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Spirits and Animals: Totems, Familiars, and Power Animals

Melissa has been practicing paganism and witchcraft for over 20 years. She currently works with the Egyptian pantheon of Gods and Goddesses.

Read on to learn all about spirits and animals!

Read on to learn all about spirits and animals!

Animals tend to be more in tune with the spirit world than humans. In fact, animals tend to be more in tune with us than we are! This is most likely because they lack our rational minds or because they are more simple-minded than we are. This allows them to accept the spirit world more readily. Either way, having an animal in your home can help alert you to any residential spirits.

Osiris, my familiar

Osiris, my familiar

Dogs Are Sensitive to the Spirit World

Dogs can easily see and hear spirits. They oftentimes can be seen “chasing” a playful one, but some spirits can also cause them to cower in fear. Most of the time, dogs will cling to the one person in the household they know can protect them psychically.

This is why my dog, Sekhmet, clings to me and listens only to me when she’s in the house. My husband doesn’t have the connection to the spirit world that I do, and Sekhmet senses this. Most animals know when someone has been touched by the spirit world.

Cats Can Cross the Veil Between Worlds

Cats can see, hear, and communicate with spirits. Some cats can actually transgress the veil between worlds. My familiar, Osiris, can cross the veil, both into the spirit realm and into dreams. Honestly, I’m not a cat person. But, since my ability to talk to spirits has grown stronger, I’ve found cats make wonderful companions.

Cat Worship

Cats were worshipped for thousands of years by the Egyptians. In fact, the Egyptians believed the cat had occult and psychic abilities of the great power. Cats could not only see at night, but they could also see into the future and the spirit world.

Bastet, the Cat Goddess

Bastet was the most well-known of the cat goddesses of ancient Egypt, and she was usually depicted anthropomorphically with the head of a cat. She was the protector of motherhood, the goddess of fertility and sexuality, and also a protector of the dead, which most likely led to the belief that cats were guardians of the underworld.

Animal Spirits

Many people believe animals don’t have spirits, but I have to emphatically disagree.

I have two dogs that died recently who refuse to leave my home, and I’m honored that they love our family so much that they want to spend their afterlife with us. I think that’s the greatest compliment I could receive and definitely reassurance that they had a wonderful life with us.

Ways Animal Spirits Can Manifest

There are several different ways animal spirits can manifest. Most commonly, it’s a glimpse of their tail or back end in your peripheral vision. Sometimes it is just a sense that the animal is there. It can also be a sound the animal used to make such as the tapping of paws across the floor, meowing or even barking. My little eight-pound Yorkie would whine in a certain way when she wanted attention, and every now and then I see her tail, and hear a whine.

Another way animal spirits can manifest is by brushing up against you or even curling up next to you in bed or on the couch. This is more common with cat spirits than dogs, but my little Yorkie does it quite a bit.

My older dog (also deceased) would crawl into the bed between my husband and I when she was alive, and I’ll wake to find a spot between the two of us that looks identical to the way she would curl up.

Animal spirits come in several different types, some of which are quite misunderstood. Let’s take a look at the different forms animal spirits can take.

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Read More From Exemplore


Totems tend to be misunderstood. They are essentially archetypes of an animal. For example, a dragonfly totem is the embodiment of the characteristics of all dragonflies. It is an archetype.

The lessons learned from a totem are based on both its characteristics and its actions. Totems are usually associated with groups such as covens or tribes (represented by a totem pole), but can also be specific to an individual. Totems also tend to be life-long spiritual partners.

Native Americans believed hawks and falcons were both spirit guides and totems.

Native Americans believed hawks and falcons were both spirit guides and totems.


Familiars are another misunderstood phenomenon. They are most commonly a living creature such as a cat or dog that becomes a spiritual partner. Interestingly, if a witch’s familiar died in ancient times, it was thought the witch would die as well.

Familiars Can Also Be Spiritual Creatures

Familiars can also be spiritual creatures that partner with an earthbound individual. I recently read a book on familiars that stated one must possess a nonphysical familiar spirit by “embracing” it at least once a week. I was appalled when I read that sentence. No spirit is meant to be possessed. They are not things. They are sentient beings that have quite a bit to teach us. Personally, my nonphysical familiar (which also happens to be my spirit guide) would be enraged if I attempted to possess him!

