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Animal Totems - Accept the Gifts They Have To Offer You

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.

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 them 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. 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

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.

Honoring Your Animal Totems

Here are some other powerful ways to connect with your animal's energy, invite it into your life, and honor it:

  • Surround yourself with photos, statues, or other representations of your totem.
  • Wear clothing or jewelry depicting your totem.
  • Pay attention to the emotional energies that come up in your visualizations and work with each totem. Give each one ample time and space. For example, Eagle is good at working with anger, and Frog's energy is beneficial for those in need of clearing and releasing negativity.
  • If at all possible, visit a place where your totem lives. Observe it in its natural habitat if you can. Spend time quietly in its presence. If bears or whales come to you and you don't live near a zoo or the ocean, get a video or DVD from the library and be with the animal that way instead.
  • Write a poem or story about your totem.
  • Read books and learn more about the life and habits of your totem.
  • Carry a stone that honors the lessons of your animal totem. If one of your totems is a frog, for example, you might want to carry jade or green tourmaline. If one of your totems is a dolphin, you might want to carry a piece of coral or aquamarine to symbolize the ocean.
  • If your animal is endangered or in need of protection, you might contribute to charities that specifically help them.
  • Spend time in meditation with your animal totem.
  • Take action in a way that honors the lessons your animal brings you. For instance, a Bird Person might try "flying" into new adventures by testing their wings at a new hobby or something they've been longing to do. An Elk person might do something like weightlifting or biking to build stamina.
  • Do something to heal that part of the Earth which houses your power animal. A Shark person might contribute money to help clean up an oil spill. A Fox person might spend time with a nature organization helping to replant a forest. Not sure what to do? Picking up litter or volunteering for recycling in your town is always helpful.
  • 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 for more information on animal totems, and to learn how to make SoulCollage cards to honor your animal totems.


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