When we are seeking more balance and answers in life, we may call upon the animal spirit guides as the Ancestors once did.
Have you ever wondered why a stray dog wandered into your yard, or a hawk flew past just in front of you as you were driving? Do you collect pictures or figurines of pigs, dolphins, or frogs? These are all gentle messages from the animal spirit world offering you their medicine, insight and clarity to your daily tasks and challenges.
What is the difference between Animal Totems, Power Animals, Animal Messages?
You are born with a Totem Animal according to the time of year you were born. A Power Animal can be your Totem Animal or it can come to you later in life. A Power Animal can be with you for a short time or your entire life. To receive an Animal Message means that this particular animal is trying to get your attention to share insight, direction or a message with you to assist you on your path.
Understanding and working with Power Animals
What is a “Power Animal?” A power animal is one that will come and stay with you for longer than just a moment. They know you really need their help at this time in your life and they are they to see you through it. Sometimes they stay for life.
Birth Date/Totem Animal/Clan/Direction/Element/Season/Life Cycle/Color/Herb/Other
Dec 21-Jan 19 Snow Goose/Buffalo/North/Wind/Winter/Elder/White/Cedar/Mental
Jan 20-Feb 18 Otter/Buffalo/North/Wind/Winter/Elder/White/Cedar/Mental
Feb 19-Mar 20 Wolf or Cougar/Buffalo/North/Wind/Winter/Elder/White/Cedar/Mental
Mar 21-Apr 20 Hawk/Eagle/East/Fire/Spring/Infant/Yellow/Tobacco/Spiritual
Apr 21-May 20 Beaver/Eagle/East/Fire/Spring/Infant/Yellow/Tobacco/Spiritual
May 21-Jun 20 Deer/Eagle/East/Fire/Spring/Infant/Yellow/Tobacco/Spiritual
Jun 21-Jul 21 Woodpecker/Coyote/South/Earth/Summer/Child/Red/Sweetgrass/Physical
Jul 22-Aug 21 Salmon/Coyote/South/Earth/Summer/Child/Red/Sweetgrass/Physical
Aug 22-Sep 22 Bear/Coyote/South/Earth/Summer/Child/Red/Sweetgrass/Physical
Sep 23-Oct 22 Crow or Raven/Bear/West/Water/Fall/Adult/Black/Sage/Emotional
Oct 23-Nov 21 Snake/Bear/West/Water/Fall/Adult/Black/Sage/Emotional
Nov 22-Dec 20 Elk or Owl/Bear/West/Water/Fall/Adult/Black/Sage/Emotional
Each animal also has its place on the Medicine Wheel.
There may be variances depending on different tribes. We recommend you research both, then you will know which one is you! The astrological animal may not be your own personal totem animal. Use it instead as an additional helper.
Snow Goose: The large white snow goose travels great lengths, some as far as 5,000 miles, during its yearly migrations to and from its nesting grounds in the North Arctic. As a totem, Snow Goose people will often go to great lengths to make their aspirations a reality.
They have clear ambitions, and their imaginative minds, strong determination, sheer energy, and bubbling enthusiasm can make the seemingly impossible become attainable for them. Their persistence and determination often make them successful at attaining long-term goals that they have set out for themselves. Snow Geese will spend hours picking insects off of each other.
Snow Goose people will often do ordinary things extremely well, sometimes to the point of perfection. These perfectionists can also sometimes be nitpickers, letting small and insignificant matters bother and frustrate them. When they feel that they’re not getting their goals accomplished quickly enough, or they perceive an obstacle, even a minor one, in their path, Snow Goose people often have a tendency to become despondent and depressed. Snow geese travel in large flocks, sometimes numbering in the thousands.
Like their totem, Snow Geese people are usually very social and enjoy being in the company of others.
Otter: Otters are known for their playfulness, and thus, Otter people are friendly, playful, and love to have fun.
Like their totem, Otter people are usually very helpful, considerate, and compassionate towards others and are often involved in charitable activities. They are very giving and throughout their lives they will spend a great deal of their energy working to benefit the Earth and its inhabitants.
Otters have a strong sense of family and are very passionate and devoted to their loved ones, and will mourn the loss of a mate for a long time. They love being parents, and are exceptionally good at it, and are very nurturing towards their cubs. Otter cubs stay with their parents for much longer than those of most other wild animals.
Just like their animal totem, Otter people are also usually very devoted and loving towards their families and may have difficulty letting go of their children when they decide to move out into the world and be on their own.
