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Author Topic: Totem animal questions  (Read 1457 times)

NatureMade

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Totem animal questions
« on: June 21, 2012, 09:56:52 pm »
I have been wondering about totem animals (or whatever is more correct to call them) for a long time, so I did a search here to see what, if anything, had been said on the subject. I posted a long comment on a discussion that was closest to what I wanted to learn more about, but then realized it was a really old thread, so I want to re-post this as a new thread to get some ideas.  Sorry about the double post if anyone noticed.
_________________________________________________ _______________

I am looking for more information on the idea of totem animals or animal guides. I admit, I am both curious and confused about the subject, so would like to start with my own story and ask some questions.

Since I can remember (and I am talking about age 2 or 3 here) I have dreamed about bears and bulls. As an artist and naturalist, I am probably not going to make it big on Wall Street, so I doubt that has any connection to finance. The literature I have come across stresses that a totem animal (or power animal, shadow totem, spiritual guide, whatever it technically may be) tends to come to us in dreams or occupy us in other ways, so that we recognize it as having more significance to us than other animals. We can't just choose an animal we like and want to be like, but that it (or they) chooses us. If that is so, then these two are definitely associated in my mind in that way.

The dreams are almost never positive, however, and I would go so far as to call them nightmares. When I was very young, I always woke up scared from dreams where I was being chased by a huge black bull (think bullfight type bull) or a black bear. Later, the dreams still remained scary, but usually the animal involved was not actively chasing me or trying to harm me, though I was still frightened by the dreams. Now, at age 56, the dreams are still scary, but I never seem to be able to remember what happens in them except that there is a bear involved. (I almost never dream about the bull any more, though he does occasionally appear.)

The funny thing is that I was a zookeeper for awhile back in my 30s, and I took care of large animals and big cats. Among my charges was a huge Cape Buffallo (think really aggressive water buffalo on steroids!). His name was Idi Amin, and well-deserved, as he had a violent temper and the power to kill, AND a pair of grizzlies. I was so irrationally scared of those animals that when I had to clean their enclosures -- a complicated process of opening one set of doors and coaxing them into a separate space, then closing those doors and opening another set to access the area to be cleaned -- I would have mental pictures of accidentally forgetting to close a door or opening the wrong set and being face to face with one of them. I even began to wonder if my childhood dreams had been premonitions of my death somehow.

This began to wear on me to the extent that I actually did open the door one day and walk into the enclosure with Idi Amin. I stood face to face with him for all of about a full minute -- during which time it was a toss up who was the most startled by that meeting. ;)I think he was so surprised to see me there that he forgot to charge, and I had time to quietly back out the door. It shook me up a lot, but after that, I was never quite so frightened by him. I did still worry about doing the same thing with the grizzlies though, and it was becoming so stressful, I finally went to a psychiatrist about it. I won't go into those sessions here, but suffice it to say, it didn't help.

I still greatly fear bears, though I actually love and admire them a great deal. It isn't a phobic sort of fear though.  I actually would love to see them come back in full numbers in the wild. I live in an area with black bears (not many, but I have seen one huge male, and at least 2 different bears have visited my parent's house about 30 miles away). The conservation department says they are becoming more numerous in our area as well.

My question is, are these totem animals (or whichever is the correct term) for me? If so, why do I fear and have nightmares about them, and how can I find out what they want, if anything, with me? This has plagued me for too many years. I would really love to have some genuine input about it. No one I know could talk to me seriously about this because it would go over as "weird", and I really would like some sincere discussion about it.

Thanks for putting up with the long post!

monsnoleedra

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Re: Totem animal questions
« Reply #1 on: June 22, 2012, 10:22:39 am »
Quote from: NatureMade;61146
.. My question is, are these totem animals (or whichever is the correct term) for me? If so, why do I fear and have nightmares about them, and how can I find out what they want, if anything, with me? This has plagued me for too many years. I would really love to have some genuine input about it. No one I know could talk to me seriously about this because it would go over as "weird", and I really would like some sincere discussion about it.

Thanks for putting up with the long post!


First let me preface this with the disclaimer that this is how I view it and understand it so it may vary from what others would say or suggest.

To me your dreams seem more indicative of a shadow totem relationship than that of a power animal / spirit animal / Totem animal or animal guide.

