What Are Spirit Animals or Totems?
Animals are ever-present in our lives, whether they’re our beloved household dog or the roaming coyote that we glimpse every now and then. Yet, we often lack an understanding of their symbolic nature and the key characteristics that define them. That’s why we created this article, to show you how to find your spirit animal.
Traditional shamans believe that spirit animals or totems are revealed to guide and protect their charges throughout a journey. They offer influential insights into our subconscious mind and carry meaningful messages if you are willing to listen. Your spirit animal is meant to serve as a guide and bring attention to parts of your life that need acknowledgment and exploration.
How Do You Know Your Animal Spirit Guide is Around You?
By becoming familiar with the archetypal traits and behaviors your spirit guide embodies, you’ll start to understand which signs you should look out for to know when it’s around you. When you invoke your spirit guide through meditation, mindfulness, or prayer you can ask for it to show a sign. You can also set an intention for your dreams before bed to encourage your spirit guide to show itself to you and provide guidance.
Sometimes signs of your animal spirit guide may be subtle, presenting itself to you in more of a symbolic form, while other signs may be more blatant physical forms. Spending more time in natural environments will undoubtedly help you connect with your spirit guide. Disconnecting from technology and reconnecting with the Earth is necessary to establish this bond.
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What Are the Different Types of Spirit Animals?
The symbolism of the Wolf:
- Sharp intelligence, deep connection with instincts
- Appetite for freedom
- Expression of strong instincts
- Feeling threatened, lack of trust in someone or in yourself
- Positive symbolism of the wolf spirit animal
The Wolf’s Characteristics
Positive meanings emphasize a deep connection with your intuition and instincts. On the negative side, the wolf could represent a perceived threat or a lack of trust in someone or your own feelings or actions. This spirit animal also reflects sharp intelligence in dealing with important matters.
When you have the wolf as a spirit animal, it could be an expression of your sharp intelligence and strong instincts. The wolf symbolizes a strong connection with instincts and when it appears as an animal spirit guide, it could point to a way of perceiving and understanding the world around you that works similarly.
Whether the wolf appears in physical form or in a dream or meditation, it may reveal that you’re using your instincts and intuition to grasp a situation well. The fact that your wolf animal spirit guide shows up could also be a call to use this capacity to deal with a recent challenge you’ve experienced in your life.
If the presence of the wolf feels threatening, pay attention to how your instinctual nature and raw emotions can jeopardize your balance or the balance of people around you. Your power animal may appear in such light to warn you about devouring instincts of those belonging to somebody around you.
Wolf power or spirit animals point to an appetite for freedom and living life powerfully, guided by instincts. When a wolf manifests its presence as a guide in your life, it could be a call to live your life more freely, to bring the intensity of passion in your everyday endeavors.
Wolves are wild animals that are not easily domesticated and when they appear as spirit guides, they could be an invitation to look at what supports your authentic self and the true expression of yourself. The wolf totem is a reminder to keep your spirit alive and trust your instincts to find the way that will best suit you.
A wolf totem animal can represent a perceived threat or feeling you are being threatened. The presence of this spirit animal could be a reminder of an event, situation or person you feel threatened by. The wolf could reflect something that may have a “predatory” feel to it and instill a feeling of vulnerability that is not reassuring. Encountering your spirit animal in such a way invites you to look at who or what in your life is having such an influence.
Perhaps your spirit animal is warning you about challenges with personal boundaries: You may feel you have exposed yourself too much with someone or in a certain situation and need to pull back or strengthen emotional or physical boundaries with that person or in the context of that experience. The wolf as a spirit animal could also remind you that you’re facing stiff competition at work or that the behavior of people around may feel like you have to deal with a “pack of wolves.”
Since a common meaning for the wolf spirit animal emphasizes the role of instincts, having this animal as a guide or totem could point to your relationship with how you live your life, and more specifically how you trust or mistrust your instincts and intuitive guidance. Check whether you feel threatened by your own instincts and feelings. The presence of your wolf power animal could reflect your inner emotional landscape and bring to your awareness your own feelings about a matter that is highly emotionally charged.
