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(820 words)

Totemism was a scientific illusion that long dominated ethnology until C. Lévi-Strauss (b. 1908) finally disproved it in 1962. The idea derived from the word ototeman in the Algonquin languages of North America and was given academic status by J F. McLennan (1827–81) in 1869. In 1910 J. G. Frazer (1854–1941) gave it wider currency. Three elements summarize totemism: (1) unilineal descent groups (clans); (2) emblems (totems) such as animals, plants, and, more rarely, other natural phenomena such as wind, the four points …

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Pfeffer, Georg, “Totemism”, in: Encyclopedia of Christianity Online. Consulted online on 13 December 2019 <http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/2211-2685_eco_T.66>
First published online: 2011
First print edition: ISBN: 9789004169678, 20080512

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