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(From Janice Doe Banks. Center Barnstead, New Hampshire, USA)


Long time ago, people believed that all things in heaven and earth were connected. They also understood that there is communication between all things in the natural world. Shamans still do. A shaman is a wise man or woman who is in touch with the forces of both the natural and the supernatural or spirit worlds and works with them for purposes of healing, protection, guidance and gaining knowledge. Shamans have always lived in every culture the world over since before recorded time.

Animals have always played an integral role in our lives, but to the Shaman, animals are more than just a source of food, companionship, transportation, or labor. They regard animals as teachers and messengers from the guides in the unseen realm, which can help us in our daily lives. Different animals embody their own special qualities and powers that they can lend us when we need them.

Although we have been taught that animals are lesser beings than humans, according to the world's indigenous cultures, this is not so. There is a great deal we can learn from animals. You have at least one spirit animal helper who is eager to be your guide and teacher. Some people think of spirit animals as similar to guardian angels or guides. Others view them as divine forces or energies that we can call on when the need arises. One Native American belief holds that spirit animals are physical animals who crossed over to the spirit realm when they died.

In pre-Christian Europe, some societies believed that the Divine Spirit took on a different animal form each year as a way of interacting with the people. According to the Shaman Kahuna masters of Hawaii and Polynesia, animal spirits live within us and lend us their unique characteristics, which influence our personalities and give us our special abilities. Your personal "totem" is anything in nature with which you feel a strong affinity to an animal, bird, reptile, insect, or even a plant. Some refer to spirit animals as totem animals or power animals. Some Native American tribes carved totem poles to honor the animal deities that were especially important to them.

During the Middle Ages, the Celts and other European clans performed similar acts when they fashioned crests or coats-of-arms with animal figures featured prominently in their designs and bore them proudly on their shields, banners, clothing and other articles 

Since the dawn of time, people around the world have understood the connection between the spirit realm and the creatures living on earth. Ancient paintings of animal-like beings, which appear to be gods and goddesses in animal form, are found on cave walls in many parts of the world. Paintings in the caves of “Trois Frere and Lascaux”, France which dates back to about 15,000 BC, are some of the most famous examples. Scholars believe they were created to solicit the animal deities' help in the hunt. Animal figurines have been excavated in archaeological digs throughout the world.

The world's religions, myths, legends and stories are filled with spirit animals. Some gods and goddesses assume forms of animals, birds, reptiles or even mythical creatures like dragons and phoenixes. For example, the Norse god Odin (Wodan) had two ravens as companions: Munin (memory) and Hugin (thought). In Eastern Europe, the Vila or forest fairies that protect the woodland creatures often appear in the shape of horses, swans or snakes. People of Siberia believe each member of the tribe has a reindeer as a personal spirit guide to help them during this earthly experience. In Mexico, the nature god Quetzalcoatl is represented as a serpent and the Australian Aborigines believe the Rainbow Serpent gave birth to them as a people.

In North America, Native American Indian tribes carved totem poles with images of animals and birds to honor the animal deities and invoke their powers. Medicine men and women often dressed in animal skins and feathers during ceremonies and danced to ask for blessings, protection and assistance from their spirit animals. In these rituals, they sought to acquire the animal's power. Special animals were often encountered in vision quests. A vision quest is a time when your consciousness and travel into the spirit world to receive wisdom in the form of inner visions. Indian children were frequently given animal names.

The Plains Indians of the Lakota, Dakota and Nakota tribes especially honor the White Buffalo Woman. This divine being, first appeared at a time when there was much confusion and unrest among the people. She gave them several sacred objects and taught the different races how to live in harmony with each other - as well as with the members of the animal kingdom and the earth itself.
According to the Sioux's oral tradition, the White Buffalo Woman changed colors four times ~ “from white to red to yellow to brown and back to white” ~ symbolizing the four different races on earth. Then she promised to return to the people at the end of four ages. In August 1994, a rare white buffalo calf was born in Wisconsin. The chance of a buffalo being born white is about one in six billion. Many Native medicine men and women foresaw the birth of the calf, which has been named Miracle. They believe she is the embodiment of the White Buffalo Woman. Interestingly, although Miracle was born white, her coat had turned yellow, red and is now brown.

