Rather, this post is about the tricky business of assigning animal totems to folks wanting to know.
Not a day passes when someone doesn’t send in an email with a question like: “Avia, can you tell me what my animal totem is?”
On the one hand, I’m thrilled with these inquiries. It suggests a desire to re-connect to animal kin. It’s a sign that folks are becoming more attuned to the wild and wonderful realms of the Mother [Nature] – and that is uber-awesome.
On the other hand, I’m often distressed by the lack of personal investment in re-connecting with our animal brothers and sisters. Connections to our animal kin is a deeply personal act.
What’s even more irking is the idea that a virtual stranger can arbitrarily assign a totem to another person. To explain, I’ve been known to listen in on certain radio show discussions about totems and neo-shamanism. I’m not naming names, but I’m suspect when these totem-experts get callers on their show with the inevitable question: “Can you tell me my animal totem?” and I’m floored when the totem-practitioner pops off a critter to the caller – essentially assigning a totem to him or her in the span of two seconds.
How can that cosmic connection be gleaned from a distant second party? It feels like “slot-machine logic” – an answer spit out at random. I could be wrong. These totem experts could be mightily connected to their spiritual council, and so they are fed this totem information to present to the caller. Still, I have doubts.
On my most connected days, in which unification with my own Spirit Council is super-tight, I am fed information in terms of “seeing” woodland creatures or other critters scampering around my client’s energy. These visions give me a good idea about the inquirer’s totem affiliations. Nevertheless, in the midst of these visions come strong admonishments from the Council. Admonishments like: “These are the animal energies communing with the human – but he/she must establish the connection.”
Historically, shamans could succinctly identify totems to the members of their tribe/village. There’s a reason for that. Shamans, elders, seers, and wise-women of a tribe typically hold their positions in the group over long spans of time. They live, learn, love together in a tight-knit community, intrinsically linked to the clan members. They often oversee the birthing of new members, and are participants of that member’s life from day one. This gives them special knowing, they see the patterns between a tribal-member’s aura, energy, personality that link to the like-energy of their totem. Simply put, tribal shamans have had a long-standing connection with their people, and are therefore in a better position to identify the individual totems of their tribesmen and women.
So what if we don’t live in a native setting in which an Elder knows us and can help us retrieve our animal totem identities?
The onus is on us. We must be the ones to invest the time to re-connect with our animal guides and guardians.
Asking others to identify our totems isn’t a bad thing, but I’d be leery of pat answers from virtual strangers. Those who ask me what their totems are often get frustrated with my round-about answers. I offer information that my Council feeds me, but not without belting out a few paragraphs about the importance of personal meditation, research and investigation into the matter.
Let’s face it. Most of us wouldn’t ask a stranger “Who is my life-partner?” and then marry the first person named Joe or Suzie just because we’ve been given a pat answer to this question.
In my opinion, re-partnering with our animal totems is no less serious. Our animal totems are profound partnerships – indeed, a marriage. They deserve our time and attention to get to know them. We deserve the investment to familiarize ourselves with our connection to them. So, be wary of the “poof! you’re a toad” syndrome. Pat answers to complex questions like these are to be approached with caution.