Over the course of human existence, people have had a very special relationship to other animals, some animals more than others. We began to live symbiotically with certain animals, for example we began to live with dogs and cats or use animals like horses to ride on or use goats to pack things. We developed an even deeper relationship to those animals. To the opposite, we formed antagonistic relationships with other animals that we perceived were a threat to us, such as snakes and mosquitoes. We favored animals that were examples of traits that we, ourselves value. Our valuing of loyalty made us love dogs. Our valuing of power made us envy and respect (even though we feared) large predatory animals like tigers. Animals held deep symbolism for us and deep meaning. Many even helped us to survive and line up with our own expansion. Others made us live in fear.
Many cultures, especially indigenous cultures, recognized this relationship to certain animals at a spiritual level. They recognized that within the spirit of each person is a special relationship to an animal (potentially more than one) and that the developing of this relationship would lead to both personal development and enhanced life experience. Members of certain indigenous cultures even practiced the art of shape shifting into the specific animal that they resonated with the most.
Most people do not differentiate between a totem animal and a spirit animal. But differentiating between them is important. A spirit animal is someone’s animal equivalent. It is the animal whose vibration is the most identical to a person’s unique and authentic essence. This animal possesses traits and qualities that mirror a person’s innate and inborn traits, qualities, needs, desires, purpose, strengths and weaknesses etc.
Because energetic frequency dictates physicality like a blue print dictates what is physically built, a person tends to physically resemble their spirit animal in ways. The spirit animal is the animal that a person would shape shift into if they were practicing shape shifting in an indigenous culture. Even though being a human makes it so you belong in the family of human, the spirit animal indicates your place of belonging within the animal world. For example, if your spirit animal is a wolf, you also belong to the wolf tribe. My spirit animal is the red fox.
A totem animal is a protector, helper and guide for a person. Most people confuse one of their totem animals for their spirit animal. Usually, a person’s favorite animal is in fact a person’s totem animal. This animal usually possesses traits and qualities that a person needs at a given time. For example, a little girl may feel very unsafe and powerless and insignificant and a horse may come to her as a gentle, powerful and regal protector. They tend to show up in people’s lives at specific times when they are needed. This is why it is critical to acknowledge the affinity you have towards a specific animal and also to acknowledge the meaning of a specific animal appearing in your life at a specific time, especially if it happens in repetition. But that being said, all people tend to need the guidance, protection and help of a specific energy over the course of their lives, which means people tend to also have a totem animal for which they have a very special life long relationship. This animal is more like a “partner” or “best friend” through the journey of life. A person can have one or a few totem animals. You are offered kinship and welcome with the tribe of your totem animals. And it is said they will only harm you if they must do so in order to assist you on your life path. They will only harm you if doing so imbues you with their specific medicine. My life long totem animals are the horse, the cougar, the piebald python, the mourning dove and the jellyfish. People who have chosen a life path to influence or lead lots of other people tend to have more totem animals than other people, in the same way that people who influence or lead other people tend to have more spirit guides.
To generalize, before a living being encounters trauma, he or she is in a state of relative cohesion. We could say that he or she is in a state of oneness or experiences wholeness in and of himself or herself. If a person were to stay in this state, they would easily know what their spirit animal is. The law of attraction would draw this animal to them. They would recognize this animal as themselves. But by coming into a physical life experience and even more so, when we encounter trauma, we begin the process of fragmentation. We split our own consciousness. In the moment of trauma, we subconsciously create a split between the vulnerable self and the self that coped with that vulnerability so as to self preserve. This means that even though we have one body, within that body, we end up with multiple selves. Some of which we are identified and some of which we deny, reject and disown. To understand more about this, watch my video titled: Fragmentation, The Worldwide Disease.
It is critical to see that we identify with the parts of ourselves that coped to self-preserve. These aspects protected us. They allowed us to stay as far away from our vulnerability as possible. Our personalities therefore are in essence, fake. Our personalities are merely the parts that we identified with so as to stay safe and away from vulnerability in the very specific situations that we were raised in. We suppress, reject, deny and disown the aspects that make us vulnerable or get us disapproved of in the world. By doing this, they become subconscious. They are buried outside of our awareness and we don’t know they even exist, even if they are visible to other people around us.
