In a general way, Totemism is sacralizing relationships expressed

by metaphorical connection imparted items or behavior with people.

Seen most commonly in current religious food taboos and sacrifice as well as sacred art

(whether real or metaphorical and be it a behavior, thing, or person being sacrificed).

“A totem is a spirit being, sacred object, or symbol that serves as an emblem of a group of people, such as a family, clan, lineage, or tribe.” – Wikipedia

Totemism | religion |

 “Totemismsystem of belief in which humans are said to have kinship or a mystical relationship with a spirit-being, such as an animal or plant. The entity, or totem, is thought to interact with a given kin group or an individual and to serve as their emblem or symbol. The term totemism has been used to characterize a cluster of traits in the religion and in the social organization of many peoples. Totemism is manifested in various forms and types in different contexts and is most often found among populations whose traditional economies relied on hunting and gathering, mixed farming with hunting and gathering, or emphasized the raising of cattle. The term totem is derived from the Ojibwa word ototeman, meaning “one’s brother-sister kin.” The grammatical root, ote, signifies a blood relationship between brothers and sisters who have the same mother and who may not marry each other. In English, the word totem was introduced in 1791 by a British merchant and translator who gave it a false meaning in the belief that it designated the guardian spirit of an individual, who appeared in the form of an animal—an idea that the Ojibwa clans did indeed portray by their wearing of animal skins. It was reported at the end of the 18th century that the Ojibwa named their clans after those animals that live in the area in which they live and appear to be either friendly or fearful. The first accurate report about totemism in North America was written by a Methodist missionary, Peter Jones, himself an Ojibwa, who died in 1856 and whose report was published posthumously. According to Jones, the Great Spirit had given toodaims(“totems”) to the Ojibwa clans, and because of this act, it should never be forgotten that members of the group are related to one another and on this account may not marry among themselves. Totemism is a complex of varied ideas and ways of behavior based on a worldview drawn from nature. There are ideological, mystical, emotional, reverential, and genealogical relationships of social groups or specific persons with animals or natural objects, the so-called totems. It is necessary to differentiate between group and individual totemism. These forms share some basic characteristics, but they occur with different emphases and in different specific forms. For instance, people generally view the totem as a companion, relative, protector, progenitor, or helper, ascribe to it superhuman powers and abilities, and offer it some combination of respect, veneration, awe, and fear. Most cultures use special names and emblems to refer to the totem, and those it sponsors engage in partial identification with the totem or symbolic assimilation to it. There is usually a prohibition or taboo against killing, eating, or touching the totem. Although totems are often the focus of ritual behavior, it is generally agreed that totemism is not a religion. Totemism can certainly include religious elements in varying degrees, just as it can appear conjoined with magic. Totemism is frequently mixed with different kinds of other beliefs, such as ancestor worship, ideas of the soul, or animism. Such mixtures have historically made the understanding of particular totemistic forms difficult. Social or collective totemism is the most widely disseminated form of this belief system. It typically includes one or more of several features, such as the mystic association of animal and plant species, natural phenomena, or created objects with unilineally related groups (lineages, clans, tribes, moieties, phratries) or with local groups and families; the hereditary transmission of the totems (patrilineal or matrilineal); group and personal names that are based either directly or indirectly on the totem; the use of totemistic emblems and symbols; taboos and prohibitions that may apply to the species itself or can be limited to parts of animals and plants (partial taboos instead of partial totems); and a connection with a large number of animals and natural objects (multiplex totems) within which a distinction can be made between principal totems and subsidiary ones (linked totems). Group totems are generally associated or coordinated on the basis of analogies or on the basis of myth or ritual. Just why particular animals or natural things—which sometimes possess no economic worth for the communities concerned—were originally selected as totems is often based on eventful and decisive moments in a people’s past. Folk traditions regarding the nature of totems and the origin of the societies in question are informative, especially with regard to the group’s cultural presuppositions. For example, a group that holds that it is derived directly or indirectly from a given totem may have a tradition in which its progenitor was an animal or plant that could also appear as a human