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University of Winnipeg
Jane Leverick

Myth, Magic, and Shamanism 9/12/2013 1:37:00 PM Science and Religion  Revisiting theories on why religion is universal to help us think about science as an explanatory model  Science gives us something to become a community around  Gives us the knowledge of the way things are; i.e solar eclipse – the sun is coming back and we know this; explanations that things are not out of control  Science is a faith system o Tylor : The Need to Understand evolutionary approach. o Geertz: The need to make meaning & representations as models of & for society; interpretive approach o Malinowski: Anxiety and Uncertainty – functional o Durkheim : The Need for Community – functional o Freud : Reversions to Childhood Feelings; psychosocial approach  Religion is a system of symbols which acts to establish powerful, pervasive, & long-lasting moods & motivations in human beings by formulating conceptions of a general order of existence & clothing these conceptions with such an aura of actuality that the moods & motivations seem uniquely realistic. Clifford Geertz (1979) o Moved religion and anthropology out of the secularization theory o Could apply to modern rational/scientific knowledges o Science is essentially a set of symbols; not ideal because we still do things that we know cause harm – do we subconsciously think that science will fix it before it becomes out of control? – rationality?! Religion and Adaptation  Religion is involved in both the maintenance of culture and social structure, as well as periods of radical change. o Radical change is society is often a sign of the onset of a new religious belief  New religions often emerge during periods of stress – either economic, political, environmental, or social crises. Colonialism, oppression, technology „lag‟ are examples of this. o Culture of maintaining a balance (not broke/don‟t fix); hard to change as it is socially constructed; based off of tradition (gods will be angry if we change this tradition)  Ex. Familial structure; religion says no same-sex parents but government says otherwise – due to multicultural society + change o Affects success of the species o New religions come from religious movements due to hard times Science and adaptation  Science, like culture & religion, is expected to change. o Theories are disproved, never proven beyond possibility – always waiting to be disproved. o For now, this is the explanation; not yet proved wrong  “if women go to university and are too educated, their female identity will become unanchored; loss of femininity” – theory of the 40s, reflected world views at the time o The expectation is of moving on from the groundwork of prior knowledge o The expectation to build on the past  Science does not exist in a vacuum, it is a part of culture and the ways in which culture changes, both as a contributor to that change and as a reflection of that change. o We talk about technology and how it is a hand-axe (basic tool) use o We identify cultures through technology o You can‟t flake an obsidian shaft without some knowledge of pressure/physics/etc. – terms may not be used but knowledge is there  Example: Darwin’s Rib – how it reveals a model of complementarity between science and religion.  Blind acceptance of scientific “fact”  Counting extra ribs on female skeletons as religious “fact” even after seeing it in person – seeing what you want to see  Hard to understand – material not ideal Myth  Important Reminder! o holistic approach  whole range of cultural practices supported by each other such as subsistence patterns + family patterns o ethnographic present  written in a particular moment in time; many small- scale societies now are in touch with the global world – technological changes + advances  Emic: seeing things from the insider point of view. Attempts to understand meanings and practices from within the group/culture.  Issue of neutrality/objectivity – see saw balance  Etic: approaching understanding through categorizations and meanings assigned from an outside (predominantly Western) point of view. Our Worldview and Myths  Our worldview is: o shaped by our society‟s or community‟s myths; the sacred stories that we tell ourselves and others; what religion is all about o How we explain/articulate the world around us; how we act, what we make sense of, how we approach knowledge o Informs our behaviors and attitudes o Informs our understanding of how the world operates o “Describes” the origin and nature of humankind  Where did we come from, how did we get here, etc.  i.e Pope in support of evolution theory, because it does not change the basis of the Christian religion (same end result) o Influences our relationship to the world Stories of the Supernatural  FOLKTALES/LEGEND/MYTH o Academic versus popular usages of categorizing narratives and texts. o Lines between legend, folktale, and myth can be quite blurred - SO context and use is important.  We are comparative; operationalizing the variable; have to describe what you‟re talking about so you can compare to something similar  What we do/think/believe does not always fit into perfect categories o Could be described as one another due to being on par with other stories from around the world; why myth becomes almost a falsehood in popular culture  One group‟s legend could be another group‟s myth, vice versa… Folktale  A traditional story that is part of the oral tradition of a society o Fictional – could have happened o Supernatural Elements – fairy spirit/witch/god etc. o Moral – something to teach us Legend  A traditional story about past events that is considered to be true o Usually contains an element of reality – a known character, event, or place – some connection to a historical past event o Embellished stories of actual events – political purposes, teaching a moral story, claiming identity for the group, etc. Urban Legend  Contemporary story about people and events that never occurred, but are presented as real Myth  A sacred story that provides the basis for religious beliefs and practices – a sense of how we should act o Relevant today o Believed to be true by those who share them o A myth that stops being told is no longer a myth (no longer relevant)  Ex. Canada – talk about flag/north/polar bears; no longer beaver/moose/fur trade  Most Common Themes in Myths o Origin of the world and humankind  Every group has a notion of how humans came to be in the world o Existence and activities of the gods and spirits  What they‟re doing, what they did, what‟s happening (Jesus + parabols) o Creation and order of the universe  Every group has a notion of how the world/universe itself came to be o Nature of illness and death  Why we get sick, how we get well, what happens after we die?  Characteristics o parts of larger ideological systems  how we think about/perceive/understand the world; how it connects through ritual/symbol; reinforces relationship with plants/animals
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