A long time ago, humans were created to be caretakers of the garden — Mother Earth. They held all things of creation sacred. The people respected Nature and understood they were only a small part of the whole circle of life. Humans knew each part of creation played a significant role in the contentment and survival of the other. They accepted the divine idea that all things were equal and no animal, including man, held dominion over other parts of creation.
Humankind knew if they attempted to conquer Mother Earth, they would bring great suffering upon themselves. Man knew that Nature was not ‘wild’ and hostile but was a benevolent friend. Then, by a twist of organized religious dogma, many began to think humans are the greatest and most important part of creation and they saw Nature as ‘fallen’ and sinful. Man has attempted to divorce ourselves from Nature to the detriment of all creation.
American Indians, also known as the People of the Land, traditionally and historically hold a special knowledge of the land and its inhabitants. Intimate knowledge of the world surrounding the American Indian was possible because of a belief system that considered all things of creation equal and necessary, worthy of respect and honor.
The results of our belief system is tremendously beneficial to the world. We gave the world knowledge of a form of government now enjoyed by people of the United States – democracy. American Indians first domesticated over half of today’s world food resources. A vast majority of the world’s pharmacopoeia (healing medicine) came from American Indian tremendous knowledge of the plant kingdom. Our knowledge of plant medicine, healing stones, healing clay, and animal wisdom is unmatched in among any people in history.
Although there are over five hundred American Indian tribes, speaking more than one-hundred and fifty languages, there exists universal beliefs that transcend ethnic, cultural and geographic boundaries.
Common among those traditional teachings are the basic beliefs that we should:
Never take more than we need;
Thank Creator for what we have or what we will receive;
Use all of what we have;
Give away what we do not need.
American Indians know to respect Nature and kill only what we eat and use every part of the animal. We do not waste life nor disrespect their spirits but honor and thank them for providing us with life and comfort. We ask our spirit guides to lead us to the spirit of the animal we killed for food so that we may pray in thanksgiving to its spirit. We honor their cousins by leaving a gift where the animal fell.
Today, as in the old days, American Indians give special recognition to the power of the animal spirits. We wear their skins and feathers in ceremony and dance. We paint them on our bodies and carry parts of them in our medicine bags. We paint the animals on our homes and wear animal fetishes.
These practices allow us to remain connected to the animal guides so they may teach us their powers and give as lessons of life. These acts remind us that all things in creation are our brothers, sisters, cousins, and more importantly, our teachers and friends. As humans, we too are animal spirits.
American Indians view all things in creation as having spiritual energy. All things are connected and worthy of our respect and reverence. Our way is to seek balance and harmony within the complex tapestry of life called the Great Circle of Life. As we move within the circle, we emphasize these truths:
Everything on earth is alive;
Everything on earth has purpose;
Everything on earth is connected;
Everything on earth is to be embraced.
A principal tenant of our belief is that all things are connected and we are related to all things in the circle.
All things on Earth Mother and all things in the Universe are capable of being Spirit Guides. Why? Because the Spirit of the Creator is in all things.
Each thing on Earth Mother and each thing in the Universe has its own particular appearance, traits and other distinguishing qualities. In a general way, we can draw certain lessons from these traits and qualities for each object or thing in the universe. We do not and should not attach a particular “meaning” to these things as to do so would be like creating spiritual dogma or doctrine — and this is something that is a big no, no.
(Organized religions are quite comfortable and totally dependent on man’s written dogma or doctrine for their survival and faith. We call this regimentation “Spiritual Thought Boxes” because there is little or no room for individual divine revelation found within the confines of a controlling dogma. Nearly the opposite is found within American Indian beliefs that allow for infinite meanings and interpretations that we call “Spiritual Freedom.” In the same way every thing of creation is different from all other things, so it is with our spiritual beliefs – founded within the uninhibited nature of all Creation.)
Therefore, we caution you: Statements made below about the traits, habits and particular distinguishing qualities of various animals, are in no way intended to give a human definition or meaning to other spiritual entities, objects or things. Messages of this nature can only come to the individual through the Creator.
Some say knowledge of the natural power of animal guides has been lost. This is not so. Many people think animals are not spiritual – having no spirit or soul. Most think animals are less intelligent than humans, savage and without society or conscience. This is not so.
It is said that man once spoke with the animals; however, man lost this ability and other powers when he placed himself above the animals as master of the earth having dominion over all things.
Truly, the intellect of animal is different from that of man. Animals are taught differently and speak in different ways. When intelligence is measured in human terms, the animal does not fair well, but if the test were reversed, humans would fail to measure up to animal standards.
Animals know the time and place to migrate, but man cannot find his way without a compass or the stars. Animals live well without the need of tools or weapons. Man cannot. Animals are happy and contented in their environment. Man is not. Animals live among their families all their lives. Man does not. Animals have found the right way to live with their limitations and skills without rancor or strife. Man has not.
