Animal Totems: What Do I Do with Them? - Animal Allies or Totems - Other powers: your Magic Allies

The Big Book of Practical Spells: Everyday Magic That Works - Judika Illes 2016

Animal Totems: What Do I Do with Them?
Animal Allies or Totems
Other powers: your Magic Allies

Just as every couple's marriage may be slightly different, so is every alliance. The nature of your personal animal alliances—and the totems that you attract—depends upon your needs, desires, potential for growth and your expectations.

Animal allies provide guidance, comfort and spiritual direction and protection.

· An animal totem can provide guidance and comfort. Its ability to provide for you is based partly upon your cooperation and conscious interaction. A totem may appear in your dreams to cheer you during a difficult period. If before you went to sleep, or during a ritual, you were to ask for specific advice, your totem might then be able to provide you with the needed information.

· Your totem may have come into your life to teach you skills that you may need or that will be beneficial for you, either explicitly or by example. Perhaps you have a hard time setting emotional boundaries, causing consistent relationship problems for you. Armadillo, the master boundary setter, may be waiting in the wings to protect you and teach you how to acquire the skills that you need. Do you live in fear of physical danger? Do you find yourself in potentially abusive situations? Rabbit may enter your life to teach you how to use your wits to escape, survive and thrive.

· The most concrete way to work with animal allies is to increase their presence in your life. Start by focusing your concentration upon them: studying their habits and nature.

· Surround yourself with them, either an actual animal, if safe and practicable, or its image or ideally both. Your totem will respond to your eagerness and friendliness, increasing its efforts upon your behalf.


Animal totems are the most prevalent spirit allies and often the easiest to access. Everyone has them, usually several. If you've had limited or no contact or awareness of these allies, be a little patient. The animal spirits may have been hibernating near you, waiting for your call: Sometimes it takes a little while and a few approaches before they'll broach contact. This is particularly true if your ally's nature is shy and cautious or if it's what might be considered a “scary” animal. They don't wish to overwhelm or scare you. Let them know if you're ready.


· The goal is the eventual absorption of something of their nature and power, so that you are able to infuse your own personal power with their essence and positive qualities.

Pay attention when that animal or its image enters your life, even momentarily. Dreams of your totem are significant: consider what they mean. When pondering a dilemma, have you ever flipped open a magazine and just “coincidentally” found an image of your totem? Pay attention to the context. You may be receiving advice and clues for solving your problem.


Animals are particularly beneficial allies when we're unsure of our proper path. Animals invariably know the right path for themselves, they lack the conflicts we possess. Skunks don't long to live the life of a beaver or vice versa. They are secure in their identity and if you allow them, they will assist you to become secure and confident with your own power and identity.


Reflect upon your animal's nature; learn all you can about your totem: you'll find an endless source of significant information. Line up all your totems and consider what they have in common. Do they eat similar diets? Perhaps there's a health recommendation for you here. Do they live in similar climates? What kind of personal relationships do they have? Most canines like to live in packs, whereas cats, with the exception of lions, are solitary. Deer mothers are solely responsible for their children, whereas with other species, the father is involved. You share something of your essence with your totems. Within this information there will be a spiritual path for you to follow, should you choose.

How will you know your totems? On some level, you already do. The key is bringing that information to the surface, recognizing and identifying them. Think back to your favorite childhood animals. Which animals intrigued you, delighted you, comforted you most in childhood? Which animals appeared most vividly in your dreams? Do certain animals or their images keep appearing in your life? What animals do you really love? When you go to the zoo, who do you have to visit? Conversely, which animals do you really fear or hate? If you catch even a random glimpse of a drawing of a snake, does it ruin your whole day? I hate to tell you, but any extremely powerful emotion tends to indicate some sort of an alliance.

In some traditions, if you've been bitten by an animal or survived an attack, that species is now obligated to provide you with spiritual assistance. In some shamanic traditions, if an animal attacks you, it was sent to see if you are strong enough to handle its power.


