Totem Meanings

Feathers & Wings

Feathers: Powerful symbols for millennia, feathers have been used to celebrate auspicious events and healing rituals in all human cultures.  Feathers deal with ascension and spiritual evolution to a higher plane. Feathers symbolize communication with celestial wisdom. Native Americans consider that feathers represent the power of the thunder gods, along with the power of air and wind. In dreams feathers mean travel or the ability to move more freely in life. White feathers in dreams indicate innocence or a fresh start in a spiritual sense.

Wings: Wings are the expression of the aspiration of the soul towards a higher than human condition, in other words the aspiration to transcend the human condition. Wings are related to the cognitive faculty, imagination, thought, freedom and victory.  In ancient Egypt, winged gods were protective gods. They protected creatures, covering them with their wings, as well as surrounding walls, enclosures and temples.  In pre-Columbian cultures, wings are associated with the Sun, adopting the form of an eagle in Mexico, and the form of a condor in Peru. These solar birds are the symbol of the sky up to where they can rise thanks to their powerful wings. In Greece, Hermes had winged heels, symbol of the traveller and the messenger, of dreams, of impulse, of movement. The Greeks represented Love and Victory with wings. According to Plato, wings represent Intelligence and Understanding. That is the reason why they are associated with certain fabulous animals, such as Pegasus, representing the sublimation of the specific symbolism of the animal.


Owls: Accompanies Minerva in Roman myths, & seen as a symbol of wisdom because the owl is capable of seeing even in the dark and of vigilance because the owl is awake at night. The owl is accepted as a universal symbol for wisdom and knowledge. The owl was the symbol of Athena, who was not only the goddess of wisdom, but was also the goddess of battle. The owl is not only wise but a fierce fighter. However, owls have also been associated with wisdom and prosperity, frequently being companion animals for other goddesses. In Hindu Mythology, the barn owl is considered to be the vehicle of Goddess Lakshmi (Goddess of Wealth) and thus it is considered lucky if an owl resides near a house. Owl meaning prompts you to open your eyes and honestly examine how things are. You will be surprised by what you can suddenly see. As an example, other people’s motives may now become clear to you. External appearances will give way to the truth and meaning hidden beneath.  Great grey owl is softer energy although the focus of the raptor is there. So are the energies of the smaller owls.  The barn owl and flammulated owl have completely dark eyes, which gives them the look of a creature with incredible depth. Great horned owl and barn owl are also representative of adaptability and flexibility, and is found in many habitats including urban environments.

Raven: Raven represents intelligence, creativity, playfulness, and a far-seeing eye. Countless cultures point to the raven as a harbinger of powerful secrets. Moreover, the raven is a messenger too, so its business is in both keeping and communicating deep mysteries.  Raven totem is the keeper of synchronicity. He is a master of bending and folding time and space. Therefore, you are precisely at the right moment at the right time.  In the creator role, and in the Raven's role as the totem and ancestor of one of the four northwest clan houses, the Raven is often addressed as Grandfather Raven.  Whenever Raven’s meaning appears in your life, fantastic magic is imminent. The Raven symbolism also brings messages of transition, change, and healing because of its ability to cast light into the darkness. When this happens, make sure that you are well-grounded and have faith in your journey.

Red-Tail Hawk: Hawk medicine is in visionary power and guardianship, & teaches us to open our eyes and see that which is there to guide us. This could mean focusing on a talent we don't use, a blessing, or a message from the Spirit realm. The hawk is “a heavenly deity; its wings were the sky, the sun and moon were its eyes”. Is the messenger. It is also about visionary power and guardianship. It teaches us about providing for family and self. Hawk teaches us to be observant and to pay attention to what we may overlook. This could mean a talent we don't use, a blessing for which we haven't expressed gratitude, or a message from Spirit. The hawk has keen eyesight, it is about opening our eyes and seeing that which is there to guide us. This particular bird was “a heavenly deity; its wings were the sky, the sun and moon were its eyes”.

Eagles: All eagles represent the spirit of the divine. Eagle feathers are used all over the world as ceremonial instruments and are considered to be the most sacred of healing tools. They are a symbol of power, healing and wisdom. Eagle represents a state of grace that is reached through inner work and understanding. Eagle energy can help one in reclaiming personal power. Eagle medicine is the gift of clear vision with which one can truly see.  Eagles convey the powers and messages of the spirit and is man's connection to the divine because it flies higher than any other bird. If an eagle has appeared to you, it enhances the courage to look ahead. The eagle is symbolic of honesty and truthful principles. In ancient times, the eagle represented the supreme Greek god Zeus and was frequently stylized on coinage. 

Golden Eagle: The golden eagle, Aquila chrysaetos, is capable of taking larger bird and mammal prey including deer, livestock, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, pronghorn, coyotes, badgers, and bobcats. Diving from great heights, they have been clocked at close to 200 miles per hour. In an undulating territorial and courtship display known as “sky-dancing,” a Golden Eagle performs a rapid series of up to 20 steep dives and upward swoops. For centuries burkitshi, or eagle hunters, have provided the Kazakh people of Mongolia with food during the frigid winter months. Eaglets are captured from their nests high in rocky crevices and live for many years with the families of hunters, who begin training them at age 13. Only female birds are selected, as they ultimately grow to be larger than males, giving them an edge as hunters. The bond between trainer and bird is deep; she answers only to his voice. The burkitshi tradition dates back to the reign of Kublai Khan.

Northern Goshawk: The northern goshawk, Accipiter gentilis, is a large raptor in the family which also includes other extant diurnal raptors, such as harriers. As a species in the genus Accipiter, the goshawk is often considered a "true hawk". Accipiter means "hawk", from accipere, "to grasp", and gentilis is "noble" because in the Middle Ages only the nobility were permitted to fly goshawks in falconry. The northern goshawk is the only species in the genus Accipiter found in both Eurasia and N. America, and may have the second widest distribution of any true member of the family Accipitridae, behind arguably only the golden eagle. Goshawks are revered in many cultures as a symbol of strength; the image of a Northern Goshawk adorned the helmet of Attila the Hun. Historically, Goshawks have been prized falconry birds admired for their capacity to take large prey. They are ferocious defenders of their nests.

