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My rant about totems


Athena

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For me my totem animal is the one I identify with both internally and externally. The crow comes to me often, talks to me, pokes fun at me. My entire personality over the years has become more crow like, I collect crow things, I have crows on me at all times, everyone knows about my totem. My animal guides, the ones that help me when doing shamanic work are my own, they are internal only, what happens with them is always kept hidden, those are our secret journeys and their help to me is not my secret to tell as how my help to the person needing help is not their secret to tell.

 

That's the best way I can describe it for me, it's probably just a different use of the term totem and guide.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I can see where the OP is coming from with getting frustrated about the use of the word and concept of 'totem.' I had a non-magically inclined friend who took some sort of college class on spirituality or something like that (it's been a while and my memory's fuzzy). She was initially interested but became both offended and weirded out the first day when the teacher told all the students to meditate and come up with their totem animal right there in the class.

 

When I heard that, I was appalled by the cultural appropriation, the non-chalant approach, the lack of respect to the practice and concept, the lack of respect to those students who were NOT comfortable with going outside their own religious practices....there was just a lot that was not right.

 

Sometimes I think 'white guilt' is responsible for this casualness with respect to what is a serious practice - it's viewed not as cultural appropriation and disrespectful, but as somehow inclusive and properly acknowledged in a clumsy, overeager attempt to be non-discriminatory. Like, "Hey, look, we can do it too, we're all the same here, isn't that great?"

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  • 4 months later...

No disrespect to anyone here or elsewhere, but I had an interesting conversation with a Native American woman in our town, who expressed annoyance with all of the people who claim to have a Native American Princess in their family line. According to her, there is no such thing as a Native American princess, as in many tribes, there is not even a corresponding word for this. A Chief's or Elder's daughter would not have been referred to as such. She did note, however, that in the 1970s young women, who applied for and earned some type of scholarship could use the title Princess, but such a designation is unheard of prior to that. I am not speaking to the veracity of her statements, but she was fairly adamant about it. I thought this was as good a place as any to mention it, if anyone of that heritage cares to comment.

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No disrespect to anyone here or elsewhere, but I had an interesting conversation with a Native American woman in our town, who expressed annoyance with all of the people who claim to have a Native American Princess in their family line. According to her, there is no such thing as a Native American princess, as in many tribes, there is not even a corresponding word for this. A Chief's or Elder's daughter would not have been referred to as such. She did note, however, that in the 1970s young women, who applied for and earned some type of scholarship could use the title Princess, but such a designation is unheard of prior to that. I am not speaking to the veracity of her statements, but she was fairly adamant about it. I thought this was as good a place as any to mention it, if anyone of that heritage cares to comment.

 

Related thread: http://www.traditionalwitch.net/forums/topic/8061-traditional-witchcraft-or-just-doing-things-as-you-see-fit/

 

I have heard that legend in my family as well, even though I realize its bullshit. It was actually quite common for tribal Chiefs to try to make peace with the local white folk by marrying off their daughters, from what I read. This all before the government claimed their land, tried to kill them off and banished the rest of them to nearly inhabitable places. This knowledge has prompted me to digging in to my family history to get the actual names of these people and places where they lived and grew up which is proving to be very difficult with the different NA tribes in my family. I have tracked one individual down but the others are proving difficult because they stem from early American history when records weren't so good. I think the white folk misunderstood their culture so much back then, they tried to pop them in to the mold of what they knew and hence, the mysterious Native American Princess myth was born.

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Possibly it was a term used by white people to describe a chief's daughter, because they had no other word for it. I remember when I was a little girl--back in the 70s---and I was taken to a fourth of july celebration that our small town held every year that involved carnivals, parades, fireworks, and the whoile thing lasted about a week. Well, there was a group from a Mohawk tribe and they did some dances and then formed a circle and invited the people watching to join. My mom took me into the circle and I happened to be end up beside an elder NA woman and we were all holding hands. I remember stoling glances at her face but she would not look at me nor did she ever smile. I was a shy kid and stopped trying. Later my Mom told me, "you know honey, that was an Indian Princess you held hands with and danced with today."

 

So I think it was a term for a lack of a term in this case.I'll never forget it though, it made an impression on me and I've been fascinated by the culture ever since. I still remember how warm and dry her hand was and as an adult, I see her face as grim--but memory is a tricky thing and who knows? She may have been an ancient 30 yrs old from my little girl eyes! But at that point in time, and dealing with an all white small town, even as a visitor, I don't doubt she had reason to be grim.

