Animal Symbolism

Animal Spirit Animals Explained |

In this article Animal Symbolism, you will learn how the spirit world convey messages to us through the essence of animals, including domestic animals and insects. Whether you have an unusual experience with an animal in real life, or symbolically through a dream or meditation, the following information will help you unlock your spiritual message.

How Animal Symbolism Evolved

Myth, Religion and Art

Humans have portrayed animals in art, literature, religion and myth for thousands of years. Animals became important symbols that humans have used to make sense of the world and ourselves.

Over time, human observation of animal behavior has led to certain symbolic meanings being attributed to certain animals. For example, a lion’s roar induces fear and so it became associated with bravery. Birds flee in advance of a storm, and thus became symbolic of an early warning sign. The interpretations of animals has been based primarily on their physical and behavioral traits.


Ancient shamans, or tribal healers developed a close relationship with nature and animals, and attributed divinatory meanings to sightings and visions of animals. Shamanism is also tied to animism, the belief that spirit permeates (animates) all things, not just humans but animals, plants, and even rocks, mountains and weather events.

Religious Symbolism

As human civilization advanced, animals were increasingly used extensively as a symbols in religious context. They may be referred to as a deity, spirit or supernatural power. In iconography, the figure of an animal is often depicted together with a god or deity. The animal provides a clue to the nature and characteristics of the deity. For example, the Egyptian god Anubis had a man’s body with the head of a wolf. The wolf is associated with spiritual truth, and Anubis was the god who judged a King’s soul in the afterlife. (See Wheel of Fortune Symbols, to discover more about Anubis and Tarot).

Another example is that Jesus, who is represented by the ‘lamb’ or ‘fish’ in early Christian art. IKHTHUS, the Greek word for fish, corresponding to the first letter of each Greek word for Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior. Not that people worshipped the lamb or fish, but they were used as symbols to convey the concept of Jesus. A symbol refers to something that evokes meaning beyond itself.


Astrology is another important area where animals, both real and supernatural, play a major role. The Mesopotamians perceived constellations of stars as animals. For example, the Bull of Heaven (Taurus), the Lion (Leo), the Dog (Hercules), the Stag (Andromeda) and the Rooster (Lepus).

Animal Dream Interpretation

As dream images appeared to humans in sleep-time, inevitably this raised questions about their meaning and connection to the waking world.

The Greeks and Romans theorized dreams were God-sent revelations. They busily set about writing books on dream interpretation containing, amongst other things, lots of animal motifs. Some animals were assigned auspicious (lucky) and inauspicious (unlucky) meanings, which still ring true today.

Animal Symbolism Emerges

As mythology, astrology, dream interpretation, and observations of nature merged and spread over the millennia, the language of animal symbolism emerged. As more people settled on common interpretations, this knowledge, as with all universal symbols, entered the universal collective unconscious.

According to Carl Jung, these symbols become universal archetypes – that is, signs, symbols, or patterns of thinking that are inherited from our ancestors.

We tap into this information bank through our psyche. Equally, the spirit world can use this information to communicate with us. For example, if humans generally associate ‘bravery’ with lions, then what better image to pop into a person’s mind during meditation than a lion, if spirit guides want to guide you to be brave?

This is also the theory behind the meaning of feathers and Tarot cards.

What Are Animal Spirit Guides and Power Animals?

Animal spirit guides, power animals, totem animals or familiars, what is the difference?

Animal Spirit Guides

Also called animal guide. This is the general term which refers to animals which appear to you with a message. The animal can appear in real-life, like a robin who flies into your home. It can be an animal that appears in your dream, meditation or figuratively in some other way. It is an animal who is the bearer of a spiritual message.

Occasionally, an animal guide can work with us for a lifetime, to help us achieve our soul purpose, in such instances you will notice that this animal reappears throughout your life. You may even feel drawn to getting a tattoo, jewelry, statue or picture of your animal guide, in this instance.

More commonly, animal guides come to us for a short time – to impart specific teaching or news. For example, a deer can appear as a sign that you are receiving spiritual healing for some trauma.

Power Animals

This term has its origins in shamanism. A power animal is a specialized animal guide which shamanic practitioners acquire during the initiation process. Your power animal accompanies you on your shamanic journeys and astral travels. Occasionally, power animals will reveal themselves to non-practitioners during dreams, visions and meditations. This is why the terms animal guides and power animals can be interchangeable.

It is believed that domestic animals like dogs and cats cannot be power animals, because they are less connected to nature. However, they can be animal guides.

Totem Animal Guides |
Totem pole with eagle totem animal

Totem Animals

A totem animal is typically an animal guide which is shared by your family, ancestors or tribe. In many indigenous cultures, you are born into a community with a totem animal in common, a bit like a family crest! Typically the totem will represent the character and personality of a tribe. For example, the bear is associated with strength and the eagle with nobility. When a shaman sought wisdom for their community, the guide would appear in the shape of the tribe’s totem animal.

The totem pole is a log carved with images of totem animals, which is used for protection.

Witches Familiar

According to Western demonology, small animals like cats or toads were kept as a witch’s attendant. These animals are known as witches familiars and helped witches in the practice of their magic and sorcery. It is believed, if you see such a creature, your eyes will be drawn to it.  Since the 20th century some magical practitioners, such as those who follow Wicca and Neopagan religion, embrace familiars due to their association with older forms of magic (magick).See: Queen of Wands Symbols, to learn about familiars in Tarot.

What Message do Animal Spirit Guides Deliver?

What animal symbolizes good luck?

A black cat, crow and frog deliver the luckiest news. Interesting, they are all witches familiars!

Which animal symbolizes anxiety?

The rabbit is most connected to anxiety and the need to relax.

Which animals are symbols of healing?

The deer, pigeon and frog are messengers of healing.

Which animals symbolize transformation?

The dragonfly, snake and moth deliver news of change and transformation.

Which animals are associated with the spirit world?

The robin represents a loved one in the spirit world saying hello. The butterfly also, but the butterfly can also be a sign that angels are near.

Animal Symbolism List

Small Animal Meanings

Cat: Black Cat Spiritual Meaning

Fox: Spiritual Meaning of Foxes

Frog: Spiritual Meaning of Frogs

Mole: Spiritual Meaning of Moles

Rabbit: Spiritual Meaning of Rabbits

Squirrel: Spiritual Meaning of Squirrels

Reptiles Meanings

Snake: Snake Spiritual Meaning

Insect Meanings

Ant: Spiritual Meaning of Ants

Bee: Spiritual Meaning of Bees

Butterfly: Spiritual Meaning of Butterflies

Caterpillar: Spiritual meaning of caterpillars

Dragonfly: Spiritual Meaning of Dragonflies

Fly: Spiritual Meaning of Flies

Grasshopper: Spiritual meaning of grasshoppers

Moth: Spiritual Meaning of Moths

Spider: Spiritual Meaning of Spiders

Slug: Spiritual Meaning of Slugs

Wasp: Spiritual Meaning of Wasps

Birds Meanings

Overview: What does it mean when a bird visits you?

Bat: Spiritual Meaning of Bats

Crow: Spiritual Meaning of Crows

Falcon: Spiritual Meaning of Falcons

Robin: Robins Spiritual Meaning

Pigeon: Spiritual Meanings of Pigeons

Swallow: Spiritual Meaning of Swallows

Magpie: Spiritual Meaning of Magpies

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Karina, author of Tarot in 5 Minutes.

Animal Symbolism and Symbols

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