Peregrine Falcon: In general, Falcon symbolism is asking you to be vigilant. In other words, this spirit animal’s presence means that there is an opportunity for significant positive changes in your life. Moreover, this opportunity will require proper planning and strategy as well as action on your part.

Sandhill Crane: Symbol of peace and harmony, represents the quietness of self knowledge and calm wisdom. Of only 15 crane species, our sandhill crane is the most ancient of them all. They are often depicted with the sun, as a crane flying into the sun is symbolic of good fortune, luck, and longevity. In ancient times, the Japanese believed that cranes live for thousands of years. In Chinese culture, the crane is thought to be immortal. With their pure white feathers and bodies, cranes also symbolize purity, virginity, and peace.  A crane in flight means a divine vision of good things to come. 

Magpie: Magpie symbolism reminds you that obsession with the material world will not nurture your spiritual path. In other words, the Magpie meaning indicates that only when we loudly follow our true calling in life by being all that we can be will we be able to find the fulfillment and satisfaction for which we are longing.

Robin: Robin symbolism signifies the stimulation of new growth and renewal in many areas of life. Thus Robin’s meaning teaches that you can make changes with joy, laughter, and a song in your heart.

White-Crowned Sparrow: Energetic and incredibly musical, this beautiful and bold sparrow (my favorite) is assertive with it’s territory and adventurous in it’s habits. It can be found nesting up to 10,000 feet high in the mountains in summer and lays gorgeous eggs. The trilling melody of its song will accompany you on high altitude hikes. The Sparrow is ever vigilant in her goals. She is always bustling for her food, foraging for her nests, and gathering for her young. Fastidious and productive, the Sparrow is a reminder that idle hands (and idle minds) should be avoided in order to live a full, healthy life.

Pileated Woodpecker: The woodpecker points to a need for sense of place and grounded earth energy. The symbolic meaning of woodpecker indicates a return to our roots. This analogy is doubly profound in the case of red-headed woodpeckers as the color red is associated with the root chakra; prime, protective energy. Woodpecker is a sign to be aware of our core impulses, and our basic beliefs. Native American’s considered the drumming of the woodpecker to resonate with the beating of the human heart. People with the Woodpecker totem have the power of rhythm in their blood. They have a connection to the heartbeat of the Earth and the cycles that rule it. Folks with this spirit animal totem can shake up the awareness of others just by being around them.

Hummingbirds: It is not commonly known that the fluttering wings of the hummingbird move in the pattern of an infinity symbol - further solidifying the symbolism of eternity & continuity. By observing the hummingbird, we see they are seemingly tireless. Always actively seeking the sweetest nectar, they remind us to forever seek out the good in life and the beauty in each day. This quality reminds us to be persistent in the pursuit of our dreams, and adopt the tenacity and assertiveness of the hummingbird in our lives. The hummingbird animal totem is a messenger of hope and jubilation.

Tree Swallow: Swallow symbolism is saying that you need to let go of past hurts. In other words, when this spirit animal flies into your life, it asks you to put all the negative experiences behind you and swiftly move forward. Moreover, this bird tells you to live in the moment.

Mountain Bluebird: In general, Bluebird symbolism is letting you know to choose happiness at all times. Your life may not be exactly how you want it, but this spirit animal encourages you to count your blessings. Furthermore, similar to the Springbok and Butterfly, Bluebird meaning reminds you to take control of your life.

Skulls & Bones

Skulls: Skulls and bones serve numerous symbolic purposes, and have been worn as magical protection totems for millennia, across myriad cultures. In the creative realm, they depict change and transformation while other cultures associate them with strength and even protection.  In many cultures, the skull was paired with wings to symbolize life after death.  Skulls represent the essence of a being or creature, pared down to its essential form.  As such they are beautiful and exert a powerful draw on most people.  Bones convey a similar energy. I use bird skulls most frequently in my work, but mammal skulls certainly are represented.  My academic background definitely influences my fondness for skulls.


Wolf: Wolf represents loyalty, perseverance, success. Wolves have been long regarded by Native Americans as teachers or pathfinders. Wolves are fiercely loyal and have a strong sense of family while maintaining individualism. They are truly free spirits, even though their packs are highly organized. Traditionally, someone with Wolf Medicine has a strong sense of self, and communicates well. They often find new solutions to problems while providing stability and support that one normally associates with a family structure. Wolf's medicine includes dignity and courage, guidance in dreams and meditations, instinct linked with intelligence, social and family values, steadfastness, and skill in protection of self and family.
Golden Eagle: A totem of great strength, power, and keen vision into far distances, the golden eagle is majestic and fierce. She has over 2000 pounds per square inch of crushing power in her talons, and has been know to hunt wolves. Of course, as rulers of the sky, eagle meaning is connected with the air element, which symbolizes communication and thought. This totem speaks to us about higher thinking, dreams, and mental liberation. The eagle's message of mental acuity is super-dominant.

Fox: Fox symbolism is intelligence in the Celtic realm, as the Celts believed the fox to be a guide, and was honored for its wisdom. The Celts understood the fox knows the woods intimately, and they would rely upon the fox as their guide in the spirit world.

Grizzly & Black Bear: Bear teaches introspection; to go within and discover that we contain within ourselves the answers to all of our questions. Bears play a prominent role in Native American mythology. They are often symbols of strength, wisdom, healing and medicine. Bear appears in many stories as a moral figure who dishes out punishment to animals and humans for improper or disrespectful behavior. Humankind has forever had a connection to the bear. The earliest known religions were those of the bear cults. Evidence of ritual burials and reverence of bear remains has been seen in nearly every culture in the world.

