Animals as Spirit Guides

Animals as Spirit Guides

 

(excerpted from Animal Spirit Guides by Dr. Steven  Farmer)

Those spirits that are in animal form that teach us, guide us, empower us,  and help us heal are called animal spirit guides or spirit  animals. In shamanic and indigenous cultures they’re usually called  totem animals or power animals. Often these terms are used  interchangeably, although there are subtle differences in meaning.

The term totem animal has two meanings. First, a totem animal is  typically one that is shared by a family, clan, or group. In indigenous  cultures, the family you were born into all have a totem animal in common. In  modern societies, various groups also have communal totems, such as sports teams  or clubs that identify with a totem animal. A second meaning of totem animal is  a representational object of a particular animal, like a small tortoise, owl,  raccoon, or hawk figurines. We often give our children totem animals, like teddy  bears or bunny rabbits to give them comfort.

The term power animal has its origins in shamanism. This is a  specialized animal spirit guide the shaman or shamanic practitioner acquires  early in their initiation into their practice. Their power animal travels with  them whenever they go on a shamanic journey, which is an altered state of  awareness in which the practitioner sends his soul or consciousness into  non-ordinary reality—another term for the spirit world—to receive teachings,  guidance, and healings. You can, however, have a relationship with a power  animal even if you’re not a shaman or shamanic practitioner. They may come to  you in meditations, visions, dreams, or shamanic journeys. It’s a highly  personal and specialized relationship with an animal spirit guide, one where the  personality and characteristics of the particular power animal that you have  attracted to you are reflective of your own personality and characteristics.

Although every creature on the planet can be an animal spirit guide, in some  traditions domesticated animals can’t be power animals because they’ve lost much  of their wildness and are removed from the natural world. Likewise, some  traditions believe that insects are to be excluded from being power animals  because of their size and nature. I have, however, included both domesticated  animals and some insects such as butterfly and dragonfly my book, and even two  mythological animals, dragon and unicorn, to account for those who have enough  of a special relationship with them to call them power animals.

However to experience the tremendous value of working with animal spirit  guides you don’t need to be a shaman, have any interest in shamanism, nor be  associated with an indigenous culture. For most purposes you don’t even need to  be concerned as to whether an animal spirit guide is a totem or power animal.  Instead, consider these wonderful beings as spiritual allies that want to reach  out to each and everyone one of us who are open to their guidance and, when  called with sincere intent, will respond.

One of the great advantages of working with animal spirit guides is that the  actual animal is physically and symbolically present in so many ways throughout  every society and culture on earth. Because of their abundant representations in  third-dimensional reality, they’re continually in our consciousness. Depending  on how and in what way they show up in the material world, whether in the flesh  or as a symbol, their appearance can be  a representative of the spirit of  that animal. When an animal shows up in an uncommon way or repetitively as  spirit guide, that animal isn’t just the single animal, but is representing the  entire species. The hummingbird that flits about and then hovers for several  seconds directly in front of you isn’t just a hummingbird but is carrying with  her the essence of all hummingbirds, and is therefore Hummingbird with  a capital “H.” That’s also why when we speak of an animal spirit guide, we leave  out the “a” or “an” as a way of recognizing and honoring that spirit animal. The  hawk that visited me wasn’t only a hawk, but in those instances was representing  the essence of all hawks, and was therefore Hawk.

Not only do these spirit animals help us in many ways, but another positive  effect is that you’ll deepen your appreciation for the magic and mystery of all  animals, whether they are of the air, water, or the land. Every being on this  beautiful and majestic planet has its place in the web of life, and as we  develop our consciousness and awareness of the unique quality of animal spirit  guides, we enhance our relationships with all of our animal brothers and  sisters.