Because our personalities, just like Mother Earth, just like Creator, have many facets, we usually experience more than one totem animal in our lives.
Various traditions have differing teachings on whether there is a specific number of totems we experience. The Native American tradition, for one, teaches that we are each connected with nine different animals that accompany us through life as our guides.
We experience the wisdom and assistance of these different animal guides as they come into and out of our lives throughout our journey. They join us during new tasks, changes in direction, lessons to be learnt, and all events involving spiritual growth including simply bettering ourselves in day to day living.
Most traditions agree that we usually experience at least one animal guide who stays with us for our whole life, in the spiritual world and often in physical manifestations. This animal acts as our main guardian spirit (Life Totem). You share a connection with this animal that will show itself in shared characteristics, your dreams, various interactions, and an ongoing interest in the animal throughout your life. This animal guide offers power and wisdom to you, and as you learn to communicate with it, a relationship of respect and trust will develop and deepen. It is with you to assist you in your soul’s purpose in life during this manifestation.
When you find an animal is speaking strongly to you, that you feel drawn to it, or you find it keeps cropping up (e.g. you see a poster of an eagle, then hear a song about an eagle on the radio, then look out your window to see an eagle fly past), you need to acknowledge and open yourself to it. You can do this very simply by placing pictures or totems (statues/crests etc) in your environment, and learning more about the animal. This will assist your subconscious in being more open to the energy of the totem, and thus allow messages and wisdom to flow to you from your animal more easily, as well as encouraging the energy of the animal to be welcome in your space.
There are several questions you can meditate on if you have not become aware of your animal totem/s yet. Remember that you cannot be wrong! Just trust your intuition and relax as you contemplate the answers:
- What animal, bird or insect do you feel most drawn to?
- When you go to a nature reserve, park or zoo, what animal are you most interested in seeing?
- What animal do you most often see (in nature and in your ordinary surroundings – contemplate any interaction, whether images, sounds, or the actual animal)?
- What animal are you currently interested in learning more about?
- What animal most frightens you, intrigues you, or makes you feel “out of your comfort zone”?
- Have you ever been bitten, scratched or attacked by an animal?
- Do you ever have recurring dreams about a particular animal?
- Are you drawn to figurines or pictures of a specific animal?
More exercises to try:
- Make a list of animals that have drawn your interest or have left a deep impression on you from paintings, photographs, stories, movies, carvings, etc. This will help you identify what animal/s has/have played a meaningful part in your world.
- Keep a journal of the animals present in your dreams or that you encounter through the day for the next month. How did the animal behave? Did you interact with the animal? This will help you identify which animal shows up in your life most frequently.
- Find a place where you can be alone to meditate. Sit quietly and ask your animal to make its nature known to you. Feel free to use tools such as incense, smudge, and candles to help you. A particularly helpful meditation is picturing yourself standing in the middle of a large forest glade, with a river and/or lake, or perhaps a cove by the sea. Ask your guide to come to you, as you walk in the surroundings.
As already discussed, different traditions vary on the specifics when it comes to the exact number of totem animals you work with, and what they are called. Below I list two DIFFERENT views – the point is to do your own research and go with what suits YOU. It’s a personal choice based on what you resonate with.
View One – Types of Totems:
Your Life Totem animal is the first totem you should connect with, intuitively, once your understand its significance. Your Life Totem animal is with you throughout your entire incarnation, and is always there for you when you need its abilities. It is possible to have more than one Life Totem animal that join you during your journey.
Primary Life Totem
Your Primary Life Totem represents your key focus at this time – that which you are currently working on, learning, developing. The messages brought to you by your Primary Life Totem are important reminders from the Universe about your present purpose on Earth, and your inner spiritual nature.
You Journey Totem animal is with you for a specific period of time – whether that be weeks, months or even years, depending on how long it takes you to walk the path and learn the lesson/s that your Journey Totem animal is guiding and assisting you with. You may experience several Journey Totem animals appearing in your life more commonly than all the others, as if by coincidence. When two or three animals suddenly make an appearance in your life, and they share a similar nature, it means that you have established the basis of your path.
A Message Totem arrives suddenly, neutrally, and at random times throughout your life (or maybe even only once). A Journey Totem, in contrast, stays a little longer and tends to slip in and out of your life over a period of time. The Message Totem brings a powerful message of self growth and spiritual awakening – a sudden step forward. The experience will stand out as unique.
