Note: This blog has added material not previously published, and I was called to share this tonight after my first day at the Michael Harner Foundation for Shamanic Studies Shamanism, Dying & Beyond weekend intensive with Dana and Shana Robinson. It is an update to my article originally published in the Beltane 2013 Temple Bell, the Temple of Witchcraft newsletter, to which I was a regular contributor. It is also part of a class I first taught in a workshop for Spirit’s Edge at the 2013 St. Louis Pagan Picnic. I subsequently offered a full length class with additional material in Sept. 2013 at The Center for Mind, Body & Spirit. More to come!
Animals are all around us, so much so that oftentimes we pay little heed. Yet the animal kingdom can be bringers of messages from the divine, bringing self-discovery through our relationship with animals. As emissaries of Spirit, they help us to connect to the divine in all things, providing clues through synchronicities and direct messages. They can be our partners in both our journey through the worlds and the journey of our soul.
Such a journey often starts with a particular animal showing up with an unusual appearance or behavior. If you attune to the universal energies and the divine within, you will recognize these patterns and the animal messengers. You can attune to these energies through meditation, journeying, paying attention to dreams, and journaling. To seek the aid and guidance of animal allies, watch the animals, study them, and meditate or journey with the intention to meet an animal – to hear, see, feel or know (using the different senses) its messages for you, just like you do with other spirit allies and guides.
An important way to recognize the messages through the animals in daily life is by paying attention to synchronicities – meaningful coincidences that are messages of the divine. As we go about our day, we see these animal connections and can hear or know their messages by watching the patterns, then looking at our lives and seeing what their behaviors and patterns may suggest. It is similar to using the tool of analogy. We may physically see an animal, or repeatedly hear about them on the television or radio or hear their name in conversation.
Animals get our attention and speak to us through these synchronicities. When an animal appears, it could be for a specific, immediate reason. Animals may be a temporary messenger or ally, or may be an ally that is with you for life.
Ask yourself some questions: what were you doing or thinking of when it appeared? What does it have to say to you? What does it mean for your life? You can discover this by researching or watching the animal’s behavior and habitat its prey and predators, traits and characteristics, and then applying the information to your life to find the message.
For example, you may have a choice regarding a love relationship, and then right when you are having a thought about your question, a pair of Mourning Doves begins to build a nest on your porch. You would then research the Mourning Doves and their mating behaviors and look for any application of their animal characteristics to your situation.
You may see a snake and find it is an affirmation of a decision to make a change in your life. Or it may be a Hawk as a messenger telling you that a message is coming and to watch for the signs. In that case, the animal may just be with you providing guidance on your immediate issue, though you will only know for sure over time by watching the animal and if it stays with you or goes on its separate way
Another communication that stuck with me over the years was that the animals you are most afraid of have the most to teach you. One of the things that struck me the most was Ted Andrew’s love for and description of animals that others may find unappealing. For example, there is as much power and medicine in the gift from a mouse as the gift from a hawk – each has their own unique gift to offer us. The Opossum might not be as colorful of an animal ally, but it has strong medicine, including a reminder to be silent, of persistence and of protection.
You can go into nature or to a local zoo to directly observe animals. You can leave offerings for the spirit of the animal or honor it by leaving offerings for the animals in your backyard. You can read about its magickal correspondences. Ted Andrews was well known for teaching others about connections to animals, and I wrote about him in the recently released Temple of Witchcraft anthology book, Ancestors of the Craft. Ted Andrews Animal Speak and Animal-Wise are invaluable research tools, as is Steven D. Farmer’s Animal Spirit Guides.
Another method to connect with animals and their messages, what some refer to as their “medicine,” as it can be applied to heal us in our lives and to heal others, is by using divination decks. Ask your question, call on the right animal spirit for you to bring you the message and then draw a card or series of cards. A popular deck is Medicine Cards by Jamie Sams & David Carson. Others include Steven D. Farmer’s Messages from Your Animal Spirit Guides Oracle Cards and The Druid Animal Oracle Deck by Philip and Stephanie Carr-Comm. Ted Andrews also did The Animal-Wise Tarot, a full tarot deck based on animals.
