Ancient shamanistic societies believed in the concepts of totemism. Native Americans notably placed great importance on animal totems and their meanings. Ancient animal totems and their meanings have a place in contemporary spirituality.
What are animal totems? Typically, animal totems were wooden pieces or natural landforms with the spirit’s face carved into it. Communal totems existed frequently in the center of the village. It was the typical wooden pole with several different animal spirits.
Certain tribes also carved their animal totems into rock faces or into trees to call for guidance or protection. Shamans meditated on animal totems and their meanings to tap into a social consciousness that would better their group. Regardless of the symbol, animal totems host a spirit that the tribe prays to for good luck.
More specifically, the American Ojibwa tribe is the origin point of the term “totemism.” Animal totems and what they mean were heavily significant to the Ojibwa. However, examples of totemism exist in other tribes in places like Western Europe and Africa. Australia and the Arctic also host tribes that believe in totemism. Many think that totemism is synonymous with a “primitive” mentality.
Claude Levi-Strauss heavily disagrees with that notion. He wrote the definitive essay, Totemism Today. In it, he puts forward the idea that human cognition is actually improvable through totem use. Levi-Strauss forwarded that totemism was not primitive. Rather, it was a perfect way to cope with a lifestyle where abstract ideas were uncommon.
In that sense, totems are not that different from established religions in modern society. Serving as a rally point for a society is just another of the benefits of animal totems. It goes without saying then that animal totems and what they mean are important as social foci.
List of Animal Totems and their Meanings
Today, animal totems and their meanings are much more than emblems of a specific group. Individuals in contemporary society have adopted them as a way to reflect their own nature. Embodying qualities they desire is also another function that the individual puts on the totem.
Animal totems and their meanings embody attributes that its bearer desires. Clear is the way to these attributes for those who pay attention to their totems. Of course, the question remains as to how to find your animal totems.
Put simply, finding your animal totem is like adopting the spirit with a specific goal in mind. That goal is that the spirit will help you find insight into your innermost self. Just choose your animal totem to find it; the animal’s energy will resonate with yours. That alone makes it the strongest animal totem for you specifically.
Naturally, we must disabuse ourselves of the notion that there is a strongest animal totem or one that is supreme. Strength is not the basis on which you select animal totems or how they function at all. It is which qualities the spirit embodies in you that makes it powerful.
There is a myriad selection of animal totems and their meanings are equally diverse. To help you figure out your choice, there is a totem animals list below. With each is a corresponding meaning that shows you the attributes each animal totem brings. See which ones resonate with you and what that means for you.
A quick and aggressive survivor, the alligator also carries maternal instinct. They protect their young with deadly jaws and lightning-fast aggression. This means that you have plenty of aggressive energies to redirect in a positive manner. Don’t let destruction be your first response to a problem.
The ant is a symbol in the animal kingdom for industriousness and self-sacrifice. Ants know their place; they are but one in a colony of millions, no more important than any others. So they determinedly work to build a sustainable community in a fast-growing world. This means that you embody the qualities of hard and humble work.
Quick and graceful by nature, the antelope doesn’t trade any of that for noise. As they race across the plains to safety, they are still able to freeze in place and remain totally quiet. Their awareness of their surroundings is enviable and they are excellent at escaping danger. Your situational awareness and ability to adapt to it helps you avoid dangers that would end others.
Intrepid and organized, the badger is a fierce creature in the wilds. Not even predators like pumas readily tangle with the badger, a fearless creature. Your tidiness greatly benefits you and scares off people who would otherwise harm you. General fearlessness on your part helps that too.
Despite the general notion that bats are blind, they’re really not. Poor eyesight does not mean that bats are entirely blind, because they see another way. They soar freely through the night air and avoid collisions by using echolocation. Like you, their voices help them see. You see other people better in an emotional or mental way when you talk to them.
The term “mama bear” has its origin in the motherly and fierce nature of the mother bear. Legendary for being fiercely protective, the bear is one of nature’s strongest creatures. Hibernating in the winter cave helps the bear regain its strength and clarity. You are strong, but you must go within to find answers to the questions of your life.
Dedicated lumberjacks, the beaver represents determination and communication. They work hard to build dams, but those also serve to bridge together other groups of beavers. Like the beaver, you are great at opening new avenues of communication and you work hard at doing it.
Like the ant, the bee is also a symbol of humble industry and common good. Their organization and industry helped coin the phrase “busy as a bee,” which accurately describes you. You’re a great team player who communicates well with others and works hard with them to achieve a goal.
Bulls are typically symbols of stubborn courage and fighting spirit. Like the bull, you forge ahead with courage and an indomitable spirit. Any who are with you can trust when you start something that you’ll finish it.
Butterflies are the result of a creature learning to adapt to its environment in such a radical way. From caterpillar to cocoon to butterfly, it learns to transform. To accept change, it finds balance in all things. It lives the longest as anything but a butterfly, but its change is beautiful. You will find the space in your heart to change into something beautiful and adapt to life.
The hardy camel has carried travellers over deserts since time immemorial. Humps of fat on their back assure that they have the economy of energy to patiently endure the desert. Don’t think too much about how anyone who’s ever owned a camel complains about its smell. Camels are enduring because of their wise conservation of energy. You know best how to spend energy and how to endure trials in your life.
Being independent and often alone has never before stopped the cat from finding love and support. Despite general detachment, there is a magical sensuality and mystery about the cat. You’re incredible at supporting yourself, but you’re never short of people willing to support you. There’s just this mystery about you that draws people in despite your general detachment from others.
The fastest creature on the savannah has focus as razor-sharp as its claws and teeth. Cheetahs prepare almost obsessively to become incredible predators. They sprint at a hundred kilometers per hour to slam into its prey and instantly kill it. This means that your preparation skills are something worth fearing. Once you set your sights on a goal, it will find itself meeting you at breakneck speed.
Many see the coyote seeming to laugh at itself. Perhaps it knows a joke we don’t? Maybe it has tricked someone who has yet to notice? Or just maybe it figured out a clever alternative solution to a problem it was facing? People with the coyote totem are humorous folk who deceive without malice. They’re always fun to be around and they’re creative at finding innovative solutions to problems.