being. In such belief systems, groups of people and species of animals and plants can thus have progenitors in common. In other cases, there are traditions that the human progenitor of a kin group had certain favorable or unfavorable experiences with an animal or natural object and then ordered that his descendants respect the whole species of that animal. Group totemism was traditionally common among peoples in Africa, India, Oceania (especially in Melanesia), North America, and parts of South America. These peoples include, among others, the Australian Aborigines, the African Pygmies, and various Native American peoples—most notably the Northwest Coast Indians (predominantly fishermen), California Indians, and Northeast Indians. Moreover, group totemism is represented in a distinctive form among the Ugrians and west Siberians (hunters and fishermen who also breed reindeer) as well as among tribes of herdsmen in north and Central Asia. Individual totemism is expressed in an intimate relationship of friendship and protection between a person and a particular animal or a natural object (sometimes between a person and a species of animal); the natural object can grant special power to its owner. Frequently connected with individual totemism are definite ideas about the human soul (or souls) and conceptions derived from them, such as the idea of an alter ego and nagualism—from the Spanish form of the Aztec word naualli, “something hidden or veiled”—which means that a kind of simultaneous existence is assumed between an animal or a natural object and a person; i.e., a mutual, close bond of life and fate exists in such a way that in case of the injury, sickness, or death of one partner, the same fate would befall the other member of the relationship. Consequently, such totems became most strongly tabooed; above all, they were connected with family or group leaders, chiefs, medicine menshamans, and other socially significant persons. Studies of shamanism indicate that individual totemism may have predated group totemism, as a group’s protective spirits were sometimes derived from the totems of specific individuals. To some extent, there also exists a tendency to pass on an individual totem as hereditary or to make taboo the entire species of animal to which the individual totem belongs. Individual totemism is widely disseminated. It is found not only among tribes of hunters and harvesters but also among farmers and herdsmen. Individual totemism is especially emphasized among the Australian Aborigines and the American Indians. Among the Wiradjuri, an Aboriginal people who traditionally lived in New South Wales (Australia), totem clans are divided among two subgroups and corresponding matrilineal moieties. The group totem, named “flesh,” is transmitted from the mother. In contrast to this, individual totems belong only to the medicine men and are passed on patrilineally. Such an individual totem is named bala, “spirit companion,” or jarawaijewa, “the meat (totem) that is within him.” There is a strict prohibition against eating the totem. Breach of the taboo carries with it sickness or death. It is said: “To eat your jarawaijewa is the same as if you were to eat your very own flesh or that of your father.” The medicine man identifies himself with his personal totem. Every offense or injury against the totem has its automatic effect upon the man who commits it. It is a duty of the totem to guard the ritualist and the medicine man while he is asleep. In the case of danger or the arrival of strangers, the animal goes back into the body of the medicine man and informs him. After the death of the medicine man, the animal stands watch as a bright flickering light near the grave. The individual totem is also a helper of the medicine man. The medicine man emits the totem in his sleep or in a trance so that it can collect information for him. In this tradition, sorcery may also be practiced by the medicine man. By singing, for instance, the medicine man can send out his totem to kill an enemy; the totem enters the chest of the enemy and devours his viscera. The transmission of the individual totem to novices is done through the father or the grandfather, who, of course, himself is also a medicine man. While the candidate lies on his back, the totem is “sung into” him. The blood relative who is transmitting the totem takes a small animal and places it on the chest of the youngster. During the singing, the animal supposedly sinks slowly into his body and finally disappears into it. The candidate is then instructed on how he has to treat the animal that is his comrade, and he is further instructed in song and the ritual concentration that is necessary to dispatch the totem from his body. Among the Nor-Papua of New Guinea, patrilineal, exogamous groups (consanguineous sibs) are spread over several villages and are associated with animals, especially fish. They believe that they are born from totems, and they make them taboo. Children are given an opportunity to decide during their initiation whether they will respect the paternal or maternal totem. Each group of relatives has a holy place to which the totem animal brings the souls of the dead and from which the souls of children are also believed to come. Totem animals are represented