What is a Totem Animal?

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In Native American beliefs, a totem animal is a spirit that takes the form of a familiar animal and embodies the symbolic qualities of that animal.  It can also be held in a sacred object, or be a symbol of a tribe, or clan.  The word “totem” comes from the Native American Ojibwe culture, but concept of the spirit animal is common throughout many cultures and times.  In Wicca, it is commonly thought of as a teacher spirit that can take any form, or a symbol that can help in our personal development.

I had a dream some years ago, where a gecko was guiding me into my life’s path.  When I awoke, I looked up the qualities that “gecko” embodies.  Unsurprising to me, a gecko can symbolize “life change” because they can change color, since they are often night creatures they have the title of “dream keepers” and they symbolize “mystical awakening.”  All of which was taking place in my life in a powerful way.

Last year I traveled to the Amazon jungle and took part in a native shaman’s ceremony.  During the ceremony, just outside our palm-roofed hut, an owl began to call.  It felt like he was speaking directly to me.  It was the call of the Spectacled Owl.  The totem of Owl is often viewed as the messenger of the spirit world, he is a seer of souls, and a guide to the spirit world.  This has been misinterpreted as a harbinger of death, but just like the Death Card in the Tarot deck, it usually does not mean physical death, but freedom from the restraints of the physical world and guidance into the teachings of the spirit.  Of course Owl is often seen as a symbol of wisdom and knowledge.

I feel that I am being encouraged on my spiritual path.  My book, The Call of the Spectacled Owl; An Artist’s Journey thru History, the Amazon, and Spirit (with Travel Tips) chronicles part of that journey.  All the writing, re-writing and illustrations are done, and it is going through its final editing.  I look forward to sharing this with you soon.

  • Patricia Robin Woodruff
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