You hear people mention Animal Totems more and more frequently these days. You may also have heard them called Spirit Animals or Power Animals. Certainly, the influence of the animal world on the human psyche is undeniable. It has been with us since the earliest of times. We can observe it in the prominence of paintings on ancient cave walls. We can note the recurrence of animals in fairy tales of all cultures since recorded history. They often talk and give help and advice to humans, occasionally even delivering hard lessons by outsmarting people. Our fascination with animals is so innate that we even have a television channel called the Animal Planet where we can watch them anytime, day or night. And other channels, like Discovery and National Geographic, are filled with documentaries of many of the animals we find most captivating.
Before modern industrialization we were more in tune with the natural world. We were more connected to animals and their wisdom. We learned lessons about life by observing them, and we saw in them a mirror of our own qualities, both good and bad, so that we could improve ourselves and discover how to live in harmony. This lost awareness is reemerging today. It is, indeed, very accessible through any ancestral roots – European, Asian, African, etc. – but the most common view in our culture at this time is through Native American traditions.
Within these traditions, there are variations from nation to nation, and from tribe to tribe within one nation, but some beliefs are generally held in common. For instance, a common view is that when you are born, you enter this life at a certain place on the Medicine Wheel. You will traverse the Wheel many times during your life, as the Wheel encompasses all the virtues and imperfections, all the ups and downs that a lifetime entails. However, your particular placement at the time of your birth indicates which life lessons will be most important for you to learn during your lifetime. Creator gives you help to succeed in mastering these lessons. One such aid is your Personal Animal Totem (or totems, in some cases). In one Cherokee tradition, Creator gives each person seven totems in each of seven categories, for a total of forty-nine. You become familiar with your totems and begin working with them. You then start paring them down until you discover which totem is your strongest ally. This totem is the most influential helper on your path to becoming a “true human being,” someone who who leads your life “in a good way” by developing your gifts and talents to benefit the people for several generations.
So how does your Animal Totem help you do this? Well, at the most base level, your Totem helps you muddle through your life with a little more grace and peace of mind. But it can do more than that if you work closely with it. It strengthens and deepens your sense of connection – to family, friends, yourself, your purpose, and to the Great Mystery of life. Your Personal Totem shows you where you belong in the great scheme of things. Creator gives you this gift and asks you to cultivate the bond between yourself and your Totem because, as you begin to integrate it into your daily life, you discover how to use its wisdom to remove barriers to your personal and spiritual development. Unfolding your relationship with your Totems brings self-knowledge, healing and purpose. It deepens your intuition and awareness. It improves the stamina in your mind and body, and promotes peace and power in your heart and soul. You arrive at a place where you are contributing to the balance and harmony of all things on earth just by being you. Your Personal Totem takes you there.
So, how do you know what your personal animal totem is? And how do you make its acquaintance? Sometimes an animal enters your awareness because it startles you by flying across your windshield or darting in front of your car as you are driving down the road. Or maybe you just begin seeing a particular kind of animal everywhere you look. People can mistakenly assume that this is their personal animal totem. Usually it is not. Often this is an animal that has come to give you a message for a particular time or circumstance in your life. But your true personal animal totem is there with you throughout your life, all the time, even if you don’t notice it. The way to discover it is through a traditional method called “journeying.”
A journey is a very deep meditative state arrived at by traditional grounding methods and calling on the assistance of the Four Directions, Mother Earth and Father Sky or Great Spirit. Usually you have a guide to lead you, accompany you through the Journey, and bring you safely back. The guide does this through guided visualization, which may or may not be accompanied by drumming. Once you are in the receptive state that Journeying induces, your guide gives you the traditional suggestions that lead to recognizing your Totem, both within you and as a separate being who will assist you. You will be able to ask questions of your Totem, and it will give you insights and answers to what’s been on your mind. You can see your circumstances from a previously unimagined perspective, and new information is offered for considering whatever is at hand.
Meeting your Personal Totems is a profound experience. It connects you deeply to yourself and to the Great Mystery – Creator, Spirit, God, Goddess, or however you conceive and call the awe-inspiring wonder of creation. Developing your relationship with your Totems brings self-knowledge, healing and purpose.It deepens your intuition and awareness. It improves stamina in your mind and body, and promotes peace and power in your heart and soul. Its value is timeless – as uplifting and meaningful today as it has ever been.
It has been my great good fortune to have met and studied with some amazing teachers and healers over the years. Medicine people of four cultural traditions have graciously put enough trust in me to give their endorsements so that I might guide others on traditional Journeys to meet their Totems and Spirit Guides, open their Energy Centers (Chakras), find their missing soul pieces (Soul Retrieval), and other such Old Ways of healing. It is a blessing to have received this knowledge ~ and even more so to be able to share this beautiful Medicine with others.