You can think of your Animal Totems as imaginary guides on your life journey. You might also think of them as Power Animals because each one imparts a special energy, or power, to your life.
By observing how each animal lived, found mates, located food and protected itself, Native Americans were able to define the animal's particular strengths and weaknesses. For example, bears hibernated during the winter, so it was said that they possessed the magic of dreams. They were also formidable foes, so Bear Energy was also about physical power and strength.
It's fascinating to note that different cultures (not just Native Americans) came up with similar interpretations for all individual animals.
Native Americans as well as other cultures used Shamans to help them connect with the Earth around them, and with the power of the animals. Using dreams and visions, these Shamen would connect with the “manitou" of the animals. The manitou of an animal is its primal spiritual energy- wolfness, deerness, foxness. . . etc.
It was believed that every human being had a particular manitou (or several) which they were especially attuned to. These were their personal animal totems.
They discovered their totems through vision quests, although sometimes the totem made themselves known in other ways. For example, if you were attacked by a wild animal, it was believed that that particular animal totem had chosen you itself.
Physical and Spiritual Qualities
Each animal that exists has several qualities, both physical and spiritual. The qualities in your personal Animal Totems are qualities that you might connect with, feel a deep affinity towards, or simply need more of in your life.
Here are some brief descriptions of the qualities of a few animals. Read carefully. One of them just might be one of your Animal Totems.
Skunk: Self-confidence, self-esteem, self-respect, creative energy, paying attention to intuition and inner knowings
Alligator: Power to survive, keeper of ancient wisdom, clairvoyance
Cat: Magic, mystery, curiosity, independence, healing, unpredictability, inner balance, moving through fears
Frog: Seeing in all directions, physical and emotional cleansing, metamorphosis, creative power
Shark: Peace, solitude, emotional transformation, power of protection
Your Animal Totems instruct and protect you throughout your life’s journey. When you discover an animal that speaks strongly to you, an animal you feel you must draw more deeply into your life, try surrounding yourself with images of this animal. This will let the animal know it is welcome in your space.
Finding Your Animal Totems
One way to “meet” one of your Animal Totems is to do a guided visualization (this one is adapted from the book SOULCOLLAGE, by Seena Frost).
Create Sacred Space by using music, a candle, incense, or a smudge stick. Sit quietly and very slowly scan your body, paying particular attention to each of the seven chakras. Then choose one chakra to return to and focus your attention there. Ask the animal who resides there to make its nature known to you. Wait. Listen. Watch.
Remember to be patient. Don’t give up. You might not “see” anything the first time you do this.
Sometimes your Animal Totem is nearby, just out of your sight, watching you to see if you’re serious about connecting with it. Continue to do this guided visualization until one of your animals makes itself known to you.
During your meditation, when you do “meet” one of your Animal Totems, look it in the eye and remember to greet it with affection and curiosity. Ask it how it’s feeling today. Ask it its name.
Remember that this encounter is totally in your imagination; therefore it is in your control. There is nothing to fear.
At some point, move from your body into the body of the animal. Look at yourself from the eyes of this sacred animal and notice what you see. After a while, return to your own body and continue your conversation with it.
Ask your Animal Guide the following questions, so that you can learn more about its meaning for you and its place on your journey:
Who are you?
What do you have to give me?
What do you want from me?
How will I remember what you have taught me?
Be sure to give it ample time to respond, and expect to be surprised!
You might be pleasantly or unpleasantly surprised by an animal that makes itself known to you. Try to accept the animal who wants to be with you rather than forcing a different one to be there.
Trust the process- My Summer of Skunks
It is generally believed that an Animal Totem chooses you, and not vice versa. The animals you love just might be your totems but then again, they might not! The animals which come to you when you are open and accepting are the ones you need to work with. They will have the strengths and weaknesses that you already posses, and they will have lessons for you to learn.
A few years ago, I was continually seeing skunks in our front yard, even in broad daylight. This is highly unusual skunk behavior, I assure you! A few times I also glimpsed a white skunk with a black stripe!
Later, I learned that skunks are really about self-respect, self-esteem, and inner protection through intuition. And I was seeing them at a season of my life when I felt completely powerless and unprotected regarding some difficult family situations which directly affected my self-respect and self-esteem.
Coincidence? I think not! I haven’t seen them brazenly walk across my front yard since that summer several years ago. I believe that Skunk had a message for me that year, and I believe that if I need him again, he will be there.
Honor Your Animal Guides with SoulCollage®
SoulCollage® is a personal growth tool that is a mystical magical blend of intuitive art and imaginative play. It was created by Seena Frost in 1989 as she worked with clients in her therapy practice in California.
One of the suits in the SoulCollage® deck is Companions, where you can create unique collaged cards to honor your special animal guides. Making a card like this, and working with it within the SoulCollage® process is an excellent way to honor these special animal energies, and to get to know your animal totems in a creative, imaginative way.
Anne Marie Bennett is a freelance writer and self-taught artist who enjoys playing with mixed-media collage, and all forms of color and words. She has a BS degree in Education from Southern Connecticut State University and has taught children, teens and adults throughout the East Coast. She is a breast cancer survivor and feels closest to her own soul when she is writing, creating art, teaching, and sharing the gift of SoulCollage® with others. She lives in Beverly with her husband Jeff and two highly cherished (and spoiled) feline companions named Sasha and Scooter. Please visit her website http://www.kaleidosoul.com for more information on animal totems, and to learn how to make SoulCollage® cards, a unique way to honor your animal totems.