The symbolism of the Owl
- Intuition, the ability to see what others do not see
- The presence of the owl announces a change
- Capacity to see beyond deceit and masks
- The traditional meaning of the owl spirit animal is the announcer of death, most likely symbolic like a life transition, change
The Owl’s Characteristics
The owl is perhaps best known for being able to see in the dark. As a spirit animal, the owl guides you to see beyond the veil of deception and illusion; it helps see what’s kept hidden. It also symbolizes the ability to cut through illusions and see the real meaning of someone’s action or state of mind. When the owl is one of your power animals, you have a strong intuition and can access information and wisdom that’s usually hidden to most. The spirit of this animal encourages you to look beyond deceiving appearances into the true reality of a situation or a person’s motives.
The owl is a strong spirit guide for discernment and making decisions based on solid foundations. Call on the owl totem when you have to assess a situation or are going through confusing times. If you have an owl as a totem or spirit animal, you probably like to explore the unknown. Nighttime is particularly auspicious for your creativity, so take the time to focus your creative energy then. The mysteries of life are a fascinating field of interest. As the owl guides your steps, you are likely to develop an appreciation for life’s magic.
When the owl shows up in your life, listen and look out for the subtle signs that are around you. Your animal spirit guide is a great helper to be attentive to what usually goes below your radar, but is now of particular importance. The owl is also a guide to uncover your hidden potential and abilities. Check whether you need to reveal more of your intuitive nature.
Owl spirit animals are symbolic of death in many traditions. In most cases, however, it should not be taken literally: If the owl is associated with death, it can be viewed as a symbolic death, meaning a transition in life, important changes that are taking place or about to happen. When the owl shows up in your life, pay attention to the winds of change. Perhaps you are about to leave some old habits, a situation that no longer serves you or bring something new in your life.
The symbolism of the Bear
- The primary meaning of the bear spirit animal is strength and confidence
- Standing against adversity; taking action and leadership
- The spirit of the bear indicates it’s time for healing or using healing abilities to help self or others
- The bear medicine emphasizes the importance of solitude, quiet time, rest
- The spirit of the bear provides strong grounding forces
The Bear’s Characteristics
The spirit of the bear is a strong source of support in times of difficulty. It provides courage and a stable foundation to face challenges. When the bear shows up as a spirit guide in your life, it’s perhaps time to stand for your beliefs or your truth. This power animal will provide for support and strength. The bear is also a guide to take leadership in your life or in other people’s lives. This animal is feared and admired for its strength. Its presence inspires respect. Its strength and powerful stature will inspire you to step into a leadership role in your life and take action without fear.
When you invoke the power of the bear totem, reflect on the qualities of inner strength, fearlessness, and confidence in yourself and how you can project them in your world.
Since the bear is often associated with shamans in many traditions, this spirit animal can symbolize healing abilities and step into the role of the healer. If the bear shows up in your life, it may also be time to take care of your own needs for healing, whether it’s at the physical, emotional or spiritual level. Be sensitive to where you are and reflect on where you would most need healing. You can call on the bear spirit guidance to direct your energy in a more conservative or focused way.
The bear is an animal that lives a solitary life. Having a bear as a spirit animal can mean that you find balance and comfort in solitude. The presence of this power animal could point to the need to “regroup” and set up boundaries, so you feel comfortable in your own space. It may be a call to find time away from the crowd or busyness and favor quiet time and rest. The bear spirit can also be a great helper to dedicate time and energy to more introspective practices, such as self-inquiry or meditation. Call on the spirit of the bear to help you find your center and ground yourself in a strong foundation that will support you in more busy and noisy times.
