Totemism and Animism

Totemism and animism are religious forms common to smaller societies. A totem is any species of plants or animals thought to possess supernatural powers. Each group within the society may have its own totem, including associated ceremonies. Totemic beliefs may not be as foreign to the Western mind as first expected; many Westerners have totems. School mascots, symbols, and emblems all constitute totems.
Animism is the belief that spirits, apparitions, angels, or demons inhabit the earth. Either good or bad, these spirits interact with and/or influence humans in a variety of ways. For example, animists believe that malevolent spirits cause demonic possession, insanity, and disapproved behavior. From the animistic perspective, treating unsanctioned actions and attitudes requires praying to good forces and exorcising evil ones. Animism is not limited to small, simple, pre‐industrial societies; various Americans in the 1990s believe in the existence of supernatural entities that influence humans.
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