Morningstar Totem Pages Faq
I receive so many emails asking questions about totem animals (and Shamanism) and how to find out more about them and their healing qualities that I decided to create a Totem Pages Faq section where I can answer as many as possible. If you have a totem question that is of a general nature, I can try and answer it here yet please be patient! I do this in my free time and absolutely cannot answer any questions of a personal nature or even begin to try and explain what an encounter with a particular animal or bird might mean to you personally. I will warn you, that questions are in no particular order. So you might need to scroll through a bit to see if I have already answered something you are curious about.
Q. I have had a Crow screeching at me several times over the past few months. Is there anything to this?
A: Crows, Hawks and Owls in particular do seem to single people out and there can be any number of reasons for this, including that you may have that bird as a totem. It may also be that you have attracted it because you have not been hearing the messages Spirit has been trying to get through to you. Crows are often called in to "nag" at someone if they are ignoring signs and omens that something need to change in their lives because Crows are very persistent as well as very noisy birds. Its hard to ignore Crow when it is determined to get one's attention! The Universe knows that eventually the person is going to start asking why Crow is screeching at him or her so often and that in and of itself can open the doors to understanding what the message might be. I have had people tell me that they had no clue why Crow was "pestering" them and yet in the same breath, start speaking about a problem, person or challenge in their lives that has been bothering them greatly. The problem is not that we don't know, we do, the problem is we don't want to admit to ourselves that we do know what changes we need to make because they may seem too hard or even scary for us to do.
The first thing I would suggest is to take a good long hard look at your life and ask yourself what is really bothering you or what you say to yourself you know you want to change, but are not really doing anything about. Everytime someone thinks to themselves "I would really like to change this or manifest that", the Universe responds by sending them what ever help or support they might need to make the change or manifest something new and different. But being human, we all have a tendency to waffle, better the devil you know than the devil you don't. Yet, because the desire for change comes from deep within the Soul, the wiser part of our being begins to "nag" at us, insisting that we follow through and start taking the steps required. If someone still resists, the Universe acting on the behest of that person's Soul, will begin to send what ever is needed to grab the person's attention and push them to get moving and start taking those steps. This can be through Crow appearing in your life as much as anything else (or any other animal or bird for that matter).
Think back to what was going on in your life or what you were focusing your thoughts on about the time Crow appeared for you. What ever really stands out for you, is going to be your answer. You can always choose to not make the decision to make the change for nothing can take away our free will. But for many people, they find themselves circling back to really wanting to make the changes even if they don't know how. Willing to be willing to make a change is all that is needed, the Universe will find all the ways and means to help you make it happen.
Q. What are some good sources for finding out more about a particular totem animal?
A: The internet of course is a great place to start. What I recommend is searching for any websites that have the most general information on an animals or bird because understanding the way that they normally live is going to tell you a great deal about how their energy might apply to your own life. For example, knowing what a totem animal eats might also help you make better choices in your own eating habits. Those with predator totems strong in their energy fields do tend to need higher amounts of meat and protein than say those who have more vegetarian type totems. What is the animal's normal cycles? Does it hibernate in winter? Is it active during the day or at night? Where does it sleep? Is is sociable or solitary? What are it's mating habits? How many young does it bear at one time and how long do the young stay with the parent(s)? All of these things upon reflection will better help you to understand the energies and teachings of your totems. Ted Andrews has written several brilliant books on Totems and I strongly encourage you to seek these out as they really are a vast resource of information. Don't rely however on just those websites or books that look at animals and birds from a totemic slant. Remember that ANY information can be useful!
Q. How can I better understand an encounter with a totem? I had something happen with a Crow and I am very confused as to what it might mean.
