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Animal Totems

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"Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect."
~Chief Seattle~

Explanation of the Animal Totems and their Roles
along the Sacred Hoop of Life

As the quote from ~Chief Seattle~ above so eloquently illustrates, we are all connected, not just to other "two-legged" and the family of man, but to the animals, the trees, the wind, the earth Herself. Like a beautiful blanket woven from many colors and textures of thread, each individual energy contributes to this Blanket of Oneness, and all are bound together.

Our thoughts, actions and deeds not only have an impact upon our own life along the Red Road, but like a pebble tossed into a pond, the ripples of our movement along the Web has far-reaching effects. Thus, if we callously pollute the air of the Earth Mother, dump toxins into her streams and oceans, kill her creatures and bountiful, beautiful life, we are also destroying ourselves, for one cannot cut off their own arm and not feel the pain of the loss.

Yet we can also be a positive influence upon the lives of Others, we can tread softly upon the Earth Mother and respect her creatures of the land, ocean and sky, and in this way, also heal and nourish

When we can look into the heavens and see the love of the Great Mystery glimmering amongst the stars, feel the Divine presence in the heartbeat of a rabbit, or see it reflected in the large tender eyes of a deer, then we are beginning to Understand the intricate bond that is shared with All Things born of the Great Mystery. This is when we begin to understand that Allies accompany us along this Journey around the Sacred Hoop of Life, and though they may be Unseen to our ~mortal~ eyes, the bond is a beautiful and intricate thread that is ever present, all we have to do is to acknowledge their presence, offer our thanks, embrace their Wisdom and Medicine, and accept the Lessons that they Teach.

Your Totem will come to you

Within the Native American traditions, totem animals are closely identified with animals that bring you power, healing, and protection both in the physical and spiritual world. Having a totem gives you strength and power to deal with a difficult world. One thing to keep in mind, however, is that according to these traditions, your totem chooses you - you do not choose your totem.

Ordinarily, a totem animal is acquired during a vision quest. A vision quest is a supervised time of fasting, prayer, and meditation where a participant and an intercessor spend time alone in the wilderness calling on and waiting for the Spirit. Usually this takes place over a period of four days.

Traditionally, the totem makes its first appearance during a person's first vision quest. This sometimes happens in dreamtime, or at other times in visions, and occasionally in the physical world.

At times, the totem animal shows up only after the vision quest. Nevertheless, it is the goal of the first vision quest to bring in that totem. Ideally, therefore, the first vision quest is taken during adolescence so that the participant may use the totem animal during the process of personal development and growth during his or her early years.

In some shamanic teachings where a vision quest is not involved, your totem animal should come to you through a dream or vision. In these cases, it must come to you four times during the same dream. Some shamans lead people to their totem animals in this manner instead of a vision quest. Through drumming, fasting, sleep deprivation, heat, or hallucinogenic drugs; the participant is put into a altered state and encouraged to travel mentally through the heavens or deep into the Earth through a natural crack or hole in the ground - such as an animal hole, a tree root crevice, or perhaps a deep vertical cave. During this journey it is hoped that the totem will appear will appear, usually four times but not always depending on the culture as the ways of the shamanism differ very little from country to country. According to Native American traditions, after you have been chosen by your totem you must carry something that represents the animal with you at all times.

It is wise to find out what is legal and what isn't from your state's Fish and Game Department.


Begin the process of discovering your animal totems by examining the animals you have been most interested in & the times of your life that interest was piqued. Use the following questions to help determine which animals are probably totems to you in your life.

1. Which animal or bird has always fascinated you? (We are drawn to that which most resonates with us. Those animals which fascinate us have something to teach us.)

2. When you visit the zoo, which animal do you wish to visit the most or first? (esp. children)

3. What animal(s) do you see most frequently when you are out in nature? Have you had encounters with animals in the wild? (The animals we encounter, in their city environments or in the wild, have significance for us. We can learn from them, even if only about survival within that environment.)

4. Of all the animals in the world, which are you most interested in now? (Our interests in animals change. Yes, we usually have one or two that are lifetime, power animals, but others become prominent when there is something importance or specific to teach us.)

5.What animal most frightens you? (That which we fear the most is often something we must learn to come to terms with. When we do that, it then becomes a power. Some shamans believe that fears will take the shape of animals, and only when we confront them without fear do their powers/medicine work for us instead of against us. Such an animal become a shadow totem.)

6. Have you ever been bitten or attacked by an animal? (Historically, if a shaman survived an attack, it was believed that the animal was the shaman's spirit totem and the attack was the totem's way of testing the shaman's ability to handle the power.)

