Spirit Helpers in Animal Form
Power animals are actually quite common. Most people have had extremely personal, sometimes longstanding relationships with animal spirits, however they just didn't know it! When they learn about animal spirit helpers they are sometimes surprised to recognize a relationship whose potential was already there. When they have a power retrieval and obtain an animal spirit, they are empowered.
For instance, one person I taught to journey 'came back' from her first journey to the lower world having found a hummingbird as her power animal. She then realized that hummingbirds had been around her all of her life, and began remembering specific instances of their presence. She then recognized humming birds as having always been something special to her, frequently encountered in her life, and in other ways somehow more important to her than to other people she knew.
Power animals (which is a particularly American Northwest term for spirit helpers in animal form) have specific skills and strengths that vastly out measure humankind’s, such as fearlessness, strength, and patience, and innumerable other abilities: powers that we can use to help ourselves, as well as serve in the course of bringing healing to others. Thus, a spirit helper in animal form can provide protection, guidance, or transportation (such as on their back, held in their claws, etc.)
Each of us has at least one, and more commonly a number of such spirit helpers waiting for us. To find them and ask for their assistance, we often journey to the shamanic lower world. They want to help us and bring their special powers to us at a time of our life when we need them. They can also travel with us, guiding, protecting, and providing us with information. As is the case with our upper world teachers, these animals may also test you to determine the sincerity of your bond with them and the cleanliness of your heart.
It may be because we have lost along the way, one or another powers that as a full, whole, true self we would have, that we find ourselves stumbling through life. The retrieval of one's power animals, and in service to others the retrieval of such animals can restore a balanced wellness to one who is regaining their full self. In Level 1 shamanic training, we learn how to retrieve power animals for oneself, and for another!
Student: "I was wondering if you had any information you could share with me from your particular tradition about bears, bear medicine, or bear clans. I am extremely curious."
Steve: Certainly, I have ideas about what Bear might mean to me if Bear shows up at one time or another in my life. However, I actually only know what a spirit helper means when I ask the spirit world directly why it in particular is there and showing up specifically at this time in my life.
Only directly from a spirit and through conversations with other spirit teachers, and only at that time and place can we really know why a particular spirit helper is there, what power it brings, and how we can best work together with it. I always hesitate, however, to forward any ideas about what any other person’s spirit helper might mean. It is not even credible to assume that a spirit helper that I have now, or might have in the future, would mean the same thing to me in this time and place, or bring the same power, or work with me in the same way as it did in the past.
In a sense, spirit helpers are always ‘context specific’. In other words, it is a stretch to assume that a helper means the same thing in all times and places. Certainly, there is the huge potential for consistency, in the short or even the long run. However, like all relationships and as with all changes in circumstances, things change.
Moreover, the meaning and purpose of a spirit helper is something specific and intimate between a person and their helper. In your case, you will probably get some hints from Bear during your journeys as to why it is there, and ‘flash’ on stuff when you happen to run across items and information about bears in daily life, literature, the internet and so on. Moreover, there are certainly books out there that can give you ideas about spirit helpers. However, remember that these are just ideas and associations that may or may not apply.
Here is a good lesson generally about shamanism: there is no absolute text. What we learn is always from the spirits themselves. The education you are having with me, just as it is with what you might find in a book about spirit helpers, is not anything more than a finger ‘pointing at the moon’. Us ordinary reality shamanic teachers merely teach how best to learn, and a book about spirit helpers merely gives you ideas about how you might start inquiring about spirits. But, there is nothing absolute about the appearance of a spirit helper. Nothing about them is universal and ‘set in stone’.
As in all shamanic work, we must go back to the spirits themselves to inquire. In this case, we need to go to our spirit helpers to let them tell us why they are in our life, and at this time. This can certainly validate for us whether we are on the right track if some potential meanings or associations occurred to us. We all speculate; it’s just human to make associations and have ideas. However, spirit helpers can best explain themselves by themselves!
Very good question! Thank you for bringing this up.