Religion is a very interesting topic in the society. Its existence dates back to the archaic times, when people worshipped bushes and rocks, among many others. While the debate of which denomination stands religiously correct, we can’t help but be fascinated with their tenets.
If Christianity believes in the holy trinity (i.e. Jesus, God, and the Holy Spirit), other religions speak differently. Some of them are into incarnation, a process in which a god enters the world as a living thing (e.g. human, plants, or animals). Regardless of how it’s conceived, incarnation is merely about a divine creator taking a physical form.
In this list, we’ll tackle animals that people worshipped and considered holy. Here are ten examples of them.
#10. Petsuchos the Crocodile
Sobek was known to be the god of Ancient Egypt, one that was closely associated with crocodiles living in the Nile River. Paintings and statues depict him as a man-looking god, only with a crocodile’s head. At the temple of Sobek, particularly in Crocodopolis, lived a holy crocodile known as Petsuchos.
A Greek geographer by the name of Strabo describes how people made offerings to Petsuchos:
The priests went up to it; some of them opened its mouth, another put the cake into it, then the meat, and afterwards poured down the honey and milk.”
Interestingly, when a Petsuchos died (often due to overly rich diet), its body would be mummified. Priests would then conduct a very expensive burial. Afterwards, a new Petsuchos would be chosen to replace the former.
#9. Bull of Apis
The Egyptian pantheon were known for their zoomorphic deities, all of which had heads of various creatures. The god Apis, however, was totally different. He was both a wholly god and a wholly bull, so to speak. This divine creature symbolized the idea of universal and eternal stability, a thing that became a staple in earlier Egyptian civilization. Like Petsuchos, when Apis died, its body would be mummified and buried with an extravagant ceremony. But the way Egyptians choose a new Apis was quite different.
They believed that the new god would be conceived when a flash of light struck a cow. The bull burn to this animal would then appear to have certain distinctive body markings. Its body was black, with a white diamond on its forehead. Once this new Apis was identified, it would then be carried on a lavish boat up to the river of Nile. As soon as it hit its home, a massive feast would take place.
#8. Karni Mata Rats
India is perhaps among the countries in the world that associate divine power with animals. If for most people rats are pests, for the Indians, they’re divine. In the temple of Karni Mata, there are at least 20,000 rodents that are deemed holy and sacred. It was during the 15th century when a holy woman named Karni Mata arose, a bizarre process that her followers believed to be incarnation. According to them, Karna Mata asked the god of death that her clan, after they die, would come back to Earth as rats. And yes, this religious belief continues to exist even in modern times.
#7. Penang Snake Temple
Also known as the Temple of the Azure Cloud, the Snake Temple can be found in Penang. It was founded as a way to honor the Buddhist Priest Chor Soo Kong, who was known for being a healer and a holy man. He was also known for taking care of these venomous vipers, offering them food and shelter. Legend has it that snakes began to invade as soon as the template was built.
#6. Khokana Goats
If you’re wandering Nepalese town with your car or motorbike, make sure not to hit the Khokana goats. People there believe that these creatures belong to Rudrayani, a goddess said to be the incarnation of the deity Durga. The goats can be seen grazing on any field they come across, and people there will actually not bother even if these creatures eat a whole grass field.
Apparently, though, there’s a bitter part in this divine story. These goats are basically the limelight during the infamous Deopokhari festival. It is during this time that a young goat will be captured and thrown in a body of water (usually it’s a pond). There will be several men waiting and will battle each other in the fight to lead the procession. The latter, however, will find the winning candidate killing the goat with the use of his hands and teeth. And believe it or not, the young goat must be torn apart. This barbaric practice earned the attention of animal enthusiasts from around the world.
#5. Muzaffarnagar Cow
If there’s an animal that’s as important as the life of a human being in India, it’s none other than the cow. Most of the country’s states do not allow the killings of these creatures, and doing so is considered a crime. Hence this depiction has been a number one source of political and social turmoil. Some Hindu people see cows as special creatures, others simply consider them divine.
#4. Nivkh Bear Festival
An indigenous group in Russia called Nivkh is known for practicing shamanism. And for this religious craft, its medium is a bear. For these people, a bear is a living manifestation of both their gods and ancestors. In fact, their prayer process involves a lengthy ritual with a bear. This ritual, though, means capturing a young bear and raising it in a village by local women. It is their responsibility to take care of the beast, just like how they take care of their children. After a few years of caring, the Bear Festival will then take place. Bears are not only dressed in ceremonial clothes, they’re also led to posts installed in a frozen river. Unfortunately, these beasts will be chained and young men will then shoot them with arrows. The shooting will not end until the creatures die.
#3. Glycon the Snake
A man named Alexander proposed that a new god arrived to Earth sometime in second century A.D. To him, it was the coming of Glycon. Alexander was said to have snuck in one night and buried an empty goose egg. Apparently, the empty egg had a snake on it, and he just used a wax to seal the hole. Thinking the creature was dead, he and his audience were surprised that the egg hatched in his hand. This gave birth to the god Glycon, known for its healing powers. This god appeared to be similar to a regular snake, but it had a glorious head and flowing hair.
#2. Juno’s Geese
Contrary to what common people think, geese are actually used as guard animals by some people. They’re capable of giving their target a nasty nip, most especially when they’re bothered and hungry. The original geese, however, were said to be more than just guard animals. They defended the entire city of Ancient Rome. In the early fourth century B.C., the Gauls were believed to have attacked Rome and defeated the country’s massive army.
Despite the devastation and scarcity of food, the sacred geese in Juno’s temple were well-fed. People were not even tempted to kill and cook these creatures. According to Listverse, the Gauls attempted to sneak into the Capitol (the last place were the Romans tried to hide after the raid) to kill the Roman survivors. The humans and even the canine guards didn’t notice the intruders, except the geese. They all honked loudly, alarming the Romans and allowing them to defend the city. Ever since, these creatures were widely considered as the city’s guardians.
#1. Hoan Kiem Lake Turtle
A popular Vietnamese folklore suggests that the Emperor once crossed the Hoan Kiem Lake. But as he journeyed the body of water, a turtle snatched his sword called “Heaven’s Will.” The creature then carried the sword down into the lake. The Emperor, however, was neither surprised nor offended. According to him, the sword was once given to him by a turtle god. Hence he took the event as another typical visitation from the deity.
While no one proved the folklore to be true, many believed that the turtle actually existed. In fact, in 1998, this creature was said to have been seen from the very lake the Emperor’s sword was snatched. 2011 came and the turtle’s appearance became more frequent. It would sometimes stick its head out of the water, but when it appeared raw, some open wounds were seen. Believing that its wounds were caused by pollution, authorities and vets tried to clean the lake. They even captured the creature just to treat its injuries. In 2016, unfortunately, the turtle was found dead. It was deemed to be a bad sign for its species and, of course, the believers.