Animal Totems: Symbols of Personal Power
How to Work with Animal Totems
The knowledge of totems has come to us mainly though the teachings of the Native Americans. They have a strong belief in the power of nature and would dress themselves in the skins or masks of different animals to access that animal's powers or abilities, known as ‘medicine'. In more ancient times, gods and goddesses were often portrayed as animals.
We have at least one animal totem, called a Power Animal that is with us at all times, much like our Guardian Angel or Spirit Guide. This animal or animals represent our main character traits. Although our ego would prefer for us to have a glamorous or powerful totem, that is not always reality. All animals have great worth. One is not better than another, but many people get upset if their totem turns out to be a rat, or a spider, or a mosquito. But these animals are as important as any other animal.
There are many ways to find your Power Animal. Is there a particular animal that you have always been drawn to? What animals do you collect? What animal do you see most often when you go out in nature? Which is your favorite animal at the zoo? You can also find your Power Animal by going into meditation and asking this animal to make itself known to you. You may see an animal, sense an animal, or one animal may start showing itself to you in your daily life. You can also journey to find your Power Animal, but this can be dangerous without training.
Once you know what your Power Animal is, learn everything you can about the animal. This will help you to understand how this animal represents your character and how you can best use its medicine. For instance let's assume you find that your Power Animal is a Rat. Not necessarily the Power Animal most of us would choose, but important nonetheless. People with Rat as a totem are success oriented, a bit hyper, and very perceptive. They are also extremely adaptive and intelligent. These are characteristics anyone would be proud to have, and from a ‘disgusting' Rat! So whatever Power Animal presents itself to you, accept it and honor it's medicine.
We can also have totems that come into our lives for a moment, a day, or a year. If you are suddenly seeing squirrels everywhere, you may be being told that you are not as prepared as you need to be. A deer appearing in an open field may be telling you to pay attention, there may be danger around. If you happen to hit an animal with your car, it is the animal's way of offering you some of its spirit. The energy of the animal will become part of you. It is better to thank the animal for its sacrifice than to feel sadness.
We all have character traits that we are missing. Let's say you let people take advantage of you. To change this, you would find an animal that commands respect and ask it to help you. One of these animals is the skunk. To access its medicine, you could meditate on skunk, place pictures or figures of it around, or simply talk to it and ask it to help you to be more respecting of yourself.
By being more aware of the nature around us, we can learn a lot about ourselves as well as our environment. Allow nature to share its knowledge and wisdom with you and you may be surprised what you learn.
In Native American tradition each one of us has one, if not several, power animals that operate like guardian angels to provide us insight and guidance throughout our lives.
We can have many animal totems; some may come and others go as we travel through our life's journey. If you have read my story of Ooodee the Owl, you may realize that I have an affinity for owls, as this is one of my totems.
In my own life, I have been blessed with the visits of many totem and power animals; some turned out to be mine while some claimed others. I have been visited by coyote, bear, eagle, bat, the great horned owl, the barn owl, hummingbird, mountain lion, and some creatures that come from other realms (that's for another story).
These visits aren't your ordinary run-of-the-mill I saw the creature on the side-of-the-road type visits. My run-ins have been up close and personal. But this day I would like to share with you my story of the red tail hawk.
I've seen several red tail hawks in my life, but never up close until the last eight years. I've lived in the Sierra Nevada on the western slope for more than twenty years, with a brief five-year split at year thirteen. In 2000, I moved back and have been here since. We moved into our little valley in June of 2000 and promptly discovered that we had a mating pair of red tail hawks in the trees that line the ridge just east of our home.
Between us and the ridge lay our meadows which tend to be excellent hunting grounds for these sharp-eyed and taloned hunters. Near the edge of our meadow stands a young thirty-foot pine tree which serves as our red tail hawk's perch. Red tail hawks are monogamous, mating for life, and tend to stay in one area. Some red tail hawk families and breeds have been known to stay in the same place for over forty-five years, though red tail hawks live for only about fourteen years. It is their offspring that continue the tradition.
