Power Animals and Helping Spirits
by Gerry Starnes, M.Ed.
Also see the Power Animals video

It is rare that Spirit speaks to us in words. Most often messages are carried to us by intermediaries, representatives of Spirit that come in the form of energy and vibration. As humans we have developed relationships with our kindred beings over the millenia, it is natural that the messengers of Spirit will appear to us in familiar forms of animals, birds, insects, and so on.

This is not to say that Power Animals are merely unreal reflections of energy. Far from it. They are as real as we are, and they span the worlds of ordinary reality and non-ordinary reality. In a sense they may be MORE real than we are!

Each Power Animal and other helping spirits has its own special characteristics and powers. When they come to us, it is usually to express those powers that we have that we are overlooking or to provide those that we need and do not have.

By drawing on the power of our Animals, we can meet the needs of our current situaltions and grow to include more aspects of who we are. This is the gift of Power Animals.

Power animals can be divided into four key categories, based on their purpose in interacting with you. Keep in mind that these categories are not fixed, but useful in understanding how to best relate to them in developing an ongoing relationship. Two of the most commonly encountered are the Messenger Animals and Journey Animals.

These power animals bring us messages from Spirit that we need to pay attention to in our current situation. We encounter these messengers both in the non-ordinary world of the shamanic journey AND in ordinary life.

When you are visited in a peculiar way by an animal, insect, bird or other creature during the day, pay attention. It may be that this animal is a messenger. When it captures your attention for any reason, ask yourself – and it – what its message might be for you at this time and in that place.

Messenger animals can be quite persistent and insistent. Pay particular attention if the animal repeatedly shows itself to you or presents itself in a way that simply cannot be overlooked.

Journey Animals
These wonderful, wise animals are the guides of shamanic journeying. When you journey into the Spirit world, they will generally accompany you, show you around, protect you, and give you the answers to your questions – or give you a direction for your quest.

Most seekers find that, over time, certain journy animals appear to facilitate particular kinds of journeys. For example, two of my healing animals are Wolf and Anaconda. Wolf is the "physician" who evaluates the situation and shows me what needs to be done. Anaconda simply "eats" the physical ailment and departs without a word.

For me, other journey animals include Owl who participates in soul retrievals and dismemberment rituals. Crow often appears when I work with outher people, as a bridge between our spirits.

People can encounter literally dozens of journey animals in their shamanic experiences. Again, over time, these animals sort themselves out according to types of experience, knowledge, and healing needed.

Shadow Animals
Eventually, everyone who practices the shamanic journey will encounter the Shadow Animal. They are sometimes frightening and threatening, but always intimidating.

The Shadow Animal is a substantial presence in the Spirit world. It usually presents itself and the scariest, most frightening animal you can imagine. They are the fire-breathing dragons, trolls, dark demons, and more. They take on the face of whatever feeds your fear.

Shadow Animals guard what often turns out to be the greatest Power that you have at your disposal. The challenge is "Are you ready to take up this Power? Are you ready to overcome your fear and face the You that you can be?"

Once you learn enough and have enough experience working with Shadow Animals, you will find that they become your most valued and potent ally.

Totem Animals
People experienced with the shamanic journey process sometimes confuse journey animals with their totem. But they are actually quite different.

While journey, messenger and shadow animals may appear and disappear from your journey from time-to-time, the Totem animal caries an energetic vibration or "tone" that closely matches your own. Totems are consistently present from birth through most of your life.

In fact, the Totem animal only changes when significant events or other changes in your life change your underlying tone to a degree that the Totem no longer matches.

Events like this include major life events, life-threatening accidents, significant spiritual evolutionary leaps, etc. In shamanic cultures with traditional rites of passage, a new Totem animal would be recognized at birth, during rites of passage for puberty, when the individual is elevated as an elder, and so on. In these cases, the person might also be given a new name..

There is no way to predict when, where or how these changes might happen, especially in our ritual-starved culture. But when it does happen, the event may also be followed by a change of Totem.

Helping Spirits
Not everyone experiences helping spirits as animals. In cultures where there are no indigenous animals or even birds or insects, the messengers of spirit are experienced through representations of the elements: air, water, fire, earth, sun, moon, planets, stars, and so on.

Air in the form of wind, for example, may speak as a soft breeze or tornado. Water may be a pond, river or tsunami. The variety of expressions of spirit through the elements is endless.

You also may find that you relate strongly to "mythical" or magical entities: sprites, fairies, leprechauns, "Wee Folk," etc. These helping spirits are common in cultures all over the planet.

Developing A Relationship
What is most important in your exploration of communication with Spirit is the recognition that Power Animals and Helping Spirits are representatives of Power that is greater than you are. If you are ever in doubt about the message or messenger, always go by your Feelings.

It is entirely appropriate to question these guides, if done with openness and respect. They are with you to be of help, and they understand your need for clarity.

Just remember always that you are a guest in their world. Enter it with respect and gratitude and you will find that you will be welcomed.

For more see:
| shamanic journey |

Index of Articles

What is a Shaman?
Excerpt from interview with Martin Prechtel published by Sun Magazine.

Eight Characteristics of Shamanism
Edited by Gerry Starnes

Shamanism Q&A
Interview by Jennifer Robenalt, Soul Lab Media.

Ecstatic Body Postures
Figurines, carvings, and artwork from around the world suggest archetypal ways to produce and enhance ecstatic experience.

Urban Shamanism
How can people live a shamanic experience within the urban environment?

The Bandana: Toward the Within
The use of the bandanna in TranceDance

The Shamanic Journey
The shamanic (drumming) journey has been used for thousands of years for guidance and healing. Excerpt of material by Tom Cowan.

Power Animals & Helping Spirits
What are power animals and how does one work with them?

Spiritual Eldership
The role of Elders in an shamanic cultures can be applied to help save our own.

Copyright © 2005-2016 by Gerry Starnes • All rights reserved.
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