Animal Totems & Medicine
About Animal Totems
In earlier days we understood that we were simply a part of the earth. We knew we were only one small part. Now many think humans are the greatest and most important part. But still, we are only a part of the earth, only a part of nature, only a child of Mother, only a part of Spirit. We used to know respect of Nature and killed only what we ate and used only the skins of what we killed and ate. We did not waste life nor disrespect spirits but honored and thanked them for providing us with life, nourishment, and comfort. In earlier days we gave recognition to the power of the animal spirits by wearing skins, masks, mimicking, singing praise, and prayers to specific animals. We painted the animals on our homes, caves, death chambers, and asked the Spirit to guide us to the animal that we consumed and bless the spirit of the animal we kill for we are a predator in the part of Nature and we honored the spirit of our prey. These acts allowed us to remain linked to the animal guides and to accept the power they offer us in lessons, in life, and in death. It reminded us that all animals, were our sisters, brothers, and cousins and most importantly our teachers and our friends. It reminded us that we too are animals with spirit.
The Natural Power of animal totems has not been lost. They still hold the power and the knowledge we can use. Only we must remember how to be One with Nature and all that is, has been, and will be. Cultures of the past understood the connections. We must not lose this connection now that we are 'cultured'. For what was will always be and all those cultures could not have been wrong. There is a reason that Spirit has put all of us together, has given us so many healing stones, and has given us medicine, for the body and the spirit. We are all one. Using Animal Totems will allow you to see and love the earth better, to know life better, to know yourself better, and to commune better with Mother and Spirit. You can be healthier and happier physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually in understanding and honoring your animal totems.
Animals come to us because they have a lesson we need to learn a power they are willing to share with a friend. They seek to give us a gift of understanding. In general, animals remind us that we are part of the earth; that each creature has a place; that each creature has a skill of it's own; that we have instincts given to us from Mother, wisdom born to us that we must awaken. The Animal Totem that comes to you offers you power and wisdom if you will learn to communicate with it, with respect, trust, and understanding. Developing a relationship with a live animal totem takes time, practice, patience and could be very dangerous. Having an animal totem does not mean that you are to pet the animal or even be with it physically. Having an animal totem means that you have lessons to learn and a powerful spiritual friend.
Each animal has it's own special power and message, for each animal has a powerful spirit and an inherent skill. Animal Spirits choose a person to be a companion to, a friend to, not the other way around. You cannot think, 'gee a bear is cute or powerful and I like what it represents so the Bear will be my Animal Totem'. No, the animal will choose you and make itself known to you. You will only need to pay attention to discover what your totems are. After you define the types of animal totems you can go to a questionnaire to learn what animals are your totems.
Mistakenly people often think of animals as non-spiritual, uncultured, and less intelligent than humans. Some people do not even think animals have Spirit. Not so - an animal is close to Spirit, is Spirit because they have never been taught differently. They know the truth. Animals are wondrous happy creatures - think of these things to remind you....
Could you, for your whole life without tools or weapons, even survive in the wild?
Could you weave a bird's nest or spider's web?
Could you catch a fish with your hands?
Would you know how to migrate without a compass? Or even when it was time to migrate?
Can you carry things ten times your own body weight?
Do you know what you can and can't eat in the wild?
Can you go through life happy like animals do?
Can you experience the moment like an animal does?
Could you get along with five to twenty other beings for your entire life and remain in the herd?
Could you for hours simply rest and contemplate (meditate perhaps, perhaps talk directly with Spirit)?
Do you take hours a day to just be with your family and to simply play and hug like most mammals?
Animal Totems and Animal Medicine, Part I
When discovering totems you must first understand if the totem is a Life Totem, A Journey Totem, or a Message Totem. All totems are powerful but the meaning that the totem brings will vary on your action depending on what type of totem has come to you. You must learn what your Life Totem is.
