Zoolatry

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Zoolatry

 

the rites and beliefs associated with the religious worship of animals.

Zoolatry had its origins in prehistoric times when primitive hunters performed magical ceremonies in the hope that these rites would help bring them success in hunting (this is apparent from drawings in Paleolithic caves) and protect their lives from beasts of prey. Zoolatry originated as a consequence of primitive man’s weakness in the struggle with nature. The sources of zoolatry are linked to a considerable extent with totemism. Many historical and ethnological examples of zoolatry are known: the superstitious reverence of the bear in North America and northern Asia, the jaguar in South America, the tiger in South and Southeast Asia, the leopard in Africa, and the wolf in medieval Europe. Zoolatry was quite elaborate in ancient Egypt; each tribe (and later the nome, or province) honored its own animal patron (for example, the bull of Apis in Memphis). In some countries zoolatry has survived into the 20th century, as in cow, snake, and monkey worship in India. In ancient Greek and many other religions, zoolatry was preserved in the animal attributes of the gods (the eagle of Zeus, owl of Athena, deer of Artemis). It was also preserved in Christianity, in the depictions of the Evangelists with animals and of the “holy spirit” as a dove.

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