What is a spirit animal? Is it the same as an animal totem?
First of all, let me start out by saying that a SPIRIT ANIMAL is totally different from an ANIMAL TOTEM. An animal totem is a spirit animal as it relates to a whole unit, clan, tribe, etc. For a very simplistic example, the animal totem most frequently associated with the United States is a bald eagle. The United States is a collective unit, the eagle being representative of that. An animal totem can also be used to represent an ideology, much like the bald eagle also represents the ideas of freedom, liberty, and patriotism. So to say that an animal is your animal totem for you personally, is not entirely correct.
I would also like to point out that a Spirit animal is not an animal that you just like or find attractive. Spirit animals are sent for specific reasons to you and you alone, to help guide you, teach you an important lesson about your Self, your environment, your current circumstances of living…they are not always animals we like, and they are sometimes animals that we fear or by which we are disgusted. However, one thing remains clear: your spirit animal comes to you–to teach you, to guide you– because there’s great importance and bearing on the lesson. Whether you think it’s cute or hideous is irrelevant.
And lastly, I would also like to give some insight based on my personal experiences as well as what others had to say on the subject…Your spirit animal is one that you will, over time, develop a very deep spiritual connection with. This doesn’t just happen. Just like multiplication/times tables, these Spirit lessons are not completely learned with just one visit from the teacher. It takes time and patience, as well as practice, to develop your senses for recognizing when your guide is present, as well as learning the full lesson as it’s taught.
So to say that wolves are your ‘spirit animal’ because you’ve always loved the look of them, the qualities they represent, etc is not entirely accurate. But if you’ve been visited by a specific wolf or you end up ‘adopting’ it (not in the literal sense of adopting a stray animal), connecting with it, learning from it, then in this instance that specific wolf becomes your spirit animal. It’s more of a specificity/personal bond with one animal rather than a long-held affinity with the species as a whole.
Not only did Native American tribes find meanings, messages, and connections with spirit animals, this trend can be found throughout many cultures–past and present–of our world.
References and further reading:
Comprehensive Guide to Symbols & Meanings on What’s Your Sign?
How to Find Your Spirit Animal By Elena Harris, Editor, SpiritAnimal.com
Definition of Totem on Oxford Online Dictionary (U.S)
Shamanism-Working With Animal Spirits on animalspirits.com –I want to say that this site is very simple, yet very informative. I found it quite helpful.