Nonphysical Familiars

Nonphysical familiars can inhabit inanimate objects in order to stay on the physical plane for longer periods of time. My spiritual familiar prefers my car, but any object that holds value to the practitioner will work. The familiar will most likely choose its preferred object, but you can also attempt to select one for it as an offering. The object needs to have significant value or meaning to you, however. That value or meaning is energy, and that energy is what ties the spirit to the physical plane.

Power Animals

Power animals are the spiritual embodiment of a creature that is usually called upon to assist an individual with astral travel or other magical workings. Power animals are there to guide and protect the practitioner and can be temporary or lifelong associations. Some power animals work alone, others work in tandem with other power animals.

Bears are well-known for being power animals in many cultures including Native American, Chinese and Celtic cultures.

Bears are well-known for being power animals in many cultures including Native American, Chinese and Celtic cultures.

Animal Guides

Typically spiritual embodiments of a creature, animal guides arrive in a practitioner’s life with specific lessons to teach, or a specific message to send. They sometimes offer aid in certain situations. They are most commonly temporary spirit guides and leave when the situation resolves.

Any animal can be a spirit guide, including a squirrel.

Any animal can be a spirit guide, including a squirrel.

Working With Animal Spirits

When working with animal spirits, it’s important to remember they are, or once were, animals. They are unpredictable. It is best to observe an animal in nature to gain understanding of it before attempting to work with it spiritually. In the case of mythical animals, such as the dragon, observing it in nature is impossible. In this case, reading about the myths surrounding the animal and learning about its history would be the closest you can get to “observing” it.

Ways to Find Your Animal Spirit

The easiest way to find your totem, familiar, or animal guide is by simply asking it to reveal itself. Like the spirit guide, animal spirits will only reveal themselves when the right situation presents itself, which means you may not get a response right away. Don’t become impatient! You may want to repeat the question several times before moving to an alternative method.

Sometimes the Spirit Will Reveal Itself

Sometimes the spirit will reveal itself, but the stress of everyday life has made it impossible for you to see or hear the response. In this case, meditation may be the answer. Simply quieting the mind can make the message loud and clear.

Some People Are Unable to Quiet Their Mind

Some people are unable to quiet their mind enough to meditate making dreams the only option to hear the message. If this is you, when you lay your head on the pillow, but before you fall asleep to know what you are doing, ask your animal guide to reveal itself, or come to you in your dreams. You can also ask it to wake you up after the dream so you can record the images for interpretation when you’re not half asleep.

The Most Important Thing to Remember

The most important thing to remember when working with animal spirits of any type, is that like physical animals, animal spirits can be unpredictable. In fact, all spirits are unpredictable. You should always take precautions to protect yourself, unless you know you can trust the spirit implicitly and that kind of trust is usually only between an individual and their spirit guide. It’s wise to be careful.

© 2012 Mel Flagg COA OSC


Satan u ugly bitch on January 27, 2020:

i have a dog and yesterday i saw him flying in the living room i am rlly conserned pls send help...also i played ouji yesterday so des that aybe have anything to do with it....also satan is rlly SPICY CHILLI HOT

Ceileigh on August 22, 2019:

I have a pet bird, mini schnauzer, and a husky/wolf cross. Who should be my familiar?

Makayla on May 05, 2019:

In the past couple of days I have been visited by 2 dogs, 1 crow, several deer, and a feral cat. I’m not understanding if there is a message or not but it is fairly unusual and I’m not sure what to do. Any advice?

Ed on November 23, 2018:

You know what, Amanda? May it's just a damn cat that likes you and another damn cat that doesn't like you that much.

Stop inflating your ego pretending magic is real just to make you feel special.

Amanda Mark on November 20, 2018:

Ive never really dabbled in the witchery my mom and sister tell me we are witches ... Im not a cat person never really have been . But my friend has 3 cats Archie Jughead nd kit . Well the first time i met her cat Archie i instantly fell inlove with him . But her cat Jughead is almost obsessed with me she says shes never seen him so happy nd crazy over someone the way he is with me and i like him and all but i dont feel that connection i do with Archie but Archie dont act the way Jughead does around me. Is it possible Archie could be from my past ? And Jughead is my familiar??