7. Do you have dreams with animals in them or are there animal dreams you have never forgotten? (This is especially important if the dreams are recurring or if at least the animal image in the dream is a recurring one. Children often dream of animals, & attention should be given to these animals. They will often reflect specific spirit totems of the child.


The lion is the largest African carnivore. It is a sandy to tawny colored cat with white under parts on which females often retain rosettes and spots characteristic of younger animals. Of all the cats, sexual dimorphism is most striking in the lion. Adult males are not only larger than females, they have a mane of long hair on the side of the face and top of the head, extending onto the shoulders. The mane is usually tawny, but in some individuals it may be almost black, or more rarely reddish or creamy. Males usually weigh 175–190 kg and females about 120 kg. The lion has a wide habitat tolerance and is absent only from extensive desert regions and tropical rain forest. Open woodlands and thick scrub provide the best habitat. Lions work together in prides to feed the group, as well as protect it. Our medicine is for us to work together for the good of  all. It's ok to think about ourselves sometimes, but we do need to think of others too!


Keynote: reclaiming one's true power. Cycle of power: dark o f the moon, new moon, winter. The panther is a very powerful and ancient totem. The name panther is more generally associated with a particular species of leopard or jaguar, although in Florida area, the cougar is also referred to as panther. As with most of the large cats, the panther is a symbol of ferocity and valor. Like the tiger and the lion, it embodies aggressiveness and power, but without the solar significance. In the case of the black panther, there is definitely a lunar significance. As with any totem, a study of the individual characteristics can provided much insight into the energies being awakened within those who align with this animal. Panthers of the leopard family are found in Africa, Asia Minor, China and India. Those we associate with the jaguar family are found in the southwest United States (rarely anymore), throughout Mexico, Central America, and parts of South America. Mediate upon this totem, when it reveals itself to you, will help you determine whether it is part of the leopard or jaguar family.

The panther, in general, is smaller but more fierce than lions or tigers. They have over 500 voluntary muscles that they can use at will. This reflects a lot about an individual who has such animals as a totem. It reflects an ability to do a variety of tasks as he or she wills. It is simply a matter of deciding and putting to use those particular "muscles"-be they physical, mental, psychic or spiritual. As a whole panthers are loners although they do associated with others, they are most comfortable by themselves or within their own marked territories. They are drawn to those individuals who are likewise often solitary. The panther is an enchanting combination of beauty and utility. They have a wonderful gracefulness, with an ability to move with ease or freeze entirely. They are quiet when they are stalking, hunting or pursuing. Those who have a panther as a totem will find their greatest power in silence as goals are pursued. Revealing too much or speaking too much about pursuits can counteract some of the effectiveness.

Panthers are excellent sprinters, but they are not great long distance runners. From a health perspective, those with panther totem must learn to pace their work, allowing time for rest and to play. They must not push too far or too hard on any one task. If they do, they are more susceptible to imbalances. In times of trouble-in any environment-those with panther totems are often the first and the fastest to respond and especially in the work environment they respond effectively to deadlines and to pressures. After mating, the panthers only stay together for a short time. The female handles the rearing of the young, disliking intrusions from the outside. This is often similar to women who have panthers as totem guides. They do not like others-even mates-interfering with how they feel the young should be raised. The female panther almost always raises the cubs alone and women with panther totems often find themselves doing likewise-whether out of divorce or simply through asserting dominance in that area of the couple's life. All cats have binocular vision. Each eye can work singly, providing greater depth of vision, magnifying images, and facilitating judgment of distances. Thus anyone who aligns with the panther will begin to develop greater depth of vision-of their life, of events or other people. This is more than just psychic sight. It is inner knowing.

Often people enter the metaphysical field taking up exercises and mediation to have their inner lights "clicked on". Individuals with panthers as totems are usually individuals who came into the world with the lights already on. Thus they should not be discouraged when they do not experience what others describe when their lights turned on. They should trust their thoughts and their inner visions (imaginings) for there is probably a strong foundation in reality. To those with whom the panther links comes the ability to develop
clairaudience, to hear the communications of other dimensions and other life forms. The panther has very strong hearing. It can move its ears to locate the direction of sounds.
from Ted Andrews' Animal Speak


According to English witchcraft handbooks of the early seventeenth century (familiars do not appear in Continental witchcraft trials and literature), the name given to spirits attendant upon witches or magicians.