Your Life Long Animal Totem works with you throughout your entire life. Always there when you need it's powers. Always reminding you of your power and connectivity. You may have only one or a few Life totems. They may become your Life totem at any time. The messages that your Life Totem brings are a hard reminder from Mother. Your Life Totem is always there for you and generally reflects your inner spiritual nature. For example if your Life Totem was a Penguin you would be a person who should be very spiritual since the penguin moves better in water (the symbol of the astral plane - which is were we go when we dream) than it does on land. Being able to leap out of the water (up to six feet) represents the ability of out of body experiences. It is also important to understand which type of penguin is your animal totem since some have additional characteristics that are important to consider.
A Journey Animal Totem reflects a period of time. Not just a day but weeks, months, or maybe a year - the time it takes you to walk the path that the Animal Totem is reminding or guiding you on. During this journey you will find that this animal is always showing up in your life or that several animal totems will appear in your life all to guide you on the path. When you find two or three animals all of a sudden making an appearance and their nature all has the same basis then you have found the basis of your path. The difference between the Journey Animal Totem and the Message Animal Totem is a period of time. A Message animal Totem will bring itself to you quickly and strongly where a Journey Animal Totem will slip in and out of your life over the course of a period.
A Message Animal Totem usually is bringing you a self growth or spiritual message - like a wake up call or slap in the face. It will usually be a very unusual experience making it very powerful at that time and very impractical (the animal will do something out of the ordinary).
A Shadow Animal Totem tests us. They have great power for us but will put us through tests before they will let their power work with and for us, instead of against us. In all of nature there is prey and predator. In the spiritual or Shadow World there is the same. A Shadow Animal Totem is one that initially you fear. The Shadow Totem often represents inner fears that you must overcome. You may have even been attacked by the animal; a very vivid test to see if you are ready to accept the power of the animal totem. Until you face the fears of the Shadow Animal Totem it's powers will work against you, not letting you soar high. When you overcome the fear of the Shadow Animal Totem you bring it into the Light World as your Spirit animal totem and they become one of your most powerful Animal Totems.
Answer these questions to help you discover the Animal Totems in your life. For Journey and Message Animal Totems you will have to often ask yourself the same questions. Remember that you may not currently have a Journey or Message totem. And finding out your Life animal totem is not always easy. When answering these questions you may have more than one answer per question, just don't start listing out all animals - only the ones that are really important to you. Follow your instincts when answering the question - when in doubt, don't.
Life Long Animal Totems
When you were a child, what animal did you collect or obsess over that you are still attracted to today?
Of all animals if you could have any animal as a pet or companion what would it be?
When going to the zoo, which animal do you spend the most time with or are drawn to?
If you could be any animal what animal would it be?
What animal is in your dreams that you have had since childhood?
What animal are you afraid of that you have no idea why you are afraid of it?
Of all animals what animals are you most attracted to?
When you are out in nature, do you often seem to run into the same animal?
What animal have you bumped into over and over throughout your life?
What animal have you watched for hours?
Does art work or jewelry with a certain animal always attract you?
Your Life Long Animal Totem will be the animal that you answered at least three times out of the eleven questions. The more time the same animal is listed in your answers the more important and stronger it is in your life.
Journey Animal Totems
What animal have you started to see occasionally that you never saw before?
What new animal are you attracted to?
Are you dreaming of an animal lately?
Are you thinking about an animal lately?
In the past two weeks what animals have you seen or dreamt of several times?
If you have a Journey Animal Totem you will have answered at least two of the questions with the same animal. Blessings on your new path.
Message Animal Totems
What animal surprised or startled you today?
What animal that you don't usually see, have you seen a couple of times today?
What animal entranced you today?
If you only answered one question then this is a message you should consider. If you answered the same animal to two questions then this animal is your Message Totem with a very important message. Heed its word quickly for the message is for now and today.
Shadow Animal Totems
What animal attacks have you been in?
What scary or traumatic animal situations have you been in?
Does seeing a certain animal bring up feelings of fear?
What animal do you run from?
What animals do you have reoccurring nightmares about?
Does just watching TV with that animal appearing scare you?
