An expert from “Practical Shamanism, A Guide for Walking in Both Worlds”

Listen to the Audiobook version or read the text below. Narrated by Jane Knight.


Power animals are spirit guides in animal form. When they aren’t helping their person, power animals are found in Lower World. Even if someone never journeys in shamanic reality, they still have one or more power animals. It is believed that when a child is born, a benevolent spirit in animal form looks at the infant and sees how helpless they are. That spirit takes pity on the child and becomes their ally and protector. Often a person’s power animal will be an animal that they have a strong affinity for. When someone collects bear or horse figures, it’s a good bet that that animal is their power animal.

In ordinary reality, a power animal is a source of protection and power. It’s your power animal’s job to make sure that the idiot driving way too fast doesn’t hit you and that if a rock falls out of the sky it lands next to you, not on you. They work on our behalf to keep the physical world safe and positive for us. A loss or lack of a power animal can result in everything from listlessness to being accident prone to chronic illnesses. A strong connection to a power animal provides a source of energy and support and enhances the flow of your own energy.

If you do shamanic journeying, additional power animals will come to you. In addition to their other functions, I look to my power animals to feel safe in shamanic reality, wherever my travels take me. They guide me to where I need to go, show me what I need to know, and generally help and support me in any journey I select. For complicated endeavors, such as soul retrieval, my power animals will team up with my spiritual teachers and they will work together to guide and assist me.

Sometimes people do a shamanic journey and find that the power animal that is waiting for them is not the one they expect. Someone who has always felt a deep, profound connection to bears, for instance, might be concerned if that animal didn’t show up as a power animal. That doesn’t mean that this person doesn’t have a bear for a power animal; they almost certainly do. However, it may mean that the bear will continue to provide the protection and guidance in their life in ordinary reality but a different animal will work with them in shamanic reality. It can also mean a new animal is choosing to come into relationship with them. The more work we do with shamanic reality, the more power animals will come to assist us.

For power animals, it’s important to accept whatever power animal chooses to come into a relationship with you, even if it isn’t one of the classic power animals (for example, a squirrel or a mouse rather than a bear, golden eagle, wolf, or mountain lion). If an unexpected animal comes forward, it has some specific gifts for you. Sometimes an animal will show up that you aren’t comfortable with. When that happens, the animal is offering to help you with some important lesson, often embracing aspects of yourself that you have disowned or rejected.

For example, one woman had a crocodile show up as a power animal, which she found scary until she realized what a powerful protector this animal was. At the time, she was struggling with holding boundaries and standing up for herself and a crocodile was the perfect ally in that situation.

Sometimes an animal may seem scary at first, but will make a point of showing its softer side, like a wolf rolling on its back or a mountain lion letting you feel how soft its fur is or licking your face. While I have occasionally told guides in human form that I didn’t feel comfortable working with them and asked for a different guide, I have never done that with a power animal who came forward. If you get a power animal that’s uncomfortable, you aren’t obligated to work with them, but there are reasons for that animal being there, so it’s good to give it an honest try.

Oddly enough, I’ve found my students more likely to reject the animal that they expect or want. So if you get a classic, popular power animal such as a wolf or golden eagle, it doesn’t mean you’re making it up. When I did my first journey to find a power animal, the animal that showed up was one of the classic ones and I started to tell myself (and it) that I was just making this up. My animal conveyed through her body language that I was hurting her feelings by rejecting her. I apologized profusely and we’ve worked closely together ever since.

Everything is symbolic in shamanic reality and the spirits are prepared to show themselves to us using whatever symbols resonate best for us. They want to communicate with us and are more flexible than we are. So, if there are a disproportionate number of bears that show up as power animals, that is all to the good for both sides. Some people end up working with one power animal; other people, like me, work with a menagerie.

©2006, Katie Weatherup. All rights reserved.