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University of Winnipeg
Jane Leverick

Practitioners/religious specialists 03/10/2013 2:42:00 PM In General  In some societies, all members may perform rituals and religious activities o Those tend to be small-scale egalitarian groups where people do similar things (such as subsistence) o Tend to be part-time specialists  As societies become more complex, people begin to specialize in various activities o Ex. Doing the same thing all day (pottery etc.) – due to surplus/settling/shift in cultural practices o Peoples‟ needs change and then practices change  Not everyone needs to engage in subsistence activities  Certain rituals require special training o More complex rituals o Someone has main job of taking care of ritual Common Roles in Religions  Shaman  Priest  Diviner  Healer  Prophet o Why are they separated? For the purpose of CLARITY and defining what we are talking about Religious Specialists  Intermediaries – religious people who intervene on behalf of an individual or community  Part-time or full-time  Does not eliminate individual relationships with the sacred o Might mediate to greater or lesser degrees (peoples‟ interactions with the sacred, or impact)  Reflects, interacts with, and shapes cultural institutions o Elements of being sedentary/surplus/specialization are cultural factors that influence the idea of who can do what and how it can be mediated or understood  Ex. Chukchi -> animistic view, where the world is alive o Power of practitioners is not always static/permanent, due to individual relationships + change of religion Shaman  Term used in a variety of ways o Different spaces and places o Word has been contested among anthropologists as a term that relates to specific cultures (originates from Chukchi)  What happens when the people you study read what you wrote about them? That is the controversy  Shaman term comes from a time when we didn‟t think about representation and information/opinion from studied cultural groups  A part-time religious specialist who receives his or her power directly from the spirit world and acquires status and the ability to do things through personal communication with the supernatural o Internalized process -> shamans are not chosen by group members; this is why shamans have status, as they have had the experience (spirit world) o Unlike priests, they don‟t have same type of political power in formal/structured way (due to being part of a small-scale culture without stratification) Becoming a Shaman  Chosen by spirits  Called in a dream or trance  May seek to be initiated  Usually people resist Period of training  Seclusion  Fasting  Hallucinogens o Asked about songs heard and images seen during journey to spirit world Shamanic initiation  Symbolic death and rebirth o “skavay” -> conductor‟s helper; usually a shaman in training -> fire + says blessing during the sweat The Shamanic Role and Rituals  Shamans operate on the supernatural realm o You don‟t necessarily see what they‟re doing -> other world with the sacred supernatural; you hear drumming or singing, but on the inside there is an action with the supernatural  Shamans hold: o Public rituals o Private consultations and healing  Much more likely to do work with individuals/families than a large community ritual  They utilize: o Rituals o Hallucinogens o Spirit helpers (totems etc.)  Anthropological characteristics that we look for when we are studying shamans -> manipulation of sacred symbols, altered consciousness  They often: o Help fight hostile spirits o Diagnose and treat illnesses o Must recapture “lost” souls  Soul retrieval -> something we see in all cultures; often about mental healing Priests  A full-time religious specialist who is associated with formalized religious institutions  Found in more complex food-producing societies  Iman/rabbi/minister/etc. Cultural Contexts  Elaborating on „simple‟ technologies o Does not mean less-than or undeveloped  Separating religious from secular? o Secularization theory -> the more advances are made in science, the less religious humankind will become (large-scale
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