This has vast implication for spirit and totem animals. If we identify with a part of us that keeps us safe in any given experience, that (and not our genuine essence) is going to be what our frequency resonates at. Because we have mistaken who we are for a protector part within our own consciousness, the law of attraction will draw us therefore to mistaking our totem animal, an animal that keeps us safe, with our spirit animal, an animal that might vibrate more closely to what we have suppressed, rejected, denied or disowned within ourselves. For example, say I felt abandoned as a child in some way; I could not stay connected to the part of me that needs others. That is not self-preserving. I would identify with a part of myself that can be very independent. Therefore, if my essence vibrated more closely to a herd or group animal, like a deer, I would suppress and deny and maybe not even take notice of that animal. I would not recognize it in myself. I might identify with and show preference for an animal that is highly individual, like a snow leopard.
There is also another animal that is significant to all people. This is a person’s shadow totem animal. A shadow totem is an animal that vibrates at the frequency of what is the most denied disowned and rejected within a person’s own self and consciousness. The qualities and traits of this animal are often the traits that were the most shamed out of this person’s being. Or the traits that seemed to lead to the most un-safety in that person’s life. For example, lets say that you grew up in a culture that made you believe that you do not control your destiny and you began to feel totally out of control of things happening to you that you could not change and that you were at the hands of fate. You would begin to lose touch with the part of you that weaves your own fate. You would no longer trust in life enough to be patient and let things come to you, you would not want to be in a receptive state. You would approach the world through tying to control instead of to create. What you may deny within yourself the very most therefore could vibrate at the frequency of the spider. The spider would be your shadow totem.
A person’s shadow totem on rare occasions may be their actual spirit animal. Some shamans, including myself, see the shadow totem as a second spirit animal. The two of these animals represent the unification of a person’s conscious and unconscious mind. The spirit animal representing their conscious and the shadow totem representing the subconscious, like a yin yang. Most people do have awareness of their shadow animal, it is often the animal they tend to fear and avoid the very most. My shadow totem animal is a blue whale.
From an esoteric perspective, getting in touch with your spirit animal, totem animals and shadow totem animal can greatly help you on your path of awareness, integration, and self actualization. In the indigenous cultures, everything in existence, including you, is said to possess ‘medicine’. That is to say that its being contributes and assists in this world in critical ways. For this reason, its medicine (and this animal because of its medicine) is to be revered as sacred. For example, if you suffer from confusion, you could benefit by eagle medicine. If you possess objective perspective, you may possess eagle medicine within you.
Even though we are in the practice of complete integration (which is to recognize that all that exists, also exists within us) and therefore to master all medicine, integrating your spirit animal and shadow totem means you can re-own your unique inborn medicine. It is self-actualization and expression as opposed to lack of self-awareness and self-suppression. And integrating the medicine of your totem animal means you can master and make use of the medicine that you are in need of in your life in general, or at a specific time in your life.
Because it may interest you, any of a person’s spirit, totem or shadow totem animals may and often do also shadow a person in non-incarnated, spirit form; just like a spirit guide. And what most people don’t usually think about is that a group consciousness can be treated like a singular consciousness. For example, your family line has a consciousness that vibrates at a specific frequency, like an energetic signature. The energetic signature of your family’s consciousness also has an animal equivalent. This means, your family has its own spirit animal, totem animal and shadow totem animal. So does every race. So does every religious group. So does humanity in general. Humanity’s spirit animal is the wolf. Humanity’s totem animal is the eagle. And humanity’s shadow totem is a snake.
Technically, a human is an animal. However, humans have a very developed self-concept. We call this self-concept an ego. The human ego enjoys seeing itself as not only separate from everything else on planet earth, but also superior to everything else on earth. Therefore most humans see themselves as different to and superior to animals. But it would be interesting for you to know that other animals can have spirit animals, not just people. Indeed, another animal, like a whale could have a human for a spirit animal.
