Animal Meanings & Symbols

The Sign of the Hawk — my last post about animal sightings, omens, messages — sparked a lot of comments and emails about spirit animal stories. I’m inspired to write a longer memoir piece about how I discovered my Owl totem when I was a kid…

But this is such a rich topic (so much bigger than my own personal experiences) with as many potential authors and stories as there are readers here. And, like dreams, animal sightings are an ongoing source of myth and meaning in our everyday lives. It’s rewarding to contemplate, explore, and interpret on your own.

I hope this post provides you with some jump-off points.

Image - Sign of the RavenAnimal Speak by Ted Andrews has long been regarded as the go-to reference book for animal symbolism and animal meanings in the Native American totem context.

Animal Speak on Google Books
Animal Speak on Amazon

*Although Animal Speak is available in ebook formats now, its “dictionary” format really lends itself best to a hard-copy print resource.

Avia Venefica’s
Living Arts Originals
Animal Power Meanings

Your Pets as Members of Your Spirit Guide Team
Familiars — Angels with Fur

What’s your totem animal?

Have any animal totem wisdom to share?
Tips for discovering and working with animal guides?
A story about an encounter with a spirit animal or animal messenger?
Have any favorite sites or books about animal meanings you can add to my list?

Please leave a comment
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8 Responses to Animal Meanings & Symbols
  1. Bonnie Bauerle
    July 10, 2011 | 1:35 pm

    Hi Slade!
    This is a subject near and dear to my heart. I have found that I find resonance within the Native American symbolic meaning for animal totems.
    When an animal comes or is shown to me either in dream state or awake (both have happened to me), there is always a message related to what is happening in my life.
    A bald eagle swooped down during meditation one day. It continued swooping down and then flying up again, ever higher each time. Until finally, it disapeared into very high clouds. When I looked up the symbolism, I found it meant that I was seeking an ever higher and closer connection to God and to the Spirit World and that is very true. The Eagle is at the top of my totem.
    I asked for a sign one day in regard to an upcoming overseas journey that all would be well on the trip. A fox appeared to me 3 times in response. Once at the bottom of my driveway and twice on my way home. He would stop and stare at me for quite awhile before he would turn to leave. Almost as though he was saying that I needed to pay attention, that this was a message and that all would be well. One of the traits of the fox in Native American totems is that he is the protector of travelers. I was thrilled when I looked up the significance.
    When I see an animal or bird that comes in response to a question I have put out there,everything seems to stop. All movement, time and sound stop as though this animal and I are the only ones there and we’re in a vacuum. It is quite spectacular when it happens.

  2. Jody Endersbe-Groebner
    July 10, 2011 | 3:41 pm

    I use Jamie Sams ‘Medicine Cards’ for reference when I am seeking messages from my animal guides. It’s a great tool.

  3. Ananda Bruin
    July 10, 2011 | 6:35 pm

    Mamma Bear.

    I have to admit I was a little taken aback when I realized the bear was mine. I mean, why not silver wolves howling at the moon? Why not Eagles shrieking challenges to the sky? Horses blowing steam and galloping across the plains? Cougars, panthers, something wil,d sleek, fearsome and cool. That’s what I was looking for… but no. A bear. I feel too much like a bear, frankly.

    Then I met her in person while camping in the Sierras. I heard something outside my tent, unzipped and looked and there she was, black as ink and blotting out the stars as I looked up at her holding my pitiful mini-flashlight out that did nothing to illuminate her at all, but just made her eyes shine. I lost my voice, completely unable to yell “BEAR!” to the rest of the camp. She looked at me, I looked at her and then she slid silently past, as large in my imagination as a locomotive. I was feeling lonely and sorry for myself in the tent before she showed up. Afterward, I felt I could barely contain the wonders of the world. There were galaxies in her eyes.

    Self-sufficient and solitary, (except where her cubs are concerned). Introspective. Drawing on her own wisdom and reserves. Gentle unless provoked. Strong. Gracefully yielding to the seasons and cycles of life. Mamma Bear. Yeah. Just perfect, it turns out.

  4. Mike
    July 10, 2011 | 7:14 pm

    There is nothing quite like coming face-to-face with the eyes of a huge spider in your dreams. That happened to me in the past week and it startled me awake! I did look through a copy of Animal Speak for a couple of minutes today when I thought of it.

    My first animal spirit guide came into my knowledge while meditating on Bell Rock in Sedona. I closed my eyes and saw the exact same landscape, but there was a falcon soaring in the sky. But it wasn’t there every time I opened my eyes. It was confirmed a couple of days later in a spirit guides session, and from time to time I can sense it there with me.

  5. Kaysie
    July 10, 2011 | 7:16 pm

    The animal that I usually sense is a panther. I’m not sure if this is an animal spirit or my imagination though. Ha ha. Ever since I was little I’ve been fascinated with big cats. I used to feel so close to them that I would feel like maybe in a past life I was one. When my son was born I could feel the panther frequently curling her body around my son when he slept to make sure he was safe and sometimes in situations where I feel like my family is being threatened or hurt (emotionally, physically, or mentally) I get a strong feeling that I am becoming the panther… invisible longer teeth and claws. I don’t go around acting it out though (or really sharing it with anyone because it sounds kinda crazy)… but the feeling is there.

    I enjoyed your link to Avia Venefica’s because she described: “The panther animal totem is a very powerful and protective presence. If you have this creature as your totem, you are blessed to have such a fierce and aggressive guardian with you.”

  6. jenn
    July 14, 2011 | 9:03 am

    Before Stella was born and it still continues, she received many elephants as gifts. When learning about the elephant totem, it seemed to describe her energy and way of relating in this lifetime to a T. It almost seems that her totem preceeded her arrival and fostered my sense of relating to her more completely.

  7. Kara
    July 15, 2011 | 4:40 pm

    This topic is so dear to me I don’t even know where to start…. I guess I’m biased because my “training” was in shamanism… and I have always loved animals and felt such a kinship with them from birth. I remember being with a local guide in the jungle, and I could see animals he couldn’t!

    I love my main animal guide, and all the animal guides that come to help me with different issues.

    I see others personal guides as totem animals. I also see plenty of animal signs and confirmations all the time, not only outside but in logos, magazine ads, on TV, in business names, sports teams, etc.

    Learning about how each animal has its own unique and special characteristics, and how each animal is valued equally continues to be an amazing experience. I love Avia’s posts, they are so rich and full of incredible insights.

    I knew I would marry my husband when he articulated to me the exact same thought about an animal that I had just told my therapist about the week before. (Could be sychronicity, or perhaps I shouldn’t have given the therapist my home number…)

    Anyhow, I always find this shamanistic site useful for animal meanings too…

    Love your posts always.


  8. Louise Bradley
    July 16, 2011 | 12:21 am

    Along with Ted’s book is another great resource Medicine Cards by Jamie Sams. Snake is my totem (Transformation!) They always show up at my house when some big change/initiation is beginning

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