General Question

DrasticDreamer's avatar

Do you believe in Spirit Animals?

Asked by DrasticDreamer (23969points) September 30th, 2008

I don’t necessarily believe in Spirit Animals, but I think it’s a cool concept. So, my question/s: If you do believe in them, what do you think yours is? Why? Do you frequently dream of a specific animal? Or, if you don’t believe in them, what would you want yours to be and why?

Personally, I’m drawn to wolves and have had many, many dreams with them. Sometimes they talk to me, other times they’re protecting me from seen and unseen danger, and sometimes I’m just walking with them. :)

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17 Answers

scamp's avatar

I think it’s a cool concept too. I’m drawn to the big cats. I think it would be cool to have a black panther for a sidekick.

PupnTaco's avatar

No.

But I think red-tailed hawks are really cool if that counts for anything.

deaddolly's avatar

No, never really gave it much thought. I consider myself ‘an animal person’. I love all animals.

I don’t care for birds tho. refuse to go in the bird house at the zoo. And seagulls and pigeons freak me out if they come too close. I blame it on Alfred Hitchcock and Tippi Hedren.

fireside's avatar

I’ve only really had one conversation with someone about “animal guides” but do think that it is an interesting concept.

About 10 or 12 years ago I was really drawn to lizards, not so much physical ones, but they seems to pop up in stories and songs a lot at the time. I like the shamanistic concept of having a lizard on your shoulder to guide you.

Eagles have always been a big favorite symbol for me.

I also like squirrels, though I was bit by one in a cemetery in Boston, so I’m not sure why…

marinelife's avatar

I like the idea of totem animals. I do not know what mine would be.

cheebdragon's avatar

Dont step on my spirit turtle…

wundayatta's avatar

I was once taken on a journey to find my spirit animal, and I did. Well, he wasn’t exactly an animal, more like an animated lump of red clay. He told me some stuff at the time, though I don’t remember any more. What I remember most is how he looked.

Later on, one night when I was dancing, he was poking around, pestering me a little. He thought dancing was so cool and he wanted to try it, so I let him take over my body. He had never been in a human body before. It was real amusing to me to have him try to manipulate my limbs. He had no idea what he was doing. Like a baby. Yet not, because he approached my body as if it were clay. So I got to feel what it was like to be made of clay, and to be slow and stolid and unmoveable.

I believe spirit animals are just that: spirit. They exist within us, and represent a part of ourselves, perhaps a wiser part of ourselves, that we can go to for solace or advice. As spirit, they are metaphor, but they do have their own life, because they represents parts of ourselves we do not ordinarily have conscious access to.

These parts of ourselves don’t use language to communicate. They use body language and music and abstract symbols. They communicate directly with emotion and feelings. I believe these things exist, and we personify them by naming them, and adding imagery to them in such a way that we are not aware of how they come to be.

Spargett's avatar

Anything is possible within the human mind.

shadling21's avatar

@PupnTaco: Is your real name Tobias?

I don’t believe in this stuff. I think certain animals may be more significant than others for each of us, but, as Spargett said, it is all in our minds. I may be drawn to a certain animal for the feelings that it evokes in me, but in no way is that animal a guide for me.

If I was dreaming of an animal protecting me, I wouldn’t go so far as to believe that that animal would protect me in real life. I think we project human characteristics onto animals to justify our desire for connection. An animal may actually harm a person in real life, so why not come to terms with that?

DrasticDreamer's avatar

shadling: I see what you’re saying, easily. But a lot of people (and I’m not saying myself, necessarily) would argue with you, asking if dreams weren’t also some come of reality or “real life”, as you put it.

gailcalled's avatar

My mother, who is now in her dotage, believed for years that she had a spirit guide; a bald eagle she called “Fulton.”

I hear the red-tailed hawks screaming and soaring high in the thermals and I feel a powerful connection to them.

Today when I was driving slowly up my drive in order to admire the autumn leaves, I was thinking that I’d love to see the Great Blue heron on my pond. Then I heard a rustle and he flew up. When I stopped the car (and my breathing) he alit on the edge of the pond and waded around with those delicate legs. Due to clarity of light, I saw his reflection also in the water..

tWrex's avatar

While I don’t know if I believe or disbelieve in it, in concept I find it very appealing. The idea that a part of myself has its own animalistic instinct would help me to relate some of my anger so I definitely dig the idea.

When I think of what my animal would be I always thing of dogs. Wolf like in nature like my beautiful husky whom I love very much normally, although I have had dreams where I’ve witnessed myself be something more ethereal than that – almost werewolf like, if not exact. I’ve always had a good relationship with any dog I meet so that also helps ot account for that feeling. I’ve always been interested in other religions, so I’ve always wanted to participate or observe the Indian rituals that are prevalent in the southwestern states (like Arizona).

