Sacred Spirit Animals
Throughout history, cultures around the world have been interested in spirit animals. These spiritual connections with animal have been depicted in ancient stories, artwork, and belongings. You will find details about animal spiritual connections in some of these cultures later in this post.
As you study spirit animals, it’s important to know that according to the spiritual traditions of many Native American tribes, you can have more than one spirit animal, and most often they will choose you. Some tribes believe that each of us has nine power animals who accompany us and serve as guides throughout our lifetimes. For Native Americans, your spirit animals can come to you through a vision quest, a deep meditation, or a profound experience that affect the course of your life. This connection is not to be taken lightly.
In our modern world, it’s easy to get caught up in our own lives and those of other people. Too often, we become desensitized to animals and the other species with whom we share our planet. Spirit animals can help us to tune into life on Earth in all of its the diversity, and to elevate our level of awareness – and thus, our consciousness. Your spirit animal can guide you on your soul’s journey as you navigate your way through life on Earth.
Spirit Animal Quiz
If you’ve ever asked yourself the question – “What is my spirit animal?” – you are not alone. Some of us have had special connections with certain types of animals since we were very young, and we know who our spirit animals are. While others of us have had a profound, even surprising, experience with a particular animal, and then we know they are one of our guides. If you are uncertain, you can take UniGuide’s spirit animal test below.
This spirit animal test will help you discover one of your power animals – a being with whom you share a special kinship. It’s important to not overthink your answers. Simply select the answers that resonate the most with you.
Spirit Animals in Native American Traditions
For Native American tribes, spirit animals and the human connection with them is sacred. As the author of this post, it is not my intention to demean in any way the profound significance of spirit animals in Native American culture. As a lover of life on this planet, I have only the deepest respect for Indigenous Peoples and their reverence for animals and nature.
I write this post as a person who loves animals and who has personally had life changing spiritual experiences because of them. In writing this post, it is my hope that you will be helped as I have been, and in turn, you will help animals who gravely need our help in the human-dominated modern world. Everything is connected.
Pay Attention to Animals and Insects Who Cross Your Path
While insects are technically not animals, they also have much to teach us. So, I include insects, such as dragonflies and butterflies, in UniGuide’s posts on spirit animals. When animals and insects cross your path or otherwise make themselves known to you, it’s important to pay attention. Don’t just brush the experience aside. There are no coincidences. Awareness is a step to enlightenment, and other living creatures can teach us about life on Earth, why we are here, and how we can evolve on our soul’s journey in this Earthly experience.
Environments with Few Wild Animals and Insects
Many of us have not had the opportunity to see the Earth’s abundance of animals in the wild. Or, perhaps we’ve seen them in wildlife sanctuaries or zoos (which can be good environments or terrible ones, depending on the facility.) Even so, we can still get to know wild creatures through the work of wildlife biologists, filmmakers, artists, and animal protection organizations who can help us understand them better.
Some people may joke that our companion animals, such as a dog or cat, cannot be spirit animals because we see them every day. Or, they may joke that no one wants a “common” animal, such as a crow, squirrel, or raccoon, to be their spirit animal. Instead, they only want “glamorous” animals, like wolves, tigers, or dolphins. This limited thinking only narrows down your consciousness, which is not what seeking wisdom is about. All animals have something to teach us.
Learning from Animals We See Everyday
Domesticated animals whom we interact with on a daily basis and those who have adapted to survive in our human-created urban jungles have as much to teach us as those who are fighting for existence in the few diminishing wild places we have left on Earth.
For many people, dogs, cats, rats, pigeons, squirrels, and crows are their only connection to the animal kingdom. This connection is more precious than we may realize. These animals can remind us to become more connected with the animal world. If we live in a place that is devoid of a diversity of animal and insect life, we need to venture out and explore. We need to find a way to spend time in nature because it is a fundamental part of us.
Questions Worth Exploring
Another way you can discover which power animal has a special resonance with you is by considering these questions:
- Were you especially interested in a particular type of animal or insect as child?
- Has an animal or insect suddenly made himself or herself known to you, whether by crossing your path in real life or in art or the media, in a way that powerfully riveted your attention?
- Do you feel a strong connection with certain species of animals or insects?
- Has a specific animal or insect entered your dreams?
- Have certain stories, books, or movies that involved a particular animal or insect had a strong impact on you and stayed with you?
Your answers to these questions are worth exploring. As humans, we have extraordinary brain power. We shouldn’t limit our thinking to just being about ourselves and other humans!
Spirit Animal Meaning
What is a spirit animal? The simplest explanation is that spirit animals are guides who can help us on our life path. While they exist in the physical world in their animal forms, they are connected to the metaphysical world. On a daily basis, there is more going on than our basic human senses are experiencing. Some of us are more tuned into this than others.
In addition, animals perceive and experience things that we do not. Spirit animals are connected to the metaphysical world and they can teach us about our interconnection to the divine.
