In the shamanic belief every thing is alive and carries with it power and wisdom. Power animals are an essential component of shamanic practice. They are the helping spirit which add to the power of the shaman and are essential for success in any venture undertaken by the shaman.
Shamans believe that everyone has power animals - animal spirits which reside with each individual adding to their power and protecting them from illness, acting similarly to a guardian angel. Each power animal that you have increases your power so that illnesses or negative energy cannot enter your body. The spirit also lends you the wisdom of its kind. A hawk spirit will give you hawk wisdom, and lend you some of the attributes of hawk.
Everyone is thought to have a few of these guardian power animals or it is thought that the individual could not survive childhood. Over the course of her or his life the person may have several. If a power animal leaves and one does not come to take its place the individual is considered, by the shaman, to be disempowered and therefore vulnerable to illness and bad luck.
Power animals do not have to be mammals and can be reptiles, insects or sea creatures. Any living creature can serve as a power animal. (Plants and trees can serve as plant spirit guides.) Domesticated animals are generally not considered power animals because they already in service to human beings. It is possible to have a domesticated animal, but it is more likely to have a wild untamed animal serve in the capacity of a power animal.