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Spirits. A supernatural being that is less powerful than a god and is usually more localized; often one of a collection of nonindividualized supernatural beings that are not given specific names and identities.

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Spirits

  • A supernatural being that is less powerful than a god and is usually more localized; often one of a collection of nonindividualized supernatural beings that are not given specific names and identities.

  • Spirits are very much involved in humanly affairs and can have a negative or positive influence.

  • Spirits also reside in the human world, and are often seen as inhabiting natural or man-made objects.

    • Ireland, Brittish Isles

      • Leprechaun, Fairy

      • Statues and Shrines

        • A shrine is an object or building that contains sacred objects or is associated with a venerated person or deity

          • Ex:: Fairy Circle

          • Ex: Aten temple, Akhenaten

    • Japan

      • Kami, Obake (bakemono) or “a thing that changes”, and Yokai (usually has some sort of supernatural power)

      • Hayao Miyasaki Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, Howl’s Moving Castle

        • Spirited Away clip:

          Bathhouse Spirits (3:20-5:30min.):

          • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SdJfMj4Hb9c

          • River God: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ErDogte0Ls

          • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lpuF3sj9ZvU (until 3:20min)

        • Princess Mononoke clip http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7fwS929hejI

        • Keane and Kami: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hmXY2MSrguE


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Spirits cont.

  • Jinn

    • A spirit being created of fire without smoke.

      • 1 of 3 types of beings (Jinn, humans, angels) described in the Qur’an.

      • When visible, can alter shape and features at will.

      • Like humans in that they can be good or bad, have different personalities, get married, have families

      • A person can form an alliance with a jinn, gaining supernatural powers in the process

        • Ex: Genii from Arabian Nights stories

    • Anthropological study: Jinn of the Hofriyat village

      • Black Jinn: Possession leads to serious illness and sometimes, death.

      • Red Jinn (Zairan pl., Zar sing.): cause illness. Of different cultures and ethnic groups. Can be good/bad, have diff. behaviors, but tend to be amoral and easily lead by emotions, fickle.

        • A Zar may possess members of the community, usually women of childbearing age. Possession is lifelong and women will attend possession ceremonies, wear clothing and eat a specific diet designed to pacify the Zar.

          • The woman will therefore maintain a “cure” and the Zar will gain access to the human world.

  • Christian Angels and Demons

    • Angles:In Christianity, Judaism and Islam mediators between humanity and God. Often represented as agents of revelation, executors of divine will or as witnesses to divine activity.

      • Besides Ghosts, Angels are most highly popular supernatural entities in American Culture.

    • Demons: An evil spirit being

      • Demons and Satan rebelled against God and were cast out of heaven

      • Closely associated with human evil, Hell, and Adam/Eve’s casting out of The Garden of Eden

      • In Catholicism, they are those that are cast out during Exorcism.

        • The Exorcism of Emily Rose clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B0I3SAizRbk

          • Based on Anneliese Michel: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x4n9vK0_mdk

      • 15th-17th Century Europe/America Witchcraze:

        • Incubi: Male demons who have sex with human women while they sleep, resulting in the birth of demons, witches and deformed children.

        • Succubae: Female demons who have sex with human men while they sleep, resulting in damnation of the men’s souls.


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Gods

  • An individual supernatural being, with…

    • a distinctive name and personality

    • control or influence of a major aspect of nature that encompasses the life of an entire community or a major segment of the community

  • Gods are Anthropomorphic

    • Non-human entities that are made to resemble humans in physical appearance and behavior.

  • Creator Gods and Otiose Gods

    • Creator God: Responsible for the creation of the physical earth and the plants and animals that live on it.

      • Often very powerful and at the top of the God hierarchy.

      • Also, can be many Creator Gods in a hierarchy, responsible for the creation of specific types of plants, animals, geological features, humans.

