Animals do a lot for us. When we have pets, they become part of our family. We sometimes refer to them as “furbabies.” Hanging out on the couch stroking your cat’s fur has been medically proven to lower blood pressure, and reduce stress, and anxiety. Having dogs around can often be a source of childlike joy.
But our Ancestors had a more profound, deeper relationship with animals. In the modern western world, our connection with animals isn’t quite as profound as our Ancestors because we don’t have the same kind of relationship with animals. We buy our food at the grocery store instead of having to hunt it down, and kill it ourselves. And in the lack of that kind of connection, we lose sight of the spiritual nature that our relationships with animals can take.
There is a way, though, to go deeper with animals in the modern world. We can do that by understanding what Animal Medicine is, and start to find, and work with our Animal Helping Spirits (a.k.a., Power Animals, or Animal Medicine).
What Is Animal Medicine?
Where I’m from, there are at least 3 - tribal (community), familial (your individual family unit), and you (your own). These are animal guides that you’re born with, not just random animals that you feel drawn towards. But you also have animal guides that show up temporarily for moments when you need their gifts the most.
Traditionally, I was taught not to speak of my Animal Medicine to other people, as it can offend your Helping Spirits. The rule in my practice is that you don’t tell anyone what your Animal Medicine is (i.e., Fox), unless they give you a personal name to call them. In other words: if your power animal tells you the personal name of “Redfoot,” and it is a Fox, you can tell others that it’s a Fox, but keep the personal name secret. But if they don’t give you a personal name, you have to keep the animal type (Fox, in our example) a secret.
In the world of Shamanic spiritual practice, “medicine” is not the same concept as our modern world of medical practice. In the western world, we define “medicine” as a preparation that is meant to help with prevention or treatment of disease or illness.
In a Shamanic practice, medicine can help with the prevention or treatment of disease, as all illness is viewed as originating from a spiritual root cause. However, this is not what we’re referring to. When we speak of Medicine in a Shamanic sense, we’re speaking of wisdom, power, protection, and guidance that can help us in life. By listening to, and taking to heart the wisdom of the Spirits, we can navigate through difficult life circumstances, heal old emotional trauma, and generally become a better, more whole person. The point of Animal Medicine, as we define it here, is to assist us in life, healing, emotional well-being, and much more.
What I call "Medicine," is the gifts you embody. These are things you can do in the world. Whether you're a healer, or a seer, or a balancer of energies, or any number of other labels you might identify with, these are gifts. The gifts you bring to the world from your Ancestral lineage, from your Animal Spirit Helpers, and Spiritual Teachers - these are "medicine" to help heal the world.
As a modern person who probably doesn’t have a connection to Indigenous cultures, we need to make sure that we’re doing something all our own here. As modern Shamanic Practitioners, we have our own way of doing things that is suited to our lives, lifestyles, and the modern world we have to live in. It is not necessary to engage in cultural appropriation in order to find a Shamanic practice that works for us.
I recommend calling in your Animal Medicine with a ceremony. After performing a short Ceremony for this, it’s quite common to start having repeated encounters in nature with animals, or recurring dreams with the same animal in them. A simple Ceremony might include time spent grounding, lighting some incense, and a candle, and calling in the directions. Once that’s done, you can go within to your inner landscape, and call out to ask for signs, or for your Animal Medicine to appear. Close down the Ceremony with a simple prayer of gratitude, release the directions, and ground again.
By going within, and following a few simple protocols, we can meet our animal medicine on the inner planes. I know it's not acceptable to some people to use example from popular culture, but it's one of the best ways to get a point across if you need some visual information. If you’re not sure what finding a Power Animal in your inner world might look like, one of the best examples I like to give from pop culture is an episode of Star Trek: Voyager. In Season 1, Episode 6 (“The Cloud”), First Officer Chakotay helps Captain Janeway discover her animal guide.
Sometimes, repeated encounters with unusual animals can be messages from the Spirits that the archetypal Spirit of that animal is one of our Helping Spirits. So spend some time in nature, and be observant of your surroundings. If you don’t usually see hawks, for example, and then suddenly, for three days straight, you see a hawk in the neighborhood, that could be an indicator that the hawk is one of your Animal Medicines. Have you had repeated encounters with animals that you might not normally see in your environment?
Sometimes, our animal guides appear to us in dreams. This is especially true if you encounter the animal in your dreams repeatedly. It doesn’t always have to be the same dream, but you can meet the same animal in different dreams over several nights, sometimes months or years. I once had a recurring dream of when I lived in a townhouse, and there was always a white tiger who curled at the base of the steps in the dream. In my opinion, that tiger was part of my animal medicine, and it carried a protective, motherly energy with it. Have you had recurring dreams - even different dreams - where the same animal makes an appearance?
Document any dreams you remember. For several years, I talked to myself before falling asleep, and I would tell myself, “You will remember any dream that has important information, and only those dreams.” I stopped remembering dreams for several years, unless there was important information for me, and that was around the time that I had the recurring dream of the white tiger.
Deepening our relationships to the world of animals in our modern society can have a profound impact on our lives.
Connecting with them in a Shamanic spiritual practice is one way to do that. Exploring our inner connection to Animal Medicine (a.k.a., Power Animals, or Animal Helping Spirits) can assist us in healing our own emotional wounds, and receiving powerful wisdom, and guidance.
Have you worked with any Animal Helping Spirits?
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