Otters are great organizers and keep their living areas very neat and tidy. Otter people are just the same and will often feel ill at ease and uncomfortable if their living and working environments are not clean and orderly. Otters are intelligent, creative, and inventive. As they float in the water on their backs, they place a rock on their tummies to use as a tool to crack open their shellfish dinners. And you can bet that Otter people are just as intelligent, creative, and inventive as their totem animal.
Wolf: The Native Americans regarded the wolf as an intellect in both mind and spirit, a keeper of knowledge, and a great teacher, as well as a guide to the sacred. Those born during the Big Winds Moon are most often intellectuals, like their totem, and are usually hunters of knowledge, especially with regards to philosophy, religion, and anything else that they feel might bring meaning and purpose into their lives.
Like the wolf, they are often very good with handling children and make excellent teachers. Wolf people are usually quite intuitive, and can often quickly discern the intentions and attitudes of others, even when they are hidden.
Both wolves and Wolf people have a need to have a well-defined territory. For Wolf people, this territory not only includes their home and work spaces but also their relationships with others. Wolves are very social animals and companionship is important to them. Usually, they partner for life. And so it is too for the people with this totem.
Wolf people are usually quite sensitive and, for them, a break-up can be devastating. These people often have difficulty handling their emotions. They feel vulnerable if they express them too freely, yet become depressed when their emotions are repressed. Their emotional imbalance may cause difficulties in their relationships.
Hawk: Like the falcon, people born during this moon are fearless hunters, always in search for something new. New places, new experiences, and new ideas are their prey.
These people, like their totem, have the ability to reach great heights, though sometimes, however, they can lack the patience, concentration, or persistence to be able to see things through to the end. Although they begin each new endeavor with great enthusiasm, they can easily get bored or distracted and, therefore, will quickly change directions and leap onto the next new thing that comes along, leaving the other endeavor behind never to be finished.
They may have a whole trail of unfinished projects behind them. To combat their tendency towards boredom, Falcon people may have several different projects going on all at once. Even so, they may still eventually lose interest in all of them and dive into something new that piques their interest. Falcon people, therefore, are often good at starting things, but not so good at finishing them.
Beaver: People who have Beaver as a totem are hard workers. Just like a busy beaver, they keep themselves busy whether it is at work, or at home, or at play. They have no trouble keeping themselves occupied. Even when it seems that there is nothing that needs to be done, Beaver people are creative and will always find something to do, even if it is just changing, adjusting, tweaking, or rearranging things that they have already done.
Keeping busy helps to make Beaver people feel comfortable and content as well as giving them a sense of security. Beaver people are also persevering and patient and so, if they have their minds set on something, they usually end up getting what they want.
They are quick to learn and are readily adaptable to new things, though they also have a tendency to want to make things fit to themselves rather than the other way around. Sometimes so much so, that it may get to the point where they end up reorganizing the lives of those around them. But they usually don’t do so selfishly, but rather with the intention of it benefiting all those around them as well as themselves.
Deer: Deer people are fast-movers on every level. Not only do they move fast physically, but they also talk fast, think fast, and their emotions tend to change quickly. Due to all of their fast-moving, they are likely to often bound from one topic to another, from one idea to another, and from one project to another, many times failing to accomplish what they had set out to do.
They are resourceful, however, and have an eye for beauty, and so they are capable of making something beautiful out of something simple. Deer people often have a short attention span, as well as a tendency to interrupt conversations because their minds are always racing, a part of the conversation might set their thoughts off on a tangent, and then they will want to express those thoughts immediately, thereby not allowing the person who was speaking to finish what they were saying.
However, they are also intuitive and sensitive and are usually compassionate and understanding towards others. Deer people often have an uncontrollable wild side to them which can sometimes make it difficult for others to understand them and for them to even understand themselves. With all of their fast-moving and occasional wildness, Deer people are often unorganized and easily lose track of time.
Woodpecker: To Native Americans, the rhythmic pecking of the woodpecker reminded them of the sound of the shaman’s drum. The people who have Woodpecker as a totem also tend to be musically inclined. The Natives saw that the woodpecker not only did its pecking out of necessity in the search for food but that they also pecked for the sheer joy of it. Woodpecker, then, as a totem can teach people how to feel and express joy.
Woodpeckers take great care in building their nest and raising their young, and so too do those with this totem. Woodpecker people find their greatest joy in building a comfortable, harmonious, and happy home for themselves and their children. They are usually excellent parents, and sometimes have difficulty with letting go of their children when it is time for them to leave the nest.
