WORKING WITH A POWER ANIMAL
Throughout our lives, we may encounter animals of a special nature that bring to us certain gifts of the Spirit. These are power animals... and they visit us for the purpose of sharing knowledge, giving us necessary abilities, or teaching us wisdom that it is important for us to know. These may be called familiars by some (a common European term), allies (a more common North American Indian term), totems, guides, or power animals. Different cultures and different faiths have different views on exactly what constitutes a power animal. I won't address those distinctions here. I'm not the end-all expert in every culture's traditional correctness! But more importantly, there are certain features of power animals and how we can relate and work with them that are true and effective regardless of what they are called.
First and of greatest importance, always understand that power animals are gifts of the Spirit, and are never to be taken lightly. They may be sent to teach and guide us, we may draw them or seek them out because of our needs, or we may naturally share their strengths and characteristics. They may be seen in our day-to-day earthwalk or in our dreamwalk. They may be common animals that we encounter frequently, such as dogs, coyotes, birds, or cats. They may be such uncommon animals as dragons, unicorns, or exotic animals that we have never seen (before) in our earthwalk. As small as a spider or as large as a whale. But the fact that the paths of these special animals meet ours is never an accident, and remains a very special gift that should always be treated with respect and appropriate thanks to the Great One. We who wish to walk the Spirit's path are responsible to not only carry his gifts to others; but to accept and use wisely those gifts that he gives to us. Power animals, and what they share with us, are some of his gifts.
Seeking the Power Animal
Power animals may visit us as our needs arise, without any specific seeking on our part. However, there are times in our lives when we need the assistance of a power animal, yet one does not "magickally" appear for us. This isn't surprising, when one thinks about it. While many of the Spirit's gifts are there for us if we will only be willing to observe and receive them, many of these gifts require some dedicated effort on our part to obtain. We are not carried on the Spirit's path... we choose to walk it. That means we choose to encounter and overcome all of the obstacles that exist as lessons on that path, and we continue on the path nevertheless. In instances where we need the gifts or strength of a power animal, we can seek one out and the Spirit will provide one consistent with what he knows our needs to be.
A good technique for seeking a power animal commences with our recognition of the need which we have. Evaluate where in your life assistance is needed. Work on clearly understanding and expressing this need to yourself. Don't waffle, or try to sugarcoat anything. You can't fool the Spirit, you won't be able to trick a power animal, and it would be dangerous to try to do either one. When your need is clearly understood by you and you have a clear expression of that need, seek a quiet place, out of doors if possible. Face the world of nature that the Spirit has created, and turn slowly to face the four quarters, east, south, west and north; and face the Spirit above and the Earth Mother below. As you face each direction, cast your need out and pray to the Spirit to send you assistance in this matter. Needless to say, your need in seeking a power animal should be a need that can be filled with a gift of strength, knowledge, or ability to you. Don't expect a power animal to appear that will change someone else. Power animals are personal relationships that we encounter for the betterment of ourselves. They won't make your boss less demanding or your spouse more understanding. They may, however, impart certain strengths or powers to us that permit us to deal with that boss' demands, or help us to explain things in such a manner that our spouse better understands them.
Once one has extended their needs to the Spirit in the form of proper prayers, we need only wait and be observant.
Recognizing Your Power Animal(s)
Sought or unsought for, how do we recognize a power animal? They are special and different to us. We may meet them with unusual frequency or in unforeseen places, such as a bird that lands on a tree outside our house every day and sings, or watches us as we pass. Possibly a spider that continually weaves their web across our window. Meeting 20 dogs in one day may be significant (unless you work for a veterinarian or animal shelter). The same coyote that howls near your yard every night. The rat that suddenly appears in front of your building every time you leave. An animal that is not native to your region appears to you. And of course meeting these special animals in our dreamwalk may be a clue. We may find ourselves unusually drawn to them in artwork or clothing decorations. The practice of Shamans the world over applies: BE OBSERVANT. Something will call you to the power animal, just as they have been called to you. They will be special to you. Don't rationalize their presence away by saying "they are often seen around here," or "the snake could have crawled into my house accidentally." There are no accidents with power animals, and you will feel their importance to you if you stop playing games with your logical mind.
Communicating with Your Power Animal
One very important way to recognize power animals is the way they communicate with us. Power animal communications are different. Your power animal will naturally draw your attention and talk with you. You will find yourself drawn to them, and usually experience a close feeling of spiritual relationship with the power animal. You may find that you talk with the power animal in your earthwalk or dreamwalk. A close empathy and understanding will develop as the basis of communication between you and the power animal. They become very important to us, and "mean" something to us in ways that we may not be able to express at first.
To communicate with your power animal, it is important to first understand the nature of the animal. There are many good books on the subject (see bibliography). Every animal has certain characteristics, mannerisms, and talents that are unique to that animal. Research them and learn the habits and characteristics of the animal, for these are likely to be important to you. Some animal features are readily apparent. The bat and owl both see well at night. The peacock is notable because of their extravagant tailfeathers. Deer is fleet and hides well. Mountain lion is powerful and territorial. Learn all you can about the way the animal lives, their physical strengths, and their spiritual features. Study what different cultures have known about the animal for many years. In NA traditions the coyote is the trickster. The dog is very loyal. Skunk is powerfully defensive. Eagle sees far and is a spiritual symbol. Raven is a messenger of magic.
