to swim with them. In those dreams the alligator and I are at peace together, just lazily swimming in the river.

Of course I cannot discuss reptiles without mentioning the reptile brain. It is somewhat disputed, but many scientists and psychologists think humans have a “reptile” portion of their brain. Like reptiles, it is a very ancient part of the brain and accounts for traits such as aggression, territorial defense, dominance, and ritual displays. The reptile brain can help us with our survival skills, but also cause people to be obsessive compulsive, caught up in ritualistic acts they are unable to change, and be stuck in their ways. These people are aggressive and prone to protect territory. I.E., the big, drunk guy looking to start a fight because he thought another guy was looking at his gal is acting from the reptilian brain.

Reptiles do have a lot to teach us humans. Some of the most feared animals on the planet are reptiles, but when treated with reverence and respect they need not be. And many of them are downright cute and cuddly and in my opinion just want a little love and understanding.

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