Totem Talk

Working With The Animal Totems


Native American Totems & Their Meanings

A totem can be the symbol of a tribe, clan, family or individual. Native American tradition provides that each individual is connected with nine different animals that will accompany each person through life, acting as guides. Different animal guides come in and out of our lives depending on the direction that we are headed and the tasks that need to be completed along our journey.

Native beliefs further explain that a totem animal is one that is with you for life, both in the physical and spiritual world. Though people may identify with different animal guides throughout their lifetimes, it is this one totem animal that acts as the main guardian spirit.

With this one animal a connection is shared, either through interest in the animal, characteristics, dreams, or other interaction.

This Animal Guide offers power and wisdom to the individual when they "communicate” with it, conveying their respect and trust. This does not necessarily mean that you actually pet or spend time with this animal, more that you are open to learning its lessons.

For some, knowing what is their totem animal is almost an innate process. It’s as if they’ve always known, inexplicably drawn to the animal or having a special feeling for the animal’s energy. For others, they wonder how to tell what their animal totem is.

Here are some questions to ask yourself if you’re wondering what your animal totem is:

* Have you ever felt drawn to one animal or another without being able to explain why? This could be animal, including birds and insects.

* Does a certain kind of animal consistently appear in your life? This doesn’t necessarily have to be a physical appearance, it could be represented in other ways such as receiving card and letters with the same animal pictured over and over, unexplainable dreams of a particular animal, watching television and seeing the same animal featured time and time again, or, actually having the animal show up.

* When you go to the zoo, a park, wildlife area, or forest, what are you most interested in seeing?

* Are there any animals that you find to be extremely frightening or intriguing?

* Is there a particular animal that you see frequently when you’re out in nature?

* Have you ever been bitten or attacked by an animal?

* Have you ever had a recurring dream about a certain animal, or a dream from childhood that you have never been able to forget?

* Are you drawn to figurines or paintings of a specific animal?

The totem itself is a symbol that represents this animal. This could be any number of items - a crest, a totem pole, an emblem, a small figurine or anything else that depicts your animal guide.

Note: Native American totems did not include all of the animals listed below, as many of these creatures did not existed in North America. However; the concept of "totems," by whatever name they were called, have been known throughout the world since the earliest days of Greek Mythology. Though the unicorn is generally accepted as a centuries old mythical creature of Europeans, pictures of this fabled animal have been found in Native American tapestries and pictographs.


