Animals are always around us, though few of us pay attention to them and the potential messages they carry for us. Yet, which animal crosses your path or constantly comes into your life as an image or in a dream, is often a sign and may have great significance for you.
Medicine men and women for thousands of years have taken on the essence of an animal in what is called shape shifting. They will journey in and see through the eyes of an animal, feel themselves in it’s skin, becoming the animal as they move in the way that it does, viewing their surroundings in a trance state. A Jaguar Shaman in the Amazon will walk through the fourth dimension in what is called shape shifting to discover answers of a problem the tribe or a patient may be having. Tribal hunters will imagine slipping into an animal’s skin while tracking it, experiencing what the animal smells, sees and feels in order to locate it. They may shape shift to spy unseen on another tribe or persons or to see what the future foretells.
Their animal will choose them and this then will be the species they work with from an early age. In many Amazonian tribes it may be the jaguar, the boa constrictor or the harpy eagle. The Shaman will take the traits of that animal and perfect them in imitation using these traits to further their understanding of situations. A harpy eagle masters the air and can see far into the future. A jaguar is physically powerful and the king of the forest, easily overcoming its foe or prey. A boa constrictor slides quietly through the trees and the water, unheard and unseen. All of these animals are top predators and masters of their element. Each Shaman carries these traits in their dealings in other dimensions or worlds.
We take the creatures around us for granted, often considering them pests. We don’t notice the pigeons flying above us, the ants traversing the cracks in the sidewalks, or the lizard sunning itself on a wall. Very few people truly understand not only an animal’s significance on this planet and large role in keeping the natural balance that man constantly topples, we also don’t realize we have forgotten how to communicate with animals or even their significance in our own lives.
For hundreds of thousands of years Native cultures have understood the symbolic or literal message that an animal crossing our path has to tell us. Native peoples are aware of the principle of a specific animal crossing our path has a message to carry from the type of animal that it is to even what time of day, the direction it was going and more. A deer may be reminding us that gentleness in a current situation is necessary. Ravens will often warn of change coming in, a lizard offers us messages of the dream state. Each animal’s message was usually due to its inherent nature. There are wonderful books on the subject such as Ted Andrews’ Animal Speaks in which you can look up the meaning of each animal.
It can be quite fun and profound the next time you see an animal in the wild or maybe even if pictures of the same species are constantly popping up, to look up what the meaning is or as it is termed in the Native traditions, what medicine (lessons) it has for you. If you are infested with ants, what is ant medicine trying to say to you? What were you thinking at the time you saw the animal? What is happening in your life that may require your attention?
In the western world we have many totem animals, not just one. We may not be exercising the tribal practice of shapeshifting in our lives, however we can find our own animal totems by either meditating or journeying in quest to discover what animal or animals may be bringing lessons to us at this time. We can turn our attention to our chakras or energy centers in our bodies and ask what animals may be representing each center and why they are in that placement-what are they here to teach us? If you repeatedly see the same animal, say hummingbirds may be constantly flying up to you- pay attention.
The lesson may be to open your heart, as hummingbirds rule the heart center or they may be acknowledging the opening of that specific center and foretelling that rewards for your self love are soon to come through. This may be the totem animal working with you at the current time. You may even simply ask that the animal who is your current totem present itself to you. Watch and listen because it could show up on the next page of a magazine ad or illustrated on the side of a car passing by. It can be quite fun, inspiring and profoundly telling when you pay attention to the animal’s messages that come into your vicinity.