What is a power animal? Photo by @laura_college on Unsplash

So, what exactly IS a 'power animal'? (And where you can find yours!)

animal guide healing helping spirit power animal power animal retrieval shamanic shamanic drum shamanic journey shamanism spirit helper spiritual guide totem animal Sep 07, 2021

The words 'power animal' get thrown about fairly commonly in spiritual circles.  It is a helping spirit that I believe every single one of us has a chance to develop a relationship with. Let's explore this a little more.

A power animal is an animal spirit that wants to help us.  Connection to this animal comes from animistic practices - where it is understood through deep knowing and felt experience that everything has a spirit.  That is you. Me.  The device you're reading this on.  Your home.  Your pet. Your land.  Your favourite tree or river.  Every single thing has a spirit.  And we can all access these spirits of physical objects as well as dedicated 'helping' spirits.

In the so-called 'western' world, a power animal is usually contacted through simple, accessible shamanic practices using a drum or other rhythmic beat to help the practitioner shift awareness to open to connecting with the spirit world.  When the individual wishes to connect to the spirit world, he or she will ask to meet their power animal and, generally for the best practice, to ask it for help or advice on a specific issue in their life.

But why is it called a 'power' animal?

Power is a word used commonly in reference to shamanic practices.  In this context, it means spiritual energy.  The word power can be emotive.  Let's be clear.  It does not mean 'power over' such as might or force.  This is usually based on fear and involves one person trying to control another. 

Power in a shamanic context is more like 'flowing power' - more like the power of water or electricity or creativity.  It is power because it has the ability to shape or influence life.  It can be used for healing, help or wisdom.  To heal anxiety.  To help find a new job that we love.  To guide us to make better friendship choices.  The possibility for help is as long as the list of help we are seeking!

Power in the form of a shamanic power animal is healthy, natural and contains the qualities we need for more harmony

Many of us know what power is through lack of it.  The phrases 'giving your power away' or being overpowered or powerless evoke often visceral reminiscences.  Becoming 'empowered' is when we have our power restored.  When we are in harmony or balance.

So a power animal is an animal spirit that wants to help us to bring around harmony or balance.  And in my experience we ALL have our own, specific and personal helping spirits in animal form that want tohelp us.  In fact, they're delighted to.

Where you can find yours.

The best way to meet one is by working with the spirit of the animal - meeting it directly.  There are other ways, which I talk about at the end of this post.  But using shamanic methods is the best way I have found for a clear, two way communication and deep experience of connection with this loving, wise helping spirit guide.

When I work with others it's remarkable and moving to witness people returning from meeting their power animals for the very first time.  They say things like 'it felt like coming home', 'I felt such love and acceptance', when it looked at me I just knew it understood me'. 

To keep things grounded, I teach everyone I work with to ask their spirit animal to help them with a real issue they are facing in their lives.  To ask for help to find an ideal partner.  To seek help with eating more healthily.  To have more self confidence.  Whatever the issue is that is bothering at the time, this is the one to ask for spirit help for.

Spirit help works best when we give it something to focus on - we call in the power like a laser, rather than a diffuse beam.  And it works best when it's something that matters to us.  Working with a power animal is not spiritual escapism.  There is no point in having an ecstatic spiritual experience and living an empty life!  We want to bring in the help, the power, to our everyday lives to help us to live a better, freer, more joyful life.  It is my belief that the more empowered we are to do this, the more harmonious and healthy the world becomes.

Your own animal helper will reveal itself in shamanic journey.  Clear guidelines can help set the scene for a more powerful experience, and being witnessed in this work deepens its impact and helps us to remember and value the experience.  Moreover, working with others helps us clarify what we seek help with, and then we also can see what happens as a result of asking for help.  To notice what changes in the world as a result of asking for help and being open to receive it.  A new job? A sudden invitation where we meet our new partner? Ridiculous ease in eating healthily after years of struggle.  I've seen all this and more.  Regularly.  It's such a beautiful honour and privilege to be witness such joyful unfoldings.

Of course, we don't always get what we ask for...

...yet we do always get what we need!  More on that another time.

But why an animal helper?

Not everyone has an animal helper.  Some have helpers in human form. Or plant form. Or even land forms.  But most people find their first helping spirit is an animal.

