I used to have a deck of cards called Medicine Cards. These cards each had a picture of a different animal along with a lengthy “meaning” of the animal that one could use for guidance on their life path. I bought them because I had been traveling around the American West, and I had become a bit obsessed with Native American culture.
I especially loved how most tribes had a “special” connection with nature. They had to obviously. Their lifestyle was wholly dependent on hunting, gathering, and relating to the elements.
What I found especially interesting were the rituals, such as the sweat lodges, and then the notion of “medicine,” which was more about communicating with Great Spirit than buying something over the counter or via prescription.
In short, the Native Americans relied on symbolism. They may not have called it that, because they were that close to nature, but that’s what it was.
As far as animal totems, one way they used this “medicine” was to pay attention to the animals that crossed their paths that day. Buffalo represents Abundance, Hawk represents Perspective, Snake represents Healing, Bear represents Introspection.
Furthermore, individuals were known to carry specific animal medicine, as part of their personalities and in the ways they contribute to the community.
In today’s world, we may not be in a situation when we could come across an actual Bear. But I remember once when I kept hearing the word, Bear, in random conversation from strangers when I would pass by. And then, Bear would keep popping up in my card drawing.
The message was clear: Time to take a step back and look within.
Native Americans also had a medicine man or woman to help decipher some of these messages from Great Spirit. They had to ability to translate these symbols for the person– because that’s how blind we can be to our own path sometimes!
Today, I use animal medicine, numbers on license plates, the I Ching, some occasional card drawing, but mostly, relying on my subtle feelings to help navigate the times when life gets sticky.
Furthermore, I take symbolism into my home, as a conscious, ever-present reminder of the medicine that Great Spirit (or God, the Universe, Source, etc.) is constantly offering to us in order to have and create a more fulfilling and inspired life.
(For more on animal totems, check out books by Ted Andrews! It’s actually a pretty in-depth study, and it’s fascinating, fun, and helpful!)