WEEK FOUR: ANIMAL WORK

When it comes to “working with” the medicine of our Animal Spirit Guides, the nature of the work and connection can differ, depending on the Animal, and the needs and purposes of its spiritual connection with you. I wanted to give you a little insight into two different ways that my Animal Guides show up – very different ways, and they don’t “cross” for that matter.

In the following video, I explain how I use Woodpecker as a Guide to confirm my choices in life, and to determine if I am on the correct “path.”

On the other hand, I work with Wolf in an entirely different manner. I do look up the spiritual meanings of Wolf, and even more so, the behavior patterns and unique characteristics of Wolf as living being with unique characteristics in the now.


Heron is another that I use strongly, knowing I am this animal in many ways, and looking to it to teach and validate my behaviors and actions.

Horse, Buffalo and Raccoon are my Power Animals who I have a personal affinity for. They don’t show up to show me a sign. I don’t look to them as often for me to embody their teachings. However, I’ve had a natural love, affinity, for these animals my whole life. And so I feel they are in my Pack, and I go to them for their medicines as well.

I hope this “distinction” was helpful, and gives you ideas of ways you can work with each Power Animal!

WEEK FOUR : Animal Medicine Work

WHY FIND OUT WHAT OUR SPIRIT ANIMAL GUIDES ARE AT ALL? 

Though we are gathered here as students of Power Animals, seeking to find our Power Pack, there are many other reasons that we seek to know and commune with the Animal Kingdom, both spiritual and not.

Reason #1 : We are also, either consciously or not, seeking a greater sense of connection to the natural world. 

Consider the endless ways in which humans continue to demonstrate our fascination with the animal kingdom. From Sports Team mascots, to Pop Band names, to Car Brands, to popular phrases and terms in the English language (the stock market has Bull and Bear markets), the mascot for Geicko is a Gecko, the second most famous character at Christmas is a Reindeer…and on and on. Not to mention the ways that ancient writers used animals to convey universal morals and codes of ethics (Aesops famous Fables!).

The human connection to the animal kingdom has been weakened, and diminished through the proliferation of technology, and certain large cultural truisms that place value on the output of work, and thus, people spend more time away from the outdoors. The outdoors has been relegated to the place where one goes strategically, planned, for a “vacation,” and often in the company of others, strangers or family or both, for a planned set of activities. But for many of us, we feel an ache to know Nature again, to know the Animal Kingdom.

We are, after all, animal ourselves. And so of course we feel an ache to know our brother and sister animals more intimately – to imagine we can commune with them, tap in to them. What does this need, this ache, and this longing tell you?

Reason #2 : To reconnect with ourselves.

 

“As we draw closer to Nature, two profoundly important and powerful qualities are experienced. One is that the entire world takes on new degrees of poignancy, luminosity , preciousness, subtlety, mystery, and intimacy. The other is that we increasingly experience ourselves in just the same way: as poignant, luminous, precious, subtle, mysterious and intimate. For as we draw closer to Nature, we simultaneously draw closer to ourselves. from Animals as Divine

The more we commune with the Natural world (Animal and otherwise), the more comfortable with silence we get. And the more comfortable we get with silence, and quiet, the more we begin to hear our true selves, and true desires, needs, longings, come to the surface.

When observing Animals, we see an ancient wisdom at work. Instincts and Intuition are followed without question. We begin to wonder: Where is mine? Where is my sense of play? Where is my natural instinct? Where is my sense of timing? Seeing how Intuition drives Animals, we are forced to examine the quality of our own.

Our sacred intuition is hankering for you to turn off, and get quiet.  Getting quiet is necessary to connect with Nature, and getting quiet is an enormous gift to yourself.

Reason #3 : Connecting with Spirit Animals reconnects us with the cycle of Life

Having a connection with Nature gives us a perspective on the great cycle of life and death.  As we witness the natural world, we begin to remember and recognize: we start from nature, and we end as nature.

Our human culture has led us to fear death, and to live our lives mostly without acknowledging it. The same can be said, for some, about birth (I speak for myself here) as well.

A Spirit Animal power guide provides us specific messages for our personal journeys, and these can, or may, center on the cycle of Life, but the connection we are strengthening with the animal kingdom at large, will certainly do so.

