Totemism

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Frazer, 1887[edit]

A TOTEM is a class of material objects which a savage regards with superstitious respect, believing that there exists between him and every member of the class an intimate and altogether special relation.

Frazer J., G. Totemism, London, 1887:1 (Reprinted in Totemism and Exogamy,vol. i, pp. 3-87).

Haddon, 1902[edit]

The division of a people into several totem kins (or, as they are usually termed, totem clans), each of which has one or sometimes more than one totem. The totem is usually a species of animal, sometimes a species of plant, occasionally a natural object or phenomenon, very rarely a manufactured object. Totemism also involves the rules of exogamy, forbidding marriage within the kin, and necessitating intermarriage between the kins. It is essentially connected with the matriarchal stage of culture (mother-right), though it passes over into the patriarchal stage (father-right). The totems are regarded as kinsfolk and protectors of the kinsmen, who respect them and abstain from killing and eating them. There is thus a recognition of mutual rights and obligations between the members of the kin and their totem. The totem is the crest and symbol of the kin.

Haddon, Presidential Address before Section H, Anthropology, of the B. A. A. S., 1902.

Rivers, 1909[edit]

The first and most important feature is that the class of animals or other objects are definitely connected with a social division, and in the typical form of the institution this social division is exogamous. Often the division takes its name from the totem, or this may be used as its badge or crest, but these points are less constant or essential. The second feature is the presence of a belief in kinship between the members of the social division and the totem, and in the most typical form there is belief in descent from the totem. The third feature is of a religious nature; in true totemism the members of the social division show respect to their totem, and by far the most usual method of showing this respect is the prohibition of the totem as an article of food. When these three features are present we can be confident that we have to do with totemism.

Rivers, J. A. I., vol. xxxix (1909), pp. 156-157.