Miserable critters or: The power animal

The power animal is one of those primal shamanic concepts that you inevitably stumble across when you get involved with shamanism. The name alone is a little misleading, as it is the German translation of “Spirit Animal”.
Gerhard Zirkel
A real animal?

No, don’t panic, you don’t need a pet when you do shamanic work. Although in some cases this would have a certain appeal; the power animals also include predators, dinosaurs or even dragons and unicorns.

But it is not about real animals in the sense of material, real living beings.

In short, a power animal, also known as a spirit or totem animal, is a spiritual being that shows itself to you in animal form. It is a kind of companion in the spiritual world. Not just any old one, however, but a very special one. There is much more to it than meets the eye.

Origin and development

The idea of the power animal cannot be traced back to a specific shamanic tradition. Protective or helping spirits, which appear in the form of living beings, are known in the shamanic cultures of Siberia or the Arctic as well as from the North and South American Indians or the traditions of Australia.

The fact that these helpers come in animal form is due to the fact that many cultures assume that the human kingdom emerged from the animal kingdom. Animals are therefore the predecessors of humans, so to speak, and this is also reflected in the understanding of the spiritual world. Gods often appear in the form of animals or plants.

Traditional shamans often “transform” into animals during their rituals, imitating their behavior and thus taking on parts of their abilities and energy.

Traditionally, these spiritual beings are asked for help or they are asked for advice in the sense of vision quests or in everyday life. They are very personal helpers (spiritus familiaris), in contrast to the more divine beings that are generally invoked by shamans.

Power animals are the shaman’s personal helpers, so to speak. They can act as a link between the different levels of the Otherworld, they can provide answers and carry out tasks. They are advisors, protectors, friends and sometimes also critics.

Shamanic work or why else?

The shaman or shamanic worker always has their power animal or power animals with them and can use them like a team of specialists. They help him to find his way in the spiritual world and to understand connections. They protect, guide and give advice.

Some shamans, including myself, have several power animals and also some so-called helper animals that only appear sporadically or accompany certain phases of life.

But you don’t have to be a shaman to have a power animal and use the contact. In principle, every person is able to connect with the spiritual world and use this contact to develop themselves.

And every person also has at least one power animal, in addition to various other spirit helpers. So even as an interested layperson, you can establish contact with your animal totem and perhaps make your first experiences on the spiritual level.

Which animal?

Which animal appears as your power animal can be very different and its “strength” does not depend on its appearance. So of course everyone wants the strong bear or the cool wolf. But a mouse, a cockroach or a fly fulfill the same purpose. Perhaps even a better one for you, because the appearance of the animal has a message in itself.

While the bear is just right for one person, another may need the energy of the fly or the dolphin.

Or that of a mythical creature, such as a unicorn or dragon. Although they would be very cool again. Much more important than the manifestation is the contact with your power animal or power animals and how much you involve them in your daily work.

Very small animals in particular can have far-reaching meanings, especially if they live in large groups. The ant is one such case. On its own it is rather small and inconspicuous, but anyone who has ever seen a really large anthill, or a road of wandering ants in the jungle, will get an idea of the immense power that this animal can develop as a power or helper animal.

The strongest power animal is of absolutely no use to you if you don’t work with it. What this work actually looks like depends on your personal way of working.

I have had the most productive contacts with my power animals in the most impossible situations. The wolf can sit in the passenger seat while I’m speeding down the highway. Or the bison gets in the way when I’m about to do something “stupid” or it stands behind me when I need protection.

But they are also almost always present during my work with clients, finding solutions, recognizing problems or making contact with other helping beings that I need.

I personally see them in my mind’s eye and I can also talk to them. Other people feel them, know that they are there, or hear them. I have heard of colleagues who become power animals during their work and see the world through their eyes.

I have made it a habit to always explicitly invite my power animals at the beginning of my work, when I open the sacred space. I only find that polite when I’m already working with them. You also greet your colleagues when you come into the office.

