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The Basics of Engaging With Spirit Animals

Sylvia Sky, astrologer, Tarot reader, and gemstone enthusiast, is a widely published author of books and articles about spiritual matters.

Birds of prey are among the most popular spirit animals. And often the spirit animals people imagine for themselves are white, such as horse, buffalo, wolf, tiger, and deer.

Birds of prey are among the most popular spirit animals. And often the spirit animals people imagine for themselves are white, such as horse, buffalo, wolf, tiger, and deer.

How to Meet Your Spirit Animal, and What It Can Do

Those newly drawn to the world of spirit animals will have important questions. How real is their power? What can spirit animals do for us? Have I found the real spirit animal for me?

Here are some basics for building and using your spirit-animal relationship:

  1. Spirit animals will make themselves known. Most of us begin by immediately choosing an animal with qualities we think parallel to our own. Responses to a popular "What Is Your Spirit Animal?" online quiz reveal puzzlement and disdain that the result was not as desired (most desired: "Wolf"). Pulling one card from an oracle deck of 63 or 68 cards is not a sure way to reveal your sacred spirit animal. Please be patient. A spirit animal will make itself known through a process called “visitation.” It will seem like coincidence that you saw three owls during the past week, or the same owl three times where you’ve never seen one before. Maybe you dreamed about a tiger and that same day turned on the TV and the program was about tigers, and then your young nephew came by to show you his new tiger puppet. Those are all “visitations” and valid clues as to your spirit animal. Wait for yours to come to you.
  2. You can have more than one spirit animal. Don’t believe anyone who says that after three owl visitations your spirit is Owl and it will be Owl all your life. A second and different spirit animal might emerge at any time. Then you will have two. Spiritual life has plenty of room for two or more spirit animals, and they will co-exist in peace. Owl will not be hurt or disappointed if one day your outlook has changed such that Owl is succeeded by the spirit of Deer. One Native American tradition says that there will be nine animal guides in every lifetime.
  3. All spirit animals have power. If Anteater is visiting you, and you’d much rather have Bear or Eagle, take time to learn enough about anteaters to appreciate them. Each animal is a wonderful, self-sufficient creation adapted to its environment and is perfectly happy being what it is. Look for admirable traits. If it’s visiting in spirit, it has something of value for you.
  4. Spirit animals are teachers. Certain fantasy memes show fashionable young women cuddling with wolves as if they were just another furry friend. Primarily, spirit animals teach. Your spirit animal emerges when it’s time for a lesson, and waits for you to learn it. In the spirit world they have freedom and are not on call like pet dogs. Nor are they gods demanding worship and dependence. An animal’s image on your altar or tattooed on your skin does not grant you its powers or protection. A spirit animal can bring to your awareness its natural self-protective ways, but a spirit animal is not a guardian. And for sure, you cannot command spirit animals to attack enemies. We humans are animals too; that is often the first lesson a spirit animal teaches.
  5. But my spirit animal comes when I call for it! Then you are fortunate. Just one thing: Animals hate drama. In the material world, animals fight, compete, and kill, but most are skilled at avoiding confrontation. That’s the key to their survival. Rattlesnake is equipped with rattles as a warning to predators. Opossum will bare its teeth and snarl before risking more. Spirit animals will avoid humans who are having meltdowns or needless confrontations. The spirit animal—a teacher, not a defender—will stay distant until there is calm. Teachers, real-life or spiritual, can’t teach anyone who is furiously hurt or an emotional trainwreck. Your spirit animal is most likely to visit at a quiet or reflective moment.

The Ways of Spirit Animals Are Not Quite Like Ours

6. A spirit animal differs from a totem animal. This is basic: Families and clans have “totems.” Totems persist for generations. Individuals have spirit animals.

7. Spirit animals teach by example. Don’t expect them to communicate in English, Spanish, or dreams. Study their ways, and appreciate and ponder them. Spirit animals, like real-world animals, do not need human languages or facial expressions, or make human gestures. Children’s cartoons and storybooks feature talking animals, but in the spirit world, animals do not suddenly develop organs of speech or language skills just to lecture humans.

8. Spirit animals do not have to be gendered. In the spirit world there are no genders. Angel lore from every faith states that angels have no gender. We have imposed human traits on some of them, such as the warrior St. Michael the Archangel, so as to understand them better. Call spirit animal Spider “Grandmother Spider” if that helps you learn from and respect Spider. But do not go around saying Spider is your real-life grandmother who has returned to you in the form of a spider.

9. Cats and dogs can be spirit animals, but only if they are spirits. If your beloved pet or familiar has passed into the spirit world, you have already learned all it had to teach you, and that should include the great lesson, "Let go!" Dog lovers do not automatically receive Dog as their spirit animal. Be open to visitations from all types of animal spirits. People also decide on the basis of ego that their animal must be some "noble beast" like the ferocious Tiger or Grizzly or the sleek Fox or Otter. Spirit animals are not vanity mirrors and their personalities are independent of yours. Be gracious if Mosquito or Skunk decides to guide you. They too are masterworks of Nature.

10. Dragons and unicorns are not spirit animals. Here I differ with the spirit-animal authority Steven D. Farmer, who says imaginary animals can be spirit animals "although they have no physical representations in the material world." The problem I see with imaginary animals is that humans imagined them and have imposed on them traits and values. Imaginary animals, then, are synthetic, human-made, and never had the experience of life. Things that never lived probably do not have spirits.

We hope this has answered some of your questions.


  • Animal Spirit Guides by Steven D. Farmer

Sources for the List of the Most Common Spirit Animals

  • Animal images most frequent on spirit-animal book covers and in advertisements of spirit animal oracle cards
  • Images most frequent on the "160 Spirit Animals" Pinterest board
  • Google Image results of "spirit animal favorites"
  • Reader comments on the "What's My Spirit Animal Quiz?" page at
  • Observation of the most common "spirit animal" tattoos

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2021 Sylvia Sky