      • Ex:

        • Olodumare (Yoruba) who dwells in the heaven/sky

        • Gnostic Demiurge and the God of the Old Testament

    • Otiose God: A remote God who is too uninterested in human activity to participate in human fate.

      • Categorizes Creator Gods who withdraw themselves from humanity after time of creation.

      • Ex:

        • Olorun (Yoruba) the source of all supernatural power but can only be contacted through the Orisha (intermediary gods like Esu)

        • The all-encompassing, all-powerful concept of Ntr (netcher) in Ancient Egypt


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God Theory

  • Functionalist Approach

    • Èmile Durkheim

      • Religious symbolism marks as sacred important institutions of human society that are necessary for the group’s survival.

        • Loyalty, respect, obligation, hierarchy, etc. found in human society mirrored in the activities of the gods. Roles (brother/sister/father/mother/) also reflected in the gods.

    • Robin Horton

      • Supernatural beings function to extend the realm of social relations.

        • Lesser gods associated with interpretations of events occurring in the local area

        • High god associated with interpreting world events that relate to the local area

          • The more contact with other societies, the more necessary that this High god has traits that are in league with perceived human universals.

          • Ex: Incoming Spanish conquistadors to Mayan society.

          • Ex: Roman pantheon gods to absorbing traits of local deities to create a unifying religion within the expanding Roman empire.

      • Nature of gods depend on how one acquires status in society.

        • Ascribed status (status is given/handed down, i.e. gender, family line)

          • Focus is more on lesser gods who focus on local issues within the community.

        • Achieved status (Based upon an individual’s personal achievements)

          • Personal success and failure a reference to a high god who rules over a wider realm.

  • Psychosocial Approach

    • Sigmund Freud

      • Gods as anthropomorphic entities that take on attributes of parents. Symbolic of the relationship between parents and children.

        • If parents are punitive so are gods; if parents are indulgent, so are gods.


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Polytheism

  • The belief in many gods

  • Pantheon: A collection of gods within a polytheistic religious system

  • Supreme God: The head of the gods within a pantheon

    • Ex: Zeus, Jupiter, Amun, Isis and Osiris

  • Attribute Gods: Gods who rule over a narrowly defined domain

    • Associated with specific activities such as; forces of nature, human fertility and the human life cycle, economic activities and war.

    • Ex: Ares, Artemis Table 9.1 pg. 205.

  • Famous Gods?

  • Famous Goddesses?


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Monotheism

  • The belief in one god

    • “Big 3”: Christianity, Judaism, Islam

      • Must reconcile God as being…

        • Omnipotent (all powerful)

        • Omniscient (all-knowing)

        • Omnibenevolent (all-good)

        • Questions such as: How can there exist an Omniscient God alongside human free will? How about an Omnibenevolent God with the existence of evil?


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Atheism and Agnosticism

  • Atheism (literally, no God): Disbelief in or denial of the existence of God or gods.

    • Historical meaning: Not accepting the current conception of the divine.

    • 16th century (Europe): used as an insult to describe someone who did not agree with you about the nature of God. At this time, there was no separation of (some sort of) God/gods from day to day living.

      • This was before The Enlightenment, before Science became a substitute for religion in Western lives.

    • 18th century and the Enlightenment

      • Separation of Church and State, advent of the Scientific Method. God was seen as a fact of life that could be examined in much the same way as the natural world.

      • Concept of God was not rejected outright, but rather the anthropomorphism attached to God was rejected.

      • Atheist was becoming less of an insult and more a badge of intellect and learning.

  • Agnosticism (literally, knowledge not attainable): The question of the existence of a god is unsolvable, unprovable.

    • Compare to Gnosis: direct experiential knowledge of the supernatural or divine.


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Additional terms to know

  • Avatar

    • The incarnation or embodiment of a god in human form

      • Ex: Zeus, Ishtar

  • Misogynistic

    • Characterized by a hatred of women

      • An accusation leveled at modern (circa 3,000ish B.C.E. onward) Western religion as a whole.


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