A spirited guide to your spirit guide.

In shamanistic traditions, animal spirits teach you character traits, empower you with abilities like their own, and protect you from harm. But not everyone gets the jokester Coyote or majestic Eagle. What does your archetype say about the furry or feathered friend that may be guiding you?


Dolphins have highly developed and very large brains, are excellent problem solvers, and (some people think) have complex language skills. But you’ve been to Sea World so you know all that. But did you know that dolphins in the wild have been known to play pranks on each other and other animals, blow bubbles that resemble smoke rings, and just hang out surfing? All this proves that they’re smart enough to get bored sometimes.

Photo: Gallery Stock


Creative thinkers take what’s available and turn it into something new, and in the animal kingdom, the crow stands above the rest in this ability. While many animals use tools (mostly in a rock-as-hammer way), crows create them: bending wire to hook food hidden in a tube, dropping pebbles into a jar to raise the water level enough to drink, and throwing nuts onto busy streets so that passing cars will crack them open. And, like most creatives, they dress entirely in black.

Photo: Corbis 


Ultramarathons? Ironman competitions? These are mere trips around the block for this magnificent flier. Scientists once tracked a wandering albatross as it winged more than 3500 miles in 12 days, and it’s estimated that an albatross may rack up nearly 4 million miles in its 50-year lifetime. As they say, exercise keeps you young.

Photo: Gallery Stock

Honey Badger

Yeah, you could function within the rules of polite society, and let your diminutive size translate into a meek existence. Or you could grow some thick skin and be a honey badger. These energetic creatures roam Africa looking for honey, but they’ll eat anything, from tubers to the deathly venomous cobra. They’ll attack buffalo that step near their burrows, and have been known to knock around lions and steal their lunches. The honey badger is so resilient, it has survived internet celebrity completely unscathed.

Photo: Corbis


A female octopus may lay as many as 200,000 eggs, and she’ll guard them until they hatch — which may take as long as ten months — wafting currents over them to keep them clean. She won’t even leave them to eat, which sometimes means she has to eat her own arms to keep up her strength. Still, it’s nothing compared to what your mother did for you.

Photo: Getty Images

“Seizure Alert” Dogs

Your dog always seems to know when you’re about to feed her, which isn’t too surprising, but the fact that she may be able to warn you of an imminent seizure is something science can’t fully explain. The very best seizure alert dogs can give their human companions more than half an hour’s warning, prompting them to seek help or get to a safe place, and they’ll stand guard until their owners recover. Licking their faces the whole time, surely, but who doesn’t love doggy kisses?

Photo: Gallery Stock


A meerkat “gang” is led by an alpha female who fights her way to the top, and then chooses her alpha male companion. When the Queen is pregnant, she drives her female rivals (most pointedly the pregnant ones) from the colony, and the remaining meerkats all pitch in to take care of her royal pups. Sort of reminiscent of the British monarchy, no?

Photo: Alamy


Elephants have a strong sense of community, with strong matriarchal bonds. They are also the only nonhuman species believed to enact a death ritual (standing watch over corpses and sometimes burying them), which includes showing a reverence for dead elephants, even those outside their herd. They can also recognize themselves in mirrors, indicating a sense of self — which they’ll need to lose if they ever plan to become enlightened.

Photo: Gallery Stock

Decorator Crab

How does a girl with a plain-Jane exoskeleton make a statement? If she’s a decorator crab, she gathers living plants and animals from the sea floor in a crustacean version of Project Runway. Sometimes she’ll be found in muted sponges and coral, sometimes in barnacles with a dramatic fascinator of living anemone. She’s impeccably dressed for any environment, and always has an outfit ready to go in a pinch.

Photo: Alamy

Capuchin Monkeys

These South American monkeys — particularly the females — seem to monitor fair treatment within their social groups. When a few of them were taught by researchers to gather stones and trade them for snacks, they were rewarded with cucumber slices. But when some monkeys were randomly awarded more delicious grapes, the cheated monkeys boycotted the experiment, refusing to gather and even pelting the scientists with cucumber slices. Equal pay for equal work, people. It’s not that hard.

Photo: Gallery Stock