Medicine Cards – October 2017
Hi you guys! Alright, so this is a long overdue blog post, as many of you know, I have been diving into the world of animal medicine cards. I have frequently shown my daily spreads on Instagram and recently I’ve been flooded with questions about what medicine cards are, how they work, and what they mean. So I figured it was time to put all this info in one place! So if you’re interested in learning more about the world of ancient animal medicine, keep reading 🙂
**disclaimer** I am a beginner! I am not claiming to be an expert on animal medicine by any stretch, this blog post is to simply inform you on how I use these cards in my daily life and what I’ve learned from them**
Medicine Cards, what are they and how are they different from tarot?
First, lets talk about how they are the same. Tarot and Oracle (medicine) cards have been around forever and they are essentially both used to help the user answer questions about their personal life and their choices. However, medicine cards (specifically the navajo medicine cards) are channeling animal totem power and teachings about your pathway in life. Whereas tarot is more of an fortune teller, designed to teach you about your past present and future. Tarot is more “celestial” for lack of a better word. Tarot cards also include suits in their decks, while medicine cards are a little more straight forward. There are fewer spreads in medicine cards and are not about “divination” so much as they are about showing you how animal power injects itself into you everyday life and personality.
Who should use medicine cards?
I would recommend medicine cards to a person who is deeply connected with nature and animals. The beauty of medicine cards is that they are very grounding and use real earthly beings to tell you things about yourself you may have not realized. Whereas tarot is a little more divine and other-worldly for lack of a better word. Medicine cards would be great for someone who wants to be more grounded and wants to gain more insight into his or her everyday life; rather than their future.
I got this kit at Barnes & Noble about four years ago for around $30. It comes with the guide book and a deck of 72 cards. It’s a great kit for someone just starting out because it’s very straightforward and easy to follow.
Before you start doing daily spreads, you should find your totem animals. Every person has nine totem animals that represent the medicine they carry in their “Earth Walk”. There are seven animals that surround your physical body. These directions are south, west, north, above, below, and within. The last two animals are the ones that walk to your right and left every day. When drawing your totems you must not let your opinions of yourself get in the way when choosing them, you may be surprised by some of the animals in your totem spread! Once your totems are chosen, you must not draw them again. These are the true totem powers of your personality.
Significance of the Nine Totems:
East: Guides you to your greatest spiritual challenges and guards your path to illumination
South: Protects your inner child, and reminds you to be humble and when to trust, so that innocence will be balanced in your personality
West: Leads you to personal truth and inner answers – helps guide you towards your goals
North: Gives you counsel on when to speak and when to listen. Reminds you to feel gratitude every single day
Above: Teaches you how to honor the stars and reminds you that you come from the stars and to the stars you will return. It is also the guardian of dreamtime – your personal guide to other dimensions. (Has this animal come up in a dream recently?)
Below: Teaches you about inner earth and how to be grounded on your path
Within: Teaches you how to find your inner joy and be faithful to your personal truths. It is also the protector of your sacred space, the place that is yours alone and is never shared except by invitation.
Right Side: Protects your male side, a father protector that carries your courage and warrior spirit
Left Side: Protects your female side, teaches you to nurture yourself and others. It helps guide you in your relationships.
When you draw your totems you should spread them in an arch before you face down and draw each one left to right. It is important to find your totems before you start doing spreads because when you see your totems appear in your daily spreads you will have more insight into what that card means to you personally.
There are a few different spreads you can do with your medicine cards. Each spread is designed to tell you something different – so choose your spreads carefully each time you do one and have a specific question in mind when you greet your deck, this will help give you a more informative reading.
Before you begin: Make sure you are in a relaxed state. My favorite way to read cards is to make it like a morning ritual, this will help make it a habit and ultimately help you get better at reading your spreads. I do mine usually in the morning, with my coffee and my favorite music playing. I generally try to take three deep breaths before drawing my cards so that I am in a relaxed state of mind, and completely focused on the task before me. Some days I have a question in mind I am seeking the answer to, other days I just let the cards tell me what they want to tell me. Finding your rhythm with the cards is one of the best parts in my opinion.
Next, cut the deck. Do not shuffle. I typically cut the deck three times before beginning my spreads. This is not a rule, but something I like to do.