Alligator: Maternal, revenge oriented, quickness, aggression, and basic survival instincts.
Ant: Group minded, determination, patient, active, and industrious
Anteater: Lethargy, curiosity, nosiness.
Antelope: Active, agile, jumpiness, and willing to sacrifice
Armadillo: Safety oriented, grounded, and has boundaries
Badger: Courage, aggressive, healer, having problems relating to others, and energy conduit
Bat: Rebirth, longevity, secrecy, initiation, good listener, and long life
Bear: Industrious, instinctive, healing, power, sovereignty, guardian of the world, watcher, courage, will power, self-preservation, introspection, and great strength.
Beaver: Bee: Organized, industrial, productive, wise, community, celebration, fertility, defensiveness, obsessive nature, and enjoys life
Boar/Pig: A very powerful totem - prosperity, spiritual strength, organized, self-reliant, fearless.
Buffalo: Sacredness, life, great strength, abundance, gratitude.
Bull: Insight into the past, fertility, rushing into things without proper preparation.
Butterfly: Metamorphosis, transformation, balnace, grace, ability to accept change
Camel: Survival, positive, accomplishments
Caribou: Traveler, mobility, preference to be nomadic, adaptability to adversity
Cat: Guardianship, detachment, sensuality, mystery, magic, and independence
Cheetah: Swiftness, insight, focus
Cougar: Leadership, loyalty, courage, taking responsibility, foresight
Cow: Nourishment and mother figure
Coyote: Trickster, intelligence, stealth, wisdom and folley, guile and innocence
Cobra: Swift and decisive
Crab: Good luck, protection and success
Crane: Solitude, justice, longevity, independent, intelligent, and vigilant
Crocodile: Ensuring your emotions are displayed accurately/appropriately
Crow: Justice, shape shifting, change, creativity, spiritual strength, energy, community sharing, and balance
Deer: Compassion, peace, intellectual, gentle, caring, kind, subtlety, gracefulness, femininity, gentleness, innocence, and seller of adventure
Dog: Noble, faithful, loyal, teaching, protection, and guidance
Dolphin: Kind, salvation, wisdom, happiness, playfulness, prudent, capable of deep emotion, and happy.
Dove: Cross-world communication, spirit messenger, peace, gentleness, love
Dragon: Longevity, richness, prosperity, infinity, wisdom, power, and fiery
Dragonfly: Flighty and carefree, strong imagination, higher aspirations.
Duck: Water energy, helper of seers, can clearly see/deal with emotions
Eagle: Divine spirit, sacrifice, connection to creator, intelligence, renewal, courage, illumination of spirit, healing, creation, freedom, and risk-taker
Elephant: Strength, power, affection, loyalty, royalty, and wisdom
Elk: Strength and agility, pride, majestic, independence, purification, strength, and nobility
Falcon: New beginnings, adventure, passionate, and leadership.
Fish: Graceful, slyness, open-minded, quick to change one's mind.
Flamingo: Heart healing, psychic, people person, flirtatious.
Fox: Cunning, agility, quick-witted, diplomacy, wildness, feminine magic of camouflage, shapeshifting and invisibility
Frog: Water energy, cleansing, rebirth, sensitivity, medicine, hidden beauty, peace, adaptability, poor character judgment and power.
Gazelle: Aggressive
Giraffe: Communication, intuition, attaining the unreachable, seeing the future
Goat: Surefootedness, stubbornness, independence, diligence, lack of foresight.
Goose: Self-demanding, reliable, prudent, rigid, vigilance, parenthood, and productive.
Gorilla: Family-oriented, intelligence, strength, environmental protector, keeps peace through aggression.
Grasshopper: Good luck, abundance, forward, progressive.
Grouse: Personal power, enlightenment.
Hawk: Messenger, intuition, victory, healing, nobility, recollection, cleansing, visionary power, and guardianship.
Heron/Egret: Aggressive, self-determined, self-reliant, multi-tasking, balanced.
Hippopotamus: Power, creation, imagination, healing.
Horse: Freedom, stamina, mobility, the land, travel, power, and freedom.
Hummingbird: Messenger, timelessness, healing, and warrior.
Jaguar: Chaos, shape-shifter, aggressiveness, power.
Kangaroo: Forward, balance, creative, stamina.
Lion: Family, strength, energy, courage, guardian and protector.
Lizard: Conservation, vision, self-protection, hidden defenses.
Llama: Comforting to others, secure.
Lynx: Keeper of secrets, guardian, listener, and guide.
Mole: Sensitivity, guidance, searching.
Monkey: Ability to change the environment, health, success.
Moose: Headstrong, longevity, steadfastness, and wisdom.
Mouse: Scrutiny, order, organizer, and an eye for details.
Octopus: Intelligence, camouflage, nocturnal.
Opossum: Diversion, strategist, and deceiver.
Ostrich: Grounded, practical.
Otter: Playful, friendly, dynamic, joy, helpfulness, and sharing
Owl: Deception, clairvoyance, insight, messenger.
Ox: Sacrifice, chastity and self-denial
Panther: Protection, hidden emotions, introspection, caution, careful decisions
Parrot: Communication, beauty, guide for wisdom, mockery, thinking before speaking
Peacock: Immortality, dignity, and self-confidence
Pelican: Resilient, unselfish, rising above.
Penguin: Self-discipline, grace, self-confidence, spiritual
Porcupine: Innocence, companionship, and trust
Prairie Dog: Swiftness, industrious, constructive, preparedness
Puma: Companion on journeys to other worlds, grace, silent power
Quail: Group-work, team play, creator of harmony and group tolerance, protectiveness (especially toward children)
Rabbit: Fear, timidity, nervousness, humility, rebirth,
Raccoon: Curiosity and cleanliness
Ram: Stoic, sensitive, persevering, curious, imaginative.
Rat: Fertility, stealth, scavenging, intelligence, enjoys luxury
Raven: Introspection, courage, self-knowledge, magic
Rhinoceros: Wisdom, solitary, insightful, solid.
Roadrunner: Mental agility, speed, opportunistic.
Rooster: Vanity, likes to be showered with gifts and attention, early riser, settling for nothing less than the best
Salmon: Proud, intense, confident, wisdom, inspiration
Scorpion: Transforming, strong, inspiring, chaotic, passionate
Seagull: Versatility, loud, easy-going nature, creativity, laziness
Seahorse: Confidence and grace
Seal: Love, longing, dilemma, active imagination, creativity
Shark: Hunter, survival, and adaptability
Skunk: Reputation, presence, and strength
Snail: Protective, aware, solitary.
Snake: Impulsive, shrewdness, rebirth, transformation, initiation, and wisdom
Spider: Balance, wisdom, creativity, communication
Squirrel: Planner and gatherer
Stag: Lord of the forest, masculine power of regeneration, signs.
Swan: Grace, balance and innocence, soul, love, beauty, of the self
Tiger: Strength, valor, power, and energy
Toad: Inner strength, luck, self-examination
Turkey: Generosity, life-giver, and sharer
Turtle: Nurturer, shy, and protecting
Unicorn: Purity, innocence, dreamer, personal power, gentle
Weasel: Strength, energy, ingenuity and stealth
Whale: Wisdom, provider, intelligence, and kindness.
Wolf: Loyalty, perseverance, success, intuition, and spirit
Woodpecker: Sensitive, protective, and devotion
Zebra: Agility and individuality

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