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Totem

From Academic Kids

This article is about the Native American term. For the media player, see Totem (media player).

A totem is any natural or supernatural object, being or animal which has personal symbolic meaning to an individual and to whose phenomena and energy one feels closely associated with during one's life.

A simplified dramatic example of this belief in practice is in the Walt Disney Pictures animated film, Brother Bear. In the film, a boy from a proto-Inuit tribe receives a totem of the Bear, which represents Love. Although he initially rejects it, by the end of the story he follows its ideals more literally than anyone ever dreamed possible.

For some tribes, totems can represent larger groups than the individual person, and clans and tribes can have a totem. In kinship and descent, if the apical ancestor of a clan is nonhuman, it is called a totem.

Although the term is of Native American origin, totemistic beliefs are not limited to Native Americans. Similar totemism-like beliefs have been historically found throughout much of the world, including Western Europe, Eastern Europe, Africa, and the Arctic polar region. The following are two English sites about Sanxingdui:

China has the longest history in Totem making/Totim in Chinese, of more than 5000 years old. metal masks in gold or bronze were mounted on wood poles. The totem culture propably have spread from the Mainland to the rest of the world.

http://www.china.org.cn/e-sanxingdui/ http://www.sanxingdui.com/ with history of excavation

Sanxingdui culture is thought to be divided into several phases. The early phase may be independent, and the later phases merged with Chu and other cultures. See the 'academic activities' at this site.

The totem poles of North America has many different designs (bears, birds, frogs, people, lizards). They have arms, wings and legs. The Chinese ToTim too has many animal forms but much graftily made with greater details, smaller ones even have legs arms and costume, see previous links. Before Sanxingdui archeologic site, the dicovery of Liangzhu already indicates that Chinese culture is more than from the Yellow River thus predated 5000 years old.

The earlier theory of Yellow River as the 'cradle' of Chinese civilization should be amended because many points of origins arised independently in different regions of China.

In modern times, some individuals, not otherwise involved in the practice of a tribal religion, have chosen to adopt as a personal totem an animal which has some kind of special meaning to them. This practice is prevalent in, but not limited to, the New Age movement. Beliefs regarding totems can vary, from merely adopting one as a whim, to adopting an animal that a person sees representing favorable traits reflected in their own behavior or appearance. A few believe their totem acts as a literal spirit guide. Some Native Americans and other followers of tribal religions take a dim view of New Agers' and others' adoption of totem animals, arguing that a non-adherent cannot truly understand totemism apart from the cultural context, and that at worst, it represents a commercialization of their religious beliefs.

See also

es:Tótem fr:Totem pl:Totem

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