Some thoughts on spirits, guides and totems

Due to a user name snafu, my friend Angel and I had not talked for months. We finally found each other in chat over the weekend and the conversation was, as usual, fascinating and filled with instances of sharing the same thoughts (we are almost like twins that way, even though we are not related in this life).

As she is an experienced energy worker, I wanted her opinion on something. When I express gratitude to deities/lwa/spirits, I have a natural tendency to intentionally direct energy out through my hands. I’d also noticed the sensation of energy flowing upwards from what feel like small openings (the energy equivalent of pores?) along the tops of my shoulders and the back of my neck.

Angel’s take on this was not what I expected. She thought the sensation was the result of an exchange of energy between myself and a spirit guide. To support me, this guide stands behind me and puts his hands on my shoulders. She described him as tall and noble, with long dark hair and a Native American feel. He has a two-part name beginning with a ‘sh’ sound. I am not sure who this spirit is, but I like the idea of his presence and support (I can use all the support I can get). Also, I forgot to save the chat text and am writing this from memory, so I hope Angel will feel free to comment and point out any errors I may have made.

The same day another friend of mine was posting multiple photos of her totem animal (one of the big cats) on Facebook.  This got me thinking. I’ve never done much exploration into whether or not I have a totem animal. I suppose I never felt a need to. Popular parlance seems to view totems as animal spirit guides. Which got me thinking again. If my essence is animal, and I don’t have totem animals, does that make my bipedal spirit guides my totem humans? Yes, I am being a little facetious. But only a little.

From Wikipedia:

A totem is a stipulated ancestor of a group of people, such as a family, clan, group, lineage, or tribe.[1]

Totems support larger groups than the individual person. In kinship and descent, if the apical ancestor of a clan is nonhuman, it is called a totem. Normally this belief is accompanied by a totemic myth.

Although the term is of Ojibwe origin in North America, totemistic beliefs are not limited to Native Americans. Similar totem-like beliefs have been historically present in societies throughout much of the world, including Africa, Asia, Australia, Eastern Europe, Western Europe, and the Arctic polar region.

In modern times, some single individuals, not otherwise involved in the practice of a tribal religion, have chosen to adopt a personal spirit animal helper, which has special meaning to them, and may refer to this as a totem. This non-traditional usage of the term is prevalent in the New Age movement, and the mythopoetic men’s movement.

If this is accurate, then a totem would be ancestral. Then I would say my totem would have to be one of the large cats. Except that I likely would not call them a totem. I’d call them an ancestor.

 

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2 Responses to “Some thoughts on spirits, guides and totems”

  1. Angel Night Says:

    Hello ,
    I love your idea about bipedal totems..why not? I think it makes sense. *smiles* Just to help clarify a bit….the spirit that I saw was a person who I think of as indigenous….an old culture but, not so much American and his name is something like Shen Kai (not sure on the spelling). Im not sure what culture it is though. Im hoping the name may help but, the name is possibly not a hundred percent correct either. Just a close sound to what I think I heard.
    Hope this helps and does not create more questions than answers. Of course thats what makes the journey so interesting.

  2. cheshirecatman Says:

    Thank you for clarifying that…I thought I might have gotten that wrong 🙂 Earlier this year I did communicate with my main spirit guide, and he was either from India or Mesoamerica. Your description kind of fits him, although I did not perceive him as particularly tall (but he could easily be taller than me). The name I got was different, but I’ve seen really long names associated with both cultures, so it could very well be that both of us are getting part of a much longer name.

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