Ancestral Medicine Women

The Importance of Animals in the Shamanic Tradition | The story of Igryn

The Importance of Animals in the Shamanic Tradition. (audio)

You may not be surprised to learn in the Shamanic Traditions with regarding animals, there is two main themes:

  • one is the physical importance and
  • one is the spiritual importance.

We are going to tell you a story because it’s such a rich way to explain concepts, ideas and so on, and in that, we hope you will plainly see what we mean by the physical and the spiritual world importance of animals in the Shamanic Tradition. After the story, we will elaborate somewhat on the spiritual aspect because the physical aspect is somewhat plain to see, but the spiritual aspect is a little bit more, quite a lot more really in-depth and more what we are really aiming at when we really talk about in the Shamanic Tradition and the importance of animals in that Tradition.

So, I am going to tell you a story of ‘Igryn’.

Igryn, he was a very famous earboa, which is what we called his type in my time. Earboa, you would loosely translate as ‘man’ but it wasn’t really man as in the physical manifestation of that gender it was more characteristics, attributes that signified going out into the world.

And when you look at man and women and we are not making any claims here, but when you look at man the reproductive organs are on the outside and the women’s reproductive organs are on the inside, so in my time it was that the man went out and the women was inward. Outward/Inward.

So earboa, yes it means man, but it really means ‘outward’, going out into the world, but we would say there are different components of earboa. So, for example, warrior, protector, hunter, this type of, these things would also be called earboa so you could also use that word earboa also when they were going, these people were going to be warriors. Women could be earboa as well. It was not confined to your physical sex, that’s what we are saying in this instance, it’s not about how you have manifested as a male or female in the physical form, it is the characteristics that you choose to express.

So Igryn was earboa and he was very famous. He was a long time before me. It was like the time I was there; he was myth even. He was very famous. He was famous because he was, what you would call, successful. He was fully successful when he hunted. Very successful as a warrior. Very successful as a protector and protector by that we mean, they are the people that protect the clan not just from outside threats but also from inside threats. So, he was very wise. The protectors were the wise elders, or the wise people of the clan that made decisions and dealt with disputes etc. So, he was very successful in all of these things.

But when he was first training if you like to become earboa, he was just like everybody else. He sometimes got food on the hunt, sometimes he was successful as a warrior and sometimes it was a bit ‘hit and miss with the wise decisions when he was as the protector.

So, he was just like everybody else. Nothing remarkable.

And then and what is interesting we now have to give you some more background in this situation regarding humans in the Shamanic Tradition.

It is considered that humans have animal spirit guides. Lots of people even now when they journey, they find that there are animals all around them in their journeys, even then, of course then, but even then, but it was very much known that you had animal spirit guides and it was different from your hethna (personal totem).  The animal spirit guides were just that, they were like your friends, they were your companions, so if you were by yourself you knew you always had them.

For Igryn his animal spirit guides were ‘eagle,’ ‘mouse,’ ‘wolf,” ‘snake’. These were his four animal spirit guides and he utilised those, just like everybody else at his time. He utilised those animal spirit guides in his daily life. So, he would, this was why he was unremarkable at this time, everybody did this.

You would wake up in the morning and greet the world. Maybe he would see the eagle flying and it was like you would be greeting an old friend. There was a familiarity. You felt as if you had companionship, friendship. You felt secure because your animal guide was there to greet you in the morning.

If you were going hunting and let’s say as with Igryn one of your animal spirit guides was the wolf and you would see a pack of wolves and they were smelling the air and they were getting agitated, you knew somewhere around there was some prey, something that you could hunt.

So, you could utilise their skills in your daily life. So these were the physical attributes of the animal spirit guides in the real physical way that you could utilise them and of course when you are journeying yourself for your health or for troubles etc their animal spirit guides would be with you in that spirit time and helping you get through your dilemmas, your problems, your illnesses they might guide you in different directions, but they would be there with you as a support.

So there as well in the spirit world they had this great significance for humans.

So, this was what Igryn’s life was like with his animal spirit guides, this is what they brought to him. But there was a time in Igryn’s life where his tribe was in dispute with another tribe and through negotiations the dispute could not be settled so it was determined that they would have to go to war, they would have to fight it out, if you like.

