Animal Totems

"In the beginning of all things, wisdom and knowledge were with the animals; for Tuawa, the One Above, did not speak directly to man. He sent Animals to tell man that he showed himself through the beasts, and that from them, and from the stars and the sun and the moon, man should learn... for all things speak of Tuawa." 

(Chief Lekatos-Lesa of the Pawnees Tribe to Natalie Curtis, 1904)


On the following pages you can read the meaning of:



The reality of spirit beings and their assistance to those in the physical world has been a part of every major religion. The Greeks spoke to spirits and gods through oracles. The bushmen of Africa developed rituals and myths from the movements and activities of animals such as the eland and mantis. The Native Americans imitated animals in dance and rituals to establish links with the spirit realm. Belief in the spiritual realms of life and all of its varied manifestations is universal. The most common belief in many societies is that spiritual guides often use animals or animal imagery to communicate their purpose and roles to humans. In our modern, rational society there is a tendency to scoff at such possibilities. Spirit beings - whether in the form of saints, angels, ancestral contact, fairies and elves, demons, and even animal totems - fill our ancient myths and scriptures. When beliefs are as universal as these, some credence should be given to them.


Their descriptions show them to be as diverse as the humans we meet on a daily basis. They serve many functions upon the planet. They help you recognize your own innate abilities. They help empower you and protect you. Their energies can be used to help heal, inspire, and grow. One of the most common forms spirit guides take are in the form of animals. Most ancient societies studied the natural world in order to understand the supernatural. Nature - in the guise of animals - is a means by which the spiritual links with the physical.


A totem is any natural object, animal, or being to whose phenomena and energy you feel closely associated with during your life. I will be focusing upon spirit totems in the guise of animals. The study of animal totems is essential for understanding how the spiritual realm is manifesting within your natural life. You can use animal totems and their images to learn about yourself and the invisible world. By discovering your animal totem, studying it and then learning to merge with it, you will be able to call its energy forth whenever needed. You will be able to connect with specific archetypal forces and patterns through the animal and understand the patterns of your own life more effectively. As you begin to identify and recognize your animal totems, you will begin to understand your life more effectively. You will be able to develop a more unique view of yourself, along with a new look at reality. You will find yourself filled with new inspiration and you will find yourself more creative within your life. The more you understand your totem, the more you will understand yourself.



Do you know your Animal Totems?


Begin the process of discovering your animal totems by examining the animals you have been most interested in and the times of your life that interest was piqued. Use the following questionnaire to help you determine which animals are probably totems to you in your life.

  1. Which animal or bird has always fascinated you? (we are drawn to that which most resonates with us. Those animals which fascinate us have something to teach us.)
  2. When you visit the zoo, which animal do you wish to visit the most or first? (As a child, this is especially important. Children are more naturally open and thus able to more easily recognize the animal that will be important to them.)
  3. What animal(s) do you see most frequently when you are out in nature? Have you had encounters with animals in the wild? (The animals we encounter, in the city environment or in the wild, have significance for us. We can learn from them, even if only about survival within that environment.)
  4. Of all the animals in the world, which are you most interested in now? (Our interests in animals change. Yes, we usually have one or two that are lifetime, power animals, but others become prominent when there is something important or specific to teach us.)
  5. What animal most frightens you? (That which we fear the most is often something we must learn to come to terms with. When we do that, it then becomes a power. Some shamans believe that fears will take the shape of animals, and only when we confront them without fear do their powers/medicine work for us instead of against us. Such an animal becomes a shadow totem.)
  6. Have you ever been bitten or attacked by an animal? (Historically, if a ahaman survived an attack, it was believed that the animal was the shaman's spirit totem and the attack was the totem's way of testing the shaman's ability to handle the power.
  7. Do you have dreams with animals in them or are there animal dreams you have never forgotten? (This is especially important if the dreams are recurring or if at least the animal image in the dream is a recurring one. Children often dream of animals, and attention should be given to these animals. They will often reflect specific spirit totems of the child.)


The Basics of Animal Totems


Animal totems go by a variety of names. They are called spirit animals, power animals, totem helpers and others. Regardless of how people refer to them, certain beliefs are common:


1. Every animal has a powerful spirit.


2. This spirit may be its own, or that of a being who uses the animal image to communicate messages of the world to humans.