in various manifestations: as spirit creatures in sacred flutes, in disguises, and in figures preserved in each man’s house. At the end of initiation ceremonies, the totems are mimicked by the members of the group. Among the Iban of Sarawak (Malaysia), individual totemism has been the tradition. Particular persons dream of a spirit of an ancestor or a dead relative; this spirit appears in a human form, presents himself as a helper and protector, and names an animal (or sometimes an object) in which he is manifested. The Iban then observe the mannerisms of animals and recognize in the behavior of the animals the embodiment of their protector spirit (ngarong). Sometimes, members of the tribe also carry with them a part of such an animal. Not only this particular animal, but the whole species, is given due respect. Meals and blood offerings are also presented to the spirit animal. Young men who wish to obtain such a protector spirit for themselves sleep on the graves of prominent persons or seek out solitude and fast so that they may dream of a helper spirit. Actually, only a few persons can name such animals as their very own. Individuals with protector spirits have also attempted to require from their descendants the respect and the taboo given the animal representing the spirit. As a rule, such descendants do not expect special help from the protector spirit, but they observe the totemistic regulations anyway. The Birhor, a people that were traditionally residents of the jungle of Chotanagpur Plateau in the northeast Deccan (India), are organized into patrilineal, exogamous totem groups. According to one imperfect list of 37 clans, 12 are based on animals, 10 on plants, 8 on Hindu castes and localities, and the rest on objects. The totems are passed on within the group, and tales about the tribe’s origins suggest that each totem had a fortuitous connection with the birth of the ancestor of the clan. The Birhor think that there is a temperamental or physical similarity between the members of the clan and their totems. Prohibitions or taboos are sometimes cultivated to an extreme degree. In regard to eating, killing, or destroying them, the clan totems are regarded as if they were human members of the group. Moreover, it is believed that an offense against the totems through a breach of taboo will produce a corresponding decrease in the size of the clan. If a person comes upon a dead totem animal, he must smear his forehead with oil or a red dye, but he must not actually mourn over the animal; he also does not bury it. The close and vital relationship between the totem and the clan is shown in a definite ceremony: the yearly offering to the chief spirit of the ancestral hill. Each Birhor community has a tradition of an old settlement that is thought to be located on a hill in the area. Once a year, the men of each clan come together at an open place. The elder of the clan functions as the priest who gives the offering. A diagram with four sections is drawn on the ground with rice flour. In one of these, the elder sits while gazing in the direction of the ancestral hill. The emblem of the particular totem is placed in one of the other sections of the diagram; depending on the circumstances, this emblem could be a flower, a piece of horn or skin, a wing, or a twig. This emblem represents the clan as a whole. If an animal is needed for such a ceremony, it is provided by the members of another clan who do not hold it as a totem. The Birhor show great fear of the spirits of the ancestral hill and avoid these places as far as possible. Among the Kpelle people of Liberia there is not only group totemism but also individual totemism. Both kinds of totems are referred to variously as “thing of possession,” “thing of birth,” or “thing of the back of men.” These phrases express the idea that the totem always accompanies, belongs to, and stands behind one as a guide and warner of dangers. The totem also punishes the breach of any taboo. Kpelle totems include animals, plants, and natural phenomena. The kin groups that live in several villages were matrilineal at an earlier time, but during the 20th century they began to exhibit patrilineal tendencies. The group totems, especially the animal totems, are considered as the residence of the ancestors; they are respected and are given offerings. Moreover, a great role is played by individual totems that, in addition to being taboo, are also given offerings. Personal totems that are animals can be transmitted from father to son or from mother to daughter; on the other hand, individual plant totems are assigned at birth or later. The totem also communicates magical powers. It is even believed possible to alter one’s own totem animal; further, it is considered an alter ego. Persons with the same individual totem prefer to be united in communities. The well-known leopard confederation, a secret association, seems to have grown out of such desires. Entirely different groups produce patrilineal taboo communities that are supposedly related by blood; they comprise persons of several tribes. The animals, plants, and actions made taboo by these groups are not considered as totems. In a certain respect, the individual totems in this community seem to be the basis of group totemism.” ref

