Conversations at the Sanctuary: What Are Spirit Animals?
Believed to be spiritual guides in the form of animals, these guardian angels come in and out of our lives to bring us guidance and direction
Throughout mankind’s history, different cultures across the world have been known to look towards animals as a form of spiritual guidance through the journey of life. Take for instance, the twelve animal zodiac signs used by the Chinese, or the animal totems (symbolic representations of animal guides) used by the Native Americans. In fact, spirit animals have guided humans in everything, from hunting and warfare to migration. But what are spirit animals, and how do we connect with them? Natalie Chan (known to many as Guardian Of Eden), is an Animal Communicator and Reiki Master who has been working professionally with an astounding cross-section of amazing animals (including dogs, wolves, sea lions, and binturongs), for over a decade. Drawing on her rich experience to share wisdom gleaned over the years, the compassionate animal lover explains, “Spirit animals are guides that enter our lives at different points in time to bring us guidance or lessons. Think of them as spirit allies who help us to navigate through difficult times.”
Q: What are spirit animals?
NATALIE: Spirit animals guide our paths and send messages to aid us during specific moments in life. They can also be our protectors and companions in times of strife. In addition, spirit animals may help to shine the spotlight on issues that might require our attention.
Q: What cultures practice this belief?
NATALIE: Many cultures have different variations of spirit animals, but the Native Americans are most well-known for the practice of looking to animals as spiritual guides. Believing that human beings have a spiritual connection to animals, the Native Americans believe that all living beings share an interdependence on one another. Every being, regardless of human or animal, plays an indispensable role in the world and hence, must be treated equally and with respect.
Q: Does everyone have a spirit animal? How do I know what’s mine?
NATALIE: As you start on your path to discovery, remember that the animal chooses you. Spirit animals come to provide us with “medicine” in the form of lessons, guidance, wisdom, protection, or power.
There are several ways that to discover your spirit animal. You might cross paths with your spirit animal physically (for instance, it may take the form of a pet), symbolically (such as repeatedly coming across images of a specific animal on posters, TV programmes, magazines, and even online, such as on social media platforms), or spiritually (in dreams or during meditation). Meditation opens a pathway to connection, so you may try asking your animal guide to show itself to you by reaching out through visualisation.
Spirit animals bring us messages in several ways, so be aware of recurring animal encounters and make a mental note of the one that keeps appearing to you over and over again in obvious ways. Pay close attention to the animals in your life as this may be the way your guides try to connect with, or lead you through trouble (just like Dante, the street dog in Pixar’s animated film, Coco, who turns out to be Miguel’s spirit animal)! Frequent interaction with a particular animal are a clear indication. You’re bound to notice them because of an unusual behaviour or multiple encounters within a short duration.
Q: How do I seek help from my spirit animal through meditation?
NATALIE: Meditation is a practice that helps us to clear our mental fog, focus on living in the moment, and grow in awareness. When seeking advice and guidance from your spirit animal, begin by setting the intention clearly. Focus on your spirit animal when meditating, and keep an open mind to receive any messages that might come to you. We enter an altered state of consciousness during meditation, which allows us to be more receptive to the intuitive wisdom of animal energies.
Q: Will I have only one spirit animal in my entire lifetime?
NATALIE: You may have one or many. Depending on the circumstances of the stage you’re going through in life, different spirit animals may step forward at varying points to offer you guidance.
What do spirit animals symbolise?
“Spirit animals can influence us throughout life. Some of the most common ones include the bear, dog, elephant, wolf, owl, lion, and horse,” Natalie shares. “We tend to feel a very strong connection with our spirit animals. We resonate with them as they often represent the qualities we identify with and in a way, they reflect a symbolic representation of how we see ourselves.”
The bear represents qualities like strength, introspection and self-awareness. This could point to strengths that you need to build on or strengths that you already have, but need to start displaying in order to tide yourself through a certain phase in life. As a spirit animal, the bear inspires the courage to stand up against adversity. It is also a powerful guide to support healing, and reminds us of the importance of solitude, quiet time, and rest.
The dog is known for his loyalty, courage and unconditional love. Dogs are gifted with a keen awareness and the power to protect. It is important to draw on these qualities when relying on the dog as your spirit animal to guide you through life. Each breed has its unique traits however, so if a particular breed makes an appearance, pay attention to those traits as they may be the exact ones that the dog is meant to share.
The elephant is synonymous with qualities like fortitude, learning ability, poise, leadership, and good luck. When the elephant trumpets its arrival, the message is typically one of connectedness. Ever gentle and wise, elephants have an intense focus on family, including past and future generations. Perhaps you’ve lost touch with family members, or are facing family squabbles – if so, harness the elephant’s empathy to understand differing viewpoints and work towards building harmony. If you’re going through a tumultuous period in life, or dealing with chaos and upheaval, your elephant guide may be signifying the need for you to stand strong but remain compassionate.
The wolf brings forth instinct, intelligence, an awareness of the importance of social networks, and an unbridled appetite for freedom. The wolf also symbolises a fear of being threatened and may indicate a situation where you need help in placing your trust in others. Your spirit animal may be warning you about challenges with personal boundaries, or reflecting circumstances that are causing you to feel vulnerable and uncomfortable. When it makes an appearance, identify the source that’s leading to these feelings, and heed what your intuition is telling you.
The owl embodies wisdom, insight, and psychic vision. As a spirit guide, the owl brings with it the ability to cut through illusions and deceit, and reminds you to see the truth behind a person’s action or state of mind. The presence of the owl may also indicate change (traditionally, it was regarded as the announcer of death – symbolic of the transitions in life).
The lion signifies nobility, courage and prosperity. If you’re stuck at a crossroad in life and experiencing a sense of loss of personal power, the lion may step in to show you the way. Heed his mighty roar and harness your internal strength to rebuild your spirit and lead the way for others as a respected leader.
The horse carries a passion for life, personal drive, and strong motivation to carry on. The meaning of what this animal guide brings however, depends on how it’s represented – is it wild and free, or tamed and restrained?
If you see your horse tied up or constrained in a stable, think about what is limiting you in your life. If your horse is running freely, it could indicate that your drive for free expression is unbridled and strong – but on the flip side, it could also symbolise that you’re going through a stage where you’re finding it hard to manage your emotions that are running wild.
If you’re feeling trapped or finding it hard to get over the hurdles in life, tap into the horse’s natural sense of freedom and use it to help you leap over anyone or anything that stands in your path.