TALK TO THE ANIMALS
Man has long attempted to reestablish communication with animals while trying to teach apes, dolphins and other animal species sign language and human sounds of speech. Why? Why do they try to make them walk up a mountain backwards? Animals do not possess the physical or mental ability for human speech, so why do they try? If humans are so intelligent, would it not make more sense for humans to learn animal speech?
Thinking in this way, we must realize many animals do not always communicate between themselves and other species through sound. We must remember, animals also communicate by touch, smell, and body movement, as well as sound.
There are two other forms of animal communication. The first is sub-spirit or psychic (mental) telepathy and the second is spirit. American Indians use these two methods as well as the other more physical forms of communication to talk with animal guides.
This presentation focuses on the two latter forms of communication as we suggest the meaning of various animal guides (totems) in human terms. The animal spirit guides presented here are but a small sampling of the hundreds of animal spirit guides that exist in Nature.
Animals have an instinctual awareness of human personality and moods. It is often said that animals can ‘smell’ human fear. To the best of our knowledge, this notion has never been scientifically proven, however anyone who has ever worked with animals extensively knows this axiom to be correct. Animals not only ‘smell’ the single emotion of fear, but can also discern a broad spectrum of human emotions and personalities. How is this possible without direct communication?
It is our opinion that animals do not ‘smell’ human emotions, but instead possess a form of ancient mental telepathy or method of thought transference not understood by modern man. Animals do communicate with man by receiving mental messages and they carry this ability with them in spirit as they die.
Communicating with animal spirit guides is not easy. Animals have a different consciousness and perceive things differently than humans. In her excellent book, “The Magical Lore of Animals”, Yvonne Aburrow says, “…it is important not to anthropomorphize animals [ascribing human form or attributes to a being or thing not human]. They are sentient beings, but they have a different consciousness from our own. When dealing with animals, therefore, one should never assume that they are exactly the same as a human; nor, conversely, treat them like an inanimate thing…” Thus, some messages from an animal spirit guides may be confusing, if not impossible to understand without considerable practice and patience.
We use the terms ‘animal spirit guides’ and ‘animal totems’ interchangeably here, as we refer to either physical or spiritual manifestations from a general or individualized viewpoint. Our personal preference is to use the term ‘animal spirit guide’ as it more closely describes an American Indian practice and the latter is often connected with Eastern European shamanism.
We also occasionally hear the terms spirit totem, power animal, and spirit animal used to describe an entity that can be either physical or spirit that acts as a guide, messenger or protector.
An important thing to remember: A spirit guide is not necessarily an animal. A spirit guide can be anything in Creation that speaks to a person through dreams, physical appearance, magnetic resonance (vibration); or by signs, symbols, words, or any other method or means of communication. A spirit guide can be clouds in the sky or the wind; it could be a horse or a caterpillar; it could be an ancestor or other human form; it could be anything that speaks to you — to the heart and soul. It is more comfortable for many people to call a spirit guide an angel. A spirit guide is a divine entity. To believe this is to acknowledge and accept the power and glory of the Creator of All Things that may take on any form, at any time, for any purpose.
Regardless of the proliferation of hundreds web sites and books that associate “birth totems” or some other weird concoction such as “animal spirit cards” or “medicine cards” with American Indian belief systems, there is none and never has been any such association. Purveyors of so-called birth totems combine our belief in animal spirits with astrology and assign various animal spirit guides to a particular birth date of the individual. Animal spirit cards also assign an animal spirit to the individual by the chance shuffle of the cards. Both of these practices have no basis in American Indian religious beliefs.
An animal spirit guide is not and cannot be chosen by the individual. These ‘games’ do not work and they give their victims false impressions that may lead a sincere person far astray from their goal of connecting with animal spirits to help them in their walk in life. Yes, the games are cute and interesting but the vendors are replacing spiritual beliefs with modern plastic and disrespect ancient ways in the process of making money.
FINDING YOUR ANIMAL TOTEM
You do not choose a Spirit Guide as your personal spirit guide. The Spirit chooses you and they decide to whom they will reveal themselves and make their friend. Do not fall into the trap of saying, “Gosh, I think the wolf is a smart, good looking and powerful animal, so the wolf will become my animal guide.” It does not work this way.
Each Animal has its own Medicine which is unique to that specific creature as gifted by the Great Mystery and its spirit cannot be chosen like the color of your new car. Discovering who your animal guides are is a process of paying attention to the spirits around you and following the signs. It is a process of developing your inner knowledge and spiritual understanding.
An individual can not be assigned a spirit guide by another person, regardless of who that person maybe, no more than another person can say how or when the Great Mystery of Life will be known to you.