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I just have to respond to this because I think its a fairly common experiance especially with certain tribes. A lot of NA don't show tons of facial exp<b></b>ression or look blank to those who are unfamiliar, in some tribal customs smiling is considered almost inappropriate because its simaliar to a growl or gimice. Also most have customs about being calm and not showing outward emotions in places outside family settings. This is not true of every tribe and today you see it less but at powwows and ceremonies you deffinatly see it more because people want to pay respect to the ceremony. I know I have trouble with meeting people's eyes while talking, this along with smilining was considered challenging and disrespectful something I think happened because they lived so closely with large preditors that they revered so they emulated them. I could be wrong about that though its just my own little hypothesis. Its deffinatly not because they are unfeeling or angry interesting some NA actually smile when angry but most people are aware from the body launguage that its not a real smile.

 

In my own family me and my children actually growl at each other I'm not entirely sure that's normal lol but its what we do.

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  • 1 month later...

I understand you. I don't call my animal guides my totem at all. It would feel odd to me to have a totem animal. I have spirit guides which include but are not limited to animals. Thanks for bringing this up, I like you to note that I respect your traditions!

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  • 2 weeks later...

Okay, first let me say that I do not have a totem animal that I use in magic.  I have found that the older I get the more I work with the chaos energies and I don't need either the anchor or the guide (depending on which of my ancestors I draw from) to interfer with my workings.

 

Having said that I come from 5 different ancestries, all very different from the other but all of them blended to make me who I am today.  From the European side I have the French.  These ancestors of mine are probably the most colorful.  They embodied the term, wretched refuse.  These were the people who truly sucked at living and surviving back in France.  Even when they came here there were, for the most part, con artists and male whores.  No kidding, they slept with anything that moved.  Then there were the Welsh that came over from the mines in Wales and began to mine the lead in Wisconsin.  Then there were the Norwegian.  These were farmer's kids who were unfortunate enough to not be the eldest son so they could not inherit land.  They came here to the US to buy land to set up their own farms.  From the North American side of I have the Ojibwe, who were conned by the French to give up their daughters as wives to build unions.  The Ojibwe people are from the Eastern Woodland tribes.  They came here in search of the sacred food that grows on the water (or wild rice).  They live a semi-nomadic life moving from one seasonal village to the next.  Then there were the HoChunk, they married the Welsh miners because they were such good providers.  The Hochunk speak the Siouxian language, they are nomadic people of the plains that followed the game.  All of these people are very different and yet their decendents now live a life that is a blend of them all. 

 

If I was to speak of the HoChunk use of totems I would say that they are not secret at all.  You are born into a totem clan and with that have very special duties.  For example, if you are born into the wolf clan you are in charge of building houses and burying the dead.  If I build a house I need to have someone from the wolf clan check it out and give his approval.  If my cat dies I ask someone from the wolf clan how to go about burying it.  If I didn't know who was from what clan I could not go to the right person.  It is not only known but well known. 

 

The Ojibwe people do not cling to their totems as much, except in death or in certain aspects of their spirituality.  Such as people of the water totems (snakes and panthers) are buried different than people of the earth totems (bears and wolves).  They also will use their totem as a mark to say something is theirs.  Such as my sugar shack has the mark of my family's clan.  I didn't put it there but a member of the family did so if I pass away it will be able to be used by our clan.  It's not a secret so much as it's just not talked about as much as it is in the HoChunk people.  I mean in HoChunk you introduce yourself by stating your totem.  *Hi, I'm so and so, from the family so and so, from The Thunderbird clan.*

 

Okay, having said all of this I can understand why people get upset when people who don't understand a darn thing about totems suddenly say they have one.  "Oh, I have wolf as a totem."  Dang, here's my dead cat, please bury it.  And they don't get that is part of their duties if they have wolf as their totem.

 

Still, when I was in college I tried many different religions.  I tried Christianity and found that I was not allowed to go outside their docterine and question the virgin birth.  I tried Buddhism and found I could not question karma.  I tried Wiccan and I found out that I could not question the law of returns.  Most religions put tons of rules on me that seem to get in the way of practicing magic, especially since most of these rules have no basis in the way energy works.  So with that in mind, and because I come from such a blend of cultures myself, I don't care if someone wants to dress in black, wear black lipstick and say they have a wolf totem.  I promise I won't ask them to bury a darn thing (wolves from both my people are very down to earth and probably wouldn't wear black lipstick.  I would probably be able to tell the difference).  It won't change the way I raise energy or even some of my strange but tried and true religious beliefs.  I don't want to be like all these other religions that say "my way or the highway."  People do what feels right to them.  Personally I would like to see many more of them put down the books and find their own way but we each follow a path.  Some of us feel better if we are led down that path, no matter how many different religions and cultures we take from.  Others of us don't take from many cultures because we are following energy itself and there really isn't a path that we can follow. 

