Theory: Totem Animals:
Many people fine that they have a Native American Guide when they begin their spiritual and psychic journey. Why is this? Some people have even heard to say, ‘I hope I don’t have a Native American Guide, it’s such a cliché’. However the reason they appear as guides fairly frequently is firstly that they are so recognizable, as well as powerful, evocative and symbolic to us. Also, might we be a little disappointed if our first guide was a guy who appeared in jeans and jumper and looked like the local butcher?. Secondly, the essence of their culture has a lot of wisdom to offer, especially to those of us who now live so detached from nature.
Like all indigenous cultures around the globe, the native people of North America were finely attuned with nature. They understood their connection with, and interdependence on earth, and constructed their stories around all natural phenomenon. They lived in tune with nature’s cycles and honoured all plant and animal life. Aspects of the body, mind and spirit were not divided but fully integrated and there was a deep reverence for, and understanding of, the spirit realms.
All native cultures, wherever their place on the earth, have all used symbols from nature to invoke certain energies or powers. Signs and symbols in nature also hold great importance, especially to the shamans who act like the tribe’s priests. The symbolism is used strongly in the two subjects we are going to touch on this module: Totem Animals and the Medicine Wheel.
About Totem Animals
In Ted Andrews book ‘Animal Speak’, he states that a totem is any natural object, being or animal to whose phenomenon and energy we feel closely associated with during our life.
In the same way that we have different types of Spirit Guides, we can have a number of different totem animals. They help and guide us in different ways. We may have one or more dominant totem animal that stays with us throughout our entire life. They can help us to understand our self and our life path. We may have different animals that appear during certain phases or projects within our life to give us guidance or a particular type of energy.
We may observe animal symbolism around us, which can act as pointers or messages in the same way that other symbols do. They can appear in our dreams, during readings or in everyday life in actual animal form, or as pictures, symbols or they may even be brought up continually in conversation.
When we feel drawn to a particular animal, are repeatedly visited by them in some way, or see them in our everyday life, it’s interesting to look more closely at their attributes and associations, their symbolism, and their essence, or their power. This is described in shamanic cultures as their ‘medicine’. It can help us to learn more about ourselves, our path and things that are going on around us at any given time.
We can also call upon animal medicine and integrate it into our own energy when it’s needed. This dence, understanding of the bigger picture, more sensitivity to others, focus, attention to detail and much more.
The Medicine Wheel
‘Medicine’ in shamanic cultures is really an essence or energy that helps your connection with all aspects of yourself, with those around you, humanity and nature. It’s about healing on many different levels; mind, body, and spirit and learning how to live in harmony with the universe.
The ‘Medicine Wheel’ is created as a physical symbol of all the things in the universe, including those in and around ourselves. It can be used so that we can learn, usually through meditation, how to align ourselves with them and bring them into our reality.
The ‘Medicine Wheel’ can be very complex and involved, however, for our purposes we will work with a simplified version. When set up outside, a circle of stones is created with larger stones or rocks used to represent the four compass points. These should be placed correctly aligned with the directions. Indoors it could be created with crystal points or large stones that you have collected, perhaps from the beach.
To use this tool, you can take time to meditate whilst sitting at each point in turn, focusing your attention on the energy of the direction. Perhaps you have a question or problem that relates to those things it assists with. So, in meditation you could state that you wish to approach the Totem Animal relating to that direction and ask for its wisdom and guidance.
Module 11 Exercises
Exercise 1: Meditation
Exercise 2: The Medicine Wheel
Set up a simple medicine wheel by placing four large stones or crystal points at the North, East, South, and West. If you are lucky enough to have space do this outside.
Pin the compass points in this manual to the relevant points or place under the stones.
Take time to walk around the circle, pausing at each of the four points for as long as you wish. Focus your intention on receiving the most appropriate energy that you need at this moment in time.
When ready choose the direction that you are most drawn to.
Take a look at the compass point card and see if the correspondences relate to what is going on in your life at that moment, or to any particular question or concern that you may have.
Sit at this direction and allow yourself time to tune into its energy. Meditate on it for a while. What images, thoughts or feelings come to you? How does it make you feel?
Discuss this with other members and make some notes.
Exercise 3: Totem Card Reading
Choose a card from the Totem Animal deck with the focused intention that you would like either to know your life path or an animal totem for the following week, month etc.
Once you have chosen a card, you can take a look in any books you may have or the Animal Symbolism guide in this manual, to discover the significance of the animal but also have a discussion with anyone you are working with and take into account your beliefs and opinions of the animal and what it could teach you.
Additionally you can pair up and read your cards for each other, in the same way as you did with card reading exercises in module 8.
If you don’t have any animal cards to use, have a group discussion and see if anyone has an animal that repeatedly shows up for them at this time. Read about and discuss its relevance in the same way.