Animal Totems: Spiritual Guardians

Totems. Animal Guides. Spirit guides. There are many names for Spiritual guardians that come to us from the Otherworld, to help us, teach us and protect us. Some of you may have come across them, some may not. Some of you may even have connected to your Animal Guardian already. If you have, you know what a wonderful, rich relationship it is, to know that there is something ‘other’ always there with you, on call when you need or want them, and the teachings that they give to us.


Some of you may not be familiar with this concept, or have only come across it in passing, in some vague terms. I hope, in this post, to give further insight and information on the role and connection with those special beings, our Animal Guardians.

So what are these Totem guides? Where do they come from? Is probably a good place to start. The Spirit realm – or Other realm, or Otherworld, is a universal place that overlaps the physical world. We cannot see it physically, but we can connect to it, when we ‘let go’ of the material world and travel inwards, in deep meditation – or journeying, as it is otherwise known. Shamans have been doing this for centuries, and the Western world is now beginning to catch up to the fact that there is something ‘other’ than the seen world.

It is this Other Realm that Animal Totem Guides come from. Each of us has our own personal Animal Guardian – or Guardians. Some stay with us our whole lives, our own personal companion for life, and others may come and go, to teach us something that we need at a particular time. They come to us when we ask, when we wish to connect, to guide us on our correct inner path, to help us in times of need, to show us new things – in essence, to help us in any way they can. This relationship is a two way street though. Your Guides need to be treated with honour, respect, and dignity. If you do not maintain a relationship with them, or treat them disrespectfully, they will simply ‘fade away’: they will not come when you call them.

Often, your animal Guide bears some reflection on yourself: characteristics or traits are shared, or something you are wrestling with – a problem or weakness – will be their strength. After finding your own animal Guardian, you should look up the meaning of their symbolism, traits and characteristics. You will be amazed at how much they are similar to you. Certain aspects will strike you, you will find something you need, or recognise. In short, they come to you for a reason, and this resemblance or need is a connection between you and your animal guide.

So who can be an animal guide/Guardian/Totem? Any creature. Yes, I do mean any: any real-world creature, including insects. You may dream of a powerful animal like a panther, say, but every creature has something special to share and to teach us. I once ‘saw’ a butterfly for a friend of mine, when we were 16. As a young male, you can imagine he was not best pleased! Yet the Butterfly is about change; about impermanence, and freedom.

But Animal Guides can also be mythological – Dragon is particularly spiritual and powerful – and very wise, I may add. The very first Guardians I had, at 15 or 16, were two Pegasus. I discovered, through a lot of research, and my own intuition, that Pegasus represent the ‘gates’ to the Spiritual Realm… I believe they were there to help me begin and continue correctly on my new-found Spiritual exploration. As I had two, one hovering over each shoulder, as I ‘imagined’ them, they also represented a balancing of energies.

And that brings me on to another point – your own intuition, your own thinking and interpretation on what you ‘see’ when you journey and ‘hear’ when you speak to your guides, is just as important as anything else you read. YOU are the final expert – outward information can give you knowledge and advice, but this is YOUR experience. So if something you read doesn’t seem to fit, then trust and go with your instinct.

My Animal Guardians have helped me to find peace in myself when my life has been stressed: they have shown me how to approach particular problems. They have helped me know my ‘path’, they have given me strength when I felt weak, and they Journey with me when I go to the Otherworld. All of them were with me when I did a Soul-retrieval journey, and I was very, very glad of their company! They help us with every-day mundane situations, as well as our Spiritual paths. You can ask them for anything at all. You may not get the answer you want, but you will always get what you need – as long as you are open minded and open-hearted with them, and have no expectation – merely open yourself up to the experience to come.

If you talk to other people about animal Guardians, you may well be met with derision or dismissal – our culture has a habit of sneering and disbelieving anything that cannot be quantified scientifically. Yet the whole Native American tradition is founded on animal medicine, as they call it, and ‘Totems’. It is also an intrinsic part of a Shaman’s practice. If people have not experienced it themselves, they find it hard to understand something like this can be ‘real’. Yet I would argue having these guides and following an inner path is just as real, if not more so, than following the trail of money and status symbols – which can change and crash down around us in but a moment. Happiness and contentment lie within more than without. Yet it does seem to me that belief and understanding of Inner Guides – and there are more Guides than just animal Guardians – is becoming more prevalent in our society. More people are discovering this inner world, and this is a very good thing!

