Working with Totems Part 3

Working with Totems

Author: Robert Oakes

Totems animal spirits are an invaluable ally not only when dealing with spirit realms, but also when trying to understand life lessons.

Understanding that animal spirits choose to work with humans both in spiritual and mundane matters can be highly beneficial.

Part 1 of this article looked at recognizing the various types of totems, while part 2 addressed finding a personal totem. Part 3 will cover working with the totems in daily life, and part 4 will deal with interacting with the totem.

Greatest Strength, Greatest Challenge

A primary totem can point out the greatest strengths someone carries, as well as their areas of greatest challenge. Often this is two sides of the same coin, as the weakest area can turn into their strength if they do their work. For example, let’s say someone’s primary totem is elk. One of the aspects of elk medicine is stamina and strength. Now this person just so happens to have a chronic health condition that causes fatigue and exhaustion. By turning to elk medicine in times of greatest challenge, they will come to develop deep wells of inner strength and resiliency. By working through this issue they will not only come out much stronger than they started, but also will be able to go on much longer than anyone around them. Their greatest challenge became their greatest strength.

Animal Behavior

Ethology is the study of animal behavior. By learning about animal behavior, a person can get great insight into the medicine of a totem. Knowledge about animal behavior not only develops insight into the totem, but into the person working with that totem as well. How the animal behaves in the wild relates to how the person will work with that totem medicine in terms of interpersonal relations, adversity and daily life routines.


Although it is a generalization, people do tend to eat according to the active totem in their life. If the animal is a carnivore, then they will probably need to eat meat at least from time to time. Hoof clans tend to be grazers and will snack throughout the day. Wolves will gorge themselves at one sitting and might not eat for a long while. Bears will eat everything in sight and still look in the fridge for more.

Power Times and Environment

The totem’s natural energy cycle will influence the holder of that medicine. What time of day or year is the totem most active? What type of climate do they like? When is their mating time? When is their birthing time? What part of the year represents their greatest challenge? These are all things that come into play in a person’s life when working with a primary totem.


Totems influence daily interpersonal interactions. This can be in intimate relationships, business transactions and family life. Understanding how the primary totem acts socially will give clues to how the person carrying that medicine will behave. This is covered in greater detail in the article on totems and relationships.


One of the most powerful ways a totem can assist is in the form of protection. Just simply asking the totem for protection is recognized as a powerful defense in most pagan cultures. This might be protection from spirit based forces, or from more immediate physical threats.

Life Path

The type of totem gives interesting clues to life path and purpose. As mentioned in part 1, totems can be indicative of a certain type of medicine. Some basic examples of this would be:

  • Wolf – teacher, pathfinder
  • Bear – healer
  • Cougar – leadership
  • Elk – spirit messengers
  • Eagle or Buffalo – prayer work
  • Coyote – trickster teacher

Overall a totem will point to major work that person has come into this life to fulfill. Ted Andrews’ Animal Speak, Jamie Sams’Medicine Cards, or Philip and Stephanie Carr-Gomm’s Druid Animal Oracle would all be good places to start learning about specific totem medicines.


Animal Speak; The Spiritual and Magical Powers of Creatures Great and Small, Ted Andrews, Llewellyn Publications ,1996

The Once Unknown Familiar; Shamanic Paths to Unleash Your Animal Powers, Timothy Roderick, Llewellyn Publications ,1994

Medicine Cards; the Discovery of Power Animals through the Ways of Animals, Jamie Sams, St Martin Press, 1999

Druid Animal Oracle, Philip and Stephanie Carr-Gomm, Fireside, 1995

Types of Totems Part 2

Types of Totems

Author: Robert Oakes

Totems form an integral part of most pagan and shamanic paths. Learning how to recognize these different types of animal spirits is highly beneficial.

