Discovering Your Animal Totems
The word Animal is derived from the Latin Animalis which the root is "Anima" the soul or breath of life. The English word "totem" was first known and used around 1776 and originally come from the Anishinaabe word odoodeman or the Ojibwe oto·te·man, which means "consanguine kin" or a "kinship group of familial relationships". Countries such as Australia, Asia, Africa, Europe and The Americas all had forms of animal totem connections and still continue to today. Whatever terminology is used for these animal partnerships, the totem represented the connection and relationship as a symbolic expression to the clan and individuals who adapt the animal energy for spiritual guidance and insight. Regardless of culture, the variety of animal totem terminologies around the world, reflect our sacred kinship with animals which pervades linguistics.
Animals emanate the breath of our lives by showing us certain qualities and behaviors that we should emulate somewhere in our daily lives. Our kinship with them teaches many things such as patience, endurance and the balance of our male/female aspect or sometimes called yin/yang energy or polarities. Subsequently, Carl Jung's concept of male/female in the "collective unconscious" concept is animus/anima respectively. Is it through the archetypal energy that we are able to communicate with this collective unconscious a gateway to our true selves. Animal wisdom emits these fundamental truths if we are willing to learn and understand their language. As humans we can learn and remember our connection to animals and the knowledge that inextricable links us with them. Nature is an amazing teacher that breathes new life into our spirit.
Our knowledge and connection to the animals have expanded considerably over the last few decades. Since there is widespread knowledge at our fingertips spanning the globe, personal animal associations have become broadly adapted to animals from other regions. Animal symbology has progressed beyond cultural and national boundaries to encompass a broad spectrum of animals over many continents. In this new age of knowledge, power animals are not subject to nor can the belong to one culture. Our animal kin speak to our hearts and souls from across the land to guide and instruct our personal pathway. Animal Totems should not be looked at only as symbols but rather as a way of life, as a way of being connected to The Great Mystery.
Depending on the various world wide traditions, one may have a set number of animal totems present in one's life. Of the vast array of animal species in the world, biologists think between 2 and 50 million, our symbolic references to the animals is likewise exponential, especially in this digital age. Perhaps there is no real fixed number of animal archetypes after all. The key is not in the counting of the animal guides but more importantly learning from each over our lifetime. Depending on the spiritual tradition if you reach the limited number of animal totems within that belief, the mind may close to additional animal guides which would be an opportunity potentially lost. There are millions of opportunities to learn if we are only open.
Animal Totem Types
There are Animal Totems in the spiritual and physical that are attracted to us and will appear in order to teach the qualities of itself. Animal Totems may also be ones we are attracted to with an internal calling toward the animal. They give us fresh insights into the direction of our decisions, our choices along with mental, spiritual and emotional guidance. Their appearance teaches us qualities we can learn from if we are open to their messages. The many animals that come to us can overlap and melt into another as needed for ongoing spiritual lessons.
Animal totems have three main categories in which two are considered "Spirit Totems".
- Spirit Guides as Life Totems
- Spirit Animal Guides
- Nature Totems - The Physical Ones
Spirit Guides - Life Totems
We each come into this world accompanied by an animal spirit - a significant indicator of our personal power - that walks with us on our soul journey through space and time. These Spirit Guides are very personal totems since they strongly reflect our inner spiritual nature. These Life Totems are animal spirits that are with you your entire life. They are your essence, your character, and reflect your innate core traits. This relationship remains the same throughout your life. They are your closest personal guides to help discover the truth of who you are. They are always with you.
One could have several of these Life Totems since they guide us along our path and give us courage and strength in our journey. They may appear to you at separate times throughout your life or perhaps alternating in appearances, all to teach us lessons we need to learn. This could be viewed as a hierarchy of animal totems: from everyday spirit helpers/reminders to "mother-father" type figures in the spirit realm who guide, watch over and train us throughout our lives.
Spirit Animal Guides
"Animal Guides" are a subset of the spirit totem which are animals that are with you for a long or short duration depending what is going on in your life. This relationship can last days or years depending on the lessons it is trying to teach. They guide you to expand and incorporate knowledge into your core traits by building up spiritual character and awareness. They may teach through the emotional facets that we need to encounter whether it be fear, anger, insecurity or confidence, strength and patience. They teach another facet of our ultimate truth. These animals may frequently come to you in dreams and meditation and impart valuable lessons and spiritual tools. The length of time they are around depends on how well you learn and incorporate the knowledge into your life.
