Spirit animals are the essence and power of an animal at a spiritual level. You can work with them to inspire you in your everyday life. There are different types of Spirit Animals and the way you build a relationship with them varies depending on what type they are.
Rather than trying to make a connection with an exotic animal, start closer to home with the animals in your backyard.
Local Spirit Animals Explained
Spirit animals have many different sources. The idea of being able to communicate with a spirit animal has probably been going on since the beginning of humankind. Wanting to connect with animals at a spiritual level goes beyond any group of people.
However, I think there are different categories that beliefs in spirit animals belong to.
Different cultures have their own set of traditions around spirit animals, and there can be subcultures within them. The ways in which a spirit animal is approached – or approaches you – is codified. Those rules rarely work for anybody outside of the culture they originated from.
I first learned about spirit animals in the 1990s when New Age Spirituality was at its peak. Most of what I learned then was based on Native American practices. I knew nothing about appropriation. I just knew that I really resonated with the ideas I was reading about.
Now I realize that I was actually connecting to that sense of being able to have a conversation with nature. At that time, that was the only group of people who seemed to know about how to do this. I soaked it all up and took the whitewashed information I read about to heart.
I now understand there are layers of meaning that I can't possibly tap into because my ancestors were colonizers. In the same way, I can't fully connect with my Celtic and Norse roots because I don't live there. That leads me to the Ancestral group.
The Ancestral way of connecting with spirit animals is having a connection to the spirit animals that
I, as a white woman with completely northern European ancestry, can intuitively interact with an animal by sensing my way back through time. I believe some animal spirits are connected to a clan or tribe throughout time, no matter where they were on earth.
In that case, I am very connected to Bear but I no longer think it's going to be the same meaning as a Bear from cultures other than my own ancestral ones. I think it's worthwhile to think about what a bear would have meant in real life to people living in Norway a thousand years ago and try and tap into that.
With this type of spirit animal, there are no cultural or ancestral ties to it. It's an animal you admire but haven't had any contact with in real life, except maybe at a zoo.
The aspects of the animal are what you aspire to and want to be more like. You feel inspired by them. Sports teams with animal mascots are basically using a spirit animal.
A local spirit animal is an animal that lives where you live. That means it can be a wild animal or a domestic animal. They include insects and fish.
For example, if you live in Florida you could work with Shark and Alligator spirit animals because you share the environment with them. In the middle of the U.S. it's Catfish and Snapping Turtle. In the Pacific Northwest is might be Sea Otter and Octopus.
Domestic animals are everywhere and I don't see any reason why they can't be considered as spirit animals, too. If you have a pet, they have spiritual power, right? I'm starting to think that Cat as a spirit animal is slowly taking over the world, if the Internet is any indication.
Any bird, mammal, fish, insect or microbes, and even slime molds can be accessed on a spiritual level. Making spiritual connections with the living beings in the world around you is a logical way to make your ordinary life extrasensory.
#1 Way to Connect with a Spirit Animal
The first thing to do is be more aware of the ways in which animals show up in your world. What do you feel when you're with your dog or cat, or when you see a butterfly or a particular bird like an eagle or cardinal?
Analyze What It Means
Think of these animals as mirrors of yourself. What do you feel when you see a butterfly? That is an aspect of yourself that you are needing to connect to. Often a butterfly is a message that you need to see the beauty in yourself.
What if you keep seeing honeybees? Honeybees are cute and sweet but have a sting that kills them. What is the message in that for you?
How about rabbits? What does a rabbit mean to you? What part of you that is like that is trying to get your attention.
Don't Be Too Literal
Many animals have a violent, predatory side to them. If you want to do some shadow work you can explore that, but in general just go with the first thing you associate the particular animal with. If the first thing you think of is how wasps lay their eggs in harmless caterpillars that is your signal to examine what part of you is like that. In other words, shadow work.
The Local Spiritual Connection
Working with local spirit animals isn't just about using them as a mirror to find out what your soul is trying to tell you. It's also about connecting with the world around you at a spiritual level. That means to look at these animals with respect, awe, and reverence. It means to see them as part of the big web of creation that humans are a small part of.
Seeing the animals around you as part of creation grounds you and makes you aware that you are part of it. Yes, thinking that Tiger is your spirit animal is exciting, but unless you live where there are tigers, you're going to be disconnecting your spirituality from your reality. Try Bobcat, instead.
When you start to work with spirit animals you become aware of something bigger than being human, and that we aren't really the center of the universe as we are led to believe. That's the heart of spirituality to me.
Seeing the world this way is good for your brain chemistry. It makes everyday problems seem insignificant and renews our faith in existence.
Make It Personal
A lot of mainstream books first written about spirit animals borrowed (or stole, even) heavily from Native American culture. Spirit animals are universal but make sure you're approaching them from your own world and reality. Learn from them and discover what animals have to tell you today in your neighborhood.