Twyzted on March 29, 2018:

Some people are unable to quiet their mind enough to meditate making dreams the only option to hear the message. If this is you, when you lay your head on the pillow, but before you fall asleep to know what you are doing, ask your animal guide to reveal itself, or come to you in your dreams. You can also ask it to wake you up after the dream so you can record the images for interpretation when you’re not half asleep. This may work for me, its hard for me to quiet my mind to meditate, so i will try the dream and see what happens.. gemini minds are never quiet until they are sleeping

Pauline on July 22, 2017:

i dont think to embrace means to possess , i just think it is taking on , knowing , understanding the qualities . I can see how you would think it was like possessing - i said taking on , to possess means to consume .I believe it is guiding us to be our true self when we possess we are not being ourselves but the thing we possess . We can take on the qualities to guide , to bring out those qualities in us not to become that which we wish to emulate but our own truth

Grey the beloved on July 20, 2017:

What happens when your familiar is killed? Is there a way to make sure he is at peace since his death was unexpected & violent. Then the night I layed him to rest the dog dug him up & the dog & Greys best cat friend took some of him & I went running outside & the dog dropped him & then the owl flew down & took him to the owl nest with the owl babies learning to fly. In the empty lot across the street in the pitch black cause we have no city lights nor street lights the owls did what they did. I still can't find all of him & it's a month today. I know for a fact that the neighbor who only comes but 2 times a month & stays only for a couple hours leaves this red evil viscous dog who attacks the cars, goes at my kids at the bus stop, gets in our yard & fights with our old dog who thinks he's a cat (we now have 12 cats) the dog killed our other grey colored cat SKY in November & this time he my grey. I still can't get over it. I had dreams Tuesday & Wednesday that I was there as he was killed & I saw it in color & felt his pain & I woke up screaming & since then my chest hurts & it's hard to breathe. I still see his body & the wounds & I want to know what to do? Thank you.

Hui (蕙) on August 23, 2015:

Animals do have their spirits. They have emotions, feelings, senses, families, have their own kingdoms, societies, homes, have their own languages, gestures, facial expressions, their own way to live, to love and hate... Humans have learned a lot from animals, such as music and dance from nature's sounds and activites like totems. However, humans assume themselves as the spirit of Nature, and the war between nature and humans has never ended since the day when people struggled for living. Dillema.

Liz Elias from Oakley, CA on August 23, 2015:

Hi, Melissa--Congrats on HOTD! Very interesting and well-done.

While I could not write such an article, I feel that you have expressed much of what I feel.

We had a beautiful little black kitty, "Soot," and she would lie on my bum knee when it was achy, like a little heating pad. How she knew, I don't know, but she did. Sadly, she passed of a mystery illness at only 4-1/2 years of age. However, every now and then, I seem to feel a brush against my legs, as she used to do, even when all of the other cats are shut out of the office.

I guess I am what you refer to as a "neo-pagan," but I'm still exploring and learning; though I am also an atheist. I do, however, believe in reincarnation, and in some ways, it seems our dear Soot has come back to us in "Bobbie," who is as white as Soot was black, but with the same little bob-tail. She sticks with me most of the time, and my husband reports she cries and complains when I am gone on an errand.

I love all animals (except reptiles!), and I was so highly distraught at the death of "Cecil," the African lion. It upset me more than all the heinous acts against humans that happen daily; I cried for days. As Obi-Wan said in Star Wars, I felt "a great disturbance in the Force." ... When I mentioned this to my mentor, she told me, "Oh, then the lion is your spirit animal." No wonder I love cats so much; they are my little lions, I guess.

We do have a spirit in the house, and the cats let us know when she is around. They will collectively stare down the hall, when no one but my husband and I are in the house...which is most of the time.

But as far as feeling/sensing/seeing them myself, I don't seem to have that gift, though my husband does.

Too bad they took away our voting, or I would have voted this up all the way. Shared and pinned, however!

Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on August 23, 2015:

Great hub, Melissa. Very interesting to learn about animal spirit guides. Well-deserved HOTD!

Domi on December 16, 2014:

Is there any possible interaction between our domestic animals and power animals according to you? Greetings! on December 07, 2014:

I love this hub make more hubs about animals please there really interesting

ubrish ali from Pakistan(Asia) on November 12, 2014:

Nice .please keep it Up and stay connected always

Mel Flagg COA OSC (author) from Rural Central Florida on October 04, 2014:

lol Sam, you have to bookmark it! on November 02, 2013:

Great article! Your cat breaches all boundaries of cuteness. He should be fined for being that


Mel Flagg COA OSC (author) from Rural Central Florida on August 06, 2012:

Thank you TToombs! I bet AK does have a lot animal totems, and guides! It had to be gorgeous living there too!

