Friday, April 06, 2007

A Totem of my Esteem

I have wondered for years what my totem animal is. Native American and Celtic shamanistic beliefs refer to both "totem animals" and "power animals." These terms are often used interchangeably, but they are not the same. A totem animal is one that is with you for life. It is an animal with whom you share a connection, either through your interest or resemblance to it. A power animal is a spirit in animal form that comes through with a specific lesson for you, and will change throughout the course of your life.

All my life, wherever I have lived, even in big cities, I have heard an owl hooting. I find great comfort in the sound, and against all reason, I take it personally. It is for me that the owl hoots. Most owls are nocturnal. I hear this owl's voice every day, all day. It is the steady backdrop of my life. Owls are solitary birds. So am I. I do not hunt small animals, however.

These mournful-sounding creatures know when to be still. They do not feel the need to proclaim their presence to anyone until the timing is right. In Native American legend, Owl comes to us when we need to open our eyes and study the situation at hand. If we watch and listen with our inner selves, we can figure out what is happening behind the scenes and confront those who would deceive us at the appropriate time.

The owl symbolizes the feminine, the moon, and the night. I am female and nocturnal by nature, and the moon is my birth sign. Yet, unlike the owl, I do not know when to be still. I am endlessly vocal and also, I cannot fly.

An owl totem bestows wisdom, vision, insight, and clairvoyance, and specializes in seeing hidden motives in others.

I am sure that one of my totem animals is the wolf because of my years with a gray wolf I called Baby. She taught me courage as she lived her life fully in total blindness. She was loving and gentle, the exact opposite of the ferocious killers touted in fairy tales and the fabrications of cattle ranchers to justify slaughtering them.

The Wolf totem is a pathfinder for the human spirit, teaching skill and helping to find ones life-path.

The wolf is a free spirit which exemplifies loyalty, cooperation, perseverance, and taking advantage of change. Wolves mate for life and fight only when necessary.

My third totem animal could be the horse. I have always loved horses, and as a child, fantasized about riding one around my suburban neighborhood. Years later, I adopted three ponies in need of a home. My younger daughter became an excellent rider and jumper, and competed in shows.

I never learned to ride well, but loved to wander bareback on Star, our Exmoor pony. He tolerated me on his back because of apples and carrots, and because I was light. The Exmoor pony, which is native to the Moors of England, has an overly developed upper lip for eating lichen. Star used his for working the combination lock to our barn, which held a barrel of irresistible sweet feed. I am sure that he was magical (or possessed) because horses are not supposed to do this. After many years of love and mischief, Star was murdered in the field next to our house. Perhaps an illegal hunter mistook him for a deer. When I found his body and climbed into the ravine where he lay on his side, I told him, crying, how much I loved him. A single large tear rolled out of his eye and ran swiftly down his face onto the ground, so I knew that his spirit could hear me.

The horse totem symbolizes freedom, beauty through strength, mobility, sharing power with others and carrying messages.

Star and Baby will always be with me. And the owl reminds me to use my insight for good. If he is a spirit animal, then I'm sure that one owl has been with me all my life. I have not given him a name because he is invisible. If he ever reveals himself to me, that may change.

My fourth totem animal candidate is the dolphin. A pair of them led my family to safety in our small boat during a hurricane on Block Island Sound when I was a child, and they seem to show up whenever I visit the seashore. They have been known to keep me company right beyond the breakers as I strolled for miles along a beach, turning when I did to retrace my footsteps disappearing in the sand.

A dolphin totem teaches how to enter the waters of life and to call forth what you most need with breath and sound. I am still learning these things, and have far to go.

My final possible totem animal is the deer. I have always been able to walk among them in the forest, and a few have even lapped at a salt lick in my hands while allowing me to pet them. Deer teach us to use the power of gentleness to touch the minds and hearts of wounded beings in our lives. They walk the path of love with full awareness, knowing that love requires caring and protection. I am just beginning to understand that this applies not only to others, but to how we love ourselves.

The deer totem symbolizes compassion, peace, gentleness, sensitivity, kindness, and unconditional love.

Here is a quiz to help you find your own inner spirit totem animal. According to this quiz, mine is the mustang.

"The spirit of the Mustang, the everlasting symbol of love and of generosity protects you from being used by others who would take advantage of you. You are the kind of person willing to lend your strengths to those who are true to you so that they may better themselves and get back on their own feet."

I may never determine which animal is my true totem, but my life is so much richer because of animals I have known and loved, and the many gifts they gave me. I celebrate and give thanks for all of them.


seventh sister said...

We have deer that run in the woods right behind our house. Lani lets us know when they are there. We have to be very careful driving around here so that we don't' hit them. Lani and I know where an owl sometimes roosts in the park.

I have a small pen feather from an owl who used to nest where I worked in West Texas, so I am sure that I have owl as a totem or at least a recurring power animal.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Ahhh, deer. I miss them in SF. I really, really miss them.

If owl is one of your power animals, it could explain your ability to see what is not on the surface of things.

EsLocura said...

What a fabulous post. As a child I had a pet Owl, who sat on my head while I did what ever it was I did. Since moving to Puerto Rico, there is an owl who enjoys the coffee trees on my property, I fall alseep to his sound. He gets awful loud some nights perhaps due to the caffeine.

zorak163 said...

I took the quiz and it came back as the wolf.

There are deer that roam through the woods adjacent to the apartment community that I live and work at.

I've got a connection to grasshoppers, hence the title of my blog.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


I can't drink coffee at night myself. It makes me loud and sleepless, too.

How wonderful that you had a pet owl. Was it in NY?