For me, spirit - the spirit of all things, the 'Universe', 'God', - whatever we call it, wants to communicate with us. We are a part of the divine, and we can access it in many ways.  When we use a simple shamanic practice of listening to a drum to help us shift our state of awareness (it changes our brain from an alpha to a theta state temporarily, which switches back as soon as the drum stops) we request to meet spirit in the form most helpful to us.  For whatever reason, perhaps because our relationship with other humans is often complicated, spirit chooses to arrive in the form of an animal.  

Usually this animal brings qualities we need for more harmony.  And, in the words of George Orwell - all animals are equal.  But, in this case, none are 'more equal' than others.  An eagle is not 'better than' a squirrel.  A gull is not better than a narwhal.  We get the animal we need, not want.  

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

I once worked with a well built man, easily over 6'4.  It turned out his power animal was a mouse.  He could barely hide his disappointment.  Somewhere along the line he'd wanted a bear or an eagle or 'something big'.  But it turned out what this man didn't need more of was strength or ferocity. He had that in spades.  But the perceptive nature of the mouse, its agility, its eye for detail, its ability to hide and get into unusual places - these were qualities it could share that helped bring this giant of a man into harmony and balance. Over the months to come he gained so much help, love and wisdom from his 'little' helper he never once yearned for something different.

Other ways to meet your power animal

Sometimes animal spirit helpers respond to our need for help or connection before we learn to meet them in this way.  If you find an animal crossing your path when you need help, or in an unusual way, or repeatedly - pay attention!  One woman I worked with had over 240 frog ornaments in her house.  She had no idea that frog was her helping spirit until she worked shamanically - she just felt unbelievably drawn to this amphibious creature.

It took me a while to realise that one of my power animals was trying to communicate with me.  It came in the cat flap in a town house when I was a child - it didn't belong there, or even to that land!  It was strong and my Mum had to escort it to safety wrapped in blanket to prevent damage!  And then one came and sat right by me when I sat out one night to ask the spirits for help with a difficult issue I was facing in my emotional life.

I won't say what this animal is (sorry), as not all animals like to be shared.  But one of my power animals is a bear, and gave me full permission to tell people when I renewed my shamanic teaching practice a few years ago.  Even giving me the 'business' name at the time of Wild Bear Shamanism.

So how do I get to meet one?

You may already have an animal that you're aware of in your life.  One that keeps showing in person, trying to get your attention.

Or you may wish to learn the simple art of the shamanic journey (see my home page for my latest courses and offerings - or better still, sign up for my newsletter for the latest details).  This allows you not only to know what your power animal is, but to have the often life-changing felt experience of meeting it.  And you can start to learn how to have a two way communication with this beautiful helping spirit.

You can ask someone to help you 1:1 too.  If you're unwell or struggling with mental health issues, asking an experienced shamanic practitioner to retrieve a power animal for you is an incredible and beautiful way to connect to a power animal to help you with your next steps.

You may find a power animal comes to you in a dream.  Or you can journal to the prompt 'what is my power animal' and see what comes through.  Animal oracle cards can help as a first step - but the temptation to 'pick another' or read someone else's description of their message makes this less powerful for me.  It is the felt experience of that loving connection that changes everything, along with your actual experiences of the help coming into your life that helps you to develop and deepen your trust in this encounter.

I totally own up to loving the shamanic journey with a drum as a container and framework to help you get 'out of your own way' and helping you to experience this connection with ALL your senses.  Either straight away, or in time with practice, this will leave you in no doubt about this wonderful, perfect, loving power animal spirit being that is just waiting for you to step into relationship with him or her at last.

The best way to meet your power animal or helping spirit is through the shamanic journey framework, with an experienced guide or practitioner to help you.

Stay tuned for articles coming soon - on why you need a power animal, shamanism and more.

Joanna helps people to connect to their heart, nature and spirit to live a life of more freedom and joy in sync with their heart's purpose.

She is a certified Martha Beck Wayfinder Life Coach and shamanic practitioner with over 20 years experience teaching and mentoring others. The foundation of her work is her desire to make the world a better place. One step at a time.

Come and join her private Heart and Spirit Circle Facebook Community and for connection, teaching and offers...

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