Power animals have long been an important element of Shamanism, an ancient healing religion. Following the faith’s basic principle that everything is alive and carries a distinct amount of wisdom and power with it wherever it goes, animals play an essential role in a Shaman’s life. The animals are truly believed to be a help and healer to anyone who seeks them out, and are considered to be a major path toward spiritual and emotional success.
Shamanism teaches the belief that everyone has power animals (otherwise known as animal spirits) which live in the soul of each individual, protecting them from harm and illness. This belief is very similar to the guardian angel concept found in many Christian faiths. Power animals are thought to keep negative things away while also bestowing various kinds of knowledge and strength.
Shaman children are believed to have a few power animals with them from birth. Throughout their life, they will have several animals come and go. If power animals leave a soul without being replaced by another, that person will then be open to all sorts of misfortune in life.
Any animal can be considered a power animal, though domesticated creatures are usually left out of the equation since they are already considered to be helping humankind through companionship and other forms of basic service.
Nearly all shamanic cultures believe in Animal Allies or helpers. These creatures have the appearance and many of the characteristics and behaviour patterns of ordinary animals, birds, and fish, but they can communicate with the shaman. Sometimes these animals become protectors and guides for the shaman, both while she/he is journeying in the Otherworlds and in the physical realm.
The Celts believed in individual Animal Allies or helpers, as shown by their legends, but they also had clan animals. Many of the Celtic clan names reflected this. Among the Native Americans these would be called totem animals. The Celtic clans had banners on which were displayed the picture or symbol of their clan animal, as with the banners of the Fianna. Individual devices were painted on shields and sometimes tattooed on the body. This may well be the origin of the heraldic devices that became so popular in later times.
Clan animals, like the individual Animal Allies, choose you; you do not choose them. The ancient shamanic way of finding an Animal Ally was to go on a journey to the Otherworld. There, the shaman watched it carefully; when she/he saw an animal, bird, fish, or other creature three or more times during the journey, the shaman knew she/he had been accepted by that creature. Although a shaman usually has one very important Animal Ally who is a close companion and protector during journeying, it is common to have several others who help with certain kinds of problems.The animal may appear because the shaman needs help with a particular personal problem or trait, an immediate shamanic problem, or some event that will occur in the future. Animal Allies come and go, sometimes without explanation.
Getting To Know Power Animals
Since the world places so many physical and emotional demands upon us over the course of a life, Shamanism has come up with a wide variety of power animals. It helps to get to know a handful of these creatures if you are hoping to learn more about Shamanism.
The jaguar is a power animal that represents fearlessness. The wisdom of this endangered cat species includes the ability to overcome fears of darkness, losing one’s way and moving to a new and unfamiliar place. The jaguar is also known within Shamanism for being a shape-shifter and exhibiting psychic abilities. You may hear the jaguar referred to as the “earth father.” Much like how the lion is the “king of the jungle” in many childhood tales, the jaguar is considered to be supervisor of the earth and ruler over all who live in it.
Jaguar's Wisdom Includes:
Seeing the roads within chaos
Understanding the patterns of chaos
Moving without fear in the darkness
Facilitating soul work
Moving in unknown places
Black Jaguar's Wisdom Includes :
Keeper of the circular time continuum
Gatekeeper to the Unknowable
All wisdom listed above for Jaguar
The orca, or killer whale, is known for being a “creator of the cosmos.” In Shamanism, whales represent the mechanics of earth’s functionality. In Shamanist myth, whales are able to control rainfall; create stars and planets; and heal the human body with its vocal vibrations. In Shamanism, orcas have long been regarded as guardians of the ocean and protectors of humankind.
Orca's Wisdom Includes:
Creator of the Cosmos
Having the ability to convert raw matter into stars, planets, etc.
Freeing the soul from the physical body
Controlling rainfall on Earth
Using the vibrational energy of song to heal
Assisting humans in finding their soul's song
Seeing the unseen
Teaching the ability to seal soul fissures and energy leaks
The crow may seem an unlikely power animal candidate. However, the crow is regarded in Shamanist faith as a creature that transports souls out of the dark and into the light. He is also known as a “judge” of sorts, representing all things ethical and fair.
