Totems and Spirit Guides
A Power Animal is any natural object, being, or animal that symbolizes a specific kind of energy. When one awakens to a Power Animal and honors it, the mythical energies behind it are released into one’s life. My first power animal was a Deer, not exactly what I was expecting, but since I did not know what to expect the Deer was just fine!! Deer taught me patience; which I did not have, gentleness; which I obviously needed to learn, healing and many other important qualities.
Now my ancestors, the primordial shamans, and your ancestors as well watched Animals very carefully, their traits, abilities, habits and learnt to respect them. Through time, myths and stories were told and retold by shamans to explain their understanding of the spiritual animal to their village mates. We encounter that in circle, the similarities between journeys, the similar characteristics between our Power Animals. They may be present in their earthly manifestations, but they aren’t bound by physical forms. One does not worship a Power Animal; one follows it. The way of a Power Animal is something you aspire to, rather like someone who aspires to live according to a code of honor. A Power Animal will share information through our voyages, our visions and dreams. Animals come to us because they have a lesson we need to learn or a power they are willing to share. They seek to give us understanding, love, energy and knowledge.
The Power Animals that come to us offer us power and wisdom once we learn to communicate with them, respect, trust and understand them. Each animal has its own special power and message, for each animal has a powerful spirit and an inherent skill. Animal Spirits choose a person to be a companion to, a friend to, not the other way around. Many times in circles or gatherings I have overheard individuals speaking of which power animal they know they are going to find when they journey, only to return and find that the animal they were expecting, Eagle, Bear or Raven, turned out to be a mouse or a spider or even a snail. The animal will chooses you and make itself known to you.
Eventually, everyone who practices the shamanic journey will encounter the Shadow Power Animal. This is something you won’t hear discussed very often. They are sometimes frightening and threatening, but always intimidating.
From a psychological perspective the Shadow represents those aspects of our psyche that we choose to ignore – our fears, our secrets and dark thoughts. They characterize our personal boundaries, our self-imposed limitations and those parts of ourselves that reject spontaneity, risk taking and the development of self-esteem.
I have a weakness for Grey’s anatomy and you will never guess the synchronicity! The entire show was dedicated to playing with Shadow. The characters fears of ‘not being seen”, or “judgment”, “loss of a best friend”. The duality played out in the writing was very coincidental, I thought! I pondered the hardest parts of our drama, our tragedy. Playing right into our shadow. Each main character was presented with a mirror of him or herself, and had the embrace the ensuing chaos that inevitably comes when we are faced with ourselves.
Shadow Power Animals
Shadow Power Animals represent our dark side – the shadow aspect of our soul that we tend to ignore or suppress due to the connotations that they represent and the responsibilities they force upon us. They make us to look at ourselves, to stand before our weaknesses and our frailties and to honour them as lessons and as stepping-stones to power.
The Shadow Animal is a substantial presence in the Spirit world, similar to a nightmare in your dreaming reality. It usually presents itself as the scariest, most frightening animal, or being, you can imagine. They can be fire-breathing dragons, trolls or skeletons wielding arm sized machetes, really anything. A Shadow Power Animal tests us. They have keys for us, but will put us through tests before they will let their power work with, and for us, instead of against us. In all of nature there is prey and predator. In the spiritual world there is the same.
Shadow Power Animals are equally as important and as valuable a teacher as one’s Power Animal. Remember it is Shadow because it is unconscious. We cannot see what we are unconscious of. Its like our derriere, we know its there, we sit on it but we can’t see it. The Shadow Self operates mostly in unconscious reflex, it is not based upon instinctual desires alone, but is a sum total of many parts including fear, anger, repressed drives and needs, past pain not yet healed, resolved and integrated, as well as our early childhood conditioning.
Shamanic work is not always fun and fluffy and light. It is very serious work. Many times we have left our space, our circle, our journeys in tears, in confusion, frustrated… or light and fluffy with lots of giggles… kinda a crap shoot eh!!
The Spirit World has, often times, a very different agenda then our waking reality. Walking somnambulists are not welcome there. To participate in the land of the spirits you do have to be awake and take a certain level of responsibility for yourself and your walk. To get our attention we are often presented with what may scare us, or what may frustrate us. A snake may be very frightening for some, for others who don’t have a great deal of fear they may encounter barriers to this world or that. The idea is we are taken deep into ourselves in order to understand ourselves, the challenge we face is to bring our newly awoken CONSCIOUS SELF back to our waking reality and incorporate it.