Ancient Aliens – The Animal Agenda: Extraterrestrials are almost always envisioned as humanoid, but is this an egocentric concept? Could it be that intelligent alien life looks much different from us, and that some extraterrestrials more closely resemble other animals? And is it possible that many of the animals that roam the Earth have otherworldly origins?
By examining ancient cultures around the world, we find that nearly all revered certain animals and depicted their gods with animal traits. The Sanskrit epics of India feature gods in the form of elephants, monkeys, and snakes. The Sumerians depicted gods with bird heads and wings. And in Egypt, not only did they portray many of the gods with animal features, but they even went so far as to mummify their animals. Ancient Astronaut theorists suggest that certain animals may not have developed through Darwinian evolution, but were planted here by alien visitors.
Ancient Aliens is an American television series that premiered on April 20, 2010, on the History channel. Produced by Prometheus Entertainment in a documentary style, the program presents hypotheses of ancient astronauts and proposes that historical texts, archaeology, and legends contain evidence of past human-extraterrestrial contact. The show has been widely criticized by historians, cosmologists, archaeologists and other scientific circles for presenting and promoting pseudoscience, pseudohistory and pseudoarchaeology.
Ancient Aliens – The Animal Agenda
Just as plants can be seen as divine forces, so can types or species of animals. For instance, the cult of the snake is widespread and is especially important in the Indian tradition. The serpent is vital in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) story of Adam and Eve and appears in the Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh as one who knows the secret of rejuvenation. The snake has a fertility aspect because of its possible phallic significance and because it lives in holes in the life-giving earth. The cult of the monkey is important in India, having its essence in the figure of Hanuman, half monkey and half human.
It is possible that such theriomorphic cults (in which gods are represented by various animal forms) have been assisted by rituals in which priests wear masks representing the relevant divinities, a practice that may in turn explain the hybrid half-human form. Examples of the wide variety of animal and living forms in which gods appear include Huitzlipochtli (hummingbird; Aztec); Cipactli (alligator; Aztec); Vishnu’s avatars, or incarnations (fish, tortoise, boar, man-lion; Hindu); the Rainbow Snake (Australian Aboriginal); Cernunnos (stag god with antlers; Celtic religion); and Nandi (bull; Hindu).
A figure partly in animal guise found in Les Trois-Frères cave at Ariège, France, may represent a complex lord of the beasts analogous to the supposed figure of Shiva (the destroyer and re-creator in Hindu mythology) found at sites in the Indus valley, while a bird-man figure at Lascaux, France, may depict a priestly representation of a divine being.
The Animal Agenda
Thus, theriomorphism seems to have a very ancient pattern. In brief, various cultures have taken existing species in their environment and woven them into the pantheon—partly because of their essential dependence on the animals and partly for other reasons, such as similarities between animal forms and other sacred forces (e.g., the analogy of the lion to the force behind kingship).
Because human beings can enter into a living relationship with the supernatural beings that surround and dominate their lives, it has always been natural to model the gods as human beings. Such anthropomorphism is most evident in the Greek tradition, in which the Homeric gods are brilliantly and unashamedly human in their passions and thoughts. The human model has been assisted by the representation of the gods in art, for a statue is not just a symbolic representation of a god but often his place of presence and influence. Thus, in a number of cultures, the images are treated as replete with divinity.
Just as gods can be human in character, so men can be conceived as divine, either by becoming identified with deities (e.g., through descent) or by displaying appropriate power. Thus, divine kingship was a not uncommon feature of the ancient Middle East. It was also found in the Roman world, when the emperors were divinized, and in Japan and China, where the emperor was son of heaven.
Culture heroes and other significant humans could be elevated to semidivine status or more—e.g., Guandi and other heroes in the Chinese tradition and Rama and Krishna in India. Strictly, the succession of sages known as buddhas and Tirthankaras in the Buddhist and Jain traditions, respectively, were not conceived as divine but came to be objects of a cult.