What Are Totem Animals?
Most people associate totem animals with Native American traditions, but many cultures throughout time have accessed the power of totem animals. A totem is a symbol or representation. This could include a talisman, a totem pole, a figurine, a picture or some other physical object that represents an animal. Using animals as totems is a way for man to become one with nature, to become spiritually connected with all of nature, and to show honor and respect for nature. Totem animals can lend guidance and insight as we progress on our spiritual paths. (If you need an animal talisman, check out the school store in the Amulets/Talisman section).
How Do Animal Totems Work?
Many Native American traditions teach that everyone has nine animals that act as guides for them throughout their time on Earth. These animals are connected to the abilities and talents the person has come into this lifetime with. They also are ones that will be needed to face challenges that will come about in this lifetime. These totem animals come and go as needed according to what issues we are facing at any given time.
There is one animal for each of the seven directions that surround us – East, South, West, North, Above, Below and Within. The other two animals are the ones that walk on either side of us throughout our time on earth. Many traditions also believe there is one power animal that is with each person lending guidance throughout his or her life. This totem animal is the main guardian spirit for the person and the one that they can learn the most lessons from. Totem animals are symbols that represent qualities and characteristics of their species that we are seeking or lacking. By being aware of these animals and communicating with them we can learn to bring these characteristics into our own lives.
In working with animal totems, you will find that sometimes they appear to you to give you a message or lend guidance with an issue that you may or may not be aware of and sometimes you will call upon particular ones that you know you need help from. Many times you will become aware of a particular animal showing up a lot and that gives you an opportunity to study the characteristics of that animal and gain enlightenment into a situation that you are dealing with in your life.
How Can You Find Your Animal Totems?
The Medicine Cards and the accompanying book by Jamie Sams and David Carson can be a useful tool when setting out to discover your animal totems. You can use the book to learn how to do a formal reading or spread to discover your totem animals or use the cards less formally by flipping through them looking for qualities you want or spread the cards out and pick one that "calls" to you.
Another less formal way to discover your totem animals is to ask yourself questions such as:
- What animals have you always been drawn to?
- What animals do you dream about?
- What animals appear consistently in your life?
- What animals do you wonder about whether they are "real" on this planet?
- What animals have you been fascinated with?
- What animals are you afraid of?
- What animals have you been marked by or have been attacked by?
- What animals are you drawn to figurines or paintings of?
Once you find one or more totem animals you wish to have as spirit guides or discover your main 9 totem animals, learning more about them and carrying talismans of your totem animals with you can help you make a connection with them. Remember when looking for totem animals, it doesn't have to be a physical appearance of the animal. It could be represented in other ways such as receiving cards and letters with the same animal pictured over and over, unexplainable dreams of a particular animal, watching television and seeing the same animal featured time and time again, or a variety of other ways. Also remember that totem animals are not restricted to mammals. Insects, reptiles, birds and even extinct or what some think of as "fantasy" animals, such as unicorns and dragons, can be totem animals.
When you have discovered your particular totem animals, really get to know them. Animals speak to us in many ways. Watch or research the ways they act in their work, play, interactions with other animals of the same and different species, and how they interact with their environment. You can also gain understanding on characteristics of totem animals from the Medicine Cards book or online sources. Studying the animal's characteristics helps you discover those attributes that you can apply to your own life and gives you a stronger connection to the spirit of the animal.
There are two basic ways to work with totem animals. One is to be aware of when they are talking to you or sending you messages and the other is for you to know which animal could be of help to you and asking them for assistance. Both ways require that you be familiar with what various animals have to offer so getting to know each ones' abilities and characteristics is the key.
If you do have a problem for which you need guidance and don't know which animal to call on, sometimes just asking the Universe can help. Numerous times I have asked the Universe to send me a totem animal spirit to help with a particular problem I am facing that I need help with. Then I watch for an animal to show up and look for the lesson that animal has for me that will apply to the problem I am facing. The results are always amazing and yes truly magical.
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