Suggested Book Resource: What Animals teach us about Death, and Dying

Reason #4 : We want guidance, and messages. We seek medicine.

And of course, for this course, the main reason we are endeavoring to discover our Power Animals – our Power Pack  – is to find the specific medicines that exist in the Spirit Animal world just for us, personally. Selfishly, we are seeking guidance, and an external input of wisdom. An accessible entity that could give us concrete guidance on our (often confusing, overwhelming or intimidating) personal journeys? Yes, please!

The ways that Spirit Animals, and the Animal Kingdom, offer us medicine can apply to any and all areas of our lives: Financial, Spiritual, Health, Relationships, Work and Career Guidance, Sexuality and Intimacy. Any and all of the areas of your life can draw medicine from your Spirit Animal Guides. Some of your Animal Guides may focus on particular areas more than others (My Heron medicine is predominately for business, Bison/Buffalo for Finances, Wolf for Relationships…)

Our Power Animals also guide and instruct parts of our personalities: patience, trust, growth, determination, joy, grief and so on.

The ways and forms that Animal Medicine takes are varied and myriad. I encourage you to keep a separate, not so “precious” journal, to document the parts of your Life, and the parts of your Self, that your Power Animals could be applied to, or showing up for. Making these connections (not necessary, on paper, but it certainly helps me) strengthens your personal conscious attention on these medicines, and therefore, strengthens the Medicine.

 

WEEK TWO: Animal Medicine Work

HOW TO LEARN FROM YOUR POWER ANIMAL GUIDES

As we continue to develop our list of Power Animals, and feel secure in who those Power Guides are for us, the next step is to discover their unique teachings and medicines for us.
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If you want to feel their medicine, and learn from it, and change from it, you need to visit with it in your thoughts consistently, which is why we are making a visually interesting/beautified Field Guide to our Power Animals.
But before we can make that Field Guide we need to figure out…

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Where can we find these animals’ messages and teachings?

 Any of the following methods work to discover your Power Animal’s medicine. I suggest using a combination of these methods.
It’s also helpful to have blank paper, or a blank notebook for scrawling ideas as they begin to arrive for you.
By Asking the Animal:

“One of the most useful and direct ways is to communicate with the spirit of the animal that you’ve sighted” says Stephen Farmer. If you see a Power Animal in real life (flying overhead, running across your path on a trail): Ask the animal spirit directly. What do you want me to know? What are you here to tell me? Close your eyes. Get quiet. Try to cease the script in your head and to open your mind to a response. Acknowledge and Ask. It doesn’t matter if the sighting was fleeting, or in your dream. Acknowledge, and ask (and then document the answers that come). 

By Observing and Researching the Animal 
Learn more about your Power Animals from a biological or zoological perspective! Every animal has unique and valuable characteristics. Take an interest in your Power Animal, not just in her spirit form. Her visits are harbingers, and often come at important times to give you guidance, but her medicine is eternal, and always teaches, whether she has appeared lately for you or not.
Google their behaviors and unique characteristics. Buy a book about the animal (from a science perspective). See what you can find online or in libraries (both free) by way of videos where you can observe the animal in her natural habitat.
Document the traits of your Power Animal to include in your Field Guide. Some animals are inventive. Some need massive amounts of sunlight. Some animals are nocturnal. Some animals are very solitary, some need constant company. The teachings of our Power Animals’ habits and traits tell us a lot about what medicine we need in our own lives!
Googling their Spirit Meanings online
Using Google is your best bet for finding free information. Keep in mind, you will find multiple websites for your Power Animal, and each of these will give you slightly, to vastly, different results and verbiage. They are, after all, written by human beings!
I recommend a series of “smart” google searches. Let’s say you want to find out about Cow, and if Cow Medicine is for you? Google “cow animal spirit guide” and then google “cow totem animal” and then “cow spirit meaning” and so forth. You will be given a number of different websites with answers. Then you can infer messages and applications to your own life!
Use Dedicated Books
Growing a library of books that you love does cost a little money, but it’s a wonderful support method for a strong, continued work with Animal Medicine.
One of the main reasons that I love owning books for my Power Animals (and for situational messengers as well!) is that I write in pen, inside the books, noting the date and a few details of the “visit” of the Animal.
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WEEK TWO: Animal Medicine Work