Mountain Lion (or Cougar): This elusive, secretive cat represents being comfortable with your self. Cougar brings us to wholeness & will ask us to deeply consider the innermost parts of ourselves. This cat is a sign that you have come into your power. Cougar symbolism is letting you know that you must use your leadership skills without the ego. In other words, Cougar’s meaning reminds you that you must lead by example rather than forcing others to follow.

Lynx: Lynx symbolism tells you that things are not exactly what they appear to be. Furthermore, you must use discernment to peel back the layers of deception and see things for what they are. Lynx meaning insists that you look through rather than right at the object of your attention. Lynx’s meaning reminds you to look inward to see where you are deluding yourself with your beliefs. Take the time to analyze the truth of what you believe and reconsider what you value within it.

Tiger: Tiger symbolism is reminding you that persistence is what is necessary to attain your goals. Furthermore, like the Opossum totem, this spirit animal tells you to be patient. Use tried and true methods and repeat them as needed. Thus, Tiger meaning prods you to use your determination

Shark (or shark teeth): The shark spirit animal exudes power, superiority, and authority in its natural environment.Shark meaning is about observation, perception, and understanding.  The ancient islanders had various beliefs about the great creatures of the ocean, and one of them represented the shark as a god who guided sailors and fishers. They also believed that this god was a powerful manifestation of their ancestors and symbolized strength, nobility, and power.  In Hawaiian culture sharks are, in fact, regarded as spirits of half-human beings. Rendered strong by prayer and sacrifice, the spirits take up their abode in a shark body and act as supernatural counselors to their kin.  When Shark enters your life it portends a time of fearlessly facing those things or people who hold you back.

Smaller Weasels: Ingenuity, energy, intellect, stealth and extreme curiosity combine with a fearlessness unrivaled in the mammal kingdom. Weasel meaning teaches you to trust your instincts at all times. The Weasel’s message to you is that you are powerful and can achieve anything.

Wolverine: For the most part, Wolverine symbolism reminds you to stay courageous. This spirit animal urges you to show fearlessness in the face of adversity. In life, challenges are bound to arise, but how you respond to them is what matters.

Serpent: The ancient symbol of the serpent & the animal totem itself represents the fundamental life force: birth, death, and rebirth. Snakes span the symbolic bridge between lunar and solar associations as well as aspects between water and fire. Coiled within this polarity, we clearly see symbolism of duality and the search for balance. The snake also represents transformation, change and renewal as it sheds its skin and is reborn repeatedly. In Eastern Indian myth the Sanskrit word for snake is Naga . These are associated with the element of water. Picking up water's symbolism, nagas are considered to embody nurturing, benevolent, wise qualities. Serpents are however associated with the sky in Mayan wisdom. We see countless depictions of snakes with feathered wings in ancient ruins. With their connection with the sky, serpents are divine. They are also connected with water because rain falls from the skies, and snakes are sky creatures.

Ourobouros: The ancient symbol of the snake eatings its tail, the ourobouros has appeared in many different cultures throughout millennia. While the word Ouroboros has its origins in Greek, representations of the symbol itself have been documented as far back as the 13th and 14th centuries BCE in Ancient Egypt. The oldest known ouroboros appeared on a golden shrine in the tomb of Tutankhamen in Egypt in the 13th Century BC, after a brief lull in traditional religion brought about by his predecessor, Akhenaten. According to leading Egyptologists, the symbol refers to the mystery of cyclical time, which flows back into itself. The ancient Egyptians understood time as a series of repetitive cycles, instead of something linear and constantly evolving; and central to this idea was the flooding of the Nile and the journey of the sun.

Buffalo: The buffalo, or Bison bison, represents sacredness, life, abundance. Buffalo are considered by many tribes as a symbol of abundance: its meat fed the people, skins were used for clothing and covering, bones and sinew were crafted as survival tools, hooves were converted into glue. According to Lakota tradition, White Buffalo Calf Woman gave them the Sacred Pipe, promising abundance as long as they prayed to the Great Spirit and honored All Their Relations, that is, all other creations of nature. Buffalo's Medicine symbolizes an honor, reverence or special love for all the things that Mother Earth offers her children. It is also knowing that abundance is present when all relations are honored as sacred, and when gratitude is expressed to every living part of Creation. Buffalo signals a moment to reconnect with the meaning of life and the value of peace, to praise the gifts you already have, and to recognize and honor the sacredness in all paths, though they may be different than yours.

Deer (Mule Deer, Elk): Deer energy will remind you to be gentle with yourself and others. The grace and gentleness characteristic of this spirit animal echo the qualities brought forth when living from the heart. For example, the traditional symbol used for the heart chakra has the deer (sometimes also represented as an antelope) as emblematic animal of the energy of love and harmony with oneself and others.

Horse: This noble creature represents loyalty, trust & honor, & is by far one of the largest contributors to the enhancement of human civilization. Horse symbolism is a reminder that who you are today, is the combination of all your past experiences. This perception includes the experiences of your ancestors. In other words, your cultural heritage is what shapes the way you think and respond to the environment around you today.

Moose: The moose is often associated with the feminine energies, the maternal forces of the world; those with Moose totem will find these forces awakened.   Part of this is due to the association of moose with water as it is the primal symbol of the feminine forces of the universe.  Water is the symbol of creativity and dynamic forms of intuition and illumination.  The sea is the point from which all life comes and to which all life returns.  It is the great womb of the universe.  The moose is often seen in marshy areas and standing in lakes – moose is comfortable in these areas.  Additionally, the female moose is extremely protective of its young. Its cycle of power is late fall and early winter – the time of Approaching Shadows. It is one of the most ancient and most unique of the power totems.  For anyone who aligns with the Moose, a unique and sacred energy is opened.

