Chapter 5, Religious Studies 101A World Religions Textbook, pages 4562
a 'pious' human fed clothed and sheltered their gods, bestowed gifts on them,
glirfied and obeyed them in exchange for crops, progeny, economic security,
health, and safety. ritual was the means by which this exchange was made
temples a place where gods could spend their time on earth, dwelling as living
in egypt priests began each day by appointing and dressing such statues, 45 step
the first meal was then offered the gods
most rituals performed in secret, away from public scrutiny
meticulous performance of sequence of steps that imitated cosmic order and
helped secure it by pleasing the gods.
foremost ritual act was the sacrifice. sacrifice transformed something profane into
sacrifices ranged from simple foods and libartions of wine milk or oil to animals,
ritually slaughtered by priests then cooked and eaten by devotees. (animal sacrifice
was central ritual in antiquity)
sacrifices were performed on altars more important than temples (in greece and
altars open to the elements so the smoke could rise to the gods
in greece and rome, temples were treasuries housing gifts to the gods, gifts of
thanks or gifts of vows (votive gifts)
temples themselves were state supported gifts
everything within the boundary of the sanctuary belonged to the god
festivals typically began with a procession in which gods statue displayed to
public followed by humns, sacrifice ritual, games/competitions while animal
cooked, and communal banquet. first three stages solemn, last two celebratory.
humans confirmed communal bonds, reestablished connections with gods,
acknowledged preeminence of the divine
democritus: a life without festivals is a long road without inns.
170 festival days on athen's calendar
outside of festival days, ritual exclusive prerogative of priests, a full time
priests constantly kept up ritual cleansing of their bodies
anyone entering a sacred place had to be pure, morally and physically
WOMEN IN ANCIENT RELIGION
there were as many goddesses as there were gods in the ancient world so it is no
surprise that women occupied significant roles and responsibilities identified mainly with goddeses of marriage pregnancy and birth, celebrating
thier own festivals in greece and rome.
women served femaile dieties, maidens attending virgin goddesses and matrons
attending demeter and other mother goddesses. sumerian women held high priestly
office, the highest rank literally being the 'lady goddess'
strabo, greek geographer/historian: all agree that women are the chief founders of
religion; it is women who encourage men to more attentive worship of the gods, to
festivals, and to supplications'
ability to 'divine' the gods wishes and plans was crucial, especially to rulers
rarely did gods communicate their thoughts/will in an obvious way, humans had
to work hard to interpret messages
exception to that rule are glaring the case of judaism christianity and islam where
there was 'inspiration' or 'revelation'
mesopotamians also claimed to receive revelations in the form of dreams, and the
illiad opens saying "sing, goddess, of achilles' wrath"
significance of prophecy was its impact on the state.
prophecies reported to rulers needed confirmation via other forms of divination,
especially extispicy (examination of inner organs, especially livers, of sacrificed
oracle, from latin "to speak", refers both to god's answers and to the place where
they were delivered or the people through whom the gods spoke.
delphi in greece, oracle of god apollo who spoke through the priestess called the
Pythia. this is the best known oracle of antiquity. answers usually ambiguous and
people were expected to put considerable effort into interpreting them
in mesopotamia and rome, virtually anything could contain a message from the
gods: stars, storms, smoke, oily water, sacrificed animals, chance meetings, even
human hair. divination was a matter of reading between the lines, noticing unusual
phenomena, recognizing anomalies and finding significance in them.
omens were divine messages understood as warnings. mesopotamians recorded
two types of omen: diagnostic and predictive.
diagnostic omens based on physical or behavioural characteristics, a mole on the
right thigh might indicate prosperity or something, or a generous person could
expect to be treated generously.
predictive omens by contrast, hinted at one's fate. sometimes discovered through
observing natural phenomena. assyrian rulers required that every unusual sighting
throughout the empire be reported to court.
predictive omens could also be solicited, pouring oil on water was one commmon
over time lengthy treaises were written explainign how different efffects shoudl be interpreted. astrology was the most influential and enduring form of soliciting
same way humans could appeal to rulers to reconsider decisions, so humans
could appeal to gods
divine inscriptions that recorded human destiny were analogous to royal decrees.
people resorted to incantations or rituals to drive away evil or to remove i