Everyone has had an experience where an animal has crossed our path in the physical world and we wondered if it means something. How many times have you asked, or been asked, wonder what that wolf, deer, squirrel is trying to tell me?
Nearly all Shamanistic societies believe animals in the physical and spiritual worlds come to us for our own good to deliver messages.
When animals cross our path in the physical world they maybe bringing a warning or a message as guidance. They’re a “here in the now” kind of message that impacts our physical world.
But depending on the animal, they can cross their influence of meaning between the physical and spiritual worlds. Perhaps we’re not being as perceptive as we should be or we maybe we need to pay attention to a message from spirit that affects our physical choices. Listening to our gut feelings is an important part of living in balance and nature is all about balance.
One of the best books I’ve ever found on this subject from a shamanistic perspective is “Animal Speak” and “Animal Wise” by Ted Andrews. Though there are many books on this topic and many are worth perusing and reading, but in my several decades of spiritual and shamanistic study, Ted Andrews is the best.
The basic concept outlined by Andrews is to decipher animal sign by understanding the animal in physical form. What are its characteristics, habits, and personalities. Is it a pack animal, or does it spend the days alone, rarely around its own kind? What is its habitat, how does it hunt or forage and how does it treat or care for its own children? All these things can tell you about the message and even a little about yourself.
For instance, a rabbit represents fertility for obvious reasons. Ravens and Crows represents transition, not always transition to death; but a significant change in one’s life. Ravens are also associated with the Celtic Morrigan; and can represent the triple goddess or going through the cycles of life. Especially if you see 3 Ravens at the same time. Ravens and Crows also represent magik. When they appear Magik is afoot. A Turkey Vulture is a community animal, rarely will you see one entirely alone. Where as some types of eagles are always alone and never flies with its own kind unless it’s mating season.
Learning about the animal and its life will give you an understanding of what the animal is trying to tell you when it crosses your path.
Deciphering Physical Animal Messages
To find the meaning or message behind the animals that cross your path, you need to examine three basic parts of the encounter. What kind of animal it is, what color is the animal when you saw it, and what was it doing or its behaviors when you saw it.
This is best explained through scenario, so here goes:
Let’s say you see a hawk circling your house one morning on your way to work. Stop for a few moments and watch it. Try to distinguish the colors and if you can, determine what kind of hawk it is. Birds have distinguishing colors on the underside of their wings that can help you identify what kind of bird it is.
Write a little note to remind yourself about the details so you can look it up later. You have your cell phone, call yourself and leave a message. Record what it looks like, what it was doing, which way was it moving if at all. You might think about keeping a journal and describing what happened. If you don’t have time now to decipher the meaning of the visitation, you’ll have enough information to do it later.
When you get to where you’re going, search for an animal identification website. There are many! For our story, we’ll say on this day you see a North American Red Shoulder Hawk.
Red shoulder and red tailed hawk are very much the same when it comes to bring a message. But immature red tails or red shoulders may not have fully developed their distinguishing color scheme yet. So right off the bat, you know the message is about being young, or immature and don’t assume that means in a bad way. The message could be a child, the inner child, being a novice about a new experience or topic you’ve been introduced to and so on.
Describe what the animal was doing. What was your gut feeling at that moment you saw it. For instance, was the hawk just soaring and enjoying its view from above? Did it notice you? Was it searching for something, a place to land, something to eat? Give your description as much “feeling” and intuitive detail as possible. What you felt is as much a clue to the message as the animal itself.
Next, research the scientific and physiological characteristics of the animal to help you learn about its nature. You can certainly go to the library and look it up in an encyclopedia. You can look for a Peterson’s Field Guide book (ie: Peterson’s Field Guide to Birds). These are wonderful books to have around the house, they can help you identify just about any animal you might encounter. But if you can get your hands on Ted Andrew’s Animal Speak, you’ll have some wonderful explanations of what this bird might represent.
Once you’ve got all this together, step back and contemplate a little on what you wrote. How does your interpretation of this event fit into your life. What aspect does the visitation shed information on that might help you deal with or interact with in your life.
