Bear Worship and Bear Cults

A thought-provoking article on the topic of bear worship

Eric Edwards Collected Works

Two Mothers

Two Mothers (1888). Leon-Maxime Faivre. A mother faces a she-bear in a cave.

1.  Introduction

In animal worship of the salmon is sacred to native north Americans. Dances as imitation of animals are found with Amerindians and Australians – the animals usually totems of objects of the hunt including bears, buffalo, deer (Cooper, 1992). The deer is an Amerindian totem animal and the deer-dance a fertility rite for the peoples of the south-west. Reindeer sacrifices are made by Lapps, and palaeo-Siberian tribes have a ‘Lord of the Reindeer’, whose shamans can take the form of the reindeer. Bison are subjects of mask dances and sympathetic magic among Plains Indians. Bear worship can also be interpreted in terms of cult practice and totemic belief. The bear in mythology can be a god, a goddess, an ancestor, a guardian entity of a clan or tribe, or a sacred and totemic animal. In folktale the bear has been…

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