What is a power animal?
What is a power animal and other questions answered…
(This is a lightly-edited transcription of the above podcast)
Hi, everyone, welcome to shaman soup. My name is Kim McLaughlin, and I am a shamanic practitioner practicing in North Ayrshire, Scotland.
Today, I want to talk to you about power animals! We’re going to cover some of the main questions that I tend to get in my practice; you know, does everyone have a power animal? What is a power animal? What does it mean? How do we get one if we don’t have one? And if we do have one, what do we do with that?
I’ll just jump right in there…
Does everyone have a power animal?
The first question, of course, is, Does everyone have a power animal? And Yeah, I think so. My understanding is that we are generally born with our power animal, although sometimes we’re not quite sure what that power animal is.
And it can take going to see a shamanic practitioner, or perhaps a traditional healer, depending on the culture that you’re from, to find out what your power animal is. And in some cultures, of course, it’s called a spirit animal, it just depends.
There are some cultures that believe that throughout our lives, we can lose our power animal and a loss of a power animal is part of the reasons that we can have trouble in our lives, we can have illnesses and all sorts of challenges.
I’m not so sure about that; those aren’t my teachings. But I do acknowledge that I think that that can happen under some circumstances.
But to answer the question, yes, I believe that everybody is born with a power animal that we are assigned a power animal.
What is a power animal?
It begs the question of ‘okay, well, what really is a power animal, then? Because if it’s a lifelong guardian, people will often ask well, is my power animal an angel? Is it a guardian spirit?
And on the angel question, I think that they work very similarly.
Are they angels? Well, in my teachings, no, there are not. But I know that some people do see them as synonymous.
The way I was taught about power animals is that power animals are guardians, they walk with us. So, you know, when we walk, they walk, when we eat, they eat, they’re always with us by our sides, from the time that we are young, protecting us, guiding us, and when we have a strong intuition about something, the elders will say that this is our spirit guides, our power animals, whispering in our ear.
And this I absolutely believe. I think this is the number one way that we communicate with our power animals, is by listening to our intuition and trusting it.
But it is it is interesting; I get this question a lot from children. One of the things that I think is lovely to do with a child is power animal retrieval. And the reason for it, is that power animal retrieval, rather than being this dark, difficult, or intense ceremony is such a beautiful, positive and empowering ceremony.
And you know, for a young person, or really anybody of any age, to understand that they have this spiritual support…. And to know they have a spirit or spirits who are watching out for them, perhaps if they are from an indigenous community, that traditional healer is also able to find out the name that these spirits use for them.
Just understanding that we are seen on this level can be so empowering.
There’s a sense of acceptance around it as well. And I think for a young person, that’s going to help to support and inform things like identity, self-confidence, self-love, and just an understanding of our own sacredness.
So for me, the earlier that can happen in someone’s life, the better.
Children will often ask me, Well, what is this power animal? Is it really an animal? Is it a ghost? Is it a spirit? Not that children tend to understand the difference… And my answer is ‘it depends.’
Nope; no fast answers in Shamanism!
But it really does depend.
There are times when our power animal might actually be the spirit of an animal that we had an interaction with. And of course, that animal has since passed over. It’s gone to the spirit world. And now it comes back from the spirit world to help us to guide us and to support us.
You know, an example of this is one of the spirits that I work with, my first power animal was a real animal that I interacted with when I was about 10 years old.
Then, when I had my own spiritual awakening, about 15 years ago, this spirit (of the animal) came to me in a dream. And at the time I had no I idea I had ever made that connection; it took me almost a decade, before I had the wherewithal to ask this power animal of mine, hey, why did you choose me?
And it showed me that day, in the back fields of Tottenham Ontario where I grew up, and the interaction I had with this animal. It turned out that the spirit animal was that actual animal I had met.
So for sure, it can be an actual spirit of an animal, but oftentimes a power animal is pure spirit that embodies a certain form. That form has something to teach us.
I think that snake is always a nice example. You know, for someone who is gregarious and out there, perhaps if a snake shows up to them, that snake may represent something to them, a teaching, or a way of being that is relevant to them in their lives.
In this case, it could be something around say, grounding or slow transformation. It really just depends, and the only way that we can really know -well, there’s two ways – there are times where I will fetch a power animal and bring it back for a client and the client will know exactly why that power animal came to them.
