Developing Symbolic Communication with Animals
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Developing Symbolic Communication with Animals

An excerpt from Animal Medicine

Developing Symbolic Communication with Animals

Developing Symbolic Communication with Animals

An excerpt from Animal Medicine

Editor’s note: We’re excited to share an excerpt from Erika Buenaflor’s latest release, Animal Medicine: A Curanderismo Guide to Shapeshifting, Journeying, and Connecting with Animal Allies—available now from Bear & Company. (This excerpt is taken from a chapter by the same title and has been edited for length.)

Like Buenaflor’s other books, Animal Medicine weaves together academic research about ancient Mesoamerica, meaningful activities that help you develop your spiritual and intuitive awareness, and stories of lived experience from Buenaflor’s modern-day curanderismo practice. What I especially love about the book (and Buenaflor’s perspective in general) is that it’s not just about what we humans can get, take, or gain from non-human animals through spiritual practice, but also what we can give and how we can share. Animal Medicine is an ofrenda of love and respect for ancestral traditions and the more-than-human world we inhabit. Find links to purchase a copy of the book here and at the end of the selection. —Ed.

DEVELOPING SYMBOLIC COMMUNICATION systems with animals can be exciting and informative and help us to advance our spiritual growth and awareness. It can take place in the physical third dimension or in the nonordinary realms* and can be used for many diverse purposes, including obtaining and understanding animals’ spiritual counseling and guidance; seeing and comprehending more layers of a past, present, or future circumstance; and understanding our subconscious and unconscious primal instincts, fears, and desires. The development of this communication system presumes that we are doing so with an animal we feel some kind of spiritual connection to or an animal we feel we cannot ignore for whatever reason.

Ways to Develop Animal Symbolic Communication

An integral aspect in developing a symbolic communication method with an animal guide is courting: either we are courting them or they are courting us. Animals, like humans, are susceptible to energy and will pick up on when we are trying to connect with them, especially if we are enjoying it. 

When we choose a way to connect with them, such as inviting them to guide us during our meditations, we place attention and energy toward this method of communication. They may then appear to us in our mind’s eye or in the physical world with a message, when we are in the following meditative states of consciousness—taking a meditative introspective walk, sitting down meditating, or doing house chores while in a relaxed mindset. Trust that whatever method of communication you choose to use, it will be picked up energetically by an animal guide you have allowed yourself to open up to.

The process for developing animal symbolic communication includes the following techniques: 

  • Familiarizing yourself with the animal
  • Gaining insight into the symbolic meaning via intuitive energy surges
  • Developing intuition to comprehend symbolic meanings
  • Practicing shamanic dreamwork
  • Practicing automatic writing
  • Becoming familiar with the animal’s mythological symbolic discourse
  • Strengthening the energy lines of communication

Familiarizing Yourself with the Animal

One of the most practical and useful methods for developing a symbolic communication is to learn about the animal—its physical attributes, natural habits, and instincts—and focusing on anything in particular that catches your attention. Look at pictures of the animal as well, especially those that show them doing whatever stood out to you in your research. The internet is a great way to quickly research the habits, appearances, patterns, and traits of animals and to start to discern what stands out to you about them.

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Knowing the natural traits of the animal can often help you interpret and make sense of what you saw the animal doing and what it looked like and where it was when it was doing it. If you saw, for example, a nocturnal animal engaging in one of its typically nocturnal activities during the day, whether you saw it in a dream or a waking state, it is more than likely that the animal has an urgent message for you. Another example is if you saw an animal that looked larger in her belly than most animals that you saw in your research, it would prompt you to find images of what that animal looks like when it’s pregnant. If you confirm that the animal is pregnant, then you know that it has a message for you concerning the birth of something.

While I may provide insight as to the symbolic meanings of animals in the second part of [Animal Medicine], I encourage you to focus on the animal’s natural characteristics and what it is doing when you see it (however you may see it). I highly recommend doing this before you research the spiritual symbolism of the animal. Learning about the animal first typically helps to strengthen our connection and bond with it, allows the message it has for us to unfold in multifaceted ways, helps us trust our intuition and the messages we receive, and encourages us to develop our own modes of communication with our animal guides.

