From Past to Present: Spirit Animals

Several years ago in the weeks leading up to my wedding, a group of my girlfriends took me to Joshua Tree National Park on a mission to find our “spirit animals.”


We did yoga, we walked on the magical rocks at night, we breathed, we stargazed, and we meditated in hope that our animal spirits would to come to us. We had varying degrees of success—some of us reported feeling an animal presence, while others spent most of the time giggling. Little did we know (a short while later) that finding your spirit animal would be a trending topic on the web, social media, and even in fashion.

What is a Spirit Animal?

Spirit animals come from several cultures and religions, including Shamanism and First Nation peoples through their ceremony and healing practices.

Shamans believe healing can be achieved by working with our animal allies in the spirit world. The shamanic belief is that everyone has a spirit or power animal, which resides within each individual, adding to his or her power and offering protection from harm. The spirit also lends you the wisdom of its kind. A hawk spirit will give you hawk wisdom, and lend you some of the attributes of a hawk, such as focus and the power to see.

In First Nation’s culture across North America, spirit animals play a similar but slightly different role, focused around a respect for animals. In this culture, when an animal is killed for food, all parts of the animal are used and a prayer or blessing is made to the animal for providing life and comfort.

In modern First Nation’s culture, special recognition is still given to the power of animals, and skins and feathers are worn in ceremonies and dances. It is believed that an animal can appear to give you a certain wisdom, strength, or premonition that something will occur. For example, a hummingbird is said to be a joyful messenger, and when it appears at a time of sorrow or pain, healing will follow.

On a superficial level, the term “spirit animal” has been used in the pop culture world to indicate your desire to be like, or to declare your affinity with, a certain well-known personality. In other words, traditionally you would never hear someone say, “Beyonce is my spirit animal.” But modern culture not only permits it, you can also buy a T-shirt claiming it.

Where is Your Spirit Animal?

The good new is you don’t have to be a shaman to get a spirit animal. The first step is simply believing we all have one—or several—and from there being open to their presence.

Connecting with your sprit animal or calling on an animal spirit for help, wisdom, or power is on a yogic level the ability to connect with your spirit. The word “yoga” means to unite, and this is in essence what we are trying to achieve when we practice, connect with our spirit, and are open to a spiritual presence around us.

How Can You Find Your Spirit Animal?

Contact your local shaman. Sound crazy? It’s not. They are popping up everywhere. Ask your local yoga teacher and do a little Google search for your area. You can also dabble in the plethora of online quizzes available.

Lastly, spend time outdoors in the animal kingdom to connect with nature. It’s amazing how this alone can help you get in touch with your spirit animal. If all else fails, plan your next getaway to Joshua Tree—sleep under the stars and let your animal spirit soar.

By the way, that night under the stars my spirit animal did come to me. It’s a wolf. It’s said that this animal stands for an appetite for freedom and living life powerfully, guided by instincts. I think it’s apt because I have a passion for passion. No matter what I do, this is my mantra: To live full and be present and always, always trust my inner intuition as a guide.

This post appeared on Yoga Anonymous.