Also what may be of interest to you is that animals are not the only thing that works this way in our lives. For any category of things, we can have a thing that is most identical to the frequency of our personal essence, a thing that is most identical to what we have disowned, rejected and denied within our self and a thing whose energy we need because it serves as a protector, guide or helper. For example, we all have a spirit plant, totem plant(s) and shadow totem plant. We also all have a spirit mineral, totem minerals and shadow totem mineral.
When it applies to the category of animals, an animal can be an insect a reptile, a mammal, a bird, a fish, an amphibian, a mollusk, a worm, literally any biological organism that belongs to the biological kingdom of animalia. People’s preferences towards certain animals and aversions relative to other animals make it hard for them to recognize their spirit animal and master the medicine of specific animals. Because we tend to ascribe certain approved of and desirable traits to some animals and consider certain animals to be superior to others, we all want our spirit animal to be something like a bear or a panther or a hawk. Most of us have an aversion to discovering that our spirit animal is a grasshopper or a mouse or a newt or a garden robin. That makes us feel bad about ourselves. But the reality is that many people have spirit animals that they would not (with their conscious mind) wish them to be. What you need to recognize is that every animal, no matter what our ego driven minds may think, has a very special medicine and the denial of that medicine that belongs to your spirit animal, is also a denial of that medicine within yourself.
Your preference towards a specific animal is always important. It is usually always the indication that this is one of your totem animals. Regarding your spirit animal however, it is inevitable if you commit to the discipline of integration, you will no longer be suppressing, denying and rejecting parts of yourself in favor of others and so it will eventually be obvious what your spirit animal actually is.
For most people walking the earth, in order to discover your spirit animal before you have integrated, and have it assist you towards that integration and self actualization, you must bypass the structure of your ego entirely and enter an altered state of consciousness, which some shamanic medicines do and even some ceremonies or rituals and meditations and dream states can do for those people who are able to dis-identify from their self concept with such exercises. Journeywork ceremonies, rituals, meditations and dream states are the very best for discovering your spirit animal. I offer one such meditation to find your spirit animal myself on my website TealSwan.com (CLICK HERE).
It would be beneficial to operate with the perspective that you cannot choose your spirit animal. It chooses you. It is simply a perfect vibrational match to your unique essence. Because your spirit animal is a vibrational match to you, it will often show up in your life, whether you take notice of it or not. Therefore, be in the state of observation. But you do not have to take a passive approach. You can open yourself to becoming aware and ask to become aware of what this animal is, as long as you are also taking care to not let the ego tell you it is an animal that suits your ego or confusing a totem animal for your spirit animal.
Certain people with mastery of their extrasensory perception can tell you what your spirit animal is, but even I do not often do this beyond confirming or denying what someone already suspects because in my experience, it is a much better and deeper and more meaningful approach to guide someone to find it themselves. People tend to not really own the truth if it is handed to them by someone else, instead of if they discover it for themselves. This is one reason why vision quests, journeying, and worldly encounters tend to be the preferred choice of shamans over the course of history regarding people discovering and owing their spirit animal.
Once you have found your spirit animal, learn all you can about it. What traits do you associate with this animal? Discover the perspectives of other people and cultures about the “medicine” that this animal possesses. Spend time around that animal. See into this animal, feel into it and listen to it. Come to understand it. Meditate with this animal in mind. Take note of this animal’s weaknesses. See them in yourself. Take note of its strengths and find and express them in yourself. Surround yourself with things that remind you of this animal and proudly represent this animal. Do this same thing with your totem and shadow totem animals. Call on this animal for support. Feel it inside you and with you always.
Because we have evolved to think ourselves to be above nature, many consider the reverence of nature and communion with the animal kingdom to be primitive and irrational. This is a travesty. We are losing touch with our place in the big picture of the world and we are failing to recognize the world in us. Because of this, we are destroying the natural world, animals along with it, and not even seeing that doing that is ultimately leading to our own demise as well. Recognize yourself in nature and recognize nature within yourself. Practice the medicine inherent in each animal, no matter how small or large and no matter how revered or rejected by humanity at large. Own the medicine you came in with and share it with the world… The medicine that is reflected in your spirit animal.