Bighorn Ram: Featured prominently in many ancient societies, the ram has been a long-held symbol of: determination, action, initiative, and leadership. The ram is also a symbol of Aries, which is an astral symbol of rulership.  The ram represents the power to penetrate, overcome, and achieve. It reflects the assertion of strength in creative ways to achieve a breakthrough. It is also associated with sacrifice. The ram serves as the icon for action, the fifth element of heroism.

Elephant: In Thailand it is believed that a white elephant may contain the soul of a dead person, perhaps a Buddha. The Hindu God Ganesha has the head of an elephant and a torso of a human.

Bats:  All bats are highly auspicious symbols of luck, success, health, long life, & happiness. Particularly in Asia, bats are depicted throughout millennia on art of all kinds, frequently in red, the color of joy. Carvings in jade, cinnabar, bone, and ivory have been worn as amulets throughout the ages. If a bat has flown into your life it is time to face your fears and prepare for change. Native Americans consider the bat a symbol of intuition, dreaming and vision.

Pig: The pig is a symbol of good luck, abundance, and determination. Pigs can also represent fertility, and enhance sincerity.

Dolphin: Of all the sea creatures that appear on ancient coins, the dolphin is probably the most common. The common Mediterranean species is the graceful short-beaked dolphin Delphinus delphis. Aristotle (384 – 322 BCE) studied dolphins and wrote in his History of Animals that they breathe air and communicate with sound underwater.

Octopus:  This remarkable cephalopod is a water totem & is symbolic of flexibility, adaptability and creativity. Water perfectly illustrates this balance. The octopus moves skillfully in a realm that is in constant motion, ever changing & shifting. Like other water-dwelling creatures, the octopus animal totem symbolizes purity, emotional, psychic and creativity. The octopus spirit guide is also known to be symbolic of a keen spiritual psyche and inspires others to channel theirs.

Frog: When the frog jumps into your life it may indicate now is a time to find opportunities in transition. In many cultures the primary symbolic meaning of frogs deals with fertility. This is largely because these cultures observed Frogs laying enormous quantities of eggs, therefore making it a fertility symbol as well as a symbol of abundance. 

Turtle: Because of its seemingly wide-eyed, long-lived, carefree attitude the turtle is often thought to be the wisest of souls among the animal kingdom.  Furthermore, the turtle takes its wisdom one day at a time. Turtles share an association with water, which lends meanings of motion, intuition and emotion to the myriad of more symbolic meanings of the turtle.


Eggs: For millennia and across the world, the egg has been a powerful symbol, representing the earth, fertility and resurrection. Little surprise that eggs also figure widely in folkloric beliefs; such fragile packages of embryonic avian life have a magical quality that appeals to us all. To early humans, a shell cracking to reveal new life in a way so different from mammalian reproduction must have seemed both alien and miraculous. Yet, as birds populate every continent, it was also a ubiquitous phenomenon, which may partly explain why eggs became universal symbols of life and resurrection. Ancient peoples linked the magic of this parcel of new life to creation itself, believing that the world was formed from a cosmic egg. 

Mythical creatures

Dragon: Teaches us about transformation of the elements of earth, fire, water, and air. Dragon's power is that of shedding its skin and emerging as a new, transformed being. Dragon is also about magic, using the magic within to transform your life. A mythological animal of Chinese origin, Dragons are ultimate symbols of cosmic Chi (energy). It is said to be the most potent symbol of good fortune in the Chinese pantheon of symbols. As one of the four creatures of the world's directions, the Dragon stands for new beginnings. The Dragon also has the power to release water to parched lands, and which in turn stands for abundance and relief.Images of the dragon are found throughout Asia, and the pictorial form widely recognized today was already prevalent in Chinese ink paintings in the Tang period (9th century AD). Asian dragons are rarely depicted as malevolent. Although fearsome and powerful, dragons are equally considered just, benevolent, and the bringers of wealth and good fortune.

Phoenix: A phoenix symbolizes birth, death, and rebirth, as well as eternity, strength, and renewal. The whole idea that this mythical bird is reborn from the ashes of the flames of death signifies a journey through fire or adversity. It's a great way to express a transformation or survival of a challenge.

Pegasus: This creature is a mythical winged divine horse, and one of the most recognized creatures in Greek mythology. Usually depicted as pure white, Pegasus is the offspring of the Olympian god Poseidon. He was foaled by the Gorgon Medusa upon her death, when the hero Perseus decapitated her. Corinthian silver staters depict the winged horse Pegasus on the obverse. The reverse bears the helmeted head of the goddess Athena, often accompanied by a small symbol that served to distinguish different batches of coins at the mint. 


Bees: These ecologically critical insects represents communication, joy, love, and sweetness. Dream bees ask us if we are communicating effectively and keeping in touch with our loved ones.

Butterfly: The butterfly is one of the most emblematic totem animals symbolizing personal transformation. If you see the butterfly as your totem, pay attention to the areas in your life or personality that are in need of profound change or transformation. Perhaps, this animal totem guides you to be sensitive to your personal cycles of expansion and growth, as well as the beauty of life’s continuous unfolding. An important message carried by the spirit of the butterfly is about the ability to go through important changes with grace and lightness.

Dragonfly: Dragonflies let us see past the illusion. When we've tricked ourselves into believing that the limitations of physical existence prevent us from changing and growing. Dragonfly medicine teaches us to pierce our self-created illusions.

Spider: The weaver, spider medicine tells us to remember that we are the creators of our lives. When spider appears in your life think about writing down your thoughts, telling your story.



Interwoven Spring Grass and Sedge: The first grasses of spring represent the joy of renewal, acceptance of change and transformation. Welcoming of personal growth and an opening of the heart.

