The Anthropology of Religion.doc

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19 Apr 2012
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The Anthropology of Religion
Definitions
Religion:
“A set of rituals, rationalized by myth, which mobilizes supernatural powers for the
purpose of achieving or preventing transformations of state in man [sic] or nature.” (A
Wallace, 1969. Religion, An anthropological view. NY Random House).
Animism
sees nature as animated by all sorts of spirits -- animals, plants, mountains, rocks, springs,
weapons, unattached free-ranging spirits
more involved in human affairs
foraging peoples
Animatism
a concept of impersonal power, often coincides with animism
mana - Melanesia and Polynesia
orenda - Iroquois
wakonda - Sioux
manitu - Algonquians
Myths
explanatory narratives (stories) that rationalize religious beliefs and practices
focus on humans
where we and all in our world came from
why we are here
where we are going
seen as true histories of a people
Religious Specialists
Full time, priests, priestesses, rabbis etc.
Power vested in institution
Found in large chiefdoms and state societies
Shamans
part-time religious specialists
gifted healers or diviners, eg
may involve hardship, vision quest, individual or communalistic
power acquired individually
Shamanistic cults, foraging peoples
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