Many people use the terms Spirit animal and totem animal interchangeably, not realizing that there are some significant differences between the two. While both are the spiritual essence of animals, and come to us as needed, that is where the similarity ends. A Spirit animal comes to us when we need it, sometimes called, sometimes not, and leaves again when its job is done. Some First Nations peoples believe that we each have not just one, but nine totem animals.
Our totem animal forms a soul contract with us before we even choose to be born into this life and walk alongside us our entire lives. We do not choose our totem animals like we do our spirit animal guides; we uncover the contract that we agreed to between lives. That contract does not expire until we do, so while we often uncover more animal guides as we learn and grow and our circumstances change, those that have already gathered around us will not leave. I started with three wolves that I first saw as a young child, as time went on more revealed themselves to me. Nowadays, I have three wolves, an owl, a snake, and a spider.
We are not limited to the known natural world either. It is common for people to have mythological animals as totem animals. Just because they don’t exist in our world in the present day does not mean that they don’t have power and wisdom to offer us. A Dragon can guide and protect us as well as teach us the value of saving, and how to accumulate abundance. A Unicorn can show us the value of healing ourselves and others, and how to keep our energy pure and childlike.
In my own meditations I have reached out to the animal world and so far, been gifted with the presence of six animal totems. This leads me to believe that those nations had it right when they said we each had nine. Is that nine separate species, or nine animals? Does it matter? I think each of us will have as many as we need to safely navigate our lives and learn the lessons that spirit has for us to learn in this incarnation. Whether that is nine, or ninety, the animal spirits are there, like Deities, or guardian angels, to surround us, protect us, and offer us wisdom and guidance.
Why do we want to build a relationship with our totem animals? When we reach out to them, and are attuned to their energies and their qualities, we can draw on those abilities as we need. For myself, being attuned to the spider and the snake enables me to draw on ancestral wisdom and divine guidance more easily when doing readings as both those animals have those connections. In times of stress or danger, we can wrap the abilities of our animals around us to enhance our own perceptions and abilities.
So how do we find out who our totem animals are? Sometimes they will be revealed to us during times of trial and hardship. Although that is hardly the ideal way to find out they are there. Most often, a guided journey to the world tree will reveal to us at least one of our Totem Animals. We can undertake this journey on our own, or we can ask someone experienced to guide us. Once we have met them it is up to us to forge that relationship, meditate with them, keep their image close, study them in myth and reality to gain insight into who they are and how they act. Your totem animal will rarely be a surprise to you, on some level, you will know that this spirit has been with you since birth and is simply choosing to reveal itself now that you are ready to meet.