What’s an Animal Ally?
What a great question! Some would say that an animal spirit guide is the same as a power animal or animal totem. They are considered a vehicle through which Spirit communicates with us, an invitation to expand our understanding of ourselves and the great unknown. To this end, the Manataka differentiate between animal allies, namely those that come into our life as a:
- Messenger guide
- Shadow animal guide
- Journey animal guide
- Life animal guide
Depending on how long an animal ally’s support is needed and in what way — through mirror or contrast — an animal totem may be considered to be any one of these four types of guides.
Beyond this, there’s argument about whether a power animal is that which corresponds to your birth date, or whether you can choose an animal totem. I will leave you to sort through the details if it’s important to you. What I’d prefer to focus on is what to do when an animal shows up for you, offering its unique medicine of perspective and being.
How do Animal Totems Show up?
During Reiki sessions, it’s not unusual for me to call in a guide for clients. This is especially true when we are navigating self-limiting and outdated thought patterns and beliefs. I might start with feeling out, does the kind of guidance needed feel like plant, mineral, or animal? Other times, I might just ask for an animal specifically. If animal medicine is what’s most helpful, an animal ally will arrive. It never ceases to amaze how eloquently they embody and mirror what is needed!
Some folks find their animal totem simply shows up, and keeps coming up. Perhaps you keep seeing red-tailed hawks, or people keep mentioning them to and around you. You finally think, “Hm! What is it about red-tailed hawks??” Then you might go online and find an article like this on Red-Tailed Hawk Alliance.
Learn about Your Animal Spirit Guide
When a power animal shows up, the medicine they offer is their way of being. Our job is to listen, to watch, to study, to embody their medicine. What do you notice about this animal’s physical nature? Emotional nature? Social behavior? Think about it like a scientific study. Here’s a sample of questions Home Science Tools suggests when exploring lady bug, for example:
- Where did you find the most ladybugs? Were they on leaves, on tree bark, in the grass, on flowers, or somewhere else?
- Were they in groups or by themselves?
- Based on where you found your ladybugs, what kind of home do you think a ladybug would like? Describe it or draw a picture of it.
- Did you see any ladybugs eating? What were they eating?
- What can ladybugs do to protect themselves? Do they have places to hide?
- Do ladybugs have wings? Can they fly? How far do you think they can fly?
- Do all of your ladybugs have the same number of spots? What do you think their spots are for?
- What color are your ladybugs? Why is that a good color for them?
- How many legs do they have? Do you notice anything special about their legs?
- What do their heads look like? Do they have eyes? Do they have antennae?
In addition to reading about the animal’s physical nature, I’ll also often google, “[animal] animal totem” to get a good list of impressions and current appreciation of an animal’s medicine. This is not to say that someone else’s experience is ‘right,’ or even the right interpretation for you. So, rather than thinking of this information gathering process as ‘truth’ gathering, I invite you to think of it as an exploration of ways of being. What resonates for you? What in what you’ve discovered feels supportive, inspiring and opening to you? Go with it! All the other stuff? Don’t worry about it!
Reflect on Your Animal Ally
After information gathering, you might imagine shape-shifting into your animal. For example, were you working with ladybug, what would it feel like to shrink down, feel all these new legs, your antennae, hard shell, to flap your wings, etc? Notice what doing so changes about your breathing, your posture, emotions, and thoughts. Remember, what you’re exploring is a new way of being.; so have fun with it! See what it’s like to break out of old habits and try something different, even if only for five or ten minutes. Once you get a baseline for how you might feel differently incorporating this ally’s medicine; then you might recall that experience in different situations. For example, how might you respond differently at work if you were living lady bug medicine? What about at home? etc.
It can help to keep pictures around of your animal spirit guide to remind you of its medicine and your intention to expand your experience. It’s easy to get wallpaper for your smartphone lock screen or for your desktop that features your animal. You can also print some images out to put around your home or office. Every time you see your ally, you reinforce your connection to the medicine.
Thank your Animal Totem
As with anything or anyone, it benefits all to share appreciation. This might look like donating time or energy towards a cause working to protect or support your animal totem. Googling “[animal totem] conservation” should give you some great starting points for this. You might also consider offering a personal, heart-felt thank you at the end of meditations with your animal, or before bed; wishing all beings be well, all beings be happy.