“Oh, right. That’s an animal that I interacted with when I was, you know, in Mexico doing x y, z. Wow, I’m so happy that that animal has come to support me.”
Or sometimes the person will say, “Oh, yeah, I knew it was that animal. Because if you go into my house, I have 45 posters or pictures of that animal there, I have a collection of figurines of that animal, or I’ve been obsessed with that animal since I was 10 years old.”
So they know, they’ve always had an affinity with this animal. And when it’s not quite so obvious, the only way that we can really know, outside of trusting our own instinct, is to ask the power animal itself.
“Why did you choose me?”
And then you know, like, in the first case with me, the animal might say, “Don’t you remember me? This is what happened…” So in this case, the spirit really was that animal in one of its lives.
Or sometimes the power animal may have a very different answer. “I’m here because I want you to think about how you interact with your family,” at which point, then it’s up to that client to look at that power animal and really think about what it means to them.
What teachings does the power animal bring to their lives? How is how that animal lives in this world relevant to how the client lives?
I was taught that we want to look at things like, how does the animal live, what is its habitat? How does it hunt? What are its family relationships? How does it mate? How does it rear its young? What does it eat? What are its characteristics? What can we, as a person, learn from how that animal is?
And that is the lesson that we are in, at whatever point in our lives that the power animal shows up. These are the lessons that are going to be relevant.
What does your power animal mean?
I’ve kind of covered this, but then there’s that idea of what does your power animal mean? What is the significance of your power animal?
This is the number one question all the time!
And I can’t even…. Look guys, your power animal is not a horoscope, okay? It’s not the same for everybody!
And you can’t find it in books or going on a website, like Googling, “What does having a snake as a power animal mean?”
Yes, that’s all very entertaining. It’s interesting. And we all do it, because it is entertaining and interesting, but please, for the love of all things sacred, what your power animal means to you is going to be unique to YOU.
Maybe they’ll be similarities with what Ted Andrews wrote in animal speak, because believe me I know y’all know have either got Animal Speak or y’all know someone who does, and you’re checking Animal Speak to see what your power animal means!!
You guys, close the book, close the book.
While there are some similarities with how some power animals behave that usually will have to do with that animal in the real world, for example, the Lynx is shy and elusive, or polar bears are kind of aloof, eagles tend to be proud, ottes are playful, etc.
This is, oh my gosh, it’s not even scratching the surface of the significance of what this animal can mean in your life!
And the only way to find that out is, first of all, forget about all your expectations of what this animal may mean. Forget about your expectations of anything that may happen to you in the world of the spirits, because the experiences we have with our spirits are so unique to us.
The spirits know how to communicate to us, they understand the unique lens through which we are going to interpret our experiences.
And so they create those experiences to speak to that.
And of course, the way I may see, say, a tiger power animal, how I may interpret a tiger, what that tiger will mean in my life, given my experiences, is going to be completely different to what that tiger may mean to my best friend, who has a completely different set of experiences and a completely different lens by which he views the world.
And this is what is relevant: When we read these books, for the most part, these books are based on one person, and it might be a very talented person, don’t get me wrong. But one person who has gone to their spirit guides and said, “okay, guys, what does a tiger power animal mean? What does a snake power animal mean?”
And the spirits? You know, if I ask the spirits that question, they’re going to answer that question based on my interpretation of the world. So what those things mean to me are totally different, and you just cannot generalize what that animal is going to mean to everyone else.
So you guys, if I could write a book on What Does Your Power Animal Mean?, it would be a one-page book. In fact, would be one sentence that would say, “close the book and ask your animal yourself.”
How do you know your power animal?
How do we if we know what our power animal is? Perhaps we have dreamt about it. Perhaps we have asked a shamanic practitioner about it. Maybe if we’re from an indigenous culture, we have asked a traditional healer about it.
Or maybe we’ve just been one of those blessed people who have always known the animal that they work with and have never questioned it.
Well, number one, is to trust all of those experiences. trust them all. Trust your instinct. If you go see a practitioner, and the practitioner says, “well, your power animal is a rabbit,” but every fiber of your being says ‘maybe not’, I would say, trust that as well. I wouldn’t doubt it, but I wouldn’t doubt what the practitioner saying either. I really wouldn’t.