Every Day and Seasonal Visits
We live on a lake, so of course we see many migrating birds and especially Canadian geese. These daily encounters might have meaning, but they may simply be telling you life is normal and everything is as it should be. Occasionally, an animal you see on a daily basis will stand out and cause you to take extra notice. Especially if you see the same animal in different areas all doing the same thing.
My Man for instance has this connection with squirrels. When he’s driving it’s amazing how many of these little critters run out in front of him, or are already sitting in the road and don’t move. Each time, they cause him to stop or seriously slow down. Yet when I’m driving in the same area, in the same vehicle, even with him in the car, these encounters don’t happen to me. These kinds of events are telling you to take notice and decipher their meaning.
In this case, the squirrels were telling my Man to stop, slow down, take time to look and see what’s around. There are dangers about to run you over as you’re trying to go about your business and get things done. Within the next month the meaning of the squirrels became more evident as his former business partners tried to pull the pin on what they believed was a grenade behind his back. Because he listened to his little messengers, he was able to escape their stupidity and avoid a very bad situation. The company closed, but in the long run he had gotten what he needed out of the experience. Thanks to the squirrels.
As seasons change our encounters with animals may increase. Here in the northern hemisphere we’re coming into Fall. Animals of all kinds are making preparations for the cold winter months. Either they’re heading south, forging for food in order to hibernate, or to make stores for the winter. Their work for fall could be similar to what’s going on in your life. Encountering the same animal in the Spring when the natural world is working on mating and nesting, the message from physical animals often deal with communication, relationships and family situations.
Here in Virginia we have an increase in sightings for deer in the fall. Yesterday I had three friends on Facebook post something about deer encounters, two on Twitter and two more mentioned encounters when I was out doing errands. Seems everyone was getting ready for our first big cold snap.
That’s a lot of deer sightings and it’s enough to take notice. Not only for those who saw the deer, but for me as well. When you have 4 or more friends you know mention the same type of sighting, in the same time period, it might also have meaning for you.
These encounters caused me to do decipher the messages and I decided to share it here on my blog to give a full example of how you can use animal sign to give you insight about your life.
Ted Andrews On The Deer
They denote: Gentleness and Innocence. Gentle luring to New Adventures.
Cycle of Energy: Autumn and Spring
They are the central image in Buddhism. Buddha is said to have given his first sermon in a deer park.
If the deer was a buck who still has his antlers, he could be sharing a message of communication and perception as his antlers signify antenna. Pay close attention to you perception and intuition.
If the deer was a doe with her fawn, or a fawn itself, he could be sharing a message to establish a strong healthy child before being exposed to others or strange energies. This can mean two things. Keeping your energy to yourself by limiting outside contact. Or remembering to nurture the self before giving your energy away to others.
The deer brings us back to the basics of primal wisdom of old teachings. Being one with nature and/or the natural world around us. Living in harmony with our own nature and with nature.
Deer have very acute hearing and vision, even in dim light. When they enter your life make sure you’re paying attention to the subtle movements around you. Listen carefully and look beyond what your brain focuses on when you look before you. Take time to see the whole picture and notice the little details.
When Deer show up it’s a message to be gentle with yourself and others. A new innocence and freshness is about to be awakened or born.
There is going to be a gentle enticing or push of new adventures. Ask yourself, are you trying to force things or others? Are you being too critical or uncaring of yourself? Take the opportunity to express gentle love that will open new doors to adventure for you.
All living things are connected and interconnected to one another. We are not an island in space and time destined to live alone. Even the hermit isn’t alone because the world of nature is around him or her. So you’re never truly alone. And if you have friends and you’re close enough to share things that happen in your lives, the messages could impact you all. Albeit it might be in slightly different ways.
Take time to notice the subtle messages from nature and animals that cross your path. They could bring insight into your world that makes sense of events or issues you’re struggling with. They can help you identify the lessons you’re facing, or provide warnings for what’s ahead around the next turn.
When you can apply their message, you can avoid pitfalls that may set you back or cause you issues later on. They are a great source for insight and providing direction when needed most.
© 2013 Springwolf, D.D., Ph.D. Springwolf Reflections / Springs Haven, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
I’ve only recently become interested in Shamanistic topics. I appreciate you sharing your real world experiences here. It has helped me to better understand how and why animals play such a pivital role in our lives.
Great article and very helpful. Thank you.