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Mob: Totems


Totems occupy a special place among Indigenous people and are a recurring aspect of various Indigenous cultures. Although I have an understanding of totems and their meaning to Aboriginal people, I can only speak of what I was taught by my own parents and elders.

Totems are our connection back to country, and as such are usually animals. A totem signifies a connection to a particular group of people and these groups are deemed protectors of their totem. It is the responsibility of the person to learn everything they can about their totem; from its breeding cycle, how long it takes for the young to mature, to what age they normally die at. People strive to become an expert in their totem and in doing so gain a deeper connection to country.

There are some general rules that seem to be universal regarding totems, but again I only speak for what I know. A person is forbidden from eating their totem as it is seen as one of the things that connects you to country. People were usually given their totems at birth, although this has become difficult with the loss of knowledge regarding the ceremony and lore behind what totems are granted. Usually, a person will have more than one totem. I have met people with 5 or 6, but 3 seems to be the average.

Usually, you take your nation totem which links you back to your nation and its land. You then take your family totem which connects you back to your family group and strengthens your kinship bonds. Then you are given a personal totem. This is yours and connects you with people outside of your family and even nation. For instance, a person might be given the Wedge-tail Eagle as their nation totem, the Sand goanna as their family totem and they may be given the crow as their personal totem. Each of these animals represents a different bond to country.

Totems are sacred to Indigenous peoples and while I’ve spoken a little on what I know, it is important to remember that each people will have different interpretations of what a totem is and the lore surrounding them.

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