The idea of a Totem as a sort of spiritual mascot that protects and guides a single individual or an entire clan has transcended its origins as an ancient shamanistic concept.  Originally an Algonquin term, a totem is an animal or plant whose attributes are shared by the person to whom it belongs. A totem belonging to a tribe provides a vital part of its identity as well as a means of understanding the workings of the physical world.

The revelation of the totem is generally part of an initiatory ritual.  For some this takes the form of a shamanic ceremony forming part of the rite of passage at puberty.

A shared totem is a strong bond of kinship or brotherhood, the word itself carries this meaning.

Totem poles are the physical manifestation of a spiritual idea, tall trees carved with birds, animals, fantastical creatures, and other symbols that tell the story of the people they belong to.  Because the poles are made of wood, they rot easily and so it has proven difficult to pinpoint their origins precisely.

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