Guest writer for Wake Up World
It was bizarre and unexplainable: I kept having recurring dreams for about a month, where I would walk into an eerie, foreboding forest at night with a wolf peering at me through the shrubs. Its stare seemed kind, almost motherly, but very intense … somehow I knew that it was trying to tell me something about the depths of the forest ahead.
I have since had many dreams about Wolves and Dogs. And before I ever knew of my strong connection with the Canis Lupus species, I co-founded and named this website lonerwolf: a creature that to me embodies the spiritual journey.
Have you ever experienced any strange synchronicities to do with animals?
If you’re confused, need clarity, or validation, keep reading.
What is a Spirit Animal? (Definition)
A Spirit Animal is a teacher, messenger, omen, or guide who is there to help you in some area of your life. In shamanic cultures, spirit animals are thought to be the literal spirits of animals that we either inherit, are born with, or adopt during life. However, in various schools of psychology, Spirit Animals are thought to be the archetypal or symbolic manifestations of the primal psyche. Regardless of what philosophy you subscribe to, Spirit Animals are powerful allies that connect us with our Souls and Higher Purpose.
Ancient Origins (Totemism & Animism)
Animals share with us the privilege of having a soul.
The notion of having a Spirit Animal draws its origins from ancient Animistic and Totemistic beliefs about the world and our connection to it.
Totemism is a system of belief practiced by groups such as the Native American or Australian Aboriginal peoples who carry the philosophy that each human being has a spiritual connection to another physical being (e.g., a plant or animal).
The Kpelle people of Liberia, for instance, possess animal, plant, and natural phenomena (wind, rain, etc.) totems that are thought to guide and protect their people. Their totems are also thought to be a form of alter ego or second self.
Animism, on the other hand, is a world view held by many Buddhist, Shinto, Pagan, and Neopagan groups of people, that all plants, animals, and objects have spirits. To the Animists, we are part of nature, rather than being superior to nature, or separate from nature. As such, it’s common to see the inclusion of Spirit Animals within this worldview.
Spirit Animals and the Spiritual Awakening Journey
Spirit Animals are powerful allies on our spiritual awakening journeys as they help us to reconnect with our Souls. As the essence of an animal is raw, pure, and untainted by the issues that human beings undergo, they can help us tune into our authentic, untamed nature.
Spirit Animals embody their Souls (their unique expression of the Divine) completely and utterly. They’re not burdened with an ego that feels small, separate, and defensive against Life. As such, our Spirit Animal can teach us lessons surrounding courage, empowerment, interconnectedness, letting go, learning to love fully, and finding freedom.
Spirit Animal, Power Animal, Totem Animal – What’s the Difference?
These terms are often used interchangeably, but there’s a difference. Put simply:
- A Spirit Animal refers to an ally who helps teach/guide you.
- A Power Animal refers to a creature that empowers you.
- A Totem Animal refers to a creature that is inherited (ancestrally or as part of a tribe/clan).
While a Power animal can be invoked or called upon, it’s often thought that a Spirit Animal chooses you (and the same applies to the Totem Animal).
7 Ways to Discover Your Spirit Animal
At this point, you may be wondering, “okay, so how do I discover my spirit animal?” Here are some powerful approaches:
1. Spend more time outdoors
This helps you to forge a greater connection to nature which you’ll need to identify your Spirit Animal.
2. Pay attention to the animals appearing in your life
Do any particular animals keep emerging? It’s said that if a particular animal continuously appears in your daily life, this is an indication that your Spirit Animal is trying to contact you. For instance, a certain animal could repeatedly show up on your daily walks, in the books you read, TV shows you watch, or pictures you glimpse.
3. Pay attention to the animals appearing in your dream life
Spirit Animals are also said to contact us in our dreams. Look out for animals that seem to persistently appear while you sleep – this could be a sign that your Spirit Animal is trying to manifest itself to you.
4. Be aware of the unusual behavior of animals around you
Does a particular animal run up to you, make strange noises around you, or otherwise display strange behavior patterns in your presence? This could be a strong indication of your Spirit Animal trying to contact or form a connection with you.
5. Think about what animals you have always been attracted to
Are you drawn to any particular animal, either out of fear or adoration? This could reveal an unconscious connection to your Spirit Animal.
6. Try meditation
Our Spirit Animals often reveal themselves during practices such as meditation because the mind because still. If you don’t often meditate, or if you would like assistance, there are many free meditation videos on YouTube.
7. Keep a journal
Record what animals you encounter in your meditations, dreams, and waking life. Look for patterns or recurrences of a specific animal or animals. Learn more about how to journal.
