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The relations to an animal or plant ancestor are frequently associated with the complex phenomenon of totemism.
Totemism is primarily a social relationship. It expresses the belief that there is a connection between a group of persons, on the one hand, and a species… The nature of totemism Totemism is a complex of varied ideas and ways of behaviour based on a worldview drawn from nature.
There are ideological, mystical, emotional, reverential, and genealogical relationships of social groups or specific persons with animals or natural objects, the so-called totems. Holle Bildarchiv, Baden-Baden, Ger. It is necessary to differentiate between group and individual totemism.
These forms share some basic characteristics, but they occur with different emphases and in different specific forms.
For instance, people generally view the totem as a companion, relative, protector, progenitor, or helper, ascribe to it superhuman powers and abilities, and offer it some combination of respect, veneration, awe, and fear. Most cultures use special names and emblems to refer to the totem, and those it sponsors engage in partial identification with the totem or symbolic assimilation to it.
There is usually a prohibition or taboo against killing, eating, or touching the totem. Although totems are often the focus of ritual behaviour, it is generally agreed that totemism is not a religion. Totemism can certainly include religious elements in varying degrees, just as it can appear conjoined with magic.
Totemism is frequently mixed with different kinds of other beliefs, such as ancestor worship, ideas of the soul, or animism. Such mixtures have historically made the understanding of particular totemistic forms difficult.
Group totemism Social or collective totemism is the most widely disseminated form of this belief system. It typically includes one or more of several features, such as the mystic association of animal and plant species, natural phenomena, or created objects with unilineally related groups lineagesclans, tribes, moietiesphratries or with local groups and families; the hereditary transmission of the totems patrilineal or matrilineal ; group and personal names that are based either directly or indirectly on the totem; the use of totemistic emblems and symbols ; taboos and prohibitions that may apply to the species itself or can be limited to parts of animals and plants partial taboos instead of partial totems ; and a connection with a large number of animals and natural objects multiplex totems within which a distinction can be made between principal totems and subsidiary ones linked totems.
Group totems are generally associated or coordinated on the basis of analogies or on the basis of myth or ritual. For example, a group that holds that it is derived directly or indirectly from a given totem may have a tradition in which its progenitor was an animal or plant that could also appear as a human being.
In such belief systems, groups of people and species of animals and plants can thus have progenitors in common. In other cases, there are traditions that the human progenitor of a kin group had certain favourable or unfavourable experiences with an animal or natural object and then ordered that his descendants respect the whole species of that animal.
Moreover, group totemism is represented in a distinctive form among the Ugrians and west Siberians hunters and fishermen who also breed reindeer as well as among tribes of herdsmen in north and Central Asia.
Individual totemism Individual totemism is expressed in an intimate relationship of friendship and protection between a person and a particular animal or a natural object sometimes between a person and a species of animal ; the natural object can grant special power to its owner.
Consequently, such totems became most strongly tabooed; above all, they were connected with family or group leaders, chiefs, medicine menshamansand other socially significant persons.
To some extent, there also exists a tendency to pass on an individual totem as hereditary or to make taboo the entire species of animal to which the individual totem belongs.
Individual totemism is widely disseminated. It is found not only among tribes of hunters and harvesters but also among farmers and herdsmen. Individual totemism is especially emphasized among the Australian Aborigines and the American Indians. Some examples of totemism Wiradjuri Among the Wiradjuri, an Aboriginal people who traditionally lived in New South Wales Australiatotem clans are divided among two subgroups and corresponding matrilineal moieties.
In contrast to this, individual totems belong only to the medicine men and are passed on patrilineally. Breach of the taboo carries with it sickness or death.Religion term papers (paper ) on The Death and Dying Beliefs of Australian Aborigines: The Death and Dying Beliefs of Australian Aborigines Although the Aborigines are often classified as a primitive race whose religion is bas.
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