Totems are animal spirits and energies that protect, guide, heal, and teach. Although the terminology changes from teacher to teacher, there are similarities. Totems can be any number of animals, extinct species, or even mythical creatures. When talking about totems, it is in reference to the animal’s energy in spirit, as well as the physical form it may take on.

Part 1 of this article will look at recognizing the types of totems, while part 2 will address finding a personal totem. Part 3 will cover working with the totems in daily life, and part 4 will deal with interacting with the totem.

Types of Totems

The number of totems active is variable depending on the individual and circumstances. In general though, everyone will have a primary totem. Some people might also call this a clan, power animal, or animal guide. Names do change with different systems, but this is the main totem active from their birth until their death.

In addition to this main totem, the average person will have another half a dozen or so throughout their life. These situational totems come in to teach or protect during a time of challenge or change. A shaman may work with many more totems than this, and it is not uncommon for someone on the shamanic path to work with 20 or 30 totems.

Totem Protectors

The main totem might also form part of the individual’s defense, or there might be specific totems that come to their aid in times of danger. In general, predator totems such as cougar, tiger, wolf, bear, badger, and wolverine would be aggressive protectors to call upon. Some totems that people wouldn’t consider to be aggressive are actually strong fighters; dolphins are known to attack sharks, and elk have been known to kill or injure an attacking wolf.

Healer, Teacher, and Leadership Totems

If an individual is involved in healing work, they will usually attract specific totems to assist them. Most common to this type of work are bears, although many other totems do this work.

Teaching is another level that totems work on. This might be a personal teaching that the individual needs to learn, or it might be that teaching work is a life path. Wolf is an example of a teacher totem.

Leadership brings it own challenges, and a totem might be attracted to assist. Learning the appropriate use of power is a difficult skill, so a totem such as cougar might be brought in to teach these lessons. This would double as a protector when the position of leadership creates a target out of the individual.

Relationship Totems

Even a relationship with a spouse or family might have its own totem. This totem might be a protector, or it might be there to teach about patterns. Wolf and goose are both relationship type totems.

Totems Dealing with Transformation

During difficult times of change, totems can be an important guide. This might be through a death, divorce, change in life path, or shamanic death rebirth cycle. Common transformational totems would be bats, owls, snakes, and butterflies.

Of course there is also traditional role of a totem in that they can be a guide through the spirit realms. Common totems for traveling work are horses, birds, turtles, and anything that flies or swims.

Primary Totem

As mentioned, the primary totem is active throughout life. This totem tends to sum up the general traits of the person as well. It will give an overview on their personality, strengths, challenges, and the way they deal with success and adversity.


Animal Speak; The Spiritual and Magical Powers of Creatures Great and Small, Ted Andrews, Llewellyn Publications ,1996

The Once Unknown Familiar; Shamanic Paths to Unleash Your Animal Powers, Timothy Roderick, Llewellyn Publications ,1994

Medicine Cards; the Discovery of Power Animals through the Ways of Animals, Jamie Sams, St Martin Press, 1999

Druid Animal Oracle, Philip and Stephanie Carr-Gomm, Fireside, 1995

Finding a Totem

Finding a Totem

Author: Robert Oakes

How does someone find their totem? Using both traditional and innovative techniques, anyone can find their totem animal spirits.

The first step in working with a totem is to find out which totem is present in the person’s life. It is usually best to start with the main totem or primary power animal. These are different words to describe basically the same thing, and will depend more on the teacher or tradition’s vocabulary.

Part 1 of this article looked at recognizing the various types of totems, while part 2 will address finding a personal totem. Part 3 will cover working with the totems in daily life, and part 4 will deal with interacting with the totem.

Traditional Method of Finding Totems

In traditional culture, the shaman would enter the spirit world to find someone’s totem animal. Some traditions use the clan system, where the major totem would be inherited or more commonly these days adopted into.

If access to a traditional shamanic culture is not possible, then either journey work or hypno-trance can be used to find the totem. This can be done with someone that is qualified to lead journey work (shamanic trance), or with the use of self guided visualization CDs or scripts.

