Q&A with Dr. Steven Farmer, author of ANIMALS: Personal Tales of Encounters with Spirit Animals

1. What is ANIMALS: Personal Tales of Encounters with Spirit Animals about and why did you write it?

When I first studied shamanism I realized that part of my purpose was to take some of these shamanic principles and practices and offer them to a wider audience, even those who are not especially interested in shamanism. I was sure that the topic of spirit animals would be of interest to many people as it’s relatively easy to understand and to learn how to receive guidance from the animals.

I was called to write other publications regarding spirit animals, including Animal Spirit Guides, Power Animals, Power Animal Oracle Cards, Messages from the Spirit Animals Oracle Cards and even an oracle card deck for children called Children’s Spirit Animal Cards. Naturally when the publisher, Ariel, approached me about Animals: Person Tales of Encounters with Spirit Animals as part of the Sentience series, I jumped on it.

The book is unique in that I’m the lead author but there are several people who have contributed their stories of experiences with spirit animals. For anyone that reads it I’m sure they’ll be inspired to practice paying closer attention to animals and the guidance they can receive from them.

2. Can you talk a little bit about Spirit Animals. What are they and how can a person find or connect with them?

Those spirits that are in animal form that teach us, guide us, empower us, and help us heal are called animal spirit guides or spirit animals. One of the great advantages of working with animal spirit guides is that they can appear physically and symbolically in many ways throughout every society and culture on earth. Because of their abundant representations in third-dimensional reality, they’re continually in our consciousness. Depending on how and in what way they show up in the material world, whether in the flesh or as a symbol, their appearance can be as a representative of the spirit of that animal.

When an animal shows up in an uncommon way or repetitively it’s likely presenting itself to you as a spirit guide. The hummingbird that flits about and then hovers for several seconds directly in front of you isn’t just a hummingbird but is carrying with her the essence of all hummingbirds and is therefore Hummingbird with a capital “H.” That’s also why when we speak of an animal spirit guide, we leave out the “a” or “an” as a way of recognizing and honoring that spirit animal. The hawk that visited me wasn’t only a hawk, but in those instances was representing the essence of all hawks and so I refer to the spiritual counterpart as Hawk.

Not only do these spirit animals help us in many ways, but another positive effect is that you’ll deepen your appreciation for the magic and mystery of all animals, whether they are of the air, water, or the land. Every being on this beautiful and majestic planet has its place in the web of life, and as we develop our consciousness and awareness of the unique quality of animal spirit guides, we enhance our relationships with all our animal brothers and sisters.

3. How can profound encounters with spirit animals affirm our intimacy with the animal world and the realm of Spirit?

As you practice paying attention to animals in this different way, not only do you appreciate the relationship you have with various animals to one degree or another, but you begin to understand there’s more the picture than meets the eye. One way to think about this is that each animal’s soul is connected to others of the same species in what you could call collective consciousness, just as human beings are connected in this rather mystical and mysterious way.

Most people who engage in this understanding are already on the spiritual path so for them it opens up a whole new dimension of spirituality that is ever present in our world that is populated with animals and can be seen symbolically and physically in so many different ways.

4. Do you believe a pets’ spirit lives on in the afterlife? If so, what is that spirit like and how can we connect with it?

Absolutely! I have heard several reports from people who have lost a beloved pet of hearing their bark or their meow, feeling something jump on the bed similar to what their cat used to do, or feeling their dog that pass licking their hand, or sighting a cat that looks exactly like theirs that had passed. These are ways that a beloved pet can assure their human that they exist in this ordinarily non-visible realm.

5. Can you share any personal examples or examples from clients of how their spirit animal helped them?

I have several and the uniqueness of the book Animals is that there are quite a few personal stories of encounters with spirit animals in the book.

Melody described how after her father’s death she went to a spot on the beach located in front of her father’s favorite restaurant and a single dolphin was frolicking in the water unusually close to shore. As she walked on the beach, the dolphin followed her for several meters, then swam further out to sea and joined his pod. This was a very reassuring message from Dolphin to Melody that her father was just fine in the spirit world.