A: A good place to start is to think back to what you were doing, thinking or feeling right before you had the encounter. Were you feeling worried or confused about something that was/is happening in your life? Were you thinking of someone in particular? Was your own intuition niggling at you about something? Totems have an unnerving tendency to reflect back to us what is happening in our lives as well as bringing us message of guidance and support. For example, several months ago I was concerned about a personal situation and was discussing it with my flatmate as we were preparing to leave home to run some errands. Still blethering on about it as we left, no sooner had we stepped through the front gate when a Hawk flew overhead, calling loudly. I knew immediately that Hawk was telling me that I needed to "speak out" to the person involved in this situation and not just to my flatmate. I also knew that Hawk was telling me that I was being protected and guided in this situation which turned out to be true. Sometimes a totem will act in extremely bizarre ways in order to get your attention. If the Universe and Spirit has been sending you messages that you are ignoring becauase you fear facing and taking action in regards to something happening in your life, a totem may come to you and act in such a way that you stop and go "what was THAT all about!" Part of the process of working with totems is that there are no easy answers. It does take time and effort to sit down and go within to reflect about what has been happening in one's life and ask how what one experienced with a totem may relate to the situation. Yet it is also well worth the effort! Crow came to you at that time because there are healing qualities that it carries that are useful for you in your life. The more you know about Crows, Ravens and other Corvids, the better you will understand how to apply its medicine to your own life.
Q. Can anyone learn to become a Shaman?
A: This is my own personal opinion so take it for what it is worth! No. Anyone can learn shamanic techniques that are safe and very beneficial such as working with totems. And I do believe that we all have an "Inner Shaman" that can be called upon for healing and guidance. However, there is far more to the path than is shared in books and websites and things that only the spirit worlds can teach an apprenticing Shaman.
True Shamanism can be extremely dangerous, physically, mentally and emotionally. Apprenticing to become a Shaman can take many, many years and it is only through the support and assistance of one's Totems and Allies/Spirits that one has the ability to see it through. And some apprentices DON'T make it through. If you don't believe me, stop in at your local mental institution sometime. There are bound to be one or two there. True Shamans never seek it out. They are to "the Manor born" so to speak, it is thrust upon them and most do their level best to run from the energy as far and fast as they can until it tricks them into becoming what they have agreed to be on a Soul level. Shamanism requires a level of commitment that can be a burden as well as a joy. It is no better or more powerful than any other spiritual path, though people in recent times have had a tendency to want to "glamorize" it. And there are those folks that think they want to become a shaman and try to force it to happen. I have known people who thought that by using a power plant such as Peyote for example, that this would open the shamanic realms to them. It doesn't. At best, Peyote will make them puke all over God's green earth and at worst, they might not come back in one piece mentally or physically. Some power plants can kill you. I have also known of situations where someone proclaimed themselves to be a Shaman and then tried to teach their "apprentices" different techniques with disastrous results. Two of the so called apprentices went mad, one even going so far as to commit suicide. Be very, very cautious about approaching anyone for healing work who claims to be a Shaman. They might be. They might not be.
My opinion is based on what I have seen and experienced over the years as well as connecting with others who walk a similar path. If someone is truly a Shaman, the Spirits have unmistakable ways of letting them know!
Q. Is Shamanism basically the same from culture to culture?
A: Yes and no. There are some common elements or threads as I like to call them that exist in all cultures that honour Shamanism. Basically an African Shaman could talk to a Native American or Siberian or Celtic Shaman and they would all understand what the other was referring to. Of course there are unique differences inherent in every culture, and yet shamanic experiences tend to be almost eerily similar.
Q. Can Totem's help me with anything? Say for example attracting more money or a new relationship?
A:Absolutely! What do all of Spirit's creatures spend much of their time focused upon? Gathering resources and finding a mate! Totems in fact are usually much better than us human animals at attracting what they want/need because they do not have deservability issues that get in their way. They know they have every right to be here and not only to survive, but to thrive!
Yet you have to do your part too; how much extra income do you want? What are you willing to do on your own behalf to attract it? Totems can help someone attract abundant resources and yet if that person is not willing to get off the sofa and do what they are being guided to do to manifest it, they are going to have a mighty long wait. Same with a new relationship. What are you seeking in another person? What do you intend to bring to the table in this relationship? Are you really ready to commit or are you just looking for some fun? Nothing is wrong with the latter, but the clearer you are about what you really want, then your totems will be better able to help you attract the right person/situation where both parties benefit.
