Native American Totems and Their Meanings | Toteemit ja toteemieläinten tulkinnat

A totem is a spirit being, sacred object, or symbol of a tribe, clan, family or individual. Native American tradition provides that each individual is connected with nine different animals that will accompany each person through life, acting as guides.

Different animal guides come in and out of our lives depending on the direction that we are headed and the tasks that need to be completed along our journey.

Native beliefs further explain that a totem animal is one that is with you for life, both in the physical and spiritual world.

Though people may identify with different animal guides throughout their lifetimes, it is this one totem animal that acts as the main guardian spirit.

With this one animal a connection is shared, either through interest in the animal, characteristics, dreams, or other interaction.

This Animal Guide offers power and wisdom to the individual when they ”communicate” with it, conveying their respect and trust. This does not necessarily mean that you actually pet or spend time with this animal, more that you are open to learning its lessons.

For some, knowing what is their totem animal is almost an innate process. It’s as if they’ve always known, inexplicably drawn to the animal or having a special feeling for the animal’s energy. For others, they wonder how to tell what their animal totem is.

Here are some questions to ask yourself if you’re wondering what your animal totem is:

  • Have you ever felt drawn to one animal or another without being able to explain why? This could be animal, including birds and insects.
  • Does a certain kind of animal consistently appear in your life? This doesn’t necessarily have to be a physical appearance, it could be represented in other ways such as receiving card and letters with the same animal pictured over and over, unexplainable dreams of a particular animal, watching television and seeing the same animal featured time and time again, or, actually having the animal show up.
  • When you go to the zoo, a park, wildlife area, or forest, what are you most interested in seeing?
  • Are there any animals that you find to be extremely frightening or intriguing?
  • Is there a particular animal that you see frequently when you’re out in nature?
  • Have you ever been bitten or attacked by an animal?
  • Have you ever had a recurring dream about a certain animal, or a dream from childhood that you have never been able to forget?
  • Are you drawn to figurines or paintings of a specific animal?

The totem itself is a symbol that represents this animal. This could be any number of items – a crest, a totem pole, an emblem, a small figurine or anything else that depicts your animal guide.

Note:  Native American totems did not include all of the animals listed below, as many of these creatures did not exist in North America; or, in some cases, not at all.

However; the concept of ”totems,” by whatever name they were called, have been known throughout the world since the earliest days of Greek Mythology.

Though the unicorn and dragon are generally accepted as centuries old mythical creatures of Europeans, pictures of these fabled animals have been found in Native American tapestries and pictographs.

Animal Characteristics & Meaning

Alligator Maternal, revenge oriented, quickness, aggression, and basic survival instincts.
Ant Group minded, determination, patient, active, and industrious
Anteater Lethargy, curiosity, nosiness.
Antelope Active, agile, jumpiness, and willing to sacrifice
Armadillo Safety oriented, grounded, and has boundaries
Badger Courage, aggressive, healer, having problems relating to others, and energy conduit
Bat Rebirth, longevity, secrecy, initiation, good listener, and long life
Bear Industrious, instinctive, healing, power, sovereignty, guardian of the world, watcher, courage, will power, self-preservation, introspection, and great strength.
Beaver Determined, strong-willed, builder, overseer, and protector
Bee Organized, industrial, productive, wise, community, celebration, fertility, defensiveness, obsessive nature, and enjoys life
Boar/Pig A very powerful totem – prosperity, spiritual strength, organized, self-reliant, fearless.
Buffalo Sacredness, life, great strength, abundance, gratitude.
Bull Insight into the past, fertility, rushing into things without proper preparation.
Butterfly Metamorphosis, transformation, balnace, grace, ability to accept change
Camel Survival, positive, accomplishments
Caribou Traveler, mobility, preference to be nomadic, adaptability to adversity
Cat Guardianship, detachment, sensuality, mystery, magic, and independence
Cheetah Swiftness, insight, focus
Cougar Leadership, loyalty, courage, taking responsibility, foresight
Cow Swift, insightful, and focused
Coyote Trickster, intelligence, stealth, wisdom and folley, guile and innocence
Cobra Swift and decisive
Crab Good luck, protection and success
Crane Solitude, justice, longevity, independent, intelligent, and vigilant
Crocodile Ensuring your emotions are displayed accurately/appropriately
Crow Justice, shape shifting, change, creativity, spiritual strength, energy, community sharing, and balance
Deer Compassion, peace, intellectual, gentle, caring, kind, subtlety, gracefulness, femininity, gentleness, innocence, and seller of adventure
Dog Noble, faithful, loyal, teaching, protection, and guidance
Dolphin

Kind, salvation, wisdom, happiness, playfulness, prudent, capable of deep emotion, and happy.

Dove

Cross-world communication, spirit messenger, peace, gentleness, love

Dragon

Longevity, richness, prosperity, infinity, wisdom, power, and fiery

Dragonfly

Flighty and carefree, strong imagination, higher aspirations.

