Certain spirit animals are showing up a lot right now—here’s what they mean

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I’m about as woo-woo-friendly as an evidence-based person can be (crystals and reiki and lunar cycles, oh my!), but I never really understood the whole “spirit animal” thing. I havn’t had dreams where, say, a bear was trying to tell me something. And the eye of the tiger is something I really only feel during karaoke, to be honest. But when I moved out to the country—about two hours north of New York City, in the Catskills—I did start to get the feeling that (bear with me here) the animals were trying to connect with me. And more than anything, it scared the hell out of me.

First came the turkeys. One day last fall, I walked out of my house to find six turkeys hanging out around my car, and as I tried to shoo them away, they just looked at me like a bunch of surly teenagers and refused to budge for several minutes. Then later in the day, miles and miles away, two other turkeys crossed my path on a winding country road. An hour later, I saw another one in a yard on a residential street. Even though they were (kind of scary) material-world beings, not the spirit-world variety, the turkeys (and the deer, and the bunnies, and the hawks that came later) were definitely showing up with messages attuned to what was going on in my life, says spiritual medium Erika Gabriel.

“I think what’s happening is you’re becoming in tune and in touch, and you’re reading the signs of nature,” Gabriel tells me. “Working with spirit usually is connecting into a very subtle energy. Animals are very connected to nature, and animals are clear signs from the spirit world.”

Think of spirit animals like a cosmic triage crew—leading the charge (stampede?) to help us live our best lives.

Gabriel works with clients to relay the messages she says she gets from the spirit world from each person’s “divine spirit team”—made up of entities from other realms who are there to offer loving guidance, she explains. Spirit animals can be players, on the team, but if you don’t know which is your specific species, she says to introspect for some clues. “When you think about a spirit animal, what is the first animal that pops up?” she says. They key is trusting your instincts and following the images that come to you (and Gabriel suggests using the book Animal Speak: The Spiritual & Magical Powers of Creatures Great and Small by Ted Andrews as a guide to what these animals might be saying to you).

One notable feature that separates spirit animals from the rest of the “divine spirit team” is that some are for life and others show up to give you lessons in that moment, Gabriel says. “There are some that are really powerful and have been coming up the past few years, again and again, with a lot of my clients,” she says. In other words, since we’re all living through the same (kind of crazy) times, many of us are getting the same “in the moment” helpers right now. Think of them like a cosmic triage crew—leading the charge (stampede?) to help us live our best lives.

Here are the 5 most powerful spirit animals the spiritual medium is seeing right now—and what they mean.

most common spirit animals
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1. White tiger

“As we were ushering in 2019, I saw a white tiger,” Gabriel says, adding that this spirit animal indicates an intensity that can’t be tamed, but it can be controlled in a positive or negative sense. “The incredible intensity of this year is going to come—and the idea is that you can either sink or swim. So when you feel the big massive waves of energy, get a surfboard and ride it. Don’t let it overcome you and take you under.”

most common spirit animals
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2. Snake

“Snakes shed their skin, and some of the magic you can learn from snakes is the idea of complete renewal and rejuvenation, and letting go of the past,” Gabriel says. “We are, in essence, learning that the death of something is really the birth of something else, and it brings new beginnings.”

Often when a client is going through a really tough time—a death, a divorce, a job loss—the snake will show up, Gabriel says. “They’ll be saying, ‘This is horrible, it sucks.’ And I see a snake and [know] something awesome is actually about to happen if [they] can hold on and wait for that skin to shed.”

most common spirit animals
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3. Hawk

“Hawk energy is going crazy for people right now,” Gabriel says of the spirt that’s all about getting perspective, and seeing things from a different vantage point.

“Hawks fly really close to heaven, to spirits. It means taking a bird’s-eye view. Hawks can fly half a mile up in the sky and, at the same time, see a teeny tiny mouse on the ground and dive for it,” she says. “The idea is to get super-focused. And it’s also about elevating out of low-level vibrations. When you’re enmeshed in something, it’s hard to see the forest for the trees. The hawk helps you elevate and then pick and choose what you want to do.”

most common spirit animals
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4. Bear

Gabriel says the first guide from the spirit world to ever reach out to her, many years ago, was a bear. So “bear spirit” is something she has a lot of experience with—and she’s seeing it show up for others lately, too.

“They do hibernation, so they’re about going within. A lot of times after bears go into their den for the winter, they emerge with cubs,” she says. So, bears support the introspection and solitude needed to “birth” new things in your life. “Just as the bear comes out with cubs, you’ll come out with restored energy, new ideas, new creativity.”

most common spirit animals
Graphic: Well+Good Creative

5. Butterfly

“The butterfly has come up a lot, signaling that we’re elevating to a higher consciousness,” Gabriel says, adding that the process to access that level requires patience.

“I think a lot of people are going into the cocoon and think they’re stuck there,” she says. “If they’re like a caterpillar in the cocoon, they might be thinking, ‘Well, this is it. I might as well just throw in the towel.’ No, no, no, no—there’s so much more. It’s going to be so much better if you can just get through and trust and have faith.”

Gabriel sometimes sees people stuck in caterpillar mode, and says the best way to get out is to be open to change. “I will see a butterfly starting to flap around them and it’s all about hanging in there through these changes to see yourself transform into something amazing.”

FYI spirit animals for sleep are also a thing—take this quiz to find yours. Even better: Take your whole menagerie on a sleep vacation at these dreamy locations.

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