Totem Dreams

It is common that a totem will make itself known through dreams, or even real life encounters. It is normal that these dreams and encounters can be scary or challenging. Often a totem will test the person to see if they are strong enough to carry their medicine. Being bitten, scratched, chased, attacked by an animal can often represent a test by the totem. This is especially true for predator totems. When the person is able to work past the fear, the totem accepts them and offers support.

Dreams can also be incubated by asking the totem to appear in the dream. It would be appropriate to make an offering to honor that totem and to set the intention. The offering could be as simple as a tobacco tie offering, lighting a candle, or making a feast.

Animal Connection

Affinity is another way to be aware of totems. Some people just have a natural attraction for an animal. They have pictures and sculptures of them around their house, and love observing them in the wild. Be aware of what animals draw the attention on a daily basis.

Honoring Totems

Once the totem has shown itself, it is a good idea to honor that in some way. Examples of honoring would be having a small altar or space dedicated to that totem. Pictures, sculpture, track casts, fur, bones, candles, and food are all common items, but bottom line is that it has to mean something to the person making the offering. Anything that comes from the heart is appropriate.

Feasts are a common way of honoring in traditional community. If bear is a totem, then having a feast when they hibernate in the fall and when they wake up in the spring is appropriate. Serving berries and fish would be a natural connection to the bear totem. Putting a small spirit plate of part of the feast outside for the animals, or offering it to the fire with a prayer is also part of many traditional feasts.

A more practical way to honor a totem is to support their physical incarnations. If eagles are the totem, consider helping an eagle rehab or conservation project. For a deer clan, maybe it is setting up a feeder to get them through the winter.

Part 3 will look at the teachings totems bring to everyday life.


Animal Speak; The Spiritual and Magical Powers of Creatures Great and Small, Ted Andrews, Llewellyn Publications ,1996

The Once Unknown Familiar; Shamanic Paths to Unleash Your Animal Powers, Timothy Roderick, Llewellyn Publications ,1994

Medicine Cards; the Discovery of Power Animals through the Ways of Animals, Jamie Sams, St Martin Press, 1999

Druid Animal Oracle, Philip and Stephanie Carr-Gomm, Fireside, 1995

Wiccan Home Altar

Wiccan Home Altar

Author: Joanne E. Brannan

A Wiccan Home Altar may feature the Magickal Tools Athame, Chalice and Wand. It is used to perform rituals and Magick, and for quiet spiritual reflection.

A Wiccan Home Altar is a very personal place, and should be created to reflect the Magickal practitioner. Although Wiccan Symbolism may be used to guide the choice of items to place on the altar, personal instinct and creativity should always be paramount.

What to place on a Wiccan Home Altar

Traditional Magickal Tools that may be used include an Athame (a ritual blade), a Chalice, a Wand and a Statue of the Goddess. Other items include fresh flowers or herbs, natural sea salt, crystals or carved symbols, but the choice is truly only limited by the imagination!

Use an Altar cloth of a natural fabric such as silk, cotton or linen, perhaps choosing the color to reflect the season and its Wiccan festivals.

Wiccan Athame

It is important to note that the Wiccan Athame is not used for physical cutting! The Athame is a masculine symbol, used to harness and direct power in spells and rituals. As with all Magickal Tools it is important to select an Athame with feeling and intuition. It is perfectly acceptable to order Magickal tools by mail, but do reflect and meditate well on the choice before buying.

Wiccan Chalice

A Wiccan Chalice may be simple, or elaborate, to suit the Magickal Practitioner.

Fill your Wiccan Chalice with a natural beverage to symbolize fertility and the feminine. Suitable choices, dependant on the season, include apple juice or fresh milk.

Wiccan Wand

A Wiccan Wand is a key Magickal Tool. A Wand may be purchased or made by the Magickal practitioner him or herself. See Beverly Hill’s lovely article Create Your Own Magical Tools for detailed instructions on how to make a wand.