These cards or other symbols of the animal can be used in ritual to evoke the animal spirit, or in meditation or journey to connect with the animal spirit and hear its messages. Other ideas include making an altar to an animal spirit or placing meaningful items representing animals or animal allies on your altar. Mimic the movements and actions of an animal in ritual to connect with that animal spirit. Make your own animal fetish to represent the animal in your life. Wear jewelry with animal’s image.
Other ideas to communicate with animals include making an altar to an animal spirit or placing meaningful items representing animals or animal allies on your altar. Mimic the movements and actions of an animal in ritual or dance to get in touch with that animal spirit – a powerful technique. You can make your own animal fetish. An animal fetish can be something you make that represents the animal to you, or even a little figurine that you buy to represent the animal in your life. You can also wear jewelry with animal’s image.
We may have many animal allies. There may be animals associated with each of the seven chakras or energy centers in the body as well. This can be discovered through journey, either on your own or through a shamanic practitioner journeying for/with you.
It also can be discovered by noticing in what types of situations in your life the animal appears. For example, if you are having communication issues and Crow keeps appearing, perhaps Crow is the ally associated with your Throat chakra, which relates to communication. If you journey to discover the animal allies associated with each chakra, your relationship with each of those allies may become closer, deepening your partnership.
As you develop your relationship with animals, it may be that certain animals appear more frequently over time. These are your animal allies. As you work with your animal allies, you may discover that one resonates with you more than any other, that there is a deeper connection with that particular animal ally. This animal becomes your guide in journeys and introduces you to other worlds, other guides. Some refer to this as your power animal, your main animal ally or in some traditions the word totem is used. This animal might be the first one that you shapeshift into during journey, or it may not. Shapeshifting means taking the form of the animal or merging into a specific animal when it appears in your journey.
You may not meet the main animal ally or power animal for many years, or you may meet the animal early on in your journeys and on your path in general. After journeying and meeting their power animal, some say that it is an animal that they have been attracted to since childhood, but that is not always the case.
The animal ally that resonates with the core of your being may be, or may not be, associated with your Shaper, which is the name for one of the three souls in the Temple of Witchcraft teachings, though the concept is found in many traditions across the world – the Shaper (lower self/soul), the Namer (middle self/soul) and the Watcher (higher self/soul). Ultimately the goal is to merge all three souls as one. Such an animal ally may be called a power animal or main animal ally, or may even eventually become your Fetch Beast. An animal becoming your Fetch Beast represents a unique bond between you and this animal, a merging of sorts with your animal self in some traditions.
It can tie into the idea of merging your souls as one. If the animal is representative of your lower self/ soul, you can merge with your lower self/soul by merging with the animal or through the aide of that animal as a representation of your lower self/soul. It also can be an animal outside of your soul/self and not tied directly into your soul’s growth, having instead symbolic meaning. But both things can be true at the same time, a paradox.
Here is a little of the journey with my Fetch Beast to illustrate the levels of relationship or development with your Fetch Beast. Mine is the Black Panther, and it was the first animal that showed up in my very first shamanic journey. It then journeyed with me every time I journeyed. It introduced me to other guides and was my guide through the three worlds, especially the Underworld. It was the first animal that I shape shifted into during journey. The first time I shape shifted into the Black Panther, I stood into the Black Panther or merged into it from the side while it was standing as well. This was true for our shape shifting experiences for many years.
My relationship with the Black Panther as my Fetch Beast shifted in the Shamanic Temple of Witchcraft/W3 Weekend Intensive in November 2010. During a journey, the Black Panther killed its prey, then he lay down, and I laid down into him, merging with him. Then I ate his kill while we were merged. Though the experience was so powerful that it left me shaking after the journey, at the time I did not know what it meant and did not have the words for it. It was a mystery to me, because it was a “Mystery.”
For the first time, the Black Panther became a “he” or a “him,” which was significant. This merging with your Fetch Beast is the merging of opposites within yourself, the merging of animal self and human self – the merging of part of your soul. Your animal messenger becomes an animal ally, guide and teacher, then a lover, and then finally becomes a spouse – a new level of partnership and spirit union.