Willow: A native wetland shrub, willows represent the strength, flexibility, balance, harmony, and growth we experience through storms and life challenges. The willow tree gives us hope, a sense of belonging, and safety. Willow enhances the ability to let go of pain and suffering to grow new, strong and bold.

Aspen: The Aspen tree, also known as the Goddess Tree, is aligned with the planet Mercury, and symbolizes protection and the process of overcoming our fears; which is a part of our ascension process. There is much wisdom within both the symbol of the tree and its leaves. A native tree in Wyoming, aspens represent strength in flexibility, beauty, change, fluidity. Also embodies a deep spirit of light and happiness. 

Mountain Ash: Abundance and vibrant color, ability to transition with grace. In many ancient traditions, the ash was associated with young warriors and for this reason, they were given an ash lance with which they would pass a series of tests. It was also highly regarded for its magical and miraculous gifts.

Thimbleberry Leaf: Powerful life force energy, joie de vivre, message to embody the present moment with joy. A member of the raspberry family, thimbleberries are also thought to have many medicinal benefits. Many of these are associated around childbirth and pregnancy. 

Douglas Fir: Strength, rootedness, power and fidelity. One of the nine sacred woods used for ceremonial fires, the Druids held the fir in high esteem. It is a symbol of honesty, truth and forthrightness. The trunk of the fir reminds us of a tall straight pillar of strength, a symbolic tower of truth.

Plum Blossom Branch or Tree: This totem represents strength in the face of adversity and the blooming of the true self. The plum tree is deeply auspicious in Japanese culture, as it blooms with snow still on its branches. This beautiful tree in flower is a quietly powerful totem. The plum blossom is seen as a harbinger of spring. Therefore, the plum blossom came to symbolize perseverance and hope, as well as beauty, purity, and the transitoriness of life. In Confucianism, the plum blossom stands for the principles and values of virtue.

The Lotus flower: The sacred lotus, Nelumbo nucifera, is an aquatic perennial. The oldest recorded germination of the lotus being from seeds 1300 years old recovered from a dry lake bed in northeastern China. The lotus is a divine symbol in Asian traditions representing purity. In Hindu iconography deities are often portrayed on, or holding, a lotus blossom. Its bloom suggests the expansion of the soul. “From the slime itself, spotless the lotus grows.”

Tree of life: The concept of a many-branched tree illustrating the idea that all life on earth is related has been used in science, religion, philosophy, mythology and other areas. A tree of life is variously, a mystical concept alluding to the interconnectedness of all life on our planet, a metaphor for common descent in the evolutionary sense, and a motif in various world theologies, mythologies and philosophies.

Plantain: Known as Plantago major, grows all over North America and around the world. It is commonly found in yards and gardens where pesticides aren’t used. The flowers shoot up from the center of the basal rosettes in spikes 3-12 inches tall. Plantain is called the bandaid plant, because it helps stop bleeding, supports tissue regeneration, and has antiseptic properties. This plant’s ability to act as a blood cleanser, reducing toxin-based health issues, makes it highly useful.  Legend has it that Plantain was a young girl who longed for her lover's return. She spent so much time watching and waiting for him by the roadside, that she eventually transformed into this common roadside plant.

Sagebrush: Known to the Native Americans for its medicinal properties coming from its pungent oils containing camphor, terpenoids, and tannins. It has anti-microbial properties, and was used for coughs, colds, fevers, bleeding, infections and various pains. Most significantly, Sagebrush was used for purification of body and soul, as a smoke during the ritual sweat lodges, and as a smudge to clear the energy of a room or environment. Its silvery grey-green foliage gives us a hint why it was named Artemisia, for Artemis, the Greek moon goddess. Yet Artemisia tridentata is also a member of the Sunflower (Asteraceae plant family.)  All Asteraceae flower essences have some relationship to our sense of spiritual identity. With the Sagebrush essence, there is also a moon-like reflective quality, helping us to realize that so much of our attachments and identifications no longer serve our true Self, and it is time for a change. 

Acanthus: Acanthus symbolizes immortality, rebirth, longevity and healing. The plant acanthus was adopted in the Greco Roman empire into their buildings, temples, artwork.  Even common items like planters, jars and other vessels are frequently decorated with this symbol.

Flower buds: Swelling from tender bud to full bloom, flowers are associated with youth, beauty, and pleasure. The regenerative energy of a flower bud represents joy, transformation, renewal, and the life force.

Seed pods: A seed is a mystery. It is both beginning and end, life and death, nothing and everything. A seed sits easily in the palm of the hand, and yet grows into a living structure which can be twice the size of house. It is a single grain, yet it is the source of a thousand grains. It can be stored for many years, and then be stirred into life in days. A seed is the whole universe in a grain of sand.

Arnica: This gorgeous member of the sunflower family blooms in profusion in early summer, and its yellow flowers illuminate the understory of mixed pine and fir forests. A plant with incredible healing energy, arnica is used commonly today. Arnica is historically masculine in nature and associated with Midsummer, the harvest and harvest spirits. The flower was sacred to Freya, Ra and Apollo, and is aligned with the sun and the element of fire.

Sticky Geranium: Geranium is a name that comes from the Greek word Geranos, which means crane, as the seed head looks very much like the head of the bird. The pink color symbolizes romance, love and affection as well. Because of this, historically pink Geraniums were used as ingredients in love potions. In the mountains, our native sticky geranium embodies the powerful life force of the spring bloom in the Tetons.

Chrysanthemum: This flower represents the unfolding of inner perfection and the myriad layers of every human being.  Highly auspicious in Japanese culture, historically the sixteen petaled chrysanthemum was only worn by royalty. Generally, chrysanthemums symbolize friendship, trust, joy, optimism, longevity, and fidelity. 

