Familiar, Totem, and Animal Spirit guide

Animals have always attracted and amazed people. This connection to the animal world is particularly strong for shamans, healers, witches, and everyone else, who practices magic.
However, the globalization and the cultural exchange lead to certain confusion with the terms.
Familiar, totem, and animal spirit guide - all these terms refer to the animal helpers, who are acting in both the physical and spiritual world. But what is the difference? Is that ok to call cougar a familiar and hamster a totem?
Let's start with the animal spirit guide. It is a spirit, who comes in the dreams, or while meditations, or during the magical practices to warn, help, or to test you. His a mentor from the spiritual world who takes the form of an animal to contact you. Usually, the spirit guide is the one, who chooses to contact you, but you also may feel a sort of connection with the different animals in certain moments of your life. You need to be careful not to miss the signs of the spiritual world.
The term power animal comes from shamanism, that was spread across the globe from Siberia to Africa. In the spiritual journeys in the search of the healing, knowledge, or guidance shaman often was accompanied by the spirit of the certain animal who was leading and helping him. This animal is the extension of the shamans' personality and his guide. But even if you are not an initialized shaman, you still can have an animal you feel a connection with as a power animal.
As for totem - the word itself comes from the Ojibwa language and refers to the animal or the other object that is the sign or the emblem of the clan. Totem can be almost any natural object, that is believed to have blood ties to a clan, a family, or to an individual. There are different sorts of the totem - a wind, a river, a mount, a plant, a bird - but most often it is a real or a supernatural animal. In the ancient cultures across the globe (Slavic tribes in Eastern Europe, native tribes in North America, African tribes, etc.)  the totemic animal was believed to be a wise ancestor of the family or clan. All other animals of that class were treated as blood relatives of the clan, who can help, guide, or protect you. Even today we can see totems as a mascot of the teams in all kinds of sport. Sometimes the word totem may refer to a representation of the totem animal - the totem pole, the head of the crocodile, the scull of the crow, or even the figure of the wolf.
And what is familiar? This word comes from the middle age France, and later spread across Western Europe and then the whole world. This word refers to a magical helper of the witch, the sorcerer, or of the healer. Commonly familiars were domestic animals like dogs, cats, horses, sheep, goats, or some wild animals local to the "witch", such as frogs, lizards, moths, birds. I have quoted the "witch" because familiars were tightly bound to the witch hunt in Europe and North America the women were tortured and slaughtered just for having a cat or a rat in the house. They don't even need to practice witchcraft to be accused.  But let's go back to the familiars: unlike the spiritual guides or the totems, familiars were the helpers of the younger witches and servants to the more experienced ones. In the middle ages, it was commonly believed that the spirit helper (or a demon according to the Christian sources) inhabited the animal hosts, killing their own soul. In modern practices, familiars are the helpers of the witch and assist them in magical practices.  By the way familiar is not only an animal but also a human.
I hope that helped you to get into some details and to use the language more accurately!

Daria Martina

© Pandora Witch Shop

Photos by diordieva.35photo.ru and www.deviantart.com/danila-neroznak


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Creappy December 15, 2020

Thanks was searching to find out about my animal spirit, owls have always been fascinating to me. Start with my craft as lunar witch about a year ago.

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