Answering two questions with the same animal means you have a Shadow Totem you must address. Remember that the Shadow Totem will continually test you and work against you for you are its prey. You must embrace the lesson of the animal totem and conquer your fear, accept the power of the Shadow totem, and bring it into the light as your spiritual totem.
An Animal Totem is an important symbolic object used by a person to get in touch with specific qualities found within an animal which the person needs, connects with, or feels a deep affinity toward. One can have several animal guides through out life. Sometimes an animal guide will come into one’s life for a short period of time, and then be replaced by another depending on the journey or direction one is headed toward. Our guide will instruct and protect us as we learn how to navigate through our spiritual and mundane life. When one finds an animal which speaks strongly to them, or one feels they must draw more deeply into their lives, they fill their environment with images of the animal to let the animal know they are welcome in the person’s space. Animal guides can help us get back to our Earthly roots, and reconnect with nature by reminding us we are all interconnected. To first do this we need to know what our Animal Totem is.
If you don’t know what your Animal Totem is there are several questions you can ask yourself. All of the questions below are designed to get you thinking about a prominent animal in your life, so there are no right or wrong answers. Only you can truly know which Animal Totem(s) are right for your journey.
1. Since we are drawn to that which resonates with us, what animal, bird, or insect are you drawn to?
2. When you go to the park, forest, or zoo what animal are you most interested in seeing?
3. What animal do you most frequently see when you're out in nature or in the city?
4. What animals are you currently interested in learning about?
5. Which animal do you find most frightening?
6. Have you ever been bitten or attacked by an animal?
7. Is there a recurring animal in your dreams or do you have one you have never forgotten?
If you are still uncertain which animal is your totem, here a few exercises you can do to come closer to the answer. One must not try and force the animal to come, it can pick up on that energy and be put off. Being patient and doing the following exercises will draw your animal totem to you.
1. Ask yourself what animal has played a meaningful part in your world? If your unsure make a list of animals that have drawn your interest or left a deep impression on you from paintings, photographs, stories, movies, carvings, etc.
2. Which animal shows up in your life most frequently? Keep a journal of the animals present in your dreams or that you encounter through the day for the next month. How did the animal behave? Did you interact with the animal?
3. Find a place where you can be alone and meditate. Sit quietly and ask your animal to make its nature known to you. Feel free to use tools such as incense, smudge, and candles to help you.
4. Don’t give up, sometimes your animal totem is near by watching to see if you are serious about connecting with it. Keep doing the above exercises until your animal totem makes itself known to you.
Animal Totems and Animal Medicine, Part II
To understand the concept of medicine in the Native American way, one must redefine "medicine". The medicine referred to here is anything that improves one's connection to the Great Mystery and to all life. This would include the healing of body, mind, and of spirit. This medicine is also anything which brings personal power, strength, and understanding. It is the constant living of life in a way that brings healing to the Earth Mother and to all of our associates, family, friends, and fellow creatures. Native American medicine is an all encompassing "way of life", for it involves walking on Earth Mother in perfect harmony with the Universe.
When you call upon the power of an animal, you are asking to be drawn into complete harmony with the strength of that creature's essence. Gaining understanding from these brothers and sisters of the animal kingdom is a healing process, and must be approached with humility and intuitiveness. Certain aspects of the lessons given by these brothers and sisters have been chosen to reflect the lessons each spirit needs to learn. These are the lessons of being human, being vulnerable, and seeking wholeness with all that is. They are a part of the pathway to power. The power lies in the wisdom and understanding of one's role in the Great Mystery, and in honoring every living thing as a teacher. The lessons taught are eternal and they are forever forthcoming. If the learning is over, so is the magic and the life.
In learning to call on the medicine of any person, creature or natural force, one must maintain an attitude of reverence and be willing to accept assistance. For instance, small native children who are lost know they can call upon the medicine of their parents for assistance. This brings the child the strength of his or her parents, even though the parents are not physically present. The parents will feel the pull of the child's need, and oftentimes will be able to see psychically through the eyes of the child, and determine where he or she is. This is a kind of power that comes from the idea of unity, and of each being having within itself a part of all other beings. It is the law of oneness.
