Animal Spirit Discovery Cards

You can purchase Animal Spirit Discovery Cards (ASDC) in the HS Shop (shipping available in the U.S. and Canada). You can watch a YouTube video where I explain why and how I developed the Cards or one where HS collaborator Christine Lebert and I demonstrate ways to use them.

You can also try ASDC Online, a simple, fun, and free game that answers your existential question with an Animal Spirit Discovery Card. Human Systems has several other free tools that you might find useful; you can see them in this PDF document.

A couple of years ago, my sister gave me The Wild Unknown Animal Spirit Deck and Guidebook  by Kim Krans and I loved it. The premise (as I understand it) behind an animal spirit card deck is that the kind of animal I am embodying on any given day (or moment) depends on a custom, ever-changing blend of how my person (thoughts, emotions, and physical being) interacts with my environment. One day, I could be like a frog – bouncy yet grounded. Another day, I could be more like a zebra – outgoing and looking fresh. Another day, I am like the earth element – grounded, organized, on a schedule. The next day, I could be more like water – emotional and creative. An animal spirit card deck is a playful way to invite more mindfulness around that interaction.

One day, my son (then 6) saw me playing with Krans’ cards and asked if he could play, so we went through the ritual of shuffling, cutting, and picking a card, and then I quickly read through the animal’s description and translated it into terms I thought he could understand. He was absolutely enchanted, delighted and amazed. I started thinking about how much fun it would be to have an animal spirit deck for kids (and adults) who still believe in magic.

I first created illustrations for all of the cards in watercolor and ink, drawing inspiration from the delightful “chibi” or “kawaii” art style that my kids love. I used Krans’ card descriptions for reference and guidance, using language that I thought would be accessible to kids about 6+.

In the deck, there are 20 animal cards divided into earth, air, fire, and water elements; 4 element cards; and 4 spirit cards for a total of 28 cards. The animal and element cards each have a description of the animal or element, how it is when they are “balanced” and “unbalanced”, and a suggested activity to bring things back into balance.

I am delighted to share that, though doubtful at first, my son has certified that these cards have just as must magic in them as Krans’ cards. 🙂

There are 28 cards in the deck, including:

  • 4 element cards
  • 20 animal cards
  • 4 spirit cards

Element Cards

The ancient Greeks believed that everything was made of a combination of four elements: earth, air, fire, and water. They also believed that an individual’s personality and behavior were determined by how much of each element they had in their body at a time. When the elements were in balance, that meant the person was healthy, both physically and mentally. When I have a lot of fire in me, I tend to be assertive, energetic, and powerful. A lot of air means I am quick, flexible, and visionary. A lot of earth means that I tend to be organized, responsible, and dependable. And when I have lots of water I am emotional, creative, and deep.

The element cards have four pieces of information on them. The words right under the name of the element describe general characteristics of a person who has a lot of that element (I believe I have a lot of water in me). The words next to “Balanced” describe how I am when I have all my needs met and am happy: deep, joyful, and artistic. The words next to “Unbalanced” describe how I can be when I don’t have my needs met and am unhappy: sad, with no boundaries. The suggestion next to “To Balance” (breathwork) is a good way to get myself back to serenity.

Animal Cards

Each animal card has the same pieces of information that the element card has, plus a picture of the element associated with that animal at the very bottom. In addition to exploring the information on your animal card, you can then pull the corresponding element card to go deeper.

Spirit Cards

Spirit cards are special cards. They tap into forces that are not of this world, and they have no down side – they are never “unbalanced”, and all about mindful growth. There are four spirit cards: dragon, fairy, mermaid, and unicorn. On each of these cards, there will be an action, characteristics, and a quest around one of four HS Mindfulness concepts: awareness, acceptance, compassion or balance.


There is no “right” way to use these cards – I encourage you to use them in whatever way is the most fun and informative for you. You can toss them in the air and choose the card that lands closest to you; you could put them in alphabetical order, call your friend and ask them to pick a number between 1 and 28 and choose the corresponding card; you could listen throughout your day to see if you get any “messages” about what card to pick. I may pull them out as a fun, non-competitive way to engage with my family, and they are very useful when I or one of my loved ones is really upset and needs a little validation from the universe.

