Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Spirit Animals

So now that you all know a little bit about my limited history with Vision Quests, I want to tell you some more about Spirit Animals, also known as Totem Animals, or Spirit Guides. I'm not going to pretend to be an expert, so if you really are interested, please find a true Native American shaman or Medicine Man (or woman) that you can talk to about the subject. You might be surprised how willing they are to share about their culture. You can also do some research on your own.

Two good articles I know of online are at the Manataka American Indian Council, and AnimalSpirits.com. There are also several books. Two decent examples are ANIMAL-SPEAK: The Spiritual and magical powers of creatures great and small by Ted Andrews, and POWER ANIMAL MEDITATIONS: Shamanic Journeys with Your Spirit Allies by Nicki Scully. There is a fun quiz, that can tell you a little more about Spirit Animals, but is also meant to promote a book and should not be taken wholly seriously, here at Jeri Smith-Ready.com.

So, now that we've gotten past all that I'm going to go over some of the details about some of the most common Spirit Animals. All of these are examples that exist currently in my WIP. I'm hoping it's a scene I don't have to cut during the re-write. I will go over some more obscure examples (as well as I can) for you guys tomorrow.

Dog: Among many tribes Dog was the sentinel who guarded the tribe’s home and protected them from attack and warned them of coming danger. He helped during the hunt and gave them warmth when it was cold. Dog is a symbol of loyalty, unconditional love, and protection, so if Dog is your Spirit Guide I would guess that you are a good, fast friend when you grow close to someone.

Dog’s Medicine incorporates the loving kindness of the best friend and the protective energy of the guardian. If Dog is your Spirit Animal then you’re a very kind and giving person whose devotion to their family and friends is unwavering. However, you must be careful not to be too trusting or be taken in by those who would take advantage of you. Make sure you always give your loyalty to those who are right and true.

Snake: Snake is a symbol of cunning and ingenuity, but also of rebirth. If Snake is your Spirit Guide it is possible that you are an old soul and this is not your first time in the world.

Snake's Medicine includes elusiveness, transmutation, goddess energy, exploration of the mysteries of life and connection to the magic cord by which the shaman travels to the spirit world.

Horse: Horse has shown up in almost every single mythological tale. From Pegasus, to Sleipnir, the eight-legged horse of Odin; from the stallions of Surya the Hindu sun god to the stallions of Apollo. No single creature has provided man with the freedom of movement and the ability to travel over long distances as has the horse. If you are drawn to Horse, you may feel a power in your spirit that is sometimes difficult to reign in, but remember, not all who wander are lost.

Horse's Medicine is made up of power, stamina and endurance. He is also known for faithfulness, freedom, awareness of the power achieved through cooperation, communication between the species (and between cultures), and the ability to overcome obstacles.

Rabbit: Rabbit may be stereotyped as being a fearful, simple animal, but in fact they are quite ingenious, especially when it comes to working together. Among Native Americans they symbolize humility.

Rabbit's Medicine includes moving through fear, living by your wits, and receiving hidden teachings and intuitive messages, as well as quick thinking and relying on your instincts. Rabbit reminds us not to be afraid and that we cannot allow our fearful thoughts to reproduce (especially not like rabbits) for they will overcome us if we let them.

Fox: Fox symbolizes cunning, agility, and being quick witted and thinking on your feet.

Fox's Medicine is very interesting and is associated with the Trickster, almost as much as Coyote. Fox stands for shape-shifting, cleverness, unseen observation, stealth, feminine courage, persistence and gentleness.

Owl: Owl stands for deception, clairvoyance and insight, but in this context deception does not carry with it a negative connotation. Deception is often necessary for one’s survival and can be a very valuable tool. The Great Horned Owl is the only bird that can out fly the Golden Eagle so stamina probably ought to go along with those other things as well. Owl is a bird of prey so it can also stand for a person who is a great warrior, especially if that which is dear to its heart is threatened. Owl is also known for his great awareness and his ability to see everything around him, having vision that reaches for almost three hundred and sixty degrees.

Owl’s Medicine consists of seeing through masks and disguises, silent and swift movement, keen sight, messenger of secrets and omens, shape-shifting, link between the dark, unseen world and the world of light, comfort with the shadow self, moon power, and overall freedom and independence.

Bear: Bear has always stood for wisdom, power, and healing and has been associated with the North. Bears spend the winter months in hibernation and among Native people the symbolism of the Bear’s cave reflects returning to the womb of Mother Earth. People with Bear Medicine are considered by many as self-sufficient and would rather stand on their own two feet than rely on others.

Bear’s Medicine includes introspection, healing, solitude, wisdom, change, communication with Spirit, the cycle of death and rebirth, transformation, and being the creature of dreams, shamans and mystics.

