When I thought to myself about how to write a post on indigenous wisdom in our everyday lives and how it applies in my life, I didn’t quite know how to start. After all, my background is not of native, indigenous culture to the land that I now occupy. I am Irish American, yet I have found myself drawn to the deep wisdom of Native American cultures and shamanic traditions, particularly in their relationship to nature and animal symbols.
A commonality across most native cultures and shamanic healing traditions is a deep reverence for the Earth and the wildlife that inhabits it. Animal totems in Native American culture are looked at as spiritual guides or symbols representing a tribe, family or individual. Often, Native American hunters would ask permission of the spirit of the animal before the hunt and send prayers of gratitude to its spirit after taking its life. Peruvian shamanism in turn also has great reverence for nature and invokes animal allies, such as the jaquar, the hummingbird, or the eagle, in spiritual ritual to provide healing and guidance to the initiates who call upon them.
Ted Andrews writes, in his book Animal Speak: The Spiritual & Magical Powers of Creatures Great & Small:
There was a time when humanity recognized itself as part of nature, and nature as part of itself. Dreaming and waking were inseparable realities; the natural and the supernatural merged and blended. People used images of nature to express this unity and to instill a transpersonal kind of experience.