Odds are that even if you know something about guides you are a bit confused over the scores of terms for them. So what exactly is the difference between a totem animal, an animal guide, a spirit guide and a familiar? Well that all depends on where you look for your definitions...
Not quite what you were hoping to hear? Well I have found that animal guide tends to be a pretty general term, referring to either physical or spiritual manifestations and either individualized or more general viewpoints. Familiars tend to be viewed as involved with witchcraft and magical circles, in fact, they are said to heighten the energy of a circle. They are often seen as physical creatures, but can be non-physical as well. Often a person's "pet" that has a very close connection with them is considered a familiar. They tend to be very individualized, addressed with personal names rather than as "Cat" or "Raven Spirit." Totem animals are connected with shamanic teachings. They tend to be viewed more formally than familiars. They are addressed as "Wolf" or "Bear Sprit" with physical wolves and bears seen as manifestations of the singular wolf or bear spirit. Spirit guide is an even more general term than animal guide. It can be used to encompass totem spirits, familiars, animal guides and other various and sundry spirits such as "ghosts" and "angels." Basically any non-physical creature that serves as a protector and guide can be called a spirit guide.
These are just some of the commonly used terms. You will also see spirit totem, power animal, spirit animal, etc... Basically it all boils down to a very simple definition. "An entity often an animal, either physical or non-physical, that acts as a guide and protector."
The spirit nature of guides gives you the chance to interact with animals and beings you might not get to in real life. For example very few people can keep a lion in their backyard, a shark in their pool, or a unicorn in their apartment.
Some people choose to keep the specific nature of thier guides to themselves. It is believed that this can serve as a form of protection, keeping others from having power over you.
On these pages I will use the term animal guide for the most part, just so that every thing will run smoothly. All the information will work just as well if you are thinking animal guide, totem, familiar or spirit guide.
If you are wondering what your animal guide might be or if you want to see just how closely animal spirits are involved in your life, click here.