Animal worship  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Animal worship refers to religious rituals involving animals, especially in pre-modern societies, such as the glorification of animal deities, or animal sacrifice.

The idea that divinity embodies itself in animals, such as a deity incarnate, and then lives on earth among human beings has been marginalized by Christian and Islamic religions (Morris, 2000, p. 26). In churches such as Independent Assemblies of God and Pentecostal, animals have very little religious significance (Schoffeleers, 1985; Peltzer, 1987; Qtd. in Morris, 2000, p. 25). Animals have become less and less important and symbolic in cult rituals and religion, especially among African cultures, as Christianity and Islamic religions have spread (Morris, 2000, p. 24).

The origins of animal worship have been the subject of many theories. The classical author Diodorus explained the origin of animal-worship by recalling the myth in which the gods, supposedly threatened by giants, hid under the guise of animals. The people then naturally began to worship the animals that their gods had disguised themselves as and continued this act even after the gods returned to their normal state (Lubbock, 2005, p.252). In 1906, Weissenborn suggested that animal worship resulted from man’s natural curiosity. Primitive man would observe an animal that had a unique trait and the inexplicability of this trait would appeal to man’s curiosity (Weissenborn, 1906b, p.282). Wonder resulted from primitive man’s observations of this distinctive trait and this wonder eventually induced adoration. Thus, primitive man worshipped animals that had inimitable traits (Weissenborn, 1906b, p.282). Lubbock put forward a more recent view. Lubbock proposed that animal-worship originated from family names. In societies, families would name themselves and their children after certain animals and eventually came to hold that animal above other animals. Eventually, these opinions turned into deep respect and evolved into fully developed worship of the family animal (Lubbock, 2005, p.253).

Animal cults may be classified in two ways:

  • according to their outward form;
  • according to their inward meaning, which may of course undergo transformations.

See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Animal worship" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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