Spirit Animals, Power Animals, and Totems
Spirit animals are similar to angelic guardians. These noncorporal beings guide, protect, and assist witches in both the physical and the nonphysical worlds. Some people believe spirit animals once existed in physical bodies, but have now passed over to the spirit realm where they continue to aid human beings.
The Kahunas of Hawaii and Polynesia say that the spirits of animals live inside people. These spirit creatures endow human beings with special talents or skills that are in line with the animals' characteristics. For example, someone who has a spirit eagle inside him might possess keen eyesight. A graceful dancer might embody the spirit of a gazelle.
Everyone has at least one spirit animal who acts as a guide and guardian throughout the person's life. (The term “animal” in this case is used to refer to birds, reptiles, and insects as well as mammals.) This lifelong spiritual companion is often called a totem animal. At times, additional spirit animals may show up to help in certain circumstances. These creatures, frequently referred to as power animals, lend their special energies or qualities to you temporarily. If you must overcome a formidable obstacle, for instance, an elephant might come to you to offer its strength and tenacity.
Remain open to nature's voice and avoid anticipating what animal might be your own totem. In some cases, your totem may possess qualities similar to your own. A busy, hardworking witch might have a bee or ant as a totem. In other cases, your totem might display traits you've repressed or rejected, and need to reawaken within yourself.
Connecting with Your Animal Guides
Meeting a power animal or totem often takes place in a ritual setting. Or the animal spirit may reveal itself to you through a seemingly chance encounter with its physical counterpart. If you notice an animal you've never seen in your area before or in an unusual situation, it's probably significant. Sometimes a spirit animal will come to you in a dream, or through repeated sightings in a variety of media. If you are fiercely protecting and nourishing a pet project, for instance, you might suddenly start seeing pictures of bears in magazines, on television, and so on.
An animal's symbolism corresponds to the whole creature, both its positive and negative aspects. The otter, for example, is playful, but it can also get nippy. A witch with an otter totem, therefore, might have a biting sense of humor or take frolicking a bit too far.
You can also choose to meet spirit animals through a process called journeying. This visualization technique usually involves going into a light meditative trance and imagining you are tunneling into the earth, perhaps by entering a cave or following a tree's roots down deep into the ground. As you journey, mentally ask animal helpers to present themselves to you.
When an animal appears, ask it what it wants to tell you or offer to you. A deer might advise you to be gentle with yourself and others. A lion may bring you courage. Try to become one with the spirit animal and feel what it's like to be that animal. The more you can involve your senses, the better. Remember to thank the animal for its friendship and help, before saying goodbye and returning to your ordinary awareness.
Adopting Animal Powers
Once you've met your spirit animal, you can begin to incorporate its powers into yourself. To better acquaint yourself with the animal's characteristics, you could watch nature programs on television, visit a zoo or farm, or read books or magazine articles about the animal. Some people like to display images of their spirit animals on their altars or in prominent places in their homes. Others carry small tokens in the shapes of their animal helpers. You can purchase clothing, jewelry, and accessories decorated with animal images from organizations that protect wildlife, or you could even get a tattoo of your totem animal.
“Terrestrial animals have always had a strong symbology associated with them. They have represented the emotional side of life, often reflecting qualities that must be overcome, controlled, and/or re-expressed.”
— Ted Andrews, Animal-Speak
Practice behaving like your spirit animal. Arch your back and stretch like a cat. Stand tall like a giraffe. Swim and dive gracefully like a porpoise. Roar like a lion. Notice how you feel doing this. A number of yoga postures are named for animals, and you might benefit from trying these.
Show gratitude to your spirit animal for assisting you. Thank it for being in your life. Leave food outside for its earthly representatives. Donate money to organizations that help animals. Express kindness and consideration for all animals.