Pathway Spread: This spread is the most ancient of the ones included in the medicine card book. It is a druidic spread that is used to give you overall information about your pathway in life. By using this spread you are able to see where you have been, where you are going, what is challenging you, and what you have completed. (this is very similar to some tarot spreads)
- Your past
- Your present
- Your future
- The pattern or set of life lessons that is moving through your life
- The challenge you have conquered or the lesson just completed
- What is working for you
- What is working against you
Medicine Wheel Spread: This spread is designed to show how each of the four directions reveal certain things that you need to reflect upon in your personality. They also disclose how you are learning from yourself, from others, and from the animals. This is my personal favorite spread. I am a very introspective person and this helps ground me and give me insight into my own personality and how it affects those around me. I have found that is a more informative spread for me on a day to day basis. I usually save the Pathway Spread for times when I am really struggling for answers or have a very specific issue I need to address.
- This card indicates where your spiritual strength lies
- This card describes how animal medicine is teaching the child within you
- This card gives you the internal solution to your present life challenges, it indicates what goals need attention
- This card is showing you how to integrate the lessons of the other animals into your daily life
- This is the sacred mountain card, this card is telling you to look at the present. It is a crossroads of the spiritual and physical realities and how they have come together to produce the “you” of the present moment. Since all things evolve, tomorrow’s “you” will have grown in understanding and may be different.
These are the two main spreads I have utilized with my kit. There are a few more in the book but in the interest of keeping this post somewhat concise and wanting to leave a bit of mystery, I will let you discover those on your own!
How I Utilize Medicine Cards:
Overall I hope this post has been informative in your journey with animal medicine. There is MUCH more to learn about this form of healing and I have barely scratched the surface; but I have found in my experience, if I walk away from my spreads with anything it is a deeper understanding of myself. And that in itself is a huge accomplishment for me. I struggle with anxiety and clinical depression, and using medicine cards as an outlet (much like bullet journalling) has been a huge source of joy for me. It has helped me understand my position in life so much more and makes my position earthside feel significant, which is worth its weight in gold. If you struggle with anxiety I highly recommend getting into the world of tarot or animal medicine, if nothing else, it is a place for your mind to go and open up a bit – even if you don’t consider yourself a “spiritual” person.
As a conclusion to this post I thought I would walk you through my totems so you can see what its really all about! Having a visual makes it much more interesting as well. I drew these totems when I first got my deck around four years ago. Its always a treat when one of them shows up in my daily spreads.
Within: Black Panther
Now you’ll notice, I haven’t included my left and rightside animals in this example of my totems because I simply have not drawn them yet. I chose to hold off on drawing these two because I have not felt in the right headspace to draw them correctly. There is more info on this method in the book.
How to read my totems:
Elk in the east: Elk represents stamina. Elk in the east position is telling me to pace myself and that I am internally seeking kinship with those of my own gender. I imagine this is because I just moved to another state with my boyfriend and have had trouble making new friends.
Horse in the south: Horse represents power. “Stealing horses is stealing power” was a statement made frequently in historical Native America. Since the horse is in my south position (inner child) it is most likely telling me to pass some of the power to my innocence and not take things too seriously
Grouse in the west: The Grouse is the Sacred Spiral. The Sacred Spiral is one of the oldest known symbols for personal power. If you draw a grouse you should envision a tornado or whirlpool. A grouse is essentially an invitation to dance (do you see a theme here?)
Dragonfly in the north: Dragonfly represents illusion. The north card tells us when to speak and when to listen. Typically if a dragonfly appears in your spread it is telling you to explore the parts of your habits you might need to change.
Alligator in above: Alligator is about integration. In the above position the alligator might be telling me to appreciate the goals I have achieved but to not get stuck in a judgement game. I should be proud because I’ve done these things for me, not for anyone else.
Lynx in below: The Lynx represents secrets. It guards secrets carefully and sneakily. The below position tells me to be grounded in my path so perhaps the Lynx is telling me there is a secret about myself I have yet to discover on a day to day basis.
Black Panther in within: Black Panther represents embracing the unknown. In the within position, it fits pretty perfectly. It is telling me not to worry too much about the future and trust that I am not supposed to have it all mentally figured out yet.
Well, I hope this blog post was fun to read! I realize some of the vernacular can sound peculiar and almost cheesy without the materials in front of you, but this is something I’ve gotten so many questions about I hope that this gives those who asked some clarity! As always, I love love love to hear your feedback. If you have any questions please feel free to email me or reach out to me on Instagram! You can find my email under the contact tab, and my IG info is under the Instagram tab. Thank you for reading!
*Credits: All my research for this post came directly from my medicine card guide book by Jamie Sams and David Carson*