Interspersing these repetitive snake and spider dreams the power animals began to come. They are the essential companions of the shaman and one of the ways in which shamanism differs from all other spiritual modalities. As non-human intelligences with their own individual existence and purpose, they are, ultimately, like the cosmic aspect of kundalini beyond the comprehension and rationalisation of the human mind. Eliade says that the shamans’ principle animal is in a manner his double, his alter ego, his soul in animal form. I have come to view them as aspects of the Oneness, the One Soul in myriad animal forms. I like to call them the Spirits of the Soul.
For me there have been four main categories of power animal. The first is the totem or principle animal. This is your guardian, is always with you and may remain with you for life. The second kind is the journey animal. This is an animal that comes for a certain period of time to help you with a specific task or particular aspect of your life journey. The third is the messenger animal. As its name suggests it comes to give a specific message, sometimes a warning. The fourth kind is the shadow animal. This animal represents your fears, addictions or negative behaviour patterns. It is usually an animal that scares you. By facing up to this animal, by overcoming what it represents to you in life, it may become your ally.
These animals may come in dreams, visions, shamanic journeys and sometimes also in real life. In real life, for it to be a spirit animal it will usually tend to be behaving in an unusual manner or in an unusual place to emphasise that this is a spirit communication. The first of these to come was the barn owl. One morning I got up and went into the kitchen and made myself some coffee as usual. I intended to sit in the living room on the window seat and enjoy the view with my coffee. As soon as I opened the door something huge flew over my head and I backed out in a panic. Once I had composed myself I slowly opened the door again, and there sitting on the table was a barn owl. I took a few seconds to enjoy the wonder of the moment, before opening the window and leaving the room, so it could find its way out in peace. Years later I had another encounter when a barn owl landed in our field, in broad daylight. I hear many owls here in our woods at night, but seldom a barn owl, they are rare in these parts, and to observe one during the day is unusual to say the least. I was able to watch it for some time before it left for the woods.
The next morning the fields and woods were shrouded in deep mist, there was a beautiful magical quality in the air, so I decided to take my dog, Dougal, for a walk. We hadn’t gone far when a deer walked out in front of us on the path. I decided to turn around in case Dougal scared her. We left her in peace and I returned to the house and put Dougal in the kitchen. At this moment, something strange happened. A little voice inside me said, walk to the top of the field, and without hesitation I did. I just walked through the mist until I came to a tree. Above me, in the tree, sat the owl. She was large and beautiful, she looked at me for a bit then jumped out of the tree onto the ground in front of me. For a minute I had the incredible experience of locking eyes with a wild barn owl, before she flew silently away. I was lost in the magic of the moment, and not really listening to another little voice inside that was saying, something is wrong, this is a warning. The next day our beautiful cat Bintang disappeared. He was a long-haired beauty with the sweetest nature. This was the owl as messenger/warning animal.
As well as in real life the barn owl also came in dreams. In one very beautiful dream I found myself in a city at night, outside a pub in which I have played music many times.
I walk down an alley behind the pub, turn right and find a goddess shrine. It is open air and lit with candles and such a beautiful surprise in the city. There are chairs and people sitting around. I sit down and there is a window next to me. A white barn owl is trying to get in. I let her in and she plays with me, she is very kind. I then let her out and she sits on top of a high building looking down at me.
In another dream a woman sat with me and sang the Song of the Owl in Gaelic. The next day I did some research and found that this song actually exists. In a musical dream I learnt how to play ‘owl icaros’. Icaros are the spirit songs of the Amazonian shamans. During a dream conversation with one such shaman, there was a knock at the door. I answered, to find a jaguar and a tawny owl in the doorway, they handed me a feather.
One day I turned into the lane to our house, which is about a kilometre long and to my surprise drove past a horse. He was in good condition but had no saddle or bridle and no human with him. When I got home I told Michèle and decided to go back and check was he all right, as I was worried he might go onto the main road. When I turned around he was looking at me through the kitchen window! He then trotted through the garden into our field. I went out and the horse tentatively came to me and we gave it some carrots, apples and water. He didn’t seem to be in a hurry to go anywhere, he was so beautiful to see walking in the field and I thought, this is great, I’ve got a horse! After a few hours though he began to appear restless and began to walk around the field in a certain way horses have when they are trying to get home. Eventually he walked out again through the garden and onto the path into the woods. I went after him and tried to stop him. I stood in front of him but he pushed past. I tried this a couple of times but he made it clear he had to go. I was very sad and worried as I watched him walk off into the woods but I also learnt valuable lessons about boundaries and freedom and not trying to steer the course of others on their journey home.
