An animal spirit guide is the spirit that guides and pokes you into the right direction in your life. From many cultures, you can find a number of beliefs that encompasses this very thing, where an animal is your protector and teacher, generally through vision quests and dreams. Some might argue that the animal spirit in question is an aspect of the human psyche. This makes sense if you consider how many people view the animal they choose.
People always want the ‘cool’ animals, such as wolves, bears, hawks, and panthers, but few find their guides in the form of lizards, snakes, or even insects. No one picks the naked mole rat, or the cockroach, but if we perceive that all living things have value, why wouldn’t these creatures be just as valuable as teachers as the ‘cool’ ones? I’ve also found that people can be incredibly biased about the animal of choice.
The tribal peoples accepted animals as teachers because animals often taught them the necessary skills in which to hunt and find shelter. Wolves work together in order to take down larger prey. They could watch how they formed their packs, and how they worked as one to attain their goal. For people too far from the natural world, the meaning and significance of animal guides is shaded by what we learn on nature shows.
People tend to also think the best of their animal, ignoring the attributes that might contrast to what they hope to infiltrate into their lives. Wolves do not murder, one woman told me. But wolves do kill their own kind; not often and not without reason, but they do. Owls will eat their own siblings in the nest. Cougars will kill their own young, as will bears. Even animals long thought as being monogamous are now discovered to be cheating on their mates.
But we need to let go of ‘good’ and ‘bad’. In the great Web of Life, all creatures are an equal part in the balance of life. Take for instance, the Vulture (a bird in the ‘birds of prey’ category that includes raptors). Most people grimace when thinking of this bird, and yet it flies with as much grace as the hawk or eagle. Many people don’t realize that hawks, eagles, and owls are as much carrion eaters as they are hunters. Vultures simply specialize. They are able to eat rotten meat that might otherwise kill another animal. They can actually eat anthrax, cholera, and Botulinum toxin.
We have to stop thinking as the vulture as some hideous disgusting bird that eats carrion when in fact the bird is essential to cleaning up the dead. In the Buddhist belief, the ‘sky burial’ is when the dead is cut up and given to vultures. In ancient Egypt, the vulture was seen as a splendid mother due to the strong bonds they have with their young. The Egyptian hieroglyph for mother is the vulture.
Another bias is held against the Dung beetle. Gross, you might think, of this beetle that rolls dung balls and feeds this to their young, yet it is the Dung Beetle that is the sacred Scarab of ancient Egypt, rolling the sun across the sky. Without these important insects, we’d be up to our eyeballs in dung.
The lesson here is that even within our selves we need to accept all aspects of the Self, even the less desirable for it completes us and makes us human. We need to recognize and master the weaknesses and fears, in order to better understand ourselves. We need to throw away our egos in order to strip away the junk and see the truth within ourselves.