The symbolism of the Hawk
- Hawk is the messenger of the spirit world
- Use the power of focus
- Take the lead when the time is right
- Power to see, clear vision
- Strong connection with spirit, increased spiritual awareness
The Hawk’s Characteristics
The hawk can soar high and reach the heavens effortlessly. As most bird totems, this power animal is often considered as a messenger who brings messages from the spirit world and the unseen. If you have the hawk as a spirit animal, you may be inclined to play with divination tools and use your intuition to guide your steps in life. Working with the hawk totem could reinforce your ability to rely on this type of guidance. When the hawk shows up in your life, be sensitive to the messages it may carry and be receptive to your own intuition.
Hawk spirit animals invite us to be focused in our daily undertakings. When you feel the presence of the hawk totem, avoid distractions and focus on the task at hand. At the same time, hawks can soar and fly high in the sky. This animal has the power to provide support in gaining a higher level of perspective on any issue or project you undertake. When the hawk appears in your life, it’s perhaps time to be less distracted by the details and focus on the higher perspective. Relying on the hawk power, you can see what’s ahead clearly and defy any obstacles that may be on your way. A specific way the hawk guidance works is to use a high level and yet clear and focused vision to guide your action.
The hawk is also a bird of prey. Having this animal as a spirit guide emphasizes your ability to lead and influence others. When the hawk is present in your life, it could signify that it’s time to take more initiative and being active. Hawks symbolize the power of observation. This spirit animal’s guidance may also indicate that you have the opportunity to study a situation before taking action. Observe the situation and then act when the time is right.
The hawk spirit animal is associated with the power of vision. If you have the hawk as a totem, you have or are developing the ability to see clearly and have strong visions. Perhaps, you even use clairvoyant skills to support your goals in life and communication with others. Just like the hawk can see in great detail at great distances, you may be able to perceive what others do not. You may have an affinity with piercing life great mysteries and divination in one form or another.
When you have the hawk as a spirit animal, you may have a natural inclination to receive visions, either in dreams or awake. Your extra sensory abilities and intuition are supported by the power of this animal. The hawk totem is strongly connected to the spiritual realms. When it shows up in your life, you may be called to pay attention and experience rapid spiritual development. As you develop your relationship with your totem, you may be inspired to feel your connection with spirit more fully.
The symbolism of the Fox
- Physical or mental responsiveness, increased awareness
- Cunning; seeing through deception; call to be discerning
- Ability to find your way around, to be swift in tricky situations
- Affinity with nocturnal activities and dream work
When the fox appears in your life as a spirit animal, it encourages action and quick, swift moves. You may be called to take action in a way that shows your adaptability and ability to move quickly through obstacles and resistance.
Being inspired by a fox totem, you can work at developing the sharpness of your mental skills: Analytical intelligence, power of deduction, observation can come into play more powerfully in how you deal with daily matters or bigger projects. The spirit of the fox may also imply that you are sharpening your physical alertness and responsiveness.
When the fox appears in your life, it may indicate that you need to pay attention to people or circumstances that may be deceiving or tricking you into going down a path that does not necessarily serve you. This spirit animal may call you to be more discerning in relationships, whether it’s in business or friendships, or in choices you make for yourself. Following the fox totem wisdom, look for any area of your life where you may be cunningly led to do something else than you would in all reason do. Use discernment in your choices and actions.
The fox as a spirit guide offers good teachings about getting around obstacles instead of confronting them head to head. You might find that you could renew or be smarter about how you deal with areas of resistance in your life or projects. Having the fox as a spirit animal, you may be guided to learn from lessons in a way that may feel like you are being challenged or sometimes even being tricked. To make the most of the fox totem wisdom, keep a strong sense of humor and be smart of the lessons you learn.
The power of the fox is a great support to develop your ability to find the sharpest and smartest solution to any problem. Call on the fox guidance when you feel lost and need help finding your way.
Foxes are most active at night, but also are day animals. By affinity with the animal totem, you may like to be active and bring your creativity to its peak during night time as it gives you the space to be closer to your natural state.
Working with dreams is a particularly useful practice for those who have the fox as a spirit guide. The affinity with the night activities supports the connection with the dream world.
