Emma-Jayne Saanen

[Totem Animal] Reindeer

Reindeer ©2008

Key ideas

– blending in with the crowd
– endurance and perseverance
– finding things of value in the most barren of places


Reindeer is a subtle energy that teaches endurance in the face of difficulty, how to manage social anxiety in crowds, and the ability to seek out spiritual nourishment in any situation.

Reindeer has connections with the winter season and the north. As with all deer it is important to not believe the hype – deer are not delicate and gentle animals. They can be aggressive and dangerous.

Pathworking Experience (My UPG)

Back out in the endless white of snow, I scanned the horizon and spotted what looked like the Reindeer’s herd. Sprinting as fast as I could, I made it to the boundary of the herd and loudly asked “Reindeer, may I learn from you?”

From within the herd stepped forth a massive female deer, twice the height of the others. She looked at me. “Please join the herd and see what you can learn”, she said. Focusing, I shifted into my reindeer body, and tagged along with the herd as they moved.

I found this really stressful. Being surrounded on all sides with no way out usually induces a panic attack. The reindeer around me were sympathetic, and they told me that this was not a trap. In fact it was very safe to be lost in a crowd. This is true. I tend to not like being singled out, and being one face among many meant that the odds of me being identified were very slim.

Onwards we walked. The North Wind cut through the air above us, and the snow fell heavier and heavier. But still we went on. My joints ached, but I could not stop. To stop would be to die. The endurance abilities of Reindeer and her children are incredible. Honestly. No backing down. No quitting. And they are all in it together. If I am struggling to do something in future, I will call on Reindeer’s energy to knuckle down and get on with it.

There was a shout from near the front of the herd. We had arrived at wherever the reindeer were heading to. Looking around, this place looked no different from anywhere else. Reindeer the totem came to me, and showed me how to use my hooves to chip away at the frozen layers of snow to reach the edible plants buried underneath. Reindeer is an optimistic totem, finding the best in any situation no matter how bleak it may seem. Reindeer may also be an excellent energy to call upon for finding things of value in any part of life, no matter how dull or irrelevant it  may seem.

I asked the totem of Reindeer what she thought about her children’s relationship with humans. “It is not perfect,” she answered “but they protect us from other predators in exchange for the lives of a few of my children. As long as humans do not take more than they need from me, the relationship will remain viable.”

I thanked Reindeer for her lessons, and she licked me on my forehead. This made my eyes screw up, and when they opened I was back at the Boar Woman’s camp. Red hugged me, helped me onto Kara’s back, and escorted me home safely.


Reindeer are well-known members of the Deer family thanks mostly to their connection with Christmas, but there is far more to them than just being slaves to the fat bearded man dressed in red.

Reindeer teach endurance and adaptability

Living wild or semi-domesticated, Reindeer thrive in and around the Arctic Circle, either on the tundra or in the taiga. Reindeer are perfectly suited to living in such extreme conditions. Their fur is in two layers, a woolly undercoat and an overcoat of hollow hairs, ideal for keeping warm. Their noses have a reduced internal surface area and incoming air is heated before entering the lungs. Throughout the year, Reindeer hooves adapt to the seasons: in winter the hooves work to grip the ice and snow and in summer the hooves provide traction to move through the soft and wet tundra. In addition to this, Reindeer migrate vast distances to find ideal places to live and reproduce. Reindeer survive at the extremes of the Earth, and can show us how to endure the extremes in our lives.

Reindeer teach ways to handle social anxiety

Reindeer can live in vast herds of up to 3,000-4,000, and being around this number of people could lead to very strained emotions. But it does not. Reindeer are used to these vast numbers. By calling on Reindeer for help, or by inducing a mild shapeshift into Reindeer, Reindeer’s energy can help restore calm at times of social anxiety.

Reindeer teaches how to seek out spiritual nourishment in any situation

Food is at a premium in the Arctic, but Reindeer can find all of the nourishment they need. The tundra may look barren to our eyes. To Reindeer there is plenty of food to be found. They will go out of their way to find their favourite food (Reindeer Moss), by digging down through inches of snow and ice. Their diet includes grasses, leaves and sedges and on occasion have been known to eat small animals and bird eggs. (Like most deer, Reindeer are not strict herbivores). When you are trying to find meaning and relevance in a situation where you cannot find it, invite Reindeer energy into your life. There is value in every scenario, we just cannot see it unaided every time.


The above is what I learned from Reindeer and what Reindeer had to teach me. If you would like to work with Reindeer as a totem, be bold and learn directly from hir.

As with all totems, remember that Reindeer has real children deserving of respect and compassion.



  1. Thank you, my friend. I just stumbled upon this blog, while I am obsessively researching about Reindeer/Caribou. ^_^

    I appreciate the honesty and forthrightness in your writing, and I learned quite a bit from this. Also, Hare has been coming in just as strongly as Reindeer, for several months now. Imagine my surprise when I saw what your latest post was about!! :)

    Hope you have a great week!!

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