Somewhere along the line of I started talking to bugs. Granted, I kind of try to talk to most things, I’m a bit of an animist and if I’m having trouble my go-to method is to try talking to whatever it is and ask nicely for what I need. You might be surprised how often it works, even with things not usually considered “alive.” I wrote a couple of posts on another blog (which is now deleted) about some of my more successful interactions with bugs, and since I like to reference them whenever bugs come up and someone says “ew, I hate ____”, I decided to repost them here along with a couple of other stories.
Several years ago I moved to a part of the US where the most common house spider is the brown recluse. Needless to say this made me rather nervous, because they will snuggle in and hide in clothes and towels and bedding and pretty much anywhere, and their bites are horrendous (do yourself a favor and never, never google brown recluse spider bite. You have been warned). After a while of paranoid checking and the apartment bug control people putting out sticky traps, I decided to try making a deal with the spiders.
By this point I had a decent amount of practice with communicating with spirits and whatnot, and so one day I addressed all the spiders in my apartment in a similar fashion, explaining that I was scared of them because their bites would be very harmful to me, but that I’d really rather not have to kill them, but that I would in order to protect myself. I told them if they stayed hidden, out of sight, out of my stuff (especially my bed), then I would not come looking for them in order to kill them. They could have their space and do their thing, and I would have mine. But if I saw them running around, I would deal with them however I needed to, including killing them if necessary.
The difference was amazing. I’d see notices on my neighbors’ doors complaining to the pest control people of brown recluses, but I stopped finding nearly as many, and those I did find were actually pretty obliging. They would go hide again, or would allow me to catch them on cardboard or with a glass or something, hold still when I asked, and allow me to take them outside (I stopped killing them for the most part as much as I could–it’s really hard to kill something that asks you to please not, and then says thank you when you put it outside instead. Yes really). When I had to clean, I’d try to remember to send out a mental heads-up the day before, and when I did I rarely ran across a spider as I dusted nooks and crannies (when I didn’t, I ended up trying to dust around a bunch of tiny spiders and that didn’t go so well). Granted around this time I also adopted my first cat, and she loves to chase down and eat pretty much any bug that moves (how she is cool with carrying a live brown recluse around in her mouth and then playing with it I will never understand). But regardless, for 2-3 years, things went remarkably well.
I’m not sure when I started noticing it, but over time very recently it seemed like the spiders were forgetting our agreement. I tried reminding them and renewing it kind of and didn’t think much of it, blaming the heat and critters wanting to come in doors. And then a couple of nights ago while I was partially asleep, I heard a skittering noise by my ear. I moved kind of suddenly and scared the living daylights out of my cat who was in full stalker mode, but I couldn’t figure out where the noise was coming from so I went back to sleep. When I finally woke up more fully, I found the source of the noise. I keep my phone between the fitted sheet and my mattress because I use a sleep tracking app and it keeps it in place. SOMEHOW, a cockroach had gotten itself stuck between the sheet and the top of my phone, which incidentally is right next to my face, and the skittering noise was him trying to get traction on my phone. I was extremely freaked out. Despite the odd bugs I’ve found in my apartment and all the spiders I don’t think I’d EVER found a cockroach here before. And out of all the places it could’ve gone, it crawled right up next to my face. What was it trying to do, snuggle?
Things gradually got more weird. That afternoon at work I saw a cockroach that looked almost identical. The next day there were large dead bugs on the floor and one of my coworkers even commented that it was unusual. I found an assortment of random bugs in my apartment including a bunch of baby ants and a firefly (I actually love fireflies so that didn’t bother me so much). And then yesterday morning I woke up groggily before my alarm to the sound of my cat nibbling on a leaf, lifted my head off my pillow to ask her what she was doing, looked down, and there was a rather large brown recluse ON MY PILLOW right next to my head. …I took him outside and then sat down and freaked out. Because despite how scared I’ve been of them I’d never found one that close to me.
The entire situation felt odd. It reminded me of when someone had cursed someone quite close to me and I started getting overflow from it. Things just felt off and I started finding dead animals where I’d usually sit in my grove, that kind of thing. I wondered if I’d picked up a curse somehow, but that was highly unlikely given a few other factors. I still couldn’t shake the feeling that it was unusual somehow, even for summer.