 

To each their own.  I hope they find the best way for them (but don't be surprised if I snicker at a wolf totem not buring my cat). 

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  • 2 weeks later...

I think you bring up an excellent point. In the "New Age movement" alot of traditions and cultures are seemingly basterdized as people in this movement blend beliefs and practises from many different cultures in to popular wicca or whatever other name they adopt to sound more ligit. The Native American traditions are no exception. Their beliefs have been ripped off the same as the beliefs of ancient greece, hinduism, buddism, many native african religions, freemasonry and other lodge type systems, chinese medicine and many others.

 

Now with that said, I work with a spirit animal representation but I do not call it a totem as I feel that term belongs to the NA system. I could use it, but I feel that is disrespectful as I am decended more from the "white man" than the Native Americans and I wasn't brought up in that system. Great topic.

This is so true, and many do not do any research on these traditions in order to enrich thier own paths.  This brings to mind a quote (I don't remember where from): A young "white" man goes to see a Native American elder asking him to teach him the NA path.  The elder answers "Young man, first go and make peace with your ancestors then we can talk". An incredibly wise answer!  I feel deep roots have been cut off from under our feet in Western culture through centuries of persecution and brain washing by the Church, leaving a lor of folk groping in the dark. 

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  • 4 months later...

Related thread: http://www.traditionalwitch.net/forums/topic/8061-traditional-witchcraft-or-just-doing-things-as-you-see-fit/

 

I have heard that legend in my family as well, even though I realize its bullshit. It was actually quite common for tribal Chiefs to try to make peace with the local white folk by marrying off their daughters, from what I read. This all before the government claimed their land, tried to kill them off and banished the rest of them to nearly inhabitable places. This knowledge has prompted me to digging in to my family history to get the actual names of these people and places where they lived and grew up which is proving to be very difficult with the different NA tribes in my family. I have tracked one individual down but the others are proving difficult because they stem from early American history when records weren't so good. I think the white folk misunderstood their culture so much back then, they tried to pop them in to the mold of what they knew and hence, the mysterious Native American Princess myth was born.

 

One of the key things to understand, though, is that Native American cannot just be viewed as a monolith, there are hundreds of nations within that categorization, it extends from the Inuit peoples to the Mayas, Incas, Aztecs, etc. So, where there was an empire system (south and central america) there were women who were princesses. For North American Indigenous peoples there were really no empires at the time of contact with white settlers. (not that you don't get that, just waned to have a reminder in the thread that there are nuances)

 

The whole myth of the Cherokee Princess also stems in part from miscegenation laws in the US. Miscegenation laws did not always apply to Native Americans. It was less socially stigmatizing to claim Indigenous ancestry than African.  Plus, the Cherokee Nation was seen as the most "civilized" of all the nations in north america. 

 

The other part is that for many Eastern Woodlands Nations (Specifically, for my purposes let's look at Algonquian nations, like Powhatans of which Pocahontas' father was chief) power descended matrilineally. That made zero sense to English settlers. They had no idea how the power structures worked, they claimed Pocahontas was a princess because her father was, effectively, king (he had control over at least 8 tribes, about 20,000 people). However her father had many many many children, and the fact that we don't know anything about Pocahontas' mother almost certainly means that her mother has no political or military sway. (For further reading on the topic I recommend Pocahontas and the Powhatan Dilemma by Camilla Townsend)

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One of the key things to understand, though, is that Native American cannot just be viewed as a monolith, there are hundreds of nations within that categorization, it extends from the Inuit peoples to the Mayas, Incas, Aztecs, etc. So, where there was an empire system (south and central america) there were women who were princesses. For North American Indigenous peoples there were really no empires at the time of contact with white settlers. (not that you don't get that, just waned to have a reminder in the thread that there are nuances)

 

The whole myth of the Cherokee Princess also stems in part from miscegenation laws in the US. Miscegenation laws did not always apply to Native Americans. It was less socially stigmatizing to claim Indigenous ancestry than African.  Plus, the Cherokee Nation was seen as the most "civilized" of all the nations in north america. 

