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Thread: spirit guides/ power animals/ totem/ familiars

  1. #21
    Silver Member monsno_leedra's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2013
    Shamanic Practitioner & Green / Hedge Witch with Hellenic leanings
    West Virginia
    Can't never did nothing till it tried!

    Re: spirit guides/ power animals/ totem/ familiars

    I wrote this some time ago but it touches upon this thread so though I might share it. It's all my opinion so it's up to the reader to decide if or how it may apply or influence them.

    All that follows is my opinion only so other's may differ greatly from that.


    I think what many are discovering is the confusion that has developed about the notion of Power Animal, Spirit Animal, Spirit Animal Guide, Totem Animal and Guides in general. The influx of new age notions and a certain amount of revamping of pagan notions and ideals have changed the face of these items. That coupled to a certain amount of liberty with the definitions as they have been lifted from other systems of beliefs and practices.

    The Totem Animal is perhaps the most corrupted to my point of view. The totem is an animal that was associated with a clan, tribe, family, etc. It was seldom associated to an individual except to the extent that a member of the group claimed it as their ______ Totem. This is most well known when one looks to the Totem Poles of the Northwestern US. Those are Totems that are associated with the tribe (group) not individuals. I will admit I am divided in reference to whether one can have a totem from their respective parent’s lines, I.e. different totem from mother's side and father's side. In this perspective it might be possible to possess two totems.

    There is an individual totem on occasion though they are far more difficult to discover. Usually the individual who has done or underwent a quest and vision to discover them discovers these types. They then become the markers for that person and are a guide upon their pathwalk and serve as both totem, spirit guide and power animal all rolled into one. While possible it is my experience that not all will discover this type of totem creature, even if they do quest for it.

    Some totems become clan or Spiritual Clan emblems and houses. For instance, Once I was in a trance state and had a woman in white come up to me and led me into a ring of dancing spirits in animal form. As she brought me to the ring she introduced me to the dancers as "Wolf" and introduced the dancers as simply "Dancers". Yet as I danced the dance I changed from human form to that of a wolf and watched as the other dancers did so as well, yet they were of other forms. Later I joined a second dance that was composed of people that changed to Wolf form only and we danced again. Of course there is a lot more to it than just what I have spoken of but that is for me only.

    Totems are also assigned to clan’s based upon the Medicine Wheel. Each quarter of the wheel marked as being under the influence of a specific creature. For instance under one variant I am of the Turtle Clan as that is the house in charge of the quadrant that covers the month of March. Yet on that same wheel I have a totem animal of the Puma, as it is the totem that governs that month. Yet these clan totems may very from nation to nation or from continent to continent. One may also find totems in the form of clan or family heralds in the shape of family crests or banners.

    Individuals were (are) associated with Power Animals. The Power Animal is one that guide's and influences the individual but is also a source of power and inspiration for the individual. For instance one of my Power Animals is the Heron. All I have to do is see it and my mind takes off, yet not each sighting is a lesson though the bird inspires me never the less in how I view the world and see myself in it.

    The Power Animal may also show as what is called a Shadow Totem or Shadow Power Animal. That is a creature that instills a great fear or hesitation in us. It is some facet of its power that undermines us until we face that fear and learn to overcome or accept it. It's like Wolf is associated with family and group yet inversely it is also associated with individualism and self-purpose. Both that are seen as a detriment to the family / group when they take precedent in action and purpose.

    The Spirit Animal Guide is usually a form that is taken that we initially find a connection to. Many times the initial contact the front door to discovering the more terrifying and darker forms that will follow. Some will hold a singular form the whole time we know them, other's will change and evolve or simply one will leave and another come. Many times the Spirit Animal Guide leads us and encourages us within dreamtime or journeywork.

    At times the Spirit version may hold the properties of the physical version though that is not always true. At times one may find that to discover the spirit realm one must become the Spirit Animal Guide. By becoming the guide we see it's lessons or come to understand the area we are traversing. Yes, sometimes it also allows us to move unseen or survive in the area we are being taken to.

    We also have Divine Spirit Guides I believe. For me mine are Deer (Artemis) and Cat (Bast). My parents have told me cats have come to me since I first crawled from my crib while Deer appear in dreams and walk up to me at times. Granted the Stag is the sign of Artemis and those appear as well but the deer is an unobtrusive messenger that appears in the real world of man. Guides or a messenger that serve to remind us or connect us to the divine presence in our lives if that is a component of our pathwalk.

    I do believe there are spirit animals that are life long guides and influences. For me that animal has always been the Dragon. I have seen them in everything since I can recall and know when they show up something is about to happen. In many instances I have carried on conversations with various dragons in dreamtime.

