Education

What is a Spirit Animal?

We have seen or heard the phrases “my spirit animal is this…”, “my spirit animal is that…” or “It’s my spirit animal because it’s this and that…”. It could be a tweet, a post on Facebook or Instagram with a picture of a lion, deer, trees, chair, and more. Before following the trend, make sure that you get more information. Using the phrase Spirit Animal can get you in hot waters as can be interpreted as cultural appropriation.

People use the phrase Spirit Animal to express their strong identification or appreciation of animals. Lions for courage, elephants for stability, and turtles for longevity. We see our traits magnified on the animals that we observe. But where did the term Spirit Animal come from, and is it appropriate to use it?

Origin of the phrase

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No one can really say whether who or when the term Spirit Animal was coined. But most sociologists and historians agree that it was heavily based on the Native American culture, the American Indians. From the feathers of birds of prey on their war bonnets to the various animal engrave on their totems.

With the shallow understanding of the new generation and the tendency to create new phrases, the term Spirit Animal was coined. You can observe it on social media, video games, movies, and all forms of consumable media. People use the phrase to identify themselves and their traits with animals.

Without knowing the true meaning and relationship of the animals with the American Indian culture, the phrase was profoundly used. Everybody rode the hype train without knowing the real meaning of it. Thus, it is the nature of humans to follow the herd. If it’s trending, we should do it.

Spirit helpers not the spirit animals

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The genuine relationship of the animals to the American Indian culture is more profound than the trend. Animals that were used on their totems are actual representations of their lineage, tribe, and family. Names of the people of the tribes have phrases with particular meaning in their own language. It is not to merely identify themselves and their traits to the animals. The animals in the totems would tell the family and tribes residing on the land where it was erected.

Focusing on the spiritual aspect of the culture, they do not even use the term Spirit Animals. They call them Spirit Helpers, and their role is quite far from identifying your traits or yourself. They believed that Spirit Helpers would come to their lives at the time of desperation. They believe that the Spirit Helpers will guide you in a vision of the journey you should take. They will come in the form of a bull, wolf, and other animals.

Cultural Appropriation

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The fact of the matter is, the term SPIRIT ANIMAL has become a novelty, and in a way, trivializes the culture of the Native Americans. It is partly the responsibility of the mainstream media, commercialism, and consumerism. The big consumer companies, production groups, celebrities, and influencers are all partly responsible.

There are those logos of consumer products and their promise to the consumers, drink this bull energy drink, and you will be strong. Wear these large cat logoed shoes, and you will be fast. There are the powerups you see in the movies and comics. Actual Native Americans are depicted with the powers of the spirit animals.

Even the video games we played have depicted the native Americans with the powers of the Spirit Animals. Use any search engine you can, and you will see many quizzes that will help you identify your spirit animal. Advertisements and banners are everywhere showing Spirit Animals.

Worse are the celebrities who just throw around the phrase to identify themselves to other stars. Some examples are Rihanna calling her friend Parris Goebel her spirit animal in an Instagram post; Kerry Washington calling Kate Winslet her spirit animal. Though they made public apologies and stand corrected. Because of these leads, people are posting on social media with celebrities as their Spirit Animals.

Now, why is it a big deal? Because there are still about 577 actual native American tribes existing in the present. They are still true to their cultures and their profound meaning. Spirit Helpers and the representation of their tribes with animals included. They are still thriving and are able to preserve their culture even in this new age and time.

Imagine a young woman, a member of one of the tribes of Native Americans at junior high. Seeing and hearing everyone around him using the phrase “My Spirit Animal is Samuel L. Jackson” and then asking her, who is your Spirit Animal? What would she feel? What would they feel?

Things we say or do may seem harmless to us but are actually hurtful to others. It wouldn’t hurt us to consider them and be sensitive to their position. They may act that it is okay with them, but it may be really walloping them.

Moving forward

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We all agree that we can really identify ourselves or our traits to animals and people. It is part of our nature. To look at our similarities to others and find harmony. However, there are several phrases we can use instead. Soulmate, soul sister, kindred spirit, twin, and a whole lot more.

Conclusion

At the end of it all, it is not our fault if we do not know the more profound meaning and culture of the American Indian natives. At the same time, we don’t intend to culturally appropriate them. Most definitely not to trivialize their culture or make a novelty out of it.

We can admit that we were just following the trend. We see it as applicable to us and can easily describe our feelings in a situation by using the phrase. But now that we know it, it is time we use better words and terms. It is also time that we do a little bit more research regarding trends. It adds valuable knowledge and can keep us from hot waters.

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