(noun) “The belief that a person or group has a special mystical relationship to a totem (any natural object or living creature that serves as an emblem of a tribe, clan or family)” (Wiktionary 2013).

Audio Pronunciation: (to·te·mism)

Download Audio Pronunciation: totemism.mp3

Usage Notes:

  • Totem is derived from the Ojibwe word odoodem “his kinship group” and the tribe builds totem poles which are representative sculptures made from trees.
  • A totem is both sacred and taboo.
  • Totemism is often compared with animism, the belief that all things animate and inanimate have a soul or are inhabited by a spirit.
  • Totemism is oft discussed in sociology and anthropology and is still lively debated. Notable social scientists such as Émile Durkheim (1858–1917), Edward Evans “E. E.” Evan-Prichard (1902–1973), James Frazer (1854–1941), Claude Levi-Strauss (1908–2009), and Bronislaw Malinowski (1884–1942) have engaged and debated totemism.
  • Also called totemic religion.

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Wiktionary. n.d. s.v. “totemism.” Retrieved April 1, 2013 (