A totem is an animal entity said to represent and/or guide a person, family or tribe.
Usage of the term varies greatly. Initially, the term referred only to familial or tribal animals. However, as a result of New Age religion, modern usage typically refers to personalized totems in which an individual has a relationship with the archetype or archetypal spirit of an animal. It is also closely related to Shamanism, as shamans can sometimes spiritually transform (not physically) into animals during shamanic trances.
Totems are believed to hold characteristics associated with the animal they represent. This varies by culture and, in the case of personalized totems, by the individual's personal mythology, however some currents exist throughout the world. For example, wolves are commonly held to be the pathfinders for mankind, as well as representing familial loyalty and physical stamina.