Oral Religion: Those cultures that have used spoken language to hand down their religious traditions from generation to generation. • Oral religions are found in every climate, from tropical jungle to the arctic tundra, and some are far older than today's dominant religions. • Because many developed in isolation from each other, there are many differences in their stories of creation and origin, beliefs in the afterlife, marriage, funeral customs, etc. What ARE Oral religions?
Up until the earlier part of the 20th century, scholars focused more on religions that had produced written text than those that expressed themselves through orally transmitted stories, histories, and rituals. This lack of attention has been due to:
Religions with written text are easier to study primarily because they don't necessarily require travel or physically research. The languages of written text can be studied, interpreted, and passed along to the next generation in many other languages Text based religions are easier to study because they are more widespread and influential whereas oral religions are more locally organized and meaningful to those familiar with the language There has also been a bias towards text based religions assuming that they are more complex then oral religions. Greater research has dispelled that assumption.
Most oral religions have sprung from tribal cultures where survival requires harmonious and respectful relationship with nature. "In the world view of oral religions, humans are very much a part of nature“. Most native religions understand the concepts of Animism - A life force or soul is present in everything, especially living things. Native American religions are noted for their reverential attitude towards the natural world. Human beings, animals, and nature are often pictured as coming into existence together. Native American religions often express the kinship bond between human beings and animals in rituals. Native Religions frequently embrace an ethic of restraint and conservation concerning nature's resources. North American Aboriginal:
Origins: Most oral religions have a creation story - tale of their beginning or origin that is regularly recited and/or enacted through rituals and dance. These stories often connected to the creation of the earth • Gods: Native religions frequently speak of a High God who is superior to all other deities, who is wise, ancient, and benevolent, A Great Spirit. • In the Lakota Tribe, Wakantanka - is the supreme reality or Great Spirit (God), In the Inuit the Great Spirit is female - living in the sky. • In a few African religions the High God is either female or androgynous • Native Religions tend to focus on spirits (lesser gods or assistants) associated with the forces of nature in their prayers, rituals, and art • Ancestors: Oral religions practice great respect for the ancestors - The way they are treated can determine what they bring to human beings. Respect FOR ORIGINS, GODS, AND ANCESTORS:
Rituals - are the basic way in which human beings ensure they are living in harmony with each other and nature. • Rituals are usually connected to: • Key events in the Life-Cycle • Rules concerning behavior • Sacrifice • Access to the Spirit World • Life Cycle Ceremonies: rites of passage usually mark the human journey through life. Ex. Birth, Puberty, marriage, etc. Sacred Practices in Oral Religions:
Shamans are spiritual Leaders with the ability to heal, work with energies and 'see' visions. • The essential characteristics of shaman are mastery of energy and fire as a medium of transformation. • A shaman may exhibit a particular magical specialty - such as control over fire, wind, magical flight, or shape shifting. • In contemporary, historical or traditional shamanic practice the shaman may at times fill the role of priest, magician, metaphysician or healer. Personal experience is the prime determinant of the status of a shaman. • Among the cultures that practice Shamanism are Native Americans in North America, Indians of South America, Africa, and South and East Asia. • Traditional shamans developed techniques for lucid dreaming and what is today called the 'out-of-the-body experience'. • There is extensive documentation of this in ethnographic studies of traditional shamanism. With this renewed interest in these older traditions these shamanic methods of working with dreams and being conscious and awake while dreaming are receiving increased attention.