Friday, July 27, 2012

Animal Guides

Animal guides, totems and spirit animals have fascinated me for years. Identifying with animals and looking to them as portents of the future crosses all cultures. You can see this in the western and Chinese zodiacs, our superstitions and our prejudices for and against certain animals.

Many native cultures believe that an animal is assigned to you at birth. This is your totem or spirit animal, not to be confused with your spirit guide which may or may not be an animal. Your spirit animal is a reflection of who you are.*

A spirit guide may be an animal, or a natural object or a person, and you can have more than one. Guides can come as messengers and leave as soon as the message is received. They can lead you to a destination, staying as long as the journey--actual or metaphorical--lasts. A spirit guide can also be akin to a guardian angel, appearing as needed throughout your life.

The Spider may come with a message from your past that you need to remember in order to move forward. She connects past, present and future and weaves the pattern of life. She may guide you in a journey to discover where you came from. If your totem is the Spider, your role may be to act as a bridge between generations or be a storyteller.

The Deer symbolizes grace, speed, protection and fertility. She may appear as a messenger that now's a good time to make babies... or make haste. If the Deer is your totem, you are creative, kind and family oriented.

In British and European traditions, the Raven is a harbinger of death and bad luck. Native peoples sometimes equate the Raven with the Coyote as a trickster, but the Raven is also a messenger from the sky bringing wisdom to the worthy.

The Dragonfly is another message carrier. The Eagle (among other things) carries prayers.The Bear, who was a regular visitor to my dreams in the past, may be encouraging me to be a leader or warning me that my children need protecting. Or telling he could be telling me to wrap up this post and hibernate for the rest of the night.

For a quick reference to the attributes of spirit animals check out:

(*Author Jeri Smith-Ready has come up with a questionnaire to discover your spirit animal... for entertainment purposes only, of course. As she says "Discerning a person's true Animal Spirit is way beyond the abilities of a mere novelist, who, let's face it, makes things up for a living."


Lyn Horner said...

Great topic, Alison! Makes me want to investigate further, also has me thinking about giving the Indian hero of my next Texas Druids book a spirit guide. Thanks much for the idea!

Caroline Clemmons said...

My husband and I have read a lot of western/southwestern lore in which animal totems and shifter beliefs are found. Thanks for an interesting post.

Alison E. Bruce said...

I look forward to seeing that book!

Alison E. Bruce said...

There's a lot of crossover between the western lore and Celtic and Norse beliefs. In Greek and Egyptian lore, there are similar archetypes, but different animals.

Devon Matthews said...

Terrific post, Alison! In the area where I live, we're very attuned to "signs." An owl hooting in the daytime, not good. If a bird somehow flies into my house, I go nuts because I've heard all my life that it's a sign of death. If you have animals, inside or out, they can let you know when a dangerous storm is approaching. There are a lot of signs in nature about the seasons and climate. My husband knows a lot of them, but they're not as reliable as they were a few years ago because our climate has changed so much. I enjoyed reading about your bear dream on your blog. Should have left you a comment there. Thanks for the nice post! :)

Alison E. Bruce said...

Thanks Ginger. I really have bears on the brain, don't I?

Sarah J. McNeal said...

I liked this post, Alison. Back in 1991 my Cherokee friend introduced me to totem animal spirits. She helped me discover my totem and bear is one of them. It's been a long time since I've thought about my totem. Your post encourages me to go back and meditate on my totem once again.

Jacquie Rogers said...

Good info, Alison! I discuss this frequently with my publisher, who has studied shamanism for years (he's a scholar, not a shaman). The spirit animals can mean so much and we all can learn from them. So did you choose to hibernate? LOL. I think that's what I'm about to do.

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