The Magic & Symbolism of Animals

In many modern Pagan traditions, animal symbolism -- and even actual animals -- are incorporated into magical belief and practice. Let's look at some of the ways people have welcomed animals into their magical practice throughout the ages, as well as specific animals and their folklore and legends.

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Power Animals, Totem Animals, and Spirit Animals

Cat and dog
Is your power animal the dog, the cat, or something else?. Image by Christian Michaels/Image Bank/Getty Images

The use of a totem animal is not part of traditional Wiccan practice. However, as Wicca and other modern Pagan practices evolve and blend together, many people who follow non-mainstream spiritual paths find themselves working with a mix of many different belief systems. A power animal is a spiritual guardian that some people connect with. However, much like other spiritual entities, there's no rule or guideline that says you must have one.

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Animal Familiars

Witch cat
Do you have a familiar?. Image by Victoria Caverhill/Adore Photography/Moment Open/Getty Images

In some traditions of modern Paganism, the concept of an animal familiar is incorporated into practice. Today, a familiar is often defined as an animal with whom we have a magical connection, but in truth, the concept is a bit more complex than this.

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Using Animal Parts in Ritual

Jaw bones
Many people use found animal parts in ritual. Image by Shan Dodd / EyeEm / Getty Images

Some Pagans use animal parts in ritual. While this may seem a bit unsavory to some folks, it's really not that uncommon. If your tradition doesn't forbid the use of animal parts, and the parts are gathered humanely and ethically, then there's no reason you can't use them. Let's look at some of the different parts you might want to use. Let's talk about some of the different animal parts you might choose to incorporate into magical practice, and why you may decide to use them.

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Serpent Magic

Snakes have a long and colorful history in folklore and mythology. Image by Brad Wilson/Stone/Getty Images

While a lot of people are afraid of snakes, it's important to remember that in many cultures, serpent mythology is strongly tied to the cycle of life, death, and rebirth. Did you know that in the Ozarks, there is a connection between snakes and babies? Or that in Scotland, a snake emerging from its hole signified the beginning of Spring?

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Ravens and Crows

Image by Renee Keith/Vetta/Getty Images

The crow and raven appear in folklore going back to early times. Sometimes, they're seen as harbingers of doom, but more often than not, they are messengers -- what are they trying to tell us?

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Owl Magic

Owl Face
Image by Lee Sie Photography/Moment Open/Getty Images

Owls appear in legends and myths going back to the ancient Greeks, who knew the wise old owl was the symbol of their goddess Athena. However, owls are often associated with prophecy and bad tidings. Read about some of the ways different cultures viewed owls in folklore and magic.

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Black Cats

Black Cat
Image by Xose Casal Photography/Moment Open/Getty Images

Every year at Halloween, local news channels warn us to keep black cats inside just in case the local hooligans decide to get up to some nasty hijinks. But where did the fear of these beautiful animals come from? Anyone who lives with a cat knows how fortunate they are to have a cat in their life -- so why are they considered unlucky?

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Spider Folklore

Yellow Orb Spider
Spiders may be scary, but they can be magical too!. Image by James Hager/Robert Harding World Imagery/Getty Images

Depending on where you live, you probably see spiders starting to emerge from their hiding spots at some point in the summer. By fall, they tend to be fairly active because they’re seeking warmth – which is why you may find yourself suddenly face to face with an eight-legged visitor some night when you get up to use the bathroom. Don’t panic, though – most spiders are harmless, and people have learned to co-exist with them for thousands of years. Nearly all cultures have some sort of spider mythology, and folktales about these crawly creatures abound!

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Rabbit Magic

Fat Rabbit
Image by Vinay A Bavdekar/Moment Open/Getty Images

Spring equinox is a time for fertility and sowing seeds, and so nature's fertility goes a little crazy. The rabbit -- for good reason -- is often associated with fertility magic and sexual energy. Spring is a great time to focus on some of that rambunctious energy -- let's look at how rabbit symbolism can be incorporated into magical workings.

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Wolf Legends and Folklore

Image by Doug Lindstrand - Design Pics/First Light/Getty Images

The wolf is associated with many different aspects throughout the ages. Often seen as terrifying, there are plenty of tales in which the wolf is shown as compassionate and nurturing. Let's look at some of the many wolf stories that have appeared around the world.

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Bee Magic and Lore

Bees have been the subject of myth and lore for ages. Image by Setsuna/Moment/Getty Images

When spring rolls around, you'll see bees buzzing around your garden, partaking of the rich pollen in your flowers and herbs. The plants are in full bloom at this time of the spring, and the bees take full advantage, buzzing back and forth, carrying pollen from one blossom to another. In addition to providing us with honey and wax, bees are known to have magical properties, and they feature extensively in folklore from many different cultures. These are just a few of the legends about bees.

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The Magic of the Horse

River Horses
Horses appear in numerous myths and legends. Image by Arctic Images/Stone/Getty Images

Over the course of time, many animals have developed a great deal of magical symbolism. The horse, in particular, has been found in folklore and legend in a variety of cultures – from the horse gods of the Celtic lands to the pale horse found in Biblical prophecy, the horse features prominently in many myths and legends. How can you capture the magical energy of horses, and incorporate it into your magical workings?

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Dog Legends and Folklore

Dog On Bench
Are you lucky enough to share your life with a dog?. Image by Purple Collar Pet Photography/Moment/Getty Images

For thousands of years, man has found a companion in the dog. As time has passed, and both species have evolved, the dog has found his role in the myth and folklore of many cultures the world over. While the modern Pagan community tends to, as a whole, be drawn towards the aloof and noble cat, it’s important that we do not overlook the magical nature of dogs. Although they are typically associated with death in European legends, they are also symbolic of loyalty and the bonds of friendship.

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Frog Magic and Superstition

Image by Dan Mihai/Momen/Getty Images

Frogs and toads feature prominently in magical folklore in many societies. These amphibious critters are known for a variety of magical properties, from their ability to help predict the weather, to curing warts to bringing good luck. Let’s look at some of the best-known superstitions, omens, and folklore surrounding frogs and toads.

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Cat Magic

Cats have a clear sense of unique energy - and if you're lucky, they might share it with you. Image by Akimasa Harada/Moment/Getty Images

Ever have the privilege of living with a cat? If you have, you know that they have a certain degree of unique magical energy. It’s not just our modern domesticated felines, though - people have seen cats as magical creatures for a long time. Let’s look at some of the magic, legends, and folklore associated with cats throughout the ages.

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Tortoise and Turtle Legends and Lore

Image by Westend61/Getty Images

The turtle and tortoise appear in a number of cultures' myths and legends ​and are often associated with longevity and stability, as well as numerous creation myths. Let's look at some tortoise and turtle folklore, and see how we can incorporate the turtle into magic.

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Legends of the Bear

Brown Bear
Bears are often associated with power and immortality. Image by Lars Hallström/Age Fotostock/Getty Images

Bears might be frightening, but in many cultures, they have magical and symbolic connotations. Let's take a look at the folklore of the bear, and how you can incorporate it into magic.

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Your Citation
Wigington, Patti. "The Magic & Symbolism of Animals." Learn Religions, Jan. 26, 2021, Wigington, Patti. (2021, January 26). The Magic & Symbolism of Animals. Retrieved from Wigington, Patti. "The Magic & Symbolism of Animals." Learn Religions. (accessed June 8, 2023).