Thanks for reading and commenting! :D

Terrye Toombs from Somewhere between Heaven and Hell without a road map. on August 06, 2012:

DOM, this was some really cool information about animal totems. I thoroughly enjoyed it, especially growing up in AK where it seems to be everywhere. :)

Mel Flagg COA OSC (author) from Rural Central Florida on July 19, 2012:

Thank you DrMark! You're right, I could write another hub from these comments, that's a great idea! I don't know why I didn't think about it, but I will definitely be writing one now! Thank you for the brilliant idea!

Dr Mark from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on July 19, 2012:

I did not have time to read this the other day and now I am glad I put it off until now. The comments section is as interesting as the hub. In fact, you have enough great info here to write another interesting hub. Great read! Voted up and interesting.

Mel Flagg COA OSC (author) from Rural Central Florida on July 18, 2012:

You are correct kitty, the animal that is constant in your life is the totem. My totem is the dog/wolf, hence Anubis lol. My familiar is my kitty Maat, although originally it was my dog Lady. My spiritual familiar is my dragon, who's also my spirit guide. As for animal guides, I think most recently it's been the sand hill cranes which CR Rookwood just wrote a hub about. I thought it was odd that he wrote that around the same time I was inundated with sand hill cranes lol. I've had a red-tailed hawk as a guide, he comes back every now and then although I have yet to decipher his meaning.

I, too, get the different types confused, which is partly why I wrote this hub. I was trying to clarify it for myself as well lol. Thanks for stopping by kitty!

Kitty Fields from Summerland on July 18, 2012:

I love how you explain the differences between totems, familiars, and animal spirit guides. Many people get these confused (including myself on occasion!) I would say that the mainstay animal in one's life would be their that correct? In that case, my totem animals would have to be the wolf and horse as they are ever-present animal spirits within my life and dreams. As for familiars, I have a few of those...a cat, an owl, and a rabbit. And for animal spirit guides with messages...those change for me all of the time it seems. Last month I couldn't go anywhere without seeing crows. They were EVERYWHERE. The month before that it was dragonflies. This month it is seagulls!

Mel Flagg COA OSC (author) from Rural Central Florida on July 17, 2012:

I'm so sorry about the loss of your kitty, Pamela! I know how hard that is to deal with, it's almost like losing a child. But it is comforting when I sense my puppy's presence. It's such a compliment when they come back and "haunt" you. :D Next time you feel your kitty, give her a big hug. :D

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on July 17, 2012:

I love cats also and a cat I loved dearly died about 6 years ago, but I think she is still here with me. I can feel her walking on the bed just like she did when she was alive. Interesting hub.

Mel Flagg COA OSC (author) from Rural Central Florida on July 17, 2012:

Oh fantastic, I'll have to check that out. I'm going there now! Thank you Thank you!

Mel Flagg COA OSC (author) from Rural Central Florida on July 17, 2012:

I know what you mean, my dog, Lady and I had the same type of connection. She also had quite the vocabulary! I treated both of my late puppies like little people. My current dog seems telepathic. I can tell her to sit with my thoughts and she does. She may just be reading body language though. Interestingly, the other day she tore off after a sand hill crane, and I yelled her name and she kept going. But when I said STOP in thought, she stopped dead in her tracks.

This is the first book I've read by Grimassi, so I'll let you know what I think after I finish the book lol

Delusion of Satan is written by Frances Hill. It's truly a fascinating read and very descriptive of what puritan life was actually like.

OldWitchcraft from The Atmosphere on July 17, 2012:

Thanks for the info. Grimassi is one of their better authors, in my opinion.

I haven't read "A Delusion of Satan." I'll have to look that one up.

My cat and I are constant companions, so there's definitely a psychic connection between us just like you have with any close friend or family member. I haven't tried directly beaming any messages at him like "Stop scratching the sofa!" - but, I might have to give that a try.

My cat almost speaks English. But, I talk to him all the time and treat him like he 's a little person. So maybe that's why. He has certain sounds for certain things and even raises his voice at the end sometimes like he's asking a question.

Mel Flagg COA OSC (author) from Rural Central Florida on July 17, 2012:


The book is by Raven Grimassi in case you wanted to read it. Like I said, I'm not all that fond of Llewellyn publications, but they do have some books that you can glean information from.

I have another book that you may be interested in, although you may have already read it. It's called "A Delusion of Satan." It's about the Salem Witch Trials, and although I haven't made it all the way through the book yet (my ADHD is a real pain), it is a fascinating read.

Just out of curiosity, can you talk to your kitty telepathically? I've found I can only do it with three of my 6 kitties. The two twins, and Maat.

