Squirrels are members of the family Sciuridae and are characterized by slender bodies, longer back legs, and a long, expressive bushy tail. The name squirrel is derived from the Ancient Greek world skiouros meaning “shadow-tailed”. There are over 265 species of squirrel worldwide, with the Eastern Gray Squirrel being the most commonly seen mammal in the United States. The family of squirrels includes not only tree squirrels but also ground squirrels, flying squirrels and chipmunks.
Squirrel Meaning and Preparedness
In four-season climates, squirrel meaning relates to being prepared. Squirrel practices what is called “caching” or hoarding. He “squirrels away” nuts and seeds by burying the food as it ripens throughout the late summer and fall, then relying on this stashed food through the winter and spring. Squirrel cannot digest cellulose (the fibrous tissue of leaves) like deer or elk can, so he must rely on food rich in protein, carbohydrates and fats. His primary food source is nuts, seeds and pinecones but he will eat fruit, fungi, insects and meat when faced with food scarcity.
Boom and Bust
The season of fall is when squirrel is at the height of his power. His main food source is abundant and he has time to gorge as well as cache. In the spring, food is more scarce because his buried stores sprout and there aren’t new seeds available to eat yet. When working with squirrel spirit animal, you may experience boom and bust periods in regards to your finances and/or resources. Questions of whether to set money aside and how much are directly related to squirrel meaning.
First ask, “What do I value as a resource?” then explore how you either cling to and burn through these resources. Squirrel symbolism teaches you to be mindful of how much you consume as well as how much of a miser you are. If you spend all of your time earning money and none spending it, you will find your life is full of money but nothing else, no friends, no love, no meaning.
Many see saving money as giving in to the fear of scarcity. Saving money takes us out of the present and into the future, but this is not always a bad thing. Squirrel spirit animal teaches us that scarcity is a reality and that a calculated, rational approach to preparedness has its place. Notice that squirrel only buries seeds protected by the hard shell of nature’s packaging so they don’t rot. This teaches us the wisdom of putting our resources away out of sight and in a safe place.
Squirrel has an incredible ability to remember where he buries the majority of his food. The 25% of the nuts he forgets contribute to the next generation of trees and plants to populate the forest. He also creates bogus caches out in the open, tricking other squirrels, birds and animals into thinking his storage is somewhere it’s not. The lessons of squirrel spirit animal are to save a little more than you need as well as not share what you are doing with the world.
Agility and the Meaning of Squirrel
All squirrels are incredibly quick on their feet, lightening fast in fact. They dodge and weave to avoid the best of predators. It is when we try to catch, chase or follow a squirrel that we gain a deep appreciation for this.
The tree dwelling or “arboreal” squirrel has an additional advantage. He has a mobile ankle that allows him to turn his foot backward and run down a tree face-first. This is a rare trait in the animal kingdom.
Flying squirrel has special skin flaps between his front and back legs that makes it possible for him to leap and take great glides from one tree to another. He doesn’t actually fly like a bird, but he glides like a parachutist. This demonstrates a willingness to take giant leaps and trust that you have a parachute to dampen your fall.
Looking at both tree and flying squirrel shows us that squirrel meaning brings not only great mental agility that can help us reach great heights, but also the courage and audacity to plunge head-long into endeavors.
The origin of squirrel’s name, meaning “shadow-tail”, is a brilliant window into the meaning of squirrel. The tail and the shadow are both symbolic of what follows us, namely our past. The shadow represents our unconscious and the things we don’t always see. Now would be a good time to check and see what shadows are following you about especially in regards to your fears, old wounds and ingrained patterns regarding money and security. Squirrel spirit animal can help you come into a more balanced relationship with your resources by addressing and clearing your past.
The Chatty Sentry
Squirrel is the sentry of the forest constantly calling the alarm with his bushy tail flagging down danger and his piercing chirps keeping everyone alert. Birds and other prey animals always keep an ear open for squirrel and heed his warnings most of the time. But, some squirrels are more talkative and nervous than others, sounding the alarm too often. Then the other creatures of the forest stop listening to him. Pay attention to how you play the whistleblower at work or at home and make sure your worrying out loud isn’t turning off those around you. Being the sentry comes with responsibility. Use it wisely.
Busyness and Rest
Squirrel meaning is closely linked with the way he scurries about to and fro, up and down, in and out. Squirrel is known for being busy, really busy. There is a lot to do to prepare for winter. If you find yourself in the midst of squirrel medicine and busier than you think you should be, check in. Do you have enough energy to be so busy? Does now feel like a good time to get a lot done? Once winter comes, squirrel does slow down and spend time lazying about in his nest, called a “drey”. He waits out the storms and comes out during breaks in the weather to dig up and eat his caches of nuts. Squirrel does not hibernate like bear, so expect some level of activity in yourself no matter what the season when working with squirrel spirit animal.
About Author, Stacey L. L. Couch
Stacey L. L. Couch, Certified Shamanic Practitioner, works as a publicist and journalist for Mother Nature and is the author of Gracious Wild: A Shamanic Journey with Hawks. She empowers people with the ability to explore life’s big questions by calling on nature, story and synchronicity as a source for guidance and healing. With her deeply rooted experience in the field of shamanism and passion for working with wildlife and rescue animals, Stacey has a unique blend of rational and mystical perspective that makes the world of shamanism easily accessible to others. She values mindfulness, wonder, and compassion in her daily spiritual practice. Learn More about Stacey.