The thing though is that even as a shadow totem it is functioning in the capacity of a totem but its medicine is inverse.  For instance Bear is associated with family and family strength, thus in its shadow facet it would be the opposite of those things.  Sort of family weakness or disjunction, individualism versus family unity type thing.

Now the other thing is shadow totems also hint at contrary medicine in a situation.  In its truest sense its not inverse but acting contrary to what is normal.  Yet its also a reversal of position by intentionally doing the opposite.  Sort of like where you state for no reason you stepped into the cage and faced the Bull.  It was not the logical thing to do and was in opposition to what safety and logic would call for, but it was a personal choice.

It's like in some Native American lore you see the contrary who bathed in dirt and dried off in water.  Yet it was contrary in the sense they were either forced to do so or took it upon themselves to do so because of some issue of shame or failure to face something.

Yet contrary can also be the inverse of social position.  It's like a brave who dresses and acts like a woman would be called a contrary as they acted contrary to the social system.  Yet in that capacity contrary was not a stigma but seen as being touched by Spirit or what ever the devine force is that oversee's the society.  Sort of like crazy people could walk into any tribe or nation's camp area and not be touched or harmed as they were seen under the protection of Spirit, Wakan Tanka, Gitchi Manitou, etc.

Were I advising you i'd suggest you discover what the medicine of the Bull and Bear are then look to see what its opposite is.  Then how it pertains to you, especially in the sense of facing a deep set fear.

It's like snake for the longest time was a shadow totem for me.  A shiver would run down my spine just thinking about them and to see them in realility was bad enough.  Yet it lessened and eventually was overcome so that today I see them and they have no affect upon me.

Elani Temperance

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Totem animal questions
« Reply #2 on: June 22, 2012, 06:50:37 pm »
Quote from: NatureMade;61146
My question is, are these totem animals (or whichever is the correct term) for me?

Well, that's really for you to determine but I do agree with the post above. I will take another look at this thread when I'm not so dead tired but I wanted to drop in and comment that the term 'totem'  originally referred to the animal and/or spirit guides who looked after the tribe. This is why an individual's animal guide can never be a totem animal although totwm animals could look after an individual as well. Of course, the terms are used somewhat interchangably these days so... do with this information what you like ;-)
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herenow

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Re: Totem animal questions
« Reply #3 on: July 12, 2012, 08:02:33 pm »
Quote from: NatureMade;61146
I have been wondering about totem animals (or whatever is more correct to call them) for a long time, so I did a search here to see what, if anything, had been said on the subject. I posted a long comment on a discussion that was closest to what I wanted to learn more about, but then realized it was a really old thread, so I want to re-post this as a new thread to get some ideas.  Sorry about the double post if anyone noticed.
_________________________________________________ _______________

I am looking for more information on the idea of totem animals or animal guides. I admit, I am both curious and confused about the subject, so would like to start with my own story and ask some questions.

Since I can remember (and I am talking about age 2 or 3 here) I have dreamed about bears and bulls. As an artist and naturalist, I am probably not going to make it big on Wall Street, so I doubt that has any connection to finance. The literature I have come across stresses that a totem animal (or power animal, shadow totem, spiritual guide, whatever it technically may be) tends to come to us in dreams or occupy us in other ways, so that we recognize it as having more significance to us than other animals. We can't just choose an animal we like and want to be like, but that it (or they) chooses us. If that is so, then these two are definitely associated in my mind in that way.

The dreams are almost never positive, however, and I would go so far as to call them nightmares. When I was very young, I always woke up scared from dreams where I was being chased by a huge black bull (think bullfight type bull) or a black bear. Later, the dreams still remained scary, but usually the animal involved was not actively chasing me or trying to harm me, though I was still frightened by the dreams. Now, at age 56, the dreams are still scary, but I never seem to be able to remember what happens in them except that there is a bear involved. (I almost never dream about the bull any more, though he does occasionally appear.)

The funny thing is that I was a zookeeper for awhile back in my 30s, and I took care of large animals and big cats. Among my charges was a huge Cape Buffallo (think really aggressive water buffalo on steroids!). His name was Idi Amin, and well-deserved, as he had a violent temper and the power to kill, AND a pair of grizzlies. I was so irrationally scared of those animals that when I had to clean their enclosures -- a complicated process of opening one set of doors and coaxing them into a separate space, then closing those doors and opening another set to access the area to be cleaned -- I would have mental pictures of accidentally forgetting to close a door or opening the wrong set and being face to face with one of them. I even began to wonder if my childhood dreams had been premonitions of my death somehow.