And then last night as my cat was being loud and annoying while I was trying to get to sleep, I felt something wriggle under my pajama shirt. Half asleep I grabbed at it and suddenly realized it was a spider. I was holding a squished brown recluse in my shirt and it had been ON ME. That did it. I flipped the fuck out. I couldn’t explain it, but it felt like they were after me. Somehow, they were ending up specifically in my bed, for no apparent reason, one critter per night, and what was next, getting bitten? I felt like I couldn’t stop them and I really didn’t want to go back to sleep.
I called my boyfriend (also a practitioner and incredibly patient given how late it was), tried divination, tried unsuccessfully to figure stuff out, and ended up being told to meditate which calmed me down, then was walked through something that felt like a temporary ward and then sent to bed, where I did sleep, though I had dreams of not being able to sleep and being freaked out.
And then this morning, I had a sneaking suspicion that I knew what had caused it. While I was cleaning several weeks ago I’d picked up the dead body of a spider that had been sitting there for quite a while. It was decently large and I’d gotten the feeling that I ought to put it outside rather than throwing it in the garbage. However, I was distracted, and so I ended up dumping him rather unceremoniously under a bush and then going back inside. It was then that I started feeling odd, like I’d done something wrong. I told myself it was only a spider and I resisted the ideas of apologizing too much, because I didn’t see how I’d done anything wrong and I didn’t want to be taken advantage of by whatever spirits decided I owed them something. After all, this was my territory.
As usual though, my first intuition turned out to be right. I had done something wrong even though I wasn’t really comfortable with the idea of what it had been–I didn’t like the idea of having to coddle every insect that decided to take up residence in my apartment.
But, I decided that if there was a chance that this whole mess was crossed conditions from that, at least I could sit down and ask the spirit and find out. If it wasn’t that then at least I’d eliminated something. I came home from work, sat on the floor in my living room, and mentally called. Said spider spirit answered immediately and with astounding clarity, like it was sitting right there and had been waiting for me (the general vibe was “I was wondering how long it would take you…”).
Turns out it was either the one or one of the ones that I had originally made the agreement with. It felt vaguely like a leader or representative, in a way, of all the ones in my apartment. It had been offended by how carelessly I’d responded to his request, and had been gradually amping up sending things after me trying to get my attention. I apologized and said that I hadn’t known who he was, and that I would’ve been more careful if I’d known (I was a bit frustrated that things had gone all to hell with no warning when I thought it was just a dead spider). He firmly told me that it wouldn’t have mattered who he was, even for any of the others, it was a reasonable request and it was the decently polite thing to honor it, especially given we had the agreement and were living together and helping each other out. …….oh.
Basically, it was a lesson in realizing that once I make an agreement with beings, no matter what they are, especially as an animist and a nature magician, I can no longer treat one of them as “just a spider” when it’s convenient for me. It’s not that I have to never hurt them or anything like that–the spider told me flat out hey, you’re big, shit happens. The important thing was treating them with respect and basic decency and politeness.
I ended up doing an offering and a formal apology, during which we renewed the agreement with a few addendums. I ended up also taking the spider that I’d killed last night outside and making a small offering since he basically allowed himself to be killed in order to get my attention AND still didn’t bite me, even though he totally could’ve. Having it resolved felt like a huge twisted weight got lifted off and things feel so much better.
I’m still rather surprised just how clear the spider’s communication was. But that’s a post in itself so perhaps later.
So this morning my bf couldn’t find his motorcycle key, and poking around the house for anywhere my cat might have hidden it turned up nothing.
I can’t really bring myself to kill bugs anymore, especially since [the whole spider debacle]. Instead I usually end up catching them and putting them outside (all the while asking them to please hold still so that I don’t accidentally hurt them). My cat is a different story, however, and she spent most of last night yowling softly over a wood cockroach she was playing with, which was still alive on its back in the livingroom this morning. I live in the woods, so wood cockroaches gross me out a bit less than the ones that used to get in my apartment in the city, because hey they legitimately live here rather than being drawn by stuff not being clean. So given it was still really early in the morning I figured it could wait a little longer and went back to bed.