Here’s how I use them. First, I shuffle the cards while thinking about a challenge I am having. If I am feeling pretty serene, I may clear my mind. Then I cut the cards into three piles, put them back together in whatever way seems right to me, and pull the top card. The card I pull may be related to what I have been experiencing, or what I might experience in the future. Most of the time, I can immediately see how the card relates to my life at the moment. If it seems completely random, it could be guidance for the future.

Let’s pretend that I just pulled the bat spirit card, and I will walk you through my thought process. First, I see that the bat is about new beginnings and letting go. Bats sleep in dark caves, so every time they wake up and start their day, it’s like they are being reborn and can start over. I might think about whether there is something or someone that I’m hanging onto and I really need to let it go. For me, feeling really frustrated or afraid could mean I need to let something go. Alternatively, it could be that I have just ended a project or relationship and I have a fresh start. When the bat is balanced, it’s accepting, adaptable, and flexible. If I’m feeling those things, great – it means I’m on the right path.

When the bat is unbalanced, it refuses to let go, and becomes stuck in the past. If I am feeling that way, or I’m experiencing a lot of uncomfortable emotion, I can see what the suggestion next to “To Balance” is. For a bat, it’s to watch the sun rise. So perhaps the next morning I will get up nice and early and watch the sun rise while I enjoy a leisurely breakfast and coffee.

If I pull this card for somebody else, I will just give them a moment to read it through and invite them to share their thoughts if they want to. If the card resonates with the person and they want to tell me about it, they will have a beautiful and inspiring interpretation of how the card reflects their current experience. 

When I get a spirit card, I am excited, because it means that something really wonderful is happening in my life. Let’s say that I picked the unicorn spirit card. Since the action is “connecting a higher wisdom”, I would probably be thinking about what I have experienced lately that has helped me shift my perspective. I will check myself for curiosity and the urge to explore, and consider how my spirituality may be coming into play today. Finally, I will think about the quest, which is balance. What have I been trying to bring into balance lately? My emotions? The way I spend my time? My relationships? If I bring something into balance, how might that help me connect to a higher wisdom?

About the “To balance” suggestions

Most of the balancing suggestions of the cards are fairly self-explanatory. There are a few, however, that you may not be familiar with.

Breathwork (Water Element): If you are familiar with any breathing exercises, “breathwork” just means breathing in a mindful way. You could do specific breathing exercises, such as counting out your breaths or making sure to fill your belly with air when you breathe, or you could just be aware of your breath moving in and out of your body.

box breathBox Breath (Wolf): Box breathing is a good way to notice your breathing and relax. It’s called “box breathing” because you breathe in, then hold your breath, then breath out, and hold your breath again for equal counts, creating four equal sides of a box.

Heart-Calming Breath (Cheetah)vagus nerve: This is my favorite breathing exercise – I use it on an almost daily basis to calm my anxiety. All you do is make your out-breath shorter than your in-breath. So for example, I might breathe in for 4 counts, and then breathe out for 7 counts. When your out-breath is longer than your in-breath, your brain sends a calming message to your vital organs via the vagal nerve, which enables your heart to slow down and your body to relax.

Cat/Cow & Down/Up Dog Poses (Bear): The cat/cow and down/up dog poses are four of the most common poses in yoga. The cat/cow poses are wonderful spine stretches and energizers, and the down/up dog poses engage your entire body – they are little harder than cat/cow. You can search for “cat and cow yoga pose” or “up dog and down dog yoga pose” and lots of pictures and videos will come up.

Macarasana Pose (Crocodile): If you look up “macarasana pose” or “crocodile pose”, there are many variations. I looked at several videos and the one I have linked below reflects what seems to be the majority view of what the macarasana pose should look like, and offers very specific instructions on how to do it. It’s great for reducing uncomfortable feelings and offers a gentle stretch for your ankles and the outsides of your thighs. It’s also great for beginners.

I hope these suggestions and explanations on the Animal Spirit Discovery Cards have been helpful for you. Remember to keep it fun and low-pressure for yourself and anybody you may be playing with. In my experience, most of the time the card resonates and it’s pretty clear how it fits into my life. If it doesn’t, perhaps their was an energy interference and the card wasn’t actually for you. You can always pick another one!

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