Remember: we may not be referring to each individual member of a species, but the presiding spirit of that species, Big Coyote versus just any old coyote running down the street. You can demand that that spirit fulfill any obligations; whether each individual member of the group will be amenable is debatable.


Animals are divided into prey and hunters. Hunters follow prey. If a prey animal is your totem, assume that the predator most associated with that animal has entered your life as well. If a rabbit is your totem, a lynx may be around the corner. This isn't meant to be threatening. If needed, you can call on its power, too. These animals share a spiritual symbiosis and will share their power and equilibrium with you.


Healthy relationships are mutually beneficial. Earth's balance is also dependent upon your reciprocity. Alliances are based on energy transfers. If your ally always gives of its energy without receiving a return transfusion, eventually its power will suffer. In addition, your reciprocity, your “payment” if you will, becomes a part of the give-and-take of communication.

· Personal tributes and testimonials may be created, by building an altar, for example, or by creating artwork. Some individuals reciprocate by acquiring a tattoo of their ally.

· When you receive a favor, return a favor. Do this by demonstrating kindness and concern for an individual of the species or for the species as a whole. Do something that will please the presiding spirit. The presiding spirit's sole function on Earth is not merely to be your ally; its main function is to protect the welfare and survival of individual members of the species.


To earn an alliance, perform services on behalf of the species and wait for a signal or approach from the presiding spirit via dream, gesture or symbol.


You can:

· Feed hungry individuals or provide a home.

· Discover if their natural habitat is endangered and if so, find out what you can do to help.

· Become an ally on their behalf.

For every good turn done for you, do one in return. Whenever you feel your life has been enriched, do a good turn in return. You will reap the benefits: the more you do for them, the more positive attention will be turned towards you.

Allies can also be revealed through divination. Excellent divination systems, mainly based upon Native American or Celtic traditions, exist for this purpose. The one problem with these systems, which are mainly presented as cards, is that you are limited to a preset, preselected variety of animals. Use them as they help you but don't allow yourself to be limited by them. There is no rigid number of animal allies. Let them reveal themselves to you via divination, in your dreams or in your daily life. You can also retrieve knowledge of your allies from within yourself by using guided visualization.


Prepare yourself before you initiate the visualization process.


· Arrange sufficient time, privacy and comfort.

· Prepare your area by using the spiritual cleansing and protective techniques offered in the Spell section. Use these techniques to cleanse your own aura as well.

· If you're apprehensive or wish for extra assistance, choose an appropriate crystal. (See page 83 for the section on crystals.)

· To enhance your psychic skills, brew some Psychic Tea.

· Familiarize yourself with the journey so that you can reproduce it silently for yourself; use a tape recorder or have a trusted individual serve as your guide.


You're leaving home. Watch yourself close the door. All your responsibilities are being cared for. You have no worries to concern you. You walk with purpose.

At first the landscape is familiar but eventually you arrive in a wide field full of grass and flowers. There is no clear path, yet you walk with assurance. Someone awaits you: you know where you're going. You walk through a fragrant field, until you arrive at a thick wood. It's darker under the canopy of trees but you look down and right in front of your feet is a clear white path. You proceed into the woods.

The fragrance of the trees is divine. Birds sing to you. It's dark but sunlight trickles through the branches and you can see your way clearly. Your feet know where to go. The path takes you deeper and deeper into the forest. You feel no fear, but peace and self-assurance. You walk and walk, deeper and deeper, until the path simply ends. You are still deep in the forest. You look down and see a square trap door. You reach down and pull it open: you see stairs descending. As you enter, you discover a torch and matches hanging on the wall, waiting for you. You light the torch, reach up and close the trap door and descend into Earth.

You walk and walk, it's cool and dry. Finally you reach the bottom. It's dark here, the only light is from your torch. A path guides you forward. In the distance, you can see a faint light and you walk towards it. Gradually it becomes brighter and you no longer need your torch. The path widens. Somehow you find yourself under open skies, approaching a small, pretty shore. Peaceful water plays gently on the ground. You take off your shoes and wet your toes. The water is just right. Gradually, you become aware that you are not alone. Someone has been patiently awaiting your arrival. When you're ready, look up and see who it is.