Some Native Americans see the calf's birth as a sign giving hope to humanity during another period of confusion. They believe it is a reminder for us to live in harmony with one another and to RESPECT the earth and all its inhabitants. The return of White Buffalo Woman, also signals a coming age of rebirth, peace and unity.

As you can see, spirit animals have been with us for eons. They are still with us.

In indigenous cultures around the world, shamans journey into the spirit realm, sometimes referred to as "non-ordinary reality". The spirit realm co-exists with our physical earthly one and can be entered by those who have learned how to access it. This is the home of our spirit animal helpers. Since beings in the spirit realm don't have physical bodies, most people can't see them. However, we can communicate with them. At night, when asleep, we sometimes journey into the invisible realm to receive guidance from spirit entities. You can also travel there by means of your own "vision quest" or a "Shamans journey".

Once you've met your spirit animal helper, you can talk with it during your ordinary waking hours too. Their heightened senses allow them to hear and see us, even when we can't hear and see them. Through awareness, knowledge, meditation and other attunement practices, you can expand your own awareness so that you'll be able to perceive signals they send you. Think of them as "trailblazers" who'll show you the way and give you encouragement when the way seems treacherous.

There are many connections between physical animals and spirit animals. Some Native Americans believe spirit animals were once physical animals. Another view is that terrestrial animals are the agents of the spirit animals and act as go-betweens bringing messages from the spirit world to earth. Another theory holds that spirit animals enter the forms of earthly animals when they want to contact us. Some believe that certain physical animals can help us connect with our spirit animal guides. It may be impossible to prove the exact nature of the link between spirit animals and animals that share the earth with us, we know a strong connection does exist. We can see it in the special characteristics and powers that are common to both the physical animals and their spirit counterparts.

For example, birds spend most of their time in the sir. Spiritual teachings tell us that the air element represents the mind and such things as heightened awareness, intellectual development and wisdom. Birds, as spirit helpers, can show you how to increase your mental powers and abilities. Physical birds have exceptionally good vision. Therefore, spirit birds can help you to see things around you more clearly. Birds are also considered to be messengers of the spirit realm who can help raise your awareness to spiritual heights.

Terrestrial animals live on the earth. The earth element represents physical or material qualities. As spirit animals, terrestrial creatures can help you handle matters related to work, money, health and other practical concerns. Fish and other aquatic creatures live in water. The water element represents emotions, intuition and creativity. Therefore, spirit fish can assist with relationships, self-expression, developing psychic skills. Some of the animal kingdom, like geese and beavers, are at home in more than one element. As spirit animals, they're especially good at helping with complex matters, such as handling emotional stress that's affecting physical health. They can also enable you to bridge gulfs between the various aspects of your life. Whenever you have a special need or interest, consider the attributes and characteristics of different physical animals. (These will be given later). These reveal powers of the spirit animals and help you select the one(s) that can best help you with a concern.

Spirit animal helpers choose us, we don't choose them. In working with them, the most important thing is sincerity. Before your animal will reveal itself to you, you must truly want to meet it and ask it to appear to you. Pay attention to little things. Be quiet. Slow down. Keep an open mind. Trust. Pray. Meditate. Ask your animal to come to you in a dream. Spend time in nature. Don't give up hope if you don't succeed at fist. Keep trying. Before long, your spirit animal helper will make itself known to you in a way that you will instantly understand.

Usually you have one primary spirit animal, sometimes two. At different times when you need their help, various other animals may come into your life temporarily. Once you've made the connection with your primary, ask it to introduce you to the others who have power to help with your particular problem or situation. Sometimes a helper will show it self when it has a message, or may come to alert you to what's happening around you, or in time of urgency or need. Depending on the situation, an animal may come to you unbidden or you might have to ask it to appear. They won't present themselves to you unless it's there to help or teach.

As you become more familiar with spirit animals, you should start keeping a journal of animal and bird sightings. Also, keep a dream journal, recording all animals who visit you while sleeping. They make themselves known in various ways, depending on their natures, your ability to perceive them and the circumstances at the time of appearance. Your primary plays a different role than temps. Your primary wants to develop a long-term relationship and ideally, be your guide for life. This animal can help you become stronger, healthier, happier, more balanced, more productive. Other helpers enter your life as needed. They show you how to cope with specific problems or situations you're facing temporarily. The messages they send aren't always obvious at first, but once you learn to speak their language, you'll have no trouble reading their signs.

