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Lecture 4

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ANTH 3320
Arun Chaudhuri

05/12/2013 16:13:00 -in Africa they had some sort of tradition where they would paint or structure something with rocks –these were sort of abstract pictures or shapes that were done in the olden days of Africa (thousands of years old). In the common era or day they haven’t continued this stuff, they thought that these pictures were sort of landscapes and nature and things in everyday life, but some pictures show that they aren’t supposed to be taken as literal but rather its what people see in a state of trance or when hallucinated. In these pictures… but what you generally see in these indigenous modern day paintings is something called shamanism or trance: modern day term that refers to a kind of religious practice that involves a shaman who has particular powers or skills that allows him or her to connect to spirits or talk to them and because of that they can do a lot of incredible things. –the practice does exist in a whole bunch of communities (shamanistic trances are another form of shamanism) rock paiting tradition – southern Africa/eastern cape; shaman/shamanism -in todays day you do have shaminists also known as the medicine man in Africa and it does include rituals and procedures where it works the shaman into extreme exhaustion and perceive things differently. They start to work themselves into a trance and Sometimes it can be in the extreme dark (sensory deprivation) entoptic phenomena (D.Lewis Williams) trance and boiling energy –weird animal pictures show that they pass through a spiritual phase (when they go through the spiritual phase, the picture depicts them transforming into something else) or a trance phase- there are abstract rock paintings that don’t really show anything or make no sense. Therefore the abstract part might not just be ornamental or decorative but rather the patterns and what not found in the paintings are consistent with the light patterns or another word e.p (visual objects that are seen or perceived due to the process in your brain or the retina but not due to the perception of the outside object) for ex when you go in from the bright and go into the dark.. d lewis said trance states produce some predictable patterns or e.p (zig zag lines, squiggly line)…(they have done contemporary self drawings with shamans today in a trance state and normal and saw that they are similar) and the focus or the depiction it plugs into a whole set of spiritual beliefs that relate to possible shamanistic practices in this area.. the shaman in trance could be filled with energy or like boiling over energy? And when this energy boils, and when it boils inside of the shaman, the shaman tries to transmit by putting out their hand on to someone else’s and so david says that these pictures depict that they’re transferring energy –they can actually see themselves transferring over. He says that this pictures not only depict a belief but also depict that shamans can see this energy when transferring it and while they are in a state of trance. It works on a problematic sort of phenomena in the sense that what they did today is not the same as what they did back then, there is no real way of knowing that. ALTERED STATES AND CONSCIOUSNESS: rationalism, the mind, and assumptions about reality? –one of the core beliefs of any religious system is understanding of reality beyond the everyday (whether an idea of God or force etc) –there are assumptions that reality is something that is material and known through the senses such as vision smell etc and that the notion of reality as something objective and occurs outside of the mind; and along with this idea comes the idea of whether humans have the rational mind, whether or not they can tell the difference between what is real and what isn’t and with it comes the question of what is a normal state of mind –then you get concepts of sanity vs insanity…all these things or assumptions (perception and sanity) at one point shaped the way religion is or was at one point and it has become commonplace …reaity in cultures and how do cultures view - there are cultures that play w perception through practices that actively play with the mind (the rational mind) and thereby actually altering reality –there are a lot of cultures out there that are referred to as altered states of consciousness (a kind of change in ones mental state or perceptual abilities, tends to imply a depart from the everyday type of state and transform–tells us about the practices that shift human consciousness etc) –these aren’t seen as strange or separate to everyday life in these cultures, its something that’s woven into their social fabric. One of the ways that altrered states is brought on is through substances aka psychotropic substances or hallucinogens (drugs that produce hallucinations)–use of them across cultures and contexts, people use them in different ways…in some cases place a lot of religious significance on it sometimes to the point where its seen as sacred. – why is it so widespread? Because of the fact that they are naturally produced and have been used for a long time; peyote and the Peyote Hunt among the Huichol –type of pilgirimmage that takes people back to the original land (Warakuta) and this is imp because this where their people originally came from and so they want to reunite the ancestors with the people. so when the pilgrimage is to take place, a small group of people with a leader or shamin crossfoot in a desert type of area in a mountainous plateau type area…participants have a whole set of restricted behaviours ex like fasting etc and during this there are role inversions (old ppl acting like babies etc) – the most imp reversal is that they believe they become god. When they finally arrive at this place the more important part of the ritual occurs where they look for peyote – a plant or type of cactus that includes something called mescaline (hallucinogenic affects) and this is plant is center of all rituls –cultivate it and consume it (the plant is seen as sacred). After they eat, the main part of the ritual starts, they start hallucinating it’s a sort of process where they keep their visions and what they experience to themselves, they’re and coming into commune with the spirits or become the ancestors or spirits or cosmos/universe (see themselves as a majestic thing) and therefore this isn’t seen as something strange because its something that all of society has access to it but at the same time its something you do by yourself; wirikuta- the place where humanity originated from ; mescaline aspects of the peyote hunt: a) drugs have a ritual aspects (ex inversions, communitas (they have a sense of togetherness and sameness)?) b)social use of hallucinogens –not done individually and a part of a socially accepted and recognized practice c)structured/supervised procedure –done through the guidance of the shamin or a spiritual leader and through specific processes or structure that you should not alter etc –if you do it alone theres a big chance that itll go bad and is dangerous.-and the structure shows you the proper way vs the inproper way of doing things d)cultural frameworks and perception of hallucinations – the whole things from the past puts into perspective what they need to do or what to expe
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