Igryn had done this time before, he was not a coward, he was brave like everybody else, it was the way it was. That’s what you did. But in this one particular ,he was very agitated and he could not understand why he was so agitated. It was like he was nervous. It was like he had lost his courage so he went to the Shaman and the Shaman said to him: ‘Go into the forest, into the wood and make an offering. Make an offering’.  What the Shaman meant was to go, not to kill something, but to light a fire and to make like, what you would say now, a pray and ask for help and guidance.

Of course, he would have animal spirit guides for this because they were the ones that supported, helped him protected him and were companions to him. So, this is what he did, because he did it all the time but this time it was more formal because he was actually making the fire, making the chants, the prayers.

That night he was asleep and had a terrible, terrible nightmare. Terrible nightmare. The first thing that happened in the nightmare, the eagle came down and took his eyes with the beak. Took them out of his head, he could not see, it was dark and he was in agony and pain.

The next thing that happened in this nightmare was that the mouse came and filled his ears with grass and straw and made like a nest in both of the ears. So, his ears were like big heavy things on the side of his face and he couldn’t hear. It was completely blocked and it was like he was completely separated from the world.

The next thing that happened was that the wolf came and bit off his nose in one swipe, bit it off and he could no longer breathe, he had no nose, through the nose and the next thing that happened, in the dream and was the snake came and wrapped himself around and around Igryn so that Igryn could not move. He was completely paralysed.

This was the nightmare. The next morning, he wakes up and he can’t move he is completely paralysed. Arms can’t move, his body can’t move, he can’t lift his head and he is confused, he doesn’t understand why he can’t get up and then he realises that he must be saying something because he knows his mouth is moving, but he can’t hear anything, he can’t hear a thing! And then he realises he can’t breathe through his nose, he can only breath through his mouth, there’s something wrong with his nose, it is like it is completely blocked, it’s gone completely. It’s not there anymore as a function.

And almost worst of all he has opened his eyes, but he can’t see. Everything is complete darkness and his wife, she comes in to tell him to get up, to go out into the world and she can get no response, he can’t move. She can see his eyes are open but he can’t see anything and words are coming out of his mouth and he is in panic and he can’t hear what she is saying, can’t feel her touch and so she runs to get the Shaman and the Shaman comes slowly, slowly, slowly the Shaman comes.

The Shaman comes into their shelter and looks at Igryn, feels Igryn, talks to Igryn, smells Igryn, listens to the body function of Igryn and then gets up and walks out. Not one word did the Shaman say. Not one word. Just gets up and walks out.

The wife is very distressed. You can imagine how Igryn is feeling. He is a strong earboa and here he has nothing!

The Shaman walks away and will not speak to anybody, will not let anybody into their shelter, just stays all day. The people of the clan they are upset because they think it is an omen and the fact that the Shaman will do nothing and has locked themselves away is very bad omen, because they are going to go to war. Everybody is in a panic; everybody is distressed and this goes on for the whole day.

Igryn is in and out of consciousness but nobody can make any sense from him. Then at night, everybody stays awake, nobody can sleep because they are worried they are going to be attacked. The wife sits up with Earboa, she sets the fire next to him.

That night Igryn eventually goes to sleep and he has a dream. This time the eagle flies down and give Igryn its own eyes and puts them in Igryn’s eyes. The mouse comes, cleans out all of that nest, cleans it very well and gives Igryn its own ears and then the wolf comes and gives Igryn its own nose and puts it on Igryn’s face. And then the snake comes and instead of winding itself around Igryn, it enters Igryn’s body and is inside his body.

The next morning Igryn awakes and he feels completely different. He is a person transformed! His vision is very focused, it is very alert. He can hear the smallest, smallest rustling of the leaves in the forest far away. He can smell, he can smell even the tribe that is going to go to war he can smell their own fear, he can smell his own tribe’s fear.

But most important for him of all at this point, he was lying on the ground and he could feel the vibration of the Shaman walking from their shelter to his shelter and he knew that is was the Shaman because the vibration, the snake that was within him allowed that vibration to give him the size, the shape, the weight of that individual and he knew before it came, that it was the Shaman that was coming.

