1. “Parents will often give their child a special totem animal, such as a teddy bear, for protection. Through the child’s belief in the animal she holds in her hands, she’s unwittingly calling in the spirit of that animal and its associated powers” (328).
Mind blown. I never realized the deeper significance behind stuffed animals! But this passage really makes sense. I always imagined that the gentle softness of my childhood stuffed animals provided the emotional/physical comfort, but it really goes beyond that, doesn’t it? I never had stuff toys shaped like humans or foods or plants. They were always animals. I carried a stuffed golden lab named Silly Sally (don’t ask) for years as a child. I distinctly remember picking her out at Toys“R”Us and carefully choosing a name for her. It was a huge ordeal. In reflection, there were even very specific dog-like characteristics I associated with her (e.g. kindness, cheerfulness, obedience, etc.). Totems really do exist in all walks and times of life.
2. “Most ancient societies studied the natural world in order to understand the supernatural. Gods and goddesses were often depicted as animals” (333).
This passage reminded me of the mythology I’ve read in which gods possess the ability to transform into animals – such as the Greek Zeus, who turns into a white bull and a swan during his dalliances with human women and the Norse god/trickster Loki who turned into a horse and a fish upon two occasions. Even in Christianity, the Holy Spirit is often represented as a white dove.