OldWitchcraft from The Atmosphere on July 17, 2012:

I just thought of a good one - Margaret Murray's The Witch Cult in Europe - which I think is at - She does a very good breakdown of the familiar.

I know a lot of people have tried to discredit her work, but I've read that one and I think it's really good. I think she might have been familiar with the work of Jules Michelet and doesn't really give him credit, but that's just speculation. Michelet's work is another good source for getting an understanding of traditional witchcraft, especially in France. Michelet was from the 19th c., so it's all public domain now.

OldWitchcraft from The Atmosphere on July 17, 2012:

Daughter of Maat,

Thank you. I haven't read that book, but it is a familiar title.

I actually dig around in old testimonies of the witch trials, old folklore and some other old things. The 'net is wonderful because so much is online now - even scans of original documents from museums! The modern take on familiars is very different. I have a cat, but he's just a very close friend. I don't think I could dispatch him to my dirty work! LOL!

Best places to find info. are; and other libraries. A lot of the old Cotten Mathers material is online. Sometimes I have to search creatively but if you look for those old original documents, you'll find a lot of stuff. Some of it is hard to read, though! I speak German - I think that helps. Some of the old lingo has to be read aloud when no one else is around so you can hear how they spoke and try to figure out what they're saying. Then you have to look at it through the lens of their sociopathic fear of Satan and love of Christ, of course. I read between the lines a lot.

Mel Flagg COA OSC (author) from Rural Central Florida on July 17, 2012:

@OldWitchcraft I found that in a book called "The Witch's Familiar," and unfortunately it's one of those wonderful books published by Llewellyn, so I honestly can't be sure that all the information is correct. However, I do remember seeing something similar in a documentary by national geographic. Most of my spiritual information comes from my spirit guide however.

I'm really interested in the old ways, but finding accurate information on them has proved difficult, especially in my area (which is predominantly christian). If you have any books, websites or other references, I'd be quite interested in them!

Mel Flagg COA OSC (author) from Rural Central Florida on July 17, 2012:

@Paula, thank you! I know what you mean. When my dog Lady was alive, I always knew everything would be okay, no matter what happened. When she died, that feeling sort of died with her. But she left me a pink rose bush to remind me of that feeling. That bush showed up the day after she died and is growing like a weed. Since the death of both of my dogs, Maat (the cat in the first picture) has become my familiar in the physical world. Although the sense that everything will be okay is not as strong with her, it is there. She has a very calming effect on me, so much so that she can put me to sleep!

OldWitchcraft from The Atmosphere on July 17, 2012:

Daughter of Maat,

I've actually done quite a bit of research on familiars (old style). Do you remember where you ran into this?: "if your familiar dies, so do you."

I've never run across that, but in cases like the Mexican LeChuza, if the witch in another shape is wounded or killed, the witch in her human form will appear injured the same way or she may be killed.

Usually, when a witch dies, the familiars are passed on - especially in hereditary witch families. Familiars are basically two types of spirits and one kind cannot die, but the other kind either dies if it isn't fed or goes out of control and begins to act independently and can become a kind of vampire.

Mel Flagg COA OSC (author) from Rural Central Florida on July 17, 2012:

@OldWitchcraft THat's really interesting actually. In the research I did, I had a hard time finding anything on the "old ways" so to speak, with exception of "if your familiar dies, so do you." I think you just gave yourself an idea for a hub. I'd be interested in reading about how traditional witchcraft viewed spirits and worked with them!

Thanks for the info! Greatly appreciated!

Suzie from Carson City on July 17, 2012:

DOM.....I enjoyed reading this, very much. I'm a lover of cats and I notice that when I'm sitting with my "Tommy," I feel very relaxed, which is a little strange to me.....that his presence seems to bring a calmness with it.....UP+++

OldWitchcraft from The Atmosphere on July 17, 2012:

Nice article! I love the cat pictures.

I can't speak with any authority about totem animals or animal spirits very much, but the old traditional concept of familiars is very different than the modern neo-pagan/Wiccan idea.

In traditional witchcraft, the spirits are subordinate to us. Some familiars are created beings (created by witches) and others are spirits that we capture or are given, often by another entity. The ones that are created have to be fed to maintain their life. I could go on about this concept in American Hoodoo and W. European witchcraft lore. It's all over the place. These beings are imps (little devils) or elaborate thought forms. They're spirits, but they're not like the spirits of cats or people, at all, and they are servants. Just pointing this out for educational purposes here because this is a point upon which traditional witchcraft differs greatly from Wicca or neo-Paganism.


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