Totem animals are big in the new age scene. The shamans have them. And the wiccans. Even some yogis are into them. In this context, in the new age vernacular, a totem is a spirit animal helper. You, as a human, embody traits of your totem animal and that is part of your gift, your medicine bundle to do your work in the world. The concept of totems is old and comes from native peoples from many lands. Totems were often ancestral and denoted groups within groups of native peoples. There was spiritual significance.
I like this as a concept. I like this as a way of learning new ways to be and act in the world. I mean no disrespect to any culture, be it new or old. I just think that you should know how your totem animal takes a crap before you can fully claim it as your spirit guide. My guess is that native peoples from long ago knew this information. They were much more connected to the natural world then many of us nowadays.
I’m not discounting spirituality here. I do however think you should know the habits of your creature before you tell me how the leopard is your power animal because you’re fierce just like a leopard. You should know what part of the world it lives in. What it eats and how it gets its’ food. Take time to observe it in its’ natural habitat if you can. And if you can’t, the zoo or a Planet Earth DVD will work. What do it’s tracks look like? How does it reproduce? And what does its’ shit look like? It doesn’t get more real than that.
If you suspect a creature from the wild world might have significance for you, create a journal or short study of that species. In it include:
-Name (both scientific and common)
-Drawing of the creature with arrows pointing to field marks (these are used to easily ID the creature)
-Range & Habitat
-Quick sketch of tracks and scat
-Any personal encounters you’ve had
-Any other interesting information that you come across
Then, if you can, go and find that animal!
Here are some of my favorite field study guides:
Mammal Tracks & Sign by Mark Elbroch
Wildlife of the Pacific Northwest by David Moskowitz
Mammals Peterson Field Guide
Animal Skulls by Mark Elbroch
Cat Attacks by Jo Deurbrouck
Sibley Field Guide to Birds: Western by David Allen Sibley