MacBean's avatar

I’ve gone through the process of finding my totem animals. I’m not sure exactly how strongly I believe in it, but I think it’s a good way to get to know yourself, get in touch with the world around you, and improve your observational skills. A(n ex-)friend of mine wrote a five-step guide to finding your totems.
____________________________________________________

STEP ONE:

Hey, this one’s the easiest! You have to get rid of your preconceived notions about animals. Animals are awesome. If you can’t think about them without being grossed out or only liking the small, fuzzy, big-eyed baby ones, you’re not going to get far. You’re allowed to dislike or fear some of them, so long as you realize animals are awesome.

Your goal at this point is to just relax, open your mind and alert the Universe that you’re alive and thinking and ready to be talked to.

STEP TWO:

This will appeal to the OCD list-making readers. Get a piece of paper and make a list of animals. This includes:

* Animals you’ve always loved or been drawn to
* Animals you hate with a burning, fiery passion
* Animals you were obsessed with as a child
* Animals with whom you have had strange encounters
* Animals that seem to show up a lot in your life
* Animals that you collect or seem to get a lot of
* Animals that show up in your dreams
* Animals that have been appearing lately
* Dead animals that you have seen lately

These are all animals that the Universe could be trying to alert you to, or that have already manifested in your life in ways you’re untrained to see. Making a list is often a good way to begin to identify relevant patterns.

As an addendum to this, you could also go through a book of totems (many if not all of them, especially including those in the ‘Recommended Books’ section of this booklet, include an encyclopaedia of totem animals) or websites which list animals (also see ‘Recommended Websites’) and note any which immediately appeal to you.

Do include any animals which you especially or irrationally hate. They could have lessons you’re reluctant to think about or accept. Don’t limit yourself. Keep your mind open to what the Universe is saying.

STEP THREE:

Take thy list and prepare to do research.

Look up your animals. Check books on totem animals, websites with totem information, Google – but don’t neglect straight-up scientific information. For the animals which you can narrow down to a genus and species (and possibly even sub-species), you will be able to find even more specifically relevant information about the animal.

While totem books and websites will usually list varying symbolism, characteristics and common lessons for you, it’s possible to infer lessons or qualities from a certain animal’s behaviours, characteristics and colour/markings. Especially fertile animals could teach you about creativity and having a multiplicity of ideas. Animals that shed or moult regularly could teach you about transformation and regeneration. Animals that are particularly garrulous could teach you about the power of words and speech. Colouring such as white or silver could suggest lunar and/or feminine connotations.

Checking the habitat of the animal and if it’s local to your area can also be of value. Often people will have totems indigenous to or common in places that they have lived, or in lands that they are fascinated by. Having grown up in the US Pacific Northwest, many of my own totems are native to this region.

Also check the mythological connotations for any animal. In some tribes, Coyote has a long tradition of being a creator-trickster with a family of argumentative shit-babies. For the Celts, Salmon was a creature of wisdom, evidenced by the myth in which Fionn MacCumhail burnt his thumb cooking a legendary salmon and gleaned wisdom from sucking the wound. Raven was a powerful symbol of knowledge and insight to the Norse, as Huginn and Muninn were attendants to Odhinn.

Assessing which aspects of which animals seem ‘right’ can help narrow your list. Animals which you are bored or quickly turned off by – ones that just don’t feel ‘right’ – can probably be crossed off your list. Be critical with yourself; be sure that you’re not dismissing a possibility just because it teaches hard or challenging lessons, or is less ‘attractive’ or ‘strong’ by conventional standards. It can be as much of a bold stop to embrace and learn from small ‘wimpy’ creatures (Mouse, Rabbit, Squirrel) as it can be from bold or aggressive animals (Eagle, Wolf). Don’t dismiss ‘gross’ or ‘ugly’ creatures like Vulture, Spider or Cockroach either; their natural adaptations are remarkable and their lessons may surprise you.

NOTE: I should say here that the totem animals you work with are not an animal, they are the Animal. That is, if Wolf is your totem, you are not working with or chosen by a wolf, you are working with the Wolf: the combined essence of Wolf, the primeval spirit of all things wolfy and the source from whence all other wolves spring. Show some respect.

STEP FOUR:

Diagram time. Use the blank one at the centre of this booklet or draw your own with places for each of the totem positions. Over time, with a PENCIL – a pencil is crucial because things can and will change over time as you figure things out – you can fill in your totems as they come. Check the ‘Totem Positions’ section for descriptions of the symbolism of each position.

When I was filling in my own diagram for the first time, I immediately wrote Raven in the centre. Raven’s been with me since forever; even when I was seriously questioning my faith, I regarded Raven as an intimate and familiar expression of my inner self. The lessons Raven teaches have been driving forces throughout my life; descriptions of Raven totem characteristics, negative and positive, were familiar and described me as well.

Sometimes it’s not as clear, for some people, who their inner totem is. If this is you, relax: you’ll figure it out. In fact, your centre totem will probably be the first one you discover.