“totemist” Believe in spirit-filled life and/or afterlife can be attached to or be expressed in things or objects (you are a hidden totemist/Totemism: an approximately 50,000-year-old belief system (though it may be older as there is evidence of what looks like a Stone Snake in South Africa which may be the “first human worship” dating to around 70,000 years ago)  (possibly extending to or from Neanderthals Likewise a number of archeologists propose that Middle Paleolithic societies — such as that of the Neanderthals — may also have practiced the earliest form of totemism or animal worship in addition to their (presumably religious) burial of the dead. Emil Bächler in particular suggests (based on archeological evidence from Middle Paleolithic caves) that a widespread Neanderthal bear-cult existed. Animal cults in the following Upper Paleolithic period — such as the bear cult — may have had their origins in these hypothetical Middle Paleolithic animal cults. Animal worship during the Upper Paleolithic intertwined with hunting rites. For instance, archeological evidence from art and bear remains reveals that the bear cult apparently had involved a type of sacrificial bear ceremonialism in which a bear was shot with arrows and then was finished off by a shot in the lungs and ritualistically buried near a clay bear statue covered by a bear fur, with the skull and the body of the bear buried separately. 100,000 to 50,000 years ago – Increased use of red ochre at several Middle Stone Age sites in Africa. Red Ochre is thought to have played an important role in ritual. 42,000 years ago – Ritual burial of Mungo Man at Lake Mungo in Australia. The body is sprinkled with copious amounts of red ochre. 40,000 years ago – Upper Paleolithic begins in Europe. An abundance of fossil evidence includes elaborate burials of the dead, Venus figurines (depiction of female) and cave art also involving red ochre. Aurignacian figurines have been found depicting faunal representations of the time period associated with now-extinct mammals, including mammothsrhinoceros, and Tarpan, along with anthropomorphized depictions that may be interpreted as some of the earliest evidence of religion. Many 35,000-year-old animal figurines were discovered in the Vogelherd Cave in Germany. One of the horses, amongst six tiny mammoth and horse ivory figures found previously at Vogelherd, was sculpted as skillfully as any piece found throughout the Upper Paleolithic. The production of ivory beads for body ornamentation was also important during the Aurignacian. There is a notable absence of painted caves, however, which begin to appear within the Solutrean. Venus figurines are thought to represent fertility. The cave paintings at Chauvet and Lascaux are believed to represent religious thought. The oldest cave art is found in the Cave of El Castillo in Spain, in early Aurignacian dated at around 40,000 years, the time when it is believed that homo sapiens migrated to Europe from Africa. The paintings are mainly of deer. The next oldest cave paintings are found in the Chauvet Cave in France, dating to around 37,000 to 33,500 years ago and the second from 31,000 to 28,000 years ago with most of the black drawings dating to the earlier period. Chauvet Cave appears to have been used by humans during two distinct periods: the Aurignacian and the Gravettian. Most of the artwork dates to the earlier, Aurignacian, era (30,000 to 32,000 years ago). The later Gravettian occupation, which occurred 25,000 to 27,000 years agoThe paintings feature a larger variety of wild animals, such as lions, panthers, bears and hyenas. It’s strange to think that these animals were roaming around France at that time. There are no examples of complete human figures in these cave paintings. refrefrefrefref

