by guest author Michelle Motuzas, creator of Red Feather’s newest release: The Wild Elemental Oracle, as well as our best-selling Shamanic Healing Oracle Cards and The Empathic Oracle (with Steve Wilson).
Everyone loves animals. It almost seems redundant when someone goes “Ohhh, I just LOVE animals…” The snarky me comes out and I want to come back with “EVERYONE LOVES ANIMALS!” But I don’t, because I know how to adult in society.
That being said, I’ve always been drawn to nature and animals. When I was little, I believed that I could talk to cats. My family was always amazed that stray and even feral cats who would ignore them would always come to me for a cuddle.
Fast forward to my study of Shamanism. The first class consisted of a journey to meet your animal totem.
Afterward, the class spent time describing their journeys. To a person, people described these incredible encounters full of wonder and magic, compassion, and love. When my turn came, I described how I saw a bear and it booted me face-first into a stream! Our instructor laughed and said from what he knew about me that was appropriate.
A little disgruntled, I accepted that Bear (and not cat) was my totem, but to be honest, I didn’t dive into it right away. I stayed open to what I was learning and didn’t focus on one particular aspect of Shamanism.
Bear kept on showing herself to me, over and over again. On TV, among my kid’s toys, on the side of the road — people would randomly send me articles or pictures of bears, “Just because.”
Okay…OK! I got it. So, I started looking into her. I say her instead of him because over time my totem morphed from Grandmother Bear while I was a young mother, to currently working with Grandfather Bear as a ‘crone’.
I am embodying different aspects of this totem.
In traditional earth-based spiritual practices, animals are revered for all they give to humans for sustenance, tools, and shelter. In many cultures, there is a belief that spirit animals or totems are revealed to guide and protect their charges throughout a journey. Spirit Animals offer insights into our personalities, mind, path, and carry meaningful messages if you are willing to listen. Your spirit animal is meant to serve as a guide and bring attention to parts of your life that need healing and exploration.
The belief that we have guides that accompany us throughout our lives can be found around the globe. One or two main guides remain with us throughout our lifetime, while others come and go at various times as we need them. The same goes for animal guides.
The terms are all interchangeable: Guides, Totems, Messengers, Spirit Helpers.
There are many ways. First and most important of all, know this:
You do not choose your totem, they choose you.
In some cases, your animal totem will present itself during a time when your mind is relaxed and open, such as during dreams or meditation. However, animal totems may also reveal themselves in physical form, often displaying unusual behavior or showing themselves several times over a short period.
To begin, invite your totem(s) to reveal themselves. Ask for a dream, or to be shown in meditation or a guided journey. I always adhere to the rule of threes: Once is nothing, twice? Noteworthy. Three times? Okay, now you have my attention.
Just a few days ago I was doing a reading for a friend with my Shamanic Healing Oracle Deck, and the Omen card was drawn, emblazoned with the image of a hawk. The next day when we were having dinner outside downtown together, she noticed a hawk flying overhead and pointed it out to me. I told her this may be them trying to get her attention to reinforce the reading. Then, not ten minutes later another hawk landed on a railing less than ten feet from where we were sitting. This had her attention now! A few days later we were talking about it, and she asked about totems versus messengers. I said I wasn’t sure in this case, but to notice what she noticed. See if hawks appeared to her in other ways. The very next day she called to tell me that her son’s new schools’ mascot was… a hawk. I sent her the attributes of Hawk and it described her to a “T”. She is now starting to suss out what this means in her life.
What animals are you encountering that seem out of the ordinary?
You can create your own ceremony. Want to light some candles? Light them! (But please, practice safe candling.) Have some sage? Great! No sage? Eh, don’t need it…. Make it YOUR ceremony and invite your animal totem(s) to present themselves.
In your daily meditation, do a guided self-journey: Take a walk in the woods, hear the breeze ruffle the leaves, smell the earth, and feel the grass beneath you. Hear the birds singing. While you are immersed in this wonderland between worlds, notice what animal presents itself. DO NOT OVERTHINK THIS.
Journal Your Dreams
Keep a pen and paper by your bed and write down your dreams as soon as you wake. This will not only help you remember your dreams, but it is a great habit to practice so you can return months later and be amazed as to how things have unfolded!
Similar to Meditate, but the next step as you work with a practitioner in your area who facilitates shamanic journeys to serve as your guide.
My newest deck, The Wild Elemental Oracle, details a way to work with the deck to determine your animal totem. As the deck is not all-inclusive in the animals represented, it is another tool in your spiritual toolbox. If you feel guided to use a deck, please do!
Be open to whoever shows up. Do you want Bear, Wolf, or Hawk, but end up with Turkey? Do not turn your nose up at this! Turkey is an AMAZING totem, all about community, nourishment, primal earth energy, and having enough.
Walk this path in gratitude. Our Spirit Animals are with us to teach and guide us. Once you have an inkling of who your totem is, start to form a relationship. I have small rocks in the shape of bear that I have found beach combing over the years. Typically, during very emotionally tough times is when I will find them. I see them as little love notes. A reassurance that everything is going to be ok. They have a place of honor on my altar I have at home.
I honor Bear.
A very strong and wise Shaman I learn from tells me that there is a saying in her tribe: If you do not sing and dance with your totem, they will leave you.
Research your animal, the messages come from how they interact with the world around them. Bear hibernates. I have periods where I need to be alone and do not leave my home for days on end. I used to beat myself up about this. I tend to ‘should’ myself a lot – I should be going out more, I should be doing this. Now, however, I have accepted and actually honor this part of who I am. I need that time alone. I benefit from taking time for myself.
Discover all you can about your animal totem. Find ways to honor them. Just as you would have a relationship with an angel or a spirit guide, you can interact and have a relationship with the animals in your life. Whether they are with you for a moment or a lifetime, honor your totems, work with them, be grateful for their help. Remember to sing and dance with them.
Learn from them!
Native New Englander Michelle A. Motuzas started painting in answer to the requests of her fellow students of shamanism, which led to the drawings that are used in her first deck, The Shamanic Healing Oracle Cards. In her art, nature mirrors the human condition. Exploring our spiritual and human existence within the bounds of natural imagery, and drawing on her background in shamanistic studies, Michelle learned the importance of symbolism in the human psyche. The root of these symbols helps her identify what she wants to create with her art, a connection between the energy of the physical and spiritual being. The proud mother of two boys, Michelle also has her masters in shamanic Reiki and is a certified healer and medium. Find out more information about Michelle at: www.michelleamotuzas.com.
Color your own Tarot Cards, illustrated by Michell Motuzas!