 

The other part is that for many Eastern Woodlands Nations (Specifically, for my purposes let's look at Algonquian nations, like Powhatans of which Pocahontas' father was chief) power descended matrilineally. That made zero sense to English settlers. They had no idea how the power structures worked, they claimed Pocahontas was a princess because her father was, effectively, king (he had control over at least 8 tribes, about 20,000 people). However her father had many many many children, and the fact that we don't know anything about Pocahontas' mother almost certainly means that her mother has no political or military sway. (For further reading on the topic I recommend Pocahontas and the Powhatan Dilemma by Camilla Townsend)

 

I realize that there are many, many different tribes of peoples in North America and they all have different societal rules.  We also have to remember that there were no written records for these peoples, for the most part before the census rolls in the 1800's  and the inner workings of their society were not apparent to white peoples as they were considered outsiders.  They have much in common with craft families in that regard.  You do make a good point that the Cherokee were considered more civilized among native peoples, especially over the those of African decent and that may have something to do with the fact that had their own written language, even if only fairly recently.  This, though, unfortunately, didn't keep them safe from those who would covet their land and hence were persecuted with anyone non "landowning, protestant white". 

 

This is also why if you are not part of their culture and society, tracking your native family history can be, and most often is unfruitful, due to the lack of written records, differences in social hierarchy and the forced movement and persecution of native peoples. 

 

But, anyway, this is a rant on totems and cultural appropriation.  

 

I do believe that "abilities" run in Native families as well as in people's of other races. Native peoples, though, have a tendency to cherish and hold them sacred, versus fearing and persecuting them.  This, I think, is the allure many people now have towards native culture; people like "us" (witches as defined by an affinity with the otherworld ) are acceptable to them. In their need to be accepted, new age witches/spiritualists don't understand that they are stealing and bastardizing a culture that they didn't earn through birth or interaction with those people and they are most likely part of that culture which persecuted them to begin with, which is very insulting.  It would be like Christians claiming to be witches without understanding anything about the particular tribe/coven of witches they are trying to connect themselves with. It pisses people off. Oh wait, that has already happened the us. #christian witches. 

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. . . . In their need to be accepted, new age witches/spiritualists don't understand that they are stealing and bastardizing a culture that they didn't earn through birth or interaction with those people and they are most likely part of that culture which persecuted them to begin with, which is very insulting.  It would be like Christians claiming to be witches without understanding anything about the particular tribe/coven of witches they are trying to connect themselves with. It pisses people off. Oh wait, that has already happened the us. #christian witches. 

 

I do not like to hold individuals or even groups of people liable for ignorance within their ancestral past.  Some in my family tree committed unthinkable acts by today's standards, such as being slave traders and owner, just as example.  But, I very much agree with this comment by Whiterose.  I love learning about different cultures, practices, and peoples, but I am not going to lay claim to their Traditions without ample amounts of earned respect. 

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I think it's misguided to think something is your spirit animal cause it's cool. To me without a deeper connection that requires work; it's simply that a cool animal. To me it's deeper than just a new age thing, a huge part of the non fiction market is self help. I 'm robably too jaded, but I blame alot of the basterdization on the quest to have the next self help best seller. Equally quilty is anyone who wants the results without the work, jumping from fad to fad for a cure all.

 

I believe there is an impression amongst white Americans that our culture is spiritually dead (or just Christian, which is boring and has too many rules) and to be spiritually enlightened people, we need to adopt the beliefs of other cultures (which are exciting, and aren't presented as having rules). And to make these spiritual fads easily digestible, authors do often make the process seem very easy and devoid of risk - and they probably throw in a few angels for good measure.

 

I cannot agree that once a single culture or religion has adopted spiritual beliefs, nobody else is 'allowed' to use those beliefs. Spirituality is not "finders keepers". When assimilating beliefs of other cultures, I feel there are right ways and wrong ways to go about it. To me, the right way would be to see a concept that resonates with you, and attempt to find that concept mirrored within your own spiritual tradition; or, to spend a great deal of time studying the idea and its surrounding concepts so you can practice that aspect of a different tradition with respect.

 

The wrong way, to me, centers around people borrowing spirituality piecemeal from other cultures because they need their own spirituality to be validated, or because they have stagnated on their own path and they want something new to freshen things up. Growing on your own spiritual path is hard, especially if you don't have teachers or a family tradition. Taking time every day to practice, learn, and grow is often tiring and frustrating. It is easy to feel lost and confused, especially for young people trying to find their own way. Borrowing chunks from other religions (without understanding or forethought) is a cop-out that makes you feel like you have spiritually expanded yourself when you have not.