It is also possible to call upon the power or medicine of an animal when one is in need of specific talents. As all things in this universe have the same building block -- the atom -- it is relatively safe to assume that we all communicate through the common denominator of each atom, which is the creative force or Great Spirit which lives within the Great Mystery. It is the teaching of these truths that has brought the native people to understanding, and it is these same truths that may open this door for you.
Totem animals or creature beings emulate each person's abilities, talents and challenges. For instance, if a person is connected to Wolf as a power animal, that person is a born teacher, pathfinder, innovator and self-starter. This does not necessarily mean that the person has acknowledged those gifts and is using them to the fullest. It can mean that the Wolf is there to bring that person to an understanding of the talents that need developing. If the person is ignoring those talents, you might say that Wolf would be appearing in the contrary.
To find these animals within you, you must look deep within yourself. What animals, insects, or creatures of nature have you always been drawn to? Which ones hold the greatest fascination for you? Once you have looked deep, and been totally honest with yourself on which creatures draw you the most, begin to study them. I mean really study them, not just pick up a book and skim through it, finding out basic facts. Find out how these creatures live, what they do, where they live, etc. Try to forge a deeper understanding of why and how they live as they do; what their purpose is in nature, and such. I don't just mean the bigger animals, like the horse, buffalo, etc.... you may find yourself drawn to a fish, or a sparrow, or even an ant or dragonfly. All creatures have equal importance to life on Earth; we can learn from all of them.
How can this help you in calling on them, and help you to live better on a daily basis? Well, there are several ways you can learn to live a better life through researching and getting to know your totem animals. By forging that deeper understanding of the creatures you are most drawn to, you will gain greater insight to their strengths and weaknesses, and thereby gain a better understanding of your own. Learn to rely on those strengths, and accept and deal with your weaknesses, just like your totems do.
About now, you're saying "okay, but how do I call on them?" That is even easier. Simply concentrate on the one you wish to call on, whatever it may be. The greater understanding you have gained by studying this creature will help you become more in tune with them, and will help you greatly in establishing a link. Once you have established a link, the creature should be able to help you apply the knowledge gained to the problem at hand; sometimes, you can even gain advice.
How you use this knowledge and/or advice is strictly up to your own interpretation of what is being communicated to you. Good luck!
Most of the different journeys you will take will involve something called a ‘power animal’. Every tradition of Shamanism and earth based spiritual art over the past 5,000 years have used some sort of animal guide or another. The Celtic Shamanic image from ancient times has a figure holding a snake in it’s hand. The question that arises for most people new to these crafts is: how do I know what my animal guide is? People also assume that their favorite animal is there current power animal for them. If they like panthers, then there guide is also a panther, or wolf, or bear. Most people pick animals of great strength and power, usually from the predator families. Also, many people pick birds that remind them of mystery, such as the raven, the crow, the hawk, etc. Well, the truth is that your favorite animal is obviously one of your spirit guides, but may not necessarily be your current primary one. Most people have two or three or more power animals at a given time. One being there long-term animal, such as the one that has always been their favorite – and then there is one for the current situation – and one for general time period of your life.
One of the most difficult parts of learning which is your animal guide, is listening correctly for the sign given to you. Also, of getting past your favorite animal to see what the others may be offering to you. Learning to stop your ego from playing a part in what you see can be harder than it sounds – you may overlook the chipmunk telling you something important in your search for the lion.
Lets start with the easiest first – your favorite animal. There is a reason you have always favored this animal over others – maybe its image reminds you of something. Or its sleek, raw power attracted you first, in the form of awe. Either way, do not overlook its importance – contemplate on what it may be telling you about the big picture of your life. What is the significance of this animals characteristics and what role have they played in your life so far? How do I honor such a creature that has touched me so?