Be aware that some of what totems can teach us about anything is that nothing is just all about what one person wants or needs. Other people too have wants and needs that are valued and need to be respected and honoured. If you are new to working with Totems, the best thing to do is choose which one thing is the most important to you right now. Then ask for the right totem for the job to make itself known to you. If you are really ready and sincere, it won't take long! Then learn all you can about that particular totem. How does it go about attracting what it wants? What obstacles does it face along the way and how does it overcome them? Does it rely on others of its kind to get what it wants or does it go it alone? Finding ways of translating a totem's behaviour into everyday human terms will help you manifest that which you are seeking. Your totems will not do it all for you, but they will most certainly help guide you and point out valuable opportunities or even tools that can benefit you!
Q.What are some other ways I can work with Totems?
A: One of my favourite ways is on a Sunday evening to sit quietly for a short time and ask for a "totem of the week" to make itself known to me. Who ever shows up, I know this particular totem will be supporting and assisting me as a new week unfolds. Ted Andrews Animal Wise Tarot is also excellent to use for this, as you also get a picture of that totem to keep near you where you can see it often which will also strengthen it's support and presence in your life. An alternative is to print out some pictures of different totems from the Internet and making some simple cards of your own to use. Do keep a journal of your experiences with the totem, it truly will help you integrate the energy much more deeply! You can also do this technique for a month or a year, though bearing in mind that the totem that appears is going to be very active in your life for that length of time and so you may want to make a committment to both it and yourself that you are going to do the best you can to learn its lessons as fully as you can. What can happen otherwise is that the challenging or contrary side of that totem may crop up in your life repeatedly until you finally choose to heed the messages and teachings it has for you. In other words, don't call for a totem unless you are serious about working with it! A week at a time is good for many people because most of us do have very active, full lives and it can be challenging initially to get into the rhythm of working with a totem on a daily basis. Starting slowly and for short cycles is often best.
Q. Why can't you answer questions that people have about totems directly?
A: I have received literally thousands of emails over the years and trying to answer all of them in depth ould have been impossible. I also have to earn a living, look after my family and have some time for myself. I also have learned over the years that when people say they have a quick question, it usually ends up taking hours of my time and energy, as they always want to ask "just one more thing". While I enjoy writing and teaching and in fact writing for me is as big a passion as essences in my life, I also have to have boundaries and limits as to what I can do.
To be frank, another reason is that people have basically asked me to work for free when they email and ask an in-depth question like that. If someone was willing to pay my fee, which admittedly is expensive, then certainly I would be more than happy to do the best I possibly could to answer that person. As it is though, I really do try to provide as much information as I can without charge in order to help as many people as I can.
Q. I would love to see some information on other totems on your site, when do you think these might be made available?
A: Honestly, I would love to see them all on there as much as you would! I do the writing for the totem pages in my free time and when the totem feels like it is ready to be written about. The writing process can take days, even weeks, and sometimes I feel like I am ready to begin but the Totem is just not being very forthcoming or giving me the signs that tell me it's time. Writing about totems to me means that I need to be respectful and courteous towards them. If they are not wanting me to write on them yet, then I wait until they are. When they are ready, it is much like an unstoppable flow of energy that comes through me.
Q.Why do you ask for donations on your Totem pages?
A: The reason I do ask for donations (if someone wants to, obviously it's not mandatory or I would be handing out a password for those pages only to those who make a donation) is because it does take me much time and energy to write those pages that I could be spending on other activities. While I love doing it, I also believe strongly in equal energy exchange because I have found personally that what one gives, is returned to one in abundance. The more I write about Totems for example, the more they teach me in return. I and others have learned over the years that if we want something, we need to also be willing to give something. We also need to be willing to receive for the energy exchange to be complete. Totems never take without also giving something back in some way. This is something that many humans have lost sight of the wisdom of, and is a primary reason why we see so much conflict and strife in the world today. Lots of folks want to receive and yet few seem to want to give! So there is also a totem lesson involved here. The truth is, only a small handful of folks have ever made a donation in support of the totem pages and these wonderful people have no idea how grateful I am. Truly. What I think a great alternative would be though is if someone wanted to make a donation to their favourite animal organisation in honour of my totem pages, I would be deeply grateful and appreciative! (And yes, it would be luverly if anyone could let me know that they have done so, so I can enjoy the good feeling too!)
Q.How did you learn about so many different animals?
