What is a power, (or spirit, or totem) animal? In shamanic traditions, wisdom is sought through nature, and it is believed that animals bring us “medicine” in their appearance. When you have an unexpected animal sighting, it can be taken as a sign, or an omen which bears a message for you. It is believed that individuals have about 9 designated power animals to guide them throughout their lifetime, whom may appear or have influences at different ages or during various phases of life. Learning to understand the lessons of these animal guides can be tremendously empowering, enlightening, and transformative. All this requires is conscious attention, a good reference guide, and some dedicated self-inquiry.
How do we meet and discover our individual power animals? Most important and impactfully, we meet the actual animal in the wild face to face and feel a profound connection and sense of serendipity. More formally, you may work with a shamanic healer to have a power animal retrieval, a ceremony in which they will go into a “journey” state to find and recognize the animal that you most need at the time for you. Or, you can be led through a journey to see for yourself. This is very powerful in that the practice of journeying allows you to “meet” with the animal in your consciousness and foster a relationship. I also love working with a trusted oracle deck (I recommend Animal Medicine by Jamie Sams & David Carson) to invoke a divination reading. You may also see them in dreams. I have used all of these approaches throughout my lifetime to discern and recognize the power animals that are recurring as my trusted allies. These special guides reveal themselves to us in perfect timing.
Now, what if you just love animals and want to honor the magic of them all? While our main spirit animal guides are with us for life, we can learn from all of the animals and honor their messages at any time. If you are the type of person to be on the lookout for signs, they will always come in a form that you will recognize. Our spirits are drawn to nature for inspiration, wisdom, and guidance, and we can always be learning from it. One of the reasons animals are so powerful as archetypes is that they are quite relatable, and an encounter is unmistakable. We can learn so much from observing them. Understanding the behavior, environment, characteristic, and habits of the animal provides a lot of context for the lesson or message they bring, (which is why Animal Speak by Ted Andrews is a great reference book).
For example, “the winged ones”, as I like to call them, (birds, butterflies, dragonfly, etc.) represent the element of air and are thought to be the couriers of the spirit world. They may remind you of loved ones that are passed, letting you know they are still with you. Butterflies represent transformation because they go through multiple stages of development before they become the beautiful creature that they are and spread their wings. A bird like an eagle has amazing vision so that they can see their prey from the sky, and use laser sharp focus & agility to swoop down and capture it with precision. Hawk is the trusted messenger, bringing important information to you from unseen realms- what are your spirit guides trying to tell you?
An animal like bear, who roams and hibernates, represents the earth element and is powerful for grounding, introspection, and nourishment. Creatures who live in water represent themes of fluidity & emotional healing. Snake is fiery, the venom signifying the transmutation of the poisons in life via spiritual alchemy. There are many connections between the classes of animals and the elements of nature. We can also view them in relationship to our chakras!
There are so many layers of understanding the beautiful energy of animals and what they mean for us. Many spiritual lessons of animal medicine have been shared from shamanic tradition, with the intention for humanity to be better able to learn, heal, and grow. We have been given a wonderful gift with which to connect with spirit. As your awareness grows, your relationship to these animals will deepen as you learn to embody them on a soul level.
As a healing practitioner, I love working with power animals to help people understand and unlock new perspectives, behaviors, and potential. Whenever I do a reading for others, there is always an emotional and profound response. Whatever your level of interest in power animals may be, honor the animals whose presence really resonates with you and be open to learning from them. The more interest & willingness you offer, the more they will reveal.
Written by Stephanie Poulos
Stephanie is a Pro-level Tribe member, she practices Radiance Energy Healing: Chakra Balancing & Healing Arts for Higher Vibrational Living.