religious specialists n.
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Religious Specialists

Religious Specialists

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Religious Specialists

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  1. Religious Specialists • Small-scale societies: • These men/women usually have other roles/jobs within the society. Their skills are called upon when necessary. • Generally no distinction between secular/religious activities, so from an emic perspective, the term “Religious Specialist” would not exist. • Large-scale societies: • Society may be able to support (in terms of food, clothing, etc.) “full-time” Religious Specialists. • May gain most of their income for performing religious duties/ceremonies. May attain important political and economic positions. • Examples in the United States?

  2. Definitions in Western Academic Studies (our system) • Our (etic) way of trying to categorize/classify in order to study our world. Our brains process info with the help of associations and categories, so in order to share knowledge, we must agree on the meaning of terms. • Yet terms are tricky and a singular concrete definition is often elusive. The Anthropological Study of Religion is fairly new compared to other disciplines and so terms are not as stable. • From this chapter, the terms Shaman, Priest, Diviner and Healer are all good examples. • Rule of thumb when first delving into a certain field: Use the definition of a term as it is most commonly/popularly used within the discipline. Once a broader understanding of the field is gained, then can branch out to alternative definitions of a term/create a new version.

  3. Shamans vs. Priests • Shaman: An individual who receives his or her power directly from the spirit world. • He or she acquires status and abilities, such as healing, through personal communication with the supernatural during shamanic trances or altered states of consciousness. • What is the spirit world? The supernatural? Where are these places? Can we relate them to our own views? • Priest: Full-time religious specialist associated with formalized religious institutions. • Given their Status by kinship groups, political units, communities or by a formal religious organization. • Tend to be found in more complex food-producing societies. • Based on these definitions, what are some examples of Shamans in the U.S.A.? Priests? • Pentecostal Healers (p. 129)

  4. “Shaman” origins • Tungus language of Central Siberia. Originally denoting a religious specialist who heals the sick, divines the future and secures success in the hunt with help of spirits and a drum. • Few left of this group today. Witch hunts in 1600s, Stalin and persecution. • Right: A Shaman of the Sami people (Noaidi) with his drum. Woodcut, 1767. • Sami today: • In the present day, Shaman has taken on a variety of meanings. Broader definitions usually point to… • Those who have direct contact/communication with the supernatural through trance and/or spirit helpers. • Culturally defined and accepted rituals and paraphenalia • Special social position

  5. Becoming a Shaman • Chosen by supernatural entity through dreams/vision/sickness/by another Shaman, or by the behavior of a child with regard to sacred objects. • Ex: Dalai Lama • Each Dalai Lama is said to be the reincarnation of the Bodhisattva of Compassion, beginning with Gendon Drup (1391-1474). The Dalai Lama is seen as the patron deity of Tibet, is the embodiment of ideal values and a cornerstone of identity and culture. • The Dalai Lama is chosen based on familiarity with possessions/values of the previous Dalai Lama. • May deliberately seek a call to Shamanism (Inducing Altered States of Consciousness) if… • Becoming a Shaman = social authority • May not want to become a Shaman if… • Role in society is marginalized or not highly appreciated. May undergo unpleasant, sometimes near-death Rite of Passage Rituals. • Training • Often involves learning from an older Shaman • Main purpose is to learn how to make contact with and manipulate the supernatural for some specific end. • Involves learning how to voluntarily enter and control an Altered State of Consciousness. • May acquire a spirit familiar that helps Shaman to connect to the Supernatural World. • Ex: Inuit Shaman life story (14:27). • Excerpt originally taken from a great free website for indigenous film makers. • Chosen by signs, with the involvement of another Shaman. Socially marginalized as a potential Shaman until he experiences an Altered State in the form of a vision. Acquires spirit helpers. Inuit worldview?Origin Myth presented?

  6. The Shamanic Role and Rituals • Shaman may perform rituals, but… • The success of a Shaman lies not in his/her ability to memorize and perform the ritual (as a Priest would need to), but in the ability to successfully contact and in some way control the supernatural. • Public rituals • Are often large and boisterous (drumming, singing, dancing, elaborate costumes) in order to evoke the correct mood. • A way for the observer to participate in the experience of the Shaman as he/she contacts the spirit realm or enters an Altered State of Consciousness. • May include “tricks” or props in order to further bring the observer into the world of the Shaman. • Ex: • Axis Mundi • The “World Axis” which links the 3 realms (upper, lower and ours). • The Shaman is able to pass through the realms via the Axis Mundi. A ladder, pole or tree is often used in Shamanic rituals to represent this axis. • Shamans may be feared for their powers over the supernatural, especially as those powers have the potential to be used for harm.