Duck

Water energy, helper of seers, can clearly see/deal with emotions

Eagle

Divine spirit, sacrifice, connection to creator, intelligence, renewal, courage, illumination of spirit, healing, creation, freedom, and risk-taker

Elephant

Strength, power, affection, loyalty, royalty, and wisdom

Elk

Strength and agility, pride, majestic, independence, purification, strength, and nobility

Falcon

New beginnings, adventure, passionate, and leadership.

Fish

Graceful, slyness, open-minded, quick to change one’s mind.

Flamingo

Heart healing, psychic, people person, flirtatious.

Fox

Cunning, agility, quick-witted, diplomacy, wildness, feminine magic of camouflage, shape-shifting and invisibility

Frog

Water energy, cleansing, rebirth, sensitivity, medicine, hidden beauty, peace, adaptability, poor character judgment and power.

Gazelle

Aggressive

Giraffe

Communication, intuition, attaining the unreachable, seeing the future

Goat

Surefootedness, stubbornness, independence, diligence, lack of foresight.

Goose

Self-demanding, reliable, prudent, rigid, vigilance, parenthood, and productive.

Gorilla

Family-oriented, intelligence, strength, environmental protector, keeps peace through aggression.

Grasshopper

Good luck, abundance, forward, progressive.

Grouse

Personal power, enlightenment.

Hawk

Messenger, intuition, victory, healing, nobility, recollection, cleansing, visionary power, and guardianship.

Heron/Egret

Aggressive, self-determined, self-reliant, multi-tasking, balanced.

Hippopotamus

Power, creation, imagination, healing.

Horse

Freedom, stamina, mobility, the land, travel, power, and freedom.

Hummingbird

Messenger, timelessness, healing, and warrior.

Jaguar

Chaos, shape-shifter, aggressiveness, power.

Kangaroo

Forward, balance, creative, stamina.

Lion

Family, strength, energy, courage, guardian and protector.

Lizard

Conservation, vision, self-protection, hidden defenses.

Llama

Comforting to others, secure.

Lynx

Keeper of secrets, guardian, listener, and guide.

Mole

Sensitivity, guidance, searching.

Monkey

Ability to change the environment, health, success.

Moose

Headstrong, longevity, steadfastness, and wisdom.

Mouse

Scrutiny, order, organizer, and an eye for details.

Octopus

Intelligence, camouflage, nocturnal.

Opossum

Diversion, strategist, and deceiver.

Ostrich

Grounded, practical.

Otter

Playful, friendly, dynamic, joy, helpfulness, and sharing

Owl

Deception, clairvoyance, insight, messenger.

Ox

Sacrifice, chastity and self-denial

Panther

Protection, hidden emotions, introspection, caution, careful decisions

Parrot

Communication, beauty, guide for wisdom, mockery, thinking before speaking

Peacock

Immortality, dignity, and self-confidence

Pelican

Resilient, unselfish, rising above.

Penguin

Self-discipline, grace, self-confidence, spiritual

Porcupine

Innocence, companionship, and trust

Prairie Dog

Swiftness, industrious, constructive, preparedness

Puma

Companion on journeys to other worlds, grace, silent power

Quail

Group-work, team play, creator of harmony and group tolerance, protectiveness (especially toward children)

Rabbit

Fear, timidity, nervousness, humility, rebirth,

Raccoon

Curiosity and cleanliness

Ram

Stoic, sensitive, persevering, curious, imaginative. 

Rat

Fertility, stealth, scavenging, intelligence, enjoys luxury

Raven

Introspection, courage, self-knowledge, magic

Rhinoceros

Wisdom, solitary, insightful, solid.

Roadrunner

Mental agility, speed, opportunistic.

Rooster

Vanity, likes to be showered with gifts and attention, early riser, settling for nothing less than the best

Salmon

Proud, intense, confident, wisdom, inspiration

Scorpion

Transforming, strong, inspiring, chaotic,  passionate

Seagull

Versatility, loud, easy-going nature, creativity, laziness

Seahorse

Confidence and grace

Seal

Love, longing, dilemma, active imagination, creativity

Shark

Hunter, survival, and adaptability

Skunk

Reputation, presence, and strength

Snail

Protective, aware, solitary.

Snake

Impulsive, shrewdness, rebirth, transformation, initiation, and wisdom

Spider

Balance, wisdom, creativity, communication

Squirrel

Planner and gatherer

Stag

Lord of the forest, masculine power of regeneration, signs.

Swan

Grace, balance and innocence, soul, love, beauty, of the self

Tiger

Strength, valor, power, and energy

Toad

inner strength, luck, self-examination

Turkey

Generosity, life-giver, and sharer

Turtle

Nurturer, shy, and protecting

Unicorn

Purity, innocence, dreamer, personal power, gentle

Weasel

Strength, energy, ingenuity and stealth

Whale

Wisdom, provider, intelligence, and kindness.

Wolf

Loyalty, perseverance, success, intuition, and spirit

Woodpecker

Sensitive, protective, and devotion

Zebra

Agility and individuality

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