What happens if you want an animal spirit so bad you can taste it (not literally) and one has not come to you? We have two suggestions for this case. First, pray about it. Second, be satisfied with whatever happens or does not happen. It if comes, then it comes. If it does not, then it does not. End of question.
MENTAL OR SPIRITUAL?
American Indians see Spirit Guides or totems as powerful guardians of the land or spirits of living animals. Some psychologists conjecture that a vision or message from a Spirit Guide may be certain aspects of the human psyche resurfacing from the pre-conscious ancient human mind. For example, fish living in the sea are associated with the unconscious mind and symbolize a deep mind.
Another example, by meditating on the various qualities of reptiles and their mythical associations, it may be possible to access the reptilian aspects of the mind that correspond to the limbic system in the brain, which deals with sensory impressions, pleasure and pain. Likewise, by meditating on various mammals, a path is opened to the mammalian aspects of the human psychic corresponding to the thalamus and the hypothalamus in the brain associated with the emotions, a sense of community, and instinctual wisdom.
The natural power of animal spirit guides has not been lost. The knowledge and power of animal guides is alive and can be effectively used to improve our lives and all creation. American Indians call the process of connecting with animal guides and other parts of creation as being ‘One with Nature.’
Connecting with your animal guide will make you a better person. You will be healthier physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. You will see the world and all things in it with more clarity and understanding.
Animals are wondrous happy creatures. There is no doubt that animals have beautiful, balanced emotions. They love and defend one another. They feel sorrow and melancholy. Yet, there has never been a war between animal species. They know nothing about greed, envy, and hate. They live their entire lives without sin.
They have many amazing powers and use those powers only to benefit their kind and not to overcome their opponents. There is a reason why the Creator put all of us together on the same planet. A part of that reason is to learn from one another.
Animals are here to teach humans. They have many powerful lessons to give. They remind us that we are only a small part of creation; that each part of creation has a place; that each creature has its own skill and wisdom.
For the learning process to begin we must develop a relationship with one or more animal guides and this requires time and patience. This does not mean you must be with the animal physically. But instead, will learn about the traits, habits, skills and spirit of the animal from afar. As with any new knowledge, practice is important to hone learning into a useful skill. The rewards will be understanding, love, light energy, skillful knowledge and wisdom.
Moreover, the reward is having a powerful spiritual friend.
Both domesticated and free animals offer an immense heritage of myth, folklore and symbolism. As we learn about animals, it is important to know their symbolic meaning as a point of reference and comparison, however we must keep in mind that symbols are cultural in nature and differ from place to place, from time to time and may not reflect the nature of the animal as you feel it. Give time to the study of their characteristics, habitat and position in the eco-system.
ANIMAL WORSHIP AND NORTH AMERICAN INDIANS
Since the beginning of mankind, people believed in the extraordinary powers of animals. This belief originates in animism – the idea that animals possess souls and consciousness. Early people around the world honored animals for having a spiritual life similar to their own and the spirit of the animal existed after death.
They recognized their dependency upon the animal and respected the animal’s superior strength, speed, and other qualities. Some cultures held the animal sacred because it was an important part of their lives. Various types of animals, especially snakes and birds, were held in great esteem by early peoples around the world and many cultures adopted prayers, rituals and built temples in which to worship them. The ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Hindus, Buddhists, Aztecs and other cultures venerated and worshiped various animals, birds and reptiles.
However, there is an important distinction between these cultures and North American Indians. Most North American Indians were careful not to worship any part of creation, but held the whole of creation sacred. They constructed no idols or temples to worship animals, birds or reptiles but made fetishes, art and others works honoring their animal cousins.
TYPES OF ANIMAL GUIDES
Symbolic of the four sacred directions, four seasons, and the four colors of man, there are four basic types of animal guides.
Whether an animal spirit comes by dreams, signs and symbolic events, or actual events it is important to first determine if the guide is a Messenger Guide (Totem), Shadow Guide, Journey Guide or Life Guide.
The meaning and lessons an animal guide brings will differ according to the type of guide it may be. Learning to differentiate between the four types of totems is critical to knowing how to react and the actions you will take when an animal totem makes itself known to you. All guides are powerful.
A Messenger Guide quickly comes into your life and then leaves once a message is understood. The time a Message Guide stays in your psychic is relative to you seeing and accepting the message. The message itself can be spiritual in nature, or it can be a warning. The message may deal with a seemingly mundane aspect of your life or it may be a wake-up call for some important action you must make. Sometimes the animal messenger will come during an unusual event and make a powerful statement and others come on the wind as a whisper. A messenger guide can cause you delays or some unforeseen help in your life. They can be both negative and positive in nature for they are totally impartial.
