Zoolatry or animal worship refers to the respect that people have for 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 known 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.
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 a 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.
People considered the hawk 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 a 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 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 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 are many variants of the jaguar dance. 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’s participation is no longer a taboo. During the performance, the dancers wear oversized and brightly-colored masks along with different costumes. There is 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, lion symbolizes the protector 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 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 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 on your phone? Those are the monkeys that represent this proverb.
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 of 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 tusks as amulets for protection.
Related Post: Zoolatry Part I