How do I find such a power animal?

There are several ways to find your power animal. The classic is the shamanic journey, which you also use to make contact. However, it may well be that it manifests itself in you materially. If you have a really intense relationship with a particular animal, it could also be a power or helper animal on a spiritual level.

If a particular animal often or always appears in similar situations, this could be a clue. Either it is a power or helper animal or it has a special message for you. It can also be a sign if certain parts of an animal, such as bones, teeth, etc., keep coming back to you.

It can also be dreams, spontaneous intuitions or simply the knowledge of it, without you having to be able to explain where this knowledge comes from.

The only truly sustainable way to establish intensive contact with one’s power animal or power animals is the shamanic journey.

There are numerous tables and explanations circulating on the Internet according to which you can determine your power animal purely intellectually. Along the lines of: “If you have hobby xy, your power animal is xyz”. Some colleagues also offer to find your power animal and simply tell you.

In my opinion, that’s a load of bullshit!

A power animal is a very personal matter that no one can simply show you from the outside. You yourself will have to go to him and get in touch with him. After all, it’s not just about finding it. It is about getting to know this extremely powerful spirit helper and working with it.

Can’t you? You don’t have one?

You can! Your power animal has already arrived. If you are prepared to look, it will show itself to you. Of course, you can help by undertaking shamanic trance journeys, for example, with the clear aim of finding your power animal. And of course you can be accompanied and guided by a shaman or attend a seminar.

But you will make the contact yourself. Whatever it looks like.

Sometimes it takes time until you find the contact. It’s not uncommon for your mind to get in the way. At one of my earlier seminars I had a participant who couldn’t find her power animal for ages.

She collected owls. Figures, stuffed animals, pictures, the owl has always been her favorite animal and her hobby. That’s what she told us. Again and again. But she didn’t find her power animal. What had happened? Her mind told her that her power animal could hardly be the owl, as she had always collected them and her mind would surely play tricks on her … the end of the story was her realization that the owl was indeed her power animal! And that she was there the whole time.

Another participant only ever saw black when she went searching. Somehow it always felt cramped and it was always dark. Nothing to see. It took us a long time to figure out that she would become her power animal and see the world through her animal’s eyes. A snake in a pitch-black cave …

Others vehemently refuse to recognize a particular animal as a power animal. A great example is the spider … very common in people who are actually afraid of them or disgusted by them. In such cases, the power animal is also a learning task.

Incidentally, there is a theory that some people even develop a physical resemblance to their power animal. Similar to how masters and pets sometimes look alike. You can decide for yourself whether I look like a mixture of wolf, bison and crow …

The meaning of your power animal

Once you have found it, you can also ask it what it means to you. Ok, I admit it, this is for advanced users. What you can do to get started is to pick up one of the books on the subject available on the market and look it up. Especially the books by Jeanne Ruland are highly recommended to get a first insight into which power animal has which fundamental meaning.

This can only be very general, because the meaning always results from the animal AND your interaction with the animal. But you will always get a first clue and you can build on this.

Your relationship with your power animal will grow over the years anyway, because your connection is lifelong and probably not even limited to this one life.

Urban legends and funny fairy tales

There are a few wild stories circulating in shaman circles about the power animal. One that persistently comes up again and again is the alleged danger of getting “stuck” on such a power animal journey.

There is said to be some poor sap somewhere who accidentally became his power animal and had to spend his life as a sheep, rabbit or mouse from then on. Depending on who is telling the story and how cheerful the audience already is … Strangely enough, it never seemed to become a wolf or a dragon, it was always a slightly embarrassing animal.

That is of course a fairy tale. As on any other shamanic journey, you cannot get “stuck” on a power animal journey and you do not run the risk of not finding your way back.

A search like this can be confusing because you might discover a few sides or skills about yourself that you didn’t have on your radar before. But in return you will have a lifelong companion in the spiritual world who will never let you down.

If you have any questions or would like to get to know your power animal, please write to me.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *