Totem Talk

Working With The Animal Totems

Spirit of the Caribou (Reindeer): Stamina, Gentleness & Self-Esteem, Determination
(Caribou is a Combination of Elk, Deer & Moose Qualities)


Reindeer/Sami Folklore:

Sami and Their Reindeer:

Caribou/Reindeer's Wisdom Includes:

* Connection to home over long distances
* Power of wandering
* Protection while traveling
* Social skills
* Retention of ones power in group situations
* Ability to go long periods in the dark

The reindeer is a family-oriented totem, skillful in communication and social activities. This totem is a born-leader and welcomes any opportunity to guide others in his herd into new directions. Reindeer has an innocent demeanor and is helpful to friends and family members. Receptive to the needs of others this totem teaches how to adapt to community concerns. "All for one, and One for all" could easily be the motto for this totem. If a reindeer makes its appearance in your life the lesson may very well be that it is time for you to step up and take an active role in caring for the herd. If you have become isolated it may be asking you to take on a leadership role in getting everyone to work as a team. Or, if you currently have a domineering role, you may need to look and see if you are overshadowing others with your ideals, in that case, step back a bit. Guidance is a key role for this totem. Be a kind and helpful teacher, not a bossy one. It is little wonder that Rudolph (who would be categorized with other mystical totems) with his beacon red-light nose was chosen by Santa to guide his team of reindeer into the foggy Christmas Eve night. Look around you, your help is needed.

The Caribou

Yearly Cycle of Power: Winter
Time of Power: Daytime
Attributes: Wandering, Navigation, Protection while Traveling, Socialization, Transition through Darkness, Discovering of that which is hidden, Adaptation to the Cold, Staying Afloat

Reindeer (or Caribou) always conjure up images of Santa Claus and his mythical team that fly and pull his sleigh through the air in the holiday season. At first glance, they seem like unremarkable creatures. Are they so different from regular deer?

It is true that Caribou (Rangifer tarandus) are members of the deer family, yet they are quite special members of this family. While regular deer are quite sexually dimorphic, with the males having antlers and the females lacking, Caribou have both antlers in the male and the female. Both the male and the female use antlers for protection and for dominance displays. Unlike deer antlers, Caribou antlers can be recognized by two main trunks on each antler: one going forward and one going back. At the very end of each trunk, it splits into a small number of points. This antler pattern is unique to the Caribou, which has the largest antlers of all the deer family. Males use their antlers in rutting season to procure or maintain their harem (of up to 40 females). Although this rutting is often a violent display, it is rare that a male is seriously hurt in these displays. The males shed their antlers after the rutting season (in fall), while the females retain them until after the birth of their young the following spring. These retained antlers will allow the female to protect herself and fight the now antler-less males for food to feed her growing baby. Females generally give birth to only 1 calf. It takes this calf 3 years to mature and will only live 8 to 10 years. Unlike other deer Caribou young do not have spots. When the calves are born, the mothers will split into nursing bands, separate from the rest of the herd. They rejoin the herd when they reach the calving (summer) grounds The males of the species are up to 8 feet long and 5 feet in height, weighing up to 600 pounds. The females are only slightly smaller in stature. Caribou generally live in Arctic or Sub arctic regions of Canada, Alaska, Siberia, and Greenland. They roamed further south in the past but were hunted so ferociously that they rarely come as far south as the continental United States.

The Caribou is the quintessential nomadic animal traveling up to 3000 miles in a year. This is a greater distance than any other land mammal (unless they own a car). They travel in the fall and the spring from their wintering grounds to their calving grounds. Caribou are built to travel over long distances and winter terrain. Their hooves are broad, concave, and flexible, allowing them to act as snowshoes over the winter snow, the soggy summer tundra or peat bogs. These same hooves act as efficient paddles when crossing rivers or lakes. The hollow hairs of their coat keep them warm in winter and afloat in the water. Caribou can run at a top speed of 80 km/hour per hour.

The Natural Predators of the Caribou are the Wolf, Bear, Human, Wolverine and Lynx. These predators are a lesser worry for the Caribou as the herd offers protection against most of these. What really gets a Caribou scared is insects. Mosquitoes can take up to half a pint of blood a day from a Caribou. To get relief form these bugs, Caribou will submerge themselves in water or even stampede to escape a swarm of mosquitoes. Whether predator or mosquito, the Caribou may alert the rest of his herd to a problem by rearing up and releasing an alarm scent from a gland near its hoof. It has no natural prey, as the Caribou is an herbivore by nature eating lichens (reindeer moss), grasses, sedges, leaves, willows and dwarf birches. The amazing thing about the Caribou is their nose. They can smell their food even through large amounts of snow. They use their concave hooves (which are excellent shovels) to dig through the snow to obtain this food.

Caribou have very little myth surrounding them. The greatest caribou myth is Santa and his sleigh, although to this day red luminous noses have never been found on any Caribou. The Inuit have several myths about the Caribou. They say that the Caribou was the last animal to come into this world and the most important animal for the people to hunt. They hunted and hunted the strong Caribou until there were only weak Caribou left. They complained to the creator that the people would become weak and sick if only the weak Caribou were left to survive and multiply. So the creator called upon the wolf to hunt the weaker Caribou. This is why the wolf and the Caribou are as one, the Caribou feeding the wolf and the wolf keeping the Caribou strong.

A person with a Caribou totem will be one that experiences much wanderlust. They will feel an urge to travel especially in fall and spring. Yet throughout their wanderings, they will keep a firm tie back to their homeland. They will be proficient navigators, often taking the lead in expeditions and yet they are also very social, desiring to be among many others (a real party animal). They are a bit hypocritical in their socialization though as they believe in equality between gender and individuals, yet they strive to prove their dominance and often hoard resources to themselves. It would be common for a Caribou totem to tell his or her mate that they are their own person, equal and independent and yet at the same time be quite possessive of their mate. Because of their traveling in the dark times of winter and snow, Caribou totems will show a great tendency to persevere the dark times in their lives to come out ahead on the other side. They are stubborn, yet in a good way. Their excellent senses of smell will often allow them to discover that which is hidden. They will bring these secrets out into the open for all their friends (herd) to see, often regardless of why it was a secret in the first place. Caribou totems will usually feel right at home in the cold weather and wonder why everyone else complains about it. Just as the hooves of a caribou keep it afloat on snow and moss, a person with a Caribou totem will have a knack for staying afloat in their own lives regardless of the peril they face. The Caribou totem is truly a majestic and formidable individual.

(Written by RavenDreamer)


Caribou teaches endurance, strength, fortitude and perseverance in going the distance. He will teach the power of adaptability in adversity, caution in surroundings and tenacity to get things accomplished. Caribou will show how to take on the roles of duality, the male and female qualities that you possess. Is it time to take a more dominating role in life and work or perhaps a softer subtler stance in situations? Caribou will also aid in spiritual transitions, communication and social abilities and skills. Caribou will show how to keep moving onward and flowing with the group. Caribou is about movement and finding your inner peace and your place as you walk through life.

Caribou, Reindeer Animal Totem: Determination

Caribou people are gregarious and social, enjoying the company of their own kind of people. They enjoy traveling, often to the same spot each year. Once you've made a decision about something, you do it - there is no procrastination. Act with resolve, stick with a project, and take action. Spiritual study or the journey for Caribou people is often a lengthy endeavor - their journey is long, but they do succeed in the end. With Caribou as a totem, you do not suffer a thing or person that annoys you - you get away from it as fast as you can.

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