The recognition of a special relationship between a human group or an individual and a class or species of animals, plants, or inanimate objects. The ritual relationship is usually seen as mandated by superhuman forces for the mutual benefit of the human and the totemic objects.
Totemism is a system of belief in which man is believed to have kinship with a totem or a mystical relationship is said to exist between a group or an individual and a totem. A totem is an object, such as an animal or plant that serves as the emblem or symbol of a kinship group or a person. The term totemism has been used to characterize a cluster of traits in the religion and in the social organization of many primitive peoples. Totemism is manifested in various forms and types in different contexts, especially among populations with a mixed economy (farming and hunting) and among hunting communities (especially in Australia); it is also found among tribes who breed cattle. Totemism can in no way be viewed as a general stage in man's cultural development; but totemism has certainly had an effect on the psychological behaviour of ethnic groups, on the manner of their socialization, and on the formation of the human personality.
by World_Religions August 01, 2010