I discovered my first Guardians at 15/16. I worked for a long time with them, following an Inner Spiritual Path, and eventually met my Snake Guardian at the age of 21. She came to me like a bolt out of the blue – I was actually in the company of friends, socialising at home, when, literally, BANG! Something happened ‘inside’ my head. I was rooted to the spot, a shiver went through inside of me, and I saw her, standing upright, above my head, looking out at the Void. It was an unexpected, amazing experience. My friend asked me if I was all right, because my “eyes have gone very big, you look you’re somewhere else!” And of course I was, entranced with having, for no apparent reason, acquired a new Power animal (another term for animal Guardian).


Snake Spirit is linked with Qutzelcoatl (the Feathered serpent of the Maya), and Lilith, which amazed me, as these were tow figures I had been studying, and loved enormously. Snake is also linked with other Divine figures, but it was these in particular that struck me.

“Snake is an interpreter of Dreams… Snake was chaos, she was void…”

In early times, the Snake was revered, but with the mythology of the bible and the snake tempting Eve, it became reviled. There are many myths and stories relating to the Snake.

Snake also represents the cycle of birth, death and renewal – this is the same as my zodiac sign, Scorpio.

“Serpent… was guardian of the night gates of the underworld…

[Snake is] the cycle itself: change and transformation”

Due to my growing Spiritual path, these words really struck me, resonating with me. And the book (source at the end of this post) goes on to say,

“…protector of the ancient mystery schools, guarding access to knowledge and wisdom..

Snake implies the workings of divine energy through one’s life, an introduction to sacred knowledge.”

It seemed to me that I had arrived at a place where my Spiritual learning was going to go up a level. Snake is also the Kundalini energy, and healing. Though it is a double edged sword; the good can turn to venom, the support of one with snake as a power animal can turn instead to suffocation, if one is not careful, at all times aware.

Snake is very much with me today, and we have had some amazing Journeys together. I also have Wolf as a guardian, who came to me several years ago – in a similar manner to Snake, except this time I was lying in bed about to fall asleep. I had a sudden urge to reiki heal over my eyes – and I saw Changing Woman, a Navajo Goddess, whom I knew little about, and Wolf. They came to me together, and Wolf is still with me. Whereas Snake occupies the Void and Spiritual matters, Wolf is of the Earth/mundane world, and is a teacher – or teaches you to teach others; a protector, and has strong family ties and loyalty. They also love to play – Wolf has taught me to ‘just have fun – run for the joy of running!’ The book I have actually starts by saying:

“ Many correlations can be made between the medicine of the wolf and that attributed to snake and spider.” !!! I thought. Resurrection and rebirth, the totality of life, is part of Wolf’s symbolism. Wolf brings courage, strength and wisdom. It is grounding energy. It is taking the right action, and knowing yourself, and carrying on without fear – the way of the warrior.


I appreciate this is a long post, and I thank you for taking the time to read it. I hope it has given you some insight into the world and meaning of Animal Guardians.

I will write another post soon about how you can connect with your own animal Guardian. In the meantime, please feel free to ask any questions about this post, or share your thoughts or, indeed, your own experiences, I will be happy to receive them all, and answer what I can!

Blessings be.

SOURCE on Snake and Wolf Animal Guardians, and quotations:

‘Animal Wisdom, the definitive guide’. Jessica Dawn Palmer, 2001.


Posted on March 1, 2013, in Other interesting things and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. Thank you once again for this articulate information. I enjoyed getting to know your history with animal guardians. For many years deer and spider have been totems for me. I try to always carry the spiders out of the shower so as not to drown them. The deer frequent our home regularly, keeping our ivy hedge and lawn trimmed. We have had some close encounters with deer; the mothers will bring their newborn fawns right in back of our house in the early summer. Blessing, alia

  2. very informative and enjoyable read…I have had an affinity to Qutzelcoatl since I was a young age, though don’t know why…I find Native spirituallity very interesting…I like the concept of being connected to nature…thank you for this offering…

    • You’re very welcome 🙂
      Yes, I started looking into mayan culture in my early 20s, and fell in love with Quetzelcoatl. The reflections between your personal animal Guardian and your self are just breathtaking!

  3. Thank you for this Heidi! I am also very interested in animal totems and had visions of a lioness a while back when I was about to attend an important meeting about my child. I started looking into animal spirits and totems around the same time.

    • 🙂 Did you find out what lions/lioness is abut? I don’t know, i’d have to look it up, but an educated guess would be self-assurance; pride, family ties and protection, and focus – hunting with intent, keeping your eyes on the prize, as it were.

  4. Interesting info! I don’t know that much about Native traditions – I appreciate the learning. =) A beautiful post.

    • 🙂 Thank you, glad to pass on any info. I’m happy to give an explanation on any animal (if I can!) that you are interested in/have an affinity to/would like to know about – just let me know!

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