First, we’ll get out of the way the debate about whether or not “spirit” animals are actually a thing, and if they are cultural appropriation. These beings can also be called totems. The word “totem” is a mispronunciation of the word doodemen, which comes from the language of the first nations of Michigan, according to Webster’s Dictionary.
From my book, Common Magick, I define a totem as:
“A spirit animal (is) usually defined as a physical being or spiritual entity that represents a person, family, clan, profession or other group of people. They can also be called a “totem”, which comes from the Ojibwa tribe of Anishinaabec people, although many cultures employ a similar concept, including British society. For example, the practice of heraldry often uses animals to signify a family or royal house. Spirit animals can help us as we perform rites, serve as a guide, or be a messenger from a deity.”
How it was explained to me by an elder of the Pottawatomi tribe is: A totem represents a family or clan, while a spirit animal guides a specific individual.
However, I do not believe this is cultural appropriation, as the notion of a spirit animal is found throughout British Isles literature and legend, especially that of the Celts. There are animal messengers, guides, and representatives all over the place – for example, King Arthur’s animal spirit was said to be a bear. There are white stags and a salmon of wisdom, wise crows, clever wrens, and sly foxes… all of whom have something to say to protagonists of the tales.
That said, let’s move on to the chipmunk. I dreamed about one last night, and when I stepped outdoors this morning, there he was, eating seeds and corn kernels that had spilled from a bird feeder onto the back porch. His little cheeks were packed with his gleaning. He looked at me, uttered a squeak of surprise, and zoomed off the floorboards like an Olympic sprinter, keeping hold of his prize. His hole is in the dirt beneath the porch, where he likely has a wife who will give birth to his children later in the spring. If so, he’s a very good provider.
People disagree about whether or not merely encountering an animal is a sign, but I think that if you view a particular being in a dream / journey / vision, then see that animal the next morning, it’s pretty much a message from the spirit world.
We must also take into account that two days ago, it was 15o F here in Michigan, but yesterday, it was a warm, balmy 44 degrees, which is almost a heat wave. Spring is on her way, and the hibernating animals are awakening. The first birds and mammals that return or emerge have some significance to the season ahead.
So I looked up the symbolism of the chipmunk online, and it said that he represents hard work that pays off, tenacity, quickness, socialization, and conversely, a tendency to be flighty and have a short attention span. Hmmm….
When I was a small child, living with my parents and sometimes a cousin or six in rural Delton, MI, I used to feed the chipmunks. This requires a lot of patience, and peanuts. One must sit very still, sometimes for hours, first offering a peanut some distance away. The chippy will scurry out of her burrow, grab the treat, and zip away to vanish underground. Gradually the nuts are placed closer and closer, until the little critter can be persuaded to take the peanut from your hand. After a while, the chipmunk will contentedly sit in your hand and munch away, or stuff all the nuts and seeds into their cheek pouches, to take home to share with their family.
So yeah, there is a connection there, definitely.
I welcome the little chipmunk, stuffing his face with nutrients, living right beneath our feet, and I welcome his message. The Gods be thanked for sending this messenger to remind me to keep pluggin’ away, that hard work will eventually be rewarded, and that persistence leads to bounty. And I welcome Springtime, and the emerging and returning animals and birds. Bendythion, chippy, and have some more corn.
A.C. Fisher Aldag
Chronicler of Cymric Folklore, Granmother and grouch. Enjoyer of good food.
Common Magick from Llewellyn Worldwide
Witches & Pagans # 38 & # 39 from BBI
Llewellyn's Witches' Companion 2022 & 2023 from Llewellyn Worldwide