A Shadow Animal Guide is one that invades you with fear. Its purpose it to teach a lesson you have not learned from repeated mistakes because of anger, avarice, greed, insecurity, or other negative thoughts. A Shadow Guide will return again and again bearing strong feelings of fear until its message is acted upon or a change in lifestyle or actions are incorporated into your life. The Shadow Guide is powerful. It can help you to overcome fear by bringing truth and turning fear into a helper animal guide or spirit animal guide. However, if ignored the Shadow Guide can become dangerous and its powers will have a negative affect on your life. The Shadow Guide lives in the spirit world and usually arrives during a time of testing.
A Journey Animal Guide appears at the fork in the road of your life. When a decision is made to follow a certain path in life, the Journey Guide is there to serve as a guide along the way. It represents a path that may take months or years to complete. It can be a friendly traveling companion if the path is right. If you become lost along the way, the Journey Guide is there help lead the way back. Unlike a Messenger Guide who comes and leaves quickly, the Journey Guide remains at your side until the current cycle in your life has changed. appears at the fork in the road of your life. When a decision is made to follow a certain path in life, the Journey Guide is there to serve as a guide along the way. It represents a path that may take months or years to complete. It can be a friendly traveling companion if the path is right. If you become lost along the way, the Journey Guide is there help lead the way back. Unlike a Messenger Guide who comes and leaves quickly, the Journey Guide remains at your side until the current cycle in your life has changed.
A Life Animal Guide is also called a Spirit Guide as it remains a part of you throughout life and reflects your inner-spiritual self. You may have more than one Life Guide and new ones may come during an expected time. Usually a Life Guide does not move away or disappear but remains an integral part of your life, however, there are instances when a particular Life Guide is no longer needed and is replaced with a new one. Its powers are always there for you and serve as a constant reminder of your inner powers and oneness with nature. If for example your Life Guide is Bear, you should be a person who is a solitary dweller, a seeker of knowledge and well grounded. A Life Guide will often call upon other animal guides found within its domain to assist in giving you special messages from time to time.
MEETING YOUR ANIMAL GUIDE
After you understand what type of animal guide has come into your life, it is necessary to educate yourself fully as to the nature of the animal. Learn about its habitat, life cycles, what it eats, physical characteristics, special skills and traits, social and mating habits. Go to places where your animal guide can be found in real life. Study it in nature. Gaining insight into the nature of your animal guide will help you to better understand its messages. Meditate on this knowledge and discover its power and medicine.
After you learn various ways to work with the medicine of you animal spirit guide, the medicine becomes a gateway to connecting with other spirit guides found within its domain. Your animal spirit guide (or those spirits who choose to reveal themselves in the form of an animal) will teach you how to align with other spirit guides and beings.
Remember: The spirit guide chooses the person. The person does not choose the spirit guide. A person cannot simply select an animal and begin communication – the results of which are often frustrating and unsuccessful. A spirit guide must be harmonious with the person.
Communication with your spirit guide requires reverent respect and knowledge of the ways of the animal guide. You must find ways to honor your spirit guide. The more importance you give to the spirit guide the more they respond to you. Most spirit guides do not immediately acknowledge themselves to the person as they are leery of your intention and knowledge. A spirit guide is sensitive to moods, current events, and a persons path in life. They must first trust you and learn your needs and wants. You must learn to trust them and understand their needs and wants. It takes time, patience and practice.
PREPARATION AND THE JOURNEY
Sit down in a quiet place alone. Make certain there will be no distractions or interruptions. Draw a circle around you and bless the circle with sage, cedar, sweet grass, tobacco or some other sacred medicine. Begin your journey into the spirit world with prayer and continue with deep meditation.
Get comfortable. Take a deep breath. Inhale, exhale deeply several time. Release your ego, desires and expectations of what may follow. Chase away all shadows of fear and negativity. Begin to dream of some idyllic place like a forest trail, bubbling mountain stream, or flower covered glen. Move about in this world seeing, smelling and feeling everything. After awhile, you will hear something and you will see a creature slowly coming to you.
The creature is friendly and invites your touch. You embrace. This is your animal spirit guide. Spend time talking with your animal guide now.
Be open to any and all types of messages. Do not get trapped by wishing for a certain messages. Clear your mind completely. Open your heart to its love and lessons. When your time is finished, thank all the beings in this special place and your animal guide who has chosen to teach you. Slowly return by the way you came into full consciousness. Open your eyes.
Honor your spirit animal guide
Wear jewelry and clothing illustrating your totem;
Decorate your space with pictures and other memorabilia;
Educate yourself on its life and habits;
Visit the habitat of your spirit guide;
Help protect its home, c
ontribute time and resources.
Pay attention to the messages of your animal guide
Spend time in meditation with your friend and guide;
Give thanks to the Creator and your guide for its assistance;
Understand the message can be negative or positive in nature;
Listen. Even when the message seems negative;
Study the element (water, fire, air, earth) most closely associated with your spirit guide
Thank you to the Manataka American Indian Council for this wonderful article!!
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