Animal Medicine

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We all can probably look back to when we were very young and identify an animal to which we felt a special connection. While some might say that this is just kids being kids, learning about nature, and engaging in play, I would argue that perhaps there is more to the story. Over the years I have found that the more we recognize and embrace the idea that we are all connected, the more we can gain knowledge and inspiration from nature.

In popular culture, we see all sorts of joking reference to spirit animals and totems. In reality, animal medicine is an important part of culture and history. Native Americans have long known, understood, and embraced the value of recognizing the messages and lessons communicated via a specific animal showing up or crossing your path. What if you were to suspend your doubts and judgments for just a moment and consider the possibility that animals are just as connected to us as we are to one another?

A few years ago I began exploring animal medicine in a very passive way. If something popped up on my social media feed I might pay attention to it, but I didn’t seek it out. A dear friend began talking about her passion for foxes, which evolved into her own exploration of animal medicine, and I found myself more motivated to seek as she shared her discoveries. There are so many animals that I felt connected to when I was young, particularly sea otters, fish, and bears. It is no coincidence, I imagine, that one translation of my maiden name in another language is “little bear”.

Animals are sacred creatures, just like humans. The more we embrace the sacred existence that is possible in this life, the more spirit, synchronicity, and magic come into play. Over the years I have found support, strength and guidance from many animals both in my own meditations as well as in working with Shamanic Healers. I have received inspiration from hawks; protection and healing from bears and turkeys; motivation from owls; guidance from panthers and lions; reminders to play from squirrels; messages about showing my true self from raccoons; cheerleading from peacocks, seahorses, and lobsters; and most recently affirmation and hope from a snake.

I know, I know. This sounds bananas. When I first learned about animal medicine, I had to put in some significant energy to suspend my cynical mind. I have now read many books, taken some amazing classes, and opened my mind and heart to the idea that there is more to the story. It turns out, the more I am open to these messages and signs, the more meaning, inspiration, and joy I receive. The more attention I give to the animals that cross my path, the more connected to the natural world I feel.  The more connected I feel… the more I sparkle.

Rather than feeling panic and fear when a snake appears in the middle of my hiking path, as it did today, I am overcome with gratitude.

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The natural world has so much to teach us. While there are many animal medicine experts out in the world, I would urge you to observe and reflect when an animal crosses your path. How do they live their lives? What is the environment they thrive in? How do they find food? How do they rest, socialize, and mate? How do they evolve as a species? Is there anything they do that you might want to adopt into your own habits? Do they represent strength, passion, transformation, perseverance, or something else that you could use a gentle reminder on in your own life?

It is incredibly fun to read and research the ample resources about animal medicine, from spirit animals to totems and more; there is a lot to dig in to. I would recommend tapping in to your own knowledge and understanding of the animal first, then dig into whichever resources feel best to you.

A few of my favorites: Animal Speak by Ted Andrews

and the Pocket Guide

As mentioned, today I had a beautiful visit rom a snake. I hike different routes of the same trail Monday through Friday every week. I have been in this habit for a few months, and only today did I witness this gorgeous snake. I have had moments with hummingbirds, butterflies, lizards, woodpeckers, crows, and so many beautiful, powerful, inspiring red-tailed hawks (one of my personal favorites).  After much reflection on snakes and digging into my stack of animal medicine resources I feel like this visit truly is a gift, a message. Snakes shed their skin, so in my mind they represent change, transformation, healing, and rebirth. From my research, I also found that they can represent creativity, facing fears, and embracing change. All of this resonates in a significant way with me right now, and feels like a message from the universe that I am on the right path.

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Another personal favorite tool for animal spirit exploration is The Wild Unknown Animal Spirit Tarot Deck

and the Wild Unknown Animal Spirit Tarot Deck Guidebook

These tools have given me the chance to really explore animal medicine in a fun, beautiful way.

While these resources are filled with so many animals, here are a few of my takes on some of my favorites:

  • Sea otters: Play more!
  • Bears: Recognize your strength and knowledge within, new beginnings
  • Hawk: Power, awakening creativity and purpose
  • Squirrel: Be prepared for the future, make time for play; be aware of your collecting
  • Peacock: Intuition, rebirth
  • Lobster: Come out of your shell, allow others to see your authentic self
  • Sea Horse: Stay persistent, and keep working toward making your move
  • Raccoons: Are you wearing a mask? Is it time to show your true self?
  • Crows: Spirit, magic, creation
  • Owl: Spirit is surrounding you
  • Hummingbird: new joy is within reach
  • Buffalo: Abundance, life is a gift

When you embrace this connection to nature, pause to listen, and open yourself up to meaning, you just might find exactly what you didn’t realize you were seeking. 

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