According to Shamanistic belief, everyone has one or more Power Animals, Totem Animals or Animal Spirit Guides. We also have other spirit helpers that may be animals or plants or celestial beings, teachers, healing spirits and so on.
Some of us may know what our Power Animal is and may have developed a relationship with its spiritual energy over time. Others may not have any idea that they have this spiritual ally, nor are they aware of the benefits of cultivating a relationship with it.
Some Shamanic cultures believe we have only one Power Animal; others believe we also have Animal Spirit Helpers that come and go depending on our needs or circumstances. In some Shamanic traditions, the Shaman will collect as many Power Animals as possible: the more you have the more powerful a Shaman you are. They may even barter or steal them from one another!
I had my first encounter with a Power Animal when I was around 18 and had just begun a lengthy exploration of Witchcraft, which is a European Shamanic tradition. I had gone with a good friend to sit on a cliff by a beach one balmy summer evening. While we sat and talked of our newly emerging consciousness of magic and sacred feminine power, we began playing with different ways to say our names.
Names are powerful things in themselves, as all names are sacred, and to know the true name of anything connects you to it on a deep level. I began to say my name Alison as “All is one”, “All is on”, “All is Sun”, and a variety of other permutations.
As I sat and spoke these names, as if invoking another layer of my spirit, what looked like a dandelion seed, what we used to call a Dandelion Fairy, floated down out of nowhere and landed on my shoulder. As it did so it seemed to transform before me and it became a spider; slight and long legged at first like a daddy longlegs, but as it moved down my chest it somehow gained bulk and form, and by the time it reached my lap it was quite substantial. It seemed to drop to the ground with an almost audible thump.
If I had been a lone witness I might have doubted this experience. As it was, my friend and I speculated on how this could be, as we prepared to leave our oceanside perch.
On our walk home I was stopped in my tracks by a very large spider sitting directly in our path in the center of the sidewalk. I think I said “hello”, and commented on how odd it was for it to be just sitting there, as if waiting for me.
We carried on and I had a funny feeling that there was something afoot. Lo and behold, a block or so on I was stopped once again by another large spider sitting in the center of the concrete footpath. This was getting a bit spooky.
As if this were not enough, a block or so up the road I once again encountered a plump arachnid in the middle of the sidewalk striking a “here I am” pose. By this time I was distinctly unnerved, and wondered what strange force was creating this unusual series of events.
So, in all, counting the spider on the beach, I met the large dark spider four times that night, and Spider has been with me ever since. In Core Shamanic teachings one way to be sure that a vision of an animal in Shamanic journey is your Power Animal is when you encounter it four times.
Spider is a wonderful ally, and brings many gifts. She is the creator of words, as she weaves all their shapes in her web. She is the connector of all that is, the weaver of the web of life. For me she is also a facilitator of strong bonds with the women in my life, a creator of extended family and maintainer of matrilineal connections.
She has become an integral part of my healing practice too, as she can use her spirit web and bind fear, so it can be neutralized. I often feel her sitting on the crown of my head as a reminder of her spiritual presence and assistance in matters of communication and self expression.
Spider also helps me connect with the Power Animals I depict in my Power Animal portraits. These mixed media works are created with the guidance of the subject’s Power Animals through the process of Shamanic Journeying. The Animal Spirit Guides indicate how they wish to be depicted with their human partners in a celebratory portrait.
Bringing the Animal Spirit through the ‘veil’ in this way reinforces the sacred bond, and connects the human subject more closely with the power, wisdom and ‘medicine’ that the Power Animal offers.
Whatever your Power Animal is, whether it be small or large, fierce or mild, it has much to offer. To connect with this spiritual ally helps us connect with the spirits of nature; as well it gives us protection, guidance and a sense of support in times of stress or loneliness.
If you have an awareness of your Power Animal I encourage you to cultivate a relationship with it. If not, perhaps if you open yourself to the Spirits of Nature and ask for it to be revealed, it will come to you in a vision or dream, or perhaps in some other magical manner.
All Power Animal portraits by Alison Skelton © All Rights Reserved.