First off I want to remind you that the shamanic traditions can vary a lot from region to region, but in general the beliefs are very close. Animals and plants are intimately related to aboriginal religions and to shamanism and its practices in particular. In this respect, European, Central Asian, and North African shamanism probably have the longest history of evidence of this association: many petroglyphs, dating from the Upper Paleolithic to the premodern period shows evidence of a close relationship to animals.
Animals and plants aswell as animal-anthropomorphic figures, mythic or real, sacred or profane, have played very diverse roles within and across Asian cultures. Unfortunately, Eurasian shamanism, much of the territory of the practice of which falls within China, Mongolia, and the former USSR, has not been studied in all its diversity due to the severe ideological restrictions in the above-mentioned countries. Therefore it can be hard to understand or get knowledge about the asian view on power animals or totems.
Although there are regional as well as tribal differences the shaman generally believes that the “Spirit Animal” (Totem, Power Animal, Spirit Guide etc) is something that everybody have from the beginning and can learn to know and find a communication with. But all through life you will find other totems or will be visited by them. The most common as I have found is the bear, wolf and eagle. In the north (Scandinavia) where I am from we have since the Viking ages and earlier used names from animals and nature. Name such as Bjorn (bear), Arne (eagle), Alf (wolf) and so on are very common and if we would look at the Native American names I believe we find the same amount of animal connected names.
Just a beautiful song by Steve and David Gordon
Sometimes you have a favourite animal or some animal you’ve been connected to from your birth, that could be (but not always is) your “Birth Totem”. The birth totem is one of the two types of animal spirits that remain with us from the cradle to the grave. Our birth totems tell us what a person is really like, this can be seen as we share the same traits with our birth totem. Our psychic awareness is also closely linked with our birth totem.
Then we have our “Power Animal” which is the other animal spirit that stays with us from the cradle to the grave. Our power animal will compensate for our weaknesses and our short comings. These Power Animals also share their wisdom and their abilities with us, often giving us the knowledge to answer questions on subjects we know nothing about and also giving us the courage to complete our tasks when we want to give up. They also serve as an indicator of our possible growth and full potential they are able to provide us with everything we need to attain to reach our full potential, helping us to learn and grow.
I would not recommend anybody to tell who their Spirit Animals are if it’s not okay with them, so ask it first. It can be that your birth animal is confident enough to spoken loud about, but your Power Animal would become angry if you did that. You are supposed to connect with them and get to know it so that it can help you with answers and knowledge. See it like a friendship you will have all life long and treat it like a best friend.
Animal helpers are the type of animal spirit that comes and goes as the need arises, they share their wisdom with us and show us what we need know to remedy any situation in our lives at any time. They will stay with us until the situation is resolved then they will leave to help someone else. The sooner these animals go the better as it means the problem has been resolved and we can move on. It is important that we be aware of these helpers and that we listen and pay attention so that we can use their wisdom when it is needed.
Then we can have Animal Messengers which is exactly what it says, these animal spirits are the dispatch riders of the spirit realms and they deliver messages from the spirit world. They often appear in our dreams, but can appear in meditations or along our chosen pathway as we journey. Their visits are always brief, they depart as quickly as they arrive. We may only ever get to see this particular animal spirit once so it is important that we listen, carefully, to what they have to say or look ,carefully, at what they have to show us, we may not get another chance to fully understand what was given, if we miss something.
The Medicine Animals is similar to the helpers, except this animal comes loaded with medicine and this is to aid in healing. These animals only come when you call them and will stay until you tell them to go. These medicine animals also have a great wisdom to share with you and they will guide you whilst you do your healing work, in addition to all this they also provide extra protection, should you need it, whilst you work. Please remember when you use these animals to honour them with your thanks when you send them away.
You can connect with your totems through shamanic journeys, and it’s in one of those inner journeys (and the dream-world in some cases) you will find your totems. But that is another chapter.