Bodhi Tree: A large and very old Sacred Fig tree, Ficus religiosa, located in Bodh Gaya under which Siddhartha Gautama, the spiritual teacher and founder of Buddhism (later known as Gautama Buddha), achieved enlightenment, or Bodhi. In religious iconography, the Bodhi tree is recognizable by its heart-shaped leaves, which are usually prominently displayed. It takes 100 - 3,000 years for a bodhi tree to fully grow.

Other Symbols

Mandalas: The Sanskrit meaning of mandala is circle. The circle is a symbol of perfection, eternity, unity and completeness. Mandalas are meant to help envisage a sacred space separated and protected from the ever-changing and impure outer world of Samsara. Spirals & circles appear in early Megalithic art and as such are the earliest known symbols in human art. Scholars agree the spiral most likely represented the sun. The circle is universal, sacred, and divine. It represents the infinite nature of energy, the interconnectedness of all things, the cycles of seasons, life, and death.

Spirals and Circles: Appear in early Megalithic art and as such are the earliest known symbols in human art. The spiral appears across the globe, on every continent, at burial and other auspicious sites. As the sun was believed to die each night and be reborn each morning, this symbol also represents the cycle of life, death and rebirth. The implications of the circle as symbol are literally inexhaustible. The circle is universal, sacred, and divine. It represents the infinite nature of energy, the interconnectedness of all things, the cycles of seasons, life, and death. In Neolithic Europe a symbol of death and rebirth; can be both lunar and solar; and represents the serpent guardians of Sumerian temples.

Ammonite: From high in the Teton range near Cody Peak, I brought this fossil home about twenty years ago. From the days more than 250 million years ago when JH was under a shallow sea, this ammonite represents powerful spiral sea energy yet also the power of the high mountains. It's no surprise that ammonites, with their spiral shape, are symbols of change and positive motion. The spiral draws in negative energy, filtering it through the chambers and releasing fresh, positive energy.

Chalice or Triangle: While the blade is a phallic representation of masculinity, the chalice represents the womb and softer representation of women. It is the oldest symbol of feminine divinity as well as the genitalia of a goddess. The sacred triangle represents manifestation, enlightenment, revelation, and a higher perspective. It is often used to mark the cycles of growth that lead to a higher state of being. Spiritually, it represents a path towards enlightenment or connection to an omnipresent being.

Crescent: Luna, the half moon, or sickle of the moon, also waning and waxing moon, is a sign of fertility. It pinpoints changing seasons, ebb and tide, and related inundations as harbingers of fertility and the feminine menstrual cycle. The half moon was the attribute of Luna and more specifically of Selene. It was later transferred to Diana (Artemis), offspring of the earth mother, and known not only as virgin but also as protectress of the newborn and symbol of fertility in her own right. The moon symbol is used in many cultures to highlight cosmic events, divine epiphanies and the ephemeral nature of human life and history 

Sunburst and Moon and Stars: The moon, sun, planets, and stars became the representations of gods and goddesses throughout the years as ways to explain their presence and permanence. The symbolism has evolved through the years, from representing deities and personal astrological signs, to the balancing of solar and lunar energies.

Arrowhead: Blackfeet, Crow, Gros Ventre and Shoshone tribes made Jackson Hole their home, and at our house we had Shoshones camping for thousands of years. This arrowhead honors the families who lived on our home site and respected the animals and the land. We regularly find arrowheads, knives, spear points and other tools, some dating as much as 11,000 years old.

Teton Mountain Range: Climbing a mountain, spending time moving through or on a range of mountains, can symbolize overcoming obstacles and making progress. Climbing up a mountain or other height indicates a spiritual or mental rising or improvement, a connection to sky energy, and enhanced dream vision.

Zig Zag: In linear form or as a mandala shape, the zigzag symbolizes lightning, and has a deep connection with Father Sky. As an important sign of rapid change lightning is connected with rain and the fertility and cleansing that it causes. The fluidity of water, the movement of streams, waves, or rain from the sky is another meaning.

Waves: A wave represents forthcoming events or occasions, celebrations, emotions, hidden emotions, secrets and opportunities as well as threats. Dreaming of surfing on a large wave indicates your adventurous nature of taking things positively.

Labyrinth: Their origin is as mysterious and their uses are as varied as their patterns are. All labyrinths are a kind of game, but that does not negate their seriousness. According to Hindu lore, the universe itself is a game, a lila, that the gods play. Walking a labyrinth is following in the steps of Shiva Nataraja, the Divine Transformer who is Lord of the Dance. It is an archetype in the human mind. Labyrinth patterns are universal, being found as archaic petroglyphs, Amerindian basket-weaving designs, paintings, and drawings all over the world. The earliest reported labyrinth was a two-story stone building in Egypt, described by the Greek historian Herodotus. The pattern also appears on ancient Cretan coins with the Minotaur. The winding pattern of any labyrinth also represents the circulation of vital energies within our bodies, and that pattern suggests the convolutions of the brain and the intestines--two poles of our body corresponding to our consciousness and its physical vehicle. To traverse the labyrinth is to bring into one wholeness all parts of our being.

Vessels: Vessels accept, contain, protect and preserve the birth, death, rebirth cycle of life at both the physical and metaphysical levels. Depicted with flowing streams of water in Egyptian and Middle Eastern art, they are a symbol of fertility. Isis wore a jar shaped amulet representing the fountains of living water. In Indian myth, any deity could be incarnated in a vessel of water called a pitha.

Arrow:  A sacred symbol, Artemis carries arrows to symbolize her control of the hunt; the arrows of Eros pierce the heart to carry messages of love. As a weapon of war, arrows are the emblem of Mars and Tyr.  They are a Native American symbol of male power and a modern symbol of direction.

Horseshoe: The combination of luck, protection, religion, and even magic are all captured by the horseshoe symbol and many people believe it will bring them good luck in their lives and to any special event or occasion – and ward off evil and misfortune or bad luck.