Crow/Rook's Wisdom Includes:
Guardian of the place before existence
Ability to move in space and time
Carrier of souls from darkness into light
Working without fear in darkness
Guidance while working in shadow
Moves freely in the void
Understands all things related to ethics
Polar bears stand for introspection and solitude. This animal is a peaceful representative of the world’s life and death cycle. Shamans recognize polar bears to be a powerful interpreter of dreams; these bears also possess strength during adversity and a harsh spirit of revenge when unfairly challenged.
While all power animals have unique traits useful for various stages of life, there are two animals especially notable within Shamanism for their unique guidance and capabilities.
Polar Bear's Wisdom Includes:
Ability to navigate along the Earth’s magnetic lines
Expert swimmer through emotional waters
Finding one way back from the brink
Ability to find sustenance in barren landscapes
Strength in the face of adversity
Communication with Spirit
Death and rebirth
Creature of dreams, shamans, mystics and visionaries
Defense and revenge
The horse is noted for its endurance and adventurous spirit – two qualities most human beings desire throughout their life. Horses have represented strength and freedom more consistently throughout written history than any other animal. This totem animal showed up in fantasy fables and ancient folklore long before the advent of Shamanism. Power animal scholars appreciate the horse for its unbreakable spirit, and many Shamans seek out the horse’s ability to remain loyal while taking on great adventures. The significance of the horse power animal becomes more apparent to a Shaman in times of travel, relocation, uncertainty and changing relationships.
Horse/Pony/Mustang's Wisdom Includes:
Freedom to run free
Control of the environment
Awareness of power achieved with true cooperation
Expanding one’s own potential abilities
Friendship and Cooperation
Guardian of travelers
Warns of possible danger
Guide to overcoming obstacles
Sharing popularity with the horse totem, the owl power animal is also sought out by Shamans. Owls inspire awe in all who see them and, though they are peaceful and graceful creatures, they can fiercely defend themselves when the need arises. Owls also know how to accurately follow their instincts, a trait many people wish to acquire. For this reason, the owl totem is associated with character discernment; quick yet correct decision making skills; and the ability to make the transition from darkness into light.
Owl's Wisdom Includes:
Silent and swift movement
Seeing behind masks
Messenger of secrets and omens
Link between the dark, unseen world and the world of light
Comfort with shadow self
How to Find Your Power Animal
The healing power of animals is apparent to anyone who has ever had a special pet or watched a touching nature film. However, in Shamanism, your discernment is challenged to go a few steps further as you learn how to find your power animal. No matter what your belief system is, it can be fun to explore the different animal options to discover which one you might be associated with.
Since Shamanism teaches that an individual only has a handful of power animals throughout a lifetime, power animals do not change very often; these animals can then be recognized by whoever wants to get to know them. When it comes to knowing how to find your power animal, Shamans maintain that each animal comes into our lives for a specific purpose. In order for the animal to help us, we must contemplate what purposes a specific animal may fulfill in our lives.
Finding your power animal begins with thinking about a certain creature. Some Shamans find when they meditate upon a certain animal, they feel positive emotions such as comfort or happiness. They then may also make a list of every animal that comes into their head and patiently allow this process to take as long as it needs to – possibly even over the course of several weeks.
After a completed list is formed, they once again pick a handful and meditate on them. They may ask the animals to join them in this meditation, so there is ample time to communicate with each one individually. There is also a certain etiquette involved with talking to power animals, namely remembering to thank them for their time before you say goodbye to each one during your meditation.
Despite all this, Shamanism teaches that power animals actually select you, meaning you can’t pick a bear simply because you like bears. Power animals are not limited to actual, existing species; some mythical creatures can be power animals as well.