Statue of the Goddess

An expression of the sacred feminine, a statue of the goddess may be a focus for meditation and reflection on the enormity of the spiritual world, as well as being reminder of the simple everyday generosity of Nature.

Where to place a Wiccan Home Altar

A Wiccan Home Altar may be a permanent or temporary structure, according to the space available. Possibilities include a shelf, a table or simply a cloth to be laid out on a bed. It is also important to consider the level of support offered by those who share the home of the Wiccan practitioner as it is essential to feel safe, and not to be disturbed, while carrying out spells and rituals.

Size and permanence do not affect the power of the Wiccan Altar; rather it is the intention and will of the Magickal worker while carrying out spells and rituals that manifest the power and sanctuary of this sacred space.

Create Your Own Magical Tools

Create Your Own Magical Tools

Author: Beverly Hill

Practitioners of magic know the value of having a finely crafted magical tool for spell work. Learn how to create your own magical stave or wand.

The decision to create a wand or stave should not be made impulsively. Each magical tool must have a clear purpose behind its creation. A wand, for instance, is a focusing tool for drawing in and directing magical energy. A stave’s purpose could be similar, or it might consist of a more protective nature used for radiating protective energies around it’s wielder. Whatever the purpose, the magical tool should be constructed in a respectful manner.

Selecting Wood For Crafting Magical Tools

The choice to use live or dead wood is a hotly debated topic amongst many practitioners of magic. Some would say that you should never use live wood, while others would contend that dead wood lacks any energy to lend toward a magical working. Ultimately the decision to use live or dead wood will lie with the tool wielder’s own beliefs and personal path.

When selecting a wood for creating a wand or stave, take time to review the magical properties of wood species and select one that will be consistent with the type of magic the wand will be used for. The lunar phase should also be noted. Most new projects should be begun on a new moon and culminate by the full moon.

If collecting from a live tree, ask the tree for permission before making any cuts. Take only enough of the tree to create the desired tool, being careful not to cause any additional damage or trauma to the tree. It is customary to leave a small token or offering in appreciation of the sacrifice.

Creating a Magical Wand or Stave

A good goal for a wand is to have a relatively straight piece of wood that measures from wrist to elbow, and then adjust the size downward from there. Using a piece of fine grain sandpaper, sand off any rough areas along the wood. It is not necessary to remove the bark from the wand, but it may be done if desired.

Once sanded, wipe down the wood with a good mineral or wood oil and then set aside. Each time the wood begins to dry, oil it again and set it aside. It could take several days for the wood to dry from repeated oiling before it finally stops soaking it in. The oiling process helps preserve the wood and keep it from drying out and becoming brittle.

A stave length should be no higher than head height, and may be shortened to whatever feels most comfortable for the practitioner. The stave should be sanded and oiled just as with the wand construction. When the stave or wand is sufficiently dry to the touch, finishing touches may be added such as the carving of runes and symbols, or the mounting of stones.

To seat a crystal into the tip of the wand, choose a crystal that is slightly smaller in diameter than the wood. Carefully bore out a small hole and fill it with gem glue. Insert the largest end of the crystal into the hole and tape it securely until dry. After the glue is dry, remove the tape. From this point wire wrap can be used to better secure the crystal to the wand if desired, or it can be left plain.

During all steps of construction, keep in mind the purpose for constructing a magical tool. Once the wand or stave construction is finished, it can be formally dedicated if the practitioner so desires. Wipe the wood with a fresh bit of oil every few months to help preserve it, and it will last for years to come.

How To Become A Witch

How To Become A Witch
in Nine Easy Lessons

By Don McLeod

Please note that this page is in the Humor section of this site and is not meant to be an accurate or actual depiction of witches. Duh.

