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.
What are Animal Medicine Cards?
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
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.
Working with Animal Medicine Card Meanings and Beyond
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?
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.