3. Every animal has its own talents. A study of its talents will reveal the kind of medicine, magic, and power it can help you te develop within your own life. Remember, every animal has a specialty.


4. Lifelong power animals are usually wild, not domesticated, animals. There are a few exceptions, but even these exceptions are often links to the true power animal. For example, people may have dogs or cats as totems. These have their own medicine and power, but the domesticated animal may only be a softened form of its wild counterpart. A dog may be a link to the wolf, coyote, or any of the wild canine family. A cat may be a link to a member of the wild feline family, such as panthers, lions, tigers, and such. For many, beginning with the domesticated form of the totem is a way of laying a foundation so that some day they will be able to handle and work more effectively with its true power form.


5. The animal chooses the person, not the other way around. Many believe that they can just choose an animal and start communicating with it. Usually ego gets in tha way at these times. The individual chooses the animal he or she believes to be most glamorous and powerful, rather than what is harmonious to the individual. The results are ineffectual and often frustrating. No animal is better or worse than any other. Every animal's medicine is unique. It is always much better to be powerful in mouse medicine than to be clumsy and ineffectual in eagle medicine. You will find your greatest succes in the animal that comes to you.


6. You must develop a relationship with your totem. To communicate with them demands respect. You must learn their point of view. Animals won't just warm up to you immediately. They must learn to trust you and your limitations, and you must learn to trust them and their limitations. This takes time, patience and practice.


7. You must honour your totem for its medicine to be effective in your life. The more you honour them - the more significance you give them within your life - the more powerful and effective they become. Some of the ways you can honour them and draw them closer into your life is by: 

  • Hanging pictures of them.
  • Drawing pictures of them.
  • Reading and learning as much about them as possible.
  • Buying figurines of your totem for yourself or purchasing small tokens and images of your totem and giving them to friends as gifts. These fetishes are a reminder of the power and spirit of your animal totem. 
  • Donating to wildlife organizations with time and/or money.
  • Dancing to honour your totem is a powerful link. Learn to mimic its behaviours. Remember that the imagination is a real link to your totem.

8. Once you learn to work with the medicine of your power animal, it then becomes a doorway to connecting with others of the animal realm. You are not limited to just one totem. Each can teach or add something to your life that the others can't. Working with your power animal will teach you how to align with others. This way if you need greater strength, you can call up the image and draw upon the energy of a bear. If you need speed, you can connect with the energy of the cheetah. Through your power animal, you learn to align with and shapeshift to the energies of other animals and beings.


9. Although there are one or even several totems that are strongest in your life and remain with you through most of it, others do play a role. You may have a totem for a day. You may have a totem that assists you through a particular rough period in your life. One may come to you and stay with you through a cycle of several years. Another may be present when you do creative work. You are likely to have different totems for different areas of your life. There's no limit to the totems you can work with. The key though is to connect strongly and fully with at least one. This expands the consciousness and opens the bridge to others more easily.


10. More than one person can have the same totem. I know a number of individuals who work with wolf medicine. There are common factors in the way each works, but there are also differences. The archetypal energies and spirit reflected in the wolf will manifest for each uniquely, because each person is unique. The role the totem plays will be specific in many ways to the individual. Individuals who are in close relationships may also share a totem. That totem becomes a guide to making the relationship stronger and more productive. The totem may watch over the couple. Totem sharing is not limited to couples. Healing and meditation groups often share a totem, to oversee the activities. 



Below, the links to the pages on the meaning of animal totems: 


Source: Animal-Speak - Ted Andrews



A Sioux legend

The Creator gathered all of Creation together and said: "I want to hide something from the humans until they are ready for it. It is the realization that they create their own reality." The eagle said: "Give it to me, I will take it to the moon." The Creator said,: "No. One day they will go there and find it." The salmon said: "I will bury it on the bottom of the ocean." The Creator said: "No. They will go there too." The buffalo said: "I will bury it on the Great Plains." The Creator said: “They will cut into the skin of the Earth and find it even there."

Grandmother Mole, who lives in the breast of Mother Earth, and who has no physical eyes but sees with spiritual eyes, said: "Put it inside of them, that’s the last place they will look." And the Creator said: "It is done."