Once upon a time, we were all part of the earth. The birds, the animals, the plants, the dirt, and us. We were one family, related, bonded, and each holding a thread to the same ancestral story that is life on earth. During this time we talked to the animals, we looked to them for guidance. We followed in their tracks, both literally and metaphorically. We traveled together, we dreamed together, and we prayed together. Our story was one and the same. But then it all changed. Instead of feeling connected to the world in which we live, many humans disengaged and removed themselves from everything that had once shared their story—including the animals.
Not all humans allowed themselves to be disengaged with the natural world. In fact, a handful of them continued in the steps of their ancestors and stayed at one with the natural world, collecting data and telling stories. This body of knowledge has been handed down from generation to generation as a reminder of the way we used to live. As a reminder of our guardianship to the earth. A reminder of our relationship with the plants and animals that we share a home with. The Animal Totem Tarot is merely another chapter in this story once told by the ancestors. Just another chapter in the larger body of knowledge. It is not meant to be different or new or revolutionary; it is meant to extend and expand the reminders of all of those who have come before.
The Animal Totem Tarot assists in connecting us back to the life we once lived. It is a reminder that we come from the dirt, that we once talked to the plants. And that the animals, insects, and birds of our world were once much more than just food on our plate. This deck is another story of the past, of a time when we walked with the animals as brother, sister, mother, father, guardian, teacher, companion, spirit, and divine.
The natural world beyond the human is so vast and expansive that no singular work could possibly contain it, which is why this deck is merely another chapter in a greater story that will continue to build. More and more people are feeling the need to once again walk in the footsteps of the world in which they once knew as intimately as the body that houses their soul.
The Animal Totem Tarot contributes to this field of study in a number of ways, the first being the marriage between animal totem teaching with that of the tarot. This was not the easiest thing to do, especially considering it was crucial to stay true to the medicine of the animal and the meaning of the tarot card itself. As you flip through this deck you will see that we have some special and unique animals in our Animal Totem Tarot kingdom. How many of you are familiar with the energy of the honey pot ant, or the raccoon dog?
As you flip through the pages of the companion book you will notice that the information for each card is broken up into a couple of sections. You could say I have created a bit of a hybrid deck. You have the initial oracle message from the animal, then the message as it pertains to the tarot itself. This was deliberate on my part, as I wanted those who have only worked with animal medicine or animal oracle cards to feel at home and comfortable with this deck. I also wanted avid tarot users to feel that they did not get left out when it came time to pick up the cards and do a traditional tarot reading. This hybrid platform allowed me to bring my love of both tarot and animal medicine to the reader in an easy and intuitive way.
Let me give you a few examples. For those of you coming to Animal Totems or even tarot for the first time, try pulling just one card a week. In my tarot courses I have my students do this on a Monday morning, for it sets the tone and energy for the week. I make the same recommendation here.
Let's say that today is Monday morning. You gather up your Animal Totem Tarot in your hands, shuffle it a few times, and then hold it to your heart and ask this simple question: "Which energy will serve me this week?" Now go ahead and select your card.
Some do this by spreading or fanning the cards out and scanning the face down cards until one particular card heats up or causes some sort of sensation in the palms of the scanner's hand. Some merely take the card at the top of the deck. However you select your card is personal, and there is no wrong or right way to do so.
For the purpose of this example I am going to say we pulled The Chicken/Six of Pentacles card. In The Animal Totem Tarot we start with the animal itself. Chickens have fabulous medicine energies to share with us, one of which is about working for the greater good of all—not a bad message for the start of the week. This sets the tone of the next seven days, for you will now be on the lookout for ways that you can be of service so all involved in your world are benefiting, including yourself. For, as chicken lets us know, martyrs end up as dinner!
Now let's take a look at the tarot component of this card, the Six of Pentacles. In the companion book for The Animal Totem Tarot you will notice that the card meaning itself is broken up into three categories:
It will be up to you to decide which of these you wish to focus on for the next seven days; I strongly recommend only focusing on one aspect. Let's say you have decided you want to focus on health and well being. The Six of Pentacles is somewhat of a reward card. It lets you know that giving is in the air, and that things are aligning for your greater good. So are you ready for things to fall into place and do you have a support team in place to help you keep track of your personal health and wellbeing wins? Chickens and the Six of Pentacles both offer up solid support, but it is up to you to make sure you harness the energy that this card offers you.
To wrap up your one card reading, you can then move onto the journal prompts for this card. These prompts can be done over the course of the next seven days or as part of your Monday morning ritual. You can even use the journal prompts for the cards as mediation triggers.