There’s truth in everything, provided they’re good practitioner, and they’re reputable, and you have confidence that the person that you are talking to walks with spirit.
It may be that there’s more than one animal for you, it may be that the way that this information is being presented to you has something to teach you.
So, you know, I would say hold back on the judgment if you’re not quite sure. But if it’s coming from you, whatever is coming from you, always trust that.
Spirituality is meant to be empowering. It is meant to help us embrace our authenticity; the truest, most powerful, most honest versions of ourselves.
That’s what I believe spirituality is all about, that’s where our healing is.
Always trust yourself, always trust your experiences.
So many clients come to me, and they’ll say, “Oh, I don’t have spiritual experiences. I feel so disconnected from my spirituality.”
And then two minutes later, they’ll tell me this incredible story of when they were walking on the land, and they had an encounter with a beautiful animal and how it made them feel and how it grounded them, or how it gave them a sense of maybe being visited by an ancestor or a relative, etc…
And I look at that person, like, “you know that that’s a spiritual experience, right?!”
“Oh, is it?”
Of course it is!! And it’s beautiful. And it’s powerful. And it’s yours. And you had that experience. So trust it, all right?
I’ve completely digressed… So, where was I?
What does your power animal mean… Okay, I think I said enough about that.
How do we honour our power animals?
The final thing that I want to talk about is, once we have a sense of awareness about our power animal, how do we honor it? How do we start to develop that relationship or further that relationship and deepen it and strengthen it?
There’s a number of ways we can do this.
Certainly, there is training around how we do this. But I think that, for most people, there are some very simple things that we can do to honor these relationships and to show gratitude to our power animals for showing up, for supporting us in our lives, and for protecting us.
One of the things I always tell my clients is that we can make offerings, we can feed our power animals.
What that may look like is different because every power animal is different. And every power animal generally will give a very different set of instructions for how it wishes to be honored.
But even knowing to ask that question is important, right then in there, right? Putting out that intention of ‘okay, I am aware of you, I want to honor you, I am aware of the role that you play in my life. Thank you for that.’
Generally, depending on the kind of animal it is, one thing that we may do is we may look at what the animal generally eats.
Now, obviously, this is going to be easier for some animals than for others. But if it is something that’s maybe a little bit easier, so for example, a bear eats salmon, then we can make offerings of that food, perhaps with the turn of the season.
Or perhaps, when we feel that we need a little extra TLC, or perhaps when we just want to honor our animal for supporting us.
Other offerings that we can make are things like water or milk. If we want to get off the idea of foodstuff, then we can offer up, of course, the traditional North American offering, as in Canada and in the States, at least, of tobacco, and medicines, right? So herbs! I have made offerings of flowers.
For some certain spirits, I make offerings of whatever I’m asked for, quite honestly.
I’ve worked with clients where their power animals did ask for things that were a little bit more complex. Sometimes there’s a ceremony that we’re given to do, to honor them, at which point the power animal will be very specific about how it wants us to honor them.
But I think for the vast majority of our animals, it’s usually a little simpler. Our power animals are helping spirits. They’re not trying to complicate our lives or to make things difficult or put us in danger in any way. So the ways in which we’re asked to honor them are ways that are doable for us.
And if there is a complexity to how we’re being asked to honor them again, generally, there’s something else in there that we need to learn. And this is one way that our power animal is choosing to teach us and it’s worth taking a look at that and going a little bit beyond the surface of why are we being asked to do what we do?
But still, if you are being asked to do something that, for the most part, provided it’s safe for you, right? That’s it’s not going to hurt anybody, it’s healthy, and it’s going to add to your life, then do it. Absolutely do it.
There’s nothing to be lost and everything to be gained from trusting the information that we get from our spirit guides, our power animals.
And I think that is probably a very nice spot to leave this podcast.
Everyone, thank you so much for listening. If you want to find out more about spirituality or about what I do, please visit my website at www.cedarlighthealing.com.
Again, I’m based in North Ayrshire, Scotland, and I’m finally allowed to see people in person, which is terribly exciting!
If you have any questions about spirituality, anything you wish to share, or you want to book an appointment or something like that, then by all means, reach out to me via email and I’d love to have a conversation.