STEP FIVE:

Keep your mind open, your bestial inhibitions down and be patient, because this could take awhile. If you’re looking for fast answers, you’re undoubtedly going to be disappointed: you need to adopt a more mellow, nature-paced mindset and not try to rush things. Speaking personally, it has taken the better part of a year and a half, actively seeking, to discover and arrange all of my totems. I have heard of people uncovering all their totems at once, in a blinding flash of insight, but I don’t personally buy it. Everything worth getting is worth actually working for, totem knowledge included.

Once the Universe shows you someone – and they may or may not be on your list – think about it. Do the Step Three research if you haven’t already. Creating pictures or looking at other people’s pictures of your potential totem can help you think about them. Journal about them. Meditate on them. Wear jewellery dedicated to them. Highlight phrases or information about the totem that makes sense to you or refers strongly to your personality and/or characteristics. Watch your dreams, if you recall them, for what animals appear and how.

It’s all about absorption and filtering of information, seeing what sounds ‘right’. I looked for coincidences in real life and animals that appeared outside, dreams that I had, books that fell off shelves around me, pictures in my mind or the media that I couldn’t shake. The day I was first visited by Vulture, I stumbled across candy ‘Buzzard Eggs’.

Once I knew how to look, what to look for, accepted the idea of nine totems and was open to receive them, they came more easily.
____________________________________________________

Recommended Books

· Animal-Speak by Ted Andrews
· Animal-Wise by Ted Andrews
· Animal Magick by D.J. Conway
· Medicine Cards: The Discovery of Power Through the Ways of Animals by Jamie Sams

Andrews’ Animal-Wise should generally be read after Animal-Speak; it addresses less-common totems and specific breeds of more-common totems in greater depth. Animal-Speak has more basic information and more information on contacting and working with totems. As a matter of personal taste, I wouldn’t recommend anything else by Conway; she has a tendency to put the ‘neo-‘ in ‘neo-Pagan’ by playing fast and loose with mythology and historical pagan practices.

Recommended Websites (All of which were accessible as of October 2005)

· Cycle of Power: Animal Totems
http://www.sayahda.com/cycle.htm
· TheRaven’s Aviary: Corvidae Totems
http://www.shades-of-night.com/aviary/totem.html
(obviously of primary value to those with corvid totems)
· The Foxloft: Symbolism
http://www.foxloft.com/Artwork/Glyphs/Info/
(also a source of gorgeous totem glyph artwork)
· Animal Totems
http://www.linsdomain.com/totems.htm

____________________________________________________

Totem Positions:

CENTER
The deepest, most intimate and familiar expression of your inner self. The protector of your sacred space, the guide to your deepest joy and satisfaction, and the one who can teach you to be faithful to your personal truths. In many ways the inner/centre totem is an animal you.

LEFT
Your feminine side with yin and night correspondences. Male, female or otherwise, everyone has a masculine and feminine totem to their right and left. Your left totem helps you to learn to receive abundance as well as to nurture yourself and others.

RIGHT
Your masculine side with yang and day correspondences. Your right side is your spiritual ‘father-protector’ and carries your courage and warrior spirit.

NORTH
Your north totem gives you wise counsel and reminds you when to speak and when to listen. It represents the ‘you’ that you show in relationships and when dealing with other people. It reminds you to be grateful of your blessings every day.

SOUTH
Your south totem protects your inner child; often it will teach you about family. It reminds you when to be humble and when to trust. South balances between innocence and experience, seriousness and laughter.

EAST
Your east totem teaches you the hardest lessons you have to learn, the greatest spiritual challenges you will have to overcome. It guides you and guards the path to illumination.

WEST
Your west totem is a spiritual guide; it leads you to your personal truth and inner answers. It also shows you the path to your goals.

ABOVE
Your above totem connects you to the Universe – the higher powers and Creator. It reminds you where you’ve come from, in a cosmic sense, and where you’ll return to. Above is your guardian and guide to the Otherworld.

BELOW
Your below totem shows you how to get close to earth. It teaches you to stay grounded and on the path, to not get so caught up in spiritual matters that we neglect ‘real life’ and the world around us. Below reminds you to ‘keep it real’.

Nimis's avatar

Mac: Why ex? This list seems deliciously neurotic.

drhat77's avatar

@cheebdragon – is your spirit guide also a turtle

MacBean's avatar

@Nimis—I actually don’t know why ex. She cut off all contact with me without explanation. It was shortly after I’d moved across the country, so I had a lot of things to deal with and didn’t have the time to get into this with her. By the time stuff was a little less hectic, I’d decided that if she wanted to ditch me in the middle of a time of great upheaval in my life without even having the courtesy to tell me why, that was fine with me, she could take a long walk off a short pier, and I never bothered to ask for a reason for it.

Nimis's avatar

Mac: Good answer. Short pier for her.

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