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Embracing Native American Animal Medicine Cards and their Meanings by Psychic Gaia

Date 5/8/2024
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If you are reading this article you are already on a Spiritual Journey. You may be intrigued by Native American symbolism and philosophies. There is much romanticism regarding Native American spirituality, and rightly so. There is a magical element to communing with Nature. Traditional Native Americans recognize that Nature is a part of us. In Native cultures, spirituality is woven into every aspect of their daily life. It is not just a facet of their existence.

Traditional Natives recognize the Oneness of all life. We are all connected. If you twang one part of The Web of Life, it will be felt, in some manner, by all. All life forms are regarded as Sacred and are honored for their intrinsic power and qualities, as well as their roles as teachers.  Native Americans recognized that Great Spirit (God) speaks to them through Nature. By observing birds and wildlife they learned where food sources were, what weather was coming, and when it was time to move on. They prepared for hunts, war, and other activities by claiming and embodying specific bird and animal characteristics. These characteristics and traits are referred to as “their medicine.”

In 1988 Jamie Sams and David Carson created the oracle cards and book set called, “Medicine Cards: The Discovery of Power Through the Ways of Animals”. People these days refer to these cards as medicine cards, Native American animal cards, Native American medicine cards, and animal medicine cards but they all mean the same thing.

Native American Animal Medicine Cards

What are Animal Medicine Cards?

Owl Medicine Card

Animals, birds, and insects are all seen as teachers. Their behaviors, characteristics, and appearance all hold information, power, and wisdom to be gained, if we take the time to observe, connect, and reflect upon their medicine to inform our own lives.

Jamie Sams and David Carson created a deck of 44 cards depicting carefully selected animals, birds, and insects, to reconnect people with the powerful Guidance of animal medicine. It is a playful, innocent way for people to tap into their own Knowingness, awakening the awareness that Nature holds wisdom to be claimed.

Sams and Carson also define “medicine” as, “anything that improves one’s connection to the Great Mystery and to all Life.”  When creating these cards, they drew from the wisdom of many elders from the Choctaw, Lakota, Seneca, Aztec, Yaqui, Cheyenne, Cherokee, Iroquois, and Mayan traditions. Their desire was to aid the mass consciousness, assisting people in finding their way by drawing Guidance from the medicine of animals and Native American philosophies. 

Each Medicine Card has its animal, bird, or insect featured on a Native American shield. These are considered Medicine Shields, not War Shields. A Medicine Shield is created for spiritual protection, to bring forth the power of the symbols on it.

As you work more intimately with this form of divination (connecting to the Divine), consider creating your own Medicine Shield. You can create an actual shield, draw, or paint a picture of one, or create a Vision Board with magazine photos representing the medicine you want to draw into your life experience, or characteristics you want to amplify. 

David and Jamie desired for these animal medicine cards to reconnect people with Mother Earth, reminding them of their connection with all of her creatures and the Oneness of all life. Working with these cards provides a path of personal power, strength and understanding.

How to Use Animal Medicine Cards

Turtle Medicine Card

This particular divination system is a wonderful way to begin your journey of self-exploration. You will develop your intuition by connecting with and seeking the truths of Nature. If you desire to develop a particular skill or quality, you can call upon the medicine of the particular creature that embodies it.

When working with any form of divination tools you want to first create Sacred Space. It is powerful if you create an altar for prayer or an area specifically designated for you to do your readings. Repetition builds power. Creating a simple ritual will let Spirit know you are preparing to Connect.

Even just sitting in the same chair, lighting a candle, putting on soft music, saying a prayer or spending time clearing your mind in meditation is a wonderful way to begin working with Medicine Cards.

Get clear about a question you would like answered. You can 1) hold a question in your mind, 2) ask your question aloud, or 3) write your question down to record your Guidance. Once you’ve focused on your question, you want shuffle the deck of cards with your question in mind.