Usually familiars are visible to ordinary sight, as, for example, in the form of dogs or cats, but in some cases it was claimed that witches were followed by a swarm of invisible familiars. The word is from the Latin familiares, but alternative Roman names were magistelli and martinelli, while the Greeks called them paredrii.

It was held that the familiar, usually in the form of a small domestic animal, was given to the witch by the Devil as companion, helper and adviser, which could be used to perform malicious errands, including murder, and other feats of black magic.

Further info:
Confronting Familiar Spirits.


"Spinner of webs, an archtrickster, and a silent and murderous trapper, the spider was tiny enought to hide in the hood of a witch's cloak as a familiar and whisper instruction in her ear" (Lehane 106). Margaret Wyard, an accused witch of Bury St. Edmonds in Suffolk, England, confessed to having a spider among her familiars
(Guiley 1989 44).

Animal Magic: Spiders
In folk magic a spider eaten wvery morning will provide you with great strength and power. The witches according to lore could raise storms at sea by catching a spider in pots. They are also used as ingredients in folk remedies. They are used as amulets.

Spiders as Familiars

Spinning & Weaving Goddess


Navajo Dine - Goddess of Weaving

Hopi Creation
In the beginning there were only two: Tawa, the Sun God, and Spider Woman (Kokyanwuhti), the Earth Goddess. All the mysteries and the powers in the Above belonged to Tawa, while Spider Woman controlled the magic of the Below.

The Children and the Hummingbird
An excerpt from a Spiderwoman story.

Grandmother Spider Woman
A quilt collage based on the legends of Spider woman. The quilt was pieced from hand-woven fabrics. The people climbing up one of the borders, represent the emergence of all the clans climbing towards the sun. The large spider on the web represents a story I read about Spider stealing the light.

Spider Totem

Spiders are very delicate creatures that play an important role in
the myths and lore of many peoples as the teacher of balance between the past and future, the physical and spiritual. To the Native Americans, Spider is Grandmother, the link to the past and future. In India, its associated with Maya, the weaver of illusions. With its gentle strength, Spider spins together the threads of life with intricate webs. Spider knows the past affects the future and vise versa. It calls us to make use of our creativity and weave our dreams into our destiny. If you want to make a deeper connection with your Animal Totem, fill your environment with images of the animal to let the animal know it is welcome in your space.

I think this is great information on this page I plan to go back to the web site during my healing time

Excerpts from Animal Speak
by Ted Andrews.

The spider has shown up in myth and lore throughout the world. Usually its symbolism has been very similar wherever it is used. In India it was associated with Maya, the weaver of illusion. It has had connections to the Fates in Greek mythology and the Norns in Scandinavian lore - women who would weave, measure, and cut the threads of life. To the Native Americans, spider is grandmother, the link to the past and the future.

Spider teaches you to maintain a balance - between past and future, physical and spiritual, male and female. Spider teaches you that everything you now do is weaving what you will encounter in the future. In the tarot deck is a card - The Wheel of Fortune. This is a card that has to do with rhythms - the rise and fall, the flow and flux. It is linked to the energies of honor and fame, and the sensitivities necessary to place ourselves within the rhythm of Nature. Meditation upon this card would be beneficial for anyone with the spider as a totem.

The spider awakens creative sensibilities. It weaves a web of intricate and subtle fabric, as if to remind us that the past always subtly influences the present and future. Often the webs will take a spiral shape, the traditional form of creativity and development. The spider found within the web reminds us that we are the center of our own world. The ancient mystery schools had one precept inscribed above their portals: "Know Thyself and Thou Shalt Know The Universe!" Spider reminds us that the world is woven around us. We are the keepers and the writers of our own destiny, weaving it like a web by our thoughts, feelings and actions.

The spider, because of its characteristics, has come to be associated by mystics and in mythology in three predominant expressions of magic. The first is magic and energy of creation. It is a symbol of creative power, reflected in its ability to spin a silken web. It is also associated with assertiveness of that creative force, of keeping the feminine energies of creation alive and strong. This has ties to the characteristics of some spiders, i.e. the female black widow, which will kill and eat the male after mating has exhausted it.

The third predominant magic of the spider is associated with its spiral energy, the links with the past and the future. The spiral of the web, converging at a central point, is something to be meditated upon by those with this totem. Are you moving toward a central goal or are you scattered and going in multiple directions? Is everything staying focused? Are you becoming too involved and/or self-absorbed? Are you focusing on others' accomplishments and not on your own? Are you developing resentment because of it - for yourself or them?