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Hi everyone, I'm really new and this is my first thread .I have a issue that is coming up a lot lately and it driving me nuts. Totems I am native American and follow the medician path during that we learn about totems. What they are how to call them even how to help others find theirs. That said this concept that he I'll just pick a cool animal I like is bs. It doesn't and shouldn't work that way. Totems are a sacred part of yourself they reveille something very deep and important about you. There in away like your witchs name and like that secret name you should never tell others what your totem animal or worse it's name is. By telling everyone what your totem is your giving away power over yourself to others.your totem is a sacred part of you and just like thoughs other sacred parts they should be protected and respected. Your totem animal can leave you this happens only rarely and is usually due to a deep spiritual crisis. Most people have more than one totem through out there life or you can have more than one. Anouther thing that can happen is your totem will have three forms usually earth,air ,water or perhaps mythical fire shapes. I have become so annoyed that people are aproching this like it's a whim or game it's flustrating for those of use who find real power in them. In my opinion it's also dangerous like giving away a peace of yourself and I know most of us would never do that because we know what someone could do with it. I hope no one feels insulted by this I am certainly not aiming this at anyone here I'm just so flusterated by the blatant disrespect I see some places. I actually ended up here after attempting a Wiccan site that I found so Juvenal I lasted two days lol. I'm really new to forums so I hadn't researched it like I did after reliving my mistake. I have been reading through old posts and have to say you ladies and gentilmen seem very well educated and masters of your crafts. I realize that I'm new so I expect to have to earn my bones so to speak . If anyone has any questions please ask and I mean no disrespect this was just bothering me so much I had to put it out there hopfully to others who will understand my irritation.

 

I cannot help but think how closely this thread parallels Theory vs. Practice.

 

Wexler: "Spirituality is not finder's keepers" Instant Classic !!!

 

Maybe I missed something here, but Totems are not exclusive to Native Americans.

 

Athena, since this is a subject near and dear to you... What advice might you give someone seeking a deeper understanding of a personal totem? 

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. . .

When assimilating beliefs of other cultures, I feel there are right ways and wrong ways to go about it. To me, the right way would be to see a concept that resonates with you, and attempt to find that concept mirrored within your own spiritual tradition; or, to spend a great deal of time studying the idea and its surrounding concepts so you can practice that aspect of a different tradition with respect.

 

The wrong way, to me, centers around people borrowing spirituality piecemeal from other cultures because they need their own spirituality to be validated, or because they have stagnated on their own path and they want something new to freshen things up. . . .

 

Hello, Wexler:

 

I agree with this sentiment . . . a right way and a wrong way; a respectful way and disrespectful way . . . I recall that we discuss this subject in great detail on another thread, too.  If I happen upon it, I'll give it a bump for you.  As I recall, many found bits that mirrored their own Path on other people's Paths.  Noting similarities and shared connections can be a good thing.

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I would guess - and anyone NA please correct me if I am incorrect, lol - that Native American is the last of the "remembered" traditions native to this land (America). Most other religions were brought over by the people who practiced them. And being a very Christian culture people looking for the connection and spirituality that Christianity doesn't offer turn to the tradition of this land. I doubt many people in Europe or Africa turn to NA spirituality. Many Americans don't have exposure to other "accepted" spiritualities and the NA spirituality has come to be accepted by most people of this particular land. Witchcraft still holds a negative/evil stigma. 

 

I belong to a vape (electronic cigarette) forum and there was an old man on there (he's since passed away) who was a NA stroyteller - that was his training, to know the stories -and he posted several beautiful ones which he told with great talent.... he was an old man with a heavily tattoed face. Most on that forum are Christian, many practicing. But he was widely loved and respected on the forum as was his religion/spirituality, even by the Christians. Had he been a witch and started posting stories of witch-mythology I question whether he would have been as accepted. 

 

So some people seek out the "acceptable" spiritualities, and NA beliefs have a certain legitimacy to them lacking in Neo-Paganism, so it is often to them that people turn; however, they are not NAs, do not know or understand the culture that birthed this spirituality which I think is very attached to the land and the things the land was shared with. And they barge in and try to make it fit into their current culture and lifestyle and that adulterates it greatly.

 

M

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  • 1 month later...
Guest monsnoleedra

I think one major issue with Native American (NA from here out) concepts is the frequent notion of one large Native American Pantheon of gods / goddesses and spirit beings.  That seems to be the aspect I see most often used as a justification of borrowing terms like Totem and Medicine Person especially,  I think the other is the notion of the romantic perspective of the noble savage and their connection to the land and its spirit creatures.  That romantic point of view leading people to borrow terms and concepts as they try to reach that rose colored perception of things and the trappings associated with it.