21 Common Spirit Animals
While there are nearly an endless array of Spirit Animal guides out there, there are some that tend to continually emerge. I’ll list them below:
- Bear (strength, confidence)
- Butterfly (personal transformation)
- Cat (independence, curiosity)
- Coyote (playfulness, adaptability)
- Crow (vision, intelligence)
- Deer (innocence, gentleness)
- Dog (loyalty, love)
- Dragonfly (transformation, adaptability)
- Fox (agility, awareness)
- Frog (rebirth, renewal)
- Hawk (focus, leadership)
- Horse (freedom, passion)
- Hummingbird (positivity, playfulness)
- Lion (strength, courage)
- Owl (wisdom, intuition)
- Rabbit (abundance, vulnerability)
- Sheep (vulnerability, innocence)
- Snake (healing, transformation)
- Spider (creativity, receptivity)
- Tiger (willpower, aggression)
- Turtle (determination, persistence)
- Wolf (intelligence, freedom)
5 Ways to Discover Your Spirit Animal’s Lessons (Medicine)
Once you have discovered what your Spirit Animal/s is, a common question to ask is “what’s next?” How can you harness the new knowledge of your Animal Teacher to benefit your life? Here are a variety of ways to learn from your Spirit Animal:
1. Discover its symbolic wisdom (or ‘medicine’)
Each Spirit Animal has strengths and weaknesses which are important for you to learn about, as they directly apply to your life. The better you understand the symbolic meaning of your Animal Teacher, the better you will come to understand yourself and what you need to improve or change in your life.
2. Apply your newfound wisdom
Learning about your Spirit Animal will help you to learn more about yourself, and will consequently help you to make important decisions, deal with difficult situations and people, and reach your personal goals and aspirations. Reflect on the three main ways you can apply what you’ve learned to your life (short-term, medium-term, and long-term).
3. Don’t humanize your Spirit Animal
Anthropomorphizing (aka. humanizing) your guide will do nothing but silence their unique way of expressing themselves. To be open and receptive to your Spirit Animal’s message, you’ll need to embrace their exclusive language and form of self-expression first. To be receptive to your Spirit Animal and embrace their authentic being, take some time to observe them. Either observe them in nature (if they live in your vicinity) or watch them online. Take notes if needed.
4. Pay attention to when your Spirit Animal appears in your life
Be aware of dreams, or real-life occurrences in which your Spirit Animal manifests itself. Also, remember that your Spirit Animal can choose to manifest itself in a very subtle way; for instance, in poems, a song, or even a picture in a book or poster in the street. Our Animal Teachers are thought to serve as both omens, as well as messengers and guides. So consider the following question in your daily life:
- What feelings do you experience when your Spirit Animal appears in your life? For example, do foreboding or comforting feelings arise within you?
- What message does your Spirit Animal appear to be communicating to you?
- Is your Spirit Animal trying to lead you in a certain direction?
5. Honor your Spirit Animal
Shamans believe that by honoring and venerating your Spirit Animal, you grow and gain a deeper connection to them. Many people like showing respect to their Animal Teachers by placing objects of the same species around their houses (like feathers, skulls, statues). Others like wearing symbols of their Spirit Animals on their bodies (amulets, pendants, etc.). Simply saying “thank you” and being grateful is sufficient.
Spirit Animal Quiz
If you’d like more guidance and support in connecting with your spirit animal, you might like to take our free spirit animal quiz. This test can help you connect with either your temporary animal ally (who is helping you in this specific period of life) or even your long-term animal ally (who has accompanied you since birth). As always, take it with a grain of salt and have fun!
Since the dawn of time, Spirit Animals have been summoned to help us learn vital lessons, make important decisions, and grow significantly at a Soulful level. From the Native Americans and their totem animals to the animistic beliefs of indigenous Africans, Indians, Asians, and South Americans, animals have been revered for hundreds of thousands of years.
All of us have at least one spiritual connection to another physical being such as a particular animal or plant species.
I hope this article has illuminated and inspired you.
If you have any comments, experiences, or opinions that you would like to add, please feel free to share them below.
About the author:
Aletheia Luna is a prolific psychospiritual writer, author, and spiritual mentor whose work has touched the lives of millions worldwide. As a survivor of fundamentalist religious abuse, her mission is to help others find love, strength, and inner light in even the darkest places. She is the author of hundreds of popular articles, as well as numerous books and journals on the topics of Self-Love, Spiritual Awakening, and more. See more of her work at lonerwolf.com.
This article, 7 Ways to Connect With Your Spirit Animal, was originally published on lonerwolf.com, reproduced with permission.