You can stay as long as you wish. You may communicate in any way with the one who waits for you or you may simply gaze and share the moment. However, when you feel that your visit is complete, ask your ally if there is a gift you may take back with you.

Reverse the process and return home. Put your shoes back on, light your torch, go back through the passageway, up the stairs, open the trap door, feel the fresh air and extinguish your torch, hanging it up with the matches so that they are waiting for you whenever you need them. Close the door, walk calmly and purposefully through the woods, through the lovely field, back through your neighborhood and enter your home.


Inevitably, some of our animal allies initially disappoint us. We long for wild, powerful, exotic creatures and when instead we discover our allies include such mundane animals as mice, spiders and ants, we feel let down, our egos deflated. Just as there are no bad colors, there are no bad or weak animals. No one can teach you better how to budget, how to make something from nothing, than Mouse. The animal most associated with dream skills is Lizard. Although we've developed negative associations with some animals, these aren't inherent.

If you are not pleased with your animal ally:

· Research: find out everything you can about your totem, no matter how mundane, about its personality and its life style. Look for traditional legends regarding your animal, not from only one but from many cultures. Negative associations tend to be culture-bound. Many Westerners, for instance, fear bats, yet in traditional Chinese folklore, bats are perhaps the luckiest creatures of all while amongst some Native American traditions bats are sacred. You may be surprised and pleased by what you learn. Allow yourself to learn what your ally feels you need to know.

· There's something to be said for allies who are common, everyday animals: they're around and available as an actual presence. A squirrel or a crow or a blue jay can actually interact with you in person, offering encouragement and positive reinforcement and supplying clues for your journey with some regularity. They're able to visit you and initiate contact.


To attain needed skills and information, surround yourself with the appropriate images, concentrate and focus upon them, and then invite them into your dreams.


The difference between working with an animal spirit as a tool or as an ally is one of spectrum. There are animals to teach every skill. You may approach anyone for a brief lesson.

In the Spells part of this book, you'll find directions advising you of which animals to work with for love, money or other purposes. There are however some animals who very specifically teach us about magic, about finding and enhancing our psychic gifts. They will teach you to discover your own magical aptitude and help you learn how to work with animal powers.

Animal teachers of magic fall into two categories:

1. Threshold animals are among the few who comfortably frequent the borders between the wilderness and human habitation. They are not “tame” animals, although unlike many “wild” animals, they tend to be able to thrive despite our presence. These creatures travel the frontier between the human and animal realms, delivering important and special messages when they choose. Humans interest them. Unless taught otherwise, they are not afraid of us. An encounter with any of these creatures carries a powerful message from Earth. These animals guide you to discover your magical aptitude and the most positive direction for your magic. Threshold animals include mammals such as dolphins, coyotes and jackals, however, the animals most intrinsically linked to Earth's magic are snakes and the corvid cousins, raven and crow.

2. Familiar animals are literally that, they're “familiar” to us. These include what are known as “livestock” and “companion animals.” Think of the stereotypical witches' familiars: usually frogs, cats, dogs, rabbits, lizards or birds, these remain popular companion animals. That's because the animals who have historically been most eager to work with humans moved in with us and evolved into what are now dubbed “domestic animals.” Like our own powers, their spiritual gifts are often overlooked and taken for granted. Our own personal dissatisfaction and self-doubt is reflected in our general treatment of familiars. On the whole, humans have not reciprocated kindly for their gifts: breeding and “domestication” techniques have sapped these creatures, particularly cows and sheep, of their innate spiritual power. Pay attention to the animals with whom you have the most actual direct contact. Who knows? Your most magical partners may already live in your home. These animals nourish our psychic ability. Close positive physical proximity increases your own personal power. The most popular and powerful familiar animals are cats, dogs and horses.