Totemism

Totemism – Often confused with the exceptionally close or “spiritual” relationship of a shaman with a particular animal or plant, totem derives from an Algonquian term for “clan.” Many indigenous cultures understand that clans are not merely kinship groups larger than families, but groups of persons related across species boundaries. That is, a clan includes both human and other-than-human persons and may be known by the priority it gives to a particular type of such person, for example, the “bear clan.” Totemism expresses the understanding that all beings share responsibility for the well-being of every person who lives in an area. It is a particular form of sociality emerging from a broader animism. This provides the larger context in which shamans form intimate relationships with other-thanhumans within and beyond their clans; those relationships are better indicated by terms like power animal or helper plant. The use of totems among neo-shamans in this more individualized sense derives from anthropological debates that found the notion of interspecies clans difficult and conceived of totemism as a peculiar way of thinking about animals, humans, and the cosmos. Both forms of totemism indicate something about the “true self” of the individual as construed by animist and modernist cultures.

SOURCE:

Historical Dictionary of Shamanism by Graham Harvey and Robert J. Wallis 2007

BOOKS FOR YOU TO READ IN OUR LIBRARY:

Related Articles

Clans

Clans – Ioan Lewis states that “shamanism is tied to the Tungus [Evenk] clan structure of which, indeed, it is an essential component,” thereby situating…

Animals

Animals – Shamans engage with animals in a range of significant ways. In societies that live by hunting, shamans may journey beyond their physical location…

Bear ceremonialism

Bear ceremonialism – Among many Native American, Northern European, and Siberian communities, many rituals form part of a complex of “bear ceremonialism.” Marjorie Balzer, for…