Zodiac and Constellations: The zodiac is the ring of constellations that lines the ecliptic, which is the apparent path of the Sun across the sky over the course of the year. The Moon and planets also lie within the ecliptic, and so are also within the constellations of the zodiac. In astrology, the zodiac denotes the signs which divide the ecliptic into twelve equal zones of celestial longitude. As such, the zodiac is a celestial coordinate system. The term zodiac derives from Latin zodiacus, in turn from the Greek "circle of animals". The history of astrology encompasses a great span of human history and many cultures. The belief in a connection between the cosmos and terrestrial matters has also played an important part in human history.

Swords: The sword is a symbol of purification; the metaphorical sword cleanly pierces the spiritual soul of man. This symbolic action sacrifices physical bondage to release a path to ethereal (enlightened) freedom. In Buddhism the sword symbolism deals with discrimination of thought. In this light, swords cut away ignorance. As a Celtic symbol, the sword is reputed to be associated with Nuada, the first king of Tuatha Dé Danann. Nuada’s great sword is considered one of the four treasures (sword, stone, spear, cauldron) & was associated with the supernatural forces of the underwater realm.

Dream Catcher: The Ojibwe people say their mothers & grandmothers weaved magical webs for their children, using willow hoops & sinew or cordage. The dreamcatchers would filter out all bad dreams and only allow good thoughts to enter the mind.

Hearts: The heart is the locus of physical and spiritual being, and represents the central wisdom of feeling as opposed to the head-wisdom of reason. It represents compassion and understanding, and is life-giving and complex. It is a symbol for love. Often known as the seat of emotions, the heart is synonymous with affection or passion.

Keys: Keys have represented various spiritual meanings for as long as man has had locks.  They are connected with gateways and portals, doorways to the unknown, knowledge, mysteries, powers, initiations, new ways, forbidden things and answers to curious questions.  They are often associated with specific deities or spiritual figures, and are often used as part of charms or other magical tools. 

Chains: Consisting of circles that are linked together, with no beginning and no end, thus representing everything in the world that is eternal. Also see the description of circles.  In modern use, the broken chain is a symbol of the end of slavery.


Eye of Protection: A talisman or amulet, designed in the shape of an eye, that indicates spiritual protection. These talismans or evil eye “repellents” come in different shapes and forms as pendants, bracelets, earrings and rings. They can be hung over the main door or entrance of someone’s home to keep the hearth protected.

Phurba & Medicine Dagger: The Phurba is triple sided Tibetan ritual - Phurba refers to a peg used for securing a tent. The segments and the triple blade can represent the three spirit worlds, while the Phurba as a whole symbolizes bringing all three worlds together. They can also represent, respectively, the blade's power to transform negative energy. The phurba can be used for shamanic healing, harmonizing, and energy work. They often have two snakes or dragons entwined on the blade. The top end of the phurba is used for blessings. This ritual dagger ultimately symbolizes the slaying of obstructions, violence, hatred, and aggression by tying them to the blade of the phurba and then vanquishing them with its tip. Phurba is not a physical weapon, but a spiritual implement, and should be regarded as such. Similar to traditional Native American medicine dagger in use and purpose.

Trishul: The Trishul is a trident carried by Durga, the goddess who represents the divine power of the feminine. It symbolizes the balance of the three forces: preservation, creation and destruction.

Buddha: A Sanskrit word meaning "The Awakened One", one awakened to reality, who understands true nature of the mind, the world, & all beings. Also Siddhartha Gautama, the spiritual teacher and founder of Buddhism (later known as Gautama Buddha), who achieved enlightenment, or Bodhi.

Four directions, four elements: Each of the Four Directions (East, South, West, and North) is typically represented by a distinctive color, such as black, red, yellow, and white, which for some stands for the human races. The Directions can also represent: Stages of life: birth, youth, adult (or elder), death. East: Air, breath and inspiration. South: Fire, transformation and action. West: Water, feeling and reflection. North: Earth, balance and wisdom.

Compass: A compass symbolizes motivation because a compass helps you to move and shows you the way to follow your path. And finally, compasses have always symbolized inspiration as it shows you which way is north.  Medicine wheel: Native American symbol; usually contain 28 spokes; dates back to 2500 BC.

Star: A five-pointed star is a divine symbol of oneness, the top representing human spirit whilst the other 4 signify the elements. It represents the connection bonding human spirit to Mother Nature.

Om or Aum: O,  is a sacred sound that is known generally as the sound of the universe. Om is all encompassing and unifies everything in the universe. It signifies the essence of the ultimate reality and the interconnectedness of consciousness and all things.  The word Om is so powerful that this single word can produce positive vibrations which allow you to feel the whole universe. 

Drop: Rain symbols signified renewal, fertility and change. Raindrops were used as symbols to represent plentiful crops. The meaning of the rain clouds was a magical symbol to promote good prospects in the future. Traditionally the Maori of New Zealand used the symbol of the drop stone, the shape of the teardrop, and representing strength, courage and leadership. Often called the comfort stone, it was given as a way to show empathy, solidarity and shared emotion. It is seen as a powerful healing symbol.

Historic Barn Wood Texture: Represents sense of place, memory, family, and love. The texture I use is from a historic barn in Wilson, Wyoming, where my husband's grandmother ranched in the 1920's.

Wedding Lace texture: White lace has a reputation for symbolizing new beginnings and rebirth well. Primitive lace, sometimes more accurately called elaborate mesh, can be found in cultures that developed netting for fishing and have been used on garments since about 4000 B.C.  Lace as we think of it really came into its own during the Renaissance, when just a couple of inches could take months to make by hand.  In high society, lace on the bridal dress was a display of wealth and prestige. Some cultures believed that the lace’s netting protected the bride from evil spirits.