 

Totemism was at one time a rapidly growing aspect of neo-pagan practices and found to be in every book you could find it seemed.  The classic how to find ones totem, how to go on a journey, usually guided, to encounter their totem. It seemed one had to have a "Totem" or else they were not a true ________(Fill in the blank).  It is especially bad within the "Shaman" or "Shamanic" pathways as that term has become an umbrella term for the most part.  What makes it even worse I suppose is the most exploited nations being the Sioux (The Lakota, The Dakota, The Uglala and I think its the Teton) for the plains nations and the Cherokee (Tsalagi) for the Eastern Woodland nations.  Their clan structure and mythological beings and functions, ie White Buffalo Calf Woman Comes Dancing for instance.  Heck even things such as Sweat Lodges, Vision Quests, Pip Holders, Keepers of Relics, etc have been borrowed.

 

I use the term Totem mostly because people wouldn't understand if I used Charge, Rampart, Herald or other animal based identification things used in Europe.  Even then the usage and meaning of "Totem" had become more than the notion or idea of most NA usage.  Its become conflated with Power Animal, Spirit Animal, Spirit Guide, Shadow or Contrary Totem and a dozen other terms I can't recall of the top of my head,   Yet try and educate people and your asking for everything from being cursed out to they can't or don't own it so its free to anyone.

 

For me trying to relate and understand I wrote this out.  It conveys all my thoughts and perspective on proper usage and such of the term.  Is it correct?  I think so but it is also always subject to refinement or clarrification.

 

All that follows is my opinion only so other's may differ greatly from that.
 
I think what many are discovering is the confusion that has developed about the notion of Power Animal, Spirit Animal, Spirit Animal Guide, Totem Animal and Guides in general.  The influx of new age notions and a certain amount of revamping of pagan notions and ideals have changed the face of these items.  That coupled to a certain amount of liberty with the definitions as they have been lifted from other systems of beliefs and practices.
 
The Totem Animal is perhaps the most corrupted to my point of view. The totem is an animal that was associated with a clan, tribe, family, etc. It was seldom associated to an individual except to the extent that a member of the group claimed it as their ______ Totem. This is most well known when one looks to the Totem Poles of the Northwestern US. Those are Totems that are associated with the tribe (group) not individuals. I will admit I am divided in reference to whether one can have a totem from their respective parent’s lines, I.e. different totem from mother's side and father's side.  In this perspective it might be possible to possess two totems.
 
There is an individual totem on occasion though they are far more difficult to discover.  Usually the individual who has done or underwent a quest and vision to discover them discovers these types.  They then become the markers for that person and are a guide upon their pathwalk and serve as both totem, spirit guide and power animal all rolled into one.  While possible it is my experience that not all will discover this type of totem creature, even if they do quest for it.
 
Some totems become clan or Spiritual Clan emblems and houses.  For instance, Once I was in a trance state and had a woman in white come up to me and led me into a ring of dancing spirits in animal form. As she brought me to the ring she introduced me to the dancers as "Wolf" and introduced the dancers as simply "Dancers". Yet as I danced the dance I changed from human form to that of a wolf and watched as the other dancers did so as well, yet they were of other forms.  Later I joined a second dance that was composed of people that changed to Wolf form only and we danced again. Of course there is a lot more to it than just what I have spoken of but that is for me only. 
 
Totems are also assigned to clan’s based upon the Medicine Wheel.  Each quarter of the wheel marked as being under the influence of a specific creature.  For instance under one variant I am of the Turtle Clan as that is the house in charge of the quadrant that covers the month of March.  Yet on that same wheel I have a totem animal of the Puma, as it is the totem that governs that month.  Yet these clan totems may very from nation to nation or from continent to continent.  One may also find totems in the form of clan or family heralds in the shape of family crests or banners.
 
Individuals were (are) associated with Power Animals. The Power Animal is one that guide's and influences the individual but is also a source of power and inspiration for the individual. For instance one of my Power Animals is the Heron. All I have to do is see it and my mind takes off, yet not each sighting is a lesson though the bird inspires me never the less in how I view the world and see myself in it.
 
The Power Animal may also show as what is called a Shadow Totem or Shadow Power Animal. That is a creature that instills a great fear or hesitation in us. It is some facet of its power that undermines us until we face that fear and learn to overcome or accept it. It's like Wolf is associated with family and group yet inversely it is also associated with individualism and self-purpose. Both that are seen as a detriment to the family / group when they take precedent in action and purpose.
 