These Spirit Animal Guides have chosen you and will appear when you are ready to understand the lessons. They are also usually wild in nature (not domesticated). There is an unmistakable familiar knowing associated with its appearance. Honor, respect and attentiveness must be given because you are now ready for a new segment in your journey. Over time trust is built and we eventually take on those imbued characteristics and merge with the animal spirits, becoming one with the energy.
Nature Totems - The Physical Ones
The next category of animal totems are The Physical Ones or The Nature Totems. These animals are what you need to be open and aware of in everyday life. These nature totems bring spiritual messages by appearing in a variety of ways which always seem very noticeable. For instance, you may experience a long gaze, strange actions and behaviors, pronouncement of vocalizations and merely and out of the ordinary appearance. The Physical Ones can appear due to immediate life's circumstances and issues that you are dealing with. These Nature Totems speak of special qualities to contemplate when they appear.
The more we are in tune with our natural surroundings, the easier it is to receive such messages from our animal relations. The better our inner awareness, the easier it is for this form of communication to take place. The subtleties, nuances and actions of these animals will tell you a lot. Some of these animals may repeat their appearance many times in your life. The Nature Totems are there to help you as a specifically chosen property for your current path for that particular moment. Nature has sent a special gift of learning.
Animal Totem Meditational Exercise
This simple exercise to contact your spirit animal totem can be done either inside or outside. If you are outside a Physical One may appear as well. The technique remains the same. If you don't hear, see, or get any impressions this is alright. You are creating a sacred space around you, in mind, body and spirit, to allow communication to take place. Above all be patient with yourself.
In whatever pose and place of comfort you choose, find your calm center. You may opt to hold a stone, gem or crystal or place personal sacred objects near you. You can also play meditational music if this helps you achieve a peaceful mind. There are many ways and means to achieve a meditational state, do what you feel guided to do.
Breathe deeply several times and allow your mind and body to relax. Shift your body as necessary to accommodate your relaxation. Keep breathing deeply with conscious effort. At this time you may state your intent such as, "I would like to meet my animal totem," or you can say a prayer of your choosing.
Let your thoughts come and go like leaves floating on a stream. Don't hang onto them. Watch them float by and let your mind empty. This may take some effort depending on your meditational and visual ability. Just try your best to relax in any case. You may notice after a while, the more you find your calm mind, your breath will naturally slow.
Using the stream analogy, use all of your senses toward the stream; hear the sound of the water, see the ripples, feel how cool and refreshing it is. Observe the water and its behavior. Allow the purity of the stream to refresh you.
Gaze at the stream and listen carefully to the sounds around you. Do you hear walking? Do you hear noises, calls, sounds? Do you feel that something is watching you? Animal totems can be any size so watch for even the smallest animal kin to appear.
If you do hear or feel something, it can be bring out a little anxiety and excitement. Remain calm and know that you are perfectly safe. Take some deep breaths, watch the stream and continue to observe your senses. If you are too scared at any point in the meditation you can return. You will eventually learn to be comfortable however long it takes. This is part of the process. The dialogue has begun. They are very patient teachers.
When you are ready, slowly turn your gaze upward along the stream bank. Watch and observe any animal or animals that may appear near or in the distance. They may be fleeting or they may remain and approach you. They know your feelings. If you are uncomfortable at any time, simply say in your mind for instance, "I am uncomfortable right now". This is for your benefit only, not theirs. They have no fear. In most cases, the animal will halt contact until you either stop the process or leave the meditation. If you are comfortable the animal may come closer. Listen and watch for its messages. Open your heart and mind to greet your animal. Allow the animal, lessons and any messages to arrive at its own pace.
The animal can simply make an appearance and leave without any imparting thoughts. This is perfectly fine. Contact has been made and the dialogue has been opened. The animal can also become so close you can feel its breath or feel its skin, fur, feathers etc. The experiences vary greatly according to your comfort level and familiarity with the animal. It is always good to tell it "Thank You" and send energy of appreciation. Trust in the relationship with the animal will build over time.
Often the animal departs on its own accord and you return feeling refreshed with a wonderful sense of amazement for your new friend.
Animal Totem Communication
As with any human relationship, we need to understand the language of the animal partner in order to fully understand it. Listening is approximately 85% of a conversation. In humans, when we listen, actually listen to every word and meaning the person is saying, we come to understand minute details that are important to that person. The same applies likewise within the animal kingdom. Communication and interaction strengthen and empower the union between animal worlds and ourselves.
