Power animal

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The Four Evangelists on the ceiling of the choir in the 13th-century Church of St. Moriz in Rottenburg, Germany. The artist depicts Luke as an ox and John as an eagle. He confuses the animal icons of Mark and Matthew, however, by mistakenly portraying the former as an angelic being and the latter as an lion.

Power animal is a broadly animistic and shamanic concept that has entered the English language from anthropology, ethnography and sociology. A tutelary spirit guides, helps, or protects individuals, lineages and nations. In the shamanic worldview, everything is alive, bearing an inherent virtue, power and wisdom. In this context power animals represent a person's connection to all life, their qualities of character, and their power.

The term "power animal" was generally introduced into contemporary language in 1980 by anthropologist Michael Harner, PhD, in his work The Way of the Shaman, pp. 57-72, 76-103.[1]

Power animals are common to shamanic practice in both Eurasia and the Americas. They are the helping or ministering spirit or familiar which empowers individuals and is essential for success in any venture undertaken.

In the shamanic worldview, most persons have power animals or tutelary spirits which empower and protect them from harm, like guardian spirits or angels in the Abrahamic traditions. In these traditions, the power animal may also lend the wisdom or attributes of its kind to those under its protection.

See also[edit]


  • Harner, Michael (1980). The Way of the Shaman. HarperCollins, New York.
  • Meadows, Kenneth (2004). Shamanic Spirit. Inner Traditions.