The Spirit Animal Guide is usually a form that is taken that we initially find a connection to. Many times the initial contact the front door to discovering the more terrifying and darker forms that will follow. Some will hold a singular form the whole time we know them, other's will change and evolve or simply one will leave and another come. Many times the Spirit Animal Guide leads us and encourages us within dreamtime or journeywork.
 
At times the Spirit version may hold the properties of the physical version though that is not always true. At times one may find that to discover the spirit realm one must become the Spirit Animal Guide.  By becoming the guide we see it's lessons or come to understand the area we are traversing.  Yes, sometimes it also allows us to move unseen or survive in the area we are being taken to.
 
We also have Divine Spirit Guides I believe. For me mine are Deer (Artemis) and Cat (Bast). My parents have told me cats have come to me since I first crawled from my crib while Deer appear in dreams and walk up to me at times. Granted the Stag is the sign of Artemis and those appear as well but the deer is an unobtrusive messenger that appears in the real world of man.  Guides or a messenger that serve to remind us or connect us to the divine presence in our lives if that is a component of our pathwalk.
 
I do believe there are spirit animals that are life long guides and influences. For me that animal has always been the Dragon. I have seen them in everything since I can recall and know when they show up something is about to happen. In many instances I have carried on conversations with various dragons in dreamtime.
 
I think Spirit animals may also be seen as primary and secondary. The primary is always with us but the secondary is of such importance that they are also present at all times but not quite as vocal. For me the secondary has always been the Snow Leopard, yet it is also the primary for my wife.  I'll admit I have wondered if hers was so large in my life as it was guiding me to her.
 
In the physical sense the assumption of its shape is a form of Shape Shifting. In this instance it's the process of connecting to our Power Animal or Spirit Guide by trying to imitate it's actions and movements. For instance for me with Heron it's a process of stepping into the water and moving and trying to act like Heron in the way it interacts with its environment. Yet not just trying to act like it but to actually feel like it and understand it. 
 
Where I may differ is that I also believe we receive guides from all the kingdoms of life. Certain trees and plants are used as guides within the kingdom of the Green People; certain minerals or stones may call to us as representatives of the stone people. For me the winged people have sent Heron and Dragonfly. The four legs have used Deer and Cats as guides.  The two legs have used many guides. Even the water people have sent guides in the form of fish (Carp) and newts and salamanders.
 
The thing about guides is that I believe that a guide may only be with us as long as necessary to teach its lesson.  SO we may have guides that are present for a day, a month, a year however long it takes to teach us the lesson it has been sent to convey to us.  As such it also implies that a guide may come and go forever, a guide may appear then disappear from your lives multiple times.  It implies that one may have any number of guides present at and given moment of time to teach you Spirit’s lesson.
 
As I stated at the top these are my beliefs and opinions so may vary greater from what other’s have to say on the subject.
 
Below are two articles and links from another person that some may recognize from another site.  Yet I find that I agree greatly with much that she has said.  As such I include them here that you may have other resources to read and discover from. 
 
 
 
Animal totemism is a hot topic among magical folk, in particular pagans and shamans. This, of course, has spawned a growing number of books about totems which vary in quality from excellent to appalling, as books are wont to do. Many of them attempt to be an improvement on Ted Andrews’ works, which spawned the “totem dictionary with some extra stuff” trend. In addition, there are numerous websites about totems, again of varying quality. It’s laughably easy to find the information you seek.
 
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...The Totem Animal is perhaps the most corrupted to my point of view. The totem is an animal that was associated with a clan, tribe, family, etc. It was seldom associated to an individual except to the extent that a member of the group claimed it as their ______ Totem. ...

 

I agree with this, and I think it is something between a rock and a hard place in today's world of crafting. The craft family/clan has dissapeared from society. People no longer live in tribes, clans, or even with their grandparents. Families are spread across wide areas of space, sometimes even different countries. Even harder, specific families no longer share the same spiritual beliefs.... it's a free-for-all as to who within any given family believes in what. So there is nothing on which to base their beliefs, ethics, etc., it's all individual or secular-society taught/based.  Sometimes I think people claiming their own totems may be an unconscious reaction, a longing to belong to something as the family as tribe/clan no longer exists in most places.

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  • 3 months later...

