Tuesday April 6, 2004

Totem Animals

A writing group I belong to recently discussed Spirit Guides and Totem Animals.
An Animal Totem is an important symbolic object used by a person to get in touch with specific qualities found within an animal which the person needs, connects with, or feels a deep affinity toward.

You can have several animal guides through out your life. Sometimes an animal guide will come into your life for a short period of time, and then be replaced by another depending on the journey or direction you are headed toward. Your guide will instruct and protect you as you learn how to navigate through your spiritual and physical life. When you find an animal that speaks strongly to you or feel you must draw more deeply into your life, you might fill your environment with images of the animal to let the animal know it's welcome in your space. Animal guides can help you get back to your Earthly roots, and reconnect with nature by reminding you that we are all interconnected.

[ cf. How To Find Your Animal Totem ]

As a child and as an adult, I have always liked animals, all kinds of animals, be they mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, or insects. Subject to what we call the 50-foot rule*, I like most animals about equally.

When I was a child, trips to the University cow barns, deer pens, sheep or pig pens were equal treats. It was as much fun spotting deer or pheasants on a family drive as the time we saw a blacksnake or the time I discovered a (very) large blue salamander. Lizards were as much fun to find as rabbits; small salamanders as delightful to "catch and release" as fireflies. Hawks and sparrows were equally special.

I've never been afraid of snakes and always visit the reptile house at a zoo, as well as the bears, the sea lions, and everything else. On a College trip (after much teasing and prompting) I was the only one of my classmates to pick up a pet tarantula... the others suddenly found things they had to do :-)

I'm still equally interested in most types of bird, animal, or insect, with one notable exception. The exception is cats, both large and small, domestic and wild.

First and foremost some common misconceptions about totem animals should be addressed. The idea that ... animals that the person can choose for themselves based on their own opinions, is not part of the actual belief system. ... However for the sake of explanation ... the animal that is most appropriate is actually thought to choose the person, not the other way around.

... Traditionally (once again depending on tribe or tradition) the person starts to see what appear to be coincidences or signs or omens concerning what animal is their appropriate animal. In the modern world this could be the sighting of a stag (deer) followed, by reading a magazine with a striking picture of a stag, followed by seeing a billboard with a stag displayed upon it. The animal in question may have qualities the person has or needs. ... Indeed there is no one lesson to be learned and a person may go from one totem animal or symbol to another, one lesson to the next. [cf. Native American symbol totem animals ]

I've always had a strong affinity for cats. The kitty I grew up with and I shared a very special relationship. Likewise, the big cats hold a special resonance for me. When I visit a new zoo, I always check the location of the big cats. If I'm at a zoo and don't have much time, I visit the servals, panthers, etc first. If miss the sea lions or the bears on a given trip, I won't be disappointed. If I miss the cats, I wonder why I made the trip in the first place. I once spent half an hour at the San Diego zoo, in silent communication with an "African Desert cat". Except for his size (about 35 pounds) he bore a striking resemblance to our family's first cat!

When I was a kid, I never went through the "horse phase" that most 8-year-old girls seem to go through. I never wanted a pony. My family had a dog. He mostly belonged to the rest of the family (he thought my mother was his special person). I never wanted my own dog.

I never collected frogs or toads (actually I did, but I let them go soon after) or kept pet snakes or mice or rats. I never had a gerbil. I read The Black Stallion, because I was a voracious reader. I didn't read it for the horse, but rather for the story. However, I read books about cats for the cats.

When there are cats in my life, I am whole. When I am away from my cats for any length of time, I feel their absence deeply.

Totems can also be mythical animals. A mythical animal can be a strong symbol for a change in life. Mythical totems are not usually a birth totem or stay with a person for a long time. The mythical totem is very strong

[cf. How To Find Your Animal Totem ]

Of the various mythical creatures, I have always found myself most fascinated by the dragon and the griffin. I was both surprised (though, on reflection, not _very much_ surprised) and pleased that totem animals may be mythical. After all, in many ways, ALL totem animals are of a mythical nature. Spirit guides, elementals, whatever you choose to call them in the Way Beyond, a talking badger is no more or less real than a dragon.

And who's to say dragons aren't "real".

As I think about my interest in mythological creatures, it occurs to me that I'm drawn to griffins and dragons largely because of their feline qualities. Griffins are part lion, part eagle (a proud combination). Raptors (hawks) and cats both have a third-eyelid (do hawks have a vertical pupil as well?) . Have you ever noticed that cats and snakes share the vertical pupils? Are all dragons reptilian? Aren't there some dragons with fur instead of scales?

Cats are seen as independent. I am, and have always been, fiercely independent. Cats have an excellent self-image; cats invented the concept of "face" ( human cultures could learn from cats ;-)

Cats are seen to represent meditation, independence, quick recovery, freedom of thought, seeing that the physical and spiritual realms are one (small cat); leadership, loyalty, courage, taking responsibility for your life, foresight (cougar), secret-keeper, guardian, guide, listener, manifestation of spiritual force and controlled power (lynx); protection, hidden emotions, introspection, caution, careful decisions (panther). Many of these are qualities I see regularly (or have noticed on occasion) in myself.

If you would like to get in touch with your own spirit guides, here are a couple of methods you can try. As stated on the previous page, different guides may have an easier time of coming through in different ways, so don't be afraid to try alternative means of contacting them. ...

I've had the best success with dreams, though this may be in part thanks to experimentation with lucid dreaming in the past. ...
Another means you can try is entering a meditative state....
Another means you can use to establish a more rudimentary communication for your guides just to let you know that they're present, to receive confirmation that you're on the right path, or to let you know that you need to pay special attention at a particular moment...

[ cf. Contacting Your Spirit Guides ]

I tried one of the exercises for contacting your spirit guide (or totem animal). Without much effort, I had a brief image of a very large (lynx or bobcatsized) long-haired cat. An interesting thing about the cat was that he was grey with black strips, not a common color for domestic cats. Domestic cats are either silver (to white) or brown if they have black stripes. The "grey (aka blue) cats tend to have darker blue markings. This cat was decidedly dark grey/blue with black stripes. But then, I would hazard a guess that elementals look as they wish to look, and can change their coloring on a whim. I suppose I should be glad he wasn't purple and grinning at me from a tree branch :)

I'm convinced that my totem animal is a cat. I'm also convinced that (at least for me) there isn't a lot of specialization to the word "cat". Whether it currently resembles a lynx, a panther, or a domestic housecat in form, a cat is nevertheless always a cat, Any additional totem animal that may wish to make my acquaintance will have to clear its intentions first with my cat.


* The 50-foot rule is this: within 50-feet of our home, our word is law. A spider within that perimeter probably won't survive. bees are summarily exterminated. No snakes allowed. beyond the 50-foot perimeter, unless something attacks me first, I believe in live and let live. That includes spiders.

Totem Animals ( in category Gemisch/Gallimaufry ) - posted at Tue, 06 Apr, 17:10 Pacific | «e»