Close relationships are important to Woodpecker people, and they can become very unhappy or even bitter if they do not have someone towards whom to direct their love, energy, and devotion.
Salmon: The salmon is a symbol of strength and longevity to Native Americans. Salmon swim upstream to get to their spawning grounds so they have the strength to swim against the current and the ability to survive despite hard times, and so do those whose birth totem is Sturgeon.
Salmon are very graceful swimmers, causing very little disturbance as they move through the water. Water is the element of the emotions, and so it is one of Salmons people’s life tasks to learn to master their emotions and to swim gracefully through their lives causing little friction or disturbance.
Salmon people can be resistant to change which can cause them a great amount of emotional upset. Demands that are put on them by others can also be a source of emotional upset and a lot of stress for Sturgeon people.
Bear: Brown Bears are independent and self-reliant, and so too are those whose birth totem is Brown Bear. These people are usually slow in acclimating themselves to change, and will often retreat to their dens for a time, where they can feel comfortable and secure within the familiar.
Brown bear people are constructive and have a knack for fixing just about anything, from repairing a broken down car to mending a torn relationship. These people are usually quite gentle, like their totem animal, and handle their relationships with much tenderness and understanding.
The Native peoples regarded the Brown Bear as a dreamer. People with this totem often love to daydream and have a vivid imagination. Sometimes they can get so wrapped up in their daydream that they become unable to distinguish it from their physical reality, which may cause others to think that they are liars.
Raven: Ravens and crows like to be together in numbers. They travel together, eat together, and live together. Raven people have this trait as well, preferring the company of others to being alone and on their own. They feel the happiest and most secure when they are with others. They work best when they are in a group and are extremely loyal to any group that they are a part of, and like the Raven, they are always ready to defend it when necessary.
Like the birds, these people are often cautious and wary which may make it difficult for them to make decisions. They are often indecisive and slow to make up their minds, preferring instead to remain neutral rather than to choose one side or one thing over another. However, once they have made a decision, they will act on it with conviction.
Since ancient times, the Raven and Crow have been associated with magic and mystery, and have been regarded as the guardian of secrets. Almost like magic, Raven people often have an uncanny ability to turn their wants and desires into realities. They are also usually very good at being discreet and keeping secrets.
Snake: Because of its ability to periodically shed its skin, the snake represents transformation, change, and renewal. And those born with Snake as their birth totem are inclined to shed their skins by way of making dramatic, and sometimes drastic, changes in their lives from time to time, letting go of their current ties and attachments and starting again anew. They may make sudden decisions such as to quit their job, or change their occupation, or sell their house, or move to a new city, or totally reinvent themselves. Sometimes, however, they make these changes at inopportune times, thereby causing unnecessary upset and suffering to themselves as well as to others.
Change isn’t necessarily always easy for Snake people, but they are adaptable to anything that is new to them. For Snake people, their lives are usually a lifelong transformation. They may start out making changes that are for purely selfish reasons.
As the Snake person goes through life, their selfish changes will usually eventually transform into more constructive changes which benefit not only themselves but others as well. Snake people may also start out as insensitive and hurtful towards others, but then their ability to wound will usually turn into the ability to heal. Snake people can be especially helpful to those suffering from alcoholism or drug abuse.
Owl: Owls have large eyes and keen eyesight which enables them to see and catch their prey in the darkness of night. Owl people are very observant as well with very little escaping their attention. They have a keen eye for detail as well as a deep insight into whatever they find of interest or importance. The owl is associated with hidden wisdom and the Moon, which is the light that shines through the darkness.
Owl people usually have very good intuition, and may often find that they become aware of certain things before it becomes obvious to others. Though they are drawn to the esoteric and mysterious, they are usually able to keep themselves grounded in practical reality. From time to time, Owl people may feel the urge to disappear into the darkness like their totem animal.
They may become quiet and withdrawn, and may even feel the need to be alone and will thus avoid being in the company of others. They may even suddenly break away from a situation or project in which they have been deeply involved. Because of their sudden withdrawal, Owl people may appear to others as antisocial. They might be and feel misunderstood by others and, during these times, may inadvertently hurt the feelings of those around them.
Spirit Keepers or Clan Animal
The Spirit Keepers are Spirit Beings responsible for teaching us the power of their respective Directions. When we are born, the Great Spirit assigns a particular one to us, like a Guardian Angel, to Guide, Teach, Protect us, and to serve as a Team Leader. There are lessons for us to learn from ALL of the Spirit Keepers.
