Zoolatry or animal worship refers to the respect that people have for sacred animals based on their beliefs or culture. There are many countries that worship animals in the world, and we are going to explore them today. Some countries or religions take zoolatry very seriously while others do so lightly. Let’s find out with me below and see which sacred animals you think are the most interesting.
Ancient Egyptians are widely for their respect and worship of cats. Their ability to control snakes and vermin made them a symbol of grace and poise. At the same time, killing a cat resulted in a death punishment among ancient Egyptians. The people back then also mummified some of the deceased cats to preserve their bodies. The ancient Egyptians also used cat mummies as votive offerings to the goddess. There are cat cemeteries in Artemidos, Bubastis, Gizeh, Saqqara, and Speos where hundreds of thousands of cat mummies were excavated.
It is not uncommon for cows to be one of the holy animals that Hinduism worships as gods. As a matter of fact, other religions such as Jainism and Zoroastrianism also have the same belief. In India, the cow is the symbol of life, health, prosperity, and wealth. Cow is the most respected animal in India, and it is considered a sin to slaughter a cow. There are laws in different states of India that will punish those who kill cows. In fact, those with strong beliefs don’t even dare to disturb or move the cows even if they block the road. This is why it is normal to see cows roaming freely on the streets sometimes in this country.
Apart from being our best friend, dogs are also one of the sacred animals in zoolatry. Both India and Nepal believe that dogs are the guards to the doors of heaven. In few parts of Nepal, people celebrate the Kukur Tihar festival on the 14th day in November to honor the dogs. People treat them with delicacies, garland them with marigold flowers, and apply a tilak (holy dot) on their forehead. As for India, their Tihar festival lasts for 5 days with similar rituals.
As a national animal of the United States of America, eagles are also one of the sacred animals of Native Americans. This ferocious bird is a symbol of freedom, healing power, valor, and vision. Having eagle feathers is considered honorable in Native American culture, hence the war bonnets. Mostly worn by male leaders, the person who wears this headdress has to earn it by performing an act of courage.
While most hunters long for the life of these largest land animals, Hinduism worships them. In India, elephants are the symbol of reincarnation, royalty, serenity, strength, and wisdom. There is also an elephant god, Lord Ganesha, with a human body and a head of an elephant. In Surat, there is a festival called Alunam where unmarried Anavil girls dance and sing songs to worship the elephants. Other Buddhism countries such as Cambodia and Thailand also believe that elephants are holy animals.
People considered hawk was a god in North Borneo as it is the messenger of the people’s Supreme God. There were also rituals involved with hawks when the natives wanted to make decisions about certain events. They would formally consult it before expeditions, major work, wars, and more. Hawks were also the deity on Hawaii island as the symbol of swift justice. Fiji is another island where some tribes worshipped hawks as gods. Ancient Egyptians depicted Horus as a full hark before changing the depiction to a human body and a hawk head. Here are also other Egyptian deities with hawk or half-hawk forms such as Qubehsenuef, Ra, Sokar, and Sopdu.
In Ancient Egyptian religion, people worshipped hippopotamus as the goddesses of fertility, motherhood, and pregnancy. At the same time, this sacred animal was also the protector of women and children. The unique thing about Taweret is that she was the household goddess who people worshipped at home. So there are no temples for people to go pray at all. However, there were amulets, feeding cups, or figurines with her likeness in almost every home.
White horses and winged horses have always been part of the sacred animals in many cultures. In nomadic tradition, horses embodied the connection with the other world. At the same time, it was also an attribute of the divine force that fight against the devil. Apart from that, horses are the symbols of knowledge, sexual potency, struggle, and wisdom in other beliefs and mythologies.
Back in Ancient cultures, Jaguar was the god in countries such as Guatemala, Mexico, and Peru. There are sculptures of jaguars in different forms that the Aztecs, Inca, and Mayans depicted in their structure. People worshipped jaguars because they are the representative of aggressiveness, ferocity, power, valor, and vision. In modern days, some parts of Mexico still practice the jaguar dance. This dance is very popular, and there many variants of the jaguar dances. The purpose of the dance is to honor the ancestors and wish for their blessings.
The elders play the music on a drum and a high-pitched reed flute, and only men were allowed. However, things changed in 2016, and women participation is no longer a taboo. During the performance, the dancers wear oversized and brightly-colored masks along with different costumes. There are a bull, a devil, a dog, a donkey, a goat, and a witch that fight the jaguar. The dance features a series of different characters, and they are all very interesting to watch.
In China, the lion symbolizes the protectors of evil. This is why you always see statues of guardian lions at the entrances of temples. As for Ancient Egypt, there are also many dogs with lion heads such as Aker, Bastet, Sekhmet, Tefnut, and more. These lion-headed gods and goddesses were the fierce deities who destroyed the enemies of the gods and the pharaoh.
Not different from cows, monkeys are one of the holy animals in Hinduism. Because people worship the monkey god Hanuman throughout India, you can see monkeys in almost all Indian temples. Even in Buddhism, the religion believes that the monkey is an incarnation of Buddha. Monkeys have always been a symbol of wits and activeness due to their characteristics. In Japan, there is a proverb that says “see no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil” represented by 3 monkeys. Remember those monkey emojis that cover their ears, eyes, and mouths in your phone? Those are the monkeys that represent this proverb.
Although snakes are the symbols of the devil and unfaithfulness in Christianity, some different cultures think otherwise. The perfect example is in India where people worship snakes as one of the serpent deities. Because Lord Shiva wears a Nag Indian Cobra around his neck as an ornament, cobras are the most sacred snakes. This is why there is a festival called Nag Panchami where people offer their prayers and warm milk.
Different countries see and worship tigers in different ways. In China and Chinese myths, tigers are one of the zodiac animals, and they are an earth symbol. At the same time, this sacred animal is also a symbol of anger, fearlessness, royalty, and strength. Korean folklore regards the tiger as a divine spirit and a guardian due to its courage and power. As for Hinduism, tigers associated with the Hindu gods Durga and Shiva. There is also a tiger festival called Bagh Jatra that people in Nepal celebrate every year. There are statues of tigers at the entrances of palaces and temples. People believe that they keep the evil spirits away from entering those places.
The wild boars were the representative of courage, magic, prophecy, and strength in Celt’s history. While most countries and religions don’t harm their sacred animals, Northern European countries did the opposite. Because of its symbol as health and protection, warriors would feed on wild boar meat before a battle. In modern days, there are still different countries in the world that use wild boar’s tusks as amulets for protection.
Probably not so popular as sacred animals, but wolves hold a significant position in Eurasian and North American mythologies. These canines are the warriors in many cultures such as Ancient Egyptian, Ancient Roman, Turkic mythologies, and more. As a symbol of courage, direction, endurance, family, and intelligence, no doubt why even Native Americans worshipped them as gods.