Encyclopedia of Psychology and Religion

2014 Edition
| Editors: David A. Leeming

Animal Spirits

Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-6086-2_9117
In bygone religions, beliefs that divinities could take animal form were common. Indigenous tribal shamans wore ritual animal masks, heads, and skins. This was because the world was seen as full of spirits – ancestors, ghosts, demons, and deities. Reincarnation meant that spirits, deities, and humans could easily appear in animal form. Ancient religions thus express empathy with animals. Empathy is a major factor in psychology and religion (Rifkin 2009). The Jungian analyst Andrew Samuels says:

The self is the primary source of phenomena such as empathy…. Empathy is a form of psychological interpenetration, a deep link between people; the mother-infant relationship is both a special example of this and a model for empathy throughout life. (Samuels 1985, p. 99)

This is well recorded in ancient Egyptian religion involving animals. The original cosmic egg was laid by an Ibis. Thoth was pictured as a man with an Ibis head (Patrick 1972, pp. 22–23). The goddess Hathor took the form of a...

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Philosophy and ReligionIthaca CollegeIthacaUSA