A “Spirit Animal” is the one who will present life’s lessons. The Spirit Animal is the one who comes to you in order to show you, through its own unique nature and skills, how to deal with the manifestations of your Spiritual Journey. Spirit Animals do not necessarily guide you, but they come to teach you that which you need to learn, in order to know how meet the challenges of your Spirit Walk.
Each Spirit Animal has certain powers and skills to teach and certain knowledge to share, for each Spirit Animal has its own methods of overcoming the many challenges it must meet in order to survive.
The Spirit Animal’s appearance signals a time to connect with your true Self and your life’s purpose. Pay attention to the repeated appearance of this animal and of repeated patterns or themes. Awakening to the recognition of these seemingly synchronistic occurrences teaches you to be aware of the hidden messages in everyday experiences.
There are many ways by which your Spirit Animal may make itself known to you and many ways by which by which it may pass on its message. Do not let your perceived image of the animal prejudice you as to the significance of its message. You will meet with the Spirit Animal whose lesson you need to learn.
You do not choose your Spirit Animal, it chooses you. Do not try to “compel” your Spirit Animal to manifest itself just because you want it to. True Spirit Animals will appear only at the time and place in your life when you are ready to accept them and the wisdom the come to offer.
And … they always turn up at exactly the right moment.
A “Totem Animal” is an animal spirit that you call upon or invoke, as an individual or a tribe, for its special powers and survival skills, to serve as a guardian or protector when facing adversity.
It is customary for many Native American tribes (as well as others) to be made up of smaller groups or “Clans” united by actual or perceived kinship and descent and formed around a founding member or “ancestor”. Often this ancestor is an animal spirit which becomes the Clan Totem. The clan totems are often the animals that inhabit the local area, (The wolf, bear, turtle, and deer are common clans of the Great Lakes area.), and which have a unique relationship to the tribe and its heritage.
Some of the clans of the Six Nations are the turtle, bear, wolf and the heron and often within these clans there are different “sub-clans” represented by such animals as the Snapping Turtle and the Painted Turtle in the example of the Turtle Clan.
The “spiritual powers” of the various totems help each clan to carry out its own special duties and responsibilities within the tribe in accordance with the attributes of that totem. (The Turtle Clan usually being the tribes “Keepers of Wisdom”, the guardians of the legends and mysteries mysteries within the tribes ceremonies and practices.)
Again, never let your perceived image of an animal effect how you see its ability to serve as a “Totem”. Though it may seem incongruous to invoke a rabbit as a totem for battle, remember the wisdom shown by “Bre’r Rabbit” in defeating an enemy.
The Totem Pole is an arrangement of symbols representing animal totems from the tribe’s ancestral past. Totems were a form of communication for the Pacific Northwest Coast Native Americans as they had no written language and thus the Story Poles were used to convey their legends, stories and events. Totem poles may also be messages passed on by those that carve them. The pole’s symbols may often tell a very personal story of the carver himself, as well as that of his own family, clan or tribe.
A third type of Animal Spirit, little heard of outside of Shamanism and Witchcraft is called a “familiar”. The familiar is a spiritual entity that will appear as a facilitator in the communion of the human, animal and spirit realms.
The true shaman or witch does not just decide to walk the “Path”. They must first be chosen by and then accept a spirit being or deity as their mentor. Usually, this mentor will send forth an animal spirit to guide the initiate to them, or in many cases, they themselves may take the form of an animal spirit, only later revealing their true nature.
One example, in the case of shamans and witches who come from the background of the European Celtic traditions, the Goddess Morrigan will often appear to the initiate in the form of a raven or crow as their familiar and she will reveal her true self only after the initiate has actualised as an “enlightened being”.