Truth is transcendent and we each have our own truths.
I will ask you, how many ways are there of doing any single thing in the world? I am talking about focused tasks. There are only so many ways to get a fish, and only so many ways to find your way home, and which of those steps was your strength was explored through your totem. In the unfortunate event of tribal warfare, a brave who had eagle as a totem might have been a sentinel or scout, but they would run the message of impending danger back to the tribe. Where a brave who had bear or wolf as a totem might not know what to do exactly about the threat, or see it coming, but they would have the strength and spirit to stand their ground and protect their tribe.
Is that why animals are on family crests and flags? Yes. A tribal totem pole was in a sense a family crest. It was a visual depiction of a family story line.
On the totem pole, is there a specific order? Oh, the totem pole is a story pole. So yes, there was an order but not necessarily a hierarchy. The first of the spiritual bloodline isn’t necessarily the best, nor the last the least.
The spirits were considered older and wiser than humans. So in order to grow, one would seek to understand the way of their totems more deeply. Humans were at risk of, to put it loosely, going crazy. Spirit loss. By honoring the way of the totems, they could remain strong in spirit and retain the wisdom of the earth mother, keep peace with all their relations, which was everything on or in the land itself. So the shaman was in a way the keeper of the tribes sanity. We have dream interpreters still. We call them psychologists. I don’t think they do as well as their predecessors though. They usually lack the deep roots in intuition.
The psychologists have reinvented the old ideas but made them more sterile so people can’t relate. They have lost spirit. Which weakens them and weakens everyone who tries to use them. It was believed that a spirit could become upset, uneasy, and when this happened it would stop being a source of strength. This happened when the spirit was misunderstood, when spirit communication had failed.
I heard about a Buddhist enlightened monk who acted like a monkey. When another was asked why this monk acted so strangely for an enlightened one, the reply was that he was closer to his nature. That is sort of a totem idea, perhaps? That is exactly what a totem is, part of your nature, no real separation between spiritual friend and family member. If eagle was your totem, you belonged with the eagle people, which were literally the eagles as well as the human tribe, same for snake or any other totem. People trusted someone with the deer as a totem because they tended to naturally find all the best places for berries and roots. They were good at finding water also.
Having only one totem or having a dominant totem was considered unusual. It marked you as what we would translate as a witch. The person who was taken over more or less completely by bear say, or fox, or mouse, or bat, the spirit didn’t matter so much, was considered very powerful and to be uniquely gifted in seeing and interacting with the spirit world, but they were also seen as being crazy. Not in the sense we use the word, but as wild or erratic, hard to understand and thus hard to completely trust. So it wasn’t necessarily desirable to be a one totem person. It just happened sometimes and meant you wouldn’t know the peace of a more normal member of the tribe.
Your thoughts are welcome. Be well friends.