In some cultures, this belief states that no person can survive beyond infancy without a power animal.
As we move through life, other power animals will join us as we navigate particular challenges, and then they will move on.
Even if we are not aware of them, they are still present and offering their medicine.
But if we are able to find them and cultivate a relationship, we can reap great benefits.
A central part of shamanic practice is to establish a working relationship with our power animals so that we can be intentional in our communications with them and make the most of the guidance they have to offer us.
Power animals are animal-form spirit guides that embody the archetypal energies of a particular animal and that come forward to guide and support us as we move through our human lives.
The primary way to connect with our power animals is by journeying to Lower World.
On these journeys, you may encounter many animal spirits, but not all will be your power animals.
Your power animals are specific animal spirits who have offered themselves to be your helping spirits.
They have specific medicine and healing to offer you on your life path.
Before going on your first journey, do your best to clear yourself of any preconceptions.
This applies to both the experience of Lower World and your power animal.
I often see newer practitioners arriving with the expectation of connecting with animals perceived as more powerful, such as Bear, Eagle, and Lion.
It is extremely important to remember that all animal spirits have medicine and guidance to share.
Whoever shows up for you is giving you the medicine you need right now.
The medicines of Dragonfly and Bee are just as valuable and important as the medicine of Shark.
Remember that in non-ordinary reality, communication happens through symbolism and metaphor, and you are completely safe and in control.
Your power animals may act in ways that seem threatening or perform actions that would be unpleasant in ordinary reality, but in Lower World, these actions are metaphors for the medicine they are offering you.
Be open to whatever experiences you are offered. If you are ready to try your first journey, use the outline provided here to guide you.
To journey to Lower World, you will need the following: A quiet place where you can be uninterrupted for approximately 30 minutes A comfortable place to lie down that is not your bed, such as a yoga mat or a comforter you can place on the floor.
I recommend not journeying in bed, as you are more likely to fall asleep.
A light blanket, if you tend to get cold Comfortable clothing.
You don’t want to be distracted by physical discomfort.
An eye cover, if your space can’t be darkened A pillow to support your head (optional) Your audio recording of live drumming.
I recommend a 15-minute drumming audio to start. A journal to chronicle your journey when you return Before starting, take a moment to prepare your space.
Using your drum or rattles, greet the four cardinal directions and invite your helping spirits to join you.
Once you establish a relationship with the plant spirits, you may choose to burn certain herbs at this point.
Anything you can do to signal to spirit that you are about to start ceremony helps establish a deeper connection.
Once your space is prepared, sing your soul song to help open yourself up to the upcoming journey experience.
When you feel ready, lie down and make sure you are comfortable.
You may need a pillow to support your head.
Hold your clear intention in your mind.
If this is your first time journeying, your intention should be to journey to Lower World and meet one of your power animals.
If someone is drumming for you, signal to them that you are ready to begin, or start playing your drum recording.
Start the journey by visualizing yourself outdoors in a place in nature that is both familiar and comforting to you.
This should be a real place you have visited, as it will be your tether to Middle World.
Look for your entry into Lower World, which will be a path that can take you into the earth.
It might be an opening in a tree, where you can enter and travel down the roots.
It could be a cave leading downward, a deep body of water, or even a simple hole in the ground.
Go into the opening and move through the earth, feeling the dirt, the dampness, and the rocks.
As you keep moving, find the threshold that will take you into Lower World.
It can be a door, a portal, or even an opening at the end of a tunnel.
When you step through, you will find yourself in a new landscape.
If you are experiencing visual stimuli, note what it looks like.
If you do not see anything, remember that you have several other senses.
Do you feel anything on your skin?
Is the sun shining, or the wind blowing?
Do you hear or feel anything?
Reach out and feel the ground beneath your feet.
After taking a moment to orient yourself, you are ready to explore Lower World.
Move through your landscape and see what you discover.
Test the boundaries of the laws of physics and search for your power animal.
In some shamanic traditions, there is the belief that if an animal shows itself to you at least three times, it is signaling to you that it is your power animal. In my personal practice, I have learned to directly ask any creature I encounter if it is one of my power animals.
If it says no, it might simply move on, or it might help me along the path to find my animal.
When you do find your power animal, thank it for showing itself and ask what it wants to share with you.
Spend time with it and let it show you around.
If you find yourself waiting for something to happen, do not hesitate to give yourself a push.
As discussed in the section on non-ordinary reality, to journey is to engage in a process called Active Imagination.
Your journey is co-created with your helping spirits, but is not created entirely by them.
When folks are struggling with their first journeys in my group circles, I encourage them to “see” the ground beneath their feet, to reach down and touch it, and to take a few steps.
Your journey will begin to unfold, and you will find yourself in a place beyond your personal imagination.
When you hear the drumming calling you back, which will be signaled by a drumroll and then faster drumming, thank your power animal and retrace your steps.
