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Lecture 6

ANTHROP 2R03 Lecture 6: Lecture 6 - Myths, Symbolism and Worldview pt 2(Jan 16)

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Ellen Badone

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Religion, Magic, And Witchcraft
January 16, 2018
Myth, Symbolism and Worldview Pt 2
Geertz 1
Religion’s moral imperatives arise from the way that it depicts fundamental nature of
“ought” stems from “is”
Worldview = “the way things in sheer actuality are…concept of nature, self, society”
Ethos = moral and aesthetic style, tone character and quality of a group’s life
Central feature of all religions: meaningful relationship between moral and ethical values
that a group of people holds and their understanding of the “general order of existence”
People interpret their experience and decide how to conduct themselves in terms of their
worldview life has meaning
Meaning/meanings stored in symbols, which are found in myth and rituals
Symbols sum up what is known about the ultimate nature of reality and how to live in it
Sacred symbols in ordered system = religion
Religion assumes that approved style of life is congruent with the basic structure of
“What all sacred symbols assert is that the good for man is to live realistically; where
they differ is in the vision of reality they construct” (p. 73)
Religious symbols dramatize both positive and negative values
Deal with “problem of evil”
Different ways of dealing with this problem: Azande natural disasters result of
witchcraft; Melanesia illness, death, financial ruin result of secret adultery, stealing,
lying; Java evil result of unregulated passion
Events have meaning and significance
Javanese shadow puppet play, wajang dramatizes stories from Indian epic Mahabarata
deal with gods and goddesses, kings and nobles who are said to be the ancestors of
present-day Javanese (myth)
Characters and battles between them symbolize the battle in the individual between better
and worse impulses moral dilemmas
Goal: detached tranquility without being removed from the world expressed in mystical
worldview and codes of behaviour characteristic of Javanese culture
Humans: symbolizing, meaning-seeking animals; want to make sense out of experience
and to see it is orderly
Need is as real as biological needs for food, shelter, etc.
Religion = “attempt to provide orientation for an organism which cannot live in a world it
is unable to understand” (p. 78)
Serpent-Handling 1
How does experience of Holiness/Pentecostal snake handlers exemplify Geertz’s ideas
about religion, ethos and worldview?
Scriptural text (myth) provides precedent from sacred past for present-day action
Belief salvation (eternal life) signs: no harm from serpents or deadly poison
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