 

 WAYS TO ENCOURAGE YOUR POWER ANIMALS TO SHOW UP FOR YOU

When we begin this work – of connecting with our Animal Spirit Guides – it can at times feel frustrating. We don’t always have animals visit us in dreams ( some of us do not remember our dreams period!). Some of us will have many animals, and feel our lists are too lengthy, and have trouble discerning who is actually showing up as a Power Guide, versus animals they like…while others will have trouble coming up with more than two Animals they even like!
Whether you are still working on solidifying your list, or you have already done so, you’ll want to begin encouraging your spirit guides, your Power Animals, to visit, both more frequently, and more strongly. There are multiple ways to do so.
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To begin with,  start by encouraging your Power Animals to show themselves to you. The Native Americans, or “aboriginals” of the United States of America, believe that you do not choose your own Spirit Guide – the animal chooses you. When you ask this Animal to show itself more strongly for you, it will hear and heed your call.
According to Animal Spirit Guru Stephen Farmer: “Calling on an animal spirit guide requires only a sincere intention and openness to receiving their help and guidance. It’s very simple to do so, whether through prayer, meditation, contemplation, or through doing a shamanic journey. You may not get instant results (although this does sometimes happen), but observe what happens for some time after you’ve made your appeal. When you invoke an animal spirit guide for help or guidance, the assistance often comes in unexpected ways from surprising sources.” 
Realize that if you have not done this kind of work before, or if you have been far removed from nature and a connection with animals for some time, this can take time. Your connection with your Spiritual side, and your Animal Spirit Guides, is a muscle, that will take consistent use, and patience, to grow stronger (like any muscle). This course has a time limit, but this work does not! So, be patient, and continue to ask your Power Animals to come forward for you, in any of the following ways. All of these are encouraging to your Animal Spirit Guides.
Wear, Decorate or Tattoo
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If you have scarves, clothing items, or jewelry that showcase an image of your Power Animal, this is a lovely way to remind yourself, and to honor your animals. This tells your Power Animal that you feel proud to hold your connection with this animal.
Tattoos are obviously the most permanent and symbolic way to say this. Check out our class Pinterest Board for more fun ideas along these lines.
Decorating your personal space with art, figurines or any type of decor is another way to honor your Spirit Animal Guide, and to send it the message that you are open to its teachings.
Carry or Display Figurines
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This is a traditional way to carry the energy of your spirit Power Animals with you. I keep a small figurine in my car, one in my wallet (in addition to decor around the house), and I have a medicine bag of figurines that I will rotate in my home altars. There is no “right” place to keep them – place or keep them where it feels right for you. If you have an Altar Space, this is a great place, because it is infused with intention and your best energy, but also put figurines anywhere where your line of vision falls often – like on the window sill above your kitchen sink, for a good example!
Additionally, you can place small figurines at work. A small figurine on your work desk is innocuous but holds a lot of meaning for you personally. If there is an attitude or medicine of a specific animal that you want help from at work, then it’s very helpful to display a figurine in your work place to remind you of this internal work.
I particularly like to create Vignettes to represent an honor one animal. These vignettes can include small figurines, associated pieces (feathers to represent bird; pieces of a shell I found to represent crab; a scrap of leather to remind me of Horse…whatever!). I add words, either purchased or written on a lovely piece of paper. These vignettes evolve over time, and do take time to create. I don’t think going out to buy a bunch of items all at once carries authentic energy (which, by the way, applies to how I decorate my home as well). I let these items come to me (and showing up in some random flea market and finding one on a shelf, definitely counts!) and I collect them over time. This feels intentional to me.
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Meditate, Pray, Ask
This method is perhaps the most common, can be done anywhere and at any time. Consider that your Spirit Animal is communicating with you; this work is about communication and connection! You can communicate with your Animals by Praying (if that terminology fits for you), asking (either silently in your mind, or out loud – perhaps at your personal Altar space) or meditating. I have prepared this meditation for you to follow in order to ask your Spirit Animal Guides to come forth for you.
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If meditating or mentally “conversing” feels unreachable at the moment, here’s a fun exercise: Try writing a letter to your Spirit Animal Guide. Perhaps place it on your Altar for some time after.

