In this given topic, one will come to know about Totemism, its significance, its originality, and its importance in human society. Anthropology is an umbrella term under which we can categorise Totemism as well.

What Is Anthropology?

Anthropology is a distinctive branch of study that primarily deals with Humans and various aspects related to human beings. Some of the significant aspects of the anthropological study are listed below:

  • Evolution of human beings and their originations
  • Evolutionary Theories
  • Societies of human beings and the cultural features intertwined with society
  • The differentiating features that make human beings a completely separate species from wild animals

What Is Totemism?

We can define Totemism as a system of religion where human beings are religiously connected to Totems. A totem is an object possessing sacred values or values equivalent to religious significance.

What Is Totem?

  • The word Totem originated from the parent word ototeman
  • The term ‘ ototeman’ was an Ojibwa word directing a meaning towards kinship
  • The devotees of Totemism considered the Totems as holy emblems. They devoted themselves saintly
  • Spirit animals were an integral part of this specified system


  • Totemism was an active system of religion in the nineteenth century. It coordinated to formulate the religion theories
  • Totemism is primarily a topic bearing anthropological importance
  •  It was considered to be practised universally
  • The primary concept was that humans worshipped natural objects
  • They also established a religious value with some specific objects
  • Totemism was well-acquainted with tribal customs
  • There are distinctive examples that illustrate the mythical culture where tribals practised this particular religious system
  • Totemism followed a non-identical value-line and ideologies rather than idolatry or idol worship
  • Totems were an integral part of the system

Opinions Centering Totemism

  • According to Edward Burnet Taylor, a renowned anthropologist enlarged and magnified the horizons of this belief system
  • He claimed that through this religious process, human beings were able to categorise their immediate environment
  • Animism was an important part of his thinking foundation
  • Emile Durkheim exhaustively considered Totemism and discussed every inch of it. According to Durkheim, the theories that were put forward before him were inadequate
  • Tribes who expounded Totemism worshipped and heightened the totems with a sacred value
  • The Totems practised bureaucratic power over the tribal clan and radiated expansive force. Totems played an important role in the solidarity of the tribal clan
  • Durkheim also noticed the sacred position where the totems were placed. He considered the fundamental difference between the sacred and the profane. The tribals considered killing their totemic animals as taboo. They were protected, and they were against hurting them
  •  Devotional prayers to the Totem were equivalent to expanding the prayers to the entire clan. Totems were representatives of the clan

Other thinkers who gave forward points about this system of religion are listed below:

  • John Ferguson McLennan
  • Sir James. G. Frazer
  • Alexander. A. Goldenweiser

Crucial Features Of Totemism

  • It is a unified system of belief that was practised universally in ancient times
  • It holds a pious relationship of human beings with nature and animals
  • It is interconnected with concepts of taboo, sacred, and profane
  • There are distinctive boundaries between sacred and profane in this belief system
  • Totems were considered sacred and manoeuvred with special care due to their sacred status
  • Totemic animals were protected, and they refrained from hunting
  • This concept was prominent within tribes and hunter-gatherers
  • It signified an integral relationship between human beings and animals or objects that used to symbolise devotional and super-natural components. They were dignified with devotional fidelities

Importance Of Totemism

  • Totems had an integrating power that exercised solidarity on the clan
  • It developed an associative relation between humans and their instantaneous environment
  • It inculcated a protective nature in humans for nature and animals
  • Devotionals rites were applied by humans to execute their beliefs and showcase their constancy and adherence
  • It binds the tribal group together and establishes a sense of unity and brotherhood among them

Instances Signifying Totemism

Communities inhabiting Totemism is illustrated briefly below:

  1. North American Aboriginals – This included the Sauk, the Osage, and the Ojibwa. Totem poles were an integral part. They were fashioned out of giant trees which were aesthetically representative.
  1. Nor- Papua- They were the natives of New- Guinea and had an associative relationship with kinds of marine animals, primarily fishes.
  1. The Birhor- They are the natives of the Deccan provinces of India, and their group is characterised as exogamous. Totems were designated with human-like treatment.


The entire article is structured on various aspects related to Totemism and Totem. The importance of Totem has been explained and how it executes its power on solidarity. Totemism builds and establishes an important connective relationship between human beings and various components of nature.Animals and various natural objects are considered Totems. They are worshipped and protected. Taboos are inherent in this system, and Totems are never destroyed. They are sacred and are operated with distinctive care.


Frequently asked questions

Get answers to the most common queries related to the UPSC Examination Preparation.

What is Totemism?

Totemism was an active system of religion in the nineteenth century that coordinated to formulate the religion theor...Read full

Define a Totem.

The word Totem originated from the parent word ototeman. The term ‘ ototeman’ was an Ojibwa word directing a mea...Read full

Why is Totemism important?

Totemism is important because of the points listed below- ...Read full

Why is it important to know Totemism?

Totemism is an important aspect of Anthropology that defines a belief system of a society. It was prominent among tr...Read full

What are some examples of Totemism?

The required answer is framed below- North American Aboriginals ...Read full