It seems best to start with Wagle Shun, my south totem teacher. I have felt her presence since I was a small child and will admit that it is her wisdom that has kept me from crashing on the rocks during the early part of my journey. Since she is the totem of the mystic, there is every reason to suspect that this is why I followed that path. Whenever I see one of those wonderful little figurines of her in a home I visit, I start asking the questions that will tell me if the person that collects them is one of her students. I start with her because her gentle guidance is available to everyone if she is who I believe her to be.
Proverbs is full of mention of her, most especially the eighth chapter. It is also full of mention of her opposite number, Folly, whose animal I am unsure of. I believe Wagle Shun is my teacher’s totem, and is most certainly the way she communicates with me. It is she who first taught me not to envy others the things that are theirs by birth, which, once I knew my birth totem was a good chuckle, since that is the raven, and a reminder of Aesop’s fables. Who knows, maybe I am folly and am finally allowing Wisdom to teach me. That would certainly be the way my life has gone, so it wouldn’t surprise me if it were at least an allegorical truth.
These two totems, along with the Snowy Owl and the butterfly have drawn me from early youth. I have had some strong lessons to learn from them. Note the amount of airy totems, which is where my head usually is and then it will be no surprise to you that I had to learn from another totem, one that had drawn me but I had not explored the lessons, the otter, how to stay grounded, balanced and playful. If you understand that the animals as the Native American sees them, are teachers, not G-ds, they can teach you also.
You can start out by looking at the animals that drew your attention in childhood, what were they trying to teach you? Even domestic animals have lessons to teach so do not discredit their influence in your life lessons. If you cannot remember being drawn to any wild ones, there is another, rather slightly off-beat way to learn about totems that have to do with you personally. Everyone is familiar with astrology, some believe in it, some don’t. That’s fine, I will not try to persuade you one way or the other, but it is a tool, should you choose to use it, that can lead you to the knowledge of at least four of the animals that will have been a fairly strong influence in your life.
First go to Alabe.com, look down the page to where you can pull a free birth chart. Enter your data there, save the chart on your computer, it will be a gif image, and save the write-up in a Word document, or other word processing software. (Open Office is free on the web and does all that Microsoft’s does without spending an arm and a leg.) When you have them on your own computer where you can study them, pick out the “houses” that are your birth sign (your character), your moon sign (your inner self), your rising sign (your outward projection for others to see) and the North Node, which will tell you where you are headed in your learning patterns.
After you have found the astrological “houses” involved for your birth, look at Sun Bear’s Dancing with the Wheel. It can be found at most Public Libraries if you cannot afford it, but is a wonderful book to have if you are interested in Native American cosmology at all, so I wouldn’t hesitate to spend the money if you have it. You will find the totems for those four “houses” in that workbook, and full explanations of the lessons those four animals have to teach you. It is not quite the same as having a “Medicine” teacher find your totems for you, but is a good way to start with learning about totems.