Animal Energies (and Guides)
In our world, some believe that all life is interconnected. I am one of these people and you might be too. Many of us share the same cells, DNA, flesh and desires to reproduce, to be fertile, to live rich lives. As we too are animals, we find that we are part of an ecosystem (and many smaller ecosystems) which we are often semi-detached from. This detachment is often due to our placement in cities and suburbia, or because of our luxurious, media-filled, contemporary lives.
We are insulated from the dark with walls and artificial light, we are protected to an extreme degree from animal attack, we have domesticated dogs and the cats that are related to the Siberian tigers who once bested us in the food chain. Yet many of us pay what might be considered a price for this, we are often without guidance, spiritual elders, a strong sense of place or ancestry, direction, or connection to the animals and spirits around us.
As we influence the animal kingdom both spiritually and literally, so they influence us. No matter how many walls and barriers we erect within our lives, animal energies are able to infiltrate and affect our lives. This can help us understand our place within the greater world as they send us messages of compassion, guidance, or even messages of destruction. The influence of animal energies within our life - if we choose to listen and work with them - can even help us to lead the richer lives we desire. By rich, I mean spiritually prosperous, filled with clarity, independence, love and a desire to interact not only with other humans, but also other animals and energies.
If you find yourself reading these words, you might be curious about animal energies and the roles they play within your life. I will say now, that there is no definitive answer. You may or may not find what you are looking for here.
ANIMALS and other guides
All animals are thought to have traits and sometimes even lore that is specific to it, which creates an idea of what that animal can teach us. Let us take 'cat' as an example. Most cats are extremely proficient hunters, through honing their senses and trusting their instincts they are able to catch other creatures and live off the flesh of others. They are so adept at hunting that they are able to sleep most of the day, and anyone with a domestic cat will know how excellent they are at stretches, relaxing, and looking comfortable no matter where they sleep!
These are very simplistic interpretations of 'cat', but on a basic level we can see that cat energy teaches us how to see opportunity and take advantage of it so skilfully that we are better able to relax and ameliorate stress. 'Cat' may also teach us to relax, to stretch more and to feel more confident within our body. So a very simple interpretation of cat will have more complex implications that may restructure our lives so that we are able to both lead a richer and more rewarding lifestyle. In return for this 'wisdom', we can honour cat by researching them, donating to animal centres, or even simply sending our mental thanks outwards to nature.
Animals come into our lives in so many ways. Some of us own pets and may be influenced by their energies and personalities. We may see animals as we drive to work, or when we go for walks, or even within our own homes (such as spiders, silverfish etc.). All animals can have something to teach us. This doesn't always mean they're a 'guide' even though they have offered us guidance, but it does often mean that their energy has influenced our life in some manner.
Those of us who follow a spiritual path that seeks to reconnect with nature often try to interpret the messages of these animals. The best way to understand what an animal energy is teaching you, is by observing it, through research, and more successfully - through simply asking the animal itself either through meditation, visualisation or journeying.
Animals are not the only energies that can come into our lives and influence it, consider rocks, plants, and even certain spaces of land which each have their own spirits that embody it and give it life. Think of places in nature that have special meaning to you, what have they taught you? Think of any plants or rocks that you admire, what do they represent to you?
An animal guide can be thought of as an animal that teaches us significant lessons, often life-changing ones. It may be an animal that comes to us time and time again in unusual circumstances (like seeing pelican in the suburbs frequently), or an animal that has gotten our attention in varying ways (such as through loud vocalisations, violent confrontations, or even witnessing the animal's death). Guides are animals that we can develop 'relationships' with, we may be able to contact the animal spirit itself and go directly into the spiritworlds for guidance even when the physical presence of the animal is scarce.
It is possible to develop close relationships with animal guides, which in turn can help us to understand our places in nature, and our most instinctive or wild aspects with better clarity. These animals can help us spiritually, and literally, though it is not recommended that you try and be 'friends' with them in the real world if they are by nature a wild animal! Respect their wildness, and try not to tame animals naturally resistant to domestication.
When an animal gives us guidance, we are able to give it much in return. We can give it our respect and humbleness, we are able to give it love and in some cases fear if it is a dangerous animal teaching us harsh lessons. We can also support it through donations if it is endangered, education if it is misunderstood, or through further research, observation and learning.
DOES IT MATTER?
There seems to be a push in contemporary pagan and shamanic communities to collect animal guides, there is even a push to claim many of them as 'totems,' as though animal energies are just collector's items to be stored away and never really looked at with any spiritual depth. There are those who are so concerned with finding their 'totem' and labels, that they forget to pay attention to the animals that are already in their life.
Does it matter if an animal is your totem? Your best friend? Your guide? No. What matters is whether you choose to respect the animals already in your life. What matters is that you give them respect even if they're not 'impressive' (like ant), or regal (like 'slug'), or frightening (like 'snake'). It matters that you are learning, and that you are seeking to gain wisdom within your life. Animal energies are not to be used as a crutch to feed the ego, they are not to be coerced into becoming handicaps for our own search for understanding and knowledge, though they are used for this by those who have not yet found the strength to face their own weaknesses.
You will find your way to labels and categories when you need them, but in the meantime a category like 'snake energy' is more than enough to indicate that you are learning something from snake. It does not need to be a totem, or a guide, it is not something to be subjugated or even idolised unnecessarily. It is an influence occurring in your life to shape your existence, as you unconsciously and consciously shape the existence of the life around you.