Spider is the guardian of the ancient languages and alphabets. Every society has had myths about how the different languages and alphabets were formed. The Chinese alphabet is attributed to Ts'ang Chien, the god with the dragon face and four eyes. He formed it from the patterns of the stars, the marks on the back of the turtle and the footprints of birds in the sand. The Norse god Odin created the Runic alphabet after hanging upon the great tree of life for nine days and nights. After this time, the twigs fell off and spelled our certain formulas and words.

To many, there was an alphabet even more primordial. It was formed by the geometric patterns found within spider's web. To many this was the first true alphabet. This is why spider is considered the teacher of language and the magic of writing. Those who weave magic with the written word probably have a spider totem.

If spider has come into your life, ask yourself some important
questions. Are you not weaving your dreams and imaginings into reality? Are you not using your creative opportunities? Are you feeling closed in or tuck as if in a web? Do you need to pay attention to your balance and where you are walking in life? Are others out of balance around you? Do you need to write? Are you inspired to write or draw and not following through? Remember that spider is the keeper of knowledge of the primordial alphabet. Spider can teach how to use the written language with power and creativity so that your words weave a web around those who would read them.

Miscellaneous Animal Totems:

Praying Mantis
The key words for Praying Mantis are "insight and protection through stillness". While we need to have fun and experience joy this weekend, we also need to take personal time. I heard an ad today that said 'even a few minutes walking barefoot in the grass is a few minutes for you.' We need to take that few minutes, for our sanity, our health, and our connection to the Earth. ~Teresa Tio

The key words for Chameleon are "news of changing environment". Today's medicine is encouraging us to look around for new opportunities outside of our usual circle. It's ok for us to want change, and perhaps to go looking for it too.

The key words for Otter are "creativity and skill". Perhaps while we are meditating today, we can refresh our creative energy. We can certainly use a boost, and using our creative skills can help!

Hummingbirds in Native American Tradition by Peter Guanikeyu Torres, President and Council Chief of the Taino Indigenous Nation of the Caribbean and Florida

The Taino Native American people were the first people to meet Columbus in 1492. The Hummingbird is the symbol of the spreader of life on the Earth. It also symbolizes the rebirth of the Taino Indian Nation of the Caribbean and Florida. We also call our Warriors, Colibri Warriors (Hummingbird Warriors), as the Hummingbird is very peaceful but, it protects it own homeland with the heart of a Eagle. Our history tells us the small Hummingbirds were at one time small flies that Agueybaba the Sun Father transformed one day into little birds.

The key words for Toad are "inner strength and resources". When we have changes happening that are out of our control is when we need to utilize the gifts we have. Inner strength as well as inner resources are tools we often ignore or forget. It is perfectly acceptable to use them, especially when we are in need.

The key words for Bat are "new truths and perceptions". Bats hang upside down in caves, or at least a lot of them do, and this allows them to see things differently than when they are upright. Perhaps we need to take a page out of "Dead Poets Society" (the movie) and look at things from a new perspective.

The key words for Ant are "searching and working for the greater good". Perhaps the new creative outlet we have been looking for involves more than just us. Thinking about others, and working to help others can be very stimulating and interesting. At least, it's not boring.

The key words for Horse are "movement and balance". Riding a horse requires balance or else we'd just fall off. (At least I would...) I have seen people riding horses as though they are one with the horse. There is a certain harmony between horse and rider which establishes balance on mental, and perhaps spiritual levels, as well as the physical. This is something we need to strive for in our lives, and I do mean balance with ourselves, and our partners. Another meaning comes from the idea of the “power of partnership”. To a Native, the horse could carry bundles far heavier than the man so the two had to work together to carry the heaviest loads.

The key words for Fox are "blessings and magic afoot". Planting and nurturing the seeds of our future is a good idea this weekend. Not only that, but getting out and actually being active is good for us too. There is great creative energy abounding, and we are all blessed with it! Ever heard the words “Cleaver as a fox”? Quick wits is also another strength of those who carry Fox as a totem. Need a quick solution? Just ask the Fox.

Owls: from an Aboriginal Perspective (I am a Koori in case you hadn't realized!! Koori= Aboriginie) I don't really know much about the symbolisms of animals from other countries or their meanings for animals, but from my perspective. We have more types but there are two different types of Owls on which I know about. There is the Mopoke or Boobook (Depends on where you are from) which is a very shy but common bird here.....he has a very mournful cry, very forlorn. We have a saying "Don't be a Mopoke" which really just means cheer up. In the Dreaming he was a bad tempered selfish man who refused to share his ample possessions with the Great Spirit who was walking in disguise as a man. As the fates would have it, his Karma caught up with him and he was turned into an Owl. He has a sad cry because he will never forget his crimes. It was thought that his cry presages death. But this is symbolism, so it really means that the death is something in your life that has outlived it's usefulness. That old energies will be replaced by new ones. So it's really just a sign that a new phase in your life is coming.

