Power Animals, Totems and Guides
Part Six of the Second Interview with Craig Berry on Modern Shamanism and it's Foundations
Can you describe what a power animal is? I have heard you use terms like totems and guides too; can we define these please?
I would add one more to that group, assistants belong there too.
OK, what is an assistant?
Assistants are task specific characters. They rarely feature repetitively, and are often more linked to the client than the practitioner. In the example I gave of a soul retrieval just before, the fox was the client's power animal. After discerning that it's intent was good for the task, I was happy for its assistance. The client was instantly better after the process and has retained good health since, so everyone is happy. Normally assistants are of the lower and middle worlds only.
And a power animal?
A power animal is the energy of an animal as embodiment of a species, rather than an individual. I have a raptor as a power animal and whilst I know it is not representing a specific bird, it represents the lower world energy form of that bird species. I was selected by it, and am grateful for it. It is rare for invertebrates and insects and such to be a power animal as they are simply too far removed from our own being to relate to us. Assistant yes (but rarely), power animal no.
A Spirit Guide then?
These are entities form the upper world. Experienced and knowledgeable. Even more importantly, they have context to their knowledge. A spirit guide is a trusted entity who 'adopts' you, for want of a better term. The bible calls them guardian angels [in my interpretation]. My spirit guide is not a constant companion or anything like that, but when I need to make contact, that communication is normally forthcoming. Normally, but not always.
My original mentor had a very trusted spirit guide, and that guide was able to help in ensuring that mine was of the right intent and reliability. I use trusted guides to aid my discernment of other entities encountered in daily life, physical and energetic. This is a large part of why shamanic training is performed in a Master-Apprentice role; proven and reliable spirits of the maestro help to discern those attracted to the apprentice. The maestro is in a significant way responsible for the safety of the apprentice. The apprenticeship's length is often governed by how slowly or quickly the apprentice learns to interact, retain and commune with the occupants of the shamanic realms.
Plant spirits I will place in this same category. When taking ayahuasca, the drink, you have the opportunity to meet and commune with Ayahuasca, the plant spirit. The drink is the facilitator to take you to where you need to be to be able to communicate with the plant spirit itself. Maestro Ayahuasceros in Central and South America have found that after they have used the plant for long enough, they no longer need to consume the physical drink to achieve communication with the spirit of the plant/s.
Your totem animal is the spirit closest to your own. Ok, that needs refining. When you are born and have developed the foundation of your personality, there will be attributes which most closely fit with a specific animal. This is typically a middle world thing and is not so much an entity as a family group.
If you have a herbivore like an elk as a totem animal, you are unlikely to be a predatory loner in life, but more like the elk, social and quick to flight. One with a carnivore totem like a hyena is going to be status driven, social, opportunistic and more dangerous in groups than solo. It is not which animal you like, but which animal most represents your personality and make up.
Why is the totem so important if it just represents a simile?
It is more than that. Shaman may spend days meditating to find a person's totem. This is important for social reasons. A marriage between a lion and a tiger will not work, one is co-operative and social, the other is a loner. A marriage between a predator and its natural prey is more likely to work as each balances the other in nature and in life.
One of the shaman's functions was to find the totem of a person and counsel unions and positions accordingly. One should be reluctant to follow a leader who has a solo or selfish animal totem, but they might fill other societal roles like scout or hunter rather than a politically aware leadership role. I would have a baboon totem in a position of social leadership long before I had an eagle. I would happily have an eagle as a close associate though, just not in a highly social leadership setting.
It is also about helping the person find their most comfortable path.
Can totems change?
Only normally following trauma where brain function or personality has changed. This is not about ego, the person's choice or anything like that. It is about what most personifies the intimate drive and motivation of that person. I have only known totems to change after serious injury. A lion stays a lion, regardless of age and maturity. Most folks' totems hold firm through their lives. One stroke survivor I know of personally had a fox as her personal totem until the stroke, now she has a crow as her totem. Most times though, even a significant event like a stroke wil not change a personality sufficiently to alter the totem animal attached to a person.
Is there anything more that you think should be a part of the Foundations discussion?
At this point, I think that probably is a good place to stop for now.
Next then, we might discuss light, shadow and dark work in more detail?