Native American and Celtic shamanistic beliefs are strong on animal symbols. These symbols are referred to as "totem animals" or "power animals." You'll often hear the two referred to synonymously, but those that follow traditional Native beliefs explain that a totem animal is one that is with you for life, often an animal with whom you share a connection, either through interest in the animal or your resemblance to or shared characteristics of the animal in question. A power animal or spirit animal is a spirit in animal form that comes through with a specific lesson for you, and will change throughout the course of your life.

Personally, I take a step back and view them just like normal spirit guides, elementals, and the like: they're here from the other side to help. If you've been receiving symbolism of an animal during meditations or dreams, the list below may help you to pinpoint the purpose of the creature's appearance. If, on the other hand, you'd like to get in touch with your spirit/totem/power animal, you can use basically the same technique you'll find here.

Note that as your totem animal may not appear real clearly to you at first, you'll want to check various similar animal types (alligator vs. crocodile, for example) before assuming that it's a specific one. When I first attempted to establish contact with my own power animal, I thought that it was an otter, but it turned out instead to be a ferret; the two have very different symbolic meanings.

Also be aware that some animals may have specific meaning to you other than what is listed below. This list is not meant to supercede your own symbolic meanings, but rather instead to supplement it. Always go with your own instincts.

Totem Definitions
Adder, Snake - Transformation. The snake has long been associated with wisdom, reincarnation, and cunning. The poisonous adder of the British Isles has the same reputation. In the Scottish Highlands, the adder symbolized the Cailleach's power. When you see a snake while on a shamanic journey, prepare to shed something in favor of something greater and better.
Alligator - Maternal power, revenge, quickness, aggression, basic survival instincts

Angel Spiritual guardian who aids through divine intervention.

- Determination, industrious nature, hard-working, following a group mentality, action, patience, being a team player.
An industrious hardworking creature that works in perfect harmony within its community.

Anteater - Lethargy, curiosity, nosiness

Antelope - Action, agility, sacrifice, jumpiness

Armadillo - Safety, boundaries, medicine shield, being grounded

Badger - Courage, aggression, healer, energy conduit, earth knowledge, having problems relating to others

Bat - Associated with the Underworld; as the bat's radar helps it to avoid obstacles and barriers, so it can teach you to do the same thing.

Bear - Although the bear was native to the Isles, it is now extinct there. Evidence of its being a totem animal is found in many designs walking, walking upright, and zuni bear. The bear was noted for its strength and stamina. It can help you find balance and harmony in your life, and the strength to do what is necessary.

Beaver - builder, accomplishing goals as well as overseer, strong will, determination, builder, protector. Beavers are master engineers with expert building skills that alter environments. They are resourceful and ingenious as well as knowing how to work in harmony with the environment and can show man how to do the same. When beaver swims into your life it is asking you to strengthen the foundation on which you stand or build a new one. Beavers are excellent swimmers and can stay submerged for 15 minutes. Controlling the breath is one of its attributes. If beaver appears one would benefit from yoga or any form of breathing exercises. Since beavers are of the water, the element associated with the subconscious (this is where hidden knowledge & forgotten dreams are stored); the beaver reminds us to live our dreams & shows us how to manifest them using the resources availabe. It has a gentle nature and is very industrious. Those with this totem frequently find they must work hard to obtain their goals.

Bee - Organizer, productivity, wisdom, fertility, defensiveness, having an obsessive nature.

Blackbird - Legend says that the birds of Rhiannon are three blackbirds, which sit and sing in the World Tree of the Otherworlds. Their singing puts the listener in to a sleep or trance which enables her/him to go to the Otherworlds. It was said to impart mystic secrets.

Boar - Exemplary of the life-giving energy of the sun.