In reading Tom and Penelope Pauley's I'm Rich Beyond My Wildest Dreams, I am, I am, I am, Tom tells the story of how a red tail hawk landed next to him on a beach in Southern California. He learned that this had special meaning. In Native American legends and lore, it is believed that if a hawk lands near you, it means that he is bringing a message from the Great Spirit. In Tom's case not only did the hawk land, but then it brought back its mate.
As a rule, red tail hawks don't land near people at all. So this was pretty special. When I read that in their book in 2006, I experienced a twinge of familiarity. I had the same thing happen - only it's a bit different. (She *grins*)
Looking out to our meadows from our deck, which is one story above the ground, one spring day a few years back I noticed that there was a young hawk on the ground about fifty feet away on the edge of our driveway. I walked to the edge of the deck and I could see that it stood looking down the hill at another hawk, which was twice as big.
This larger red tail hawk seemed to be fighting with something - wrestling as it were. For a minute I thought that a huge owl was fighting with my red tail hawk! I ran downstairs and out to the driveway where I stood overlooking the edge of the hill upon which our home is built. I didn't like the look of things - I saw a hawk head which had that Thunderbird flat top and curved beak from Native American lore and a flutter of lots of wings and some screeches - I thought for sure my hawk was being injured.
I picked up a rock and threw it near the birds in hopes of breaking the fight up. Though I loved owls, red tail hawks had recently come into my life and I didn't want either bird hurt.
I got the surprise of my life. My two birds, one of which I thought was an owl - wasn't! There were two red tail hawks, the female being bigger. They'd been mating while the young one cheered them on. So if a red tail hawk brings its mate to your side, there is a message indeed, but what happens when he brings his female to mate with in your presence - and brings baby along for the ride as well?
I still ponder this question as I am not sure where it leads but know the Universe will provide the answer. In reading up on power animals I discovered that in Native American horoscopes my horoscope totem is the red tail hawk, which makes me a messenger of sorts.
In this same horoscope I read that my husband's totem is the large woodpecker. There is an interesting twist to this story. The woodpecker, another creature of nature that spends a lot of time with us, figures in this story with the red tail hawk. The woodpecker has taken a liking to our wooden house, finding lots of nice places to put its nuts.
Thoroughly annoyed by this, my husband bought a BB gun to chase away the woodpeckers without hurting them. He shoots around the woodpeckers with this BB gun in hopes of scaring them away since legally, they are protected. It's his version of behavior modification.
The woodpeckers try to drive their acorn nuts into the small crevices of our home that only they can find. We even put up a "pecker pole" for them in hopes they would peck at it instead of our house. PG&E recently replaced our telephone pole at the edge of our property due to all the "pecking" it had undergone, so when asked, they gave us the old pole for free.
After going to all the trouble of putting up the pole for them complete with lots of woodpecker holes, instead of using it like we suggested they do, they began using it as a staging ground for our home. Not good. Woodpeckers can cause a lot of damage. I told my husband to talk to them, ask them to leave; he naturally declined, being male and liking shooting the BB gun better.
One day I suggested he call in the aid of the red tail hawks - this - before I knew the red tail hawk was my totem and I could call them. At times I know he must think I'm nuts but I've experienced the aid of all sorts of creatures at many different times in my life. He ignored me. However, I did make my bid to my feathered friend on our behalf.
A week later the woodpeckers called upon our house early in the morning and he ran onto the back deck pumping and shooting the BB gun. Just as he got off a shot we heard the cry of the red tail hawk, kreeee, kreee, kree, kreeeeeeee overhead.
We ran around to the front deck just in time to see the red tail hawk swoop down from above and pluck the woodpecker right out of the air. The alpha male woodpecker was gone. The interesting thing to note is that we haven't been bothered since. Oh, every now and then a peck can be heard, but for the most part, the woodpeckers stick to the trees. And if they do peck they try to be oh so quiet.
And my red tail hawk? He slices through the air at the back of the house now and then, but mostly perches right where I can call him if needed. Just the other day when the Wildwinds were up and moving hard and fast he jumped off his pine perch and headed straight for the house, looking me straight in the eye. He turned and banked head on into the oncoming winds kreeing with joy as he did so.
He was looking for that updraft - that thermal - and fighting against the wind with all his strength and joy to get there. I know that he knows to get the greatest lift, sometimes you have to fly straight into the wind.