A: I am an animal lover hands down. I have always felt closer to animals more than the human variety, and even my family has mentioned often that animals always seemed to seek me out too. I have always enjoyed learning about and studying animals, I love being in their presence and feel a strong sense of kinship with them. I talk to them out loud (doesn't matter who is around. I live in a somewhat "interesting" neighbourhood and yet never have any problems because everyone thinks I am insane for yelling back at Crow, Hawk, talking to the feral cats and so forth. If there is some sort of creature in the area, I will find it and see if it feels like having a natter and a cuppa) and in my mind and I find that they almost always answer. If I am willing to hear them that is! I am also always watching for animals and birds. I note what time of day I saw them, I reflect on what was going on in my mind when the sighting occured and then I also note what happens in my life within a few hours or days of the sighting. Yet I also try to keep my mind open and not fall into the trap of thinking that everytime one of my Crows does a certain thing, it can only be taken in one way.
Q.I live in a large city and it is difficult for me to see anything more wild than my housecat! How can my totems work with me if I am not around them?
A: First off, your cat may be a totem of yours so please don't think that domestic animals don't count! And does Ms. or Mr Kitty ever bring home rats, mice, birds or snakes for your "pleasure"? These may also be totems for you as well, even though they may have "rung down the curtain and joined the choir invisible" (For any other Monty Pyhton fans that might be lurking about!) so take note of what species they are.
I live in LA (God only knows why, I certainly don't!) and we see Hawks (we have a pair that nest right near our building and hear and see them frequently), Ground Squirrels, Tree Squirrels, Crows of course, Hummingbirds, all sorts of Moths and Butterflies, all sorts of other birds that I can't even begin to list including an amazing assortment of Parrots, Opposums, Coyotes, Skunks, even an Eagle circling above our building one time.
Dolphins and Whales, Pelicans and other Sea Birds are to be found at the coastline. Right near us there is also a large feral cat population. And everyone here it seems has a dog! Many types of creatures are finding ways to live with and around humans, and there is also your local Zoo as well. Some lucky folks even live near wildlife sanctuaries and might not even know about them. I had an amazing encounter with a Roadrunner at the Los Angeles Zoo, shortly after that I started receiving all sorts of emails from people saying they were seeing Roadrunners all over the place and wanted to know if I knew where my Coyote was! Your totems will always find ways to connect with you if you are truly willing and open to that connection. It might be through the telly. It might be through books or an article in a magazine. You might get a card in the post with the picture of that totem on it. You might even find that even in a large city, there is an abundant wild animal population that is just waiting for you to notice it!
And don't ignore the insect world either, yes even the most "beloved" cockroach can be a totem for someone!
Q.I really dislike/fear one of my totems. How can I get rid of it?
A: Aha! You are the one that has Cockroach as totem, right? How happy you must be, VBG! Sorry, sometimes I get awfully tired while writing and yet can't seem to stop, so humour helps to keep me going! Why do you dislike/fear a totem so much? Are you willing to look at the possibility that this totem might have some especially potent and beneficial energy for you if you are willing to work at getting over your dislike or fear of it? Ted Andrews in his Animal Speak Workbook does have an excellent chapter on working with a totem that one fears as a means of releasing a repetitive problem or cycle. Trying to "get rid" of a totem is really not the answer. Things we really fear or dislike can be things that we need to learn to accept are also within us and need to be confronted. And as Ted Andrews says, knowledge brings understanding. I have learned to appreciate for example that Cockroaches are vital in the wild for their ability to clear away plant debris and so forth that would otherwise prevent new plant life from sprouting. Or that Bees are really most gentle and sociable, not looking to come find me to attack at all. ( I love Bumbley Bees, but I really do fear swarms of Honey Bees, though I have never been severely stung) If you truly have a phobia about a animal or insect, and it is causing you much pain or disruption in your life, I would strongly urge you to seek out some form of therapy that might be helpful for you in overcoming this. This does not mean I think you are nutters, far from it, as we all have things we fear and a person is telling a right porkie pie if they say they don't fear anything! It also takes a mighty big, couragous individual to admit they need help with something that can seem so huge to try and confront. A true phobia can be terribly crippling, as well as sapping a person of their self-confidence and feeling fearful that someone else might find out about it and oh, the shame if they do! Please know that if this is true for you, that you are not alone and there are advances in therapy as well as alternative methods that can be very helpful! You might want to look into what services are available in your area or seek out an alternative therapist. Often new age type magazines and newspapers do have listings of folks that would be qualified to help you.
