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Animal Worship Around the World 2

Mesoamerican cultures (such as the Aztecs, Mayans, and the Olmec) viewed the jaguar as a symbol of fertility and played an important role in the life of a warrior. In this article, you will learn more about jaguar worship, as well as the practice of worshipping snakes and lizards.

Jaguar Worship

It is the quickness, agility and power of the jaguar that allows the creature to best the largest of prey in the jungle. It is also one of the largest of big cats in the Americas , an aggressive predator that easily adapts to jungle life with its impressively spotted coat. Able to hunt in the trees and the water, jaguars represent one of the few feline species that can tolerate water. In all of the prominent Mesoamerican civilizations, a jaguar god existed.

In shamanism, the jaguar was significant for shamans as the animal served as a spirit companion (better known as a ‘nagual’). Protecting the shamans from evil spirits as they travel from the earth and the spirit world, the jaguar allowed shamans to overcome any evil forces they encounter. In order to make a transformation and cross over into the spirit realm, the jaguar provides a shaman with strength.

Lizard and Serpent Worship

In the Pacific, lizards are worshipped, especially in cults. The most prominent cult believes that the lizard represent the incarnation of Tangaloa (or Takaroa) , who in Maori mythology is one of the great gods , the one that rules the sea. In Easter Island, the house-god takes on the form of a lizard. In Madagascar, the lizard is the primary deity of the people.

In many regions about the Old World and in the Americas, worshipping the serpent was not an uncommon practice. For example, Hindu mythology states that snake worship in India takes place because of the high status that the serpents are given. All over India, stone carvings of cobras have been found. Shrines are established in honor of snakes, where people burn lights, as well as make offerings of food and flowers. During annual processions, a celibate priestess carried the image of a serpent god.

In Africa, the serpent served an important significance and stood as a center of worship. Dahomey was a center of worship of the serpent and a cult of the python was established at what is now known as the Republic of Benin. Whydah was another place of snake worship, where 50 pythons lived. It was a code to treat the snakes with respect and if one should be killed (even by accident), the price to pay was with your life. Other cultures that worshipped the snake include:

·    Ancient Egyptians worshipped a handful of snake gods, such as Apophis and Set.

·    The Sumerians worshipped a serpent god named Ningizzida , a deity of the underworld.

·    Some Native American tribes see the rattlesnake as the grandfather and king of snakes, who possesses powers, such as the ability to create storms or send fair weather.

·    During ancient Greek times, mythology showcased characters, such as the Gorgons and Medusa, who had a head full of snakes.