By Anna Franklin

Illustrated by Paul Mason


This Celtic Animal Oracle is based on the teachings of British shamanic practice. Working with animal powers formed part of my early magical training and has been an essential part of my work ever since. In the past twenty years I have studied shamanic paths and have been struck by how similar the practices of the shaman [meaning 'one who knows'] of Siberia, Africa and North America are to those I learned as a traditional witch. I was taught to work with the spirits of land and place, plants and animals as well as gods and goddesses, and that this knowledge is only gained by journeying into the Otherworld.

            Shamans and traditional witches all over the world work with animal spirits. These spirits often represent a species as a whole: not a bear, but Bear. Through this connection, the shaman can call upon the strength of the bear, the swiftness of the horse, or the far sight of the eagle and so on. Witches call these spirit animals familiars, in North America they are called power animals, and in South America nagual animals. The word totem is slightly different and implies a blood relationship or kinship between a person, a family or tribe and an animal. Those so related would be forbidden to hunt or kill their totem, or to marry a person with an inimical totem.

In addition to familiars, witches and shamans also strive to forge relationships with animal and plant allies who will help them when there is need. I know a healer who is able to invoke whatever animal is most suitable for the job. She tells me that birds often appear as her allies and that she doesn't have to summon them, but that they will appear quite spontaneously when they are needed. Once, as we meditated together, I had the sensation of something tugging at my heart energy centre. Afterwards, my friend told me that her eagle ally had appeared and used his beak to remove blockages in my heart centre.

The magician might have a spirit animal helper that stays with her throughout her life or the animal may change as she changes. Some stay for years, others only a few weeks. She might have more than one. But you don't have to be a shaman or a witch to use these cards. By listening to the lessons of the twenty-five animals in these cards, you can discover new ways of looking at your problems, new ways of approaching them, and what their deep-rooted causes might be.