As I was lying in bed imagining people making off with the motorcycle, I suddenly had a thought. Cockroaches get pretty much everywhere, like they can skuttle off into the tiniest cracks in seconds. They’ve probably seen a lot on their way to whatever nooks and crannies too, there’s probably no where something could be lost or hidden that they couldn’t find. Usually I don’t ask for anything when I put a bug outside, other than to not come back in and to tell all their friends not to come back in either. But this time as I deposited the cockroach outside I asked for help finding the key.
Then I got dressed and went about retracing my bf’s potential paths back from where he parked his motorcycle… and a few feet away from the motorcycle there the key was on the ground. I picked it up and sent a very sincere “thank you” for the help, and the answering vibe left no doubt in my mind that there had been help.
[Later, when I told him where I had found it, he said that he had retraced his steps as well but hadn’t seen it, which was neat.]
A bit smaller of a story but still worth mentioning:
When I was living in my apartment, I came home from my morning shift to find a ton of ants crossing the threshold of my front door. Tons of them in a line, with a pile of those little white pupae cases in the middle that spilled onto the floor of my apartment when I opened the door. They were moving very business-like, and the only thing I could figure was that they were in the middle of moving their nest. As you know, I hate killing bugs, but I wasn’t sure what to do because I didn’t like the idea of the ants trying to move their whole nest into my apartment and I wasn’t sure where they were going.
I spent a bit of time scooping up the piles of pupae with a piece of cardboard and moving it across the porch under a bush, but I was still at a loss because there were more ants still traversing my doorway. I sat down and tried talking to one and explaining the situation and requesting that they not come into my apartment, but I felt like I got no response. I sat there getting more and more stressed trying to bring myself to kill them and clean them out of my apartment, but I just couldn’t bring myself to, yet I couldn’t think of any other option. Finally, I addressed them as a group, and told them I really didn’t want to kill them, but I couldn’t have them in my apartment, and to please leave. And then I went back to work and decided screw it, I’ll deal with it when I get home.
When I got home from work that evening, they were gone. All of them. And I hadn’t had to kill them.
I mention this story because in this case I felt like I got more response by addressing them as a group rather than individually (I just didn’t feel like I even made a connection when I tried to talk to just one). So for hive-like insects it might work best to address them as sort of a “group mind”.
While it’s gradually becoming more known that bees are pretty friendly, most people still seem to think wasps are evil. Even those who are open to working with bugs will usually tack on a caveat about how much they dislike wasps. This technique isn’t one I came up with, but it’s worth mentioning because it works rather well. Rainsong described it years ago when wasps came up during a discussion on IRC:
Rainsong: Have you tried thinking hexagons at them?
Rainsong: Then, once you have their attention, think a flightplan to them, that leads to an open window/door
Rainsong: They like hexagons
Nevyn: strange. how’d you figure that one out?
Rainsong: I didn’t. Fellow by the name of Glenn Morris did, a couple decades back. He claimed that it reminds them of home and tells them you are a friend. I’ve found that it works well….probably helps that I genuinely like the hymenopterids, of course
Rainsong: The ones who build above ground all use hexagonal cells. The burrowing ones might not.
Nevyn: huh…good point.
Nevyn: the burrowing ones do too
Rainsong: I’ve held white-faced hornets on my hands, and cleaned their wings, after fishing them out of a sweet fruity drink, for example…and not one of them stung me.
I’ve had quite a few wasps find their way into the house and fly around me on the porch (I guess it comes from living in the forest), yet I’ve never been stung by a live wasp. (Ironically the only time I’ve been stung was when someone killed a wasp and swept it over into a pile of other stuff, and then I started picking up the pile with my hands not knowing there was a dead wasp there. Toothpaste is your friend.) While I haven’t had much luck with directing them out a window in a timely fashion, my roommate was able to scoot a wasp onto a tiny piece of cardboard and carry it outside, and when I commented that she was braver than I, she responded “I thought hexagons!”