Totemism is the identification of kinship with a sign or totem of an animate or inanimate object, and is practised among primitive tribes and cultures, where it may constitute a barrier to development. Rites of magical or religious significance are practised and social laws are enacted, notably against marriage within the totemic group. The sacred animal or plant is protected, hence taboo is also closely connected with totemism; sacred totem-images and totem-related behavioural taboos are obstacles to communication and the education of primitive people.
The totem objectifies a quality (or power) with which its tribal selectors wished to be identified, and hence is a primitive attempt at psychological and ethnic typology. The totem figures in tribal cosmological and anthropological legends teach a closer relationship of man with nature than do the later religions which divorced man from everything except distant divinities of infrequent and unreliable appearance. There are a great many theories concerning totemism, as the subject is kept alive by the persistence of theriomorphic images in man's subconscious.
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