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Chapter 1

RLGA02 - Chapter 1 (textbook notes)

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Department
Religion
Course
RLGA02H3
Professor
David Perley
Semester
Winter

Description
LOOKING BOTH WAYS  Stonehenge  one of several ancient rock structures thought to have been constructed for ritual purposes Looking Back from Stonehenge  There are a few concepts shared by all human cultures that seem fundamental to what we call religion: powerful gods, sacred places, a life of some kind after death, the presence in the physical world of spirits that interact w/ humans Three Worlds  humans have imagined the world to consist of 3 levels: o Sky (uppermost level)  considered home of the greatest deities  Heavens (highest level)  home of the highest deity (male), who was the forerunner of the god of the monotheistic religions o Earth  Where humans lived o Underworld  Lived the spirits of serpents (surviving as cobras or NAGAS  a mythical cobra living in the underworld, associated with water and fertility in Indian religions) or reptilian monsters  b/c they were associated with dark and hidden places, usually imagined as evil Sacred Places  there are certain places where humans feel they are in the presence of some unusual energy and such places are treated with respect  High Places  sacred areas located on hill- or mountain- tops (ie. ancient Middle East – places closest to sky-dwelling deities) Animal Spirits  Attributing spirits to animals (either individually or as members of a family)  Body parts from the most impressive animals (ie. bulls, bears, lions) have been used as ‘power objects” to help make contact with the spirits of these animals Death & Burial  Humans have taken great care with the burial of their dead (ie. head facing east, body positioned in a fetal position)  Most graves also contained ‘grave goods’ of various kinds  The belief that deceased ancestors can play a role in guiding living members of their families is widespread; examples: o Obon – Japanese festival honoring ancestors o Day of the Dead – Mexican festival honoring the dead o All Saints Day – Christian festival honoring all the departed saints, held in the West on Nov 1 o Hallowe’en – popular secular holiday, held on Oct 31; originally celebrated as the ‘eve” of All Saints Day Why are humans religious?  Religion seems to grow out of human experiences: fear of death, and hope for a good afterlife  Religion has many emotional dimensions (fear, awe, love, hate) but also intellectual dimensions 10 WAVES OF RELIGION Wave 1: Shamanism  Shaman (medicine man, witchdoctor)  type of priest, widespread among hunter-gatherer societies, who communicates w/ the spirit world on behalf of ppl Hunting Rituals  Ancient cave drawings depict a shaman performing a ritual either to ensure a successful hunt or to appease the spirits of the hunted species  Early humans believed that the spirits of the animals they hunted had to be appeased  This goes to show that from ancient times, humans have believed that the spirit (of an animal/human) survives death and can communicate with others of its kind Coping with unfriendly spirits  Spirits associated with natural phenomena have been believed to behave towards humans just as humans behave towards one another  Many cultures have believed wild, inhabited areas to be guarded by resident spirits  Pain and disease of all kinds (ie. appendicitis to mental illness) were also attributed to possession by spirits/demons The Shaman  Shamans are still active in a number of cultures today  Sometimes the child of a shaman will follow in the parent’s footsteps, but more often a shaman will be called to the role by their psychic abilities  Candidates for the role of a shaman face a long and rigorous apprenticeship that often includes a vision quest o The questor will acquire a guiding spirit (of that an animal, god/goddess), which then continues to serve as guide and protector throughout their life  To communicate with the spirit world, the shaman enters a trance state; contact is then made in one of two ways: o (1) shaman’s soul leaves his body and travels to realm where spirits live o (2) shaman calls the spirit into their own body and is possessed by it Wave 2: Connecting to the Cosmos  inspired the building of structures like Stonehenge during the Neolithic Era Discerning the Cosmic Cycles  the seasons (north-south movements of the sun) were tracked as well as phases of the moon and the rising positions of certain constellations  astrology developed as a way of understanding the cycle of the seasons and how humans fitted into it Hilltop Tombs  ancient cultures have favored high places as burial sites  where there were no hills, artificial ones were built (ie. pyramids of Egypt) o in these pyramids, shafts extending from the burial chambers towards imp
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