Mopoke is a reminder to lighten up and not put too much emphasis on the trivial and not to dwell on the negative. That being mournful will achieve nothing but attracting this same doldrum attitude from others. A little reminder that what you put out, so you will receive. So be mindful of your attitude when around others, it will rub off!

Another dreaming is about the Grey Owl, Eerin. He symbolizes the power of the night, mystery and wisdom. Owls are quite often women's totems, (The closest word I can come to to describe what our "Kobongs" are is totem but that's not really an accurate portrayal.) They are a symbol of female energy. (Even though in our Dreaming Eerin is a man.) He was a very good watchman. He lived to an old age and was a highly valued member of the tribe. When he died the elders performed a sacred rite of cutting themselves and letting their blood drip over his body in a giving of their life source as a sign of esteem. They a great corroboree in his honour. An enemy tribe taking advantage of the distraction crept up on them in
ambush when out of the smoke the tribe heard Eerins warning call and a Grey Owl flying over head.

So Owl can signify issues of protection or imply a threat. Owl can call for the use of watchfulness and silence. This is where there symbolism of wisdom comes from...(Those who listen most and speak less, know more). Owl also symbolizes special talents. Can be a sign of acceptance and recognition of of ones inner most feelings, dreams, and hard work. You say you saw the Owl, there is significance there also. If it was a new moon, he is telling you to expect the emergence of a new phase in your life. During a full moon he symbolizes the fruition or rewards of practicing your talents, of the hard work you have put in to whatever of your life you have been working on. In the dark of the moon, he asking that you take particular notice of your dreams and their abilities to convey sub-conscious issues influencing your life.

by Alernon

Come to us: Eagle, Wolf, Bear and Cougar.
Dance we now The Power dances.

Eagle soaring above the peaks,
Share with us freedom, majesty and fighting skills.
Teach us lessons we need to learn.
Dance with us The Power dances.

Wolf, cunning tracker, by day or night. Share with us endurance, courage and adaptability.
Teach us lessons we need to learn. Dance with us The Power dances.

Bear, trampling along earthen paths, Share with us Mighty strength and sense of smell.
Teach us lessons we need to learn. Dance with us The Power dances.

Cougar, lonely tracker of terrains, Share with us Agility,
stamina and endless curiosity. Teach us lessons we need to learn. Dance with us The Power dances.

Movements slow
Movements rapid.
Frenzied swaying
Upward, downward.
Dipping, turning
Round and round.
Dance we now
The Power dances.

Dancing partners,
You and I.
With me, in me
I am you, you are me.
Together as one,
Yet separate, too.
Dance we now
The Power dances.

Awaken now
All Spirit Beings,
To dance the dances
With your human kin.

Dance the Cycles
Of Life and Death,
Hope and Fear,
Good and Evil.
Dance the Cycles,
Now and Again.

Lowerworld, Upperworld,
Journeying now
and forevermore.
Of Time and Space
All is Once,
There is none.
Dance the dances
Again and again. .......from R.M.P.J. 8/86

Notes: This article is excerpted from the Rocky Mountain Pagan Journal. Each issue of the Rocky Mountain Pagan Journal is published by High Plains Arts and Sciences; P.O. Box 620604, Littleton Co.,
80123, a Colorado Non-Profit Corporation, under a Public Domain Copyright, which entitles any person or group of persons to reproduce, in any form whatsoever, any material contained therein without restriction, so long as articles are not condensed or abbreviated in any fashion, and credit is given the original author.!

Raccoon is the disguised one. She reminds us that sometimes we need to hold a little of ourselves in reserve. Not all that we are or have to share of ourselves is appropriate for everyone. Some must be kept in private. There are those who would take what we have to share and abuse us for it later.

Raccoon also reminds us to explore, examine and learn. There is so much out there that it cannot all be learned in one session. Take your time, keep your eyes open and explore all that the Goddess puts in front of you. She is doing this for your edification.

And thirdly, Raccoon reminds us to play, and have a good time. This whole world is virtually a theme park and there is so much to experience and be entertained by. This brings to mind a question that was given to me to ponder years ago by one of my teachers: "What if life were a vacation and when we die, we have to go back to work?"