This question is another that I see often in shamanism forums.
The revelation of animal guides has spread far beyond mere shamanic trope. I see it brought up in tarot forums, groups focused on general spirituality, paganism, divination… It truly is the new, “Hey baby, what’s your sign?” It’s not so simple as the mere inquiry, right? Most of the time it’s coming up not because someone hasn’t experimented a little. Rather, it’s because they made an effort to find their animal guide, to no avail.
Why might that be?
How do you do that? By creating sacred space. Some call it opening a circle, calling in the directions. Whatever the wording, it’s an actionable ritual for intending sacred space, for sacred work. It may involve honoring them as part of your space–letting them realize you know they’re there. It can include singing, drumming, dancing. Maybe you say something special that helps your brain know it’s turning off the everyday and moving into spirit space. What you do to invoke that space is original and personal to you. If you don’t know how to do that, I highly recommend you get schooled in it. Again, ask me. I teach it all the time. However you create sacred space, honor, then close it, do it often, and keep doing it. Within that devotion the relationship builds. When it builds, you feel actual responses back from your Spirit Allies.
Also, consider that you’re standing on someone else’s Ancestors. The land where you live wasn’t yours. The nature Spirits of your land were in direct relationship with a different people for thousands of years long before you came there. This truth often gets overlooked in the simple question of “How Do I Meet My Animal Guide?”
What is animism? As I hinted at above in my phrasings of choice, there are many types of spirits that make up your space. In an animistic experience of life, we are constantly surrounded by souls, each of which has agency. We are connected to them and can communicate with them. Are they all “guides?” No. This is a nuance of shamanic work that takes a bit more experience, yet still bears mentioning in this discussion.
- This is why you can’t learn it from a book.
- This is why you can’t learn it from a single class. It requires direct relationships built over time.
- This is why learning these skills internalize best in community–with others doing the same.
- This is why finding a mentor who’s mastered what you want to learn will not only teach you what you want to know, but help you ground it into your life without going crazy.
- Why Shamanism Now, hosted by Christina Pratt
- Deeper Down the Rabbit Hole, hosted by James Stovall
- Past episodes of The Jaguar and the Owl, hosted by James Stovall
Other books I recommend are anything by Sandra Ingerman, Hillary Webb, Malidoma Some, Ted Andrews, and Felicitas Goodman. Also, Sacred Hoop, the gold standard shamanism journal edited by Nick Breeze Wood, who also created a free edition solely devoted to answer similar questions about shamanism: “Guide to Shamanism”
No, I don’t recommend books by Michael Harner, Mircea Eliade, I.M. Lewis, Carlos Castaneda, or Lynn Andrews, unless you want to more clearly understand what not to do regarding cultural appropriation, to be othered to death, or just want to understand the biases facing modern shamanism.
As always, thank you for the work you do. Thank you for showing up.
S. Kelley Harrell is a modern shaman and author in North Carolina. She is author of Gift of the Dreamtime, and Teen Spirit Guide to Modern Shamanism,” and she writes The Weekly Rune. A lifelong intuitive, she has worked with a local and international client base since 2000. Kelley holds a Masters in Religious Studies, and is an ordained interfaith minister. Her work is Nature-based, and is focused through the lenses of animism, Seiðr, and Druidry. She works closely with the Elder Futhark Runes and divine Nature Spirits of eastern North Carolina. Her shamanic practice is Soul Intent Arts, and she is vigorously involved with the worlds in and around her.
Originally published on Moon Books.