I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of spirit animals. And while I’m pretty sure this doesn’t count, it’s worth mentioning that between the ages of 6 and 8, I was disproportionately drawn to the Care Bear with a rain cloud on his tummy. (I was a moody kid. Plus, my parents were going through a divorce.) As a teen, butterflies were my thing (culminating in a very bad—albeit tiny—tattoo of one on my ankle.) In the past few months, crows have been showing up for me—a lot. At first, I thought this was some kind of bad omen, but after doing a bit of research, it turns out crows are a symbol of magic and luck. They can also symbolize a new phase in our lives, encouraging us to embrace change and undeveloped aspects of our personality. I just moved to Charleston after 18 years in New York city and changed careers, so this was certainly applicable to my life. Eager to know more, I reached out to Deborah Hanekamp, the celebrated healer also known as @MamaMedicine. Here’s what she had to say.
What exactly is a spirit animal? A spirit animal is a creature that continuously shows up for us either in real life, in our dreams, or in our meditations or visions. The symbolism of the animal that is showing up for us is guiding us toward some specific action or point of spiritual development.
What are 3 questions people can ask themselves to help discover their own spirit animals? What animal do I see the most? What does that animal represent to me? How can I use the symbols and examples sent to me from this animal to heal myself?
What are some ways we can communicate with our spirit animals? (yoga, meditation, dreams, etc) Your spirit animals are already all around you. Really to communicate with them is to just bring awareness to when they are showing up for you. For example, I was leading a Medicine Reading Ceremony the other day and I was telling the group that if a spirit animal shows up for them, it’s not up to me to tell them what that spirit animal means, but more importantly for them to be patient with receiving the messages of what that animals means to them. So, if they ask me, what does squirrel mean? I will ask them: what does squirrel mean to you? And right at that moment a squirrel showed up outside the window of the ceremony. And squirrel happens to be one of my spirit animals.
How can knowing what our spirit animals are help us in our daily lives? The animals show up for us because they are trying to guide us toward balance, because really all of nature will heal us and wants us to heal. So the animal medicine that shows up for us is showing up for us to help us heal.
Do we have the same spirit animals our whole lives, or do they change based on what we're going through? I think we have the same spirit animals our whole lives, but also new ones will show up to us based on what we are going through.
Have you ever worked with someone who was upset by the discovery of their specific animal spirit? (Like they wanted it to be a butterfly, but it was actually a snake?) Oh yeah, for sure. I had a client on a retreat whose spirit animal was spider and spiders kept on showing up for her, but she was terrified of spiders. It was interesting to watch her be so terrified of spiders at the beginning of the retreat and by the end leaning into the symbolism of the spider and its ability to cast her web and provide support for all that she needs.
What's your personal spirit animal? And what tools did you use to discover it? Well, the first one that showed up was a squirrel. It was just for a deep, deep love for squirrels and a deep appreciation of who they are and how connected to their community they are and for planning for the future. My other spirit animals that have really come through for me strongly are dog, wolf, dragonfly, bumblebee, and many more.