A Shadow Totem animal is one of a number of totems sent to us to test us, and will be the one that you initially fear. The Shadow Totem represents your inner fears and weaknesses that you need to overcome. Once you are able to see the fascination or attraction in a previously feared, ‘dangerous’ animal, you have succeeded in learning its lesson, and its power and strength will be open to you. For this reason, facing the fears that the Shadow Totem brings out in you can result in major spiritual growth. Failing to face your fears could result in the Shadow Totem being unable to assist you, and in fact force it to work against your life, holding you back from enlightenment.
A Spirit Totem is what a Shadow Totem becomes in your life once you have overcome your fear.
It is one of your most powerful Animal Totems.
View Two – The Native American Indian Nine Totems:
Each and every person has nine power animals that represent the medicine they carry on this journey/lifetime.
For example, a person who is connected with Wolf is a born teacher, pathfinder, innovator and self-starter. If they are not living their truth/not walking their true path, you may find they emulate the opposite of these qualities.
The number nine is based on the concept that we are born on Earth with seven directions:
- Below and
- Within (which they teach is inside us AND around us since the entire Universe is inside our consciousness).
Significance of the Nine Totem Animals
East: The animal in the East guides you to your greatest spiritual challenges and guards your path to illumination.
South: The animal in the South protects the child within and reminds you when to be humble and when to trust, so that innocence will be balanced in your personality.
West: The animal in the West leads you to your personal truth and inner answers. It also shows you the path to your goals.
North: The North animal gives wise counsel and reminds you when to speak and when to listen. It also reminds you to be grateful for every blessing every day.
Above: The Above animal teaches you how to honor the Great Star Nation, and reminds you that you came from the stars and to the stars you will return. This animal is also the guardian of the Dreamtime — for your personal access to the other dimensions.
Below: The Below animal teaches you about the inner Earth, and how to stay grounded and on the path.
Within: The Within animal teaches you how to find your heart's joy and how to be faithful to your personal truths. It is also the protector of your sacred space, the place that is yours alone and is never shared except by invitation.
Right Side: This animal protects your male side and teaches you that, no matter where you turn, it will be your Father-protector within. This animal also carries your courage and warrior spirit.
Left Side: This animal is the protector of your female side and teaches you that you must learn to receive abundance as well as to nurture yourself and others. The left-side animal is also your teacher about relationships and mothering.
We have a totem animal in each of the seven directions to teach us the lessons of these directions.
The other two animals are the ones that walk on either side of us at all times.
We may experience them in recurring dreams, a fascination with them throughout our lives, or simply a recognized “connection”.
The Right Side animal and the Left Side animal are always with you.
ALL of us carry male AND female essences within us, and the two related animal spirits are with you at all times.
What is Animal Medicine?
In this context, the word “medicine” must be redefined.
Medicine is a Native American Indian concept which refers to anything that improves one’s connection to Creator/Great Spirit/The Great Mystery, and all life. This includes physical healing, mind healing and spirit healing.
It also encompasses anything that increases or brings about growth in personal power, strength and understanding. It is a way of living that brings healing to Mother Earth and all life forms. Therefore, in essence, Native American medicine means a way of life – walking on Earth in perfect harmony with the Universe.
Animals’ characteristics, behaviours, patterns and even their very appearances, relay messages to us – we just need to learn the language. This is an ancient form of “reading the wyrd”, the way the world worked before technology made us blind and deaf to the natural world around us. This precious information, and gifts of healing, are completely free to us.
When you call on the power or energy of a specific animal, you are asking to be drawn into complete harmony with the strength of its essence. All understanding that we gain, all wisdom that we collect through these valuable interactions with our animal brothers and sisters, is a healing process, and must be approached with both humility and intuitiveness. Certain aspects of the lessons the animals choose to teach us are reflections of our soul lessons.
These are essential truths about being human, being vulnerable, and seeking wholeness with all that is. They are a part of the pathway to power. The power lies in the wisdom and understanding of your role in the Great Mystery, and in honouring every living thing as a teacher.
Learning to interact with the Animal Kingdom in this way is about reactivating your instinctual intuitiveness, remembering your innate knowledge of natural truths, learning how to relate to all of the Great Mystery’s creatures, and how to “observe the obvious in the silence”.
“The silence of a quiet mind
is the sacred fertility of the receiving spirit.”
– Medicine Cards, Jame Sams & David Carson
“Indian Power Animals and Totems” de Marguerite Elsbeth
“To Ride a Silver Broomstick” deSilver RavenWolf
“To Stir a Magick Cauldron” deSilver RavenWolf
“Animal-Speak Pocket Guide” de Ted Andrews
“Medicine Cards – The Discovery of Power Through the Ways of Animals” – Jamie Sams & David Carson
“ Earth Medicine” de Kenneth Meadows
“Psychic Pets” de Barbara Woodhouse