The term Totem originated from various eastern woodland Algonquian dialects. Ototema, Nto'tem and Odoodem are just a few pronunciations. Ototema were usually associated with a tribe, band or clan's origins and often thought as a kindred or even friendly animal spirit. As much as some go on about totems or totem animals, they cannot be chosen randomly because of one's admiration for a particular species such as a bear, buffalo, eagle, panther or wolf. 

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  • 4 months later...

Totems are a sacred part of yourself they reveille something very deep and important about you. There in away like your witchs name and like that secret name you should never tell others what your totem animal or worse it's name is. By telling everyone what your totem is your giving away power over yourself to others.your totem is a sacred part of you and just like thoughs other sacred parts they should be protected and respected.

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In my opinion it's also dangerous like giving away a peace of yourself and I know most of us would never do that because we know what someone could do with it.

 

I cannot imagine keeping my totems/animal spirit guides (whatever terms we want to use) a secret. Then again, I am a tattooed person and two of my animal guides are already on my body prominently (Owl and Fox). I talk freely about my relationships with them (obviously to varying extents depending on with whom). I don't see this as giving anything away, but maybe in fact a way of raising some awareness about the intrinsic connection with animal spirits that everyone has. That's not the point, though - ultimately it seems to me that honoring my spirit guides is sometimes best done by acknowledging them in the human realm. Anyway, I tend to converse mostly with folk who are sympathetic to the concept of animal spirit guides. But I'm weird like that :)

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  • 4 weeks later...

 

Hi everyone, I'm really new and this is my first thread .I have a issue that is coming up a lot lately and it driving me nuts. Totems I am native American and follow the medician path during that we learn about totems. What they are how to call them even how to help others find theirs. That said this concept that he I'll just pick a cool animal I like is bs. It doesn't and shouldn't work that way. Totems are a sacred part of yourself they reveille something very deep and important about you. There in away like your witchs name and like that secret name you should never tell others what your totem animal or worse it's name is. By telling everyone what your totem is your giving away power over yourself to others.your totem is a sacred part of you and just like thoughs other sacred parts they should be protected and respected. Your totem animal can leave you this happens only rarely and is usually due to a deep spiritual crisis. Most people have more than one totem through out there life or you can have more than one. Anouther thing that can happen is your totem will have three forms usually earth,air ,water or perhaps mythical fire shapes. I have become so annoyed that people are aproching this like it's a whim or game it's flustrating for those of use who find real power in them. In my opinion it's also dangerous like giving away a peace of yourself and I know most of us would never do that because we know what someone could do with it. I hope no one feels insulted by this I am certainly not aiming this at anyone here I'm just so flusterated by the blatant disrespect I see some places. I actually ended up here after attempting a Wiccan site that I found so Juvenal I lasted two days lol. I'm really new to forums so I hadn't researched it like I did after reliving my mistake. I have been reading through old posts and have to say you ladies and gentilmen seem very well educated and masters of your crafts. I realize that I'm new so I expect to have to earn my bones so to speak . If anyone has any questions please ask and I mean no disrespect this was just bothering me so much I had to put it out there hopfully to others who will understand my irritation.

HHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

 

Look, I don't know if you're even here anymore, but wouldn't a knowledgeable person say a rant about totems is like kicking big rocks? These people you speak of totems as if they were on a rack at Walmart have not a clue and at worse only misrepresent the cultures that are associated with totems.

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  • 3 months later...

My grandparents were both half mountain Cherokee. My grandmother who taught me many things practiced Appalachian folk magic which is usually a mix of Celtic and mystic Cherokee beliefs. I was taught that when the Welsh, Scottish, Irish and English witches came over they "married the land" by marrying native Americans. My great grandmother was a famous animal healer. She was said to use her totem animals to do this. In our family we were said to be from Wolf Clan,. Wolf was said to be teacher. . Usually people had many spirit guides in their lives that came and went but four totems specific to the individual for protection, guidance and spirit medicine. There weren't really any taboos about talking about them, although it wasn't commonly shared with strangers. I have talked to several Cherokee who seemed confused by some of the mystic beliefs we had, until I explain they were mountain Cherokee. Then the confusion clears, ah mountain Cherokee, yeah those people always have weird beliefs, I hear. I have traced many of the things my grandmother and great aunts practiced to Scottish, Welsh, Irish, Germanic practices with oddly enough some Hoodoo mixed in, I don't really consider myself as following a particularly native path, we just had totems and journeys mixed with the more traditional spells, charms, hexes, enchanting etc. I do know how to make medicine bags, but to be truthful you could as easily call them witch bags or charm bags. Sometimes we use those bags as poppets if we have the hair or something to symbolize the person in them.

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