What is a power animal in comparison to...?

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Boadicea
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What is a power animal in comparison to...?

Postby Boadicea » 03 Jul 2012, 08:14

What exactly is a power animal in comparison to a totem animal and an animal spirit guide? I have many spiritual guides who are dolphins and the baleen humpback whale is my totem animal. What exactly is a power animal, how does it differ and how do you find yours? Once you have found yours, what does it do for you and/or what is its purpose?

Thank you :)

/|\ Eachna /|\

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Re: What is a power animal in comparison to...?

Postby Dragon » 02 Aug 2012, 20:23

I wondered that too.
I came to the conclusion these are all terms for personal experience.
And how I read Druidry it's your personal experience that counts rather than bookish terms.
If your animals are OK with you then they are all you need right now aint they?

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Re: What is a power animal in comparison to...?

Postby Aphritha » 03 Aug 2012, 01:11

I feel my power animal is the domestic cat....I know typically wild animals are power animals, so is this silliness?


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Re: What is a power animal in comparison to...?

Postby Boadicea » 03 Aug 2012, 06:22

The house cat, specifically, or could it be a feral cat?

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Re: What is a power animal in comparison to...?

Postby treegod » 03 Aug 2012, 10:17

The usual distinction that I stick with is that a totem symbolises identity, whereas power animals are more like "allies" in the spirit world.
Now, in psychological terms, I'd say that totem represents the overall personality, and power animals aspects of personality (in psychosynthesis these could be termed subpersonalities) that are worked with at any one time. Since the personality is changeable, so are totems and power animals, which can represent particular phases in our lives.

But this question has been asked so many times, even here. I'm sure if I looked I could find other threads on this subject. I wonder why there's so much confusion over this subject?

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Re: What is a power animal in comparison to...?

Postby Aphritha » 03 Aug 2012, 22:15

The house cat, specifically, or could it be a feral cat?
You know, it could very well be feral. I feel connected to the cat species in general.


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Re: What is a power animal in comparison to...?

Postby George Knowles » 05 Aug 2012, 09:25

What exactly is a power animal in comparison to a totem animal and an animal spirit guide? I have many spiritual guides who are dolphins and the baleen humpback whale is my totem animal. What exactly is a power animal, how does it differ and how do you find yours? Once you have found yours, what does it do for you and/or what is its purpose?

Thank you :)

/|\ Eachna /|\
Hail Ho Eachna

Merry we meet

I wrote this many moons ago from a witchcraft point of view, but I think it answers your question:

Animals and Witchcraft (The Witches Familiar) - Written and compiled by George Knowles

Since time began animals have been revered and worshiped as spirits of nature, known to the ancients as power animals or the animal guides of the Gods. Many animals therefore became associated with various deities, such like: Diana and the Hound, Heqet (or Heket) and the Toad, Proserpina and the Raven, Pan with the Goat and Athena with the Owl. Most other deities in one way or another became associated with animals. The ancients believed animals were closer to nature than humans, and would perform rituals and make offerings to their spirits in attempts to communicate with them.

Old shamans believed that all things and beings, particularly animals, were possessed of a spirit or soul, and that one could attract parts of their soul, thus their spirit and powers with mimicry. To achieve this they dressed in appropriate animal furs and feathers or wore horns and fierce looking masks while performing dance and imitating their antics. The novice shaman would acquire his animal spirits on completion of his initiation. These he would send out on errands or to do battle on his behalf, however if they failed or died, then so too did the shaman. The shaman would keep and use the same animal spirits until his death, upon which time they would disappear or be passed on to aid his apprentice.

Given the animal kingdoms intimate relationship with nature, its not surprising that witches as they evolved should adopt certain animals as their own link to nature, spirits and deities. Wise men and women commonly used animals, while wizards, magicians and village healers used them to diagnose illnesses, sources of bewitchment, divination and to find lost property or treasure.

It was not until the Middle Ages and the rise of Christianity that the witches pets and animals became thought of as agents of evil. As the persecution of witches began, so the church started teaching the concept that the Witches’ familiar was an associate of the Christian devil. They became demons and evil spirits in animal form, sent out by the witch to do their nasty bidding. They also believed witches possessed the power to transform themselves into animals, in which guise they committed any number of diabolical deeds. Later they were believed to use animal products in spells, making potions and concoctions to aid transformation, gain power over nature, or even to harm and kill.

