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.