Celtic Cross: The symbolism of the Celtic cross, which is an equal-armed cross in which each protrusion is equidistant from the center, is indicative of the human desire for knowledge and experience of the universe. The cross is also a symbol representing the meeting place of the Divine energies. At the center of the cross-section is the energetic touchstone where a concentration of cosmic power resides. The Celtic cross serves as a meditative focal point and can represent the rising and setting of the sun over the horizon line.

Fleur-de-lis: The fleur-de-lis, sometimes spelled fleur-de-lys, is a stylized lily or iris commonly used for decoration. In fact, translated from French, fleur-de-lis means “lily flower.” Fleur means “flower,” while lis means “lily.” You’ll likely recognize the symbol, which typically has three petals attached at the base. It’s often presented plainly, but ornate or intricate variations are common as well. The fleur-de-lis has been around for centuries—it even appears in relics from ancient civilizations. One of the earliest surviving examples is on a gold helmet from the Scythians, a European nomadic people from the 7th to 3rd centuries BC. Other ancient examples occur worldwide.

Spinning Gears: The turning of a wheel (gear) is a symbol of the cycles of life, which are often associated with women, and in many Pagan religions, the triple goddess symbol is worn to celebrate the Maiden, Mother and Crone. A spinning wheel encourages the contemplation of time and how it changes things. 

Ankh: The ankh symbol, sometimes referred to as the key of life or the key of the Nile, is representative of eternal life in Ancient Egypt. It could also have a more physical connotation: the ankh may represent water, air, and the sun, which were meant to provide and preserve life in Ancient Egyptian culture.

Sand Texture: In spiritual context represents time passing, the small grains of sand indicates that time will pass. Sand from a symbolic perspective is also associated with “time running through our fingers” so this means that we need to grasp everything we can in life and live life to the full!

Basketweave Texture: The lacing of the weave around the basket's edge represent our roots and human life. And the very center of the basket is representative of the emergence of he Diné, the opening for the First One to come into the First World. All ancient civilizations produced handmade baskets, weaving local vegetation into practical use and function as containers of cultural and symbolic meaning.

Antique Linen Texture: From an antique linen scarf gifted by my mother, this texture represents love and the wrapping of a mothers arms.


Athena: Athena became the goddess of crafts and skilled peacetime pursuits in general. She was particularly known as the patroness of spinning and weaving. That she ultimately became allegorized to personify wisdom and righteousness was a natural development of her patronage of skill.

Minerva: The Roman goddess of strategy and defensive warfare, she was also a goddess of music, poetry, wisdom, commerce and the art. She is often depicted with her sacred creature, an owl, which symbolized her association with wisdom and knowledge. Less frequently, she is pictured for the same reasons with the snake and the olive tree. Minerva is commonly depicted as tall with an athletic and muscular build, as well as wearing armor and carrying a spear. As the most important Roman goddess, she is highly revered, honored, and respected. She was the Etruscan counterpart to Greek Athena.

Artemis: The Greek moon goddess, virgin of the hunt, protector of maidens; daughter of Zeus. The wild goat was sacred to her.

Medusa:  The name Medusa probably comes from the Ancient Greek word for “guardian”. It is generally believed that she was born at sea. The Greek poet Hesiod wrote that Medusa lived close to the Hesperides in the Western Ocean. As a result of consorting with Poseidon, she is said to have birthed the winged horse Pegasus and Chrysaor, the hero of the golden sword. One myth states that it was her great beauty that paralyzed all observers. The snake-haired Medusa does not become widespread until the first century B.C. The Roman author Ovid describes the mortal Medusa as a beautiful maiden seduced by Poseidon in a temple of Athena. Such a sacrilege attracted the goddess' wrath, and she punished Medusa by turning her hair to snakes. The image of Medusa was thought to be protective. Ancient statuary, bronze shields, and vessels have depictions of Medusa. Famous artists that have been inspired by Medusa and the heroic Perseus story include Leonardo da Vinci, Benvenuto Cellini, Peter Paul Rubens, Gialorenzo Bernini, Pablo Picasso, Auguste Rodin, and Salvador Dali.


Silver: Silver is connected to the Moon. It is one of the most versatile metals, one of the 3 base metals, associated with philosophical traits of intuition, self-reflection, and inner wisdom. It is a feminine metal, a symbol of purity and is connected to the goddesses and spirits. Its energies include divination, healing, protection, emotion, love, wisdom, dreams, luck and wealth. It is symbolic of attributes such as vision, clarity, awareness, focus, persistence and subtle strength.

Gold: The celestial body represented by Gold is the Sun. The metal was highly valued by the ancient Egyptians, Irish, Romans, Asians, Africans, and Central Americans. It was believed to represent perfection and purity. Gold was often used as offerings for the gods, for ceremonial purposes and for the beautification of the chieftains’ courts. Most of the cultures across the world have seen this metal as a symbol of wealth, prosperity, authority and charisma. It was supposed to aid in healing, protection, growth, and knowledge.

Copper: Copper is ruled by the planet Venus. It is one of the oldest metals and copper metallurgy has flourished in different cultures, including the Middle Eastern, Asian, European, Central & South American and Native American. Copper embodies the nurturing aspect of women and their youthfulness. It is associated with the matters of love & lust and symbolizes characteristics like charisma, feminine beauty, artistic creativity, affection, caring, and balance. It is also considered a healing metal that teaches about living a fulfilling life.

Tin: Tin is representative of Jupiter. It embodies wisdom, logic, education, maturity, and knowledge and is believed to be the metal of the sages and scholars. It is associated with mediation, balance and a philosophical view of life. This metal is also connected to prosperity and wealth. The popularity of tin is dated to the Bronze Age with civilizations around the world making extensive use of it.  

Bronze: A combination of copper and tin, Bronze is beloved for its unusual hue and natural elements, and is most prominently associated with strength, stability and support.