The most common animals associated with witchcraft were the: Frog, Owl, Serpent, Pig, Raven, Stag, Goat, Wolf, Dog, Horse, Bat, Mouse and of course the Cat, though virtually any animal, reptile or insect would be suspect. Obsession with the witches familiar was most prevalent in England and Scotland and was mentioned in numerous trial records of the period, particularly those related to “Matthew Hopkins”, the infamous Witch Finder General (see Matthew Hopkins).

According to the ancient Witchcraft Act of 1604, it was a felony to: “consult, covenant with, entertain, employ, feed or reward any evil or wicked spirit to or for any intent or purpose”, an act that Hopkins used with zeal when extracting confessions. He also used the “Malleus Malificarum” the so-called Inquisitor’s Handbook. Though it offers no instruction concerning familiars in the interrogation and trial of witches, it does acknowledge that an animal familiar “always works with the witch in everything”. As such it advises the inquisitor never to leave a witch prisoner alone, “or the devil will cause him or her to kill themselves, accomplished through a familiar”. This in mind Hopkins would tie the witch up in a cell and leave them alone, while watching secretly for their arrival. If so much of as a fly or beetle approached them, it was deemed proof enough that they were indeed witches.

Today in contemporary witchcraft any thoughts of animals as “demonic spirits of evil” has been left by the way side, though many modern witches still use animals when working with magick utilizing their primordial instincts and psychic abilities to attune with nature and deities. Animals are sensitive to psychic power and vibrations, and are welcomed into the magick circle when power is being raised or spells are being cast. They are also used to aid scrying, divination and spirit contact. When working with magick animals act as a guard in psychic defence for they react visibly to negative forces and harmful energy.

Perhaps the most famous of contemporary witches to keep a familiar was Sybil Leek and her pet jackdaw named “Mr. Hotfoot Jackson”. Sybil was a hereditary witch with a long lineage going back to the witches of southern Ireland in 1134, but her choice of a pet jackdaw bears an uncanny relationship to one particular ancestor called Molly Leigh:

Molly Leigh

As the story goes, Molly was born in 1685 and lived in a cottage on the edge of the moors at Burslem near Stoke-on-Trent. Molly was a solitary character who never married; she talked to the animals and kept a pet Jackdaw. She made her living selling milk from a herd of cows to travelers and passers-by. An eccentric person, the Jackdaw was often seen perched on her shoulder as she delivered milk to the dairy in Burslem.

Molly was known for her quick temper and the people of Burslem were suspicious and frightened of her. This was not uncommon in those times, for throughout the country ‘women’ and particularly elderly women who lived on their own in remote places, were labeled as witches.

In Molly’s case it was the local vicar the Rev. Spencer who made witchcraft accusations against her.  He claimed that Molly sent her Jackdaw to sit on the sign of the Turk’s Head pub, a pub that the vicar frequently visited, and when it did the beer turned sour. She was also blamed for other ailments suffered by numerous townsfolk.

Molly died in 1746 and was buried in the Burslem churchyard, but then many claimed that her ghost haunted the town.  A short time after her burial, the Rev. Spencer along with clerics from Stoke, Wolstanton and Newcastle went to open her cottage and retrieve her pet Jackdaw. When they arrived they were shocked to see Molly (or an apparition of her), sitting in a favourite armchair knitting with her pet Jackdaw perched on her shoulders (just as she had often been seen in real life). Frightened, the vicar and others returned to the graveyard and reopened her grave. They drove a stake through her heart and threw the living Jackdaw into the coffin. The vicar then decreed that as she was a witch, she would not rest easy until her body was buried lying North to South.  To this day, Molly's tomb is the only one that lies at right angles to all the other graves in the churchyard.

Many believe that an animal familiar is not acquired through personal choice, more that an animal will choose you as its guardian and companion. One cannot go down to the local pet-shop and choose a familiar simply on its symbolic significances: “I shall take an Owl for Wisdom, a Dove for Peace and a Spider for Imagination and Creativity”. Sorry, but that won’t work. Animals have their own in-built wisdom and intelligence, their own spirit and skills, and a bond needs to be made with them if they are to volunteer to work as your familiar. Most often the animal itself will let you know when this has been achieved.

Generally there are four different kinds of animal familiar. The first is our physical everyday live-in pets, most commonly the cat or dog. As with all our other family members an instinctive bond and psychic link is created over time. Silent communication of their needs exists and instinctively we know if they are happy or sad, hungry, hurting or in need of attention. They in turn reciprocate and adapt themselves to our life styles, intuitively they attune to our mood swings and circumstantial changes.