Pay special attention to an animal you don't usually see, that's uncommon in your area or in an unusual place. Appearing in a dream, it's drawing your attention to something specific in your life Adopting the powers, behaviour or traits of the animal that can help cultivate or utilize your own energies in some way. If it appears in a threatening manner, it can mean you aren't utilizing or expressing the positive qualities of the animal. For example, if a dog, who's considered "man's best friend" is snarling, this may indicate you're not being friendly to someone who admires you.

Study it's characteristics, traits, unique qualities, attributes (given later), as they may be signals. Like, a porcupine may be a warning to bolster your defences, a snake to get ready for a change. What's the animal doing? If it's lying still, it may mean you need to rest. If it's playing, you should lighten up and have some fun. If it's running away, you'd be wise to leave a situation behind. If it appears threatening or unpleasant to you, is there something it represents that you're avoiding, ignoring, overdoing? Like, if ants have decided to set up residence in your home, perhaps you're not being s industrious as you might be regarding a matter. Or maybe you're being too industrious, compulsive, over-concerned about something. Armies of ants are famous for their ability to work until they've achieved their objectives. Are you working too hard or worrying too much about your job or future? Shamanisms tradition says it would be wise not to destroy the ants, but try heeding their message. When you've done so, they'll move out on their own.

How does the animal cope with its environment? This may suggest ways for coping with the demands in your life. Like, a deer lies motionless in the woods, fading into the background when it wants to elude the hunter. Note the animal's cycles. Some are more active at certain times of the day or night. Some hibernate, migrate, change their appearance, engage in certain behaviors at particular times of the year. This may be relevant to their message. Like, a squirrel gathering nuts may suggest fall will be a busy time for you or you need to "squirrel away" some money. Is the animal alone? Sometimes more than one will appear simultaneously. It may mean other people can assist you or you should combine the characteristics of several animals to accomplish your aims. Notice the animal's movement. If it is coming toward you, you could add, increase or develop something in your life. If moving away, can indicate something should be reduced or eliminated.

Who's the animal's prey or predator? The two are linked and their characteristics combine to create balance. Are you afraid of the qualities represented by the animal's predator? Have you ever feared gossip by someone "catty"? Do you lack respect for the qualities of it's prey? Were you ever the "scared rabbit"?

It's time to meet your personal spirit animal. You may meet in a dream, a vision quest, some other way. When you do, you'll know this is your special guide and helper and it will always be there whenever you want it's assistance or companionship. It will be pleasant and approach you directly. It will not sneak up and startle you. It will never bite, scratch, sting, bare it's fangs, growl at you, or harm you in any way. It won't frighten, chase or attack you in a dream. If first contact with the animal should be frightening, before you decide that this is not your own power animal, think whether or not it's negative approach may be for a reason. Such as, that talked about with the dog or ants. After thought, and maybe acting on the advice, if the next contact is still negative, then the animal probably is not your helper. The spirit animal is your friend and your meetings will always be positive.


If you encounter negative behavior in a dream, vision, shamanic journey, mental visualization, ignore that animal, unless you find a message in it's unpleasant behavior. Pass it by or command it to leave. The most important prerequisite to meeting is a sincere desire to do so. If the animal simply doesn't present itself to you of its own accord, ask it to do so and continue asking until it does. As you prepare to meet, remember to keep an open mind. No preconceptions, expectations, no trying to force anything. Let it happen naturally. Some ways to demonstrate your desire to meet: watch animal or nature shows on TV. Look at pictures of animals, wildlife calendars. Visit a farm or zoo. Watch backyard animals, or go to a park, any outdoor area. Read books, especially children's stories about animals.


Dreaming: Before you fall asleep, ask our spirit animal to make itself known in a dream. When it does, pay attention to what it says, does. It has come to give guidance or help. Scrying: Similar to what clairvoyants do when gazing into a crystal ball. Quiet your mind through meditation, breathing exercises or other relaxation method. For example: Close eyes. Begin breathing slowly in a rhythmic manner, inhaling to a count of four, then exhaling to count of four; repeat the cycle five times. Or imagine the way your breath looks as it enters and leaves body. Put the rational, questioning part of your mind on hold. Let your imagination flow. Gaze calmly in a pool of water or other dark, shiny surface such as a piece of smoked glass or polished sheet of metal Gradually your own face may grow fuzzy and start to take on characteristics you associate with an animal, or you may see an image slowly emerge near you. You may feel its power enter you. Now, ask it what information it has for you or how it can help you. You may "hear" it speak in your mind or simply intuit the response.