How to Find Your Spirit Animal
Your spirit animal is the embodiment of your subconscious mind and therefore cannot be chosen. It must choose you. In most cases, your spirit animal will present itself during a time when your mind is relaxed and able to wander internally, such as during dreams or meditation. However, spirit animals may also reveal themselves in physical form, often displaying unusual behavior or showing themselves several times in short succession.
Get outside, take your headphones off and pay attention to the abundance of the world around you. Notice the direction of the wind and the patterns of the birds above you. This step is essential in preparing you for spirit animal connections. Your ability to find your spirit animal, and receptivity to their guidance, depends on your ability to observe the natural world and identify signs and symbols.
Take Note of Animal Encounters
Be open and attentive when animals appear in your life. Do not be afraid or dismissive. Instead, make it clear that your heart is open, especially if an animal behaves out of the ordinary. Take note of repetitive encounters with animals. Whether in physical or symbolic form, such as an object or an image. Repetition may be a sign.
Conduct a ceremony to call in your spirit animal. Ceremonies may involve burning of medicinal plants, such as sage and palo santo, as well as chanting and creation of altars. During your ceremony, ask for your spirit animal to be show themselves, in vision, dream or live form. Do not question or overthink their appearance. Rather, ask for their support and guidance.
Research Animals of Interest
Research animals that interest you. If you remember the influence of certain animals during childhood, research traditional knowledge or scientific information about that animal. Reflect on why certain animals stand out to you and try to identify traits and characteristics that resonate with you. Explore their movements, interactions with other animals, habits and cycles.
Channel your inner guide to find your spirit animal. If a specific animal keeps coming to mind, don’t dismiss it or overthink it. If it’s not what you imagined or hoped for, that animal still bears wisdom that deserves reflection. Sit with your thoughts and use your active imagination for an inward journey. Coax your animal out of your subconscious with tenderness. By opening your heart and focusing your mind, you’ll be more receptive to the energy and wisdom of your spirit animal.
Document Your Dreams
Dreams are often the subconscious mind’s way of processing complex emotions, as well as manifestations of unconscious imagery and guidance. Write down your dreams and as many details as you can remember. You might be surprised to find a reoccurring animal present. Pay particular attention to the messages your dreams deliver and to the specific situations in which animals are present. Animals in dreams may symbolize deep-rooted feelings not fully acknowledged in waking hours, a feeling that you find “wild” or hard to control, and/or your most basic instincts and emotions.
Embrace the process of journeying. The shamanic tradition believes that journeying allows you to view your life from a deeply connected and spiritual state, often revealing your true inner self. Once you find your spirit animal, your journey together begins. Study your spirit animal and its core traits and characteristics. Reflect on why this particular animal chose you and how your spirit animal connects to your own personal experiences.
Your spirit animal is a powerful ally. Always thank your spirit animal for their guidance and support. They may help you navigate life, to transform, and to see your experiences and relationships in a new light; in turn, express your recognition and deepest thanks. Like any relationship, a spirit animal connection requires cultivation.
What to Do Once You Have Found Your Spirit Animal
Once you have found your spirit animal and have started to understand the characteristics and traits it embodies, it’s time to assimilate those positive elements into your life. The more you begin to incorporate these traits, the stronger the connection you’ll forge with that animal and with your true nature.
Meditate regularly on your animal spirit guide and ask it for guidance and listen to what it tells you. If your spirit animal is a cat, it can teach you how to become more zen in your life, if its an owl it will likely imbue wisdom on you. Being mindful of these traits can have a profound impact on your life and teach you lessons you may have missed otherwise.
Assignment: Hone Your Observation Skills
In order to connect with the true essence of your passage, you must first learn how to find your spirit animal. The path to finding your spirit animal is best followed through observation. Whether dreaming, meditating, or simply observing and identifying with nature, discovering your spirit animal leads to inspiration and empowerment. On your spirit animal quest, remain present, look for connections with animals, from squirrels in your gardens, a fox on the side of the road at night or the white buffalo that visits you in your dreams.
In a journal, document the details of your encounters with animals, including your resulting emotions and the events surrounding these encounters.