Totemism

Totem is the representation of a symbol by an animal, and totemism is the system or science of such symbolism. Thus, in Egyptian mythology, what is represented as a pig or hippopotamus by one tribe, is (for some totemic reason) represented as a crocodile by another.

“The apparent wealth of [Egyptian] mythology depends on the totemism of the inhabitants of the Nile Valley. ... Each district had its own special animal as the emblem of the tribe dwelling in that locality.” —Lockyer: Nineteenth Century, July 1892, p. 51.

Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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