The horse spirit also comes to me in dreams, usually it is a black horse that bursts wildly into my consciousness, free and untameable. Once I dreamed that I made a horse amulet from copper, then I lit a fire and the horse glowed warmly in the firelight. There is so much within this simple dream. A spiritual interpretation could be that copper must be heated to make it malleable to be worked upon, just like we ourselves must surrender to the fire of spiritual purification in order to be forged into something stronger. But there is a very specific shamanic interpretation also. The horse is synonymous with the drum in shamanic tradition, it is the ‘horse’ we ride into the spirit worlds. In shamanic ceremony the gol, the centre, is always represented by fire. This is the way the universe via the shamanic spirits talks to the shaman, it is, in a way, a secret language of shamanism, with symbols only shamans recognise.
Of all the animal teachers that have come, perhaps the Tyrannosaurus Rex is the strangest. It is the only one that had me waking up screaming and this was because it was my shadow animal. In the first dream I found myself in a house with Michèle. The walls inside were bare brick, one of the walls was crumbling and there was a hole in the brickwork. Through this hole I could see scales and a single giant eye looking at me. I was aware of the vast weight of a dinosaur, leaning against the wall in which cracks were appearing.
In the next dream, Michèle and I were walking along a narrow path in the forest. The path was lined with T-Rex skulls, I picked one up and held it in my hands, it was gleaming white, it was beautiful to me. In another dream I’m told that there is a T-Rex skull hidden in Antarctica and that I must retrieve it. Dressed only in a t-shirt, oblivious to the cold, I go to get the skull. It is perfect, I stroke it and feel how smooth it is and have a vision of a T-Rex skull made of crystal.
The following T-Rex dreams seemed to be about it surfacing from somewhere very deep within me. I saw a cave, I saw my ancestors peaking out from inside, I was aware that from a very deep part of this cave system T-Rex was ascending. Then in another dream I saw an old wooden structure, it was part of an ancient mine. Out of the door came many of the animals that have come to me. The Tiger came out, on its back was a lion. All the animals turned to face the door, they were all scared. The Tiger and lion roared as the T-Rex emerged. That the T-Rex was about me facing the darker aspects of myself was confirmed in a very frightening dream experience.
I’m driving with Michèle in a forest. On a rise to the right in the trees I see the red kundalini serpent with the T-Rex, a stunning and scary sight. We go past and uphill. We climb through rocks and trees and come to a house. We own the house and are going to sell it. It is huge shabby and depressing. We walk through and come to a beautiful room. It is furnished Victorian style, it is a red room, the colour of the root chakra, home of kundalini. Then I leave the room and see a really long corridor with many rooms on either side, I think this may be my spine. I open a room on the right, it is small and dark I realise there is a being there, a demonic clown. It tries to kill me. It comes at me fast, I manage to catch its energy with my hands and put it out the window.
I feel in this dream the T-Rex and the cobra took me very deep inside myself to confront and purge some of my darker aspects and fears. In another dream I was in a room trying out different shamanic flutes. This somehow seemed to call the T-Rex, which manifested fully in the room with me. This was very frightening as in previous encounters I’d seen skulls, or the T-Rex from a distance, never right up next to me. It lunged at me and I dodged and ran into another room. Despite being terrified I remember observing how amazing this was, to be in a room with a real authentic ancient T-Rex. It attacked again, I dodged and the next thing, I saw it lying on the ground as if dead on the perimeter of a sacred circle. All my cats came, they were in their magical aspect, and they stood around the T-Rex. I felt sorry for the T-Rex, but I sensed it wasn’t dead, the important thing was I had defeated it.
The Komodo dragon that first told me to shed my skin has also come as a dream teacher. I found myself standing next to a giant Komodo dragon. A voice said, go and stand by the head of the dragon. I did just this, which induced an OBE where I shapeshifted into the dragon and flew.
Mythical dragons have come too. In a beautiful early awakening dream I saw an egg of bees in the sky. Out of the bee-egg hatched a golden dragon in foetal position. It began to fall but another dragon swooped down and rescued it. I then saw the sky was full of dragons.
In another memorable dream I found myself at the top of a tall skyscraper. There were glass windows all round and I was in a room filled with hells angels, criminals and other generally unsavoury types. A dragon burst through the glass, landed in the room, sat up on its back legs and obliterated everyone with fire except me. The dragon really is a symbol of the awakened kundalini, the dormant fire serpent having grown wings and taken flight.
The feline presence has been very strong throughout this process. My own domestic cats are frequently with me in dreams and shamanic states of consciousness, I call them the ‘little bodhisattvas’. The love we have given them is always paid back ten-fold, both here and in the spirit worlds. Many cats have entered and left our lives over the years, the majority have been strays or rescue cats. I have formed such intense relationships with them and found myself nearly insane with grief when they have died or disappeared. When I first met Michèle, she had a wonderful black and white cat called Cleo. She was a real character and lived to eat. She would bite your ankles in the morning till you fed her. She would knock precious ornaments to the ground if you weren’t fast enough with the food and she could discern the sound of a tin opener a mile away. She lived to be about eighteen years old and died peacefully at home. About a year after she died she came to me in a dream. We were lying in the garden, our noses touching. She told me she loved me and I told her I loved her too. Then, a golden light surrounded us.