Find your way back to your entry point, and return to your starting point in Middle World. As the callback is wrapping up, you should be back where you started.
Take a moment to recenter and reground in your body.
When you feel ready, use your journal to write down your journey.
You will want to revisit these notes later, when the details start to fade from your memory.
Do not be discouraged if you were not able to reach Lower World on your first journey.
Journeying takes practice, especially for those of us who are not used to “seeing” with our mind’s eye.
I have met many shamanic practitioners who struggled in the beginning.
If this happens to you, be patient with yourself and try again a few days later.
It can sometimes take months to develop your journeying abilities.
Also, sometimes we will reach Lower World but not encounter a power animal. Do not be discouraged by this either.
Our power animals reveal themselves when we are ready, and sometimes they want us to focus on getting used to non-ordinary reality before introducing themselves.
Remember that every journey experience is valid and real, and we all experience non-ordinary reality in different ways.
Many people go into their first journeys expecting vivid imagery as if they were watching a movie screen.
This is rarely the case.
Some people will have vivid visual journeys, while others may see very little but receive a lot of information intuitively.
If you are someone who does not receive visual information, check in with your other senses.
You might also find your visualization abilities grow over time as you practice.
Jenn, a woman in my group, did not “see” anything in her first journey, but she received information through her other senses.
Jenn felt cold all over her body except for her knees, which were radiating heat.
Shortly after that, she was diagnosed by her doctor with cartilage loss in her knees.
Information comes in many forms; we just have to be open to receiving it.
If you are journeying in a group, I recommend taking time for sharing and integration.
Some practitioners believe that journeys should never be shared.
Others believe that community is an integral part of the practice, and that we only gain a full understanding of our journeys when we share and open ourselves up to insight from others.
I fall into the latter category, but with a caveat.
Journeys are not to be shared with anyone and everyone.
We share them in groups we trust, within sacred and safe space.
What gets shared in the group setting does not leave the group.
Whether you are sharing with a group or journeying by yourself, take a moment to wrap up your ceremony by thanking the helping spirits.
If you do choose to share your experience with a group, make an effort to do so with an open mind.
There are common themes that can pop up in journeys from person to person, but generally everyone’s journey experience is unique.
Some will experience journeys as having lasted days, and for others it will have felt like the blink of an eye.
Every journey experience is valid and brings medicine, so try not to compare your experience to that of others.
After each journey, it is your responsibility to integrate the medicine of your power animals into your life.
Our power animals help us as much as they can, but at the end of the day, we are responsible for ourselves.
If your power animal gives you specific advice or asks you to perform a specific action, be sure to act on it.
After all, if we do not act on the medicine they give us, we cannot enjoy its benefits.
Many folks new to this practice ask me what their power animals symbolize.
Some indigenous communities do have specific meanings they associate with different animals, but these meanings were developed over years of communicating with their guides.
While there have been other books written on this topic, I recommend developing your own understanding of what and who your power animals are to you.
If you ask your guides what their medicine is, they will tell you, and I would not be surprised if it differed from what you might find in a guidebook.
While there are a few common experiences that people report during power animal journeys, I recommend not reading this portion until after your first encounter with your power animal.
This will allow you to have an unbiased experience rather than approaching it with expectations.
After your first journey, you can review this section and see if you encountered any of these experiences.
Earlier in this book, we did briefly discuss the “feel” of Lower World.
But what about the interactions we have with our power animals?
Our helping spirits communicate in metaphors that often would not make sense in ordinary reality.
One common way our power animals interact with us is through embodiment.
This happens when we merge with our power animal while in a journey state.
This is also called shape-shifting.
There are dozens of different ways the merging can happen, such as entering the body of the power animal, or watching your body transform.
If we experience this during a journey, understand that it is an extremely powerful way to connect with the power animal’s medicine.
Another experience, which can be a bit jarring, is for our power animal to remove parts of our body.
They may cut off a limb, or even reach into your body and remove a specific organ such as your heart or your kidney.
This experience is called dismemberment.
In some cases, our animals will take apart our entire bodies, in a process called total dismemberment.
While such an experience in ordinary reality would be violent and painful, we must remember that nonordinary reality functions differently.
If your animal removes a piece of your body, it is pointing out an area that needs healing.
It is removing an area where your energy is stuck.
In the case of total dismemberment, your power animal is offering you very profound healing.
If this happens to you, understand that your power animal is disassembling you so that you can dispel negative energies or break unhealthy cycles.
This is the opportunity to put yourself back together in a healthier way.
If you did not experience embodiment or dismemberment, this absolutely does not mean that your journey was not valid, meaningful, or powerful.
Whatever message your power animal had for you is what you need to know in that moment.
Always keep in mind that many of the things you witness will be metaphorical rather than literal.
If you see animals fighting, for example, they may be showing off their prowess, or enacting a conflict you are experiencing in your own life.
As you become more experienced in journeying, you will become better acquainted with the language of your power animals.