Buffalo - sacredness, life, abundance gratitude, strength, prayer. Buffalo is considered by many tribes as a symbol of abundance: its meat fed the people, skins were used for clothing and covering, bones and sinew were crafted as survival tools, hooves were converted into glue. According to Lakota tradition, White Buffalo Calf Woman gave them the Sacred Pipe, promising abundance as long as they prayed to the Great Spirit and honored. All Their Relations, that is, all other creations of nature. Buffalo's Medicine symbolizes an honor, reverence or special love for all the things that Mother Earth offers her children. It is also knowing that abundance is present when all relations are honored as sacred, and when gratitude is expressed to every living part of Creation. Buffalo signals a moment to reconnect with the meaning of life and the value of peace, to praise the gifts you already have, and to recognize and honor the sacredness in all paths, though they may be different than yours.

Bull - Insight into the past, fertility, rushing into things without proper preparation

Butterfly Associated with rebirth, the soul, transformation, the three phases of life, plus balance, transformation/metamorphosis, successful projects, grace, and the ability to accept change. It is symbolic that butterflies have such a short life span. It suggests that a person with this totem will experience tremendous soul growth in their earlier years and a difficult childhood is common. Life lessons are revealed to the consciousness while in the womb, cocoon stage, and completed when the caterpillar emerges into the butterfly and takes flight. Butterflies symbolize freedoom and creativity and hold the gift of transformation and soul evolution. Also, a Native American Symbol of joy, these delicate creatures remind us not to take life so seriously. Since they represent the element of air, quick changing and ever moving, they are the messengers of the moment. For more clarity about the butterfly's message a study of it color can be helpful.

Cardinal The cardinal is a power packed bird that transforms and awakens us. A member of the finch family its voice and color are its strongest characteristics. The color red represents the blood or life force and the bird is named for the Cardinals (in the Catholic Church) and their red robes. Cardinals work as pairs combining feminine energy, linked to intuition, and male energy that is linked to perseverance. When combined this energy helps us manifest goals and dreams.

Caribou - Traveler, mobility, preference to be nomadic, adaptability to adversity

Cat - Hunter, meditation, independence, quick recovery, freedom of thought, seeing that the physical and spiritual realms are one. Cats are associated with the myth & lore as well as magic & mystery. They are said to have 9 lives and are known for their curiosity, cleverness, unpredictability, and healing. Since cats can see in the dark (associated with man's fears) it serves as a valuable ally in the world of the unknown and super natural. Since the energy field of the cat is opposite of humans, cats have the ability to absorb and neutralize energy that affects humans in a negative way.

Cheetah - Swiftness, insight, focus

Cougar - Leadership, loyalty, courage, taking responsibility for your life, foresight.

Cow - Moveable wealth, value, providing for daily needs, the power of community sharing.

Coyote - Stealth, mischief, recognizing your mistakes, ability to laugh at yourself, bedevilment, clowning around, enforcer of karmic laws

Crane - longevity. A pair of cranes symbolizes "Long Marriage".

Crocodile - Ensuring your emotions are displayed accurately/appropriately

Crow - Justice, balance, releasing past beliefs, greed, resourcefulness

Deer - Compassion, peace, gentleness, sensitivity, kindness, unconditional love

Dog - Loyalty, friendship, nobility. Dogs are known as mans's best friend and hold the energies of unconditional love and teach us its true meaning. They also carry the energy of forgiveness. Psychic awareness is also associated with the dog because of its ability to detect subtle energy frequencies often unknown to mankind.

Dolphin - This creature was associated with sea deities. It deals with dreams and harmony, and recognizing and balancing the rhythms of your body with those of nature. Wisdom, happiness, depth of emotions, playfulness, harmony, intelligence, communication, helper with dream interpretations, childlike, sexual.

Dove - Cross-world communication, spirit messenger, peace, gentleness, love

Dragon - Riches/Prosperity (can be intuitive/spiritual rather than material), knows the answer to riddles, ancient wisdom, longevity, infinity

Dragonfly - good fortune, magic, vision, dreams, luck, and ancient knowledge, illusion plus Instruction on breaking through illusions (especially those that are self-created), gaining power through dreams, imagination, higher aspirations, carefree nature.

Elephant - commitment, strength, astuteness, good luck.

Elk - stamina, pride, power, majesty 

Falcon - New beginnings, adventure, leadership, healing the soul.

Ferret - strength, energy, ingenuity and stealth.

