Spirit Animal: What It Is, Its Historical Roots, and more

Rishika Dange
9 Min Read
spirit animal

Let us be real.

All of us, at some point in life, have been asked: Hey, what’s your Spirit Animal?

And, many of us just got to know about this term for the first time.

Well, that might be the reason you are here. And, fortunately, you are in the right place.

Have you ever wondered what a spirit animal is?

The concept of the term “spirit animals” has been around for centuries and appears in many different cultures worldwide. It’s an ancient aspect of spirituality, but one that we still use today.

In this blog post, I’m going to explain what exactly a spirit animal is and discuss relevant important aspects. We will delve deeper into the history of the term spirit animals and try to find its roots.

Starting by setting it straight for you.

Also Read: 15 Spirit Animals- Their Meaning and Symbolism

What Is A Spirit Animal?

Essentially, Spirit Animal is a representation of an animal spirit guide that symbolizes the key qualities or characteristics of a person’s personality.

Spirit Animals are often believed to be messengers from the spiritual realm, here to help us understand ourselves and make sense of our lives better.

It can offer guidance, wisdom, comfort, healing, and protection in times of need.

what is a spirit animal

So rather than being an actual animal itself, Spirit Animal is more like a reflection of your inner self reflecting through its qualities or characteristics.

Spirit Animal acts as a powerful tool for understanding one’s personality and discovering elements in life you may have not been aware of before.

Origin Of The Idea Of Spirit Animal

The term Spirit Animal has its origins in Native American culture and belief systems.

The concept of Spirit Animals derives from the understanding that animals have an innate power to help humans connect Spiritually, mentally, and emotionally.

Many popular beliefs also suggest that the term is rooted in the idea of Animism. But, what is Animism?

origin of the idea of spirit animals

Animism accoridng to Peter P. Schweitzer:

“Animism – It is accepted wisdom that all facets of nature, from human beings and animals to plants and rocks, lakes, mountains, storms – everything – contain a spirit or soul which animates them.” –

Peter Schweitzer explains in the International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences (Second Edition), 2015.

In various ancient civilizations and religious customs, people have a strong conviction that selected creatures can bridge the spiritual plane.

This bond provides vital knowledge to your personal journey.

Generally, such creatures are recognized for their born leadership capabilities and profound spiritual wisdom.

Across many different cultures, it is thought that the animal you admire most reflects your core values and true identity. Totem poles are often used to visually encapsulate this belief.

Spirit Animals – Culture, History, & Anthropology

history of spirit animals

Spirit Animals have been a part of the culture and beliefs of many ancient cultures from all around the world. In fact, the idea has been there from the initial stages of human civilization.

The initial idea has always been considering animals as holy deities. The association of animals with the divine realm has existed for centuries.

In fact, in many religions and cultures animals are godly beings. How interesting is that!

Let us explore spirit animals in the cultural context and briefly through Anthropology.

The Idea Of Spirit Animals In Anthropology

Some anthropologists argue that the Paleolithic cave paintings famously discovered in southwestern France were likely offerings to animal deities, possibly as prayers for help with hunting or expressions of gratitude.

These artworks may have been an early form of communication between humans and nature’s spirits.

Moreover, this thought that early humans were communicating with divine animals is similar to how we now refer to spirit animals.

idea of spirit animals In anthropology

Spirit Animals For Native Americans

Many Native American cultures believed that animals had a special bond to the various tribes, signifying more than just physical presence.

For many Native Americans, their spirit animal was believed to be a divine source of protection and guidance.

These individuals would often receive signs or signals in the form of dreams that revealed who they were most connected with spiritually.

Japanese Shintoism And Spirit Animals

The Japanese belief in spirit animals is closely linked to Shintoism. It is the traditional religion of Japan which dates back over two thousand years ago.

Animals have often been considered the physical embodiment of Shinto gods and are widely believed to serve as protectors from malevolent spirits. As a result, it’s typical for one to find animal statues or images adorning shrines.

These animals are commonly referred to as the Three Notable Animals Of The Shinto Shrines. The three animals are a fox, a lion-dog, and a dove.

The Idea Of Spirit Animals For Celtics

The Celts firmly believed about animals that their lives were safeguarded by animal deities such as wolves, griffins, and deer. That’s how the idea of spirit animals was shaped for them.

To secure the support of these divine creatures during battles, warriors oftentimes wore horns or adorned themselves with animal skins. For them, it was a way to bring forth the power of ancestral spirits and ensure success in battle.

Difference Between Spirit Animal, Totem Animal, And Power Animal

These three terms are most used interchangeably. Although, the three terms kind of mean the same thing, they are different.

The meanings of these words have intertwined, causing a tangled mess that must be unraveled.

difference between spirit animal totem animal and power animal

Let me quickly disfurnish them for you with brief explanations.

Spirit Animal

Spirit animals are like divine spiritual helpers that come to us through dreams, visions, and other ways. It connects you with your subconscious and has deep personal meaning.


Your Totem Animal reflects your true essence. Totem is more of an animal ‘ally’ chosen by the individual either consciously or unconsciously which they feel closely connected with. It is more of a representation of your character than it is an inner guide. 

Power Animal

The “Power Animal” is a spiritual type of energy that you summon from within or invoke for assistance in a certain situation.

You can maintain this energy within you for the entirety of your life, or merely when necessary. Power Animanls provide protection and guidance in the physical world or during a shamanic journey.

Read more about Shamanism.

Final Note – Should You Believe In The Idea Of Spirit Animals?

The answer to this question is entirely up to you. Spirit animals can help bring us guidance and clarity, but at the end of the day, it all comes down to how strongly you believe in them.

If you’re looking for a more spiritual connection with nature, exploring spirit animals could be an interesting option!

Spirit animals have been part of human culture for centuries and will likely continue to fascinate us for years to come. There’s no harm in giving it a try – who knows what kind of insight or advice your spirit animal may provide?

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