Tim and his wife Beth provide another illustration. Less than a year ago they were preparing a major move to a new city and Tim was feeling extremely anxious about the move to the point of losing sleep and dropping weight. One night a raccoon showed up in the back yard. He looked up what the possible message could be from Raccoon in my book Animal Spirit Guides and discovered that the one message that spoke to him was about resourcefulness. At that point he realized that he did in fact have all the necessary resources, both internal and external, for this move. It relaxed him a great deal and he and his wife are now living very successfully in their new home in a new city.

Here’s a personal story, somewhat lengthy”

Grasshopper Spirit and the Joy of Song

It was my dream guitar: a Martin D35 acoustic. The $700 price tag was a lot of dough for a 16-year-old (my age at the time). So, I worked a job and saved my pennies. Finally, the day came when I got to take this instrument home with me. It became my baby.

For the next couple of years, I had so much fun teaching myself various chords and fancy finger picking. Soon, I knew enough to play a few folk songs and some of my favorite rock anthems like Neil Young’s “Cinnamon Girl” and Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone.”

Singing is something I’ve always had an affinity for, as well. I’ve got a decent voice but was always so shy about singing around others. In private, I had no problem belting out “Hotel California” or humming James Taylor tunes, but when it came time to sing anywhere outside of my bedroom, I’d get very nervous. I had to force myself to overcome my shyness.

When I was 23, me and a friend, Bill, who I often jammed with, decided to co-write some songs. We had become friends with a fellow who owned a recording studio, and he was supportive of us and our music. So off to the studio we went to lay down some tracks. This experience helped Bill and me feel a lot more confident and relaxed in our talent. From there, we started performing at small venues around town. It was a blast.

We had no particular goal, though I did secretly fantasize about becoming a famous rock star. What teenager doesn’t? In all honesty, I didn’t think I had the ambition or talent to pursue music as a career. It was mainly for fun, an avocation.

We kept a band together for a short while, but my rock-and-roll dream faded with age and the distractions inherent in trying to be a responsible adult. Music continued to be an important part of my life, though. I stopped performing, writing and recording, but I never completely stopped playing.

Then a few years ago, something took hold of me. Four years had passed since I’d picked up my instrument. I dusted off the Martin D35 and started strumming a bit. Soon I felt inspired to dig out and rewrite a couple of those older songs that Bill and I had created, and to compose some new ones.

For a few weeks, I was increasingly swept up in a delightful fever of lyrical and musical creativity. My passion returned with a joyful fury. I had forgotten about the sheer fun of simply playing and singing, let alone the thrill of writing some original songs. I followed the inspiration, excitedly picking up my guitar every day, and ended up writing quite a few new melodies and lyrics.

Before long, I had several tunes in final form and was excited to share them. Now that I was older, I was creating something that wasn’t just for myself. I wanted these new songs to express something meaningful and hopefully stir something in the listener. I had an intuition that what was coming through me was that powerful. As I composed each one, it felt more like I was transcribing them from some other source or dimension. Clearly, they were guided by some higher force, as music often is, and I was the willing vehicle through which the songs showed up. In essence, I let the songs find me and come through me.

After playing them for my wife and friends, they encouraged me to share my new playlist with others. Over the next couple of months, I performed in a couple of coffee houses and received very positive responses. Before I knew it, others were encouraging me to record my compositions.

I attempted some home recording but realized that I needed to go to a professional studio to get the high-quality sound that I wanted. Since I hadn’t been in a studio for years, I was nervous about it on many levels, but in spite of my trepidation, I set up a recording date for the following day.

The minute I made that appointment, fear started to creep in. I began questioning, Are my songs good enough? Is there a real purpose in recording them? Paradoxically, my gut was telling me that recording and producing them was important, and some inner muse was the driving force to do so in spite of my trepidation.

You have something to say through the music, it encouraged. Have no fear.

