An Intro to Totems, Animal Spirits, Tulpas & Daemons
Totems, Animal Spirits, Tulpas, Daemons, etc. may seem similar, but they’re actually different concepts. The below was mostly taken from my TG interview on Therian Talks.
Totems and animal spirits are the most similar in that a totem is a representative of a species as a whole. Animal spirits, similarly, are individual representatives of that totem. So, you could have Dog the totem (capitalized ‘D’) and then perhaps work specifically with a beagle, as a representative of Dog. Or you could simply work with the idea of ‘dog’ and what that means to you; things like loyalty, obedience and silliness can be associated with dogs as spirit guides.
Both totems and animal spirits fall under the category of Animism.
Similarly, a shadow totem embodies something you fear, or is actually an animal you fear or dislike strongly. Common shadow totems for many people would be things like bugs and spiders, snakes or sharks.
A Tulpa is intentionally creating a mental construct. Sort of like inventing a conscious persona that you can talk to in your head. It’s my understanding that tulpas are like an imaginary friend: you talk to them, bounce ideas off of them, ask for advice, etc. within your own mind. It’s not a separate entity, but rather an extension of your own consciousness.
Daemons are like tulpas in that you intentionally create a useful thoughtform to work through ideas or problems with. Daemons were made famous though as being external entities, like totems, in Philip Pullman’s trilogy His Dark Materials where they appeared as an animal, alongside their human counterparts. Totems and daemons are not the same thing though.
Tulpas and daemons are internal mental constructs, whereas totems and animal spirit guides are external entities.
Also, depending on who you ask, you can have either one totem for life, or you can have more than one that can change depending on where your life’s journey takes you. I tend to believe that totems come into your life to teach you a lesson, unless you reach out to them first.
Finally, totems, animal spirits, tulpas, daemons, etc. are not the same thing as therianthropy. Therianthropy is what you are, inside. Whereas totems are external forces that are independent from you and your identity. Many therians have totems that are completely different species than what they identify as so if you’ve found and worked with totems, that doesn’t automatically mean you are that same species. However, there are some therians who do work with the same species as their animal guide. But it’s not necessary for the two groups to be the same.
If you’re new to the idea of therianthropy and have yet to figure out what animal you are, it can be helpful to reach out to a totem or animal spirit directly to try to learn more about yourself. However, meditation takes practice and to get the most honest answer it’s recommended you repeat the process many times before coming to any one conclusion.
And as a warning, take what you learn in meditation or in working with a totem and animal spirit with a grain of salt. You need to make sure to do research into the species itself and pay attention to your own habits and behaviors before coming to any absolute conclusions. Identity is a learning process and it takes time!
lupine (werewolf) & clouded leopard | 38 | writer & published author | scuba diver | chaotic good | Hufflepuff | INFP | eclectic Wiccan witch