50,000 – 40,000 Years Ago – (Africa), found evidence of a marked increase in the diversity of artifacts including art appear along with diversity of food accusation with evidence of human fishing. The artifacts of Africa that can be classified as less than 50,000 years become more differentiated and technologically advanced such as projectile points, engraving tools, knife blades, and drilling and piercing tools. Likewise, by this time humans had evolved the traits associated with modern human behavior and findings suggests that cave art became somewhat common by around 40,000 years ago and after. Modern human behavior includes abilities such as modern language, abstract thought, symbolism, and some form of early religion. Like most behaviors that are found in societies throughout the world, some form of religion must have been present in the ancestral human population before the dispersal from Africa. refrefrefref

50,000 – 40,000 Years Ago – Le Moustier (France), found evidence of Neanderthal cave burials covered in red ochre, with many stone tools and two young Neanderthal children fossils. In Europe some 50,000 years ago can be seen as the beginning of large bodied animal extinction, so too did their predators shortly after which seems to also include Neanderthals. This extinction of large bodied animal contributing in some party to the eventual extinction which includes Neanderthals is because of their almost total dependence on large bodied animals for fat and protein needs. One of the reasons this is hypothesized beyond just associated animal bones it is inferred in their body structure which had been triggered by an Ice-Age diet. This Ice-Age diet of fat and high-protein intake from large animals by Neanderthals had caused physical changes specifically wider pelvises and rib-cages compared to modern human. While one of the main causes hypothesized for large bodied animal extinction is natural climate change one of the other is overkill by humans, who appeared as early as 48,000 years ago evidenced in modern human artifact found in South-Central and possibly Eastern Europe similar to artifact probably made by modern humans in the Levant at an earlier date and apparently represent a population movement traveling through Turkey into then the Balkans during a warm climate interval. The earliest known human remains in Europe date to around 42,000 years ago. And 40,000 years ago a second population movement may be represented by a diverse set of artifact termed Proto-Aurignacian culture found in the Balkans, parts of Southwest Europe, and probably in Eastern Europe are also similar to those made by modern humans in the Levant. After 40,000 years ago is the beginning of Aurignacian culture artifacts which seems to have developed in Europe, spreading throughout the continent. Lastly this modern human migration did not just likely assisting in animal extinction but also started a ”creative explosion” associated with the wonderful cave paintings in Chauvet Cave in France 36,000 years ago. ref, refrefrefrefref

50,000 – 35,000 Years Ago – (southeast Asia), found evidence humans who arrived over 50,000 years ago brought with them an artistic skill, produced paintings of naturalistic animals in rock shelters in southwest China, Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia, and Malaysia. Moreover, early Indonesian rock art seems to show the artistic practice that was brought to Asia and Europe comes from Africa, because the oldest rock art of Southeast Asia is more often found in rock shelters rather than deep caves like in Europe. This significantly supports ideas that the origins of art making are a fundamental human behavior which began with our most ancient ancestors in Africa rather than Europe. If the considerations of the evidence is right it has implications not only for Southeast Asian and European rock art but Australian rock art as well. This is because Australia’s oldest surviving rock art also consists of naturalistic animals, which could show it to was brought from Africa as well. Putting this seeming global connectedness in rock art is then to consider the origins and functions of the art in terms of two very broad categories: art intended to portray visionary or altered states of consciousness imagery (shamanic); and motifs made to illustrate other subjects and/or created for other reasons (non-shamanic). This distinction roughly, but imperfectly, parallels the difference between shamanic and non-shamanic religions. Shamanistic rock art commonly portrays visionary imagery; symbolizing, in a general sense, a supernatural experience or event. Despite this commonality and depending upon cultural context, the shamanistic rock art was made for a variety of purposes by a full range of social and gender groups beyond the shaman alone. Shamanism is part of a broader trend in early prehistory and is still found in contemporary peoples as well. The common aspects of many shamanic belief systems are: 1) the concept of the three-tiered world with an upper world (world of spirits), middle world (world of living), and underworld (world of the dead) often linked by some natural aspect as a representation such as a tree, pillar, mountain, lake, or river; 2) the world is perceived as inhabited by supernatural beings; 3) nature is perceived as a ‘giving environment’, lacking the dichotomization of nature and culture of modern worldviews; 4) ideas of reciprocal relations with animals and the animals need to be treated with respect in order that they continue to give themselves up to the hunter; 5) the concept of the soul as possessed by both humans and animals; 6) the shaman or shamaness (female shaman) is preceded as a religious specialist and mediator between the worlds; and 7) the importance of animals. ref, ref

