Power Animal Retrieval By Jan Engels-Smith
“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.”
In the Christian faith, people often speak of guardian angels as beings that are available to provide special assistance in the time of need. In the blending of faiths that I practice, I too believe in guardian angels, but in shamanism there is the belief that we are born with a power animal that serves as an ally throughout our lives, although we may not always be aware of this formidable supporter. As we grow into adulthood in the West, it is likely that we are not familiar with the concept of a power animal but these beings are always available if we decide to seek them out and call on them for support.
Children, in their divine innocence, are assigned a power animal at birth and this spiritual helper intervenes to buffer the child from the notorious bumps and bruises that each child is so subject to. Children’s resilience and adaptability is enabled by these divine spirits that keep them safe until they mature. We often lose contact with these divine spiritual beings as we grow up and unfortunately put away “childish things.” Our loss of imagination and dismissal of “magic” as a force in our lives causes us to sever our connections to the spiritual world and to our power animal. Power animal loss affects us in many of the same ways as soul loss, as they are closely connected. In shamanic practice, the restoration of lost parts of the soul is aided by the retrieval of one’s power animal and this spiritual helper sustains us in difficult situations.
The signs of power animal loss and/or soul loss may include:
- Chronic fatigue, depression, misfortune, faulty or failed relationships, emotional problems or suicide tendencies;
- The inability to overcome some emotional trauma from the past such as the death of a loved one, divorce, or distress in childhood;
- Addictions to alcohol, drugs, gambling, or other debilitating dependencies;
- Repetitive or major illnesses or a problem with recovery;
- Shame, guilt, or a feeling of unworthiness;
- A feeling of powerlessness.
In difficult situations, when we are in our greatest need, the absence of our power animal exposes us to greater danger and the opportunity to heal is lessened without this divine intervention. Fortunately, as we seek to recover from trauma, possibly by seeking out a soul retrieval from a shamanic practitioner, the retrieval of our power animal can help us to fully mend and this spiritual helper can remain with us to sustain our recovery. Our power animal does not cease to exist when he has left us because of our ceasing to believe in him; he has simply bided his time awaiting our decision to seek him out and bring him back to help us.
You may think of your power animal as having traveled from you (although it might be more accurate to understand that you have traveled far from him) or you might consider that he has been sleeping for many years. In either scenario, you have been exposed to debilitating and harmful conditions and have suffered the consequences of facing your suffering alone. If you have entered in a quest for personal enlightenment, healing, and reconnection to the universe, then you would be well served to retrieve your power animal and accept his willingness to aid and abet you in the restoration of your wellbeing, regaining your own personal power, and thriving in your spiritual development.
I would make one distinction in reference to power animals. If you engage with shamanic healing, you may be aware of the shaman calling on a diverse range of power animals to effect healing and to restore wellness in an individual. These power animals are allies of the shaman and assist the shaman both in healing sessions as well as everyday life. The power animals incorporated in shamanic practices often are assisting with tasks that you are involved with. These power animals can come and go without power loss to the individual. These are not the power animals to which I am referring when I speak of your retrieval of your personal power animal. Your unique connection to the spiritual world is shaped by your individual divinity and your power animal is specific to your birth, life, and person. In your life you may not have a full awareness of your power animal because you have created a distance between him and you, but you possess the capacity to recover this important ally in your life and the ability to reconnect and draw on his strength. Your personal power animal is important because he is specific to you and, once retrieved, can be one of your strongest allies.
The varieties of power animals that I access provide different support in different circumstances. You might have one power animal that you call on when you are feeling fear in a frightening experience. A powerful tiger might cause you to feel safer because of the fearlessness of your ally. In another circumstance, you might seek out a power animal that you identify with as providing peace and comfort when you are in need of gentle solace and a relief from tension. When I was writing my first book I asked for a power animal to come forth in the writing process. A raccoon appeared. I inquired from the raccoon what were his gifts that he could offer me during my writing. He informed me that it was his dexterity with his hands. He would help me with typing.
People often confuse power animals with totem animals. With totem animals there is a recognition of a particular animal that most characterizes a person’s own natures or their desired natures. I have a friend who is funny and playful in his everyday habits and he identifies readily with the coyote, which often reflects those same behaviors. An adventurous individual might find that his totem is an eagle that soars to great heights. An individual seeking confidence might discover that his totem is the brave lion. Again, totem and power animals are different. Our power animal does not necessarily represent parts of our persona. We do not invent our power animals; we discover them or they discover us. To find out their purpose in our lives it is best to ask the animal. Many people will turn to books such as Animal Speaks by Ted Andrews or the Medicine Cards by Jamie Sands to find out why an animal came into their lives. Turning to resources such as these can be helpful in understanding the basic qualities of the animal but your best source of information about its appearance as your “power animal” will always come from the animal itself.
There is no better or lesser power animal. The great elephant is not superior to the small prairie dog or even the earthworm. In the great design of the universe, each living being plays a significant role in existence and is equally valued. There is no hierarchy in the spirit world, which is where these allies exist. The earthworm, the honeybee, and the songbird are essential and make invaluable contributions to the continuing functioning of the universe. As you seek out the restoration of your power animal, stay open to all possibilities and you might be surprised by your discovery of this divine ally.
Journeying is of course the foremost method used to discover power animals. For those that are not familiar with journeying here is a process you might follow.
- Find a quiet place beyond outside attractions. This may be indoors but a peaceful outdoor environment is also conducive to communing with the spirits.
- Relax in a meditative mode. Breathe deeply to begin and then gently and rhythmically. As Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “Let us be silent, that we may hear the whispers of the gods.”
- Empty your mind of any preconceived images and open yourself to discovery.
- Ask the spirits to assist you.
- Allow various animals to approach you as they occur to you in your thoughts or imagination.
- Speak to them and ask questions as needed.
- Listen carefully. Remember that our spiritual allies do not always communicate in words but often connect to our different senses and our intuitive receptors.
- Consider the feeling that the animal engenders in your physical, emotional, and spiritual being.
- Do not force a decision but accept the responses that your inner self provides.
- If you do not succeed in the restoration of your power animal on your first effort, do not despair. Your power animal will come when you and he are ready.
- Thank the spirits when you conclude whether successful or not.
*You may choose to be assisted in this effort with a trained shamanic practitioner.
Spiritual allies are part of the universe’s great plan. All things are connected and exist for the mutual benefit of all. When life presents challenges, it is not because the universe is indifferent to us, but that we have lost our connection with the strength that exists in the unity of all things. Power animals are spiritual beings that reestablish our connections and offer to guide and advise us. They stand with us in adversity and strengthen our sense of self-worth and empower us to act wisely and with confidence. Your power animal will be there when you need him. Rediscover, restore, and use him.