For centuries, many cultures in the world had beliefs about animal spirit guides (aka animal totems or power animals) that worked with individuals much in the same way as "human" spirit guides. With the shifting universe awakening so many people in recent years, there has been an increasing number of people even rooted in Western culture interested in learning about and/or connecting to their "power animal."
I've had an interest in metaphysical subjects since I was a pre-teen and an affinity for nature, especially the animal world, for as long as I can remember. I knew that many Native American cultures had often identified animal spirit guides - sometimes through vision quests and sometimes through other means. I also knew that many other cultures around the world worked with animal guides. But I didn't explore that subject much, until after beginning to work on my health with a naturopath and on developing my mediumship skills. I began to pay attention more to things like synchronicity as part of my sensitivity training. Then one evening as I was walking my dog, I noticed no less than 15 rabbits sitting still in my path as I walked through the neighborhood. Now I did occasionally see rabbits, but so many just sitting in my path was unusual, and even more unusual was that my Brazilian terrier seemed to either ignore them or not sense them since he didn't take off to chase them like he would normally do. So when I got home from the walk, I posted a question on Facebook asking my friends whether any had an idea of what this unusual interaction with rabbits could mean. Almost immediately two friends responded with a meaning that made sense for what was going on in my life, and both recommended that I read a book by Ted Andrews entitled, Animal Speak.
I began to carry a small pocket guide in my purse that I could consult whenever unusual animal activity occurred. The more I paid attention, the more the animals began to act as messengers in my life. I started to teach other friends and siblings about what I was observing, and they too began to notice increased messages as well. I also began to sometimes see images of animals in clouds or in tree bark (a phenomenon known as pareidolia), and those images worked in the same way as actually seeing the animal. That made sense to me, since the spirit world is about energies and can use our imagination to communicate guidance to us.
Shortly after I began learning more about animal guides and messages, I began to notice as well that animals began to react differently to me as well. Dogs in the neighborhood or anywhere I went suddenly would be so fascinated with me that their owners would be perplexed until I explained that many dogs seem to react that way to me. I had a few instances where I encountered wild animals (e.g. deer and coyote) that seemed to be trying to communicate with me. I began to occasionally "hear" my dog telepathically tell me things and he'd do a "happy dance" whenever I'd ask him if he just said whatever I'd "heard." My mediumship abilities than began to sometimes include me hearing animals, like a chipmunk in a parking lot calling to me for help after it had been severely injured by a car running it over, and to be able to talk to animals and have them respond appropriately. I also began to see animals much more often in my dreams and during meditation, and I began to truly know my main power animals by the frequency with which they walked with me in dreams, in meditation and even energetically during daily activity.
As you explore the subject of animal guides, power animals and even animal communication, you will find that different cultures and/or individual authors have varying meanings assigned to each animal guide or totem. So just like when working with dream symbols, I always recommend that people read more than one guide or book when first learning the "language." I find that sometimes one book provides a meaning that makes more sense at that time than another book, but at another time or with a different animal the second book may make more sense than the first. Over time you will begin to know that that animal means for you.
Connecting to Your Power Animal
There are a number of ways to determine what animal is a power animal for you. In my experience, I would say that animal guides are similar to spirit guides, in that we have lots of them and they may even change throughout our lives depending what we need at that time. Generally, however, most people have a main power animal that is with them their whole life (just like many believe about spirit guides.
One way to determine your animal totem(s) is to think back through your life. Was there a certain animal that you were interested in? Perhaps an animal that you really liked to visit at the zoo or one that you like to read books about or draw? Remember, it could be more than one. Also, remember that while it's common for people to want to have the more well-known power animals (e.g., wolf, eagle, buffalo, bear, dolphin, owl), it's very likely that you have a power animal which may seem odd or not as "cool," but when you understand the symbolism of the energy which that animal spirit brings it may make perfect sense to you. For example, as a really young girl (3 or 4 years old), I loved to collect daddy-long-legs even filling empty old coffee cans with them to bring home. As I got a little older, one of my favorite books was Charlotte's Web. Even in adulthood, I remain fascinated with spiders - especially garden spiders and golden orb spiders. Knowing that for in some cultures spiders are considered the power animal of storytellers and that I have always been a good storyteller who even dreamed of writing books as a child, it makes perfect sense that Spider spirit would work with me.
Another way to find out about your animal guide is to do a guided meditation by yourself or in a group setting. There are quite a number of authors or other "experts" who offer audio CDs or mp3s that have a variety of guided meditations designed to help you meet your animal guide or power animal. A basic meditation you can use is again similar to one that can be used to meet your spirit guide(s) as well:
Just like in any meditation, you want to get comfortable and begin to quiet your mind by taking some deep breaths and paying attention to those breaths as you inhale and exhale. When you are settled, picture yourself walking down a path on a nice, sunny day. Everything is comfortable and you feel relaxed. Ahead of you there is a door. You walk towards that door with anticipation. On the other side of that door is going to be your animal guide. You approach the door, take a deep breath, and exhaling walk through the door. The first animal that you see or think of is one of your power animals. Observe that animal. What is it doing? Invite it to come sit with you and "talk" with you. Listen and observe.
Don't worry if you don't see anything. Let your mind relax and trust that you met with that animal. Then pay attention to your dreams or to unusual interactions with animals appearing in your life. Once you know your animal, you can consult books, the internet, friends and/or shaman to find out more about what energies that animal brings to you. Again, remember that the animal might not be what you imagined before doing the exercise. I have a friend, for example, who has been doing a lot of shamanic work for years and was very surprised, almost dismayed, to learn that Wren spirit appeared when he did a similar meditation exercise in a group workshop. It seemed odd to him. But after learning that "Wren" is often a loud and fierce protector of his family, I thought this animal spirit guides suited him quite well.
You can also consult a shaman or other type of animal communicator who has the ability to either journey and see your power animal or connect to your animal guide's energy in another manner. For example, as a part of my spirit art, I am able to connect with your animal guide and draw that animal or that animal's energetic representation for clients. While I am drawing the animal, I also receive information about that animal spirit and how / why it works with you. My guides and clients also tell me that if the person who is given the drawing spends time meditating in the presence of the drawing, they are able to develop a deeper connection to that animal guide and a deeper understanding of what that animal spirit's purpose is for them.
"All I can say is "wow" 😊 I have only finished reading what you sent through and I sitting soaked in a very [strong], beautiful presence. I love the picture and I looked at it first before I read the reading. I had no idea who he was, but I "knew" him, he was familiar, if that makes sense and this is when [the awareness of this presence] just fell upon me. The reading was so incredibly accurate and resonates very strongly within me.... Everything that was given to you about my life is very, very true ...Very comforting to know that I have guides and a "cheer squad" ha ha!! Blessings to you, Gigi!"