He didn’t know what had gone on. The Shaman comes in and he tells the Shaman everything. The Shaman realises what has happened. He realises that when Igryn went to ask for help with his bravery, with his agitation that his animal spirit guides took him, if you like, at his word. Took him literally. He wanted their strengths to help him.

Their strengths are: For the eagle – division.  For the mouse – the hearing.  For the wolf – the scent.  For the snake – the vibration.

So, each of these animal spirit guides gave to him their strengths and this was the beginning of Igryn’s famous successes.

He was a man transformed. He was able to utilise his animal spirit guides strengths in his life and go out into the world and use those strengths with his own strengths to be formidable, to become a legend to become somebody that was to be revered. To be respected. To be in awe of.

This is the story of Igryn.

There are many stories of Igryn’s prowess in all of the areas, but this part of his story is what we wanted to talk about today. it is relevant for what we are talking about today.

You saw in the story that there are physical ways to understand the importance of animals in the Shamanic Tradition. Once you know your animal spirit guides, they are like your friends and you see them around you. Maybe you see them in paintings, maybe you see them in sculptures, maybe you see them in real life. Maybe you even have them with you as ornamentation on the body. But every time you look at them, that physical presence of them makes you feel that you have companionship, that you have friendship, that you have something in your life that is going to give you strength, that is going to help you through these moments.

Also, not so much now, in your modern world, but definitely of course in the world that Igryn lived in, if you say your animal spirit guides in the physical sense and you knew what their strengths, what they were about, how they lived their lives, you could use their knowledge to enhance your own physical, material existence. So, for example with Igryn, if he saw the eagle hovering in one space, he knew that over there underneath the eagle there was something to eat, so he could make his way to hunt because it was like the eagle was saying to him – there’s something here for you.

Of course, if he did kill something, he would leave something for the eagle. He would not take it all because the eagle, they are friends, they are companions, so he would of course share with the eagle.

In your lifetime now, you would actually utilise the animals in your life, or if you had animal spirit guides and you knew what they were and you they were there in the physical sense, you could use them for, still use them in your life. For example, if you knew what the strength was, or look at dogs – they have the scent, but they also have the keen sense of hearing and the also have a keen sense of, like they can smell, they can even smell fear, and they are alert.

So you can utilise your, the dog for example if that is your animal spirit, even if it is not just the companion in your life, you can utilise those skills, those abilities and attributes of the dog and enhance your life in that way so you become more aware of what’s actually going on. More alert to the atmosphere and to the energies around you.

And of course, the dog is the well-known companion of humans. They give love, they give friendship, they are loyal, companionship – you can rely on them. So you can see that even in your daily life in the modern world you can still use animals, when we say ‘use animals’ you understand what we mean, it’s not to the detriment of the animal it’s to utilise their skills and abilities in your own life by watching them and by having them in your life, so you can still enhance your existence with animals in your life in this Shamanic Tradition.

So, in this story you saw, we explained to you about the physical side of the importance of animals in the Shamanic Tradition, but what we really wanted you to know and to tell you about it and to talk to you about was that spiritual aspect. You saw that there were two. if you like, levels of that. One was when we explained when Igryn was unwell or sick he would journey and his animal spirit guides would be with him and they would help him. So, he was in the spirit world at this time when he was journeying.

And the animal spirit guides were there, so the animals, his animal guides were there in spirit with his spirit and together they walked that path of illness, or distress together and sometimes they guided him this way or that way, but mainly they went with him as support. They went with him to be with him so he was not along on his journey through life, this spirit life which of course was a reflection of his physical life.

That they were there with him, for him. So, there is that level of the spiritual aspect of animals in the Shamanic Tradition but you also saw that Igryn took it, one step, or was given the opportunity to take it further. And many Shaman’s this is something that they have incorporated into their own life. Not all those living in their Shaman Tradition, but many of them will have spoken to their animal spirit guides and found out their strengths and then utilised those strengths for themselves.

With Igryn the difference was that the animal spirits gave to him their strengths!  What often happens, that once you know what the strengths are of your animal spirit guides it’s like, let’s just look at the eagle. Let’s say you have eagle as your animal spirit guide and you know that vision for them is their strength.