  7. Ethnographic Examples • Siberian Shamanism • Yakut (Shka) Shamanism (northeastern Siberia). 1931 Soviet government began a program to wipe out native religions. Ethnic Russians moved in, Christianity spread, traditional people were integrated, Shamanism was persecuted. After break-up of Soviet Union, the ban on Shamanism was lifted and native religion was once again taught in schools. • But how much had changed? Are there any true Shamans left? • Akimel O’odham (Pima) Shamanism • Healers From southern Arizona and northern Mexico. Chosen by animal spirits that appear in their dreams. Cure mostly “staying sickness” that is caused when an individual fails to obey cultural laws set down at the time of creation (such as killing an eagle or using firewood from a tree that has been struck by lightning). • Korean Shamanism • Today, most are women. Called upon to guide the dead to the underworld, to cure illness, for divination and to ensure good fortune. Shamans are chosen by spirits who are attracted to those whose maǔm or soul has been hurt by some sort of illness. The individual will become possessed until she accepts the call of the spirits and becomes a Shaman. Shamans in Korean society are sometimes seen as social deviants, so this may be a role not willingly taken. • “Knife Dancing”:

  8. Neoshamanism • Revival of shamanistic beliefs and systems • Focuses on the individual, shamanism as a form of self-help to improve one’s life. Traditional shamanism focuses on helping the community. • Generally does not recognize dangers of traditional shamanism (i.e. Terrifying trance experiences, painful Rite of Passage ceremonies). • Thought to be brought on by a variety of factors including… • Hippie culture of the ’60s, an interest in non-Western religions, environmentalism, New Age thought, self-help and self-realization movements and popular anthropology works… • Carlos Castandeda, Don Juan Matus and Tensegrity • At first, used mind-altering drugs to experience another reality. • Then developed Tensegrity (tensional integrity): Aim is to increase awareness of the energy fields that, according to Castaneda, humans are made of. • Done via body movements and breathing, not unlike Martial Arts, Yoga. • • Michael Harner, The Way of the Shaman and Core Shamanism • Mainly studied the Jivaro in the Upper Amazon and the Saami/Sami in northern Europe. • Based upon his experiences, believed that there are near universal methods of shamanism without a specific cultural perspective he dubs Core Shamanism. • Trains more than 5,000 people a year in self-help techniques related to Core Shamanism. • A Commodification of indigenous identity, beliefs and practices?

  9. Priests • Full-time religious specialists associated with formalized religious institutions • Ex: Buddhist monks in Luang Pra Bong (Laos): • A link between the community and a deity/deities. • Responsible for performing Rites of Passage, Prescribed, Periodic and Crisis rituals. • Priest’s skill comes from his/her ability to recite sacred narratives, learning of ritual knowledge and performing rituals for the community. • Rituals can deal with anything from social rights of intensification to establishing the community’s ethical code, legitimizing a child as a member of the community. • Rituals usually occur in specially designed, sacred buildings or locations. • Are “ideal people” in the eyes of a society. Held to higher moral standards. Why is this? • Why so much more shocking of Pedophilia amongst Catholic Church clergy than of other members of the public? • Like Shamans, a priest may get a “call” in the form of a dream/vision/trance, or as the result of an illness. Also, may have no choice in the matter if entering the Priesthood is a matter of inheritance or necessity. • Ex: Some agricultural societies, third son was destined for a life of devotion. • Ex: 19th century Europe: if not upper class, only way to a good education was through the Priesthood.

  10. Ethnographic Examples • Aztec Priests • High rank in society. Main role was to ensure the survival of the sun by offering human sacrifices. • Priests would fast and make food, cloth and incense offerings before the ritual. • Ritual “sacrificees” called in ixiptla in teteo or deity impersonators. Upon sacrifice, it was believed the deceased was to transform into a god. The heart was offered to the sun as nourishment. • Can read about all the fun gory details in the book. Anybody see Apocalypto? • Zuni Priests • Pueblo Native Americans (American SW culture area). • Kiva: Unlike the Tewa Pueblo group we met in Ch. 3, the Zuni kiva is above ground and forms a ceremonial group into which young priests are inducted. • Main role of the priests is the correct performance of rituals, including ritual objects and the recitation of prayers. • Okinawan Priestesses • World is occupied by supernatural beings called kami. Pleasing the kami through rituals avoids misfortune and encourages blessings. • Kaminchu do very little during rituals. They are analogous to and represent the kami, so they emit good spiritual energy. There presence is often requested at weddings, housewarmings, etc. • Yuta: the Shamans. These individuals mediate between the community and the supernatural. They practice divination and healing. The Yuta communicates with the kami while the kaminchu are supposed to be the kami.