One of the first things to do when acquainting with a new power animal is to connect with it. You can do this through light trance becoming the animal in your mind’s eye. Slowly close your eyes and start with a light relaxation exercise. After you slip into a light trance or meditation, start by picturing the view as it looks through the eyes of the animal. Say you were connecting with the wolf – Close your eyes and rest until the current thoughts about everyday life have faded away. Imagine running though the forest – but your view is from only about 3 feet from the ground. See clearly what the view from down there looks like. After running like this for a few minutes, start to feel as though your limbs were the same shape as the wolves’ limbs. How do the muscles feel when you have the body of the wolf. Feel the gallop on all four paws. Listen through the hyper-sensitive ears of the wolf. Smell the air in such clear precision that you are aware of the other animals that have passed through this day. Stop running for a moment, and look, feel and listen. You can virtually feel potential prey scurrying around on the forest floor. The ties from your pack are strong – you sense the pack of in the distance, and run to join them. Now you all run together – feel what it feels like to run with the pack – the excitement of following the wise alpha of the pack. Stay this way for awhile. Get familiar with being the wolf. The longer you do this, the easier it will be to know how the wolf thinks.
Now slowly back out of the light trance and prepare to thank the wolf for the things you have seen. Honor the wolf by offering things to the forest in honor of the wolf, or sending energy through the smoke of the incense. Collect wolf things, and make wolf carvings. Any way you feel is proper, that is a good way to honor your animal.
Next, learn to use the power animal in Shamanic journey work, and in dreamtime. Bring yourself into a light trance, and bring yourself to a forest. In the forest you will gaze and chant into the woods, and carefully call to your animal. This can be done verbally, through a dance, song, drumming, projecting energy, or however you choose. Soon the animal will appear. Connect with it for a while, run with it – become that animal for a short while. This will be a type of offering to the animal when you do this. Then follow the animal to what it is going to show you – converse and listen to what it is going to tell you. This will be different each time you do it – and the more often you do this, the more you’ll be able to call and use this animal’s help.
Now that you have started with your main, life-long partner, it is time to see what other animals are there with you at the current moment. This will be the animal that pushes you in certain directions, protects you, and helps with your decisions. These animals change frequently, depending on the energy you need at the current time. You will also be able to call forth specific animals when you feel you need their particular energies. One way of finding out your current animal to simply be observant for the signs through your day. Do a quick meditation and call your main animal. Ask it to show you throughout the day who is currently guarding you. Then proceed your day as normal, only being observant for signs. Sometimes these signs will be blatant, but most of the time you will have to look for them. Say all day, you saw pictures of polar bears – at the mall, there was a big polar-bear display for Coke-a-Cola. You went into Hallmark to buy a card, and noticed the polar-bear display at the counter. You see polar-bear advertisements and stuffed animals. Your normal TV watching shows you a lot of polar bears both on the nature shows, and in prime-time viewing. Your current animal is most likely a polar bear after an observant day such as that. Likewise, if you saw some squirrels doing something different that catches your eye, most likely that’s a sign. Say a squirrel ran up to you, and yelled three times, then ran off. For the polar bear, the night that you saw all those signs go into a light trance and call for the polar bear. Become familiar with the bear – run with it. Hunt and dine with the bear, as the bear. Then step back and listen to what it is going to tell you. Over the next few weeks, be aware of its presence with you all the time – looking after you, showing you things. Eventually, the animal will change, and you will need to do this all over again. Usually the animals leave after you forget about them for a while, or don’t honor them, or if they are finished with what they are telling you, and another animal needs to tell you something. You will always have an animal with you. Sometimes, the animal doesn’t even exist in ordinary reality. It may the dragon archetype, or griffin, or something like that. Be open to them all. Another way to discover the animals in your life is through power dreams and visions through journey.
Be aware of all the signs, especially dreams, since many times an animal will come to you with a quick message, then be gone. It may not stay with you as a guide, but in that instance be a messenger. There is no limit to how many guides you may get at a given time, or what kind. There is no heritage based link necessary for any type of animal – though certain groups may more often times see more of one thing than another. Native Americans more often have guides like horses, fish, hawks and things, were Irish people may have more wolves and dragons and mythic creatures.
