“Some people talk to animals. Not many listen though. That’s the problem.”
― A.A. Milne
Shamans see Spirit Animals as an integral part of this world as well as in the astral landscape. A Shamanic Witch respects all creatures because they are part of his or her family, part of creation’s tribe, part of Earth’s classroom, and part of the greater classroom of the cosmos. Consequently, all animals, and indeed all living things are worthy of esteem.
Showing Respect for Spirit Animals
Native Americans, Witches, and people of other nature-based spiritual paths show reverence to Animal Spirit Wisdom in numerous ways. In some settings the person might consult animal wisdom to help in healing or to predict the weather. In another, a hunted animal will receive prayers and offerings to thank its spirit and to give the creature peace. Some ancient myths even depict the Earth itself as a great animal, such as a Turtle or Buffalo. These examples give us a starting point for creating an honorable relationship with Animal Spirits and being receptive to their wisdom.
Animal Spirit Teachers
Animal Wisdom becomes very important to our efforts to reconnect with the Earth and improve our rapport with Earth’s spirits. Shamans see Spirit Animals as an integral part of this world as well as in the astral landscape. One story from the Chippewa tribe in Canada illustrates the way in which animals show us better ways of living. A local surveyor determined to build a dam at one specific location. A Medicine Man from that tribe told him this was a terrible idea. When asked about his assertion, the shaman replied that since no beavers were using that earth, then it was obvious that the land was no good for human dams either. Scientific testing proved the shaman correct. Here animal wisdom allowed him to make a quick, accurate judgment that had taken engineers weeks to complete!
Can we Talk to the Animals?
Other than through observation and study, how can one come to know Animal Wisdom? Many old mystical stories tell of a time when people were much closer to the animal world. In fact, the affiliation was so close that humans communicated freely with animals. Exactly what form this communication took isn’t clear. It may have been verbal, empathic, or through some type of mimicry. Whatever the form, the knowledge seems to have been mostly lost over the ages.
Today, some individuals report minor instances of communication happening between an animal and themselves. These reports frequently center on a beloved pet who somehow:
- Lets its owner know that something is wrong.
- Exposes where a missing item lies.
- Seems to understand its owner’s needs.
These experiences give us reason to hope that our ability to understand animal languages hasn’t been totally erased. Witches often have a unique rapport with their Familiar that’s built through a strong, trusting relationship. This is a great example of where animals meet magic in a cooperative manner.
For any of us to return to a more complete two-way rapport, however, will require a change in attitude. We will have to start regarding animals, once thought of as inferior, as being worthy of our attention. Each creature is a spirit like us housed in a temporary form−a spirit with insights to share if we but stop and listen. Among the most important of these insights is how to live presently, in this moment, totally at peace with self. Our animal cousins do not fret over the past or what hasn’t happened yet; they do not strive to be like one another. They simply live now, content with the form that Spirit gave them.
Middle world Journeys for Animal Spirit Communication
Another way of gaining Animal Wisdom and potentially learn natural animal languages is through what Shamans call the middle world journey. Here, Spirit Animals can instruct us on numerous things, including ways to better understand and unite with the Earth. Exactly which animal you call upon to assist you depends greatly on what you want to learn, do, or change in yourself. Someone seeking to strengthen his or her ties to all of life’s network, for example, would do well to call on the spider spirit for aid.
What is the Middle World:
The best explanation of the Middle World from an astral perspective is that it is the unseen world that lies just beyond physical reality. This is the place where all the spirits of nature dwell. You can commune with a crystal outcropping, a creek or even a star here. For working with Animal Wisdom, we’ll focus on common Spirit Animals.
A Map to the Middle World
The way to the Middle World is through meditation and visualization. There is no “map” exactly but there are steps you can take in mediation that take you to the right spot.
12 Steps for A Middle World Journey Using Meditation
1. Know your intent. What Animal Spirit do you seek and why? Bear in mind that another Spirit Animal may come instead because you need its guidance immediately.
2. Insure privacy and quiet. You won’t be able to focus otherwise.
3. Get comfortable in a chair where you can rest your arms and legs with ease. Our minds look for distractions when we meditate so eliminate as many ones physically as you can beforehand.
4. If you wish, play some nature music to set the mood or burn incense with an aroma which best matches the Spirit to whom you wish to speak. For example, if you are seeking Bear spirit, go for something woodsy. Fish spirit might appreciate water lily or lotus.
