What is Animal Symbolism?

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This topic can get a little dicey, but I’m going to tackle it for the week anyway.  Why?  I shall start with a story of my college days.

Way back in college, I hung out with a variety of people.  This included Wiccans who would tell me about their beliefs.  I’d go to some of their events too, which once resulted in me doing Nordic rune readings for other clubs.  Still don’t know why the Pagan Student Union left their Jewish friend alone at the table, but it was fun.  Anyway, there was one area a few talked about, which was shamanism.  Without going into details, the gist I got was that nature had spirits and shamans communicated with them.  This included animals, which all had their own meanings.  An animal showing up in your dream could be analyzed depending on their meaning.

As a fantasy author, I found this concept very fascinating.  To the point where I got books on the meanings of animals, which I would read through at times.  Seeing how an animal abilities, habits, and cultural connections created such detailed readings gave me plenty of ideas.  Outside of writing, it also got me to consider what it meant whenever I ran into specific animals.  Going to college in Upstate New York, it was common to encounter animals that were more exotic than my Long Island existence was used to.  Silver foxes, skunks, raccoons, deer, and other animals were seen, so I’d go check out if they were an omen of anything.  Sometimes I could decipher it to connect to what was going on in my life.  Other times, I had no idea.  Although, one friend did wonder how I kept running into and noticing wild animals.

I’m going to get into how this connects to writing on Wednesday, so this is more to explain the concept.  Many people don’t know much about it or see it solely as a ‘spirit animal meme’ thing.  From what I’ve read and remember, it was rarely a solitary animal outside of an encounter you’re investigating.  For the personal connection, one of the books I had talked about ways to meditate and discover which animal is connected to each of your chakras.  I think this got described by some people as a personal, internal totem pole with the form being your body and the animals stacked in chakra order.  Keep in mind that a lot of my information came from fellow college students who probably were only slightly more knowledgeable than my monotheistic butt.

Do I still tinker with animal spirituality?  No, but I really do want to start looking into it once again.  For no other reason than to see if it helps me clear my mind and revive some creativity.  Unfortunately, I can’t figure out where all of my shamanism books went.  I only had three and I thought they were on my bookcase.  I’ve rummaged through it three times in the last month with no luck.  Where did they go?  They may have gone with my ex-wife who was Wiccan, which meant my books could have been mixed in with her stuff and I never thought to check.  That would mean that they’re gone for the foreseeable future, which is frustrating.  Still, there are a bunch of websites that you can find if you’re curious about such things.  Even if you don’t believe in shamanism, you can get some inspiration from what animals symbolize.  Heck, authors do the same thing with characters when they pick a name with a certain meaning.  Not really that different.

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.
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22 Responses to What is Animal Symbolism?

  1. Great subject, Charles. Sorry about losing your books. Looking forward to more.


  2. Interesting spiritual approach. I do think people view animals in an interesting way. We’re always calling each other animals, have you noticed? A rat, a bitch, a stud (male animal used for breeding). And yet there’s affection and intimacy, too. People get so upset if an animal is harmed in a story.


  3. I think this is a great concept to lure the Muse out of hiding. I’ve started watching a lot of Korean television and there are a lot of shamans. Your anime is probably similar. It is different than what Native Americans might think about it. I think it gives free rein to authors to be inspired and do what works for their story.


  4. V.M.Sang says:

    Interesting. I look forward to the rest of your posts.
    Interestingly, when writing my Wolves of Vimar series, I picked a wolf pack for the group to relate to and call themselves after. They found they had an affinity to wolves, and called themselves Wolf.


  5. Oloriel says:

    Sorry about your books, but I believe that I had a website which had a lot of books on this topic shared for free, I will try to find it, even though it will be digital and cannot replace the real books lost.
    As for the shamanism, a lot of it comes, at least from my own personal deduction, from altered states of mind. To me, we are all all animals, and it is more about embodying the symbolism for our own betterment than ‘being who we permanently are’. As humans, we change, grow, evolve and suffer turmoil – and I do not see how we should always do one same thing from ‘our’ animal – instead of pulling from the whole kingdom of them – again , for betterment.
    I also find that sometimes, this animal identification does not come to us from learning and reading, but from those around us. In my own personal example, my late grandfather would always call me ‘little sparrow’ , because I was a restless child always on the move and I am short. When older, much like you, I delved deeper thinking about it, and it did ring true, so it made sense to embrace it, instead of striving to be like something / someone else.
    That being said, I lately find myself missing reading animal tales, ones where they are personified and share some of their kins message (an example would be an owl sharing some nocturnal wisdom.), because I think they are short and inspirational.


    • I’ve looked at some sites, but they’re definitely not the same. Harder to random open to a page and work off what I get.

      I can see how the altered states of mind come in. My personal view is that it involves the belief that all life is connected on a spiritual level. So, we see animals at certain times when their attributes are either needed or flaws are rising in ourselves. Never thought of the nickname thing before. Only one person ever gave me an animal nickname though. It was the ex-wife and now I’m not sure about it anymore.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oloriel says:

        “So, we see animals at certain times when their attributes are either needed or flaws are rising in ourselves” – this is what I was thinking of, just not wording it just right.
        My nickname is also old, just like the one you had, I guess what I am trying to say is that I think these spiritual things come to us, whether we want it or not, so we should not raise a futile quest to search for them and force them, more like recognize them? Mentioning this because when I encounter it in writing it is always like this example : The prophet told me I am the Queen of Ravens and now I must befriend them and follow them into the heart of darkness so I can grow my own dark wings. Ravens are glorious, mysterious, smart and vocal – just like me! But I am not so good at acquiring shiny belongings, I need better determination and to better understand these birds. (spoken by someone who was, perhaps, more akin to a snail – and thats another thing, the representation is only for the ‘popular’ animals to emulate and spiritualize)/


      • In fiction, the use of animals as character symbols is more controllable than real life. I notice that the handing out of animal nicknames is usually a surface connection. It doesn’t typically have the spiritual symbologies that one finds through deeper investigation. We get there through fiction though because we have to look deeper.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. L. Marie says:

    How has this helped you in the past? You mentioned students back in college. What did they affirm in you?


  7. L. Marie says:

    Oh okay. Thanks for explaining!

    Liked by 1 person

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