In the 1980s, it was fashionable to be interested in the New Age. This is now a dreadful faux pas within the alternative scene, and in order to be accepted in the current metaphysical social set, one must have an interest in witchcraft or paganism. Of course, you don’t have to actually belong to a coven to be thought of as a witch; you can bluff your way into being accepted as a full-fledged witch simply by knowing a few terms and dressing accordingly. This brings us to…

Rule # 1: Image is Everything.

After all, what’s the good of being a witch if nobody knows you are one? You must therefore wear black at all times. If possible, stay out of the sun until you become really pale, as this makes the effect even better. For women (and adventurous males), dark eyeliner and black nail polish can enhance this look. Wear crystals and cheap occult paraphernalia at all times, and make sure that these are as gaudy and bizarre as possible, as this can only help your image. Wearing a pentacle around your neck is an absolutely necessary accessory – the bigger the better! Capes and cloaks are optional around town – it depends on how much of a visual impact you want to make, but either of these are also crucial apparel at any ritual or gathering that you may attend.

Rule # 2: Name Dropping is Good.

Every serious student of the craft (and I’m talking here about the term for witchcraft, not macrame) knows the name Gerald Gardner. This man revitalised witchcraft in the 1950s with his book about the true history of The Old Religion (some have called this book pure fiction, but only those picky few who like books to be based on facts). Real witches however, never let historical accuracy get in the way of their spiritual path, so in conversations with other witches, drop his name as often as possible (in tones of awe) and you will always be rewarded with smiles of acceptance.

Rule # 3: Past Life Name Dropping is Even Better.

Tell everyone about the past life memories that have been surfacing since you began studying the Black Arts. It is especially useful to remember a past lifetime as a witch who was killed during the Inquisition, or at least recall a lifetime as a famous occultist. My past lives have included Aleister Crowley, Cagliostro, Mandrake the Magician, and most of the cast of Bewitched.

Rule # 4: Behave Strangely.

Never forget why it was that you wanted to become a witch – yes, so that you have an excuse for strange behaviour. Behavior patterns previously labeled “eccentric” can now be accepted by others if they have a reason to explain them, even if that reason for howling at full moons while naked is simply, “He/she is a Witch. That’s normal for them, evidently.” So don’t let your friends down – behave strangely. You can get away with it now.

Rule # 5: Watch Occult Movies.

Make sure that you watch the movie Warlock lots of times to perfect those soft landings after over-indulging with the flying ointments (read as mead and weed).

Rule # 6: Ready Yourself for Sex, Money and Power.

Wasn’t this the other reason you were drawn to witchcraft? In the past, Adepts of the occult were known to possess charismatic, lusty, and powerful personas. When people find out that you are a witch, they may automatically assume you have (and therefore empower you with) these same qualities. This may sound pretty good, but unfortunately, in today’s world, another group of people have become even more established within the realms of kinky sex sessions and unlimited power – yes, the politicians! Beware of this elitist group of power-brokers… they don’t want any competition to their manipulative monopoly over the gullible public, hence the laws against witchcraft and divination that have remained unchanged for centuries. So, if calling yourself a High Priest doesn’t lead you to unlimited sex, money and power – or if it does, but you then find yourself as the target of political and legal harassment ‘ you may have to put aside your cloak and broomstick and pick up a pinstriped suit and a back bench in Parliament. If you can’t beat them, try bribery, then if that doesn’t work… join them!

Rule # 7: Atmosphere is Essential.

Your home must reflect your witchy nature. Incense must burn continuously. It’s important that visitors see clouds of incense smoke billowing from a spluttering censer in the corner of your dim, dank, and dusty home, so dismantle the smoke detectors and start collecting strange little bottles of exotic looking ingredients (use your imagination and label them with names like powdered bat’s eyes, or dried dragon’s gonads). And if you don’t like housework, you can explain that the layer of dust that covers your floors and furniture helps to neutralise the highly charged psychic energy that results from your magical spells, thereby protecting your home and possessions from electromagnetic disintegration.

