Animal Allies: The Power of Totems in Dreams
Dream practices have had cultural importance for thousands of years. The Egyptians, the Greeks and indigenous tribes worldwide revered dreams for the deep wisdom—and even prophetic insight—that dreams could hold. Dream practices throughout history have been considered both spiritual and practical.
Modern practices still revere the spiritual wisdom that dreams hold, and their importance to waking life. Dreams create a bridge between the conscious mind, the subconscious mind, and what Carl Jung, founder of analytical psychology, called the collective unconscious. Jung spent much time with indigenous tribes, studying how and why dreams carried so much importance, and found that native tribes were keenly aware of the power of nature, animals and humankind’s relationship with the natural world. Dreams, he found, were one way to describe this power and these connections, and animals, specifically, held archetypal (universal) significance.
Native tribes refer to animal totems as “medicine” because these sacred creatures bring to each of us important messages for balance, healing and self-awareness. Each animal holds a particular power—or attribute—for personal growth. Bringing attention to the awareness of each animal’s characteristics and inherent spiritual essence can begin to activate their power.
Here are a few common animal totems and their significance in dreams:
A spider is a symbol for great creativity. Although many people are afraid of spiders, they are very gentle, fragile creatures, and few species are poisonous or harmful. The web they weave is a metaphor for the way in which we each create our own lives, choice by choice. Spiders also have many eyes, making them astute observers of their environment.
If a spider appears in your dream, ask yourself the following:
- How and when can I practice better present-moment awareness?
- What creative projects need my attention now?
The snake is a symbol of pure life force energy. Some may also know this as kundalini energy. Like spiders, snakes are often feared, but irrationally so. Snakes can be seen as a great symbol of change and transformation. When the snake sheds its skin, renewal automatically takes place, and snakes must shed their skin regularly to remain healthy.
If a snake appears in your dream, ask yourself the following:
- What aspects of my life are in need of renewal?
- What old or outmoded thoughts, beliefs or behaviors could I shed to make room for fresh new experiences and opportunities?
Wolves are yet another animal often feared by many. These gentle creatures are highly attuned and sensitive to their environment, and keep strict social order in the pack. While they are also adept hunters, they don’t kill for sport, only for nourishment. Wolves are often playful and shy, and have an innate wisdom about the order of the natural world.
If a wolf appears in your dream, ask yourself the following:
- Do I need more leisure time in my life to remain healthfully balanced?
- Where in my life could I exercise more leadership?
Many bird species are known for their bright and sunny disposition. Their ability to break into cheery song at any moment makes them lighthearted creatures. Birdsong is an innate messenger of spiritual wisdom. Freedom and independence may come to mind with birds, as these qualities mimic their natural characteristics. Their small, nimble bodies give them the ability to physically maneuver with agility and adaptability.
If a bird appears in your dream, ask yourself the following:
- What situations in my life could currently benefit from a “bird’s eye” view?
- Where in my life do I need to relax, let go, and trust that all is and will be well?
Each of us can begin to connect to our animal allies by simply acknowledging their presence and their power. As an animal appears in a dream, ponder its natural characteristics, and remember that they embody a deep connection to the natural and spiritual world. Listen to the messages they convey and take action where necessary. These powerful allies will always provide the right message at the right time.
Kelly Lydick holds a Master of Arts in writing and consciousness. She is a reiki master, crystal reiki master and Gateway Dreaming coach. She is a member of the International Association for the Study of Dreams, where she has presented her work on dream studies. She offers private consultations through her company Waking the Dream. For more information, visit KellyLydick.com.