Wolf, Lynx, Coyote and Rabbit/Hare
Heron, Owl, Cheetah, Lion and Hummingbird
Polar Bear, Tiger, Frog/Tadpole, Lizard and Mole
Deer/Hart, Goose, Butterfly/Caterpillar, Duck,
Alligator/Crocodile and Mantis
Otter, Fox, Swan and Bat
Dolphin/Porpoise, Porcupine, Elephant and Eagle
Horse/Pony/Mustang, Willie Wagtail, Squirrel, Badger, Giraffe
Hawk, Dingo, Pelican and Vulture/Buzzard/Condor
Caribou/Reindeer, Sea Eagle, Hippopotamus and Sheep/Ram/Ewe
Buffalo/Bison, Spider, Opossum and Raccoon
Snake/Serpent, Goat, Damselfly/Dragonfly and Skunk
Turtle/Tortoise, Weasel/Ferret/Mink, Armadillo and Beaver
Zebra, Penguin, Moose, Woodpecker/Sapsucker and Turkey
Llama/Guanaco/Vicuna, Koala, Peacock/Peahen and Rhinoceros
Seal, Antelope, Snow Leopard and Gull
Leopard, Bee, Hyena and Cardinal/Redbird
Black Panther, Baboon, Hedgehog and Jay
Camel/Dromedary, Falcon, Lemur and Grouse
Jackal, Goldfinch, Flamingo and Dove/Pigeon
Mouse/Lemming/Vole, Cow/Bull, Roadrunner and Chickadee
Octopus/Squid, Pig/Sow/Boar, Ant and Wasp/Hornet/Yellow Jacket
Crab, Chicken/Cock/Hen, Warthog and Beetle/Ladybug
Raven, Sloth, Gorilla and Donkey/Ass/Burro
Orangutan, Kangaroo, Panda and Roach
Elk, Manatee/Dugong, Parrot/Macaw and Ostrich
Wolverine, Bluebird and Monkey
Osprey, Cobra, Manta Ray and Grasshopper/Locust/Katydid
Golden Eagle, Meerkat/Suricate, Shark and Robin
Bear, Jellyfish, Anteater and Sparrow
Chameleon, Quail, Walrus and Scorpion
Salmon, Ibis and Rat
Whale, Crane, Wren, Mongoose and Toad
Dog, Cat, Echidna and Kingfisher/Kookaburra
Bobcat, Tarantula, Seahorse and Meadowlark
Wildebeest, Loon/Great Northern Diver, Hornbill and Platypus
Egret, Blackbird, Tasmanian Devil and Oyster
Musk Ox, Flying Fish, Snail/Slug and Finch
Kiwi, Woodchuck/Marmot/Ground Hog, Peccary/Javalina and Piranha
Sea Slug, Mosquito, Red Panda and Mockingbird
Wild Dog, Albatross, Moth, Starling/Mynah
Bee Eater, Bacteria/Protozoa, Hoopoe, Fly/Maggot/Gnat
Eel, Centipede, Nuthatch, Kinkajou
Kite, Titmouse, Swallow and Cricket
Prairie Dog, Thrush, Magpie and Bush Baby
Wombat, Pheasant, Salamander and Worm
Lobster/Crayfish, Chimpanzee, Canary and Stork
Cockatoo/Galah, Virus, Anemone and Junco
Firefly, Anhinga/Cormorant, Goldfish/Koi and Toucan
Parakeet, Muskrat, Dhole/Asian Whistling Dog and Fish
Ocelot, Coral, Nightingale and Tick
Partridge, Shrimp/Krill/Prawn, Stinkbug and Fantail
Oriole, Cuckoo, Chipmunk and Komodo Dragon
Barracuda, Waxwing, Guinea Pig/Hampster and Snipe
Leafy Seadragon, Tapir, Civet and Cassowary
Clouded Leopard, Bass, Carp and Flea
Caracal/Desert Lynx/Red Lynx, Nighthawk, Waxbill and Cuttlefish
Aye-Aye, Puffin, Whydah/Widow Bird and Conch
Resplendent Quetzal, Lungfish and Clam/Mussel
Mandrill, Termite, Sandpiper/Peep and Sand Dollar
Binturong/Bearcat, Leech, Fruit Fly,
Shrike/Butcher Bird and Gallinule/Moorhen/'Alae 'Ula'
Gazelle, Flycatcher, Emu and Horseshoe Crab
Warbler, Booby, Mayfly/Shadfly and Secretary Bird
Clown Fish/Anemone Fish, Minnow, Pine Siskin
and Beta/Betta/Siamese Fighting Fish
Angelfish, Lionfish, Grackle and Marlin/Kajiki
Serval, Lorikeet, Frigatebird and Perch
Sea Turtle, Flicker, Hermit Crab and Kingbird
Pufferfish/Blowfish/Porcupine Fish, Caracara, Spoonbill and Starfish
Anole, Kudu/Nyala/Eland, Golden Lion Tamarin and Sponge
Walking Stick, Vervet Monkey, Rhinoceros Beetle and Dung Beetle
Oryx/Gemsbok, Sea Snake, Nautilus and Patas Monkey
Springbok, Soft-shell Turtle, Sea Fan and Waterbuck