Of course, you are not going to need vision for hunting and such like, but you might look at vision in a different way to that you ‘see’. In other words, you are being like a ‘seer’, you are looking beyond, you are seeing the visions, if you like, looking beyond, you are using that word vision in a different, more energetic spiritual sense.

So, you don’t have to have the eyes of the eagle in your head as Igryn did, but you can put yourself into behind the eagles’ eyes, if you see what we mean. So, you, instead of having the eagle give their strength to you, you are going to the eagle to utilise that strength for a period of time.

And so, that is what many Shaman’s do and that is what in this modern world, not that you want, you have to be Shaman to do this, but in the modern world that’s what we would suggest to people that if you want to have this, enhanced experience with your animal spirit guides, that you are not just utilising their strengths  by watching them and seeing how they do it and then do it that way, but actually putting yourself behind the eyes of the eagle and looking through the eyes of the eagle, with that vision to see beyond, to see more, to see more clearly, to be more focused on whatever it is that you are looking at.

Then that is a possibility in this modern world and in that way, you don’t have to be actually standing with somebody and seeing beyond them. What we are talking about is more in your meditative sense. Let’s say you have an issue or a problem at your work and you can’t see, obviously there are many layers, there are many aspects, there are many people involved in this and it is causing you some problems. So, you can put in the eyes, get in behind the eyes of the eagle and you can see, in a very focused, long-distance way, or way up above things, and looking for what is really going on here? Who are the players? Who is mixing together here to ferment this problem, this trouble?

And in that way you get a clear picture so that when you are not behind the eyes of the eagle and you go to your work and you see this person that the eyes of the eagle has showed you, the one that was actually brewing the trouble, but doesn’t look like it in real life, when you get there and you see them for the first time after that ‘vision’, eagle vision, you see them and you understand them and you see them in a completely different light.

Now you know, and now you can work out how, without it being detrimental to anybody else, to anybody, how can you deal with this situation because now you have the vision of the eagle.

So, with Igryn he was gifted these strengths by his animal spirit guides, but in some ways, they were also a hindrance to him because he always had the eyes of the eagle. He always had the ears of the mouse, the nose of the wolf and the vibrational energy body of the snake. So, he went through his life always like that and that was very difficult. It was very difficult for him and interestingly he was, he became very wise and successful as we said, but he never ever wanted to be the clan leader. He never fought for that place and many people believe that he should, but he realised that he could not be there because it was enough for him to cope with all of these gifts that he had been given, just in the role as earboa. It was enough.

This was part of his wisdom of course, he could see, he knew.

So, we would not suggest that to people that you actually get your animal spirit guides to gift you their strength, but we would say to you, if you know what your animal spirit guides are… Well let’s say that you don’t know first of all, then you have to, if you don’t know what your animal spirit guides are, maybe you to journey to find out. Maybe you can meditate on it. Maybe you already feel some affiliations with certain animals and you actually set up a dialogue with them, I feel very aligned with you, I feel very close to you. Are you one of my animal spirit guides? They will say yes or no!

Maybe you are just aligned with them because you like the colour, whatever, but if you journey, then you will already know that sometimes these animals appear with you and sometimes, not saying all the time, but sometimes they are mistaken for hethna (personal totem), and we would suggest that you go back and really speak to them and really find out; “are you really my hethna or are you my animal spirit guides?”

Once you know what your animal spirit guides are, then you can go on a journey of discovery, exploration, find out what, what makes these animals tick in the physical world. What makes them do what they do. What are their strengths? What are their attributes? How do they live? All of this type of thing and build a picture of your animal spirit guides. Maybe you only have one, you don’t have to have many, you don’t have to have lots, you can just have one, but build a real picture/concept of that animal and look at its strengths and see how those strengths can complement your own self.

And then you can start up this dialogue, yes they are your friends, yes they are your companions and yes you can look at the way they live and you can start to look at that in your life and how that can benefit your life, and you can also with their strength, utilise those strengths in your life, not just by looking at them and by just observing them, but actually getting in behind and being in, and we go back to the eagle, being at the back of eagle so that you have that vision. You have that.