One way to pull a card is you can shuffle until a card (or cards) fall(s) out of the deck. Another way is you can cut the deck to pull a single card to gain insight regarding your question. Or you can cut the deck more than one time to obtain more than one card for greater clarity.

The Medicine Card book provides pages of information for each card for you to work with. Read about the medicine for the animal of the card(s) you selected. You want to be in a state of receptivity, allowing information to move through you and fall into place, or "Light up" your awareness with regard to your question.

Jamie and David use themes and traditional storytelling, symbolism, and humor to bring home these messages, making the information more accessible.

To assist you in deepening your self-exploration and advancing your skills in working with the “Medicine Cards: The Discovery of Power Through the Ways of Animals,” Jamie Sams & David Carson have created a number of card layouts or “spreads.” These spreads offer different themes to explore. Each card in a spread represents aspects of each issue they address, to assist you in gaining the wisdom you desire.

Animal Medicine Card Spreads

You can choose your Nine Totem Animals to learn more about your true nature.

  • The Medicine Wheel spread represents the wheel of life and speaks of honoring each step along the way.
  • The Medicine Shield is a layout to be used at the start of a project, a new beginning, or theme for a particular chapter of your life. It reveals the unique gifts or growth to be gained or expressed.
  • The Pathway spread is an overview of your life path.
  • There is also The Sun Lodge Spread which reveals how others see you.
  • The Moon Lodge Spread takes you inward to show you a mirror of your own personal unconscious.
  • The Butterfly Spread will reveal outcomes of projects or group endeavors.
  • The Father Sky/Mother Earth Spread is a method you can use to rid yourself of confusion and bring balance when times are hectic and chaotic.

Animal Medicine Card Meanings

Here is a quick overview of each of the 44 Medicine Cards. There is much more information provided in the book.

Animal Medicine Card

Animal Medicine Card Meaning

Animal Medicine Card Upright Meaning


Animal Medicine Card Reversed Meaning



Trust in the Universe

What am I feeling a sense of urgency and impatience about?



Identify and assert your boundaries

How can I find strength in vulnerability?



Take action now

What am I avoiding or procrastinating?



Harness anger for self-healing

Where am I misdirecting my anger?



Welcome endings as new beginnings

Am I feeling stagnant?



Embrace the stillness and go within

Am I disconnected from my inner knowing?



Use teamwork and focus to achieve a goal

What have I dammed up?


Prayer and Abundance

Practice humility and gratitude

Am I blocking abundance?



Clearly see your process of self-transformation

Am I resisting change?



Be able to laugh at yourself

What am I not paying attention to that might catch me off-guard?



Walk your talk, create your future self with integrity

Are there ways cheating or rebellion is showing up for me?



Practice unconditional love and acceptance

Are my actions driven by fear?



Pay attention to your breath and body rhythms

Am I in need of energy healing?



Practice self-care

Am I caught in an illusion?



Examine your values and who/what you’re loyal to

Am I my own best friend?


Connection to Great Spirit

Take flight and soar

Have I forgotten my power and connection to Spirit?



Know when it’s time to seek support

Is stress making me complacent?



Practice observing and learning

Do I feel invisible? Or too exposed?



Clear away negative energy

Am I stuck in negativity?


Sacred spiral

Discover your personal power

In what ways do I lack self-discipline or feel disempowered?



Notice signs from the Universe

Have I become unobservant?



Empathy and remembering who you are is the source of wisdom and power

Am I abusing power or seeing abuses of power showing up in my life?



Relax and enjoy life

Have I closed my heart?



Imagination and visualization are gateways to manifestation

Are inner conflicts showing up as nightmares?



Listen to your higher self

Is my life consumed with gossip, broken confidences, or the need to listen or be heard?

Mountain Lion


Stand on your convictions and embrace your power

Am I struggling with authority issues?



Honor your progress

Am I driven by my ego?



Don’t miss the big picture when consumed with details and control issues

Do I feel like I’m chasing my own tail, or lost in a maze?



