On Spirit Animals…

Panther Spirit and Shaman (sublime imagery by Omer Haciomeroglu -- used with permission)...
Panther Spirit and Shaman (sublime imagery by Omer Haciomeroglu — used with permission)…

To wrap up what’s turned into a trilogy of posts springboarding out of that excellent owl dream I had a few nights ago, I wanted to touch quickly on the notion of “spirit animals” or “animal guides,” as I think that one valid suggestion as to what my dream may have possibly meant could have something to do with these concepts…

So, what then, is a “spirit animal” or “animal guide?”  Some people also use the term “power animal” to name this concept, and in this blog, at least, all three of these terms will be considered more or less interchangeable (unless someone writes in and makes a convincing case for why this shouldn’t be so — my mind is always open to new ways of looking at things!).  But anyway, the spirit animal concept is arguably a subset of the larger doctrine of animism: the view that natural entities in the physical world — animals, rocks, trees, rivers, you name it — possess a spirit.  The animal spirit notion, however, seems to me to be less about a specific animal having a spirit or soul, and more about the archetypal spirit of the kind of animal in question.  In other words, it’s not about a single wolf that you once saw in the woods or that lion at the zoo that looked at you in such a strange and meaningful way when you were a kid; it’s more about the spirit that informs all wolves or all lions, that captures the primary attributes that make a wolf or a lion what it is.

Carrying that thought one step further, a spirit animal is then one of these archetypal animal spirits that has, for whatever reasons of its own, chosen to associate itself with us in this lifetime.  It wants to guide us, to aid us, to inform us, and to empower us.  We have an affinity for it…and of maybe even greater importance, it has an affinity for us.

And I think it’s important to repeat the part about how it’s the animal spirit that chooses to associate with us, and not the other way around.  You can think that a given animal is beautiful or cool or fun, or totally ginchy in whatever other way you like…but feeling that way doesn’t necessarily equate to that animal being a spirit guide for you.  That kind of relationship goes deeper, and as mentioned, is generally initiated by the animal (the guide), not by you (the guided).

Do you have an animal guide?  You might.  I suspect that many, if not most (or even all) of us, do.  I also believe it’s possible to have more than one — some people may have a whole spirit menagerie!  And to complicate the discussion even more, I further believe that there are the kinds of lifelong relationships with animal spirits that I’m mostly talking about here, but that at times in our lives, a certain different animal can also come along and, for a temporary while, associate with us because it has special connections with something we’re going through — it stays a while, hopefully helps us to learn our lessons or crack the codes of our problems, and then moves on.  Meanwhile, those true, lifelong animal spirit companions will have been there the whole time as well, and will remain on hand even after the temporarily visiting animal spirit takes its leave.

How do you determine if you have one or more animal guides, and what might they be?  Fodder for a subsequent post, I think…although please drop me a line if you have specific questions or would like to prod me to draft that post sooner rather than later…

Meanwhile, to address the burning hunger that you all must be experiencing, with respect to knowing whether my dream means that the owl is my spirit animal (or one of them…)…I actually don’t believe that that’s what the dream meant.  I can easily see someone arriving at that conclusion, but I feel that this was more one of those cases of a certain animal spirit blowing through town for a while — maybe even for a slightly extended stay, as it has certain relevant and timely messages to impart to me right now — but that it will then take wing when its work is done, and its mission has been accomplished.  Or to put it another way, it’s a spirit-visitor and maybe a spirit-pal, a spirit-ally, but the owl is (I currently believe, anyway…) not one of my more lifelong, constant, character-defining guides.  And again, I could be wrong here, and will definitely be listening should the owl tell me so!

And none of that’s meant to say that I don’t love the expressive and wise little being, either, because I do…and having one land on my hand in a dream was a real thrill!  I just think that its true home lies elsewhere than with me, but I’m delighted to currently be receiving it here as a most honored guest!

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