Since the November 2010 Shamanic Temple of Witchcraft weekend intensive, I do not often see my Black Panther in journey as he lives inside of me, is merged into me. I then did a one-on-one journey working with Christopher Penczak to identify the animal allies for each of my chakras in May 2011. The Black Panther was located in my heart chakra, and his medicine went out to the world through my arms to heal others. Through this process, I discovered that the Black Panther had become a part of me, a part of my heart, and like my matron the Morrighan, he lives in my heart.
We see through each other’s eyes in this world and in all worlds. I have had waking experiences, where I am moving through this world in normal life, and I can simultaneously see through the Black Panther’s eyes in his world. It is not only tied into the merging of the souls as one, but also into the concept of bringing together and healing of the three worlds (Underworld, Middleworld and Upperworld). When I do power animal dances with the Black Panther, it is a powerful experience for both of us.
My matron the Morrighan called me to do a journey with her around the same time of the chakra journey in May 2011. In this journey, as was her plan, I invoked the Morrighan into myself in the journey and physically in this world. Most shocking to me at the time, the Black Panther in his animal form and I had interactions while she was invoked, and I felt it physically in this world as well. I had no idea that this was something that happens or that others may experience it, and I was naturally rather shy to mention it to anyone.
Over that next year and a half and in talking with many of my classmates at the end of our High Temple of Witchcraft IV class and our graduation from the Temple of Witchcraft Mystery School, I discovered that they too had unexpectedly had the same type of journey where they had relations with their Fetch Beast while it was in its animal form.
There is not much to be found in writing on this, and it definitely is a mystery that must be experienced. None of my classmates sought out this experience, nor did I – it was a mystery that unfolded when we were ready. As it was a powerfully shifting experience, I mention it as part of the levels that you can reach with an animal ally, so that it does not take others completely by surprise as it did us.
Yet, there was another level, but one I had not yet experienced, which is when one’s Fetch Beast takes human form and you have a relationship that way. A year ago at this time, in a journey during March 2013, I had this experience for the first time.
It took place in a shamanic death journey. First I died, then I rebuilt myself/was rebuilt, and then a celebration and gifts followed around the fire of the Great Sabbat. The guides, masters and deities were all around, but the focus of this dance was on my animal allies, many of which were chakra allies.
Many deities came and gifted me with items of animals. I was given a necklace of bones and a necklace of Crow skulls. I was wrapped in a cloak made of black Wolf fur. I was given Hawk, Falcon and Crow talons, and finally a pouch with Snake Skin.
As I danced with them all, I was pulled into the Medicine Man’s hut. When I first entered the hut, I had relations with a Warrior Man. Afterwards, the Medicine Man then painted my face as Black Panther. The Warrior Man was my Black Panther, my Fetch Beast in human form. Then, as I became the Black Panther inside of myself, the Warrior Man/Black Panther merged back into me. This is another powerful, shifting and changing experience and was the next level of my partnership with my Fetch Beast. Our relationship has continued to develop and tied into other spirit developments and connections as well.
Through this illustration, you can hopefully see the various levels of attainment and self- discovery that can be made by seeing through the eyes of your animal allies. Through my partnership with the Black Panther, I have learned a great deal about my nature, my inner self, my hidden thoughts and fears, and how to use the Black Panther’s medicine to heal myself and others. Enjoy your journey, as you never know what you will see next when you journey through the eyes of animals.
I also recommend Hedge Rider by Eric de Vries and The Witching Way of the Hollow Hill by Robin Artisson, which discuss this concept, as do many of R.J. Stewart’s books. Also, my teachers from the Michael Harner Foundation’s Shamanism, Dying & Beyond Weekend Intensive, March 2014, Shana and Dana Robinson have written a book Shamanism and the Spirit Mate: Experiencing the Ecstasy of the Celestial Lover.
Enjoy your journey, as you never know what you will see next when you journey through the eyes of animals. Many blessings on your journey of discovery!