Fish - miracles, providence, sea/water magic, good luck and prosperity, foresight, fortune, salmon in particular, are associated with knowledge. Gracefulness, slyness, open-minded, quick to change one's mind.

Fox - Cleverness, discretion, cunning, quick wit, camouflage. Camouflage, adaptability, integration, tricksters, shape shifters, and possessors of great magic.

Frog - Emotional healing, cleansing, peace, change, adaptability, jumping from the material to the spiritual, water energy, poor character judgment.

Gazelle - The soul, aggressiveness.

Giraffe - Communication, intuition, attaining the unreachable, seeing the future.

Goat - Surefootedness, stubbornness, independence, diligence, lack of foresight.

Goose - Demanding of ones self, reliable, rigid, love of home, safe return, ever-searching nature.

Gorilla - Family-oriented, intelligence, strength, environmental protector, keeps peace through aggression.

Grouse - Personal power, self-teaching, intuition, enlightenment.

Hare or Rabbit - Fertility. Magical. An animal sacred to the Goddess Andraste in particular. Its movements were sometimes used for divination; Boadiccea used a hare this way just before her last battle with the Romans. Associated with transformation, the receiving of hidden teachings, and intuitive messages.

Hawk - All-seeing, soaring on the breast of the wind. Messenger, strength, foresight, truth. Observation. 

Hedgehog - Defensiveness, self-preservation, abrasive personality, possessing a solitary nature

Horn Toad Lizard - The horned toad is believed to be Grandfather, the Creator, in animal form. As such, he is thought to bring good luck to us.

Horse -Represents freedom, power, stamina, speed, transportation and communication. A black horse with a white marking on its forehead is lucky. The horse will teach you to communicate with other realms as well as this one. It is the message carrier. The horse symbolizes freedom and the power that comes with being free. It is known for strength, the need for freedom, and independence. When personal relationships become too confining the horse will buck.

Hummingbird - Fierce warrior, jewel of the gods, whose feathers bear love, magic, and pleasure. These small birds have the advantage of seeing things from all angles and can show us how to expand our perceptions. It also reminds us to appreciate the beatuy and wonder of the world.

Iguana - Patience and understanding.

Jaguar - Chaos, shape-shifting, psychic empowerment.

Jellyfish - The jellyfish rely on the currents of the ocean and the winds to move it in the direction it needs to go. They also know how to survive and take only the food they need. They move in harmony with the currents of life and can teach us how to flow with the natural forces of Mother Earth. Maintaining balance in all areas of ones life is the valuable lesson of this totem.

Koala - The koala is a solitary animal. The mother koalas are attentive to their young until they are strong enough to be on their own. After that the emotional bond is broken. When Koala appears it may mean that one often requires periods of isolation and an environment with little noise. Emotional expression is difficult which can make intimate relationships challenging. The Koala teaches us how to be comfortable with our own company. Those with koala energy also have strong psychic & clairaudient abilities. Sound that soothes the senses and aromatherapy benefit them. Koala reminds us to stand solid within ourselves and not be influenced by situations or events as well as teach of stress free movements and how to create and maintain sacred space in our lives.

Kokopelli - fertility, music and joy.

Lion - Emblem of royalty, symbol of the Sun. Courageous guardian protectors.

Lizard Vision - One of the few reptiles recognized as helpful to the shaman. It symbolizes the shadowy plane of manifestation where events are constantly changing shapes and patterns. If you see a lizard on a journey, be alert to all below-the-surface activities going on around you. Vision, letting go, self-protection, brings forth subconscious hopes and fears, conservation, letting go of the ego, dream recall, hidden defenses, knowing when to back off

- Comforting others

Loon - Serenity, good orator, judgmental, can come across as uncaring or unsympathetic.

Lynx - Secret-keeper, guardian, guide, listener, manifestation of spiritual force and controlled power.

Manatee - Gentleness, loving, childlike.

Monkey - Ability to change the environment, health, success. 

Moose - Headstrong, longevity, steadfastness, wisdom, self-esteem.

