Terms like ‘Power Animal’, ‘Totem Animal’, ‘Spirit Animal’, ‘Animal Guide’, and ‘Animal Helper’ are often used interchangeably by shamanic practitioners (and in New Age circles too). In shamanism, they usually refer to animals we meet, often in shamanic journeys, who help by teaching and healing us.
In addition, these animals can help us connect more deeply to nature and to the other-than-human community. In doing so, they can help us heal our Power-Loss. In the practice of Therapeutic Shamanism, whilst we meet and get to know many such animals, we reserve the term Power Animal for an especially deep bond, and refer to other animals as Animal Guides or Animal Helpers instead.
Think of the difference between friends (Animal Guides/Helpers) and a lifelong, committed, deep soul bond (our Power Animal). Some friends/Guides may be fleeting acquaintances. Others are friendships that will last months or years, and some may even last a lifetime, and become very dear to you. The relationship with a Power Animal, however, is of a whole different level of depth, intensity, loyalty, and love. In Therapeutic Shamanism, cultivating this relationship is at the very heart of our practice, in that our Power Animal becomes our greatest shamanic teacher, guide, protector, and companion.