When we first moved to Anma, I heard a strange noise outside one morning. At first I thought it was a bird, but I went outside and to my surprise I found two cats. One was an adult black cat, the other a tiny, pure white kitten. The black cat, having brought the kitten to us, promptly disappeared, never to be seen again. I brought the kitten inside to Michèle and we were instantly in love with her, this little fluffy faerie from the woods. She was the most beautiful cat we had ever seen, we called her Akasha. She had a terrible flea infection and was very weak but we nursed her back to health and she grew into the most magnificent of cats, a long-haired beauty, she could have won any prize. Eventually though she took to spending longer and longer periods of time away from home, until one day she just didn’t come back. It seemed that she came from the forest and the forest took her back. One night soon after, I felt her lying on me, a beautiful, almost child-like female voice said, you have been wonderful, but I have to go now, and she was gone.
Perhaps the cat I had the deepest relationship with was Kushka, a Norwegian Forest Cat. These cats are truly very special. They are descended from semi-wild farm cats that evolved to survive in the harsh Scandinavian winters. The breed is ancient, they are known as the faerie or trollcat and in the Norse legends they pull the goddess Freya’s chariot. They are quite large and have a double coat. The inner coat is woolly for insulation and the outer long and oily. Whilst the outer coat may get wet, water cannot penetrate to the inner one so the cat is really always dry. They have large hairy paws and prominent ear tufts and in fact look quite like a little lynx. These big, soft gentle cats are really great companions and Kushka was my best friend for sixteen years until he died of kidney failure. When it became clear that he was dying, I was beset with grief. Exhausted, I lay on my bed, asking the universe what would happen to him. This induced my first shamanic journey. A spiral opened in my third eye and extended into a tunnel and I went through this with my consciousness. The journey was very psychedelic with amazing colours and beautiful trees and flowers. There were messages of love written in golden light. I’ve no idea how long this lasted and when I came to, I was still sad, but thought, if that’s where he is going, I’m happy for him. He is now a regular presence in my dreams and journeys. It is not only the cats that have passed-on, that accompany me in the spirit worlds, the ones with me today often come too, I suspect that cats naturally have a stronger connection and ability to move through the dimensions than we do, that in fact they are in a way all natural shamans. One of these in particular is Singha, a tiny Siamese stray that came to us. One day there was a knock on the door and I opened it to find my neighbour, holding a very strange looking ‘Siamese’ kitten. He asked was it mine and I said no, but I would gladly take it in. Singha was fat, with very short legs, a stumpy broken tail, and mad blue eyes. I thought she was magnificent! I brought her up to Michèle whom she immediately jumped on and started nuzzling. There was no fear or period of adaptation, she knew instantly that she was home, it was as if she was saying, what took you so long to find me! Very often I might find myself in a crazy situation in a shamanic state of consciousness, being eaten by a giant cobra or something like that. Amidst the chaos I will notice Singha is there, completely indifferent, maybe eating a mouse, just casually observing me. In fact often in my dreams of giant snakes several of my cats will be there. I’m always afraid for them, trying to get them to safety, in fear they will be eaten but the cats just don’t care, they run around playing mischievously. It’s quite clear that they know more than I do.
The big cats came too, lions, jaguars and lynx but one in particular made its presence felt with increasing frequency, the Tiger. It was six years however before this animal actually jumped into my third eye and began to interact with me and I understood that this was my power animal. The Tiger first showed itself in a dream that ostensibly appeared to be about a salamander.
I’m told I have to catch the salamander. I jump into a river and go deep beneath the water then come back to the surface and pull myself out, with no success in finding the salamander. Now I’m standing on the edge of a bank, it is dark and the water is now shallow. Somebody says the salamander is there but I can’t see it. Eventually I put my hands blindly into the water and pull out the salamander. It is yellow with a black head, it writhes and squeals in my hands but I don’t hold it tightly as I don’t want to hurt it. It bites me on both hands and I can feel the poison but I don’t let go. A voice tells me I must put the salamander on the right path. I think I free it in the right place, which is a straight path with paths coming off it. Then my lip swells up and is full of poison. I’m told it got in through a hole made by a tiger’s claw.
Following this I had visions of tiger faces during meditation. Then I dreamed of three white tigers in a cage, I set all the tigers free. Then I saw the rubble of a collapsed house (my old life/self perhaps) and an anaconda and a white tiger moving through it together.