Totemism to Religion

[Thomson. Prehistoric Aegean].

Unlike mature religion totemism has no prayers, only commands. Worshippers impose their will by using compulsion of magic [Frazer]. this is the principle of collective compulsion. hence whole community maintains level of bare subsistence economy. Chiefs by consent. Australian tribes have no chiefs, and no gods.

Advanced worship and religion – presupposes – surplus production. A few live on the labour of many. Headmanship no longer elective but hereditary. The totem is attended by prayer and propitiation (sacrifice). Assumes human shape and becomes a god. the godhead is the projection of kingship. In human consciousness there is an inversion – the king derives all from god.

Expansion of class privilege leads to increase in complexity of divine powers. Annexation of totem gods of other clans and then absorption. Then royal totem becomes the god of the tribe  or league, eventually the state. Some gods conquered by wars.

The ancient Egyptians had arrays of totemic emblems that symbolised tribal fusion. Then – unification of the kingdom. Also – Mesopotamian city rivalries due to instability led to the composite Babylonian pantheon. The se gods were incarnate in animal form showing totemic origin. The retention of sacred animals as attendants, emblems/ [NB – animal familiars of Greek gods]. Also – begotten by animals in miraculous births (myths).

The totem – god and totemic rite which was a sacrifice. Pastoral communities had cattle for milk not meat. Hence the flesh – especially of females, was taboo. [See: Robertson-Smith; Rosco; Krige; Hutton; Gurdon].

Totemic taboo – new function. Increase ceremony is the common meal. Prior to the meal was the sacrifice. Sacrament is thus from sacred herds [First helping is offered to the god]. Agriculturalists gave the first crop. Implicit is the death of the god so that people might live. Thus – the killing of the sacred animal year by year was to multiply it.


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