For the shaman, a Power Animal, sometimes called a Totem, is a helping spirit ally which assumes the form of a specific animal and bestows the unique abilities and powers which that animal possesses in ordinary reality. From my own observations over the years, it seems to me that the strengths and attributes of a shaman's Power Animals usually closely resemble the inner qualities of the shaman himself, often amplifying and augmenting innate character and healing traits that were there to begin with. For me personally, and for many I've spoken with, Power Animals also bring to the shaman qualities that need reinforcing.
They help us to be wholly ourselves.
Calling to onesself and retrieving a Power Animal is usually one of the first, if not the first journey a modern urban shaman undergoes in order to make contact with the first of his or her helping spirit allies. Recall that shamanic healing is simply the moving of energies: appropriate energies in and inappropriate energies out of a person's energy field. Retrieving a Power Animal is the fundamental way that shamans use to retrieve a person's innate energies, of re-spiriting a person, re-integrating their core energies and bringing them a true ally for healing, life-guiding, and for relationship.
Sometimes ally retrieval will happen spontaneously during a shamanic healing session; usually this is unequivocal to the shaman as the new Power Animal presents itself in a dramatic way as if to say, "Me! Me! Pick Me!" Without exception to date, whenever a Power Animal has shown up for a client, the client has a deep sense of "of course! Just what I needed!" when the animal's attributes, behaviors and strengths are researched.
Power Animals have that which you need. They want to work with you!
Power Animal Integration and Honoring
As with any shamanic healing technique which adds or removes energies from a person, there is a period of integration, adjustment and honoring of these new energies that have come to live insided the client's energy field. Energies of the spirits and of our own souls are not merely poured into us like liquid into a vessel, they are reunited with us like old friends and just like having an old and dear friend return into one's daily life, we honor their return and celebrate their friendship with us. These energies are conscious.
One traditional way to honor the new Power Animal is to "dance" it, to move to a drum beat while letting the Power Animal enjoy having a body to work with as you lessen conscious control of your physical body. Simply let the energy of the Power Animal come through. The client frequently finds that s/he moves in ways that are specific to the Power Animal, maybe without even knowing that this particular animal moves that way in ordinary consciousness. Letting your Power Animal(s) have fun and freedom of movement in your body from time to time is a wonderful way to honor them and to begin your relationship with these new allies.
Another way of honoring is to have images or carvings of your Power Animals in your living and working spaces. Bringing these energies into your daily life is a simple way of reminding you both that you honor and trust each other. Over time you may find that these relationships become very important to you, and that your Power Animal indeed brings you many, many gifts in ordinary state of consciousness.