If, however, you are more advanced in the world of animal totems and tarot, I know you will be itching to test this deck on a much larger scale. Here is a spread that you can use both for yourself and your clients if you are already a professional reader. This spread is called the WOOP Spread, and it was designed from the content of Gabriele Oettingen's book Rethinking Positive Thinking and inspired by Brian Johnson's Philosopher's Note on Gabriele's book.
WOOP (Wish+Outcome+Obstacle+Plan) is a scientifically studied and proven system to increase motivation and achieve one's goals. In fact, it is considered the most effective way to achieve your goals, dreams, or wishes, regardless of their size. Pretty cool, huh?! I could not think of a better system to turn into a tarot spread. The extra power of the animal totems just puts this idea into overdrive.
So, let's get our WOOP on!
Now if you want to, you can use the Star Card in this spread as a central significator or intention spot in the reading. I have done this spread with and without the Star, and it doesn't seem to alter the spread at all; I just personally like to have the Star there. It is totally up to you whether or not you include its energy in the reading.
Card One: If you are using the Star, this card goes on top of the Star. This card represents the wish, dream, or goal you know is both challenging and feasible for you to achieve in your required time frame. It is vitally important to set a time frame for any and all goals, dreams, and wishes; this form of urgency drives action.
Card Two: The is the outcome card, which is actually the benefit card. This card illustrates the benefit of achieving the goal, dream, or wish in card one. This card is actually very important, as the benefit might not be what you expected.
Card Three: The obstacle. Now, just so we are clear, this is an inner obstacle, not something outside of yourself. This is a point of resistance, a mental block, or some inner beliefs that you will need to overcome in order to bring said goal, wish, or dream into your experience.
Card Four: The if, then plan. This card lets you know how to get around the obstacle. In other words, IF this trigger comes up and the obstacle seems overwhelming, THEN we do this, whatever is in the card. Like the outcome card, this last card can actually alert you to just how well you deal with your inner obstacles.
Here is an example WOOP spread using The Animal Totem Tarot.
As you can see, I have the Star card underneath the wish card, but again, you really don't need to add that card if you don't want to. This spread shows the wish has the Eight of Pentacles with the Animal Totem of Mountain Goat. Here in this position we can see that the wish is to be more confident and skilled in one's endeavors. The mountain goat is a master at being surefooted, as this is a skill he has been practicing everyday since his birth. Before long this skill becomes part of the mountain goat's muscle memory, just as the skills you are building will become apart of yours. Confidence and the ability to get things done are attractive qualities, and the Eight of Pentacles lets you know that this wish is all about being in demand and being seen as the "go-to person."
The Outcome card lets us know the benefit of achieving this wish, dream, or goal. Here we see the Knight Of Swords with the Animal Totem of the Rook. Rooks, like their cousins crows and ravens, are very clever birds. They are super resourceful and will never come across a task that they cannot complete. The Rook is the improv genius of his family, making do with what is at his disposal. Clever and quick on his feet, this Knight will always be able to deal with whatever challenge is thrown his way with a clear head and a set outcome in mind.
The Obstacle card is the Five of Pentacles with the Raccoon Dog as its totem. This is a very interesting card in relation to the Eight of Pentacles. Where the Eight of Pentacles longs to be in demand, the Five of Pentacles feels left out, used, and taken advantage of. This is a big neon sign regarding a huge inner block that needs to be cleared and healed in order to bring this dream into physical manifestation.
Lucky for us we have card four, the Six of Swords with the Animal Totem of the Sugar Glider. So the plan is to, when the trigger comes up around the Five of Pentacles, just spread your arms and jump! The Six of Swords is all about the journey. It has no interest in where you came from or where you are headed. It is only interested in where you are right now, in this moment, with your arms spread as you catch some serious air time. This is a great If-Then card. If the trigger becomes overwhelming, remember that it is all about the journey. Move back into journey mode and march yourself back to the bottom of the mountain and take it one step at a time with your trusty Mountain Goat.
I just love this spread mixed with the Animal Totem energy, and I really hope you do as well.
I would love to hear how you are using the Animal Totem Tarot, so go ahead and join my page on Facebook and drop me a message. Share your pics with me on the page or tag me via Twitter. Let me know exactly how the Animals are sharing their stories, wisdom, and magic with you. As I previously mentioned, this deck is just another chapter in a much larger book—a book to which each and everyone of us is contributing. So, speak up and add your voice to the wild world of Animal Totems and Animal medicine.
Leeza Robertson (Las Vegas, NV) is the author of Tarot Court Cards for Beginners and Tarot Reversals for Beginners, and she’s the creator of two tarot decks, the Mermaid Tarot and Animal Totem Tarot. When she ...