Totems have played a part in the religious and spiritual journeys of humanity throughout history. Even up through the Christian Middle Ages you saw heraldry and badges that were often animals that symbolized an indicative nature of the person bearing it. The connection with nature as well as the aid to self-discovery gives us avenues for self-expression, awareness, and actualization. The personality traits of animals also serve as a symbolic shorthand…cunning like a fox, strong as an ox, loyal as a dog…all of these and more capture feelings and impressions that delve deeply into the mind and culture of an individual.
According to numerous cultures throughout history, humans have had a deep connection to the earth and the world’s natural energies, which many people believe can be channeled with the help of an animal guide. According to others still, a totem is the animal manifestation of a person’s very soul, or even the form a person took in a past life, prior to being human. From a social standpoint, a totem animal says a lot about how a person lives out their life, and indeed, many behaviors which are natural to their totem animal are also displayed in the individual.
From a religious or spiritual point of view, animal totems can act in the stead of a guardian or guide through which the journey of life is experienced. In some cases, especially with the Earth Religions, there is a sense of almost worship that falls short of godhood but is often on the level with angels and benevolent spirits. The totem often teaches through lessons, riddles, and parables that give a sense of direction and idea rather than a straightforward answer.
Within the modern era, there has been a resurgence in the Earth religions, especially those attached to a native or shamanistic pathway. This has led to a considerable amount of information being put out regarding totems, how to find them, how to use them, etc. The amusing part about this is that Shamanistic and Heathen religious experiences were often personal in nature. While there was an oral tradition to the practices among the tribes/clans, much of the “medicine” used was found and practiced through experience of both the real world and the unseen world.
Once again in the modern world though, there is a significant dearth of connection with nature. Small plot gardens, bonsai/houseplants, and pets have taken the place of forest glades, rushing rivers, and herds of buffalo. This means in many ways the tribal community has become one that corresponds over computer and through blog. Totems however have changed little in that regard. The inherent connection to nature is something we still crave and look for as primal humans. Even the paths of enlightenment from the Eastern religions show aspects of animalistic and animistic pathways.
From a more humanistic point of view, totems can be utilized to describe the subconscious, the ego, and the id in terms that are readily usable. Jung and Freud both touched on not only animalistic archetypes of personality but also role types such as Warrior or Healer.
Totem, animistic, religion, Earth religion, totem animal, Eastern Religion, totems, nature, tribal, tribal community, oral traditions
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