Animals are generally very telepathic. If they believe that you understand the message they are trying to convey to you, they will communicate with you substantially more and be willing to engage in more forms of symbolic communication to convey different messages. For instance, pay particular attention to what an animal is doing or carrying when it approaches you. If it is carrying something in its mouth, you can thank it for delivering a message to you verbally or internally. Unless you have a different symbolic communication developed with that animal, the delivered message will be related to the symbolic meanings of that animal, which typically have to do with the animal’s natural instincts and habits.

If you feel connected with the animal, you can ask it to deliver a certain message to you by appearing and doing something related to its natural instincts and habits. For instance, when I see a large flock of crows or parrots, I know they bring messages of abundance and great fortune—crows bring divine guidance and parrots fiscal-related abundance.

[...]

Strengthening the Energy Lines of Communication

When we begin to make an effort to learn more about our animal spirit guides, they typically respond by making more appearances in dreams, trance journeys, or the physical realm. To strengthen the energy lines of communication with your animal guides, do any of the following: 

  • Continue to meditate on or take a trance journey focusing and inviting them into your life.
  • Place an image of them on your altar or in your office or home.
  • If they leave a gift for you, such as a skin or feather, place this item on your altar or in a place you feel is sacred.
  • If you see the animal in the physical, greet it and talk or sing to it. Animals tend to love when we sing to them or about them.
  • Find out what the animal likes to eat and leave this out for them.
  • Create a song, poem, or story for or about them. (I made up a sweet little song about crow one evening, and the next morning on my hike, there was a beautiful crow feather on the trail at my feet.)
  • Create a mask of its face or wear regalia representing it and engage in ceremony with these items.
  • Learn more about the nuances of how it adapts and survives in its environment. If it happens to be your animal coessence [one with which we share a soul energy signature, typically since birth], you probably share similar survival traits.
  • Dance with your animal, and let it dance through you.
  • Ask the animal to help you in areas that it is particularly skilled at. For example, eagles are known for their bravery and courage. If this is an area you need help in, invite them into your life, and thank them for helping you with this challenge.

[...]

Notes

*From Chapter 1: “The ancient Mesoamericans commonly divided the world into two forms: a quadripartite form, which was horizontally organized into four cardinal spaces with a center in the middle, and a tripartite form, which was a vertical division of the nonordinary realms of Underworld, Middleworld, and Upperworld. Each nonordinary realm had its own division and ordering; sacred gifts, insight, challenges, and medicine; and deities, ancestors, supernatural beings, and animals that were associated with it (and sometimes other realms as well).”

The top image is one of a resplendent quetzal. According to Buenaflor, the quetzal carries the “spiritual and shapeshifting medicine” of “majesty, shamanism, prosperity, and leadership.”


Excerpt from: Animal Medicine: A Curanderismo Guide to Shapeshifting, Journeying, and Connecting with Animal Allies by Erika Buenaflor, M.A., J.D., © 2021 Bear & Company. Printed with permission from the publisher Inner Traditions International. www.InnerTraditions.com

Notes

*From Chapter 1: “The ancient Mesoamericans commonly divided the world into two forms: a quadripartite form, which was horizontally organized into four cardinal spaces with a center in the middle, and a tripartite form, which was a vertical division of the nonordinary realms of Underworld, Middleworld, and Upperworld. Each nonordinary realm had its own division and ordering; sacred gifts, insight, challenges, and medicine; and deities, ancestors, supernatural beings, and animals that were associated with it (and sometimes other realms as well).”

The top image is one of a resplendent quetzal. According to Buenaflor, the quetzal carries the “spiritual and shapeshifting medicine” of “majesty, shamanism, prosperity, and leadership.”


Excerpt from: Animal Medicine: A Curanderismo Guide to Shapeshifting, Journeying, and Connecting with Animal Allies by Erika Buenaflor, M.A., J.D., © 2021 Bear & Company. Printed with permission from the publisher Inner Traditions International. www.InnerTraditions.com

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