Spirit animals are also protectors. They can remind us to trust our instincts and to try to be more aware of what’s going on.
Animals exist of their own accord; they are not hear for us. Yet like all relationships, they have much to teach us, both on a physical level and a spiritual level.
Animal Spirit Guides
We are here on Earth to learn and evolve. As Oprah Winfrey calls it, this is “life class.” Animals are earthly manifestations of something greater in the Universe, just as we are. They can teach us and guide us. They can help us along our soul’s journey. We just have to pay closer attention.
While everything is connected, a spirit animal, also referred to as a power animal, is a being with whom we have a special kinship. This bond can teach us about our perceptions, behavior, and existence.
We all need guidance in life, in some form or another. The spirit animal can trigger our sub-conscious and remind us of the interconnection between the physical and spiritual world. They can also guide us in understanding and fulfilling our purpose in this lifetime.
History of Spirit Animals
People have experienced a spiritual kinship with animals for thousands of years. It’s impossible to know exactly when human beings first started associating animals with supernatural powers. Perhaps it was the early hominids millions of years ago, who saw that animals could do things that they were not capable of.
On a historical level, we can only go by artwork and other physical evidence, such as what archaeologists uncover. What is clear is that for centuries, cultures around the world have believed that animals have a special connection with the spiritual world.
Spirit Animals in Native American Culture
In Native American cultures, members of many tribes believed, and still believe to this day, that animals have a connection to the spirit world and that they have supernatural powers. Through a special connection with animals, human beings can also gain special powers and insight.
Both the Pawnee and the Blackfoot tribes believed the appearance and disappearance of the star Sirius, which is also referred to as the Dog Star or Wolf Star, was a sign that wolves were traveling to and from the spirit world. The path they took was the Milky Way, which some tribes referred to as the “Wolf Road.” The Cree believed that the wolf spirit animal came to Earth from the spirit world when the Northern lights shined in the sky.
The Pawnee felt such a kinship with wolves that they believed that anything that happened to wolves would eventually happen to the members of their tribe.
Many tribes believe that medicine men, or shamans, can shape-shift into animals, gaining unique powers that the animal possesses. For example, medicine men who shapeshift into owls gain crystal clear insight. In addition, many Native Americans believe that dreams of animals bring messages and wisdom from their ancestors.
Because they view them as sacred, Native Americans have certain taboos around killing animals. For example, owl medicine men vow to never harm an owl. Furthermore, many tribes view it as spiritually unacceptable to kill a mother bear with cubs. And if an animal is killed for food, their spirit must be thanked.
Many Native American tribes have a clan system, which is a system of community organization that is based on maternal family lines. Generally, clans are associated with a specific animal who is a spirit guide and protector of the clan. For example, a number of tribes have bear clans, including the Creek, Ojibwe, Algonquian, Iroquois, Hopi, Navajo, and others. Specific animals possess unique powers that protect the clan. For instance, with some tribes, bears are guardians of the west, representing strength and protection, as that of a mother.
Animal totems are sacred objects that symbolize and tell the story of a tribe or clan, a family lineage, or even one person. Tribes of the Pacific Northwest carve totem poles that depict a family’s power animals in both their physical and spiritual forms.
Totem poles tell a story. They depict a family’s ancestry and their myths. According to the site Warpaths, the word totem is comes from the from the Ojibwe word “odoodem,” which means kinship group.
Spirit animals depicted on totem poles are the animal guides who walk through life with a person or family, teaching, guiding, and protecting them.
Animal Spirits in Ancient Egypt
The ancient Egyptians loved animals, and their pets were every bit as important to them as our animal companions are to us today. In ancient Egyptian households, if the family cat died, everyone in the home would shave their eyebrows out of mourning. And if the dog died, the family would shave all of their body hair, including the hair on their heads.
Historian Joshua Mark tells the story of a high priestess named Maatkare Mutemhat, who lived during the 21st Dynasty around 1,077 – 943 BC.
Mutemhat devoted herself to the god Amun, taking a vow of celibacy to prove her commitment. Centuries after she lived, Mutemhat’s mummy was discovered in the Theban necropolis, which is located on the west bank of the Nile River, across from what is now the city of Luxor.
With Mutemhat’s mummy, archaeologists found another, much smaller mummy, the size of a very young child. The archaeologists first assumed that this mummy was Mutemhat’s child and that both had died in childbirth. However, this assumption didn’t align with what they knew about Mutemhat’s vow of celibacy.
A New Discovery
Years later, in the 1960s, scientists used X-rays to further understand who the tiny mummy was. The X-rays confirmed that the small mummy was not a child, but Mutemhat’s pet monkey.
Beyond loving their animal companions and believing that they would experience an afterlife just as human’s did, the ancient Egyptians also believed that animals could communicate with the gods. They saw that animals had their own language and they assumed the language was one that the gods understood.
Furthermore, the Egyptians believed that animals could be living embodiments of a gods. The gods would inhabiting the bodies of certain animals, such as falcons.
