Taken from Animal Speak by Ted Andrews:
Sometimes it is necessary to behave or act in a strategic manner. We may need to appear fearful or fearless in spite of how we truly feel. We may need to show submission or aggression. We may need to be apathetic or extremely caring. Opossum is the supreme actor, and those in the acting field or that need to learn something of it can do no better than to work with the opossum.
The opossum is a nocturnal animal. It's the only marsupial on the North American continent. Marsupials are animals that raise their young in a pouch in the abdomen. When the young are born, they are blind, but they are still able to climb up into the pouch immediately after birth. There they stay for about one month.
In the pouch the nipples are located. Most opossums have 13 nipples. In a litter, there can be many more than 13 young, but only 13 will be able to survive. This number is very symbolic. Although many associate it with bad luck, it's also a symbol for the one great sun around which the 12 signs of the zodiac revolve. It's a symbol of the sun within.
The pouch, especially in regards to the opossum's defense of "playing dead," links it to the ability to help us draw from our own bag of tricks that which will most benefit us. It can show you which appearance to draw from the pouch to use for the greatest success. The milk of the mother is rich in calcium, as young opossums need high concentrations of it. Those with this totem should examine their own calcium levels.
The playing dead that the opossum is famous for is a self-induced state of shock. The pulse becomes minimal, the heartbeat slows. A musk scent of death is released, and for all appearances it will seem dead. The opossum can enter and leave this state abruptly -- pretty much at will. This act serves to confuse many predators. The surprise distracts them, and the opossum is able to make its escape. It's this kind of flexibility and ease of appearance that the opossum can teach to those with this totem.
When opossum shows up as a totem, ask yourself some important questions. Are you acting or about to act in an inappropriate manner? Do you need to strengthen your own appearance? Are others putting up false appearances in front of you? Do you need to divert attention away from some activity? Are others trying to divert your attention? Is it time to go into your bag of tricks and pull out some new strategy? Learning to pretend and act in ways and with realism is the magic that opossum teaches.