Many animist cultures believe that humans are accompanied by spirit animals. They are here to help you on your life journey. Spirit animals teach you their lessons through sharing its wisdom, skills, protection, guidance, or power. Whether you use them or not is up to you. If you are aware of your animal and call upon it, you can use it consciously.
Here are some common beliefs among animist cultures.
We are all born with a birth animal who stays with us for life. You may subconsciously know it. Perhaps you’ve seen it in your dreams or have always had an affinity for this particular animal. You may have no idea at all what it is. Even once you find out what it is, you may not have any idea how it is helping you. The only way to know is to develop a relationship with it. Get to know it. While every beaver, elk, and salmon have things in common, yours won’t be like mine. It’s just like all people don’t have the same personalities or strengths.
Helper animals can come into your life for a time to assist with specific problems or lessons. Once those are completed, the animal goes away. This animal can come in spontaneously or you may call on it. It’s up to the animal to come and stay. You cannot compel it to do so. Even spirit animals are sovereign beings. For example, if I am going through a divorce and need support, I might find that a dog pops up to help me through that. Dogs are known for loyalty and to be great company, so this could be exactly what I need. Or perhaps I am going through a divorce and need to find my backbone. Perhaps a badger shows up to give me the qualities of persistence, determination, and endurance.
Finding Your Spirit Animal
There are a lot of “find your spirit animal” quizzes out there. A lot of people will tell you that they can find your spirit animal for you. If I had a spirit animal every time someone tried to give me one, I’d have a zoo. My suggestion is to find your own, and then trust what you get. The first time I sought my spirit animal, I found a small, meek creature. I dismissed it. I thought there was no way that that could be my animal. People tried to give me other animals that didn’t resonate, so much later I looked again for my spirit animal. Guess what? It was the same little critter. Only this time I stopped to speak to it to ask what gifts it brought. Once I understood it’s value, I could see how much it had been helping me all along. So don’t let others tell you what your animals is. Find out for yourself. Then trust yourself.
You can try to find your animal through meditation. Just ask the animal to reveal itself and then trust that it will when it’s ready. It’s not yours to command. If it doesn’t appear, then trust that it’s not time. There are also rituals that can help with this.
Getting to Know Your Guide
Learn what you can about your animal. Read books. Watch movies. Study the lore from other cultures. Go out in nature and observe it. If possible, get one as a pet. Meditate on it, then journal about it.
What does it eat? When is it active? How does it mate? How does it protect itself? What qualities, skills, or habits does it have? How does any of this show up in your life? Is there anything you can learn about yourself from this?
How to Communicate With Your Spirit Animal
Each animal has a different way of reaching out to you. Perhaps you’re a dreamer who gets messages while asleep. Maybe your spirit animal lives with you in the form of a real life animal like a pig or a peacock. Maybe you see a wild one and get a premonition. Trust yourself. If you feel that you’re getting a significant message, you probably are. Pay attention. The more open you are to spirit communication, the more easily it will come to you. But remember that your spirit animal isn’t here to live your life for you or tell you what to do. They are guardians, not helicopter animals.
Additionally, animals are not people. They don’t care about your rent or your love life. They aren’t going to be able to help you with human concerns and won’t speak to you the way a person does. If this is what you are expecting, you will be disappointed. It takes a lot of patience to be able to communicate with terrestrial animals. Spirit animals are even more so as they are wild. If you approach it as a wild animal, as if you are cultivating trust, you may be rewarded with a useful, meaningful relationship.
Some Beliefs About Spirit Animals
- If you lose your spirit animal, if your spirit animal leaves you, your life force diminishes significantly. Some believe that you can even die.
- You can reclaim a lost spirit animal and regain your life force.
- You cannot choose a spirit animal. It chooses you. You can, however, call on the energy of anything – a tree, a dead relative, an animal – for help in a situation.
- A clan, or group of people, can have a spirit animal. For example, those in the Turtle Clan will have the spirit of Turtle watching over them.
- There are no unimportant animals. Your animal is paired with you for a reason. It might not be obvious to you. If not, perhaps you are not seeing yourself clearly. Or maybe you are not seeing the gifts of your animal clearly. Look again.
- Mythological beasts can be spirit animals. Maybe yours is a unicorn, kelpie, or dragon.
The belief in spirit animals belongs to many animistic cultures. Spirituality belongs to everyone and no one because it can’t be owned. However, you can distort and make meaningless the beliefs of others if you don’t understand the entire cosmology. You can be accused of cultural appropriation if your beliefs are random ideas that are connected to nothing. There are other beliefs that may look like spirit animals. If you are not part of that cosmology an are ignorant, you may not know the difference. Familiars and totem animals are not the same thing as spirit animals. Educate yourself. Ask questions. Engage in personal experience and you will have a spiritual path that is grounded, meaningful, and respectful.
Modern animism exists to return to the core spiritual beliefs of our ancestors without stepping on the toes of extant indigenous peoples who have their own traditions.