Paint, Draw or Sculpt

This is the method we are using to strengthen our connection to Animal Guides in this course, but you don’t have to limit it to this class, or this Field Guide. Drawing your Animal Guides can look like quick sketches done in the car while waiting on your little one to finish practice.

You could also play with cheap, polymer clay. If you have kiddos, pull them into the mess and create Playdough Animal Guides!

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Your creative options are endless, and they don’t have to be precious, or permanent.

All of these methods help to strengthen the connection you are building with your Power Animals. According to Animals as Divine, “You can learn from animals by becoming more aware of their presence in your daily life, in both your waking state and dream state. Even if you do not encounter animals on a daily basis, they are not intangible. They are ever-present in the depths of your soul. They are ready to speak to you if you allow yourself to be open to what they have to say.” So, it’s time to open up, to explore, and to invite them in.

 

WEEK FOUR: Art Methods

Week Four’s Art Method is all about getting the language of our Power Animals into our Field Guide!

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In this video, I show you how I added text into my original Field Guide (names, titles, phrases that summarized their most powerful medicines etc).

The following video suggests various methods to use in order to add “text” to your Field Guide. This text can be Titles, Sentences, Phrases, full snippets of paper taken from a book – bringing the phrases and medicines of your Power Animals into the pages in various, interesting ways.

Adding unique pieces to the spreads is always a fun visual treat! You do not have to add something of this nature, but I offer it as an example just to get the wheels turning in your head on using creative, different pieces in your Field Guides!

Here are some of the ways that I transformed Tags

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WEEK FOUR: CREATING THE COVER

Last, but not least, this week we will finish our book by decorating or altering the cover.

For the Cover in this example, I start with a single Acrylic paint color that I love. To begin with, I want a simple, emblematic cover. You may choose to decorate and alter your book in a more complicated/dramatic/minimalist fashion. I encourage you to make it visually appealing, so as to draw you eye to it, and thus, your attention!

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Next, after laying down a color I like. I play with embellishments. Here, I chose a few small images of my Animal Guides (not all of them, that would be too cluttered), plus Washi Tape, and…more washi tape! I could have used other embellishments from the Week 3 supplies list, but I wanted to keep it simple, yet eye-catching.

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After applying the Washi Tape, and using Gel Medium to adhere the images (*I also put gel medium under the Washi Tape, just to be sure it doesn’t come up), I then used a scrap piece of Washi to pull up the paint in various places, to give it that distressed look, as I show in this short video:

Next, I took a Shiva Paintstick in Gold.  I ran this over the edges of the book, and over the cover in a few areas. I could have achieved this with a Gold Stamp Ink pad as well.

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The cover now looks like this. I am tempted to leave it as-is. If at some point I find a small image of an antelope to put in that white area, I will add it then, as I think a small antelope image would balance the cover out nicely.

At present, the scrap from the book that I used already says the name of the Animal that I am documenting in this Field Guide, so I feel it would be redundant to add it. However, if I do, I will use a black calligraphy pen, or alphabet stamps and a black ink pad.

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You may create your cover in whatever mediums and style fits your book! I’d love to see your versions in the Facebook Group!

 

WEEK FOUR: Supplies

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Click here for a Printable Supply List

THE FOLLOWING ARE SUGGESTED SUPPLIES FOR WEEK FOUR:

The following supplies I share in the video are examples, and suggestions, of multiple ways that you can add titles, the names of your Animals, the Medicines and teachings. All of these are types of “text” you can weave into your Field Guide pages!

 

You will also need a Stapler, or a Hole Punch tool and string/twine, if you would like to have your tags dangle from the page.

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WEEK THREE: Animal Medicine Work

This week, I want to discuss “unlikely” members of our Pack. The Animal Spirits that want to help you, are waiting patiently to help guide you and support you…but who might have been overlooked, or even, rejected.

Have you possibly felt reluctant to accept certain Animal Guides into your pack (think: Snakes, Spiders, Salamanders, Rats, Bats, Mice, Lizards, Ants, Cockroaches).

