Our ancestors sought in certain animals the incarnation of spirits and gods and this is how totem animals were born. Today most tribes retain these beliefs and possess totemic animals.
Our Homo ancestors began to eat more meat than any other primate. This change in diet enabled them to reduce the length of the digestive tract and increase the size of the brain.
Very soon, the human mind began to associate the different species with their supposed powers, and so the totemic animals were born.
The human brain’s capacity for abstraction meant we went one step further, seeing in animals the incarnation of spirits and gods.
The human intellect sought to manipulate this magic world, and in the depths of ritual caves man drew the animals whose spirits could bestow their powers on him.
The world would never be the same, a subjective reality had been born inside the head of the last primate. The bison would no longer be just an animal, from now on man’s companions in biological evolution also became part of his rites.
This strange relationship between man and nature became a struggle for domination, a struggle which still continues today.
In a strip which goes from India to Australia, and including all of Indonesia, lives the largest reptile in the world.
It is the marine crocodile, an animal which the peoples of the Southern Hemisphere could not help but notice.
The tribes who live in this area believe that the crocodile created the earth from the water, and in it rent an enormous fissure with which it copulated.
From this union were born the plants, the animals and man. When it opened its enormous mouth, the
The Australian Aborigines have their own answer, painted on the rocks of their land.
The Aborigine culture revolves around the spiritual ancestors from what they call the “Dream Time”, and is transmitted from one generation to another through these drawings and the oral tradition.
The “Dream Time” explains the creation of the earth and all the living beings, always accompanied by the magical notes of the sacred instrument, the “didgeridoo”.
This is probably the oldest known Genesis, or at least the oldest that has reached us still alive in the people that believe it.
On the other side of the planet, in the rain forests of South America, lives an animals whose power was always associated with the fears and desires of all the civilisations that came into contact with it. And it continues to be the King, the largest feline in the Western Hemisphere: the jaguar.
Today, the great cat does not occupy as much territory as in the past. When it lived alongside the pre-Inca cultures in Peru, there were jaguars in the deserts and in the mountains as well as in the jungles. But the traces of the legend remain.
In the symbolic art of the archaeological sites it still smells of fresh blood.
Millions of years of changes on the Planet Earth have produced incredible diversity, a variety of settings in which to put to the test life’s resources for survival. A handful of animal species have proven supremely successful in this selection process imposed by nature.
At the head of this list of winners stands man, and when we outgrew the physical world, we began to discover other dimensions inside our own minds.
Then, we decided to establish an arbitrary scale of values to divide up the other animals into good and bad.
What was first admiration and later a desire to be like them, soon became domination.
The totemism which paid homage to the animal and worshipped it changed when man stopped being a hunter-gatherer and, from the Neolithic age, began to be governed by new socio-economic rules.
The mythical halo of the animals almost entirely disappeared in the dominant western culture, but survived in many others.
Now, what some call “global culture” has adopted nature as simply one more consumer product; the new religion of city-dwellers is conservationism, the new gods are the species in danger of extinction.