Watching clouds: Lie on your back and let your childlike imagination soar. Watch the clouds and see what animal shapes they take. As you recognize form, begin to communicate mentally with the animals you see. You may ask them to help ou with a specific question or problem, or lie quietly and listen to what they have to share. Visualizing" Go where you can't be disturbed. Preferably outdoors. Sit

quietly. Close your eyes. Calm your mind through meditation, breathing exercises or another relaxation method. You may choose to set the mood by listening to soothing music or beat softly and rhythmically on a small drum. Allow your imagination to unfold and express itself freely. While in the meditative state, eyes closed, envision a dense, green forest before you. Walk toward these sacred woods and enter them. Feel the cool shade on your shoulders and smell the fragrant scents of the plants. Continue walking deeper and deeper into the woods until you come to a lovely clearing. Wait here quietly, enjoying the pleasant sounds and smells of the forest. In a few moments, you see an animal emerging from the greenery and moving toward you.

As it comes closer, you recognize it as your spirit animal helper. Greet it warmly and thank it for coming to meet you. You can reach out to touch it gently, if you wish. Ask if it wants to tell you something. You may hear the response or sense it communicating. Spend as much time as you wish. When read to return to ordinary, waking consciousness, say, "so long" and promise to meet again soon. Watch it slip back into the forest. When you open your eyes, you'll feel rested, rejuvenated and at peace. You may repeat this visualization exercise anytime you wish to visit your animal guide. Record it in a notebook.

Shamanic Journey: In your mind, go to a place in nature where you feel safe, happy. Find an opening in the earth, it may be at the base of a tree, behind a rock, an underwater cavern, whatever comes to mind. Mentally enter this opening. Feel yourself crawling or walking through a tunnel beneath earth until ou emerge into a setting in nature. When you come out of the tunnel, you see your spirit animal waiting for you. Watch what it does. Listen as it speaks telepathically. Ask it's name. Follow if it leads you somewhere. If you don't immediately spot an animal, begin to explore the area. Walk around. See if there's an animal. When you come upon one, ask it it is your spirit animal helper. If it says no, ask it to take ou to your animal. When you meet, ask if it has something to tell you. Listen intuitively to what it says. Spend as much time as you like communicating. When ready to leave, retrace the path you took to reach this spot, knowing that you can come back again whenever you want. Record the journey they're like dreams and will fade if you don't capture them while they're fresh in your mind.

Once you've met your spirit animal helper, you may want to honor it. Collect pictures, figurines, etc. of your animal---or wear it's image on jewellery or clothing. Or, draw pictures of it or fashion it's image in stone, clay, wood or other material. Or, donate money or volunteer to work for a cause that helps or protects it or it's relatives.

If your spirit animal leaves, you must know this, they sometimes don't after it's mission is accomplished. In such a case, another one is likely to come when needed or called upon. Perhaps you've behaved in a way that offended, such as not being as kind as you could to a physical animal. Without the guidance and assistance of your helper, you may feel somewhat at a loss. Learn how to trust your animal. Perhaps you've ignored or rejected it's help. Shamanic tradition holds that when a spirit animal leaves you because it's unhappy, your luck can begin to turn against you. If this happens, it's possible your helper has chosen to leave, but they are patient, forgiving, if they see that you truly desire their help. They'll return. To show your sincerity and bring your spirit animal helper back, here's some suggestions. Do a shamanic journey to reconnect.

If it is a bird, build a bird house for it's physical representatives here on earth. Put out food for your spirit animal helper and other hungry animals. 
If it's an Insect, such as a bee or butterfly, plant special flowers to attract it. Donate money to a wildlife protection organization or animal rights group. Volunteer to help wild, stray or injured animals. Adopt a pet from a shelter or pound. Avoid buying products made from wild animals or endangered species. Shun products from companies that do animal testing. Look for cruelty-free symbol on cosmetics and personal care items.