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What Are Animal Deities?

What Do We Mean by “Animal Deities“?

The oldest spiritual belief system on Earth is animism. That is the belief that all things have spirit, including trees, animals, rocks, rivers, mountains—even man-made things. For more information on animism, visit Shamanista, a site dedicated to explaining animism and shamanism.

Animists honor all kinds of spirits. They consider stones, trees, and animals to be our older brothers and sisters. Some spirits are more powerful than others, but there is no hierarchy. No spirit rules over the others. Animists do not have gods and goddesses.

Some spirits, especially animal spirits, are more important to the survival of native peoples. Some animal spirits are considered so powerful and important to the people that they get even more respect.

For example, Buffalo was so important to the peoples who lived on the Great Plains of North America that many came to honor the buffalo. Buffalo become more than just a powerful spirit; it came to be revered.


Many peoples in the Northern Hemisphere, from Britain all the way across Scandinavia, Russian, Japan, Siberia, Alaska, and Canada to Greenland honored Bear as a teacher. One of the oldest sites that showed evidence of religious beliefs or practices was a cave in Siberia where, 45,000 years ago, people carefully arranged many cave bear skulls to make a shrine.

The constellation we know as the Big Dipper was called the Great Bear. The Little Dipper was her cub, the Small Bear. Somewhere along the line Bear become more than just another spirit. She became a deity.


Oldest of all the evidence of animal deities is a 70,000-year-old python shrine recently discovered in Botswana in Africa. For 20,000 years people made the finest arrowheads and spearheads and buried them before a giant stone shaped like a python’s head.

Other Animal Deities

There were many other animal spirits who came to be revered as deities. In North Ameria there were Raven, Grandmother Spider, Coyote, Grandmother Toad, and so on. In Central and South America there was Jaguar.

In India, there was Elephant, who became Ganesha.

The Animal Deities Site

This site explores the beliefs of many cultures around the world that so honored the spirits of certain animals that they came to revere them as deities. The human beliefs about the spirits of various animal species will be discussed.

In the right-hand column you will also find links to videos on the various animals and animal deities. Ancient peoples were keen observers of animals. To understand their beliefs, you must study the actual skills and behaviors of the animals.

To understand how those ancient beliefs still affect us and shape our beliefs, games, art, laws, and literature, the video sites include both the natural animals and the animal deities.

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  1. What Are Animal Deities? « White Cranes linked to this post on July 22, 2011

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