The deer totem can be defined as a symbolic representation of the deer species in various cultures and spiritual traditions. Totem animals are usually adopted by a particular group or community. The symbolic meanings of these animals can vary both according to the beliefs, customs and traditions of the community, and according to the animal’s position and character in nature.
What is Totem?
A totem is a symbolic animal, plant, or object with which a group, community, or tribe is associated. It is a concept seen in many cultures, especially in indigenous cultures in North America, Asia, Africa and Oceania.
In Native American and African cultures, totems are mostly used as family or clan symbols. Each totem has a meaning and function. The group or clan that adopts the totem behaves in accordance with the symbolic meanings of the totem.
In Asia, totemism developed mostly around Siberia and Central Asia, in relation to shamanism and animism. The totems were mostly associated with the animals in the region and the groups determined their totems according to the symbolic meanings of these animals. For example, a community whose totem is the wolf emphasized that they are warriors and ruthless.
Are Totem Animal and Spirit Animal the Same Thing?
The terms “totem animal” and “spirit animal” are often used interchangeably, but they can have different meanings depending on the cultural context. The totem animal is a symbolic animal belonging to a particular culture and represents the group’s sense of belonging. It helps a person discover his/her strengths and understand himself/herself better. On the other hand, the spirit animal is often a symbol of an individually chosen personal spiritual guide.
Totem and Spirit Animal in Shamanism
The concept of totem is important in shamanism. Shamanism is a belief system that respects the forces of the natural world and integrates these forces into human life. That’s why shamans respect totem animals and other natural objects and associate these objects with supernatural powers.
In shamanism, the spirit animal represents the connection between the natural world and humans and guides one’s spiritual journey. The spirit animal helps the shaman discover and use the spiritual energy within himself. Shamans make spiritual journeys by entering trance-like states with the help of spirit animals and use spiritual energies to heal the sick.
Spirit animal selection is usually done with a shaman or guide and is determined by the person’s life experiences, personality, and future potential. The choice of spirit animal can also be determined by the date of birth, the characteristics of the animal, and its symbolic meanings.
The deer totem is associated with respect for nature, the natural world and animals. It is believed that the deer totem can help people connect with the natural world and understand the power of nature.
The deer is an animal that has symbolic meanings in many cultures and is often associated with nature, guidance and transformation. In many communities it symbolizes grace, endurance, agility and intuitiveness.
The deer totem is especially important in shamanism and Native American cultures. Among the North American Indians, the deer is used as a clan emblem or symbol of some tribes. In these communities, deer totems reflect the identity and culture of the community to which they belong.
Deer in Shamanism: Spiritual and Symbolic Meanings
The deer has many different spiritual and symbolic meanings in shamanic traditions. These are generally as follows:
Spiritual Guide: The deer is often seen as a spiritual guide in shamanism. During meditation or trance, shamans summon the spirit animal, the deer, and proceed under his guidance.
Strength and Courage: In some shamanic traditions, the deer is associated with personal strength and courage. The energy of the deer helps the person to be strong, fast and agile.
Harmony with Nature: The deer is seen as a symbol that helps people connect with nature and live in harmony with it. Shamans help people reconnect with nature and harness its forces.
Healing: Shamans try to heal diseases and solve spiritual problems by using the energy of the spiritual deer.
Transformation: In shamanism, the shedding and regrowth of deer antlers are associated with transformation. The energy of the deer helps one to transform oneself and rise to a new spiritual level.
Spiritual Enlightenment: The deer is seen as a guide on the path to spiritual enlightenment. Shamans try to raise themselves to a higher level of consciousness by this method.
Wisdom and Guidance: The deer is a symbol of wisdom and guidance in many cultures. Shamans use the energy of the deer to guide people and help them find the right path in their lives.
The Effect of Deer Symbolism on Shaman Clothing
Shamans form strong connections with nature and animals. This is why animal symbols are one of the most common figures in shaman clothing.
The deer symbolizes the connection of shamans with nature. The deer figures on shaman clothing are interpreted as a visual expression of this connection. The symbolic meanings of these figures are extensive enough to be a separate research topic.1
Deer figures are used in shaman clothing, often in ornaments and embroidery. Deerskin, antlers and bones are also sometimes included in the clothing. Musical instruments are made from bones and these instruments are used during shamanic rituals.
The deer symbol helps shamans communicate with animal spirits and use the forces of nature. Shamans believe that by imitating the movements of the deer in nature, they will have its energy and power.
- “Study of the Deer Symbolism in the Shaman’s Clothing and Attributes“, Altantsetseg PUREVDORJ & Uranmandakh MARGAI, 2018