This post is going on a little too long, but I promise not to stop here. I'll just have to break it up a little and pick up tomorrow where we left off today. Before we're done though I briefly want to introduce the idea of the Medicine Wheel. The Medicine Wheel is a little like a compass, and is associated with the cardinal directions. I'll go into it more tomorrow, but if you're curious you can read some more here, at SpiritualNetwork.net.

Thanks everybody, and please be sure to come back tomorrow!


Karen Baldwin said...

Very interesting. I have a Totem Hawk Spirit Guild. The hawk spirit guide is a messenger from the spirit world, blessed with deep connections with the sun and remarkable psychic perception. His acute powers of observation, along with his deep intuition make the totem hawk a powerful companion for the seeker on shamanic journeys.

Bryan Russell said...

Where's my sloth? >:[

Okay, I admit, that was interesting. Even if lacking in sloths.

Stephanie Lorée said...

Matt, I love this series. Admittedly, I might be biased due to my current WIP featuring Ojibwe beliefs: spirits, totems, shamans... all sorts of wonderful things. Can't wait to read more of your thoughts on the subject!

Scribbler to Scribe

Vicki Rocho said...

I'll totally accept the bear I threw out there haphazardly!

Jess said...

This is really interesting stuff--thanks for the fun/informative post!

Josin L. McQuein said...

Snake also has ties to healing in native American culture as well as others around the world. I've always found that interesting, as most modern, Euro-centric cultures vilify them.

Modern Medicine is even starting to catch on, realizing that snake venom has medicinal properties if used properly.

Tracy said...

LOL, this stuff is all a bit outside of my normal realm. That being said, it's kind of fun to listen to you talk about it. Right now I'm envisioning you as a sort of Native American Harry Potter. ;o)

Jen said...

Hi Matthew,

This is a great article. I'm from northern Australia, but spent time as a child in Papua New Guinea. Turtles and crocodiles and sharks feature heavily as totems in Pacific indigenous culture. It's interesting to see the attributes of different spirit animals.

vic caswell said...

this is so interesting, matt! :)
i took my sons through that quiz thing (just because i love the answers they give to those kinds of questions!) favorite answer this morning: my four-year-old being adamant that people go to him for spiritual advice. :)

Christine Danek said...

Very interesting. Thanks for sharing. I'm drawn to horses--always have, but don't know why.
Have a great holiday!

Melissa Gill said...

This is fantastic. It really shows the Native American knowledge of and kinship with animals. Thank you so much for sharing this.

Joanne Brothwell said...

Hey Matthew,
I'm probably sharing too much - but one of my stories came from a brief "vision" I had one day in the mall. I looked over at a Native family walking together and I thought I saw a wolf walking beside this little girl. Of course there was nothing there, but the idea of it just stuck with me. Finally I wrote a story about it, and soon it will be published in an anthology. All from a 2-second "vision"!

Unknown said...

Fascinating stuff. I took the quiz which said I'm a swan and can foretell the future through dreams. I've done that so many times (on the down side w/ natural disasters and on the fun side w/ football game outcomes--which is my hubby wants to take me to Vegas!) I still think my spirit animal is a tiger though.:)

Southpaw said...

Interesting post. I’ve always been interested in the idea of spirit animals.

Nicole Zoltack said...

I'm loving this series. I love learning new things.

Unknown said...

Great information. Thanks for posting.

storyqueen said...

Matthew, I have really enjoyed your posts of late.

Still trying to figure out my patronus...but I do think I receive message regularly from crows and hawks.....

and rabbits.


RaShelle Workman said...

Matthew - That was very cool. I never would've thought that a rabbit would be a good spirit animal, but after your descriptions, I can see why the rabbit would be great. Thanks for the info. :D

Old Kitty said...

I so laughed out loud at Bryan Russell's "where's my sloth"! LOL!


What a fab post - it reminds me of Chinese astrology a little - I'm a rooster!! But they symbolise so much!! Take care

M.A. Leslie said...

Very interesting. It is sad just how little I know about the Native American traditions, they really are amazing to learn about.

Anonymous said...

I've known so many people who hold dear to their Indian backgrounds yet never quite understood what they were talking about. Now I have a much better idea. Thanks for the post. Although I am not American Indian, I cn now appreciate better their beliefs what what the beliefs represent. Thanks.

Shannon said...

This is so cool, Matt! Thanks so much for taking time to put this post together!

Abby Minard said...

This is wonderful! Thanks so much for the info. I still stand by my thinking that a rabbit would be my spirit guide. I need to be reminded daily not to be fearful of new situations or something I'm not comfortable with. Thanks!