45,000 Years Ago – Ust’-Ishim (western Siberia), found evidence of an early modern human male, who’s DNA shows he belonged to the same group of early humans as the Mal’ta boy, who lived 24,000 years ago, part of the Mal’ta-Buret’ culture (24,000 to 15,000). The Mal’ta people belonged to a population which may have made a substantial contribution to the genetic ancestry of the American Indians. The Ust’-Ishim man’s DNA is more closely related to the East Asians of today than to today’s Europeans and the evidence shows that his ancestors mixed with Neanderthals close to the time of the major expansion of modern humans out of Africa and the Middle East. They found that between one and two mutations per year have accumulated in the genomes of populations in Europe and Asia since the Ust’-Ishim man lived. This is similar to recent estimates from counting genetic differences between parents and children but lower than more traditional, indirect estimates based on fossil divergences between species. (108)  ref

43,500 – 42,300 Years Ago – Malaga (Spain), found evidence of Neanderthal red looking cave paintings as well as charcoal remains found beside six of the paintings. Modern humans are believed to have also been in the area at the time, arriving about 41,500 years ago and although this does add credence to the case for Neanderthal art it does not prove that it was made by Neanderthals. refref

43,000 Years Ago – “Lion Cave” Swaziland (southern Africa), found evidence of one of the oldest known mines and in contrast to the majority of prehistoric mines, was a red ochre mine not mined for materials for standard utilitarian items for tool making but can and where used in ritualistic concepts. This is leads us to ponder the motivation of such a mine red ochre which although it had widespread use in prehistoric it was often in what could lend some support to a religious connotation when used in burial rituals and shamanistic cave art. There are similar age flint mines in Hungary and chert (lower quality flint) mine in Bulgaria believed to be connected to our cousins the Neanderthals who shared about 99.84 % of their DNA with us and seemed to have mined for weapons and tools. Many Neanderthal sites show them to be more masteries then we typically think such as how such Neanderthal archeological sites include red ochre sometimes worn down in a way that could have been used in an artistic or ritualistic way but we may never know. For too long the term Neanderthal has been conceived as a label of slow thinking brutish nonhuman creatures with human looking features. However, quite the opposite Homo sapiens Neanderthalensis, although still largely unknown, mysterious, or unidentified do show themselves to be more like fellow humans should no longer be seen as mentally inferior to modern humans. The support for this rational involves evidence seeming to show advanced thinking beyond just the craftsmanship of tools belong to utilitarian evidence they had or seem to demonstrates abstract thinking with ritualistic graves, made body ornaments (fathers, animal-tooths or claws and shells pendants), engraved symbols or spots and hand stencils like those in El Castillo cave, Spain as well as others. Although it must be understood that there is in general only limited evidence relating to Neanderthal culture. There are good circumstantial reasons for thinking that Neanderthals not only had advanced thinking they possibly had some form of language, as some of their advanced technology, rituals and hunting tactics would have been difficult to learn and execute without some form of language, though this is not some full proof it is interesting. Moreover, Neanderthal do also have relatively advanced brains with such things as a well-developed Broca’s area, and in their DNA we find the FOXP2 gene involved in speech production and by the way is carried by modern humans and in us too is required for proper development of speech and language. The FOXP2 gene is more active in females than in males, and mutations of FOXP2 in humans causes a severe speech and language disorder. Versions of FOXP2 exist in similar forms in animals such as in songbirds. Unfortunately, none of this reveals anything specific about Neanderthal language, socio-cultural, or religious for that matter. And although the full extent of socio-cultural-driven gene-culture coevolution (interaction between genes and culture) is unknown some evidence suggest that such effects were and likely are profound. refrefrefrefrefrefrefrefref