Learning of your personal animal totem(s) will give you a greater sense of appreciation of your own connections to all life. In human relationships, it may also help to understand the significance of that person's spirit animal(s) and how it interacts with your animal totem(s). When you acknowledge the other dynamic energies that play a part of the relationship it will help you better understand the dynamics of the relationship as a whole. This understanding can enhance and create a lasting foundation in all that you do. Listening to the animals around you will teach you something about yourself.
By recognizing and acknowledging animal totems as you see them, the energy working in your life will increase. You will start to notice your personal power animal(s) everywhere you go, in books, magazines and postcards, in nature, in dreams and visions. By surrounding yourself with totem images you connect with the animal and the energy and wisdom it imparts.
Your awareness will abound. Here follows a basic guideline to finding your special animal.
- Which animals have always fascinated you, especially in childhood?
- Which animals have you always felt connected to?
- What animals do you see frequently in the wild?
- Which quality of animal best describes your personality?
- Which animals do you have around you in pictures or figurines?
There appears to be a line that is shadowed a bit by the multiple definitions of Spirit Guide, Secondary Totem, General Totem, Shadow Totem, Life Guide etc etc. Definitions change depending on beliefs and cultures. This can be quite overwhelming for some. Please don't let definitions hinder what you think, feel and intuit about the animals. They are simply either spiritually based or physically based. Getting caught up in definitions may distract from the lessons it is trying to teach. The big question seems to be - how do you know which is which and what is what? You will know by experience, trust the animal to tell you. This is part of the communication process. ALL the animals are there to guide, to teach lessons either through positive or negative perception filters, and to show you what is happening in your worlds. There is no good or bad, only lessons to restore balance and harmony. ALL the animals, including us are connected, there are no "lines" of separation - only separation by levels of awareness.
For spiritual totems or an overall natural one, it is wise to study the habits of the animal in its surroundings, what it eats, where it sleeps, how it moves, including the gestation and life cycle, this will help you recognize what it is telling you to apply to your life.
The Dictionaries of Animals I have compiled are short-handed explanations of some core energies of the animal's characteristics vs an extensive write-up. I study the animal, its surroundings and behaviors and apply the animal energies into human terms. It's important to do your own inquiry into your spirit animals. This page and site gives you the necessary tools to start along that path of discovery. No one can give you the *meaning* of the answers you need.
More Awareness Tools
Now that you have some tools to discover your personal totem animal we shall then look at how we are joined to the rest of the animal kingdom through the common animal totems. All animals are linked by the Great Spirit, including humans. Nature has a way of communicating if we only listen as they are representatives of our unconscious minds. Through the appearance of animals in the everyday environment we can then determine what the underlying situation is in our lives. For instance, the direction we should take in dilemmas, what the best course of action is, and how we should behave in given circumstances. The Great Spirit has linked us all together in order to learn and grow in our own Spirit. He has given us the chance to learn or perhaps relearn the language of the animals.
When you come across an animal that is not normally seen around you. Take notice. If a bird is constantly vocal outside your window, listen and watch. A deer or a rabbit strays into your yard, listen and watch. After a while you will know and understand what the animals are trying to tell you. It is understood that there may be a variety of animals around you everyday. However, it is the subtle awareness, the nuances, which allow you to listen what is being said.
You can also take note of dreams and visions: the same properties apply in this realm as in the dream realm. Often times a Spirit Guide will show you things and teach you in a way you can comprehend for the moment. Be aware of the animals, for there is no separation between the physical and spiritual as they are one.
Some subtleties of the animal totems that you need to be aware of are as follows.
- How is the animal moving in relation to yourself?
(Right, Left, Away, Toward)
- How is it crossing your path: emerging, coming into or leaving your life?
- Notice where the animal is looking, walking, flying, heading etc.
- Which direction is the animal coming from or going to?
(see Animal Directions)
Also the number of animals is relevant to all of the above relationships. That will further guide you in understanding.
|Number of Animals||Significance and Meaning of the Number|
|1||Originality, initiating action, pioneering, leading, new beginnings, attaining.|
|2||Cooperation, adaptability, partnering, mediating, consideration of others|
|3||Birth, expression, socialization, joy of living, mystical, creativity, verbalization|
|4||Patience, order, service, steady growth, foundation, struggle against limits|
|5||Activities, change, visionary, adventure, constructive use of freedom, versatile.|
|6||Responsibility, service to home and family, nurturing, balance, sympathy|
|7||Wisdom, truths, understanding, knowledge, awareness, mediating, studious|
|8||Money, status oriented, power seeking, practical endeavors, high material goals|
|9||Humanitarian, giving, healing, understanding, selflessness, obligations|
Note: Double digits add up to be a single number.