Tag Archives: spirit animals

Creature Thoughts, Jan 2020: Animal Totems


Wolf Totem by Jenny Hawkyard
Wolf Totem by Jenny Hawkyard

For as long as there has been human culture, that culture has had a strong association with the animals with which we share our world.

The Chinese and other Asian cultures revolve their traditional calendar around animals. This year, 2020, will be the Year of the Rat. The Rat is the first animal of a twelve-year cycle. It’s followed, in succession, by the rest of the animals of the Chinese Zodiac: Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig. (Sorry, Al Stewart fans, there actually is no Year of the Cat.)

People born in the Year of the Rat are supposed to be witty, social, and well-loved. They draw friends around them and are known to be giving and supportive. They are adaptable and clever, though they can tend to hoard their belongings and be a bit on the possessive side.

Children who were born in 1924, ’36, ’48, ’60, ’72, ’84, ’96, and 2008 are all Year of the Rat babies. Were you born in one of those years? Do any of the above characteristics fit your personality?

The Asian lands, of course, are not the only ones who have associated important aspects of their culture with animals. Animals are an important part of our entire human-centered world. It’s only natural that people have attached spiritual wisdom and significance to them.

Native American nations are well known for their belief in totem and spirit animals, and their respect for animal beings as “people” of their own kinds. Traditionally, animals would bring messages from spirit and guidance on how to best live their lives. The dance of the hunt and the knowledge of how to survive in each unique environment all centered around the special relationship with animals and their spirits.

The ancient Celts had a strong affiliation with the animals around them. As with the indigenous American cultures, animals imparted unique magic and power to their lives. The devoted courage of the wolf, the far-sighted determination of the hawk, and the calm, comforting energy of the wren were all important to them. The Druids, as has been mentioned in a previous article on Gazehound.com, saw the Starling as sacred.

Many Greek and Roman myths, and the gods and goddesses with which they are associated, include important animal symbolism. The hounds of Diana/Artemis were indispensable to her hunt. Where would Bellerophon have been without Pegasus? That old Chimaera would certainly have gotten the upper hand.

Of course, we can’t forget the Egyptians. You can’t view a hieroglyphic frieze without running into animals everywhere. Many of their gods took the form of animals and animal-human hybrids, and there are depictions throughout Egyptian archaeology of hunting hounds, hawks, and cats. There have also been a large number of mummified animals discovered, proof that animals were of prime importance in this culture.

Even our western society puts important stress on animal symbolism. Just take a look at the idioms in the English language. She’s sly as a fox; he’s stubborn as a mule. It’s a three dog night. Who let the cat out of the bag?

Animals are as much a part of our human society as we are. Many people feel more drawn to some animals than others. There are those who would say that these species are our spirit animals, or our totems. Some seek out special guidance to help them connect with their animal spirit guides, though it is my belief that each of us has that talent within us. We are the best person to know where our inner self leads, after all. We just have to get quiet and listen.

What animals do you feel strongly connected to? The age old question comes to mind, “Are you a dog person, or a cat person?” Or a horse person? A bird person? A wildlife person?

Are you all of the above? Even if so, is there one specific species that just speaks to you more strongly than others? Is there one which you feel best describes your inner nature?

Are you as sly as a fox? Stubborn as a mule? Faithful as a hound? Farsighted as a hawk?

As we step into this Year of the Rat, I hope you’ll give some quiet thought to the wisdom and guidance your animal friends have brought into your life. They are truly a treasure, in so many ways.

Wishing you joy in 2020!

About the Photo: Jenny Hawkyard (aka Jezhawk), the wonderful artist who created the cover illustrations for my Junior Handler books, has a fabulous collection of Totem Animals available as prints and merchandise. Please visit her Etsy or RedBubble Store and see if any of them speak to you. My thanks to Jenny for her permission to use her beautiful image. Pictured: Wolf Totem

Links of Interest:


Soul Anchors (from Creature Thoughts, Sept 2014)


We love them all, our animal companions of every species. Of course we do. Each one is unique, special. Each has his or her own joys and frustrations, shared so willingly with us, their human friends.

There are some, though, who seem to reach a different level of “special”. We call them heart-dogs, or soul-companions or perfect-partners. They are the ones who, when we look into their eyes, we know they simply understand. We are certain that understanding reaches the depth and height of their soul…because we can feel it to the depths and heights of our own.

They are the “once in a lifetime” pets, the ones who stand out like novas among the stars. How many of us can tell the story of “that special dog” or “that special cat” or “that special horse” who lives on in the heart in ways to which none other can compare? As much as we have loved all who have come before or since, they “weren’t quite the same” as the special one.

Some of us have been doubly or even triply blessed to have celebrated that kind of bond with more than one, but even then, each of those special companions is different from the others. Although they each have touched us as special teachers, partners and companions, they have each touched us in different places, in different ways.

I think of these special ones as soul-anchors. They keep us firm, hold us steady, and their support and presence allows us to weather life’s storms. They are the beings who teach us the importance of being a part of all that is. They have shown us that we are not alone in the Universe, but we have the privilege to celebrate a special joining, one that keeps us safe. They have demonstrated beyond all doubt that this joining knows no barriers of species or time. Then, when they pass from the physical realm, they give us faith that there are more realms waiting. Though the physical body may die, the spirit lives on. Our soul-anchor still holds us firmly, for we never cease to feel their love.

Many of us would say that our soul-anchor animal friends have seen us through some of the hardest times of our lives. They offer shelter through pain, fear and deep depression. They bring us comfort and so very many reasons to laugh, even on our darkest days. They keep our spirit’s ship secure when the waters get choppy and the skies turn black. They are the sunshine that breaks through the clouds to remind us that all will be well again.

Almost everyone I know who has loved animals, or at least those people with enough years behind them to have relished in the experience, can tell the story of at least one soul-anchor.

Who are your special ones? Have you known more than one? Are they still with you in the physical? Or are they now forever with you in the beyond?

Reach out to them today, and give them each a soul-deep hug from me.