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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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  • 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
spirits cont
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.
  • 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
god theory
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.
  • 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?
  • 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?
atheism and agnosticism
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.
additional terms to know
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.