The second type of familiar is an imaginative creature, one you can closely identify with but never hope to own such like a lion, tiger or leopard. This is an animal whose characteristics you admire, and you may collect and hang pictures of it in your home. It resided in the astral plane and because of your intense liking for it; you consciously or unconsciously attract its aid. It’s said that deceased pets with which you had an affinity return in this capacity.

The third type of familiar is magickal, an elemental spirit. Witches and Magicians often call upon elemental spirits for aid when working with magick. When making talismans or amulets for specific purposes, they may call upon a particular familiar elemental to inhabit an object to enhance its effect. It is believed that Paracelsus; a medical academic (1493–1541) instilled such a familiar into a large precious stone on the pommel of his ritual sword.

The fourth familiar is the spirit of a human being, someone who has died. Many adept magicians will command the appearance of a human spirit but such spirits are hard to control, for instance, a spirit who has been commanded against his or her desires can be troublesome, in which case you need to be sure of your ability to get rid of them and this can be much more difficult than the original calling. Those spirits willing to act as our astral guides or teachers are commonly called ‘Guardian Angels’.

The most effective familiars tend not to be our domesticated pets, for due to their life expectancy our pets come and go, though the spirit of a deceased pet can still be used. The use of our domestic animals as familiars is merely a stepping-stone to the raw power and energy of wild animals that are much closer to nature; for instance, a domestic dog is a softened version of its wild counterpart the fox, wolf, coyote and other wild canine creatures. Similarly a domestic cat can be linked to other wild felines such like lions, tigers and leopards. Many witches and magicians start with a domesticated animal as a familiar in the hope that one day they will be able to handle and work more effectively with its true power form, the wild animals of nature.

Merry we part.

George Knowles (Man in Black).
E-mail - George@controverscial.com
Website - http://www.controverscial.com
Group owner - http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Email_Witches
Facebook - george.knowles.750@facebook.com

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Re: What is a power animal in comparison to...?

Postby Boadicea » 05 Aug 2012, 11:30

Great article! Thanks for sharing that with all of us :D

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Re: What is a power animal in comparison to...?

Postby Aphritha » 05 Aug 2012, 15:40

Very interesting, helped me get a much better idea of how it all works. Thank you.


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Re: What is a power animal in comparison to...?

Postby elementalheart » 01 Oct 2012, 19:20

Within the lineage of my training a power animal is the spirit animal(s) you work with regularly in order to achieve the results for your client/community. It is often perceived as a projection of an aspect of power you have not yet integrated within yourself, hence working with it as an "external" helper for a time. As you work with the animal you become more familiar and comfortable with the aspect of power it represents to you - NOT necessarily what a book or other practitioner/teacher says it means as power within each animal spirit has a uniquely personal meaning in the same way that to some a dog is a friend, to others a guardian and to others a cause for fear based on past experience. If a book says wolf is a teacher, but to you it represents belonging to a pack, life bonding, community etc then you work with that wolf, not anybody else's. It is considered normal for you to integrate the power animal fully over a period of a few years and for another to come along which leads you to your new learning edge.

Another role of power animals is for specific ceremonial duties which is where I would see them as more of a spirit guide but they're still power animals as far as I'm concerned :) I have found that if one animal comes in while I am doing a diagnostic journey then the work is clear because that animal almost always comes for that type of work, much as you get specialist doctors within a hospital. I usually have one that does divination guidance, general journeying and retrieval work, but a specialist one that appears for extraction, another for psychopomp etc.

Within this lineage there is no teaching of a separate "totem" animal, we are always evolving to integrate new aspects of power so new animals come to us as we require them. However, my understanding is that where totems are concerned, they would represent the core self, the aspect which we have never lost or hidden from ourselves and which we are fully able to recognise as "me" right from birth to the present and beyond, whereas power animals are the accumulation of what has not been comfortable, safe or accessible due to power loss or soul loss at some stage.

In some cultures there are specific animals which represent each world for the entire community, such as in Peru where the trilogia of Condor, Puma and Anaconda (upper/middle/inner world respectively) are usually recognised. Some paqos would work more with one than the other, anaconda frequently connected with those that work with ayahuasca and jungle medicine, condor with the "high priests" who work with the apukuna mountain spirits. Again I am only able to describe what was passed to me there and may not be accurate for all teachers/traditions in that culture but go to a market and you'll see the trilogia as often as the 3 individual animals and you don't see many others respresented at all.