Be strategic and cunning

Am I distracted by melodrama or making excuses?



Use your powers of observation and wisdom

Is either deception or self-deception showing up in my life?


Female energy

Allow joyous, playful receptivity

Is a fear of rejection making me unable to receive?



Embrace your inner child

Do I need to lighten up, and trust myself or others?



Face your fears

What fears are paralyzing me?



Open and allow the mystery to unfold

Have I lost faith in magic or miracles?



Become more self-aware

Have I misplaced energy?



Ready yourself for fundamental shifts

Am I resisting change?


Gathering medicine

Plan ahead

What is driving me to feel and act anxious, erratic, or desperate?



Believe that you are a creator

Am I caught up in entanglements, criticism, or resentments?



Honor your intuition

How is denial or distraction keeping me from finding answers?



You are a gift to others; you may receive a gift in return

Are there ways I’m being stingy?


Mother Earth

Need for grounding

Am I feeling like a victim?



Hidden powers of discernment

What am I not taking accountability for?


Record Keeper

Clairaudience and access to Akashic records

Do I need to clear my mind of noisy chatter to hear what’s true?



Connect with divine wisdom and share this with others

Am I open to new ideas, fand unexpected teachers?

Working with Animal Medicine Card Meanings and Beyond

Bear Medicine Card

When you begin working with animal medicine, expect increased opportunities for engagement. Pay attention to bird, animal, or insect behavior in your day-to-day life. When Nature surprises you with unusual wildlife activity, take note. You can then use the Medicine Cards to decipher the message.

Another wonderful resource to use in this way is a book by Ted Andrews called, “Animal-Speak: The Spiritual & Magical Powers of Creatures Great & Small” . Ted compiled a comprehensive dictionary of animal, bird, and reptile symbolism to use to derive information and Guidance from wildlife encounters.

Ted delves deeper into the experiential practice of working with bird medicine; feather magic; how to read signs and omens in Nature; and working with animal calls. He shares many ideas and rites to honor and connect with the natural world. He gives meditation suggestions; provides exercises, like how to gift Nature and how to practice shapeshifting; he describes how to perform honoring dances, using drumming; and he explores how to engage in other forms of honor and connection with Nature.

What is Your Animal Totem?

Fox Medicine Card

Have you ever wondered what your Animal Totem is? Psychic Source offers a free Animal Totem quiz to help answer that question.  Similar in concept to an animal familiar, an Animal Totem is animal medicine that has particular meaning for you. You may personally be drawn to, identify with the animal, or admire, desire, or require the qualities it represents. Ted Andrews teaches how to identify and embody these qualities more Consciously.

As you can see, once you begin exploring the animal, bird, and insect kingdoms, a whole new world of information and enchantment becomes available to you.

Watch for animal symbols to show up in dreams, advertising, and in passing conversations. We live and breathe in a sea of Guidance. When we recognize that The Universe is always engaging with us, our lives take on a much richer dimension.

If I can assist you in claiming greater understanding of your life and Spiritual Journey, please contact me, Gaia, at x3559.



Author's Photo Get a Reading with Gaia x3559

Gaia brings to her readings an extensive background of applied personal growth, healing, & transformation techniques backed by cutting edge research re: human behavior, human potential, liberation from limiting beliefs & creating successful outcomes. Her work is grounded, expansive and high voltage. Her focus is your success! Gaia personally experienced a four year immersion in traditional Native American culture. She was a Teaching Assistant at a local college (which is one of the top public research Universities), for a Harvard educated, full-blood Ojibwe professor, who taught Native American Philosophies Her participation in traditional talking circles, sweat lodge ceremonies, Mide'wiwin healing ceremonies, Pow Wows, and Native American feasts changed her life. She met American Indian Movement (AIM) Founders and experienced many facets of Reservation life. Gaia has studied Shamanism and continues to directly engage with Nature on a daily basis.


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