Rule # 8: Be Patronising to Christians.

In social discussions, don’t forget to make plenty of derogatory remarks about fundamentalist Christians, and remember to save your most biting comments for other witches that you don’t get along with.

Rule # 9: Brag About Your Psychic Powers.

Any self-respecting witch will tell you that after their initiation to witchcraft, their psychic powers awakened and their tarot cards (which they always carry with them) are now much easier to read (they now get something right once in a while). They will also tell you that they can now sense energy fields (in other words, they don’t bump into things as often as they used to). Follow this example and brag about the rapid development of your psychic abilities since your initiation. If asked about your initiation ceremony, simply state that you were sworn to secrecy about it, then quickly change the subject by mentioning your newly awakened ability to detect Ley lines, but try to remember that a Ley line is not a queue for the after-ritual orgy!

Now you know how to pass yourself off as a real Witch, so place that broomstick in a conspicuous corner (one that is not clouded by too much incense smoke); pull on those black clothes; give everyone that you meet a sinister look – and your social status will improve overnight. If you do all of this successfully, you may even find yourself with enough adoring acolytes so that you can start your own coven! Good luck and Blessed Be!

A Charm To Turn Aside Evil And Ill Fortune

A Charm To Turn Aside Evil And Ill Fortune

The mountain ash or rowan tree has long been honored for its power against evil forces. It should ever be treated with respect, that its favor be not turned against the one who employs its strength. In late summer, when the tree is heavy with red fruit (the yellow variety is of a weaker influence), seek out one branch that leans toward the south, and shake it gently until it shall let fall four berries. Gather these up, and also take four of the leaves, carry all indoors, and soon build a fire of good birch or apple wood upon your hearth. When the blaze is ripe and golden, cast one of the rowan berries into the flames, along with one of the leaves, saying this:
Virtue is mine, as of this tree
Beware the fire I cast at thee
Cast in the second berry, and a leaf, saying:
Wisdom is mine, as of this tree
Beware the fire I cast at thee
Cast in the third, both berry and leaf, saying:
Power is mine, as of this tree
Beware the fire I cast at thee
Take then the fourth leaf and fruit, and roast them slowly in an iron pot over the fire until they are dried and blackened. Cool them, and wrap their remains in a red cloth, which charm should soon be buried in the Earth near your threshold. Thus it shall protect the house and those who dwell therein from whatever evil emanations might dare to stray too near.
Crone’s Book Of Charms & Spells
Valerie Worth
ISBN 1-56718-811-7

Casting Simple Candle Spells

Casting Simple Candle Spells

The light and warmth of a candle’s flame provides one of our most powerful connections to fire – the element of creativity, life and health.

Remember the first time you made a wish as you blew out the candles on a birthday cake? As a child you believed your wish would come true and had an innocent faith that something magickal would happen. You probably didn’t realize it, but as you visualized the end result (making a wish), concentrated upon it (blowing out the candle) and hoped your wish would be granted, you were casting your very first candle spell.

Paper, Ribbons and scents can also be combined with candles to cast simple spells.

Getting Started:

Candle magick is very simple – but highly effective. From the tealights that warm your essential oil burner, to the romantic candles on your dinner table, you probably have everything you need in your house already. All that needs to be added is the knowledge of how to choose the appropriate candles for your purpose and how to use it to weave magick.

The Magickal Power Of Candles:

Colour – As candles give out light, their power lies partially in the visual realm of the colour spectrum. As colours have strong magickal associations, choosing the appropriate one for your candle can help to strengthen the power of your wish.

Transformation – Fire holds the power of transformation and purification. It can burn away your bad habits and carry your good intentions out into the world in its smoke.

Connection – People all across the world have lit candles for centuries. Close your eyes as you light yours and feel yourself connecting to your neighbours and ancestors.

Author Unknown