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I love what the MysticFiles have to say on the subject of Insects and Small Creatures: “The small size and sheer number of insects on our planet has led to some unfair assumptions about these magical and ancient creatures. Their habit of being a tiny bother or pest, zooming around you and your body, makes them easily assume the role of annoyingly getting under a person’s skin, but an insect as an animal spirit guide should never be considered as an infliction. When your insect totem seems to be annoying you, just know they are simply trying to gain your attention and get you to listen to their wisdom. Do not thoughtlessly or impulsively try to swat away your insect spirit guide. They are here to help you just the same as any other animal mentor.”

Recently, I received a letter from a student, that epitomizes what it feels like when we have a repulsion to an animal (usually an insect or reptile, though not always) and yet that animal continues to insist on being present for us!

THE LETTER I RECEIVED SAID:

“I’m having issues with ants now.  The day after I had the dream about the ants, I saw the biggest, hugest, scariest ant in my house (he was almost 1″ long, I kid you not…maybe 1/2″-3/4″, but it was HUGE).  At first I thought it was a beetle, and it wasn’t such a big deal – but when I realized it was an ant, I tore the kitchen apart to get rid of it. These situations are much worse than finding  a trail of ants hiding from the rain or something, which is nerve-wracking enough.

I do NOT want ANT to be one of my animal guides. I don’t want ants in my book.

Then I thought about when I was in kindergarten, for my graduation we sang the song about the ant moving the rubber tree plant, and I loved that song and that ant and I can still visualize the ant moving the plant just as I did when I was 5 or 6 years old. That reminded me of how I used to play with ants. Like you said – memories will start to come back.”

I got a good chuckle reading this letter, but then I could also empathize greatly! At one time I too rejected certain species,  never even gave them a moment of respect, because I was too busy shrieking and running for a chair (and any other adult who could kill the thing).

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This week, I want you to investigate your knee-jerk reactions to insects and reptiles who may want to be Power Animals for you.

Let’s ask ourselves some pointed questions about these creatures.

– Have any of these caused you to recoil in repulsion, even fear?

– Why are we afraid of these types of creatures?

– Why does their presence send us into a tizzy?

– If I suggested that one of these was showing up for you as a guide, would you be adverse to putting them into your book? Why?

The very fact that you have an aversion to the creature may be a red flag, or signal, that this is the Guide you really need to be looking at, and learning from. You might have more to learn from what you are avoiding, than from what seems fun, or comes easily. 

My friend Heather asked me, some time ago, to create a custom journal for her. She asked that I do an intuitive Animal Reading, and then to create a Journal painted/illustrated with this Animal.

I was not surprised one bit by who showed up for Heather. SPIDER! Heather is a true writer : a published novelist and poet. Knowing her, I happen to think there is a lot more writing in her. Different writing. Spider must feel the same : Spider is the totem for writers!

Heather shared with me the difficulty she has in even pasting down an image of Spider into her Field Guide – so charged is her fear, or repulsion to Spider. I encouraged her to consider these very questions, and to investigate.

We often don’t want to hear what we most need to hear. That’s many of us. But if we have a guide who can give us direction and accompany us through that lesson, we are indeed truly blessed.

 

FAQs

What exactly is an Animal Spirit Guide? What does that mean?

An Animal Spirit Guide refers to the energy of the particular animal, the habits and powers and teachings it has to impart, the combination of which – if we pay attention and learn from – will help us to move forward in our lives in the right and positive way. From a most basic standpoint, simply observing the habits and unique traits of Animals will bring this to your life. In addition to that, there is another level – the energetic/spirit level, in which we can connect intimately with the life force of that Animal. That is the energy that Animal Guides provide to warn us, guide us, protect us, hel and empower us.

What about all the different names? Do they mean the same thing?

There are many ways that we hear this subject referred to as. Spirit Animals. Animal Totems. Animal Guides. Power Animals, and likely a few others. Most of these are interchangeable. I chose Animal Guides because it rolled off my tongue, but I refer to them with all of these titles throughout the course. You can use whatever term works best for you.

However, “Animal Totem” does have a slightly different meaning. Totem animals historically represented an entire Native American clan, and these were the animal spirits that the clan aligned with for protection and guidance. The other definition of Totem denotes a small talsiman or object made in the likeness of an animal.

What is a Power Animal?

There is a spectrum of ways you can connect with Nature and Animals. You can simply observe them. You can connect with a pet, as many of us do. You may receive a message from an Animal on a specific time or predicament in your life (We’ll talk about this in Week 2 and 3).  Power Animals are the ones who are with you for this lifetime.  They help you grow and learn along your journey in this lifetime, and aid you to grow into your divine purpose.

