Animal worship is a cult that appears in many ancient (nature) religions. In these cults animals are regarded as representatives or appearances of the deity, or are attributed divine characteristics. It is partly based on the fact that animals possess qualities that humans lack or have in lesser measures, such as strength or speed, and which inspire fear. Another factor is the mysteries that surround certain animals and this also gives cause for worship. An example is the snake. It is feared, yet in many cultures it is held sacred; it has healing properties or is associated with healing (it is the symbol of the healer god Asclepius
) and it is a symbol of immortality (the shedding and renewing of the skin). Important snakes in mythology are the Egyptian Apophis
, the world-serpent Jormungand
of the Hindus, and of course the great Quetzalcoatl
of the Aztec.
In ancient Egypt, animal worship was an important part of their religion. The goddesses Hathor and Bastet appeared as a cow and a cat respectively, and Horus as a falcon. Cats were regarded as household deities, and in Memphis the holy bull Apis was worshipped as the companion of the god Ptah. Amon of Thebe was accompanied by a ram, and the scarab was a representation of Khepri, and so forth.
In Hinduism, but also in, for instance, ancient Persia, the cow is a holy animal.