Shamanic Initiation: The Power of Near Death Experiences from Animal Spirit Totems

A personal journey of facing fears, embracing spirit guides, and finding rebirth through the sting of a wasp.

black eyed susans with green and white text overlay that says learning from the wasp totem

When I started my shamanic path 10 years ago, knowing, at least on some level, that I was being called to this work, I became aware of Shamanic Death and Rebirth as part of the shamanic initiation process. 

My shamanic lineage was broken, like many are in the industrialized world, and my training was via my Spirit Guides and Ancestors, but there is much lost until you are guided to find it, which for me, on this topic, was 10 years later. 

So, I thought that in the modern era, shamanic death and shamanic near-death experiences for a rebirth as part of the shamanic initiation were simply something that didn't really happen anymore. 

I had gathered, that for most who were called now, like me, the shamanic death was a spiritual and energetic one. The process for me began shortly into my journey and lasted 1-2 years.

Since then, I had and have experienced a few other shamanic deaths and rebirths. 

It did not occur to me, when I heard other shamanic practitioners speak of their deaths, that physical death and rebirth was a thing, at least not for me, even though one or two described it as such. 

I just could not understand how a physical death or rebirth could happen. I suppose I was still too attached to a physical understanding of the world. 

Then, close to 8 years into my journey, I was stung by a bald-faced hornet, a member of the wasp family

The reaction was anaphylactic (non-respiratory anaphylaxis, but I later learned it can manifest differently for different people). 

I learned I had a deadly allergy that if I were to be stung again, I could die, even with an epi-pen. 

I became so fearful of the hornets, who I called my mortal enemy, and wouldn't even consider that they could be an animal totem, and even more, a powerful totem spirit that was testing me for protection.

Several people mentioned the possibility, but I was not ready to hear it. I felt too vulnerable and wounded, betrayed by Spirit. And perhaps, I was not hearing it in the right way for me to accept it. 

It took me two years, ANOTHER anaphylactic reaction, and 2 more stings from various wasps, for me to come across a passage in a book that had me consider the possibility. 

bald faced hornet landed on a bed of golden flowers

I won't spoil the book for those who haven't read it, so I will allow your Guides to lead you to it if you need to find it. 

However, the book goes deep into early human shamanic practices. 

Under these shamanic practices and belief structures, if someone is marked, or nearly killed by a powerful animal, and they live, then they are deemed worthy of the protection of this spirit totem. Not all survive these tests. 

Once they live, they are considered reborn, and many receive a new identity or a new life in their rebirth.

An actual physical near-death experience, shamanic initiation through death and rebirth, with their physical body. 

Those who it happens to are, in general, medicine people who need strong totem protector spirits.  

Does it happen to all as part of their shamanic initiation? 

I don't know, truthfully, I can only speak to my own experience, and I have seen other practitioners, very rare ones, share a near-death experience as part of their initiation where they then received a new identity. 

Years ago, I thought it was too off the wall to be possible. Now, I'm not so sure. 

I am still coming to terms that this is what could have happened to me, 8-10 years into my shamanic journey, but I now believe it's possible that this is what occurred. 

After the initial sting, in June 2021, I was stung 2 more times by other species of wasps that same summer. 3 times total.

When it was happening, I felt attacked, like I was being targeted. But now, I wonder if it was more than one test, by various members of the wasp totem family. 

Then, the following summer, in May 2022, I had an anaphylactic reaction again to the allergy shots, which are diluted wasp venom injected like a sting. I had to use my epi-pen in the lobby of the emergency room.

There are other ways to experience shamanic death and rebirth, even shamanic near-death experiences as part of shamanic initiation.  I can't even say if near-death experiences are essential to shamanic initiation, or if all will experience one, but I do believe significant spiritual death and rebirth is essential. 

All I can say for sure is my own story, in the way it is unfolding for me, and how I am perceiving it, in hopes that possibly, it lends some understanding to someone out there, who may be experiencing their own journey in a similar way. 

Am I ready to accept wasp as my totem protector spirit? 

Two years ago, I knew that wasps symbolized protection and the need for me to become alert of my surroundings. It is true that because of those stings, I became hyper-alert about my surroundings, especially as my neighborhood started to become more dangerous and have increasingly strange and disturbing circumstances. I became extremely aware of everything, as soon as I stepped outside. 

But I wasn't ready to see this as a blessing, and instead, for a long time, I saw it as feeling like I was a prisoner in my home. 

Perhaps wasp was keeping me safe by not allowing me to stray too far from the range of protection of my home. (During this time period, there was a large increase in violent crime including drive-bys and strange sudden explosions, and other unsafe situations, in and around my neighborhood). 

A friend said that wasp did what no one else could do and protected me, and my family, in a way that couldn't have been done otherwise. 

So, I think I am getting there. I still am likely to die at this stage in my healing journey if I get stung again, but I hope, at this point of my acceptance, if they are my totem protector spirit, they can work out a deal with their physical counterparts to not sting me again. 😊🙏




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