Q.I saw a huge number of a particular animal. Can you tell me what this might mean?
A: My first reaction is when this happens to me is that this animal, bird or insect has a very strong message for me and my job is then to sit down and think about the qualities of that creature and ask myself where it might apply to my own life. Sometimes this means I have to do some online research if it is an animal or bird I have not had much previous experience with. If this is the case, then I know that it is a new energy that is coming into my life and often laden with new opportunities as well that I need to be aware of in order to take advantage of. It can also be a warning or "head's up" of sorts. For example, in my own life when there is someone about to try and manipulate me or do something that could be potentially harmful for me, then I will see a huge flock of Crows. Since Crow is a highly protective Totem for me, they are the ones that usually signal the alert though others have come through from time to time as well such as Hawk. At the end of the day, it is better to keep an open mind and check in with your own intuition as to what the message might actually be. Sometimes Crows show up in large numbers when a wonderful new opportunity is coming my way. Or I am about to meet someone that is going to be especially important and helpful to me in my life. With practice and patience, it becomes easier to sort out what the message really is.
Another possibility is when someone has been doing much inner work around an issue and something in regards to that issue is about to surface through another person's actions, they then attract a large number of the totem energy that will be most helpful for them to not slide back into old patterns or behaviours. The totem has appeared as a support for the person. And bear in mind as well, that the totem that appears may NOT be a permanent totem for you, often times new Totems will appear for the length of time that the person may need them and then disappear when their medicine is no longer needed.
I know that people do want to know what their own particular experience means for them directly and that I really can't answer. You know your own life far better than I ever will, and truly, the best thing to do is to find any information you can about that particular totem and just sort of let it all percolate in your mind for a time. Often the answer will pop in while you are doing the washing up, or the laundry or sitting quietly listening to music. The best and most accurate answers will ALWAYS come from within your own inner knowing and intuition! I could tell someone what I thought it might mean and be so far off base, that the real message and opportunity could be missed, at least for a time.
Q.I have been having a lot of dreams about different animals and birds. Does this mean they are all my totems? Or does it mean something else?
A: There is no absolutely definitive answer to this. Some of them might be your totems and if so, often they will appear to you through many different channels, not just through your dreams. On the other hand, if a temporary totem has an especially important message they need to get across to you, they might start appearing to you repeatedly over time. The only real way to know for sure if an animal is or isn't a totem for you IS time. If over the course of several years an animal or bird keeps appearing in your life or you have a strong inner sense that it is a totem for you, it probably is. Bear in mind however, that for some animals and birds, their influence may be felt for several months, even years, and then you notice they just don't seem to be around you as much. The more you do work with those animals that you sense are your totems, the more you will be able to distinguish who has come to help you only for a certain length of time and who is appearing to you as a more permanent totem.
It is also important I have found to note who else or what other things are also in your dream as this can also help you determine not only the message, but if the totem is indeed life long for you. For example, I once dreamed that I was sitting in a motor car that was stock still. Someone else was driving the car and I was a passenger. Suddenly a man riding a Camel appeared on the left hand side where I was sitting, and stared in the passenger window at me. They then carried on while I sat there with my jaw to the floor. The devil is in the details when it comes to dreams. For me it was very significant that the car was British and not American, and that the car was not moving and I seemed to be waiting for the driver to get things rolling. The man reminded me very much of the Knight of Wands from the tarot. Even the way that he stared at me in the dream (a sort of "well, what are you waiting for"!) to me was significant. When I did some research on Camels and paired it with my own understanding of the Tarot, it made great sense and also told me that for me, Camel is a temporary totem that had come to help me get moving on my journey, especially because I felt the journey seemed to be almost impossible to achieve. Camel was the most appropriate medicine for me to enounter through this dream.
Dreams I feel are a tremendous source of self-understanding and guidance and I do pay especially close attention to those that do contain totems. There are some wonderful books by Robert Moss that you might also find useful if you are inclined towards dream exploration. You can find his site here: http://www.mossdreams.com/
There are more questions and answers to come so do check back from time to time.
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