The process of finding one's personal totem ranges from easy to quite difficult. Pondering questions, guided meditation, and even coursework are used by those in search of their animal totem. However, with the instructions below, it should be possible for you to find your totem. First, I will discuss the terminology I will use. Then, I will briefly discuss the questions and then give an example meditation. It is important to note that you do not choose a totem; rather, it chooses you. Look at my writeup on totem animals for a classic quotation regarding wanting a specific totem.
- External Totem
- A spirit that chooses to help you and follow you around. External totems usually have your best interests at heart, even when you might not know what they are! However, being external to you, they may choose to be mischievous. I believe I am using this term in the same manner as the writeup above uses the term familiar. I will focus on this type of totem.
- Helper Totem
- A helper totem usually appears for a period of your life where you need some assistance, or perhaps the particular medicine that it possesses. The questions below will help you identify a totem of this type.
- Internal Totem
- A reflection, or aspect, of your inner nature. Rarely do people who possess this kind of relationship have doubts about what the animal is; a popular term for this is spiritual therianthropy.
- Message Animal
- An animal that appears to give you an omen or idea of some sort. These are very transitory, which may make them easier to recognize.
What animals did you particularly like in your childhood? Which, if any, still fascinate you today? Will you out of your way to see this animal (on TV/in a zoo/etc.)? Do you own many things with this animal's likeness (jewelry, a well-loved stuffed animal)? Was there a time in your life when your interest in the animal peaked, and when?
What animal keeps popping up in your life, in the flesh, in dreams, or some other way? Where do you see it? Would you write it off as coincidence otherwise? Do they keep showing up at the "wrong time of year"? Try keeping a record of animal appearances for a period of time, and note any trends.
Is there an animal that scares you? (This is called a "shadow totem" by Ted Andrews) Have you been bitten/attacked by an animal? (Some cultures see this as a test, and it is similar to the method by which lycanthropy was thought to spread.) Do you have recurring nightmares/multiple nightmares featuring a given animal? Is there an animal that just gives you the heebie jeebies?
Do not discard the first animal that pops into your head just because you think it is too small or too weak; a humble Mouse saved a Lion in one of Aesop's Fables, after all. Ask yourself how the animal makes you feel, and what it makes you think about. If it is an animal that terrifies you, ask yourself what it would be like if that animal were your friend. (I am arachnophobic and once had a particularly intense dream once about spiders being able to talk to me and being my friends.)
This is an extremely simple meditation. Simply sit quietly in some spot where you can be alone, preferably out in nature. Think about the questions above, then clear your mind. Ask your totem animal to make itself obvious to you. As time passes, an animal may do just that - ask it if it is in fact your totem.
This is a more complex meditation, though even more complex ones exist (which sometimes strike me as too formulaic). It might be useful to make an audio recording, or have a friend you trust, leading you through this series of steps, with whatever modifications you see fit.. First, you want to focus on your breathing to clear your mind. Focus on the in and the out of your breath. Let your breathing be deep, long breaths, breathing from the stomach. After a few minutes, see yourself in a peaceful setting in nature. Look around you, and walk around, enjoying it. After some more time passes, an animal will make itself obvious to you. It should tell you how it has helped you in the past, though you may need to ask. Ask it to confirm its presence in your life within a set period of time, and thank it for revealing itself. Then, let the setting fade as you focus on your breathing again, slowly returning your attention to your eyes and then opening them.
It is important to note that these procedures may not give immediate results. Sometimes, more time and effort is required. It is also important to note, however, that if you have a method that "feels right" to you, or one of the methods above doesn't "feel right", you make sure you're being honest with yourself, and go with your gut instincts.
Resources: I'm a big fan of Ted Andrews' Animal Speak: The Spiritual & Magical Powers of Creatures Great & Small, which many websites "borrow" from. His later book, Animal Wise, looks good, but I have not done more than browse it. There is another book that looked very good that I regret not purchasing, and I have heard good things about Totems : The Transformative Power of Your Animal Totem.
On the web, some sites with information are:
http://www.animaltotem.com/find-your-totem.html, http://www.spiritualnetwork.net/totems/discover_your_animal_totems.htm, and there is a guided meditation at http://www.serioussilver.com/totemenergy/abouttotems.html#preparing, and a spell to do the same at http://www.wicca.drak.net/ladyrosemist/Totems.htm.