Saturday, July 12, 2014

Totemic animals

As Kenneth C. Way documents in Donkeys in the Biblical World, certain animals had an "ominous" (i.e. omen) or divinatory significance in ANE paganism. This includes talking animals. 

I wonder if there's a conceptual parallel with the role of animal spirit guides in so-called "Native American spirituality." From what I've read, these "totemic" animals aren't confined to American Indians. This is, of course, very popular in the New Age movement. According to this paradigm, animal spirit guides are able to communicate (telepathically) with receptive humans. Likewise, various techniques can be employed to induce a trance, putting one in a receptive state to receive communications. In witchcraft, the tradition of "familiar spirits," which sometimes assume bestial form, intersects with this outlook.  

One wonders, in this connection, if Num 22 might not be, among other things, a polemic against totemic animals. Balaam is a heathen seer, steeped in the occult. Gen 3 may trade on the same sinister connotations. 

I don't know if anyone has ever investigated the connections, if any, between "ominous animals" in ANE paganism, "familiar spirits," in witchcraft, and "animals spirit guides" in American Indian paganism.  


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  3. Interestingly, in exorcisms those possessed sometimes claim demons have animal-like features (e.g. reptilian, or other predatory animals). It's also interesting that in Revelation some evils spirits are said to look like frogs Rev. 16:13. Other holy spiritual creatures in the Bible are described as having animal-like features as well (Ezek. 1:5ff; 10:21-22; Rev. 4:7-8).

    I don't think that necessarily means that angels and demons actually look like that. It may be a representation using imagery from earthly creatures to help us understand the character and nature of such spirit beings. Similar to how in Star Trek the Q Continuum would sometimes be represented in ways humans could understand (e.g. a house in the middle of a desert, or like the 19th century American Civil War period).