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Anthropology of the Supernatural

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Information about Anthropology of the Supernatural

Published on July 12, 2008

Author: PaulVMcDowell

Source: slideshare.net

Description

Religion. Magic. Shamans. Sorcery. Witchcraft. Animism. Islam. Hinduism.
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Anthropology of the Supernatural Cross-Cultural Studies of Magic and Religion

Introduction to the Supernatural Beliefs in the unseen world are universal That includes “science-based societies” In U.S. fundamentalism is up and now influences politics at all levels Is belief only human? “Rain dance” among chimpanzees Demand for explanations of the unseen: Azandes’ view of causation in their poison oracle Shamans’ trickery sometimes “works”: the case of Quasalid

Beliefs in the unseen world are universal

That includes “science-based societies”

In U.S. fundamentalism is up and now influences politics at all levels

Is belief only human? “Rain dance” among chimpanzees

Demand for explanations of the unseen: Azandes’ view of causation in their poison oracle

Shamans’ trickery sometimes “works”: the case of Quasalid

Overview Concepts of the Supernatural Religion vs. Magic and validity of distinction Types of supernatural beings Types of practitioners Some case studies Some theories about supernatural beliefs

Concepts of the Supernatural

Religion vs. Magic and validity of distinction

Types of supernatural beings

Types of practitioners

Some case studies

Some theories about supernatural beliefs

Concepts of the Supernatural: Religion vs. Magic Sir James Frazier’s distinction Magic: manipulation of supernatural beings and/or forces The focus is on immediate problems/issues Sympathetic vs. contagious magic Religion: Recognition of unseen world Focus: explanation based on myth Supplication emphasized Considerable overlap in distinction St. Jude; faith healing.

Sir James Frazier’s distinction

Magic: manipulation of supernatural beings and/or forces

The focus is on immediate problems/issues

Sympathetic vs. contagious magic

Religion: Recognition of unseen world

Focus: explanation based on myth

Supplication emphasized

Considerable overlap in distinction

St. Jude; faith healing.

Concepts of the Supernatural: Forces Versus Beings Supernatural Forces: mana No personality or other such attributes Forces somewhat akin to electricity Tabus: caution against touching object too dangerous for commoners Supernatural Beings Supernatural persons or forces with attributes of personality or personage Human image of gods or spirits apply here

Supernatural Forces: mana

No personality or other such attributes

Forces somewhat akin to electricity

Tabus: caution against touching object too dangerous for commoners

Supernatural Beings

Supernatural persons or forces with attributes of personality or personage

Human image of gods or spirits apply here

Supernatural Beings: A Typology Gods: generically of nonhuman origin Monotheism: single, often all-powerful god Polytheism: numerous, specialized gods Demons: negative beings Spirits or Ghosts: of human origin Ancestral spirits: departed souls of the dead to whom living pay homage Ghosts: Spirits who often bring harm to living, often as revenge for some neglect

Gods: generically of nonhuman origin

Monotheism: single, often all-powerful god

Polytheism: numerous, specialized gods

Demons: negative beings

Spirits or Ghosts: of human origin

Ancestral spirits: departed souls of the dead to whom living pay homage

Ghosts: Spirits who often bring harm to living, often as revenge for some neglect

Practitioners: Shamans, Witches Shamans: persons with supernatural power acquired by individual initiative Many are diagnosticians or healers Quasalid: Kwakiutl shaman Diviners : those who forecast the future Sorcerers: Practitioners who bring ham Through supernatural power/often with ritual Witchcraft : Innate psychic power capable of harm Case study: Azande poison oracle

Shamans: persons with supernatural power acquired by individual initiative

Many are diagnosticians or healers

Quasalid: Kwakiutl shaman

Diviners : those who forecast the future

Sorcerers: Practitioners who bring ham

Through supernatural power/often with ritual

Witchcraft : Innate psychic power capable of harm

Case study: Azande poison oracle

Practitioners: Priests/Priestesses Functions: Explanation of myths underlying belief Humankind’s place in the cosmos Addressing the afterlife Leading ritual, prayer, or supplication A go-between for god(s) and human group Not a function (theoretically): manipulation of the spiritual beings or forces Some do manipulate: faith healers

Functions:

Explanation of myths underlying belief

Humankind’s place in the cosmos

Addressing the afterlife

Leading ritual, prayer, or supplication

A go-between for god(s) and human group

Not a function (theoretically):

manipulation of the spiritual beings or forces

Some do manipulate: faith healers

Case Studies: Hindu Beliefs Caste system Samsara: Life, death, rebirth Karma: force based on consequence of behavior World of illusion Cosmology: Balance of creative/destructive forces Nirvana: Escape illusion of samsara

Caste system

Samsara: Life, death, rebirth

Karma: force based on consequence of behavior

World of illusion

Cosmology:

Balance of creative/destructive forces

Nirvana: Escape illusion of samsara

Case Studies: Islam Part of Judaic-Christian tradition Opposition of God and Satan Ultimate conquest of good over evil People of the Book Tradition of Islam Muhammad recited Koran from Angel Gabriel Conquered Arab idolaters Forced to flee from Mecca to Medina: Hegira

Part of Judaic-Christian tradition

Opposition of God and Satan

Ultimate conquest of good over evil

People of the Book

Tradition of Islam

Muhammad recited Koran from Angel Gabriel

Conquered Arab idolaters

Forced to flee from Mecca to Medina: Hegira

Spread and Obligations of Islam Range: Africa to south, eastward to Indonesia, fast growth in U.S. Obligations Daily declaration of faith Prayer 5 times daily toward Mecca Fasting during Ramadan on rotating lunar calendar Alms to poor—an obligation Hajj: pilgrimage to Mecca A tradition of tolerance toward “People of the Book

Range: Africa to south, eastward to Indonesia, fast growth in U.S.

Obligations

Daily declaration of faith

Prayer 5 times daily toward Mecca

Fasting during Ramadan on rotating lunar calendar

Alms to poor—an obligation

Hajj: pilgrimage to Mecca

A tradition of tolerance toward “People of the Book

Explanations/Functions of Supernatural Beliefs Ethnoscientific explanations (Just So stories) Explanation of soul through dreams Animism: beings within all forms living or not Animatism: forces within all forms Azande: interpreting misfortunes Psychological: Quest for security Trobriand Islanders: magic on sea canoes Military adage: no atheists in foxholes

Ethnoscientific explanations (Just So stories)

Explanation of soul through dreams

Animism: beings within all forms living or not

Animatism: forces within all forms

Azande: interpreting misfortunes

Psychological: Quest for security

Trobriand Islanders: magic on sea canoes

Military adage: no atheists in foxholes

Explanations/Functions: Societal Power Relations: Marx: Religion as opiate of people Case study: Caste system of India Durkheim: Function of Social Solidarity Profane: Everyday objects Sacred: Objects that inspire awe/reverence Swanson: the sovereign group as deity

Power Relations:

Marx: Religion as opiate of people

Case study: Caste system of India

Durkheim: Function of Social Solidarity

Profane: Everyday objects

Sacred: Objects that inspire awe/reverence

Swanson: the sovereign group as deity

Explanations/Functions: Revitalization Definition: Reaction by a minority to coercion or disruption Often under leadership of a messiah To reclaim lost status, identity, well-being Case studies: Ghost dance, Lakota under Wovoka Cargo cults, Melanesia Heaven’s Gate/Branch Davidians

Definition:

Reaction by a minority to coercion or disruption

Often under leadership of a messiah

To reclaim lost status, identity, well-being

Case studies:

Ghost dance, Lakota under Wovoka

Cargo cults, Melanesia

Heaven’s Gate/Branch Davidians

A.F.C. Wallace: Revitalization Movements This Melanesian cargo cult is one example of a revitalization movement Initial steady state: Individual stress Foreign Domination or Economic Depression Societal disillusion and disorganization Revitalization New Steady State

This Melanesian cargo cult is one example of a revitalization movement

Initial steady state:

Individual stress

Foreign Domination or Economic Depression

Societal disillusion and disorganization

Revitalization

New Steady State

Conclusion Several unanswerable questions haunts us all: Where did we come from? This is where origin myths come What are we here for? This is a question of philosophy and religion Where do we go when we die? What happens to us? That question invokes fear and curiosity. All these are issues of religion and the supernatural. So far, there is no answer that satisfies all.

Several unanswerable questions haunts us all:

Where did we come from? This is where origin myths come

What are we here for? This is a question of philosophy and religion

Where do we go when we die? What happens to us? That question invokes fear and curiosity.

All these are issues of religion and the supernatural. So far, there is no answer that satisfies all.

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