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Introduction To Spirit Animals & Animal Totems


This is the start of an introductory series on Spirit Animals, also called Animal Totems or Animal Guides. In this series, we’ll discuss what animal totems are. We’ll also look at different traditions, animal medicine, finding your spirit animal and how to work with your animal totem. Check back every Friday for the next installation!

What is a Spirit Animal or Animal Totem?

A Spirit Animal is a spirit guide, the essence or embodiment of an animal in spirit form, from which you can receive spiritual guidance and wisdom. Spirit animals are traditionally called animal totems.

The phrase ‘animal totem’ also refers to a symbolic representation of your spirit animal. This can be a crest, totem pole, emblem, 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.

What Does A Spirit Animal Do?

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. Indeed, it is one of the oldest forms of magick in the world.

Many ancient tribes revered certain animals for their particular characteristics, calling on their strength, courage, cleverness or other such survival strengths.

Animals are embroiled deeply in all the ancient religions, and were often deified.

Rock art is the oldest example we have of humans working with spirit animals.

Ancient tribes would gather in ceremony to bless the coming hunt with good fortune. They’d paint successful hunting scenes on the walls of caves.

Through these paintings, they acknowledged, blessed and thanked the spirit of the animal by painting their prey in this way. They would even ask for its assistance from the spiritual world.

San Rock Art Depicting Animals Cederberg South Africa

The Way Of Power & Spirit Medicine

Working with spirit animals and animal totems is a form of medicine. When we speak of ‘medicine’ in this way, we are talking about spirit medicine, as in something that can help you grow and heal on a soul level.

It is believed that spirit animals can ‘call’ to you in a particular way i.e. you feel inexplicably drawn to them, or find them popping up everywhere in books or ads or figurines etc. And when they do so, it is said that they are calling to you in the way of power. They carry special medicine for you, and may well call to you through your dreams too, once you start learning about them.

Are You Ready?

In learning to call on the medicine of any spirit – whether it be a person, animal or natural force, it is extremely important to approach with humility. You need to have an attitude of reverence, and really be willing to accept help.

Sometimes, medicine does not taste good!

It’s only from a space of unity that spirit medicine can truly be effective. Recognize your part in the web of life, the unity of all things. Each being has within itself a part of all other beings, because we are all connected through Divine energy – that which gives life to all living things.

Carry this awareness in your heart. Recognize the beauty and sacredness of the connection.

Animal Spirits Animal Totems Ravens Artwork by Tanya Steel


In summary, working with spirit animals can help you on your spiritual journey. They can guide you and offer their wisdom and strength to assist you. This is an ancient form of spirit medicine. Being called to work with a particular animal, is to be called in the way of power. It’s an amazing opportunity to grow and heal. As you start this journey, hold in your heart the beauty and sacredness of this connection.

Up Next

In the next article in our series on Spirit Animals & Animal Totems, we’ll take a look at the different types of spirit animals. Spirit animals can appear along your journey in different ways, for different reasons. Find out what they are, next!



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References for all information in this series include the following excellent books and websites, as well as personal experience and knowledge.

  • 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 HERE for more of her stunning work.

Spirit Animal or Animal Totem Cat Artwork by Tanya Casteel