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While the word totem itself is an anglicisation of the Ojibwe term, and both the word and beliefs associated with it are part of the Ojibwe language and culture, belief in tutelary spirits and deities is not limited to the Ojibwe people. Similar concepts, under differing names and with variations in beliefs and practices, may be found in a number of cultures worldwide. The term has also been adopted, and at times redefined, by anthropologists and philosophers of different cultures.
Contemporary neoshamanic, New Age, and mythopoetic men's movements not otherwise involved in the practice of a traditional, tribal religion have been known to use "totem" terminology for the personal identification with a tutelary spirit or spirit guide. However, this can be seen as cultural misappropriation.