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SOC250Y1 (69)

Aspects of Primial Religions

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University of Toronto St. George
Joseph Bryant

SOC250Y1 Wednesday November 10 2010Outline of World Religious History ContinuedASPECTS OF PRIMALABORIGINAL RELIGIONA synthesis what can be inferred from prehistory archaeology linguistics etc And the ethnographic study of contemporary preliterate societiesWe find 1 belief in supernatural powersforcesreligions of gods and goddesses2 belief in souls spirits ancestor cults notion of deceased ancestors are still with us who still require care by the livingBoth are systematized and expressed in Myth stories and accounts of Gods and Ritual where we try and win Gods favour appease them bring in assistanceSocieties without the State are typically organized by KINSHIP family lineages or blood lines descent from a common ancestor in clans tribeso Broad contrast between prestate and state societiesin societies where you do not find the state centralized governing political policing authority or where the state is fairly weak the societies are organized along lineages family type connections and kinshipIn ancestor cults more prominent with kinship organization or worship the dead remain involved with the living as official guardians of the social order and its moral codes ritual specialists appeal to the ancestors spirits to give rulings settle disputes etcDead ancestors part of kinshipthus brought into the picture In lineage or kinship based societies the ancestors play a significant political and moral functionthe ancestor spirits are the official guardians of the social group of the society Whyin a state with a centralized authority who is the guardian of the social order It will be the figure head of the state itself thats what makes it a state those people emperors kings and pharaohs claim power over the lives of others they have instruments of power laws so when there are social needs for coordination the state provides that in the absence of a state and with societies organized along kinship the ancestor spirits function as a neutral observer or charge they have the interests of the entire group at heart So when there are disputes the ancestor spirits have a lot of space to provide that function That is what we see Ancestor spirits are regularly consulted to solve problems they are called upon spirits will answer in and shamans interpretwhat they tend to find over and over again is that the advice of the ancestor spirits are designed to bring back harmony and order diffuse tensions Example the hunting and gathering Veddas of Ceylon Sri LankaShamans call upon and incarnate the yaku or ancestors they speak through his guttural groans Analysis shows that approvaldisapproval is based upon compliance with the groups moral code recall Kritiassocial controlAncestors are believed to control fertility the hunt and farming weather health and illness etcMisfortunes are interpreted as occurring in consequence of breaches in the moral order The ancestor spiritscommunicating through the ritual mediumsare thus CENSORSIn collective rituals the mediumshaman exhorts the people to avoid breaking taboos that which is forbiddeneg incest adultery theft dishonestyFamily and band harmony is regularly praised as essential for survival and prosperityAncestor cult also provides a sense of collective solidarity the continuity of the group binds the living and future generations to the preceding sacralised tradition custom they help bind the groupthinker related DURKHEIM emphasis on religion as social solidarity and in our religious practices the worship of the sacred is what Durkheim argued is us extending reverence to our own social group The primitivemodern debateLucien LevyBruhl 18571939 Fonctions mentales dans les societies inferieures 1910 rejects the Tylor Frazer school which divides humanity into infants and adults Rather Bruhl argued premoderns have a different mentality where emotional needs override the need for
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