And yet, being only human, I did.

Later that day, I was sitting in my office, enjoying the balmy weather and light breeze wafting in from the open sliding glass doors. In anticipation of my studio appointment, I organized the songs I wanted to work on, feeling both nervousness and excitement.

The critical voice of the ego kept popping in and out, saying things like What do you think you’re doing? Who do you think you are? Yes, my internal critic was cautioning me to not take a chance, stay safe, not put myself out there. It’s interesting how when we stretch our comfort zone, there’s typically a part of us that doesn’t want us to take risks, yet always opting for safety and comfort leads to a sort of death, doesn’t it? The death of one’s creative soul, at the very least.

As I was contemplating all this, a huge grasshopper jumped from the outside and landed squarely in front of my computer. I hadn’t seen a grasshopper for years, and now here was one plopping down right by me. Staring at this tiny being for a few moments, I thought, Okay, Mr. Spirit Animal guy, what does grasshopper mean? I did what I first advise others to do when having an animal encounter: I asked for a direct revelation from Grasshopper Spirit, which I perceived through my inner voice.

Grasshopper’s immediate message was: Take the leap!

This made a lot of sense, of course, and alleviated some of my nervousness about going into the recording studio. Closing my eyes, I reached out with my mind and heart to Grasshopper Spirit and asked, Is there anything else I need to know?

Immediately, I was overcome with an endearing memory of sitting in my backyard on a summer’s eve years ago, the sound of grasshoppers singing all around me as I gazed peacefully into the starry, moonlit sky. I can hear their sweet, lilting refrain even as I write this. The memory touched me very deeply, and I understood in my heart that Grasshopper Spirit was offering to align with me as a powerful ally and support for my very soul, and for what my soul was urging me to do, through music.

For outer-world confirmation of Grasshopper’s message, and just for fun, I did a bit of online research about the meaning of grasshopper as a spirit animal. I learned that there are about 10,000 species and each has its own unique song. With a few exceptions, only the males can sing. During courtship, male grasshoppers take turns singing songs, competing to outdo each other for the attention of the females.

But what really jumped out at me (no pun intended) was this message: One of the gifts these insects hold is the power of song and sound. Song is an ancient way to alter consciousness and communicate with our animal and spirit relations. Some Native American songs date back at least 20,000 years.

Okay, okay! I got chills up and down my spine as I read this, as the message was so obvious. I couldn’t back out of this music recording appointment even if I wanted to!

The next day, I recorded five basic tracks (guitar and vocals) of my songs. I’m pleased with the results and have since shared these recordings with the world.

To this day, when I take a walk through the park and hear grasshoppers singing in unison, I am reminded of how music is so vitally important to me personally, to us collectively, and I often feel inspired to go home and immediately pick up my guitar. Recently, I did just that and was working on another new song, struggling to find the right music for the lyrics that had flowed out of my pen. I played it one way, then another, but couldn’t find the perfect tune.

Instead of getting frustrated, as I typically would have in the past, I simply called on Grasshopper Spirit. When I did, he reminded me of something I innately knew since that day when I dusted off my guitar and picked up writing and composing again. I heard very clearly, Let the song find you . . . and it did.

6. What would you say to cynics who question whether spirit animals exist?

I wouldn’t say a whole lot. Each person is entitled to their own version of spirituality. If they expressed interest then I would talk with them about it. If someone has not heard of this before I’m okay with their skepticism and have no need to convince them but I might suggest they be a good scientist, put their beliefs and disbeliefs aside, give it a try for a few weeks, and see what happens.

7. Anything else?

Working with spirit animals is only one aspect of how human consciousness is evolving. The notion of spirit animals is familiar with most if not all indigenous peoples yet relatively new to the broader population in western civilization. I’m pleased and grateful that I was called to write and teach about them and how they can be a valuable resource for any on the spiritual and/or shamanic path. The stories grow as to how influential spirit animals can be as evidence by those who contributed their personal tales to the book Animals!