Of the North Wind is The Sacred Buffalo (Dec 21 and Mar 20)
The Power of Buffalo is renewal and purity. It is new life enclosed in death, new growth protected in rest. The Season of Buffalo is Winter, whether that “season” be about the time of year, the time in a person’s life cycle, or the time-phase of an idea. The animal totem of Buffalo is also White Buffalo, whose Medicine is Prayer and Abundance. The color totem is White (purity, balance). The time of day represented is Night.
Of the East Fire is The Eagle (Mar 21 and Jun 20)
The Power of Eagle is illumination and wisdom. The Season of Eagle is Spring, a time of awakening from Winter rest, a time of vitality, purity-of-energy. The animal totem is Eagle, whose Medicine is Spirit. The color totems are red (vital energy) and gold (enlightenment). The time of day represented is Morning.
Of the South Earth is The Coyote (Jun 21 and Sept 22)
The Power of Coyote is growth and trust. The Season of Coyote is Summer, a time of rapid growth, maturing, testing wisdom and helping it to grow. The animal totem is Coyote, whose Medicine is Trickster (a variance is that some believe that the South Direction animal totem is Mouse, whose Medicine is Scrutiny). The totem colors are green (growth, healing) and yellow (intelligence, natural wisdom). The time of day represented is Mid-Day.
Of the West Water is The Bear (Sep 23 and Dec 20)
Also Chief Council of all Spirit Keepers, and whose Power is strength and introspection. The Season of Bear is Autumn, a time of strength gained from knowing yourself, a time of stability. The animal totem is Grizzly Bear, who is also Chief Council of all Animal Totems, and whose Medicine is Introspection. The totem colors are blue (spiritual strength) and black (looking within). The time of day represented is Evening.
In the beginning of all things, wisdom and knowledge were with the animals, for Tirawa, the One Above, did not speak directly to man. He sent certain animals to tell men that he showed himself through the beast, and that from them, and from the stars and the sun and moon should man learn.. all things tell of Tirawa. – Eagle Chief (Letakots-Lesa) Pawnee
The animals are always trying to give us guidance, direction and subtle messages. Most of the time we are too busy and not paying attention. A long time ago, it was said that we humans use to talk to the animals on a regular basis. Since then, we have become more disconnected. But some of us are remembering through our DNA memory.
How to Identify when an Animal is Giving you a Message
This usually happens when we are least expecting it. It’s when a particular animal really comes into your awareness and undividedly gets your attention. Here are some examples…
- A bird is very close to you and makes some kind of noise. Or an eagle, hawk or raven are circling just above you.
- Someone walks up to you with their dog of some kind of pet.
- You see some kind of wild animal out in nature
- A bee lands on you
- A butterfly passes you
- You see a skunk
- You dream of a particular animal
- You call upon one in a shamanic journey or one just shows up
There are so many different ways these animals are trying to give you a message. When you see them, stop and pay attention to them, talk to them. Ask them what message they are trying to share with you.
Now just because you see any bird fly by or an ant crawling across the sidewalk doesn’t mean you are “getting a message.” now if the bird lands near you and looks at you, or the and crawls on you and stings you, then you could be receiving a message.
Also, some Native Americans believe that when you get bitten or stung by the animal then it is sharing its medicine with you and to say thank you.
How to do an Animal Totem Reading
There are a couple of ways to do a reading.
- Intuitively sit with your client and trust what image or energy of an animal comes to you. Then you can describe their meaning and ask them how it applies to their life.
- Do a Shamanic Journey for your client to receive a power animal.
- Do a card reading using any of the Animal Medicine card decks.
Some of the best card decks are:
- The Discovery of Power Through the Ways of Animals Hardcover by Jamie Sams
- Messages from Your Animal Spirit Guides Oracle Cards by Steven D. Farmer
How to read the animal medicine cards for yourself and others
Get into a comfortable and quiet space, in or outdoors. Smudge and clear the energy of the cards, yourself, your client and the space around you. Ask your Spirit guides and/or your clients Spirit guides to be present for the duration of the session. Have your client shuffle the cards, then hold them to their heart and ask their spirit guides to show them the message they need to hear. Then have your client pick one to three cards, however many they feel they need to pick. Then one by one you can help them interpret the card by first asking them to describe what it means to them. Then you can read the passage from the book provided.
Book: Pocket Guide to Spirit Animals: Understanding Messages from Your Animal Spirit Guides
by Dr. Steven Farmer