    I think Spirit animals may also be seen as primary and secondary. The primary is always with us but the secondary is of such importance that they are also present at all times but not quite as vocal. For me the secondary has always been the Snow Leopard, yet it is also the primary for my wife. I'll admit I have wondered if hers was so large in my life as it was guiding me to her.

    In the physical sense the assumption of its shape is a form of Shape Shifting. In this instance it's the process of connecting to our Power Animal or Spirit Guide by trying to imitate it's actions and movements. For instance for me with Heron it's a process of stepping into the water and moving and trying to act like Heron in the way it interacts with its environment. Yet not just trying to act like it but to actually feel like it and understand it.

    Where I may differ is that I also believe we receive guides from all the kingdoms of life. Certain trees and plants are used as guides within the kingdom of the Green People; certain minerals or stones may call to us as representatives of the stone people. For me the winged people have sent Heron and Dragonfly. The four legs have used Deer and Cats as guides. The two legs have used many guides. Even the water people have sent guides in the form of fish (Carp) and newts and salamanders.

    The thing about guides is that I believe that a guide may only be with us as long as necessary to teach its lesson. SO we may have guides that are present for a day, a month, a year however long it takes to teach us the lesson it has been sent to convey to us. As such it also implies that a guide may come and go forever, a guide may appear then disappear from your lives multiple times. It implies that one may have any number of guides present at and given moment of time to teach you Spirit’s lesson.

    As I stated at the top these are my beliefs and opinions so may vary greater from what other’s have to say on the subject.

    Below are two articles and links from another person that some may recognize from another site. Yet I find that I agree greatly with much that she has said. As such I include them here that you may have other resources to read and discover from.

    Animal totemism is a hot topic among magical folk, in particular pagans and shamans. This, of course, has spawned a growing number of books about totems which vary in quality from excellent to appalling, as books are wont to do. Many of them attempt to be an improvement on Ted Andrews’ works, which spawned the “totem dictionary with some extra stuff” trend. In addition, there are numerous websites about totems, again of varying quality. It’s laughably easy to find the information you seek.

  2. #22
    Join Date
    May 2013
    Eclectic Wicca

    Re: spirit guides/ power animals/ totem/ familiars

    I guess I've always referred to all of them as spirit guides. To me, they can be human, animal, angel, etc. and they can be temporary or permanent.

    Two people very close to me passed away (one in '99 and the other last year) and became temporary spirit guides to help me cope with the loss.

    I also have three animal spirit guides....a horse, a mountain lion, and a snake. The horse is my main spirit guide. The mountain lion is one that I call on when I need strength or when I need to follow my instincts. The snake likes to come to me in dreams. I don't know why he likes me so much, but I'm not crazy about him! I'm terrified of snakes.

  3. #23

    Re: spirit guides/ power animals/ totem/ familiars

    To me spirit guides are of the spirit realm- angels, deceased loved ones and possibly nature spirits because they can (if the choose) to guide you on your spiritual journey, but I do not consider them part of the spirit realm, more of an enchanted realm here now on earth that we can't see, where as an angel or deceased love one has a home in a place disconnected from this plane. In other words, nature spirits dwell within nature we just can't see them, where deceased loved ones, ascended masters and angels come through gateways of alternate dimensions, if that makes sense.

    I would consider a power animal or power spirit an animal or spirit of a subconscious or internal nature- they are a part of us but can become objective as in seeing them in times of doubt in the external world (seeing a hawk fly right above your head when you are unsure of your future for instance). Basically, they are your power in symbolic form, reminding you just how much potential you already have inside of you.

    A totem is a living animal that makes its presence known to you in very obvious ways, such as a cat that hates people always cuddles you, or a crow that keeps an eye on you wherever you go. This type of manifestation could also be seen as a spirit guide but only in the sense that they are hosts for the Gods (the Gods watching you through the animal), but maybe this is a familiar. I work, or at least notice their presence in my life, with these types of entities but I never tried to differentiate them until now. That was kind of fun.

  4. #24
    Lilium of the Valley

    Re: spirit guides/ power animals/ totem/ familiars

    I have a very similar opinion Mr. Badger...i believe that there are different kinds of spirit that stays with you forever from the day you were born until the day you die (and who knows maybe beyond that)...some that will enter your life for short times to bring messages....and shadow totems that reflect something about yourself that you dont like but dont know, because these things usually happen in the subconscious parts of our brain. i like focusing on my shadow totems, because they help me conquer my fears, work on things i know i need to work on...they show me my weaknesses so i may turn them into strengths. which is nowhere close to easy, but it is manageable.
    i believe that all of the different animal guardians can help you through many things in life, if you want to see them, they will be there, you must only ask. it is a truly awesome experience, once you find them (which can be a challenge), it changes the view on things forever. at least thats how it was for me.

