Are Totems the Same As Spirit Guides?

by Shaman Elder Maggie Wahls

Spirit guides may or may not also be totem animals. I have a spirit guide who comes to me as a white pelican. I have an elephant who is strictly a totem and not a spirit guide. A spirit guide is a teacher with something to teach you. A totem animal is often a protector, a mate to travel the Inner Worlds with who knows its way around and can get you in, to your destination and out again safely. I can ride my elephant right into the Under World and he will stop at exactly the place I need to be to effect someone's healing. When I have the healing I climb back on and he brings me right back. If anything untoward appears he can step on it with out effort and so he protects me completely. That is a totem animal.

Why an elephant? If you look up elephants you will see Elephant: Royalty, strength, ancient wisdom,patience, careful, confident, education.

No wonder I have an elephant as a totem. He represents me.Notice too that he is not a native american animal. That means something too.

Your totems choose you as you are aware. You meet a totem animal, usually in the Inner Planes but sometimes it is an animal you have a special affinity for or have seen a lot lately. I prefer to meet them on the Inner Planes in meditation or such because sometimes those animals you see a lot of in this world are bringing you a message and are not totems for you. It is easy to confuse the two.

Your totem animal can change during your life. As you grow and change your totem animals may change as well. You may have several totem animals at once. But one is a life totem and represents your basic self or personality, your essence.

Sometimes you will have a name for your totem animal. They will tell you what it is. But I don't need names for my totems. Just as my name has been many different things, so has theirs. I am not known by my name but by my essence, my spirit.

To take a tangent here, have you ever spoken to someone on the phone that you haven't met and gotten an image of what they look like? And then when you meet them they don't look like that at all? But which is correct? I think both are correct. I think we look different ways to different people and in different planes. I think we see one emanation of a person when we just know them by phone and it is as good as the physical makeup of that person. We have also lived other lives in my humble opinion and we keep some resemblance of those physical bodies in our aura as well so you might be seeing something more like that. In fact, that is often how psychics tell you about your previous lives, by the way you appear to be dressed and what you appear to be doing and what is around you. How do I know this? Hmmm...

But the totem animals always represent some quality that you already have or that you are growing into.

Spirit guides are teachers. They come to guide you in your education. They teach you things. They may have lived other lives. They may be "ascended" beings. They may be the wind or Father Sky or a guardian angel. They may be your higher self. They may be God. You decide. They can be animals or plants or trees or people. Here is another wisdom nugget, everything has three emanations or faces or appearances. We do and plants do and animals do and everything does.

When I go into the Inner Worlds for a healing for someone, I encounter some being there who is responsible for the sickness. The first face it shows me is really goofy, odd or weird and I know that is not what it really is. So I dismiss that face and ask to see its true face. The next face it shows if it is a not nice being is some ferocious grizzly nasty scary being who tries to bite me or otherwise scare me. But I am not scared because I know that is not its true face. I may have to fend it off or punch it or step on it or catch it but I am not scared of it. I dismiss it and ask to see its true face for the third time. The third time I see what it really is and if it is a not nice being it usually looks weak and small and very lacking in every department. This is the being I negotiate with.

So I know that everything has three faces. Another example is when I sit with a rock and it turns into a lily and then it becomes a butterfly and flies away. When I sit with a river and it becomes a meadow and then it is a bear walking away.

So my totem is an elephant, a white elephant and it does not change its face around me. Why? Because it represents me! It is one of my own faces! How cool! A totem is one of your own many faces. That is why some people call them "familiars".

Can we have more than three faces? Yup! Some people have hundreds of faces. But everything has at least three. And usually the three represent a plant, an animal and a being.

What is a being? A being can be anything incarnate or not incarnate. Many kinds of beings roam the Inner Worlds. Some have lived on this planet and some never have. Some have lived on other solar systems as well. Some from other universes. Some from long ago. Some from the future. But those who have never lived are usually the most difficult and the weirdest looking. So beings can be good or bad, helpful or pesky, even irresponsible and tricky. Although, I have seen beings who looked like the devil incarnate! When I looked under the three faces I have not met anything that my totem animals, spirit guides and myself could not handle. But I have had 50 years of training to get to this point, remember. It takes knowledge to work there in the Inner Worlds. It can be a dangerous place if you don't know what it is and how to work there. It takes emotional control. Some of these beings want things from you and they will try to get it any way they can.

If you lose emotional control and that means "the right use of emotions" (I don't mean refusing to show emotion), they can get you to give them something of yourself that you should not give. Bad stuff. And it takes intent, to know what you are there for and not to lose sight of that for one instant. As soon as you lose sight of your intent you forget what you are there for and then you are fair game for any being to play with you or trick you. Bad stuff. But if you take your totem animal it will drag you out of there and get you home safely anyways. It also takes impeccability. You must become impeccable with yourself in all areas and impeccable as a hunter warrior to work within these dimensions. Read my article on impeccability at I cannot stress the importance of being impeccable enough.

I learned these things in a hard way living with some really crazy Shamans and using their methods of journeying that were certainly not safe and sometimes very dangerous. I took journeys to places I should not have been using very strong hallucinogenics in South America and I saw things that would scare the wits out of anyone. I got lost in the Inner Worlds without a totem to pull me out. The Shaman had to reach in and grab me as I was being attacked. More than once my Shamans had to pull grizzly things off my body that were sucking on me. I once got completely lost and wandered around for weeks in a dark and desolate place I never want to see again. I teach this course in this way so you don't have to go through what I went through. I am the kind and gentle teacher, I hope.

Your spirit guides will help teach you intent, emotional control, knowledge and impeccability if you allow them to. Remember it is always your free will to learn or not to learn. But don't travel to the Inner Worlds if you have not mastered the skills necessary to be safe there and to do your work there. And never go there just out of curiosity. There are too many discarnate beings waiting for you to come there unaware so they can get what they can get from you. They can be tricky and sly and even devious. They want your gong and will do anything to get it. Not all of them but enough to be very careful. Even one bee is enough to stay away from. It doesn't take a pack of grizzly bears to kill