42,000 – 35,000 Years Ago – Hohle Fels (Germany), found a mammoth ivory female figurine called “The Venus of Hohle Fels” may have had some fertility connection and was discovered among flint chips and burnt animal bones. This figurine is about two and a half inches and has a polished nob with a hole like a hoop in place of a head. This top hoop could demonstrate that it may have worn some kind of amulet or pendant. Also a 35,000 years old flute was found made of vulture bone and is thought to be one of the oldest crafted musical instrument in the world. refrefref

42,000 – 17,000 Years Ago – Ucagizli Cave (southern Turkey), found evidence includes the production and use of large numbers of ornamental shells showing evidence of extended use and appearing to be selected for quality rather that as just as food. There are hundreds shell ornaments alongside well-defined stone, bone tools, and one incised talon probably frim a vulture. A focus on basket-shaped shells changed little over thousands of years, despite significant changes in other technology which almost certainly reflecting the influence of cultural norms suggesting elements of design traditions or symbol systems reflective expression of human communication. refref

40,800 Years Ago – El Castillo Cave (Spain), found evidence of cave paintings that could have been made by Neanderthals. Red colored cave art consisting of hand stencils and disks made by blowing paint onto the wall of the cave, possibly showing more evidence that Neanderthals were possibly some of the first cave painters. ref

40,000 Years Ago – Teimareh (Iran), found evidence engraved rock art petroglyphs mainly depict various hand patterns and cup-shaped motifs that may refer to ritual, a special shrine of some kind or perhaps exhibit a place of sacredness totemism or early shamanism. Moreover, it is acknowledged that the patterns of the petroglyphs are seen on ancient pottery and bronze sculptures discovered in the region. ref

40,000 Years Ago – Hohlenstein-Stadel cave (Germany), found evidence of a figurine labeled the Lion man, which is a lion-headed figurine made of mammoth ivory one of the oldest known zoomorphic (animal-shaped) and anthropomorphic (human-traits) sculpture in the world, and is associated with the archaeological titled Aurignacian culture. Also identified was a similar, but smaller, and cruder or warn lion-headed human sculpture dated to around 32,000 to 30,000 years ago, along with other animal figurines found in another cave in the same region of Germany. This leads to the possibility that such figurines may in some way have played an important role in the symbolism or mythology of early humans or may have been seen as a spirit helper or amulet that gave power or safety or the like. I think the belief in spirits came long before the idea of goddesses or gods. Following these discoveries, female figurines from approximately the same prehistoric period, such as the Venus of Hohle Fels, where discovered in the same mountainous area of Germany. ref

40,000 – 30,000 Years Ago – Laura, Queensland (Australia), found evidence at Sandy Creek Shelter cupules “cut cup-holes” and cut marks thought to represent vulva-forms are found through the world on every continent and some of the oldest rock art is linear grooves and cupules, often ignored as utilitarian rock markings. Engraved or incised cups or pits may hold different, similar, or connected meaning and within the limits of Native California alone there seems to have been three ritual origins and known purposes. In Northern California, cupules were called ‘rain-rocks’ and they were made by shamans to bring either rain or the wind ceremony conducted by shamans making non-visionary rock art. In Central California (in the San Francisco Bay region), so-called ‘pit-and-groove’ rocks known as ‘baby rocks’ were created during a private fertility rite. This shamanistic ritual was done mainly by women having a difficulty conceiving who would rub the rocks collect the dust as there was a belief supernatural power existed within rocks, which was placed in the woman’s vagina and sometimes on other parts of both people prior to intercourse. In south-central California and the Great Basin girls also made cupules during puberty initiations by grinding briefly in all of the cups on a given rock, the girls were said to reconnect with all of the earlier and older women of the tribe. All of this represents non-visionary art created by shamans and non-shamans within the context of shamanistic cultures and thus means hypothetically we can conceive that other cupules may be more than just art and may have some connections too religion. Moving further we can look to Hawaiian women perform a ritual following childbirth for the baby’s health by preserving the umbilical cord and creating cupule symbolic of the bellybutton and thus the child’s connection to its mother. Again we can see cupules and similar kinds of rock art worldwide many also have ritual origins or functions. The vulva-form motifs are mostly seen as engravings on stone, bone, or ivory as well as paintings and though found worldwide are almost invariably interpreted as evidence of fertility rituals of some kind. To support this reasoning we can look to Polynesian girls’ puberty ceremonies involved a ‘clitoris stretching’ ceremony, for example, after which an engraved ‘portrait’ of the girl’s genitalia was created. ref, ref, & ref

