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Animals have historically played an important and enduring role in the world's religious traditions, from shamanism, through classical cultural expressions, up to the current debates on animal rights.

One of the earliest expressions of religiosity can be found in shamanic traditions. In many tribal cultures, a specific animal may become sacred to an individual or group. Known as totems, these animals will not be eaten and are said to generate the power of protection. The shaman, a traditional healer, often draws inspiration from animals, imitating special skills and powers associated with the coyote or the wolf or the bear. Shamanic rituals in some cases may involve the donning of animal skins and performing dances in imitation of animals. These practices can still be observed among ...

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