How to Find Your Spirit Animal (and Decipher Its Messages)

When it comes to spirit animals, New York-based energy healer Kalisa Augustine is pretty much an authority. She’s studied the concept for years, helped many of her clients to connect with their animal guides, and helped everyone from celebs to wellness folks, like the CAP Beauty founders, find theirs. So what exactly are spirit animals (should you choose to believe in them)?

“Spirit animals are guides and protectors from the spirit world that can help out at various stages of your life,” describes Augustine. The idea is "they can offer protection, bring warnings or help you find solutions to difficult life situations.”

Most practitioners, including Augustine, say the concept of spirit animals has roots in Native American traditions, and probably some tribal African and Egyptian totemic ones, too. The notion that an animal acts as a guide or protector for its human counterpart is very old, she says.

According to Augustine, your spirit guide can pretty much be any member of the animal kingdom. “I’ve had all kinds of different animals come up for me, from a tiger to a mouse, and each was important and relevant to the person they were guiding at the time,” she explains. In fact, you actually might have multiple animals as guides throughout your life.

Want to know how to spot your spirit animal? Augustine breaks them down into five main types:

Life animals
These spirit animals are always there for you, and they pop in and out of your consciousness to impart lessons, Augustine says. “A deer has walked with me my whole life and always will. It’s a symbol of grace and a reminder to trust my intuition.”

Messenger animals
When you need a little help receiving a specific message or warning, these animals appear over and over until you’ve received the intel—usually for no more than two or three months, she explains.

For Augustine, her most memorable messenger was a unicorn. (Yup.) “This was one of the most amazing and short-lived meetings I’ve had,” she recalls. “It told me that I would one day help others through mysticism. I was close to giving up on myself at that moment and really needed that message.”

Journey animals
Usually, they’re there to help with major transitions like mourning the loss of someone close to you—or even moving apartments—but there's no limit on how long they can stay with you. Augustine's journey animal is a raven, which first came to her when she was 26 and delving deeper into energy studies.

"He reminds me to get quiet and retreat in order to tap into my own power. He’s been around over the last few years, which have been a serious journey for me personally.”

Shadow animals
“In my opinion, these are the most interesting,” says Augustine. “They often show up as predators. They will seem dangerous at first, but they’re not dark. They're intended to challenge you to see some element of your nature that you are suppressing.”

Power animals
These animals show up to empower you for life, says Augustine, whose power animal is a lion (and with her wild mane of blonde hair, you can easily see the connection). When she needed help getting out of a bad relationship, a lion came to her in a meditation.

“At first, I was terrified,” she says. “I thought it was going to eat me. I was stuck to the ground and couldn’t move. I had no idea what to do.” The lion circled and circled and then started to nudge her, forcing her to stand up.

“It was telling me that I needed to stand up for myself,” she explains. “My shadow animal became my power animal. It has been the most powerful kind of spirit animal ally that I’ve ever experienced.”

Now, she draws on her power animal anytime she needs strength. “It’s not just for the big stuff,” she adds. “I mean, please, I’ll channel that lion when I’m spinning!”

Want to know more about your animal guides? Here are three steps to connect with your spirit animal:

1. Set an intention. Open yourself up to it finding your spirit animal. “You can’t chase them. It’s like dating! The more you look, the less likely they are to show up,” says Augustine. Instead, she suggests you spend time meditating and look for signs around you in the world—maybe even start a dream journal and take note of patterns. “You’ll begin to see things in dreams, in the physical world and in your everyday life.”

2. Start researching. If you feel an affinity for an animal, “read about it, watch documentaries on it. Start to make lists of its traits and how those resonate with you. What do you identify with? What do you resist? Both are important to recognize,” Augustine says. The traits you dislike or resist, she says, are usually the most important aspects of your animal.

3. Put in the work. Finally, to really connect with your animal, you have to dedicate time and energy to it. Augustine suggests making art associated with your animal, wearing animal jewelry, spending more time in nature, and meditating on your spirit animal. “We have to show these beings that we have gratitude for them,” she says. “The more respect we give them, the more we will get out of our relationship with them.” —Victoria Lewis

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