Since the dawn of time, man has associated different powers and attributes with the animals around them. Many early hunters believed that by eating an animal’s organs or wearing its fur that they would gain a measure of its power. Later tribes and even “civilized” cultures had connections with the animal world that included the totems of the First People and the doves of the Catholic Church. In the East, there were affinities for animals, especially through those who followed a more martial path. By emulating the attitudes (angry, sly, happy, etc.) of the animal, it was thought that the fighting style would come much easier.
With the rise of interest in the Earth Religions since the mid to late 1960s, there has been a revival of people choosing, finding, or having totems thrust upon them. Trying to connect with the wild world as well as trying to find meaning in our own lives has driven the search for spiritual guidance in arenas other than the traditional. In some cases this has gone beyond what many of the early people’s ideas were about the interaction between man and wild. Another aspect of the tie to animals can be seen in the Chinese Zodiac. Centered on animals (even one that is fantastic in nature), it gives perspectives into the personalities of people born within a certain time frame.
Belief systems and philosophies aside, man has been inexorably linked to the animal world since the first hunter fed his family. Over the centuries, this connection has waxed and waned based on the current morals and norms about our place in the world. Hunter, savior, conservator, champion…we as humans have taken every role.