According to old school anthropology, a totem is a symbol that represents a spiritual ancestor for a group in aboriginal Australia and North America. The totem usually takes the form of an animal or sacred plant. Normally there are taboos against slaying or eating the totem.
More recently, definitions of the totem have broadened to include the entire globe. Wikipedia says:
A totem is a spirit being, sacred object, or symbol that serves as an emblem of a group of people, such as a family, clan, lineage, or tribe. The totemic symbol may serve as a reminder of the kin group’s ancestry or mythic past. While the term “totem” is Ojibwe in origin, belief in tutelary spirits and deities is not limited to indigenous peoples of the Americas but common to cultures worldwide.¹
Not to be confused with the
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