I've noted your connection to grasshoppers. They are cheery and delightful little beings, aren't they?

One of my best friends was a wolf. You hit the totem jackpot for sure.

Bob said...

you certainly have an affinity for animals - and they for you. they seem to play an important part of your life.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


They really do. I would have liked this post to be shorter, but I kept thinking of more animals that mean a lot to me.

Anonymous said...

First of all, your previous post got 61 comments. I am sooooo comment envy.

This was great, HinSF, and leaves me with so many questions, so many that I will refrain from asking any. So many questions about personality and likes and desires that seem more appropriate for giggles over coffee.

I am not sure what I would have as a totem animal -- perhaps a rock or a piece of bark. I will take the quiz, I think.

Oh, and I missed you the last few days. So glad to read you again.

Anonymous said...

I got the falcon. "The Falcon
You are protected by the spirit of the Falcon; he sees qualities in you that reflect his own such as your true belief in freedom and beauty above all else. Your spirit soars above the clouds and feels at one with nature. Your quote: "Be who you are: not who they think you are"

And I chose all the Orlando Bloom answers.

MsLittlePea said...

This was a beautiful post that I enjoyed reading. My results said I was a wolf. But I'm sot so sure.

My heart runneth over... said...

I love that quiz and this post. Animals can definately eb our guides in life... There love is pure. All the best1 ~M I am a Mustang! :)

Lex said...

What a beautiful post, Susan.

I a beginning to ache from the absence of an animal presence in my life. I've never lived without a pet, and now I have for 2 years. It is not sitting well with me at all.

I'm going to take the quiz and come back.

Lex said...

My totem is the Wolf. I've posted a couple of things I've read about a wolf totem.

At this moment I'm aching for a dog in my life. I've posted about that too.


Thailand Gal said...

According to the test, my totem is The Stag.

You are protected by the spirit of the deer, swift of foot and of mind; you keep true to yourself while thinking of the good of the herd. You are an independant and free spirit, capaple of solemnity and of true bravery. As long as you stay honest with yourself the Stag will protect and serve you well. Your quote: "If I am walking with two other men, each of them will serve as my teacher. I will pick out the good points of the one and imitate them, and the bad points of the other and correct them in myself"

Speaking of totem animals and protectors, just a few days ago, I got a sense of my Thai spirit protector.

It knocked me on my ass, metaphorically speaking.

I won't be blogging about it. :)

These things are real!



heartinsanfrancisco said...


I wondered what would happen if I chose the Orlando Bloom answers. That was just a little weird.

I would agree that beauty and freedom of spirit are most important values for you. (For me, too.)

Maybe the totem animals are issued randomly, or they go down a list and then start over. It's hard to take a quiz seriously when it includes the Orlando questions.

Sweet Pea,

I LOVE wolves, as we know. I would think of you as a deer, but have not read any of the quiz descriptions but the one I got.


Great! Next time someone says "wild horses couldn't drag me wherever," I'll think of you,

I do love mustangs. My daughter and I used to visit a herd of wild horses in NC. She once jumped on the stallion and galloped him across the field while I bravely doled out apples, not being the rider she was.


I have been without a dog or wolf for the first time in my life since moving to California, and I miss it so much. Luckily, there are plenty of dogs at the beach and in the parks for me to play with.

What kind of dog would you like to have? I prefer big ones, usually, another reason we can't have one in an apartment.


That sounds like you.

I'm deeply interested in the matter you won't be blogging about. Spirit protectors are absolutely real. There are so many realms intersecting, of which we are usually unaware. I do believe that we are surrounded by safety nets as we learn the lessons we came here to learn.

QT said...

I really liked this post - I feel like I always have to have animals around me to be truly "at home".

I have not taken the test yet, but a nickname of mine was "The Raven" and I love the PNW story of the Raven and its relationship to mankind.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Thank you and welcome. My only association with the raven is the Poe poem, but you do have lovely black hair so maybe that accounts for your nickname in part.

You have a fascinating blog. I'll be bellying up there often.

Lex said...

@ Heart

I would love a German Shepherd. I adore big dogs but I wouldn't mind another Yorkie either. They are big dogs trapped in tiny bodies.

I saw an ASPCA commercial this afternoon that broke my heart. I'm pretty certain my next friend will be an adopted one. Funny, if I make this career shift I'll be able to buy whichever dog I want, but I feel compelled to rescue one of those babies. We shall see.

CS said...

I always have trouble with these quizzes when 2 answers fit. SO I took it twice, got stag once and wolf the other. But I had already decided years ago it is actually a hawk. I always see them when I need a reminder of life and good fortune.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


It definitely sounds as if hawk is your totem. We all need to be reminded of life and good fortune regularly.

Besides, it's hard to take seriously a quiz that seems like a fan site for a hunky actor.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Apparently my totem animal is a stag. Sorry...feel no connection there. I would think it is either a wolf or an otter. Surprised that I didn't say squirrel?

velvet girl said...

Hmmm, it said that I was a stag, but I really relate more to wolves.

You're lucky that you have such a special connection to animals and that's truly tragic about Star.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Not surprised. I would have expected mine to be a wolf, too.


Another wolf person - you, Squirrel and me.

Yes, Star was my big love. A year later, our Shetland pony, Lucky, was killed in the same field.

I immediately found another home for Zephyr, the little Welsh Mountain pony I had saved from abuse when he was only 4 months old. He was 6 years old when this happened, and he clearly mourned the older ponies of his "herd."

It broke my heart losing all of them, but at least I knew that Zephyr would be safe. I went to visit him in his new home, and he proudly introduced me to his new friend, the biggest horse in the stable.