The Power Animal
Awaken your potential
There is an ancient connection between animals and humans. Much of our DNA is shared. Indigenous cultures have legends about a time when humans and animals spoke the same language. Many nations have chosen animals such as eagles, lions and bears as their totem to represent their strength. Modern human beings now live primarily in the head, as opposed to the spirit, and consequently are not in touch with their shamanic past. But their spirit and their primal self can relate to the world of power animals.
Shamans throughout the ages have seen that human beings have a guardian in the spirit world in the form of a power animal. The power animal holds the essential power of that particular animal. If it’s a deer, then it embodies the spirit and wisdom of all deer, and it has the ability to communicate to humans. This animal spirit can take on the role of a guardian that helps children survive illness as well as external dangers they encounter during childhood. Some tribes believe that a child would be unlikely to survive without the help of the power animal. Once you have reached adulthood, an animal spirit continues to protect you for the rest of your life. But it has other functions as well. It assists you, as the name implies, to come into your power.
Amongst many indigenous tribes it was seen to be essential that a young person found and identified their power animal in order to become successful in their roles as adults. Receiving the help of a power animal could make the difference between being a hunter and being a great hunter. In other words, knowing your power animal, and having a strong connection to it, enhances your skills in life. If each individual in a community is strong and awakens their full potential, the community is strong, and can survive and thrive. This principle still applies amongst many native people today.
The Medicine of Each Animal
Power animals, or spirit animals, are supernatural powers that share their strengths and gifts with the humans. The nature of these gifts depends on the qualities of the animal itself. A hawk has speed and the ability to strike with precision. It knows how to hunt, how to go after the things it needs. The crane on the other hand has a beautiful dance, and its song is otherworldly. From a shaman’s perspective, its call proclaims good news. It also has the power of balance, and can stand motionless on one leg for a very long time, as in meditation.
If the hawk is your power animal, the animal will empower you with the strength of the hunter. Likewise, if your power animal is the crane, it will gift you with grace, meditative stillness, and the ability to bring news from the otherworld.
The power of authenticity
The two birds hawk and crane have different gifts, but like all wild animals, they share the power of being authentic. They are always themselves, and do not pretend to be anything else. In this way, power animals are also your teachers and guides. If you open up to learn from them, they will show you how to live in the world, and teach you how to become your authentic self. This is connected to the animal’s ability to observe without the mind commenting or judging. As such, the animal’s acuity resides in its still, aware centre. It is not trapped in the false mind-or-ego identity that most humans are caught in. The power animals can guide you into the great mystery where everything is connected in the web of life. In the shamanic universe, everything is imbued with consciousness, and everything has a spiritual essence. The animal spirit can take you on a journey into the place where you realise that all life is connected and all is ultimately one.
Another key function of a power animal is that it keeps you as healthy as possible. Close contact with the power animal can help you with good health and strengthen your immune system. This has to do with the shamanic concept of power, which really means sacred power, or spiritual power. The teaching here is that by filling yourself with spiritual power, in this case through contact with your power animal, you make yourself power-filled, which in turn gives you protection. This means that the spirit power is so strong in you that it is more difficult for disease to enter and take hold of you. This includes attack from bacteria and virus. There are of course many other factors that influence your state of health, but if you get ill, the spirit of your power animal can help you recover. Being filled with the power of your animal guardian is a good health insurance. Power animals are also called upon in shamanic healing sessions, and can help to cure illness.
The guidance of instinctual wisdom
Spirit animals can also be contacted in their role as guides, because they possess the wisdom of their entire species. You will rarely see a wild animal in a state of confusion. They have an instinctual, deep inner wisdom from which they act. They are good at making the most intelligent decision very quickly, and you can seek guidance from them on this level. The guidance can also come through physical animas in the form of signs and omens. This type of guidance has played a major role in most, if not all, ancient cultures. Spirit animals will also bring guidance by appearing in your dreams.
Find your power animal
There are different ways to discover your power animal, but traditionally it is done in dreams and on vision quests where you fast for three or four days, and ask for it to reveal itself to you. When you have found your power animal, from a shaman’s perspective you then have an obligation to give back to the circle of life, the sacred hoop. This is needed so that you can come into right relationship with everything that is, including with yourself.
In my two books, ‘Spirit Animal Guides’, and ‘Calling Us Home’, I explore the concept of power animals in detail. I explain how to find yours, and how to stay connected with it.
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