Why Spirit Animals Aren’t Dumb (and why you should find yours!)

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karoma_spirit_beast_twilight_highlands

“Spirit animals” have a lot of connotations associated with them, both positive and negative.  Many ancient shamanic and animist religions had the concept of a “spirit animal.”  Though purposes and methods of acquisition would vary from culture to culture, the idea of a spirit animal was that you had a particular animal spirit that would look out for you, and guide you through life.  Typically these were found through some sort of vision quest or hallucinogenic experience.

Fast forward to the mid-late 20th century, when various “new age” religious and self help movements appropriated the concept of a “spirit animal,” and turned it into a great way to make money off of unsuspecting pagan wannabes.  In vogue among the new age crowd for a while, the idea of having a spirit animal quickly turned into a giant sign labeling anyone proclaiming to have one as a crunchy granola hippie.

Now, I’m not here to comment on the validity of religious beliefs, or any of their practices.  You do you, I’ll do me, and we won’t get in each other’s way.  I’m not personally in the camp that believes a guiding animal spirit to be a real thing.  However, I am in the camp that thinks the concept can be incredibly helpful, despite possible negative stigmas here in the 21st century.

fight club spirit animal

Slide.

So why do I like spirit animals, if I don’t believe in any of the “hokey religions,” to quote Han Solo?  Because the idea of having a powerful emblematic ally is basically exactly what we’re about here at Be a Game Character.  Let’s do a quick comparison, shall we?

Video Game Characters

  • Represent classical archetypes of power.
  • Become identifiable through familiarity.
  • Manifest multi-faceted talents and abilities.
  • Can serve as powerful motivational waypoints.
  • Are used as tools to tell iconic stories
  • Are not real.

And now…

Spirit Animals

  • Represent classical archetypes of power.
  • Become identifiable through familiarity.
  • Manifest multi-faceted talents and abilities.
  • Can serve as powerful motivational waypoints.
  • Are used as tools to tell iconic stories
  • Are (probably) not real.

Notice any similarities?

Spirit animals in most religious and cultural structures also served as guides and aides in difficult times, which video game characters cannot necessarily do.  However, by applying yourself to an ideal, be it an animal or a video game character, you can in many ways aid yourself, just by having a yardstick or compass to compare yourself against.  When confronted with a difficult decision, you can ask yourself, “What would Captain Falcon do in this situation?”  You could also ask yourself “What would a falcon do in this situation?”

If you identify with a falcon, then you have some attributes you can compare yourself against.  Falcons are incredibly fast an agile.  They are efficient predators.  They’re protective parents.  They have powerful vision, and soar high above situations, observing them before taking action.

See?  Ten seconds and I’ve already got some cool guiding attributes.  The thing is, you can do this with most animals, if not all.  They’ve all got unique attributes you can draw upon, which is part of the reason why we love those “What is your animal/spirit animal?” quizzes so much!  Additionally, the idea of identifying with an animal scratches our primal itch, so to speak.  It’s the reason why early martial arts styles were frequently based upon or named after animals.  Heck, you don’t even need to have one spirit animal, you can have a couple!  Maybe you’re a dog when it comes to social situations, but you’re an eagle when you’re off on your own.  They don’t even have to be real animals.

Despite my online handle (DaRatmastah,) I don’t actually identify with rats as my primary spirit animal.  I like rats, and I do identify with them a bit (they’re resourceful, intelligent, gregarious, family-oriented) but my primary spirit animal is something…a little larger…

Dragon

Hopefully I’ve gotten you to start thinking about what animal or animals you identify with most.  Who is your spirit animal?  Let us know over in The Guild Hall!

Until next time, remember to live boldly, change the world, and continue to be awesome.

Dan Wallace

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