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Understanding Spirit Animals and Totems

Updated on April 5, 2015

Why Learn About Animal Spirits?

If the term ‘spirit animal’ makes you wince and think of wonky New Age seminars run by women who wear too much gauze, think again!

We all share the world with a variety of amazing animals, and building an awareness of them and how they live is an important first step in reconnecting to the natural environment. Even in the city, animals thrive and can teach anyone willing to listen quite a lot about living in harmony with the Earth.

Almost all native cultures attach meanings and intentions to animals beyond simple facts about how they live and think. Establishing an emotional connection to the common creatures in your part of the world is one of the best ways to cultivate a gentler, more ecologically sound existence.

In short, when you care about an animal, your caring naturally extends outward—to the animal's habitat, diet, special beauty, and means of communication. Seeing an animal as a sentient creature in a living world heals and expands human awareness with minimal effort.

You Don't Have to Pick Just One

You might have heard of the notion that each person is assigned a specific ‘spirit animal’ for guidance and inspiration. But you don’t have to believe this to benefit from learning the symbolic meanings and spiritual history attached to various animals.

Once you get used to accepting that creatures are each possessed of a specific energy, the habit of watching and interpreting the natural world comes easily and automatically.

A good example of this kind of watching and interpretation is local lore about wooly worms and ladybugs. In many locales, the number of appearance and number of wooly worms is taken as a predictor the coming winter weather. Ladybugs are almost universally a sign of good luck and for good reason—their larvae eat garden pests and herald a more plentiful food supply.

When you understand spirit animals and the history and lore behind each one, animals change one by one from objects in an impersonal outside world, to allies and friends that inhabit your heart and imagination.

Beyond Environmentalism and Ecology

Environmentalism is a political advocacy movement that often provokes confrontational dialogue and action. Ecology is a science that requires very specific procedures for observation animals and collection of data. Both of these are worth pursuits but they are also rather impersonal.

Understanding spirit animals and totems is a very personal pursuit that involves emotion, intuition, and openness. Anyone can learn this art, regardless of intellectual or religious orientation. You don’t need to commit to specific religious beliefs or to any hard and fast doctrines about anything.

All you really need is an open mind and a willingness to look at the natural world more carefully and more personally.

When you being to understand the stories and lore behind common spirit animals and totems, a new appreciation of life, spirit, and the environment emerges organically.

Once you understand that each animal is a fellow creature connected to you personally, the world will never look the same again.

Future hubs will focus on specific animals and their meanings, history, and life patterns, so stay tuned.


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    • CR Rookwood profile imageAUTHOR

      Pamela Hutson 

      6 years ago from Moonlight Maine

      Thanks Ethereal Elements. :)

    • EtherealElements profile image


      6 years ago from USA

      Very nice, interesting Hub. Thanks.

    • CR Rookwood profile imageAUTHOR

      Pamela Hutson 

      6 years ago from Moonlight Maine

      Thanks CW BoB!

    • Civil War Bob profile image

      Civil War Bob 

      6 years ago from Glenside, Pennsylvania

      Interesting hub, CRR. Welcome to Hub Pages. I hope you find as kind a community as I have these last few weeks!

    • CR Rookwood profile imageAUTHOR

      Pamela Hutson 

      6 years ago from Moonlight Maine

      Thank you Daughter of Maat! Thanks for reading!

    • CR Rookwood profile imageAUTHOR

      Pamela Hutson 

      6 years ago from Moonlight Maine

      Thanks hecate-horus! I appreciate the welcome too. :)

    • CR Rookwood profile imageAUTHOR

      Pamela Hutson 

      6 years ago from Moonlight Maine

      Thank you Dale!

    • Daughter Of Maat profile image

      Melissa Flagg COA OSC 

      6 years ago from Rural Central Florida

      Very well put. I think taking into consideration the archetypes of the animal is very important and like you said gives a deeper meaning to the animal and the world as a whole. Great job and welcome to hub pages!

      Voted up, useful, interesting and thanks for SHARING.

    • hecate-horus profile image


      6 years ago from Rowland Woods

      Very nice and well done. Voted up and interesting! Welcome to hubpages!

    • Dale Hyde profile image

      Dale Hyde 

      6 years ago from Tropical Paradise on Planet X

      Well done and most informative. I certainly agree that you do not have to have your own animal spirit guide, familiar, totem and such to learn from the spirits of the animals. I am blessed to have several such "guides" in my life, but I learn from all, daily! Just an open mind and an open heart will open a whole new world for many!

      Voted up, interesting, useful and thanks for SHARING.


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