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Animal Worship

Some information and insight on animal worship.

Animal worship is veneration of an animal, usually because of its connection with a particular deity. The term was used by Western religionists in a pejorative manner and by ancient Greek and Roman polemicists against theriomorphic religions – those religions whose gods are represented in animal form. Most examples given for animal worship in primitive religions, however, are not instances of worship of an animal itself. Instead, the sacred power of a deity was believed to be manifested in an appropriate animal that was regarded as an epiphany or incarnation of the deity.

 The universal practice among hunting peoples for respect for and ceremonial behavior toward animals stems from the religious customs attendant on the hunt and not from worship of the animal itself. Another phenomenon that has been confused with animal worship is totemism, in which animal or plant categories fulfill a social classificatory system that does not imply worship of an animal.

 Animal symbolism in religious iconography and allegory has been used in associating certain qualities with certain animal species. This associative factor does not imply, as polemicists have strongly suggested, a more primitive style in which an animal itself was worshipped and then later rationalized into an anthropomorphic figure or abstract quality. In contemporary scholarship, the term animal worship seldom occurs, because it has been rejected as a misleading interpretive category.

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