Totem Talk

Working With The Animal Totems


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.


Throughout history elephants have been prized for their power and strength. They are extremely intelligence and honored by many cultures. Elephants are the largest land animals and among the longest lived, with life spans of 60 years or more. According to Buddhist tradition, the Buddha chose the form of a white elephant as one of his many incarnations and the rare appearance of a white elephant is still heralded as a manifestation of the gods. The Hindu god Ganesh, the overcoming of obstacles, is depicted with the head of an elephant.

Despite their great weight elephants walk almost noiselessly. Their stride is exceptionally graceful and rhythmic. Their hearing, smell, taste and touch is acute. This compensates for their poor eyesight. Their eyes are small in relation to the enormous head, which can only turn slightly from side to side. This limited movement results in restricted side vision. Those with this medicine feel things deeply and respond to those feelings from a place of inner knowing. Because their peripheral vision is limited they have a tendency to look straight ahead and not always see what is around them. Learning to shift ones focus to encompass the whole is helpful.

Loyal and affectionate elephants are willing to risk their life for the sake of others in a family group. Wild elephants have been known to grieve and even shed tears over the death of a family member. They have excellent memories and when mistreated they often seek revenge.

Elephants have a total of four teeth, all molars. The first pair of molars is located toward the front of the mouth. When they wear down, they drop out and the two molars in the back shift forward. Two new molars emerge in the back of the mouth to replace those that have moved forward. Elephants replace back molars six times throughout their life. When the last set wears out, they are unable to chew and die of starvation.

Teeth have great symbolism. They are considered receivers and transmitters of energy linked by connecting paths throughout the astral body. Because the elephant is highly intelligent those with this totem make excellent researchers and alternative scientists. The complex study of numbers, energy meridians and the tie in between the physical brain, the teeth locations, and the major and minor head chakras is fascinating as well as beneficial.

Elephant tusks point backwards and are used as weapons and for digging edible roots. From a spiritual point of view this suggests an ability to uncover the secrets left behind you and bring them to the consciousness for evaluation and healing.
This beautiful creature holds the teachings of compassion, loyalty, strength, intelligence, discernment and power to name a few. If this is your medicine these virtues are a part of your natural character. By applying these gifts in your life, soul evolution is achieved.


The cougar also known as the mountain lion and the puma is very illusive and hard to find in the wild. Because of its illusive quality it is often noted as an animal that is independent, shy and withdrawn. The same characteristics are often found in people with this medicine.

The adult males weigh around one hundred seventy five pounds and are one of the fastest known animals, although it does tire quickly. This is partly due to the cougar’s sporadic energy. When it pounces on its prey it moves with short strong bursts of energy.

Cougar is associated with leadership and teaches decisiveness in the use of personal power. They are powerful and agile and can leap over forty feet. They kill their prey with their bite of their claws. When it attacks it does not hesitate. When threatened it goes for the most vulnerable place.

Those with cougar medicine should pay attention to how their speech and their actions affect others. Make sure you are not speaking too sharply or holding on to something too tightly. Cougar is a difficult totem to have because it continually places you in a position to be a target for the problems of others. Its power, strength and assertiveness are often misunderstood. You would be wise to listen to cougar and let it teach you how to balance intention, power and strength in everything you do.

Cougars are very territorial. The mother will stay with her cubs for a year and teach them to hunt, first by bringing them a kill and then bringing her prey back alive so that they can kill it. Cougars bring the power of balanced leadership. In the way cougar teachers her young, in the balance that she has with her environment and in her quiet power, she shows this gift. Cougar medicine people make excellent teachers, leaders and facilitators.

The other side of cougar is its illusive quality. It can appear without being noticed and quietly take control of a situation. Sometimes this can lead to conflict with others over territory.

Those with cougar medicine have past life connections relating to power and leadership. When the cougar selects you as its student be prepared for the ride of your life. It can shred you into little pieces (dissolve karma and identity) then put you back together again with a pure heart and purpose. True leadership through gentle assertiveness is what cougar teaches those with this totem.


The heron is a long legged wading bird. There are about 60 species of heron including several species called egrets. Most egrets have white plumage that is highly prized as ornaments in oriental ceremonies.

Herons are often seen standing motionless, as if in a meditative state, on its long thin legs. This stance symbolizes its ability to maintain balance through proper focus. Its inner foundation is secure although not fixed.

When the heron feeds it stands in water. Its neck is bent in an S shape. The flowing pattern of the letter S reflects the rhythm of this bird. Understanding your personal rhythm and responding to it accordingly is imperative for those with this medicine.
Water is associated with the mysteries of life. It is connected to the emotional body of man. When you see a heron standing in water notice how deep the water is. This depth can symbolize the depth that needs to be explored within self. The deeper you go the more you discover. Whatever is discovered, take the time necessary to stand in silent reflection. In this way clarity of understanding is known.

Those with this medicine have strong emotional natures. They feel things deeply and with passion. The challenge here is to keep passionate thoughts and feelings under control in order to maintain a balanced emotional nature. The advantage of this energy indicates the passion and ambition needed to complete tasks and accomplish goals.

Herons are seldom seen flocking together. They are solitary birds that enjoy their own company. Heron medicine people are independent and willing to make changes when the need arises. They do not need a lot of people in their lives. This can sometimes lead to challenges in personal relationships especially if the other person has needs that require constant attention. Maintaining some type of social interaction and not withdrawing from others completely is helpful.

Herons stand out in their uniqueness and know how to take advantage of things and events for their own benefit. By observing the heron, its actions and its lack of action we learn how to perfect out personal flight through life. Herons hold a silent power, their grace, agility and majestic presence reflect balance. This balance is the gift they offer to all who choose to receive it.



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