  5. #25
    Opinionated Rae'ya's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
    Northern Tradition Shaminist Demonolator. Or something along those lines...
    Adelaide, Australia

    Re: spirit guides/ power animals/ totem/ familiars

    Here's my definitions, based on my own research, experiences and personal thoughts...

    Spirit guides

    Any spirit or entity who acts as a guide and adviser to you. I don't think that spirit guides are limited to any particular 'species' or 'type'. They can be deceased humans, ancestors, 'ascended masters', animal guides, spirit helpers, deities or any other entity. Our relationship with spirit guides can be varied... they can guide and teach us on an internal level, communicate with us in the astral plane or be companions within the Otherworlds. I don't think that there are any real boundaries when it comes to spirit guides, and that the term can also encompass the other, more specific terms below.

    Power animals
    This one is a difficult one to pin down, because it's used in multiple contexts in the neo-pagan community, and is not a term that I use myself. I think that 'Power Animal' has come to mean the transient, temporary animal guides that we connect with and work with on a less permanent basis than a primary 'totem'. Having said that, I've seen it used as an alternative to 'totem' by people who don't like the term due to cultural appropriation. I've also seen it used in core-shamanic circles to indicate the animal spirits who aid them on their journeys in what I call the Innerworlds. It seems to me that power animals can be approached and sought out, which would put them in the same category as transient and temporary animal guides, rather than primary animal guides (aka totems).

    Totems / animal guides:

    I don't really like the term 'totem', for similar reasons that monsno_leedra stated earlier. The context of the term as used by neo-pagans is not strictly the same context as the original term, but it's a commonly used neo-pagan term nonetheless, whether we like it or not. I tend to use the term 'animal guides' and I see multiple tiers in this category. There are primary animal guides who are what most people consider a 'totem' - the one (or small number of) animal guide energy which connects with us and represents our base internal nature. Primary animal guides are with us for life and they just 'are' - you can't chose them or change them or make them evolve into something that appeals to you more. They are not our favourite animal (they can be, but it's not a determining factor), sometimes we don't even like the animal. There are also temporary and transient animal guides that are with us for short periods of time - days, years, decades or for a single magickal working. These ones vary as to whether they approach you or you approach them. You can consciously chose a particular animal guide to form a connection with (though it may not necessarily stick without intensive work) and you can cut ties if you so desire (or they can cut ties with you). And as Lilium of the Valley said, there are also 'shadow' animal guides, who represent aspects of the self that we don't like, don't understand or wont acknowledge.

    My own specific breakdown is this: Animal guides are the overarching 'grandparent' spirit of a species - the primal, core, energetic representation of a species... they aren't individual animal spirits or entities that have names and distinct personalities. Animal spirits are an individual entity who may have once been incarnated or who may have always been non-corporeal, but who are a member of the species in question - these may take names and they have personalities and identities apart from 'Dog' or 'Horse'. Sometiems animal guides may send you an individual animal spirit who then may interact with you on a different level. Animal energies are a more subtle manifestation and are the ones who manifest internally, as aspects of the self or representations of parts the self on a more personal, internal level. If anyone has read The Personal Totem Pole by Eligio Stephen Gallegos then you could consider the 'totems' he presents to be animal energies manifested within the self.

    I have to split with the majority so far and say that I don't believe that familiars are pets. Or rather... that pets are familiars. I was taught that a familiar is a spirit (and it doesn't have to be an animal, nor does it have to occupy a corporeal body) who has a specific relationship with a witch or magickal worker - they aid with magickal work. Unlike spirit guides, who guide, teach, mentor or otherwise aid in our personal and spiritual growth, familiars specifically aid us in working our magick and ritual. They can lend energy, guard the sacred space, help ground energy or go off to perform specific tasks. Some pets are familiars, but I believe this is actually pretty rare in the true sense of the term. Many of us have deep and significant relationships with our pets, but that doesn't necessarily make them a familiar. The familiar relationship is a conscious contract which certainly can be filled by a physical pet, but which can also be filled by a non-corporeal spirit or even a created servitor.

    - - - Updated - - -

    Oh I didn't realise that editing before a reply was made triggered the 'last edited' marker... I just added the sentence about animal energies. I doubt anyone minds, but I don't like editing my posts without explanation lol
    Last edited by Rae'ya; 05 Jun 2013 at 05:15.

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