Reconnecting to our totem animals
In shamanism, the concept of totem animals is central to many traditions. Indeed, shamans regularly commune with animal spirits: when they want to harness their power or strength, when they seek advice or vision, or when they call upon their medicine.
Today, totem animals are much better known to the general public, and everyone is able to make their own connection with the animal world. One can thus receive a visit from an animal spirit, whether it is during a shamanic ceremony, a vision quest, a deep meditation, or even a dream. And sometimes these spirits will simply come and invite themselves into our daily lives. There are many tools, and many ways to explore this: among others, the “Sprit Animal” oracle deck can be used to connect with animal spirits and ask them for advice and guidance.
We can, however, make a distinction between an animal spirit that will come to help us at a specific time in our lives, and our own totem animals (I use the plural, as it is not uncommon to have more than one). Indeed, an animal may appear to us from time to time to inspire and guide us according to our needs: the Horse may come to give us momentum, the Lion to give us strength, or the Bear to give us care. This does not necessarily mean that these are our totem animals, which represent various facets of ourselves.
How can you tell the difference, you may ask? Honestly, there is no infallible method. Perhaps the best thing to do is to ask them when you see them, and see the answer you get. Trust your heart and intuition.
Animal totems in our relationships with others
Our totem animals thus represent parts of our personality. In a way, they can be interpreted as a zodiacal sign, which defines our character traits and sensitivities. They can therefore also naturally influence our relationships and compatibilities.
My main totem animal is the Wolf, and I have found that I get along particularly well with all the people whose totem animal is the Bear. Other animals are complementary, such as the partnerships we sometimes see in the wild. I am thinking, for example, of the ravens that help wolves find prey, knowing that once that prey is killed, they will be able to share the feast with their partner. We can thus see complementarities of talents and communities of interest.
Moreover, in shamanism, each animal has its own medicine. This means that each one has knowledge and strategies that can help us improve our approach to life, but also help others overcome their challenges. If you know your medicine, you can then cultivate and develop it, and then put it at the service of others. For example, the Wolf is a guide, and often has an advisory role. The Bear is extremely good at taking care of people in all aspects of daily life – its company alone is comforting, and it’s no coincidence that children are given teddy bears to reassure them. The Snake is a great healer, and often serves in medical professions…
Knowing our animal totem, we can then define better the social role and the place we want to occupy in this world.
But the most important relationship, for which totem animals can help a lot, is obviously the relationship with oneself. In order to find a form of peace and acceptance, it is crucial to know ourselves well. Totem animals can thus serve as mirrors and help us understand ourselves better: are you rather solitary or sociable? Are you combative or peaceful? Are you more of an early bird or a night owl? Do you prefer the sea, the forest, or the mountains as a place to live? All these small details of everyday life that make up your personality could be reflected by your totem animals.
As I said above, it would be surprising if a single animal could symbolize the totality of your character traits. It is more likely that several species represent different parts of your personality. For example, the Wolf is certainly the animal that accompanies me in all my therapeutic activities. But the spirit of the Spider is also very present, and helps me tremendously in all my creative and artistic projects. My wife is connected to both the Bear and the Squirrel: she can use the Squirrel’s talents as an organizer and logistician to take even better care of people.
Finally, this reconnection to the animal world can also allow us to explore a sometimes more primary, wilder level of our human nature. Not necessarily in a negative sense, of course. After all, we too are part of the living species on this planet, and we often tend to forget this primitive part of ourselves, and remain only in our minds. When we identify with and commune with our totem animal, we can feel a form of simplicity that is more authentic than our overdeveloped intellect.
We can also discover unsuspected resources: In my shamanic exploration, I was able to meet the White Wolf, but also the Black Wolf. In our western society, which has a Manichean approach to good and evil, white could symbolize virtue, and black could represent all our negative impulses. But I understood that we should rather favor an inclusive philosophy, closer to the symbol of Yin and Yang: Nothing is either good or bad, everything is complementary. The night is not worse than the day, it’s just different. Everything depends on whether these energies are expressed in a harmonious or dissonant way.
Once tamed and soothed, my Black Wolf taught me a lot, and helped me connect with my inner strength – something I forbade myself to do in the name of an idealized form of spirituality. But you can actually use your strength for very positive things. Your totem animals, which are in total acceptance of their deepest nature, can inspire you to do the same, and not reject any part of your being. A beautiful example to follow.