4 Easy Ways of Finding and Connecting with Your Totem Animal

Posted on November 25, 2014

Anyone who has ever watched Dances with Wolves or The Serpent and the Rainbow will have seen the protagonists interact with their animal guides. While working with animal familiars and totems is yet another thing that Hollywood has exaggerated to make good viewing, there is some truth in the portrayal. There are easy ways of finding and connecting with your totem animal. If we tune into the vibration, spirit guides can come to us in totem form.

The word “totem” is believed to originate from the Ojibwe language, and means “a natural object or an animate being assumed as the emblem of a clan, family, or group.” It is often used to refer to someone’s spirit animal helper or animal guide. Even though the word is associated with Native American beliefs, you don’t have to be Native American to work with totem animals.

1) Totems by Zodiac Sign

In his book “Dancing with the Wheel” Sun bear has created a “medicine wheel” system of totem animals, plants, stones, and colors. Here we see that the four elements (Fire, Earth, Air, and Water) have their own totem, as well as the four seasons. Each zodiac sign roughly coincides with a listed totem, too. While this is not the definitive method of working with totem animals, it can certainly get you started.

  • Aries: Thunderbird, Eagle, Red-tailed Hawk
  • Taurus: Turtle, Eagle, Beaver
  • Gemini: Butterfly, Eagle, Deer
  • Cancer: Frog, Wolf, Flicker (a kind of woodpecker)
  • Leo: Thunderbird, Wolf, Sturgeon
  • Virgo: Turtle, Wolf, Black Bear
  • Libra: Butterfly, Grizzly, Raven
  • Scorpio: Frog, Grizzly, Snake
  • Sagittarius: Thunderbird, Grizzly, Elk
  • Capricorn: Turtle, Buffalo, Snow Goose
  • Aquarius: Butterfly, Buffalo, Otter
  • Pisces: Frog, Buffalo, Cougar

2) Animal Totems by Familiarity

Sometimes you don’t choose your totem, it chooses you! While according to Sun Bear your birth totems are fixed, other totems may come and go. I like to think of them as spices in cooking. Garlic is great, but I wouldn’t want to put it in a cherry pie! So sometimes a totem will come to use because we need its energy for a particular purpose, and once that purpose is gone, then that animal spirit also leaves, until we need it again.

Examples of this can be found throughout history. There are cave paintings which depict calling an animal to help ensure a successful hunt. We know that clans and tribes would take the name of an animal because the people wanted to resonate with some of the qualities of that animal. We even see it today, with sports teams being named after an animal, so that they can be successful like that animal. You don’t see a winning football team being called ‘The Sloths’ or ‘The Possums,’ now, do you?!

We even use it in our speech, most of the time without even realizing it. We say things like “sly as a fox,” “like a bull in a china shop”, “strong as an ox”, “eat like a horse”, “happy as pigs in mud”, “dog tired”, and many, many more. The interesting thing is that when we start to be aware of the way that totem animals start to present themselves to us, then we can ask them why they want our attention, and tap into the lessons that they bring.

Perhaps you drive to work and every morning you see crows perched on the utility wires, or deer disappearing into the woods. Take a few minutes to research what these animals mean, and see if they have a message for you. If you are proficient at meditation, you can always ask the animals to bring you their message while you are meditating. You could be surprised at what you find. You may see a flock of ducks, and be told you’re “ducking” an issue!

3) Animal Totems by Choice

Yes, you can choose your own totem. This goes back to the “garlic and cherry pie” analogy. Let’s say that you are going for a job interview, and you want to do well. You might want to ask the bear to come to you, to bring you strength and confidence, to help the interviewer see what an asset you could be in the position for which you are interviewing. Perhaps you are an athlete training for a race. Here, you could ask one of the wild cats such as a cougar to come and give you swiftness. Or, if you are training for a marathon, you might want to interact with the elk, for stamina.

It’s very easy to invite a totem animal to come and assist you. First, know what qualities you are seeking, and then do a bit of research so that you choose the right animal for those qualities. For example, ask an ant for patience, a mouse for scrutiny, a hummingbird for joy, or a wolf for a pathfinder, that sort of thing. When you know what animal you would like to invite into your life, then start to make its spirit welcome.

You can hang a photo of that animal on your wall, or keep one in your desk, or carry one in your purse or wallet. Photos are an excellent representation of the energies you want to use, and they can be found very easily online or in shops. You don’t have to spend a lot of money on an original painting or a fancy frame. Even something printed from the internet will do. Maybe you could keep an image on your computer, tablet, or cellphone as a wallpaper, too. When you see the image, call the energy to you, and remember to thank the animal for sharing.

You might want to obtain a small figurine of the animal with which you want to work, and use it as a symbol of the energy you want to embody. Again, it doesn’t have to be expensive, it can be a plastic toy or a china figurine, a wood carving or a metal casting. I prefer to use natural materials myself, but that’s just my own inclination. There’s really no way to do this wrong as long as your intention is respectful. Place this on your desk, your bedside table, or your altar if you have one. When you look at the figurine, envision the energy flowing to you, and again, remember to give thanks.

Jewelry works well for this, too. You can wear a pendant or brooch in the guise of the animal with whom you want to work. There are many such items available online, and you may even be able to find an independent jeweler who can make you something. Many people will wear a ring or a necklace in the likeness of their chosen animal, as a constant reminder of the intended goal.

4) Honoring Your Totem Animal

When you have chosen the totem animal with which you want to work, and you have started to gel with its energy, you may want to go a step beyond a photo, a figure, or a piece of jewelry. Often it is possible to get something from the animal itself. For example, if you want to work with horse energy, you can get something made from horsehair. If you want to work with the transformational power of the butterfly, you might find an empty cocoon. One of my most treasured possessions is a tiny hummingbird feather, given to me by a dear friend many years ago. He found it near his hummingbird feeders.

There’s a cautionary note, here, though, because in many places certain feathers or shells or horns are illegal to possess. Make sure that you are allowed to have the token that you have chosen. You don’t want to get busted just for trying to work with a totem animal!

Totem animals don’t have to be wild animals or those which are unknown to you, either. You may want to keep a memento from your familiar, or a beloved pet. I have a friend who has kept “wag wool” from the coat of her beloved poodle, so that when she is away from him, she’s still connected to him, and to the love and happiness that they share.

And There’s More…..

As well as totem animals, plants, stones, and even colors can also function as a totem. Go back to the team analogy. School colors could be considered their color totems. The mascot could also be a totem.

While most of us think of animals when we think of our totems, they really can be anything that you want them to be. If it resonates with you, has a quality that you want to embrace and apply to your life, if it calls to you for some reason, then it can be a totem. I’ll write more in the future on non-animal totems.

So there you have it, some easy ways of finding and connecting with your totem animal. What do you feel your totems are? Do you work with power animals? How do they help you? I’d love to hear more of your experiences.

[1] “Totem.” Dictionary.com. Retrieved Web. 17 Nov. 2014.

[2] Sun Bear. Dancing with the Wheel. Simon & Schuster, 1991. Print.

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