This began to wear on me to the extent that I actually did open the door one day and walk into the enclosure with Idi Amin. I stood face to face with him for all of about a full minute -- during which time it was a toss up who was the most startled by that meeting. ;)I think he was so surprised to see me there that he forgot to charge, and I had time to quietly back out the door. It shook me up a lot, but after that, I was never quite so frightened by him. I did still worry about doing the same thing with the grizzlies though, and it was becoming so stressful, I finally went to a psychiatrist about it. I won't go into those sessions here, but suffice it to say, it didn't help.

I still greatly fear bears, though I actually love and admire them a great deal. It isn't a phobic sort of fear though.  I actually would love to see them come back in full numbers in the wild. I live in an area with black bears (not many, but I have seen one huge male, and at least 2 different bears have visited my parent's house about 30 miles away). The conservation department says they are becoming more numerous in our area as well.

My question is, are these totem animals (or whichever is the correct term) for me? If so, why do I fear and have nightmares about them, and how can I find out what they want, if anything, with me? This has plagued me for too many years. I would really love to have some genuine input about it. No one I know could talk to me seriously about this because it would go over as "weird", and I really would like some sincere discussion about it.

Thanks for putting up with the long post!


I firmly believe our totems help us make decisions.

Regarding 'the bear and the bull' - that's Wall Street talk!

Jezebel

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Re: Totem animal questions
« Reply #4 on: July 13, 2012, 04:40:27 am »
Quote from: monsnoleedra;61204

Were I advising you i'd suggest you discover what the medicine of the Bull and Bear are then look to see what its opposite is.  Then how it pertains to you, especially in the sense of facing a deep set fear.


I agree with this. It's like getting the inverse of a tarot card during a reading, it does not mean that the message is bad, just that the 'shadow' side is just as important and may need your attention.

If this has been going on for so long, decades from what you said then there is obviously something important that Bull and Bear are trying to tell you and with these sorts of animals they're not exactly being subtle about it.

Bull in a china shop much?

Nyktipolos

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Re: Totem animal questions
« Reply #5 on: July 17, 2012, 05:21:45 pm »
Quote from: NatureMade;61146
My question is, are these totem animals (or whichever is the correct term) for me?

Cropping everything out mostly to address to the terminology issue:

The preferred term would not be "totem". It was culturally appropriated from the Ojibwe people* to apply to a concept that is similar to the one that is commonly used in pagan and neo-pagan circles, but is not exactly the same thing.

You might try something like spirit animal or guardian (some people also directly refer to a spirit as Bear, Duck, Deer, etc.), or perhaps something in the language of your religious path (if it's not English), while trying to be respectful of cultural traditions.



* There is also a similar concept with Native tribes on the west coast, but I am less familiar with how things work there, the terminology used, etc. Totem comes from the Ojibwe word doodem anyways, so that's the focus of my response.
« Last Edit: July 17, 2012, 05:23:01 pm by Nyktipolos »
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monsnoleedra

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Re: Totem animal questions
« Reply #6 on: July 17, 2012, 06:37:33 pm »
Quote from: Nyktipolos;64654
Cropping everything out mostly to address to the terminology issue:

The preferred term would not be "totem". It was culturally appropriated from the Ojibwe people* to apply to a concept that is similar to the one that is commonly used in pagan and neo-pagan circles, but is not exactly the same thing.

You might try something like spirit animal or guardian (some people also directly refer to a spirit as Bear, Duck, Deer, etc.), or perhaps something in the language of your religious path (if it's not English), while trying to be respectful of cultural traditions.



* There is also a similar concept with Native tribes on the west coast, but I am less familiar with how things work there, the terminology used, etc. Totem comes from the Ojibwe word doodem anyways, so that's the focus of my response.


I used to point that out but got tired of being accused of trying to tell people what or how to believe.  The term has become so corrupted within neo-paganism today that it seems no one wants to know the truth of it only what some recent author says it means.  Of course that is my own opinon so others may see it differently.

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