Moth - Transformation, movement into shadows, finding the light. The moth has strong healing abilities and can perceive with clarity. They guide from dark to light. The moth metamorphasis is part of its magic. The egg stage symbolizes the birth of an idea; the larvae stage indicates the laying of the foundation; the chrysalis stage represents the process of creating, and the winged stage allow it to take flight. Moths have acute hearing. Paying attention to what is said as well as what is NOT said is one of moth's lessons. Watching body language is also helpful. When moth appears it is asking us to pay attention to issues of sensitivty: whether you are overly sensitive or insensitive to those around you.

Mouse - Eye for detail, noticing the little things, scrutiny, organizer.

Nightingale - Soft-tempered, easy demeanor, soothing speaker, graceful movements, keeper of the night

Octopus - Protection through distraction, intelligence, getting past negative barriers, multifaceted, skilled in many areas

Opossum - Diversion, deceit, strategy, sensibility

Otter - Joy, laughter, Lightness, dynamic energy, playfulness and the importance of playtime, freedom from jealousy or suspicion, feminine power and nurturing. The Otter shows us how to create a joyful future. They are agile and fast in water. Water has been associated with the emotional energies in man. Otters glide through the emotional ups and downs of life with ease and can teach us how to do the same. They represent the creative, nurturing energies that live within us and show us how to honor them.

Owl - clairvoyance, insight (the night eagle) Owls come in all sizes, from a tiny miniature that actually lives inside the cactus in the desert, to the great horned owl, which is the only bird that can out fly the golden eagle. A fully grown great horned is an awe inspiring creature. Its talons are furry, and closely resemble the paws of a baby mountain lion with claws extended. It is a meat eater, which means it can be a fierce warrior if challenged, or if something dear to it is threatened. It is often referred to as Night Eagle. Owl is at home in the night. It has great awareness of all that is around it at all times. It has predator vision, which means it sees clearly what it looks at.It has great intuition: it is the totem of psychics and clairvoyants. It has the courage to follow its instincts. Owl's medicine includes seeing behind masks, silent and swift movement, keen sight, messenger of secrets and omens, shape-shifting, link between the dark, unseen world and the world of light, comfort with shadow self, moon power, freedom.

Ox - Sacrifice, self-denial, chastity.

Panther - A good protective animal. 

Panda - Importance of slow, determined pace, and adaptability. Panda teaches us will power and the ability to connect the seen and unseen. Panda has the willingness to learn and inner insight and clarity of vision.

Parrot - Communication, beauty, guide for wisdom, mockery, thinking before speaking.

Peacock - Immortality, dignity, self-confidence.

Penguin - Father-nurturing, patience, astral projection, sexes working together, family orientation.

Pig: "Sow" Earth magic, intelligence, things sacred, ancestral knowledge.

Polar Bear - Solitude, overcoming adversity, rebirth, patience, spirit communication, strength, breaking through emotional barriers.

Porcupine - Innocence, trust, companionship, humility.

Prairie Dog - Swiftness, industrious, constructive, preparedness.

Puma - Companion on journeys to other worlds, grace, silent power.

Quail - Group-work, team play, creator of harmony and group tolerance, protectiveness (especially toward children).

Rabbit - Fertility, fear, timidity, humility, hidden skills, borrower.

Raccoon - Curiosity, cleanliness.

Rat - Fertility, stealth, scavenging, intelligence, enjoys luxury.

Raven - Trickster, introspection, self-knowledge, wise in oracles/omens, messenger, mystery, otherworldly travel, watcher for the gods, need to make changes in the way you perceive things.

Rooster - Vanity, likes to be showered with gifts and attention, early riser, settling for nothing less than the best.

Salamander - Hidden things or traits, camouflage in the face of adversity.

Salmon - Determination, persistence, pride, intensity, trusting but not trustworthy.

Seagull - Versatility, loud, easy-going nature, creativity, laziness.

Raven - Magic

Seahorse - confidence and grace.