There is no single "correct" answer, it really depends on the lineage of your teachings as not all shamanic practices and beliefs are the same from nation to nation or culture to culture - part of the joy of shamanism as with druidry :) And it is only my personal guess but perhaps it depends on the experiences historically of that culture or nation as to whether power loss was so common as to require the concept of power animals as separate from the totem lifelong self - my guess is that for most the stability of the self was far greater, as was the identity within the community, so that power loss was less a factor than it is in our society, and one totem animal would serve lifelong as the representation of the core self nature. with occasional trauma necessitating soul retrieval but with that done promptly and no longterm "lack" to be dealt with.

Just my personal views, no claims to absolute truth or reality ;)
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Re: What is a power animal in comparison to...?

Postby Bracken » 01 Oct 2012, 20:00

Could they all just be different words for the same thing?
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Re: What is a power animal in comparison to...?

Postby craigen » 08 Jul 2013, 12:50

Most interesting read! But I'm inclined to agree with Bracken

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Re: What is a power animal in comparison to...?

Postby Badger Bob » 08 Jul 2013, 17:12

Whatever you call them I think they may all be the same kind of thing with varying degrees of connection. The animal I identify with most strongly is the heron at the moment, it was the badger at one time and before that it was the hare. To me, the heron is presently a totem or a spirit guide, it features in my dreams and meditations and seeing one is a particularly strong omen for me at this moment in time. This places the heron foremost in my personal set of power animals which include badger, hare, stag and one or two of lesser importance. They are all important to me and have meaning but that meaning has a value which is different for each one.

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Re: What is a power animal in comparison to...?

Postby Twig » 09 Jul 2013, 06:58

Perhaps it is evidence of my spiritual stagantion at the moment, but nothing has ever repleced the elephant as my "Main Animal." Others have come & gone, but the elephant, she stays.
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Re: What is a power animal in comparison to...?

Postby Kaida » 13 Jun 2015, 01:18

I don't actually know what a power animal is, but in my time I have learned the difference between totems and spirit animals.
Other beliefs might have different understandings of them, but this is what I learned.

Spirit Animal, is like a spirit guide. You can interact with it, and it with you, in an astral/spiritual sense.

Totems are symbolic. Not really a living being a totem is a representation of you, or your family line.

Just from a quick google it seems like Power animal, is just a synonym for spirit animal, or spirit guide.
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Re: What is a power animal in comparison to...?

Postby Twig » 13 Jun 2015, 09:26

...and, somehow, I think the spirit animal a.k.a. power animal chooses us!
We have to pay attention, though. That's the hard part.
"...some part of me is tree." -- Stephanie Kaza (Buddhist author)

"It takes courage to live ordinary lives." -- Connie Schultz (newspaper columnist)

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Re: What is a power animal in comparison to...?

Postby aaron » 19 Jun 2015, 05:44

Hi There,
Perhaps I could put in my two cents and answer this question in simple terms.
As a Shamanic healing Practitioner, I use my spirit guides quite often when I journey.
Lets start with Totems. In North American Indian cultures, Totem Poles are seen frequently, particularly in the Northwest parts of North America. They represent clans within a tribe. An example would be the Bear Clan, or the Salmon Clan. These are usually family groups.

Power Animals are for personal protection. I was trained by South American Shamans, mainly Mayans. There are four power animals that I hold particularly special. They are the Serpent, the Jaguar, the Royal Hummingbird and the Eagle/Condor. Each represents a certain direction in the Medicine Wheel and each has a specific trait which we try to emulate. They protect us during ritual and can be called upon for specific protections.

Now, we come to Spirit Guides. These are entities that accompany a Shaman or other believer who travels the Corpus Mundi, or the Tree of Life, into the three worlds and guide us to help find specific answers. I may be looking for a cure, or guidance to help a lost soul in times of crisis.

Now, how do you find these critters. :shake:
Usually, you are born into, or adopted by a clan. You then have your own totem.
You don't find a Power Animal, it finds you. Meditate on it, ask (nicely) for your Power Animal to reveal itself, and it will make itself known to you. Sometimes just closing your eyes, meditate, then open them. You may be surprised at what you find in front of you. Remember, Power Animals do not have to be big and scary. They can be as small as a tiny spider, or as pretty as a butterfly.

Now for Spirit Guides, You will meet them as you journey through meditation. Be patient. It takes time and practice.

I hope this answers your questions. Happy to be of help.

Blessed be.
Aaron :hiya:

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Re: What is a power animal in comparison to...?

Postby Twig » 19 Jun 2015, 07:32

Nice post, Aaron. Cleared up some things for me. I've been having trouble contacting any being in the spirit world lately. Need to make more time! :shrug:
"...some part of me is tree." -- Stephanie Kaza (Buddhist author)

"It takes courage to live ordinary lives." -- Connie Schultz (newspaper columnist)

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