Once you know the characteristics of your power animal, you are in a position to learn of what value their presence (or power) may be in your life. They are there to share their power and to give you gifts of the Spirit. Search for areas of your life that may be enhanced by developing more of the traits of the power animal. Has owl presented himself to you? You may need to learn to be wiser, quieter or less obvious in your movements or activities. Or you may need to learn to be silent and unobtrusive as you pursue (hunt) for those things that you need in your life.
Learning of your power animal's characteristics requires some book work and research; but that is only half the effort. The other effort in working with your power animal goes beyond just knowing what bat means, what whale means, what otter means, etc. The rest of the effort involves listening and talking with your power animal.
Talking with your power animal requires a close empathy for the animal, and a willingness to communicate on your part. You must be willing to talk with the animal with no reservations, and listen to or observe their response. It is important to ask the animal questions, or for certain strengths if you need them. And having asked, be prepared to listen and accept the response! The power animal's response may be found in the way they move, their actions or change in actions, or a direct response to our questions. Yes, they may talk back. Not in a way that everyone in earshot would necessarily hear (although some might); but in a way that manifests itself to you as clearly as if the animal was talking straight into your ear. Some persons have a difficult time accepting this strength of power animals, and as a result may miss out on one of the Spirit's greatest gifts. Don't get caught in the trap of believing that as humans we are nearest the "peak of creation" and are therefore the only animals that can speak! Many animals, and especially our power animals, may speak to us. It is our part to open our souls and listen. Some power animals may never speak in this manner; but others will, and it is our part to respect their gifts and listen up!
Special Techniques for Working with Power Animals
With all of the above being said, there are certain techniques that may help us in dealing with power animals:
(1) Observe how the power animal presents itself. Does the power animal appear immediately in front of you, to your side, or only in passing instances, such as in pictures, artwork, occasional instances? An animal that presents itself in front of you in your earthwalk usually has a pressing and immediate need to pass a gift to you. An animal that is seen only to your side or out of the corner of your eye is generally making itself known to you in a more subtle way, and is tasking you with the job of recognizing the need that may exist in your life for a gift that the animal may offer. Observe the way the animal moves as well. Does the animal appear to follow or accompany you? If so, the persistence of the animal is a key to your understanding. Consider whether you may have an ongoing need for the gift the animal has to offer. If the animal crosses in front of you note whether it passes from right to left or from left to right; bearing in mind that the left side is generally associated with the female, intuitive nature and the right side is generally associated with the male, logical nature. Your power animal may be intentionally drawing your attention toward the side that currently needs your focus.
(2) Is the power animal presenting itself in your dreamwalk? You may need certain gifts from animals that are not native to where you live, and by meeting you in your dreamwalk they can provide you with their gifts whether any of these special animals reside near you or not. In the dreamwalk, you can obtain the gifts from an ocean-swimming dolphin even if you live in the cornbelt. A visit by the animal in your dreamwalk may be significant in other ways as well. It may mean that you may not consciously acknowledge the need for their gift. They may be presenting their gift to you for use in a life circumstance that you have internalized, or for a problem that is so pervasive that you cannot come to grips with it in your common waking state. Power animals do not distinguish between the earthwalk and the dreamwalk, other than the extent to which one means of communicating may be superior to the other. Their reality is no less or greater in one than the other. So in the dreamwalk it is important to observe the features of the animal's movements just as it is in the earthwalk.
(3) Is the animal talking to you in a way that manifests itself as ordinary speech? To hear the speech of such animals is a strong force on your being. It implies a very direct and significant effort of communication by the power animal; and correspondingly indicates a very strong willingness on your part to listen. Never brush such communications off as "your imagination," "just a dream," or something that must have been a mistake on your part. Power animals do not make mistakes.
(4) Always feel free to ask the power animal for clarification. When the message or gift being offered by the power animal is unclear to you, ask! Their path is crossing yours for a reason, and they are generally willing to explain that reason. Although in some instances their gifts may be contingent upon action on your part, such as an honest recognition of important features in your life, or an important adjustment in your lifestyle. In these cases, the power animal usually doesn't just leave you guessing... their "clues" are quite clear if we are honest and brave enough to recognize them. Incidentally, if you feel silly or unrealistic about asking the power animal a direct question you will not benefit from their gifts. They don't question your existence or the importance of your needs; so don't question their reality or remarkable abilities.
(5) Try mimicking the power animal for clarification. If the reason for the power animal visiting you remains unclear, try mimicking the power animal. Spend some time alone and try to become the power animal. Try visualizing yourself as running like a deer, stalking prey, swimming through the sea, or flying like the power animal. Don't just visualize the power animal... visualize yourself as being the power animal. In such states you are frequently better equipped to understand the gifts, strengths or abilities that the power animal is there to share. This is also the first step in shapeshifting, so don't be startled if your visualization becomes extremely real. The more real your visualization, the easier it is to assume the strengths and abilities of your power animal.
Saying Goodbye to Your Power Animal
Power animals will come and go in our lives. We may have more than one, many or a few, at any one time. Some may stay with us most or all of our lives. The paths of these remarkable animals may follow ours for a long time, or may cross ours just briefly, just long enough to share their special gifts of the Spirit with us. Under any circumstances, however, the Spirit sends us these friends in many forms to care for and help in our walk along the path he has set for us. Whenever we receive aid from a power animal, never neglect to offer gifts or extend your appreciation in appropriate form, such as food or shelter for these wonderful animals that have so willingly carried the gifts of the Spirit to us. And above all, never neglect to extend your thanks in prayer and action to the one who has caused our paths to cross: the Spirit.