According to Earthmagic.net, “Power animals are spirit guides in animal form, valuable allies who can help you navigate through life’s challenges and transitions. Perceptive and trustworthy oracles, you can turn to them for advice and counsel on any questions or concerns. They’re exceptional teachers who’ll help you learn about both the spirit world and the natural world. Working with them on a regular basis will enhance your personal life and expand your spiritual capacities immensely”

What is a “Power Pack”?

A Power Pack is a term that I have created to stand for the group of Animal Spirit Guides who are with you in this life. Collectively, your power animals make up your Power Pack.

Why do we say “a visit from Hawk” instead of “a Hawk” or “teachings from Rabbit” instead of “teachings from a Rabbit.”
The simple answer is that, as a group, a Rabbit has a set of teachings to impart. It’s not specific to that one rabbit, it’s the same teachings the entire species has. So we speak of them as a species, as a whole, all having the same teachings. We are working with, and taught by, the guidance of the species as a whole.
What about Insects, Reptiles and Birds?
Any living creature can be your Power Animal. The size, shape, natural habitats do not change this.  Even plants, trees and flowers are great teachers (but that’s another subject!). Do not let their size deter you from studying these creatures as potential personal Animal Guides. Open your mind to connecting with them fully, and in the same way that you would with larger mammals.

What about Mythical Creatures?

Mythical Creatures are another category of less obvious Animal Spirit Guides. Though not “real” in the sense that we can see them in our current visual world, does that mean that we cannot feel them, or that they did not at one time exist? The answer is up to you.

According to the MysticFiles, “having a very strong draw in the heart of your spirit toward a particular mythical creature may indicate a deeper meaning than simply liking that magical entity. These special beings only reach out to send specific messages to the human they have chosen to help, meaning that linking with one as a spirit guide should not be shrugged off or ignored just because they don’t exist in the real world.”

If you feel a special pull to a mythical or legendary creature, I recommend researching it, and the associated legends. I also suggest meditation and reflecting on images visually, that you can find with a quick Google search, in order to draw out what this fantastical creature is trying to teach you.

What about Pets? Are they Spirit Guides? Can we consider a Dog or Cat one of our Animal Totems?
In some traditions, domesticated animals can’t be power animals because they’ve lost much of their wildness and are removed from the natural world. The idea that they no longer have a connection to their original instincts, has meant that some people would say they cannot be “Spirit Animals” – simply because they are not “wild.” Earthmagic.net says, “Since a spirit animal’s power is drawn from their instinctual and wild nature, it’s uncommon, however, for purely domesticated animals such as pets to be power animals.”
I don’t believe this to be true. I believe all of nature has something to teach. And, though it is much easier to acquire a pet in tangible form, not everyone feels that the animal is truly a kindred, brother/sister spirit. Those that do, feel a special something, and I believe that is real, and makes them a unique Spirit Animal Guide.
The notion that the pets are not valid teachers, because they have evolved away from their “wildness” is a theory I personally reject. First of all, we see the wild and original spirit in them, despite their having evolved  into tamer, domestic beings.” Pets still display many instincts. Dogs know when their owner is rounding a corner and coming down the driveway – even when the dog cannot physically see the car. Cats come home with their mice, and bunnies, despite the fact that we feed them a religious three meals a day. They have not totally lost their selves, they have simply evolved to be able to cohabitate (mostly) with Humans. And what a gift that is!
When it comes to Pets, their teachings and guidances may come less from their “instincts” and more from what they are and stand for in our lives: companionship, loyalty, a cheerful spirit. Susan McElroy, author of Animals as Teachers and Healers says thousands of readers of her book have written to her about their pets and “the lives they had changed, the teachings they had offered, and the love and mercy they had shared.” She goes on to say this:

“Any animal can serve as a teacher, however, our companion animals — the ones who share our daily lives — offer us an entire lifetime of learning experiences as we watch them grow, thrive, fail and die….When we are alone with our animal companions, we don’t bother with the masks and the performances…around our animals, we are our truest selves. Around our animals…we can find moments free of ego, agenda, posturing.”

