How to Work with Your Totem Animal

How to Work with Your Totem Animal


An excerpt from Totem Animals, Plain & Simple by Celia M. Gunn

Once you have fully connected with your totem animal, you can learn how to work with it. You can ask your totem animal at any time for help and advice with questions or concerns you may have, such as when you are troubled or confronted with a difficult situation or have to make a tough decision. If you are going on a long journey, you may ask your totem animal for help and protection before you travel.

When you want to talk to your totem animal, you need to be in a quiet space where you feel comfortable and you won’t be disturbed. Always make sure the telephone is off the hook or turned off. Sit or lie down, making sure your back is straight to minimize discomfort or cramp.

Honoring your totem animal as you approach it will always make the process easier. For example, if Swan is your totem, you might wish to demonstrate your respect by holding a swan’s feather as you prepare to meet it. The medicine, or power, item will help you make the connection. Treat your feather or other item carefully by keeping it in a special place, and hold it mindfully, as this will also make a difference. Always respect and look after your medicine items. If you wish to help the process further, you can perform a small ritual such as lighting a white candle, burning incense, drumming, or chanting. This ritual can be done sometimes, every time, or not at all, as you prefer.

Starting the Journey

An effective way to begin the journey of communication with your totem animal is to start by imagining yourself inside a cave.

  1. Paint a picture of the cave in your mind’s eye—dark and shadowy, perhaps with a little light coming from the entrance.
  2. Below and around you, visualize bare earth and rocks.
  3. Feel the roughness of them under your hands. Imagine cool air brushing your skin. Conjure up an aroma of damp earth.
  4. Take a moment to fully realize yourself within the cave. Then, when you feel it is the right thing to do, leave the cave.
  5. Go outside into the environment where you might naturally find your totem animal. This might be a misted forest; a steep, craggy mountainside; open, grassy plains; steel-blue, heaving ocean waters; spreading circles of ripples on a still lake; a dank, eerie swamp; or a sandy, windswept beach or desert. Perhaps you are among the trembling leaves of a tree.
  6. Notice whether the sky is wide open, clear, or cloudy; whether there is a breeze, a wind; whether there are scents such as crushed leaves or grass, damp earth or crushed pine needles.
  7. Take in the beauty.

Perhaps you wish to stay inside the cave, because this is the natural home of your totem animal. Make the environment as real as you can, and feel the peacefulness of nature. All is in harmony.

In these natural surroundings, whether inside the cave or out, let an image of your totem animal slowly take form. It might be walking, running, or flying toward you, wings outspread, or crawling up a blade of grass. It might sit and wait for your contact. Perhaps its shape is at first shadowy, and then its fur, hair, skin, or feathers come into focus.

Enjoy the beauty of its colors, its sleekness, liquid or ponderous movement, the obvious good health of the creature. Does it move gracefully, like a swan on the water, or race swiftly, like a lizard over sun-baked stone? Is it looking at you? Smile gently to yourself and allow your eyes to meet those of your animal. What color are its eyes? What is their shape? Are they narrow or wide, fierce or soft? Is there any sound? Can you hear the beating of wings, a call, or a cry? Can you smell muskiness or a sharp scent? With all your heart, thank your totem animal for coming to you. Thank it for all the ways it has helped you in the past, even when you were unaware of its presence. Then ask if there is anything that you can do for it. Always remember to do this, so that you show gratitude, appreciation, and consideration.

If you have something specific to ask your totem animal or if you want help, make your request gently and politely. Keep it simple. This might mean you have to go over your question a number of times in your head before you ask to make sure you are saying what you wish to say. Always be clear. If you have no particular issue, you might ask whether your totem animal has any message for you now.

You can ask your totem animal to appear in a specific way or at a particular meeting place and to give you some sign or message that will be unmistakable and easily understood. Over the following days, you will have to be watchful, pay attention to nature and to everything around you, and follow the signs as you are given them. A sign might come in the form of a gift, such as a book or picture, or in the shape of a cloud or in a dream. But it will be something that is beyond chance or mere coincidence, and you will know it when you come upon it. You may realize that you have been given a sign but the message is not very clear, so you may need to meditate on it or look up its significance in a book on symbolism. Finally, when you feel that your communication is complete for this time, thank your totem again. Your gratitude demonstrates your appreciation of what you have been given, even if you don’t know what it is yet. Remember that your totem animal always has your best interests at heart.

Come to the end of your journey by slowly returning to the place where you started, the cave, and with your eyes still closed, take several deep, cleansing breaths. Become aware of your body. Then let your eyes slowly open. Don’t rush to get up, but reflect for a while on what you have just experienced; let it settle into your being like a leaf floating to the earth. You may wish to write your experience down, or record it, or make a note of it in some other way.

In the beginning, if you find it difficult to get in touch with your totem animal or if it seems like it does not want to come in response to your request, don’t worry or give up in exasperation. This is a learning process, and it may be that, for the sake of your personal growth, you have to figure out what’s going on for yourself. Your totem animal will appear at the right time; if that time is not now, then it will show itself when you try again later. The problem is not with you; the reason for the totem animal’s nonappearance is never personal. It’s important to remember that the concept of time as we know it doesn’t exist in the spirit world.

You cannot own your totem animal any more than you actually own a pet, when you come to think about it. Coming to know and work with your totem animal takes practice and time. Be patient with the process and with yourself. The more you work with the process, the more you develop your knowledge of your totem animal and of yourself, your inner knowledge, and your spiritual understanding.

As you grow more experienced, you may wish to change the process of connecting with your totem animal to a routine you create yourself. Sometimes you may find all you need to do is focus your attention, breathe deeply a few times, and call upon it gently. You can then engage with it in a kind of conversation, in your mind or out loud, as you wish. Whatever method you do choose to use, always remember to thank your totem animal for connecting with you.

You are at the beginning of a wonderful journey that may change your life for the better and in ways you never imagined.

Reprinted with permission from Hampton Roads Publishing. Totem Animals, Plain & Simple © 2016 by Celia M. Gunn is available wherever books are sold, directly from the publisher at 1-800-423-7087 or at

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