Odds are that even if you know something about guides you are a bit confused over the scores of terms for them. So what exactly is the difference between a totem animal, an animal guide, a spirit guide and a familiar? Well that all depends on where you look for your definitions….
Not quite what you were hoping to hear? Well animal guide tends to be a pretty general term, referring to either physical or spiritual manifestations and either individualized or more general view points. Familiars tend to be viewed as involved with witchcraft and magical circles, in fact, they are said to heighten the energy of a circle. They are often seen as physical creatures, but can be non-physical as well. Often a person’s ´pet´ that has a very close connection with them is considered a familiar. They tend to be very individualized, addressed with personal names rather than as “Cat” or “Raven Spirit.” Totem animals are connected with shamanic teachings. They tend to be viewed more formally than familiars. They are addressed as “Wolf” or “Bear Siprit” with physical wolves and bears seen as manifestations of the singular wolf or bear spirit. Spirit guide is an even more general term than animal guide. It can be used to encompass totem spirits, familiars, animal guides and other various and sundry spirits such as ghosts and angels. Basically any non-physical creature that serves as a protector and guide can be called a spirit guide.
These are just some of the commonly used terms. You will also see spirit totem, power animal, spirit animal, etc… Basically it all boils down to a very simple definition. “An entity that often chooses the form of an animal, either physical or non-physical, that acts as a guide and protector.”
The spirit nature of guides gives you the chance to interact with animals and beings you might not get to in real life. For example very few people can keep a lion in their backyard, a shark in their pool, or a unicorn in their apartment. The form that a guide chooses to use is based on what will work best for you as an individual. A guide chooses it’s form as a type of teaching aid to help you learn more about yourself. This gives the added bonus of guides being able to choose mythical forms such as dragons and unicorns.
Some people choose to keep the specific nature of their guides to themselves. It is believed that this can serve as a form of protection, keeping others from having power over you, just as keeping your magickal name secret is supposed to.
There are many ways to learn about animals. Here are a few notable ones in the Santa Cruz area:
The Monterey Bay Aquarium
Seymore Marine Discovery Center
Santa Cruz SPCA