5. Take several deep cleansing breaths and begin focusing on your inner vision.
6. See yourself leaving from your home. Outside is the natural environment in which you’d anticipate the Spirit Animal lives naturally. You wouldn’t seek Gorilla in a desert but would find him in a tropical canopy.
7. Take a moment and just let all your senses open. “See” how energy dances around everything here. That purple flower glows with energy. A plane rock suddenly seems beautiful and alive.
8. Wait and focus on your intention. Respectfully call out to the Spirit Animal. Do not demand, simply ask if they would join you and teach you. Wait at least fifteen minutes. Things in nature are not on a human deadline.
9. If the Spirit Animal (or another) shows up, they may not communicate with words. Some people sense a kind of telepathy, other people see symbolic images in their mind and others still observe the animal moving in specific ways, communicating a message physically.
10. Soak up every bit of the wisdom the Animal offers. It will leave when your time is done. Whisper a word of thanks. Gratitude matters.
11. Return the way you came, turning around, seeing your door, opening it, sitting down and slowly opening your eyes. Don’t move too quickly.
12. Commit your experience to a magical journal for future reference. Very often Animal Spirit Wisdom from one encounter serves us well in a variety of situations going forward.
On What Animal Spirit Do I Call?
Whether it’s for a journey, a spell, or ritual, knowing the basic symbolism for animals helps greatly in determining the best choice. That’s only a starting point, however. Seers and sages alike recommend getting to know as much as you can about that creature’s natural behavior before trying to call upon them for aid. This is simply polite. You don’t randomly call on a stranger you don’t know anything about in human interactions. The Spirit Animal realm should be no different.
Ant: Transmuting “dirt” into something productive (e.g., recycling). Cultivating a wise partnership with the Earth in working toward its betterment.
Badger: Integrating the strength or aggressiveness with which to protect the Earth and its resources.
Bat: Adapting your Earth-centered thinking and efforts to changing times and new technology or knowledge that becomes available.
Bear: Initiating a leadership role in any Earth-centered effort confidently.
Beaver: Using sensibility and resourcefulness in taking from the Earth, building on it, or working with it.
Buffalo: Strengthening the intimacy of your relationship with Earth’s spirit (or nature spirits).
Cougar: Finding mystical approaches for reunification and Earth healing.
Crow: Learning how to shapeshift into different animals to uncover their wisdom.
Deer: Walking gently on the Earth in the spirit of prayerfulness and thanksgiving.
Dog: Staying true to your convictions with regard to Earth, even when circumstances make it difficult.
Dolphin: Working effectively and joyfully with Earth’s water resources and water animals (the Water Element).
Eagle: Recognizing Earth-friendly approaches or perspectives for a perplexing problem.
Fox: Mastering clever survival skills so you can learn to “give away” rather than “take away.”
Frog: Identifying concrete ways in which to cleanse and replenish the Earth.
Hawk: Improving your ability to work psychically with animals, minerals, or plants.
Horse: Accepting your power to make a difference and get things moving.
Lizard: Meeting animal guides in dreams for teaching.
Lynx: Understanding nature’s hidden messages and secrets. Receiving visions or omens from nature and gaining knowledge from same.
Mouse: Reassessing your life, especially the small details, to see where Earth-friendly changes can be made, and waste eliminated.
Otter: Seeing the world with the hopefulness and joy of a child. Not being overly bound to material things, so you can “give away.”
Porcupine: Freeing yourself from an over-emphasis on the work-a-day world long enough to enjoy nature’s simple beauties.
Rabbit: Overcoming negative or defeatist attitudes when considering the planetary state.
Snake: Understanding nature’s cycles and how they affect us. Seeing the Earth as a sacred space. Nonverbal communication with animals.
Spider: Strengthening your ties to Earth and helping you to network with other like-minded people.
Thunderbird: Becoming a guardian of Earth’s truths and lessons, and a fervent preserver of its resources.
Turtle: Putting down firm roots in the Earth, stabilizing that relationship, and renewing your respect for all living things.
Whale: Developing a good balance between physical and spiritual efforts to reconnect with and heal the Earth. Not repeating past mistakes.
Wolf: Teaching others what you have learned of animal wisdom (or other lessons from nature’s classroom).
Please realize that these Animal Spirit associations have been limited to those directly related to Earth-centered efforts and are generalizations at best. Exactly what message a Spirit Animal has for you at any given time can be totally unique to your circumstances and environment. Remain open, presume nothing, and receive. Trust in Animal Spirit Wisdom.
Adapted from “Shaman in a 9-5 World,” by Patricia Telesco. All rights reserved.