Seal of Solomon - A powerful magical symbol that was very popular in the preparation of amulets. A hexagram formed of two equilateral triangle super-imposed upon each other. The upward pointing triangle represents the element of fire. The downward pointing triangle represents the element of water. It has become the prominent symbol of the Jewish faith and is known as The Star of David.

Seal - Contentment, lucid dreaming, protection from danger, creativity, listening to our inner voice, gentleness, adaptability, talkative, playfulness. 

Shark - Survival, hunter, adaptability, power, danger, senses injury, ever-moving.

Sheep - Group comfort, warmth, patience, fertility, rebirth.

Skunk - Presence, reputation, self-respect, expression of the self without ego.

Snail - Perseverance, tender nature (sometimes despite a cold fa´┐Żade).

Snake - cunning, evil, supernatural power. Transformation, sexual potency, prophecy, life-force, letting go the things that no longer serve you, impulsiveness.

Spider - destiny, fate, weaving, creativity, seeing how things you do in the present affect your future, balance between past and future balance between past and future.

Squirrel - Anticipation of future, planning ahead, being prepared, swiftness.

Stag - Forest-lord, masculine regeneration, giver of bounty and beauty, mystical signs.

Stork - Messenger of rebirth.

Swan - Guide into dreams, handling change with grace and dignity, dream interpretation, divination, spiritual growth.

Tiger - Passion/sensuality, silent solitary power, heightened sense of touch, valor.

Toad - Altered state of consciousness, changing luck, adversity, longevity, courtship via the use of sound.

Tortoise - Feeling at home anywhere, grounding, patience, peaceful nature, ancient wisdom, feminine energy and healing, psychic protection.

Turkey - Generosity, sharing, patience, attentiveness, following the group, challenge.

Turtle- Land or Sea - nurturer, protector, mother energy Many Natives refer to North America as Turtle Island, because their legends say that when the earth was covered with water, Turtle dove to the bottom of the oceans bringing up earth on its back so that the people could have a safe and dry home. Turtle is at home anywhere because it carries its home on its back. It does not become attached to places, for it is free to search for new opportunities wherever they may be found. When they sense danger, or are in uncomfortable and insecure settings, they withdraw into their shell, and are protected. If you have Turtle medicine, you value both the power of the earth, the waters of the earth, and the magic of the heavens, for Turtle symbolizes both the grounding quality of earth energy, and the magic of the mystical. Using Turtle energy can help you achieve real balance in your life and your spirit so that you don't get "stuck in the mud". Turtle's medicine includes a connection with the center, navigation skills, patience, self-boundaries, associated with the feminine, power to heal female diseases, respecting the boundaries of others, developing new ideas, psychically protecting oneself, self-reliance, tenacity, non-violent defense. Shyness, nurturing, mother energy, protection, healing, knowledge, grounded, earth magic

Unicorn - Making dreams come true, virtue, beauty, weather patterns, connection with the woodland and the beings within.

Walrus - Trickster, solitude, appreciates individuality and creativity, can be disrespectful of others.

Weasel - Seeing beneath the surface for intent/meaning, developing clairaudience, ingenuity, paying attention to inner voice, keen, tricky, revenge, cunning, playful, observant.

Whale - Wisdom of the ages, provider, intelligence, kindness, gentle nature, highly psychic and intuitive, telepathic, clairaudient, record-keeping.

Wolf - Knowledge. The wolf is a cunning, intelligent creature, capable of out-thinking hunters. It can teach you how to read the signs of Nature in everything, how to pass by danger invisibly, how to outwit those who wish you harm, and how to fight when needed. Sometimes the world, seen on a journey, will lead you to a spiritual teacher and guide.

Woodpecker - Sensitivity, protection, devotion

Yak - Ancient wisdom, understanding of higher purpose, self-doubt, lack of control over emotions

Zebra - Seeing things in stark contrast, certainty, individuality amidst a crowd, balance, trusting your path

Zuni Bear - the second most powerful fetishes who guards the West. The Zuni Indians of New Mexico were vitally aware of the rhythms and flow of the seasons, the animals, the earth--the great circle of life. They regard animals, seeds, plants as their sisters and brothers, all created and nourished by the Supreme Being's breath.

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