Saturday, June 7, 2008

Totem Animals and Spirit Guides

A lot of Pagans like to rip off beliefs of various American Indian tribes and rework them to suit their needs. Or perhaps they just read The Clan of the Cave Bear one too many times. Either way, a lot of Pagans believe in totem animals or animal spirit guides.

Many Shamanic cultures believe in animal guides or helpers. These are animals that communicate with the shaman, or in some cases, the shaman supposedly turns into his power animal. Some Pagans like to believe they are shamans, many without actually understand precisely what that entails. (The use of special ’shamanic’ plants sometimes helps that belief. )

Apparently it’s quite easy to meet one’s animal spirit. Did you know that even Christians have totem animals? Yep, apparently the fish and the lamb are the totem animals for Christianity, at least according to This site also has helpful tips on meeting your power animal. Don’t worry if you don’t connect with the same animal consistently during your meditations! It seems we can have several.

Why, even the Celts had power animals, and we all know how much Pagans love all things Celtic. Here is an excerpt of a book on Celtic Shamanism. It gets bonus points for also giving us the Gaelic names of these animals, including everyone’s favorite, the Unicorn (Briahbhall).

If you’re going to choose a power animal (excuse me, if the animal is going to choose YOU), can it please be a real animal? Please? Oh, and I should probably mention that no matter how much you like your chosen animal, you’re still human. You’re not part white tiger, or some other ferocious beast. Nor are you part dragon. I’m sorry, but you’re just not, okay?

There’s nothing wrong with believing in a power animal or totem, especially if you do your research and actually know what you’re talking about. Some of the writings on these beliefs is quite interesting, but not all of it is practical. If you have problems with self-esteem or anxiety and your totem animal can help you overcome that, that’s great. But it’s not a contest to see who can have the most bad-ass totem either. Again, this ain’t the Clan of the Cave Bear, Darryl Hannah.

A lot of people who take what they want from American Indians are usually “chosen” by the buffalo, wolf, or bear. The buffalo is the one I have encountered the most. It seems there is a whole herd of them running around here somewhere.

People are also very fond of having their animals tattooed on their bodies, or just merely adorning a t-shirt or necklace. Mark yourself however you see fit, you modern primitive, you.

Oh, and do I have a totem animal? Perhaps, but I certainly don’t claim to be a shaman. It's a term that gets thrown around way too much in the community.

No comments: