Totem Talk

Working With The Animal Totems

ANIMAL TOTEMS: "Do We Choose Them or Do They Choose Us?" (Coyote, Dragonfly, Badger)


Arvel has spent a lifetime studying the characteristics and messages of animals and calls on their spirits daily to give him guidance, to give him a higher view of a situation and sometimes just to remind him that life is supposed to be fun. In Discovering the Sacred Power of Animal Totems, Arvel shares some of his private thoughts about the animals that he has come to love and respect as co-denizens of Planet Earth. These lessons learned through study and through his own life experiences are offered to you in the hopes you will find peace in your life walk.

ANIMAL TOTEMS: "Do We Choose Them or Do They Choose Us?"
by Arvel Bird on April 7th, 2010

Animals come to us because they have a lesson we have asked to learn and a “medicine” or “power” they are willing to share with us. They hold their medicine up like a mirror to reflect back to us what we have vibrationally offered that we would like to obtain.

Developing a relationship with a live animal totem takes time, practice, patience or it could be very dangerous. Having an animal totem doesn’t mean that you are to pet the animal or even be with it in physical proximity.

Animal Spirits choose a person to be a companion to, a friend to, not the other way around. You can not say to a cougar, “Here kitty, kitty, awww, you’re so cute and I like what you represent so I think Cougar will be my Animal Totem”.

No, the animal will choose you and make itself known to you. You will only need to pay attention to discover what your totems are.


For a long time humans have attempted to shoot, poison and trap coyote into non-existence. Instead, birds like the Condor have been nearly wiped out with poisoned meat, and the clever coyote may be more numerous today than ever. Despite human encroachment and aggression, coyote has found a way to walk its walk and survive.

Coyotes usually mate for life. They live in the sides of hills or in underground dens where the family unit is well protected. They prefer open grassland and thinly wooded brush, but can adapt to almost any environment. Because of this they have been able to survive and grow in numbers.

I once heard a story about a female Coyote who got caught in a trap and gnawed off her own paw —twice. At last report she was doing fine, hobbling around on her two front stumps, and she had borne a healthy litter. Coyotes hunt small game not with speed, but by pouncing and snapping with their jaws. She was able to do this quite well and was fulfilling her role as a mother. Those with this medicine will go to extreme measures to protect and nurture family members. Words that rip and tear another to shreds should be avoided. Sporadic bursts of energy are common and balanced action is required for one’s overall well being. Excellent caretakers’, coyote medicine people put other people’s needs before their own. Care is advised, however, to give to yourself equally.

In some native tribes the coyote is referred to as the trickster. I prefer to see the coyote as cunning and clever. There are many stories about the coyote. He is known as the great one and the foolish one. Coyote does not consciously try to trick us; he mirrors our own human capacity for displaying cleverness AND stupidity.

Like the coyote we can work with others to get what we want in life, or we can dive into a lake to catch a reflection. We can send troubles away or invite them carelessly. When coyote wanders into your life you are being asked to look at something you have been avoiding. Coyote is our mirror for the lessons we need to learn in order to walk the good red road. It will hold up the mirror relentlessly until we finally get the picture.

Call on coyote as an ally for negotiating a difficult situation. Or thank him for coming and showing you a trap that you are caught in, or a way that you are fooling yourself. Coyote is an especially powerful teacher with regard to relationships because it is when we are in a relationship that we can fool ourselves the most. Coyote is not out there to get us, but to teach us, whether we want to learn or not.


No bird or insect has the flight maneuverability of the Dragonfly. They can twist, turn, change directions in an instant, hover, move up or down, and even fly backwards. The power that dragonfly brings to the tapestry of life is skill. They are experts at what they do and do it relentlessly.

Dragonflies’ spectacular colors sparkle with iridescence in the sunlight. These colors take time to develop reflecting the idea that with maturity our own true colors come forth.

As newly hatched nymphs, dragonflies live on the bottom of ponds and streams. As they mature and go through metamorphosis they move to the realm of air. Since water represents the emotional body and air represents the mental, those with this medicine will often find themselves trying to maintain balance between their thoughts and emotions.

Children with dragonfly medicine are often very emotional. They feel things deeply and respond to situations with great passion. As they reach adulthood they learn how to balance their emotions through experience with greater mental clarity and control. This gives them the compassionate quality necessary for any type of work relating to healing or counseling.

Dragonfly has the ability to reflect and refract light and colors and is often associated with magic and mysticism. Just as light can bend and shift and be adapted in a variety of ways, so can the archetypal forces associated with dragonfly. It conveys the message that life is never what it appears to be.

By helping a person see through illusion dragonfly awakens ones true vision. Flying at speeds of up to 30 miles per hour they can spot movement forty feet away. Flying into and around things from different angles, they challenge rigid awareness and prompt the energy of change for anyone who holds this medicine.


The Badger is a member of the weasel family. They range in length from two to three feet and are about twelve inches high. Family members often mark each other with scent for recognition since their sight is poor. Their senses of smell and hearing however are excellent. Those with this medicine would do well in professions that incorporate sound as a healing tool. On a personal note, badger medicine people need to develop clear sight, both psychically and physically and not just rely on their other senses for survival.

Badgers have solid muscular bodies. Its outer skin is loose which gives it a deceiving appearance. Because of this it is often associated with illusion. What you see is not always what you get! Its strong powerful jaws represent discrimination of speech. Words can cut, tear and crush or encourage, teach and compliment others. Those with this medicine have the ability to do both.

Badger dens are extremely clean and well organized. They change their bedding often, backing into their dens with straw, so as not to make a mess in the process. Fastidious about their surroundings they will correct any disorder quickly.

The badger brings the gift of tidiness and organization. If badger has come to you in some way it may be saying that you need to concentrate on maintaining an orderly environment to better facilitate your day-to-day living. . It can also teach you how to manage your time more efficiently.

Badgers will fight to their death if cornered. Bold and ferocious they are unsociable animals. Those with this medicine have difficulty relating to others. They will shun authority and stand their ground in any situation. Expressing themselves in a concise balanced way is one of their greatest challenges.

The badger is a remarkable digger and can get beneath the surface easily. This ability ties the badger to the mysteries of the underworld, where the magic of life and creation is stored. It also symbolizes a strong connection to plant and animal spirits and can teach those with this totem how to align with life both above ground and below it.



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