Introduction To Animal Totems / Guides

This is the start of an introductory series on Animal Totems in which we’ll discuss what animal totems are, different traditions, animal medicine, finding your animal totem and how to work with your animal totem. Check back every Friday for the next installation!

Artwork by ZuskaArt –

What is an Animal Totem

The phrase “animal totem” means a symbolic representation of your animal guide; such as a crest, a totem pole, an emblem, a small figurine, or anything else that depicts your animal guide. A totem could be symbolic for a whole tribe, clan or family – or just an individual. The phrase “animal totem” also means “animal guide”, receiving spiritual assistance from an animal.

In simple terms, your animal guide instructs you, protects you and teaches you important lessons as you navigate your spiritual and physical life. They also help us reconnect with our earth roots, reminding us that everything is interconnected and we are all part of the same cycle of life. This knowledge is the most important and powerful truth that we can hold.


Shamans throughout the world have relied on the guidance and wisdom of spirit animals for thousands of years. Totems have been used in shamanistic practice as far back as human history stretches, it is one of the oldest forms of magick in the world. Hunters would paint the form of their prey on walls during ceremonies to bless the coming hunt with good fortune, and to acknowledge, bless and thank the spirit of the animal, as well as even ask for its assistance from the spiritual world. Many ancient tribes revered certain animals for their particular characteristics. Animals are embroiled deeply in all the ancient religions, and were often deified.

Working with Animal Guides

Working with animal totems is a form of medicine in the Native American tradition.  Animals that call to you in a particular way are calling to you in the way of power. They carry special medicine for you, and may well call to you through your dreams once you start learning about them.

In learning to call on the medicine of any person, creature or natural force, one must maintain an attitude of reverence and be willing to accept help. This power is truly at its most effective when used from a space of unity – of each being having within itself a part of all other beings, the law of oneness.


References for all information in this series include the following excellent books and informative websites, as well as Shaz’s personal experiences and knowledge gained.

  • Indian Power Animals and Totems – M Elsbeth
  • To Ride a Silver Broomstick – S Ravenwolf
  • To Stir a Magick Cauldron – S Ravenwolf
  • Animal-Speak Pocket Guide – T Andrews
  • Medicine Cards – The Discovery of Power Through the Ways of Animals – J Sams & D Carson
  • Earth Medicine – K Meadows
  • Psychic Pets – B Woodhouse

The majority of the artwork in this series is by Tanya Casteel – check out her website for more of her stunning work – she also has a beautiful animal totem oracle deck available.

Different Animal Totems


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