In this video from Heritage Key Media, Dr. Salima Ikram talks about how the ancient Egyptians viewed animals’ connections to the spirit world:
Animal Spirits to Aboriginal Australians
Like the Native Americans, Aboriginal Australians believe strongly in the interconnectedness of life on Earth. A term used to describe this belief system is “animism,” in which people, plants, animals, landforms, and even celestial bodies are connected and are part of a something greater.
Animism: Breath, Spirit, Life
The Rainbow Serpent
One famous Aboriginal story that embodies this is about a powerful animal spirit called the Rainbow Snake, or Rainbow Serpent. You will see the Rainbow Snake depicted in a lot of Aboriginal artwork.
The Aboriginal Australians believe that when they see a rainbow in the sky, it is the Rainbow Serpent who is traveling from one waterhole to another.
The Rainbow Snake is a powerful being, a protector and provider of life because he brings water to the people. Thus, the Rainbow Snake is associated with fertility, the abundance of plants and animals, and the availability of food.
In this video from Storyteller Media, Robert Bropho, who is an elder of the Noongar People who are Indigenous Australians, tells the story of the Rainbow Serpent:
Spirit Animals in Celtic and European Folklore
Like the Aboriginal Australians, the Celts believed the world was inhabited by spirits and divine beings, some of which would take animal forms.
The Celtic goddess Artio was associated with bears and was the goddess of wildlife, transformation, and abundance. The goddess Epona was associated with horses, and would protect mares and fouls, as well as Gallic warriors when they rode into battle. Another Celtic goddess was Morrigan, who was associated with crows and would also help during warfare.
In Anglo Saxon folklore, great kings were believed to be descended from bears. Some believe that King Arthur’s name comes from the Romano-Celtic god Mercurius Artaius, who was a bear god. Furthermore, the Anglo-Saxon hero Beowulf was possibly named after a bear – his name is translated to “bee wolf,” which refers to a bear who takes honey from bees.
In medieval European folklore and in modern Wiccan belief systems, witches often had animals with whom they were very close. These animals were familiar spirits, otherwise referred to as familiars, who served as guides and sources of information, connecting the witch to the supernatural world.
Animal Spirits in Norse Mythology
The concept of familiars also existed in Nordic cultures. Humans were believed to have supernatural fylgjur with them, which translates to “followers.” These fylgjur were animal spirits, and occasionally human spirits, who helped the person get through life.
Many Norse gods and goddesses had totem animals who were associated with them. For example, the god Odin is often accompanied by wolves, ravens, and horses. While the goddess Freya was accompanied by wild boars.
Animal spirits also helped warriors in Norse mythology. As part of his training and initiation into an exclusive warrior group, a warrior would spend time alone in the wilderness.
During this period, he would bond with the savage world. Eventually, he would start identifying with and establishing a spiritual union with wild animals, such as bears or wolves, and would adopt their strength, fearlessness, and ferocity.
African Spirit Animals
Animals as connections to the spirit world also appear in cultures throughout Africa. Owls were associated with sorcery and witchcraft. Like the Native Americans, Africans believed that owls traveled freely between the material and spiritual worlds. Some African cultures believed that the hoot of an owl meant that something bad was about to happen.
In Liberia, the Kpelle People held similar beliefs to the Native Americans and Aboriginal Australians. They believed that animal spirits guided and protected their people. In addition, they believed that animals were a part of them, representing an alter ego or second self.
Spirit Animals in Asian Culture
Many Asian cultures also believed, and still believe, in animals’ connection to the spiritual world.
In the Chinese myth Shan Hai Ching, from the 4th century B.C., bears lived in caves on what was called Bear Mountain. The ancient Chinese believed that gods and spirits would play with the bears there.
The Ainu People, an Indigenous group in Japan, worshipped bears, referring to them as “kamuy,” which translates to “god.”
In other Asian religions and belief systems, animals were intricately connected to both the physical world and the divine. Like the Celts, the Native Americans, and Aboriginal Australians, Buddhists see the union, or oneness, of human beings with animals and nature.
For Hindus, certain animals are sacred, including cows, elephants, tigers, monkeys, and cobras.
In the Shinto belief system, people, animals, and nature are interconnected. Animals are considered to be more in tuned with the spirit world because their instincts and thought processes are more pure and less cluttered than those of the complex human brain.
Spirit Animals in Our Modern World
In our modern world, we have gained more insight into the world of animals through science. Yet scientific understanding doesn’t have to negate our spiritual connection with animals. In fact, science has taught us how the health of natural ecosystems is dependent on biodiversity, underscoring how life on Earth is interconnected. Thus, it behooves us o ensure that all life on Earth has an opportunity to thrive.
Scientific understanding brings awareness, which is how we expand our consciousness. Spirit animals ask us to pay attention, explore, and learn. This is how we evolve in this lifetime and reach a higher level of consciousness.