Magic, Religion, and Science in Anthropology - Paul Eleta
Magic is a manifestation and experience of what?
What evidence is there to claim that magic is spreading in the contemporary culture?
There is a big market for magic as several people all over the world want this stuff. The magic section in
stores are huge and there is a lot of interest in the subject. For example, news even has its own
astrology section which also brings up the fact that there are professional astrologists. Furthermore
people who live Wiccan lifestyles, vampire phenomenon’s etc. are living proof of magic.
The rise of magic is a response to what aspects of change in the contemporary world?
Social change, negative change and instability of modern day life. Weakening of national governments
as well. Job instability is a major source of anxiety as well as psychological hardships. Also a weakening
of national identity.
What is the key feature of contemporary religious belief?
Freedom of religion. Religion is selective, picking and choosing points from various religion. (Syncretism).
Idea of magic giving you control, ability to control time and space, body and communication etc. Some
of these techniques are considered to be magical.
How is magic a ‘modern’ rather than ‘primitive’ practice?
It is not a return to primitive magic. This magic is a response to change. The response is due to
uncertainty and instability. Cities are a center of magical practice.
Discuss the use of Argentina as a case study. How is it or is it not a good example of magic in
It is a good example as it’s a society that underwent drastic change in pat two/three decades. Went
from utopian greens of 1960s to a military dictatorship. Experienced warfare with Britain Islands near
Argentina. Argentina gave up and people became disillusioned with government. Suddenly it’s not cool
to be Argentinian. Argentina ended up fixing up society and school systems etc.
Argentine magic – using amulets, herbs, passing of evil spirits. (Everyday type of magic, folk religion).
There is nothing wrong with this typ of stuff. These are good things as they empower and helps to
control anxiety that rises as a result of the prevails of everyday life.
Reconceptualizing religion, magic and science – Rodney Stark
What is the common ground of religion, magic, and science?
Control, all three of them promise some sort of control in the world.
What was the influence of Durkheim on the anthropology of religion and magic? He replaces intellectual definition of religion with social definition. Durkheim rejected belief in
supernatural beings was defining feature of religion. Durkheim had simplistic definition. Religion was
long term goals whereas magic was sort term gains.
What is Science?
Always subject to modifications and changes. Methods to understand nature. Studying supernatural
entities is not aim of Science according to Stark. Explanations are modifiable and facts and theories
could change. Theory means it is not disproven.
Best way to study Supernatural is Ontology (dealing with nature of being), Epistemology (theory of
knowledge), and Methodology (system of methods used in particular area of study)
Ritual as Communication – Wagner
What is the significance of exegesis and secrecy?
The exegetical material concerning the Ida is withheld and released to the foreign investigator only in
small and unconnected details. Core of exegesis is mythic.
Main functions of rituals could be communication of values, binding individuals to society, and marking
a change of social status.
The Role of Words in Aguaruna Hunting Magic – Brown
Who are the Aguaruna?
Upper Amazonia, close to Amazon River. Live in highlands and are horticultural, meaning they grow their
own food. Hunting and gathering is also what they do. They also have inter village warfare disputes for
last couple of years. They live in small villages.
What is the myth of Tsewa?
Tsewa is an ancestral spider monkey. Hunting magic is skills given by spider monkeys. Except humans
were not being grateful and kept hunting relatives of Tsewa. Tsewa was angered and so broke the
hunter’s blowgun and stuck it up his anus turning him into a spider monkey who made the descendants
What is the instrumental/expressive distinction?
Refers to say of categorizing certain human behaviors as instrumental vs. expressive
What is anen?
Anen is a category of songs. It is a powerful song that is believed to have the power to move, initiate and
create change in the world. Hunting songs are a type of anen. They often contain onomatopoeias and
mythical illusions, also borrowing from neighboring languages and passed down through generations.
How do songs exert causal influence on the world? It is used to attract game. Hunting is also perceived as a sexy thing to do. Hunting has negative
associations as well, such as warfare was practiced. Head hunting was performed as it was believed to
acquire power from enemies’ heads (spirit power). Furthermore, hunters might be distracted if they
hunt with their wife as they could ‘spook’ the game.
Songs evoke a desired scenario and state of mind.
The Power of Words: Healing Narratives among Lubavitcher Hasidim – Dein
Who are the Lubavitchers?
Jews who marry amongst themselves and hang amongst themselves. Tight knit group who live under
self-imposed segregation. After Second World War, their center moved to New York City. Chief Rabbi
plays an important role in the life of the community.
What is the only way to understand healing by recitation of religious texts?
Through examination of how participants understand nature of language.
What is Kabbalah?
Means traditions and or received traditions. The tradition apparently goes all the way to Moses but it is
in fact historically traced back to 11ct Spain. Their Major text is the Zahar which is a compilation of
stories and prayers which form principle belief). Some Jewish sects see kabbalah as black magic and evil
thing that has to be shunned (foreign magical influence). Some Christians use kabbalah as well.
What is the Lubavitcher view of language?
Language is real and instrumental, has a practical value an