40,000 – 10,000 Years Ago – (Europe), found evidence of several figurines mostly female, although a few are known which are no gendered or (fewer still) definitely male thus the title of ‘venus’ is often attached to the figurines found, implying female sexuality and believed goddess status though this is more speculative then confirmed. Although some proclaimed, the first god was a goddess which I believe is a likely possibility the socio-cultural-religious meaning or use of these figures may never be known. So even if they were believed to be goddess this did not mean that there was full equality of women, any more then Barack Obama being president means there is no more racism. For the most part even where this could be so that meaning or use of these figures was as goddess and that a first theme in religion was woman as the first god believed indicated by the figurines, it still could possibly be presumed to serve male purposes, and more rightly be related to fertility and sexuality than a valuing of female status as some think such things would confirm. ref

39,000 Years Ago – Gorham’s Cave (Spain) found markings considered Neanderthal “abstract art” in a natural sea cave located in the British overseas territory of Gibraltar. This art was presumably done not just by Neanderthals but buy some of the last known Neanderthals habitations in Europe and where they left some strange markings that while unrepresentative of direct representation but as it took effort must of been some meaning; possibly art, ritual or some reflective design. There are three levels of design: visceral (what nature does), behavioral (all about use), and reflective (all about the message). That said what the markings may mean, however, is anyone’s guess. It can be certain it was not Humans as they did not show up for more than 10,000 years later which is long after Neanderthals were gone. We cannot get into the minds of these people but it looks geometric with a crisscross patterning and perhaps it represents some kind of art, map or ritual. However, what is clear is that it is abstract, deliberate, and speaks to their cognition identifying a symbolic behavior on the part of Neanderthals. There are three other caves are the nearby one of which is Vanguard Cave supplied evidence that Neanderthals diet included fish such as Bluefin tuna and marine animals like monk seal, dolphin, mollusks, and sea urchins. Neanderthals were driven into extinction because of modern humans who might have competed with or simply assimilated Neanderthals into their populations when they appeared in southern Europe about 42,000 years ago. It is either modern humans caused, directly or indirectly, led to the end of Neanderthals. It is also possible that Neanderthals may have been near extinction before modern humans arrived (decline in genetic diversity) even if they assisted in Neanderthal extinction after they arrived. Moreover, modern humans having a greater technological and cultural development along with group size is also thought to have a factor in Neanderthal extinction not that Neanderthals didn’t have some culture but also tended to have much smaller clans. ref, refrefrefref

39,900 – 35,400 Years Ago – Sulawesi (Indonesia), found cave art including stencils of hands one of which is 39,900 years old and a painting of a babirusa, or pig-deer which is 35,400 years old. Also found crude stone tools are thought to date to perhaps 50,000 years old. A modern human settlement dated to 30,000 years old is the main proof of occupation but the island almost certainly formed part of the land bridge used for the settlement of Australia and New Guinea by at least 40,000 years ago. Cave art and harpoon tips seem to point to likely African roots and that as well as other cave painting suggests that art may have been universal among early modern people, including those who left Africa and traveled across southern Arabia to Indonesia and Australia within the past 50,000 years. refrefref

I found this quote about totemism funny and it shows the redicoulessness of religion in general, “The dream-totem may be revealed to the future mother when she feels the first symptoms of pregnancy, sometimes after eating some meat which because of its unusual fattiness is taken to have a supernatural character.” – Totemism: Claude Levi-Strauss

Yes, you need to know about Animism to understand Religion