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SPIRIT GUIDES & TOTEMS
Posted by: Manataka American Indian Council

We use the terms 'animal spirit guides' and 'animal totems' interchangeably here, as we refer to either physical or spiritual manifestations from a general or individualized viewpoint. Our personal preference is to use the term 'animal spirit guide' as it more closely describes an American Indian practice and the latter is often connected with Eastern European shamanism. We also occasionally hear the terms spirit totem, power animal, and spirit animal used to describe an entity that can be either physical or spirit that acts as a guide, messenger or protector.

FINDING YOUR ANIMAL TOTEM

You do not choose a Spirit Guide as your personal spirit guide. The Spirit chooses you and they decide to whom they will reveal themselves and make their friend. Do not fall into the trap of saying, "Gosh, I think the wolf is a smart, good looking and powerful animal, so the wolf will become my animal guide." It does not work this way. Each Animal has its own Medicine which is unique to that specific creature as gifted by the Great Mystery and its spirit cannot be chosen like the color of your new car. Discovering who your animal guides are is a process of paying attention to the spirits around you and following the signs. It is a process of developing your inner knowledge and spiritual understanding. An individual can not be assigned a spirit guide by another person, regardless of who that person maybe, no more than another person can say how or when the Great Mystery of Life will be known to you.

American Indians see Spirit Guides or totems as powerful guardians of the land or spirits of living animals. Some psychologists conjecture that a vision or message from a Spirit Guide may be certain aspects of the human psyche resurfacing from the pre-conscious ancient human mind. For example, fish living in the sea are associated with the unconscious mind and symbolize a deep mind. Another example, by meditating on the various qualities of reptiles and their mythical associations, it may be possible to access the reptilian aspects of the mind that correspond to the limbic system in the brain, which deals with sensory impressions, pleasure and pain. Likewise, by meditating on various mammals, a path is opened to the mammalian aspects of the human psychic corresponding to the thalamus and the hypothalamus in the brain associated with the emotions, a sense of community, and instinctual wisdom.

THE POWER OF ANIMAL SPIRITS

The natural power of animal spirit guides has not been lost. The knowledge and power of animal guides is alive and can be effectively used to improve our lives and all creation. American Indians call the process of connecting with animal guides and other parts of creation as being 'One with Nature.' Connecting with your animal guide will make you a better person. You will be healthier physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. You will see the world and all things in it with more clarity and understanding. Animals are wondrous happy creatures. There is no doubt that animals have beautiful, balanced emotions. They love and defend one another. They feel sorrow and melancholy. Yet, there has never been a war between animal species. They know nothing about greed, envy, and hate. They live their entire lives without sin. They have many amazing powers and use those powers only to benefit their kind and not to overcome their opponents. There is a reason why the Creator put all of us together on the same planet. A part of that reason is to learn from one another. Animals are here to teach humans. They have many powerful lessons to give. They remind us that we are only a small part of creation; that each part of creation has a place; that each creature has its own skill and wisdom.

TYPES OF ANIMAL GUIDES

Symbolic of the four sacred directions, four seasons, and the four colors of man, there are four basic types of animal guides.

Whether an animal spirit comes by dreams, signs and symbolic events, or actual events it is important to first determine if the guide is a Messenger Guide (Totem), Shadow Guide, Journey Guide or Life Guide.

The meaning and lessons an animal guide brings will differ according to the type of guide it may be. Learning to differentiate between the four types of totems is critical to knowing how to react and the actions you will take when an animal totem makes itself known to you. All guides are powerful.

A Messenger Guide quickly comes into your life and then leaves once a message is understood. The time a Message Guide stays in your psychic is relative to you seeing and accepting the message. The message itself can be spiritual in nature, or it can be a warning. The message may deal with a seemingly mundane aspect of your life or it may be a wake-up call for some important action you must make. Sometimes the animal messenger will come during an unusual event and make a powerful statement and others come on the wind as a whisper. A messenger guide can cause you delays or some unforeseen help in your life. They can be both negative and positive in nature for they are totally impartial.

A Shadow Animal Guide is one that invades you with fear. Its purpose it to teach a lesson you have not learned from repeated mistakes because of anger, avarice, greed, insecurity, or other negative thoughts. A Shadow Guide will return again and again bearing strong feelings of fear until its message is acted upon or a change in lifestyle or actions are incorporated into your life. The Shadow Guide is powerful. It can help you to overcome fear by bringing truth and turning fear into a helper animal guide or spirit animal guide. However, if ignored the Shadow Guide can become dangerous and its powers will have a negative affect on your life. The Shadow Guide lives in the spirit world and usually arrives during a time of testing.

A Journey Animal Guide appears at the fork in the road of your life. When a decision is made to follow a certain path in life, the Journey Guide is there to serve as a guide along the way. It represents a path that may take months or years to complete. It can be a friendly traveling companion if the path is right. If you become lost along the way, the Journey Guide is there help lead the way back. Unlike a Messenger Guide who comes and leaves quickly, the Journey Guide remains at your side until the current cycle in your life has changed. appears at the fork in the road of your life. When a decision is made to follow a certain path in life, the Journey Guide is there to serve as a guide along the way. It represents a path that may take months or years to complete. It can be a friendly traveling companion if the path is right. If you become lost along the way, the Journey Guide is there help lead the way back. Unlike a Messenger Guide who comes and leaves quickly, the Journey Guide remains at your side until the current cycle in your life has changed.

A Life Animal Guide is also called a Spirit Guide as it remains a part of you throughout life and reflects your inner-spiritual self. You may have more than one Life Guide and new ones may come during an expected time. Usually a Life Guide does not move away or disappear but remains an integral part of your life, however, there are instances when a particular Life Guide is no longer needed and is replaced with a new one. Its powers are always there for you and serve as a constant reminder of your inner powers and oneness with nature. If for example your Life Guide is Bear, you should be a person who is a solitary dweller, a seeker of knowledge and well grounded. A Life Guide will often call upon other animal guides found within its domain to assist in giving you special messages from time to time.

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