I’d venture that the vast majority of us have connected with a ‘domesticated” pet to the point that we feel they are actually family. Those of us who have nurtured relationships with our pets over years, even decades, know a sort of blissful kinship that often feels more intimate and genuine than most of our human relationships. I doubt I am alone in saying I feel safer and more comfortable around animals and pets than most people! It’s the genuineness of spirit – the lack of facade, or social masks – that makes us feel that way.
Some of us believe that our animals understand us when we speak. Some of us know that they do. All Animals communicate. Pets give us a connection to that, and a way to practice! Pets (like all animals) offer methods of communication that go beyond just speech (Though my cat Spooky most definitely knew how to meow the word “out.” ), and these methods speak to our instincts, our primitive internal consciousnesses. Many of us are starved for touch and physical affection. Many of us have lost the ability to read social cues, or body language, and must rely purely on the spoken word for communication – which is so often flawed, and in the day and age of technology, easily misinterpreted. Pets allow us a proximity to undisguised and unadulterated love that is one of the greatest teachings on Earth.
When it comes down to it, there is no FACT here. You have to decide. If you feel that your Pet teaches you, gives you direction, imparts lessons and guidance from another species, I would call this an Animal Guide that you are simply lucky to have so close.

What does the phrase “Animal Medicine” mean?

Unlike Western medicine, when referring to “Animal Medicine” or any natural medicine (plant, crystal, stone etc), it means any substance or energy from the natural world that improves a person’s well-being, heals the mind, body and/or spirit, and reinforces the  connection to the divine and to all life. “Medicine” in this sense, can bring you power, strength and healing.” David Carson has this to say: “Medicine is a way of life that brings all forms of life together in their right balance, connection and energy. It is connecting the spiritual and the earthly worlds.”

Many Native Americans say “Medicine” to mean the strengthening of the connection between the natural world and the uniquely human world, or a “restoring the memory of flowing together.”

What about Shamanism?

I love this long, and very accurate definition from Crystalinks.com

Shaman are spiritual beings with the ability to heal, work with energies and ‘see’ visions. The essential characteristics of shaman are mastery of energy and fire as a medium of transformation.

Shamanism is a range of traditional beliefs and practices that involve the ability to diagnose, cure, and sometimes cause human suffering by traversing the axis mundi and forming a special relationship with, or gaining control over, spirits. Shamans have been credited with the ability to control the weather, divination, the interpretation of dreams, astral projection, and traveling to upper and lower worlds. Shamanistic traditions have existed throughout the world since prehistoric times.

Shamanism is based on the premise that the visible world is pervaded by invisible forces or spirits that affect the lives of the living. In contrast to animism and animatism, which any and usually all members of a society practice, shamanism requires specialized knowledge or abilities. Shamans are not, however, organized into full-time ritual or spiritual associations, as are priests.

What is interesting to note is: Shamans are SPECIAL. They are not the average person. Historically, a Shaman or Medicine Man/Woman cannot give him or herself the title. It is earned through rites of passage and works that prove their abilities, and then the title is given by the community. Medicine Men and Women, in tribal cultures, are the go-between between the spirit world and the tangible world. They typically lived apart, seperate from the tribe. They were sought for their powers, and were said to live separetly in order to keep bad spirits from reaching the tribe.

The general, modern understanding of Shamanism is the belief that anyone can go into a trance and connect with, communicate with their animal spirits.

For this course (and for good, if you like) you don’t need Shamanism. You do need an open mind, powers of observation, and patience. I believe in Animals having spirits that can reach and teach us. That’s my woo-woo for you. But this is TRUTH:  We all have the capacity to learn from the natural world, which is ripe with lessons, even without a “spiritual” aspect. It isn’t necessary to go into a trance, and do achieve that level of connection takes years of practice and training. But anyone can (and I believe, should) learn to feel more from Nature, see more things around them. And, if you believe in the spiritual aspect of it, you can receive messages from Animal Guides because you’ve opened your mind and they feel you are welcoming them. In the same way that children will naturally gravitate to the adults that love kids, the way dogs show up at my door step to be saved, Animal Spirit Guides are always available, but will more readily show up when you ask them, invite and welcome them to do so. Your open mind, your interest, and your seeking will welcome in more guidance and visits.