In Native American cultures, it is still common practice to have a totem. Animal spirit medicine is the guidance and knowledge one receives from their spirit animal, which is also referred to as a totem, animal spirit guide, or power animal. Each animal has their own power and attributes. For instance, the bear symbolizes strength, power, self awareness, and survival.
Sometimes a Comanche man dreams and a big bear comes and tells him you do this - you paint your face this way. I help you, if he sees bear in his dreams then he makes medicine that way.
- Quanah Parker, 1852 - 1911, The last Comanche Chief
Many people know early in life what their spirit animal is. Others may not find out till they are adults. Most Native Americans know their spirit animal when they are children. They grow up with the knowledge and guidance of their spirit animal -- it is with them every moment of their life. The person may not always be aware that their spirit animal is with them. Yet it is never far and always ready if called upon.
Sometimes there is no need to call upon one's spirit animal. In a case of unexpected danger the spirit animal makes itself known by warning or protecting the person. This is being in harmony and balance with Nature.
Our animal spirit keeps us stronger mentally, physically, and emotionally. It is a very important part of us that helps us to grow spiritually.
One does not choose their life-time spirit animal. They choose us. There are many signs that will let us know what our spirit animal is. Some of these signs may be subtle and some may come to us as profound enlightenment through a vision or dream.
A vision quest is a spiritual journey that Native American peoples often take. Through this process their animal spirit appears to them when the person is in a state of meditation. Each person has one main animal spirit, totem, throughout their entire life. At times another animal spirit may be called upon in prayer for guidance -- this is done when the person desires the attributes of a particular animal for a particular purpose. Yet the totem is with them throughout life.
How does one recognize their totem? It is fairly easy if one becomes aware of the signs, dreams, and visions they receive. Let's use the hawk as an example. These may be some of the signs that the hawk is your totem:
If a hawk appears unexpectedly near you often.
If you are outside relaxing on a lounge and open your eyes and see a hawk watching you.
If you see the shape of a hawk in the clouds.
If you open a magazine or book and right there is a picture of a hawk.
You are shopping for a gift and a statue of a hawk draws your attention.
You dream of a hawk.
You suddenly have a vision, an image in your mind, of a hawk.
The word hawk comes up often in conversations.
If things like this repeatedly happen, you can be sure the hawk is your totem. The symbolic powers of a hawk are messenger, finding purpose in life, visionary power, and guardian.
Animals do not have the weaknesses we humans do. They have amazing strength and powers that are used to protect their own kind -- not to make war or antagonize. They know not the faults of man such as greed and envy. They do not hate. They will defend their own to the death if need be. We can learn much from observing the world of animals.
This is why Creator provided Mother Earth with species other than human. We can learn from each other.
In upcoming articles, we will look at individual animals and their special attributes that can help one on their spiritual path in life.