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Animal Guides, Totems, Symbolism, Messengers and Meaning

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Moments of her fleeting life spent with me. Sacred. Sweet. I am so grateful for a remarkable visit from this transformational, ephemeral creature.
Dragon Fly
Dragonfly has deep meaning in many cultures, ranging from good luck and transformation to dexterity and the ability to see beneath the surface.  For me this smaller  “blue sewing needle” variety, one of many similar inhabitants at the South Portage Entry Pier in the Keweenaw Peninsula, takes me back to the dreamy, leisurely wonder of marshy explorations throughout my childhood. Dragonfly says stop. Look. Appreciate the everyday magic here now.

It’s said in Native American culture that each of us has nine animal totems. What are yours?  Have you ever been guided by a real animal or one that appeared to you in a dream?  

I’m still discovering my animal totems. You don’t pick your guides because you think a wolf is cool or a butterfly is groovy. Your guides find you. Some are fleeting. Some are for life. Some show you lessons about what you’re resisting. Some verify you’re on the right path. You can’t force it. But if you wish to know your guides, you can ask in a prayer.

Animal totems and guides don’t tell us what we want to hear. They tell us the truth. Yogi Kerri Kelly was stung by a scorpion and smacked by a whale in the same day. The blunt, literal nature of animal guides and how to work with their messages is beautifully told in her Wanderlust Speakeasy divine disruption

Birds are a favorite messenger, at least since I recovered from my  Hitchcock-induced paranoia. The chickadees, goldfinches and hummingbirds were the first to turn my heart.

In my spirit room, the place I go to meditate, there are blue butterflies in the domed atrium. Fox and Owl have a place at the round, oak-timber table, along with my other advisors of the highest truth and compassion. Sometimes I wonder if Owl is there for me or if I am there to deliver his messages. Two summers ago I was strongly drawn to buy a tiny stuffed owl at Goodwill. Then mentors appeared, a couple whose logo is an owl. I gave owl to them.

Always, on the beach outside my spirit room, waiting to carry me to the lighthouse down the shore, is a white horse. That’s from a childhood family chanty. “Lucky Lucky White Horse, ding a-ling a-ling …” White horse also symbolizes a spiritual teacher.

I pay attention to the creatures in my world. What guidance do they offer in their way of being? What lessons can be learned from their characteristics? I don’t believe any of them are evil. But I do think they are sometimes sent to warn and often to reassure.

Rabbit was important to me when my book was accepted by a publisher.  The fear of succeeding brought on one of the worst panic attacks I have ever known. My anxiety over the possibility of abundance and dreams coming true was stilled in wonderment on the icy night a rabbit appeared near the neighbor’s back door, under the porch light where I could see him. I had asked for a clear sign. And there he was where he shouldn’t be (right where the pack of Chihuahuas runs out). All it took was a look.

There’s the Robin. Robins, to be precise, but I call her – all of them are ‘hers’ – Robin Dawn, after one of the main characters in my novel. I think these chipper, resilient birds are here to encourage me with my final round (Robin) of “More Than You Think You Know” rewrites.

Black dogs are another sight that encourages me with my novel because much of the action takes place on the good ship Blackdog.

Toads and frogs signal the health of the environment. They also herald transformation, rebirth and the letting go with a water element – like cleansing rain, or tears.

Luna Moth came to me in early summer. Like the green-gold bullfrog, another averted mowing fatality, she emerged from a damp clover hillock. When her fluttering ceased she latched onto my garden glove. She seemed to enjoy having her wings stroked. I didn’t understand why she wouldn’t partake of the sugar water I brought her until I asked my Facebook community what to do for her. They told me to enjoy her brief life. She doesn’t eat. She has no mouth. Just this velvety, magical, mystical essence that I cherish always.

Fox and deer come often here. Most recently a deer walked through the yard a few seconds after I’d exchanged sharp words with my grieving, pissed-off husband. Our argument had nothing to do with us and everything to do with being gentle, alert and responsive.

Beetle reminds me to be myself. To be true to who I really am. The beetle hatch that caused two of the armored creatures to appear on my path came during my own metamorphosis into a new job and other extreme family transitions. Changes I welcomed. But changes that needed to be addressed in news ways rather than the old patterns of choosing the “right” answer, conforming to what I think others want to see in me and all those other people-pleasing tendencies that I value but that must also like my mind be my servant and not my master.

When I took the Kolbe test at my new job, to assess how I work, it showed inconclusive results. It said I was in transition and recommended unplugging, centering, aligning with my true self instead of pushing rocks up hills and speeding up to some preconceived pace with self-imposed deadlines. I shouldn’t have been surprised. Beetle had already informed me.

Even if you don’t believe in animal totems you will still find great joy and insight in observing the qualities of creatures around you. For example, dolphins show us how to play, to be free and friendly. The butterfly is the quintessential example of metamorphosis and transformation. Also considered angelic. When Dragonfly appears, look for the magic.

What draws you? Cawing raven, vibrant ladybug,incandescent hummingbird ? If you’d like to learn more, there are plenty of resources.

www.whats-your– YOUR ANIMAL TOTEM



4 thoughts on “Animal Guides, Totems, Symbolism, Messengers and Meaning

  1. Birds, for certain. Crow. Eagle. Had a pet crow when I was a kid. Pekka. Eagle at the camp. Gulls: Baby and Cakes and their offspring. Those we feed at home, especially the DeeDees, as Nicolas calls them. I love the whole notion of the use of birds as psychopomps, too. Grey, female Wolf. I could go on. Thank you for giving me the gift of reflection after reading this entry.


    1. A pet crow. That’s remarkable. I’m glad to spark reflection. It mirrors my own desire to go deeper toward understanding the beings in our world. Rather than humanizing them I’m learning from them!


  2. I am aware of several animal totems, and I just got another one today! Dragonfly was given to me by one of my spirit guides. I have 2 bird totems, Jaune Juan the yellow canary, and a scarlet macaw, but also Tiger, Turtle and Snake. Glad to read some verification of dragonflies.


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