About a week ago, local family and a couple of friends went out to dinner to celebrate my son’s 22nd birthday. Someone at the table asked a question about totem animals. Conversation started up about the topic and I could see that everyone had different levels of interest in the subject, as well as different beliefs about the subject. But the comment that really stuck with me came from my Dad. From down the table I heard my Dad say, in kind of a ‘fed-up’ sounding voice “I just don’t get it… I’m still trying to figure out why I’m a bat. What does a bat have to do with me?”
Geez, that’s SUCH a great question! And I bet it’s a question everyone has wondered about at some point in their life. And, if you are sitting there reading this thinking “Nope, I’ve never wondered about totem animals”, well now you have because that seed was just planted. J Funny how the mind works! Anyhoo, I thought this question would make for a great blog topic.
Before I go on, I would like to say that the word “totem” is just one that is used to describe this spiritual energy we will be talking about. Other words you may have heard in relation to this kind of spiritual energy are: Spirit Helper, Power Animal, Spirit Animal, Guardian Spirit, Helping Spirits, or even Angels. It’s up to you….whatever floats your boat!
Personally, work with 4 Power Animals and I have a significant number of Spirit Helpers. They are usually animals, but I do have some tree, plant and human spirit helpers. But if you were to come to me and ask about Totem Animals, I would know what you were talking about. It’s up to you to choose what word or words to use. I guess that’s it….they’re just words to describe a spiritual energy of a totem that’s connected to the spiritual energy of a human.
So, what is the definition of an Animal Totem? Well, depending on whom you ask, you will get a somewhat different answer. That’s the beauty of shamanism – all those who practice will have different ways of communicating and healing. Here are some definitions from a few healers:
Shaman, Michael Harner says: “Shamans have long believed their powers were the powers of the animals, of the plants, of the sun of the basic energies of the universe. In the garden Earth they have drawn upon their assumed powers to help save other humans from illness and death, to provide strength in daily life, to commune with their fellow creatures, and to live joyful existence in harmony with the totality of Nature.”
Shaman, Tom Cowan says: “Every animal has power by virtue of its being part of nature and a necessary player in the game of creation. Whether it be Bear, Raven, Coyote, mouse, Chipmunk, or Dolphin, the shaman believes that a particular animal spirit seeks out a particular individual to befriend because there is some mutual need between them, each being able to offer thither support and help in his or her journey through the many realms of existence.”
Cotemporary Medicine Woman, Maria Rainer says: “In shamanism, animals are sacred guides who have the ability to share their knowledge, wisdom, medicine, power, and spiritual gifts with us. They have significant roles in human lives as individuals who enjoy relationships with us, establishing a give and take, walking us through life as long as we honor their spirits with our actions, offerings, and commitment. Recognizing and beginning to communicate with your animal totems, or spirit guides, is an important step in your life that should not be retracted.” Once you have a relationship, you must be willing to maintain it in order to benefit from the animals’ wisdom and healing powers.”
I resonate with Maria Rainer’s definition most closely. In addition, I believe that a totem is the spirit of a plant or animal (any living thing, really) that protects, nurtures, guides and balances a human on a spiritual level. There is give and take between the spiritual energy of say,Whale, Buck, or Hummingbird and the human it’s with. They are good for one another, and when their energies are balanced well peace and harmony can be felt. My spirit helpers have shown me that this connection is made via energy and vibration. The two of you share a vibrational frequency, and if you work closely with your totem you can get to a very balanced state, therefore being a happier and healthier human – WooHoo!! And, when a partnership is very strong with a totem, they can guide and teach the human to travel to other spiritual realms. The more you work with your totem(s), you may find yourself aware of new found psychic abilities, or you may start seeing spirits, or your intuition may become very strong and accurate. It’s a wonderful thing!
There is no reason for you to choose your animal totems – they choose you. Your only role in establishing the relationship is to stay aware and receive any messages that might be sent to you. You can discover who your totem is on your own or with a Shaman or other spiritual healer. If you meditate on a somewhat regular basis, you may try asking your totem to make it known to you. You may get an image or message during meditation, or you may see and Eagle when you come back from meditation. If you are unable to identify a totem on your own, just ask a healer for their guidance.
Note to Dad: Daddy, thank you for giving me the inspiration to write this blog post! And don’t worry about the bat…he is there for you if you want to get to know him. And no worries if you don’t want to get to know him. Just be happy. I love you! — Karen