You might find happens for you in your journeying. You might have to actually do a journey to say: ‘Ok eagle, I want to be behind your eyes so I can see this picture clearly and in focus and all of the part of it.’ And so, you go on a journey or maybe you are just not perficient, have not been comfortable with journeying that you do it through like a mediation form. Maybe you even get somebody to do a guided meditation for you. You write down what your issue is. You write down, you tell them what your animal spirit guide is. The strength that you want to use and that you just get them to guide you through, ok, we go back to the eagle, because it is the easiest one already developed, you set the intention that you want to be behind the eagles eyes. And so, they prepare you to go. They say you are going to be behind the eagle’s eyes and you are going to see this situation.

We go back to the work situation. This situation at work and what you are looking for in this situation is you’re looking for the combinations, the patterns, you are looking for the source, you are looking for this. So you get that person to guide you through and they take you through with all of the things you might be looking for and then maybe your set a time limit, maybe you can say you are meditating but conscious enough to put your hand up and say: ‘That’s it, I’ve found it.’ You have to work that out for yourself, but there are many ways that you can use this, the animal spirit guides in your life. Like we said in the physical sense, but if you can transition yourself to really being behind the eagles’ eyes and see things really for what is really going on.

Because everything in life has a mask. Every single, single thing. You know people say: ‘Oh I am a thinker. I think a lot etc.’ But what we would say to you, are you thinking about what is there or are you thinking about what is not there. Because it’s what is NOT there, that is where it actually is. So, when your governments tell you one thing, and they will give you lots of information this is the reason that we’re doing it and so on and so on and so, and people think about that and they talk about. We would say to you that is very good, but don’t be one of those people go and find out they’re not telling you because that’s what’s really going on.

That’s the real reason behind this. That’s really who is driving that. Not what is being said to you and that’s like everything in life. Humans are taught from a very early, early age to have the mask. Never really expose who they are. Never really behave in the way that you want because it’s not sociably acceptable. You have to behave in a way that we can all live together and that is understandable.

But when you want to find out what is behind something, or really behind something that is really causing trouble, you can’t look at what is there in front of you, you have to look at what is not there in front of you.

And in this way, your animal spirit guides can help you if you are prepared to use their strengths, but by using them we mean actually mean getting in behind them, not just observing and what have you, but actually getting in behind the eagle eyes and really see.

So that’s what we have to say about the importance of animals in the Shamanic Tradition, we hope that everybody has understood that and that everybody has gained some information and it’s feeling that they have been, that something inside them has grown, right?

They have got some inner expansion, nourishment, that’s what we hope because the one thing with the Shamanic Tradition, in fact when you look at all religions over time, not that Shamanic Tradition is a religion, but it’s the spiritual manifestation of humans.

When you look at that, one of the things that’s always, the beginning of it is that the human is fulfilled. That there is something that fills in the chest here, between the breasts and that it’s like a little ball of light and it actually and you feel like you are opening up to the universe. You are opening up to the world.

Many people feel like that when they sing. When they dance. When they are actually losing themselves and many religions began with the deluding yourself from the profane world, loosing yourself in the sacred world. And in a way that’s what we are wanting to create when we have these lectures. We are wanting to create for a moment, in everybody’s hole that does this. A sacred moment, a sacred space. We do that through the meditation and even with what we are saying, we are trying to create but that sacred space of course, is right here in your chest, right between the breast bone right?

So, what we want, yes, we can create the physical, sacred space, but we want is to create that sacred space within you that blossoms and expands and feels like there is something in there so you can go out into the world and live in that way. And that’s really what the Shamanic way of life is.

Yes, it has, not rules and regulations, but it has certain attributes like being connected to the earth, having animals in your life and all this type of thing. There are rituals and like the fire and so on, but they are like the physical manifestations of that right? it is like how a human can reflect their inner self outwards. It’s how the human can practice that inner fulfilment and they can practice it and bring it out to the world.

But really, it’s all here in the chest, that ball that is like and it fills up and it vibrates, and it energises the whole being.

That’s what we hope people have received today.

Mother Sha-Riah,
Shamanic Representative
Ancestral Medicine Women

All rights reserved 2020 Brad Dunn and Caroline Allison-Dunn
Image thanks to Silar / CC BY-SA 3.0