Totemism of the peoples of Altaic origin
(62nd annual Meeting Friedensau, 2019)
Totemism is considered one of the earliest forms of primitive religion. A cult is a complex of beliefs, rituals and customs associated with belief in supernatural kinship of people with various objects, phenomena and beings (totems). Totemism is characterized by the perception of a totem as a real first ancestor, whose patronage ensures the well-being of relatives, united by blood and common origin. Nowadays, there are many theories about totemism, for instance, interpretation of totemism as the original form of religion (Durkheim) or its interpretation as a primitive intellectual classification system (Levi-Strauss). Freud considered totemism a prerequisite of subsequent religions.
In antiquity, people associated their origin with animals. On the bronze objects found in the Minusinsk Basin, images of animals were depicted. In the 1st millenium of our era, the first monuments with heads of rams and the sun were erected. Images of the sun and ram were immortalized on stones, rocks and weapons. The cult of the ancient totem often goes back in a semantic sense to the symbol of the sun as the source of all life in nature.
The main type of totemism is clan (tribal) totemism. The ancient tribes provided a special cult to totem animals, linked the symbol with the generic origin and considered them sacred to the tribe. Leopard, deer and mountain goat can act as a totem. Since the Mesolithic period, more than thousands of images of mountain goat have been found among the rock paintings. To save the totem was a matter of honor. The totem explained the origin of the tribe, acted as the progenitor guarding the tribe from disasters and misfortunes. People turned to totems for help, protection and favor during hunting, military campaigns and wars. They also worshiped totems during festivities.