We are all connected, not just to other "two-leggeds" and the family of man, but to the animals, the trees, the wind, the earth Herself. Like a beautiful blanket woven from many colors and textures of thread, each individual energy contributes to this Blanket of Oneness, and all are bound together.
Our thoughts, actions and deeds not only have an impact upon our own life, but like a pebble tossed into a pond, the ripples of our movement along the Web has far-reaching effects. Thus, if we callously pollute the air of the Earth Mother, dump toxins into her streams and oceans, kill her creatures and bountiful, beautiful life, we are also destroying ourselves, for one cannot cut off their own arm and not feel the pain of the loss. Yet we can also be a positive influence upon the lives of Others, we can tread softly upon the Earth Mother and respect her creatures of the land, ocean and sky, and in this way, also heal and nourish ourselves.
When we can look into the heavens and see the love of the Great Mystery glimmering amongst the stars, feel the Divine presence in the heartbeat of a rabbit, or see it reflected in the large tender eyes of a deer, then we are beginning to Understand the intricate bond that is shared with All Things born of the Great Mystery. This is when we begin to understand that Allies accompany us along this Journey around the Sacred Hoop of Life, and though they may be Unseen to our mortal eyes, the bond is a beautiful and intricate thread that is ever present, all we have to do is to acknowledge their presence, offer our thanks, embrace their Wisdom and Medicine, and accept the Lessons that they Teach.
Hearing the Messages of the Animals
When you start noticing animals in all sorts of ways in your daily travels, which ones have a special message for you, and what is it?
Obviously, every single time you see a particular bird, it may not be an omen (unless perhaps it is). You should start carrying a small notebook and pen so you can record "sightings" wherever you may be. If you can, also write down what you were thinking or talking about at the moment of the sighting. Then later you can contemplate what the animals came into your life to tell you.
If you can, ask yourself when you see the animal: is this sighting of special significance (e.g. an omen) for me? If you feel something "in your gut" (you might even feeling a tightening in that area), then pay attention! You can also ask, right on the spot, what that message is, and see what pops into your mind.
If you carry a pouch of herbs or tobacco for ceremonial purposes, you can drop a pinch when you get a special message from the Universe through her animal kingdom, as a thank you. If you're not prepared to do that, a verbal thank-you shows respect. (You may also offer a hair from your head.)
Take your list of the animals you encountered in a given day, and arrange them in order of "importance." Do this intuitively and quickly. Next, go to the list of Birds posted on Hawk’s Animal Spirits Page, or some other resource and look each of them up. When you discover the message of the animal(s) arrange this list into a general statement. Here's an example.
You encountered Raven, Blue Jay, and Macaw.
Raven –Recovery, Reflections/Mirrors, Change in Consciousness
Blue Jay – Movement to new level of being
Macaw -- Pair bonding.
Recovery (of one's) Reflections/Mirrors (creates) Change in Consciousness and Movement to new level of being (through) pair bonding.
Work with your phrases, adding in your own connecting words to make a message. The full messages can be quite surprising. If you've noted what you were thinking or talking about at the moment you sighted the animal, look at this also, relating it to the animal's message, and then to the full day's message.
You can also start noting a direction in relation to the animal (either where it came from or where it's going) when you see it. Sometimes the animals come in groups or numbers, as well. You might see 5 Ducks, or you might encounter Horse medicine three times in a day-long period. The same technique can be used to determine what the medicine of the direction or number is, using Numerology.
A faster and more personal way to determine an animal's message to you is to go to the source. If you can do so right at the time of the sighting, ask the animal (by tuning in to it's essence) what it has to tell you. If you're driving or busy at the moment you see the animal, and can only make note of it, you can always call on the animal later when you have more time or attention.
Whatever ways you choose to hear the messages of the natural world, it is an empowering and wonderful thing to do for yourself. Many use these techniques for personal growth and enlightenment. It's fun too!
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