RELIGION: the recognition of superhuman controlling power, and especially of a personal god entitled to obedience.
1. A longing for value in life, a belief that life is not accidental and meaningless.
2. A search for meaning leads to faith in a power greater than the human, and finally to a universal or superhuman mind which has the intention and will to maintain the highest values for human life.
3. There is an intellectual element in religions, search for purpose and value. There is an emotional element in the dependence upon the power which creates or guarantees those values.
Religion and Morality:
1. Religion has always been linked with morality, though moral systems differ from place to place and century to century.
2. Hammurapi's Law Code (Babylon), which dates from the 18th Century B.C., gave royal, feudal, legal, and social prescriptions, but were said to have been received from the god of justice.
3. The philosopher A. N. Whitehead defined religion as what " the individual does with his own solitariness" -- yet, religion has always had a social side expressed in human behavior.
o organization and size has varied from culture to culture.
a. It is dependent upon society for approval and support.
b. The rules of moral behavior in most societies have a strong religious basis, and they are supported by the teachings of scriptures and the actions of religious officials.
4. The Study of Religion
a. Archaeology: has particular importance for our knowledge of prehistoric and ancient history period of human life.
b. Anthropology and Sociology: considers the role of religion in the lives of individuals and societies, especially among modern illiterate peoples.
c. The Psychology of religion studies both the role of the individual and the effect social activities have upon their participants.
d. The comparative study of religions, traces their history and examines similar patterns of behavior.
Origin of Religion:
1. Speculation as to how, when, and why religion began has flourished only in the last one hundred years.
2. In Medieval and Modern Europe: it was assumed that the first human beings, or Adam and Eve, in Genesis, had received a perfect revelation from a divine being, or that they had worked out a pure religion based upon the principles of reason.
a. Theologians held that this early religion was corrupted by sin and the fall of man from grace.
b. Rationalists declared that priests and ignorance had produced the idolatry and diversity of religion now found in the world.
3. 1871: Edward B. Tylor developed a theory of religion known as animism.
a. Derived from the Latin word anima, meaning soul.
b. Animism suggested that primitive people had deduced from dreams, visions, delirium and the fact of death that they were inhabited by an immaterial soul.
c. Since the dead appeared in dreams it was assumed that their spirits continued to exist after death, that they might dwell in various objects, and it was suggested that the dead gradually came to be regarded as gods.
4. Herbert Spencer (contemporary of Tylor)
a. Suggested that religion had its origins in visitors or the appearance of ghosts of the dead, and these ancestors were worshipped as gods.
b. Such theories about primitive religion were conjecture and could not be proven.
o Animism in this form is virtually abandoned as a scientific explanation for religion today.
5. 1899: R.R. Marett - expanded the theory of Animism.
a. He stated that primitive humans did not at first conceive of personal souls, but believed in an impersonal force or forces which animated from the world -- this he called "animatism".
o This theory assumes that a belief in this impersonal power was the origin of religion.
b. Marett considered that early peoples were actors rather than thinkers, saying that their religion was " not so much thought out as danced out", so it was very little different from magic in its early stages.
6. 1890: James Frazer - began publication of a long series of books, the chief of which was The Golden Bough.
o It opened with a story of a sacred tree guarded by a priest of Diana at Aricia in ancient Italy.
a. Frazer thought that the view of the world as pervaded by spiritual forces was the idea behind the practice of magic, used by priests who were seeking to control nature.
b. He held that magic was the first stage of human intellectual development, a sort of primitive science, in which people imagined that they could influence their lives and those of others by means of magical objects or incantations.
c. Some magic is described as sympathetic, because it had a resemblance or contact with its object by a law of similarity or a law of contagion.
1. Law of Similarity: Many magicians made images of their enemies and struck thorns in places where they wished to produce pain.
2. Law of Contagion: Magicians used hair or nails of a victim, or some object close to the person, in a ceremony designed to cause pain.
d. He supposed that after the first magical phase had produced failures people imagined that there were supernatural beings which could help them, and so they turned to religion.
e. This belief in the supernatural turned out to be illusion however, and eventually there came the knowledge of science and humans became logical and experimental.
1. This hypothesis was attractive for a time because it fit in with the theory of evolutionary progress.
2. There is no evidence for the assumption that magic came before religion - they have existed together at many levels of culture.
3. The notion of a progression from magic to religion to science is not historical and many advanced and highly civilized peoples have been profoundly religious.
o Frazer's theories on the origin and development of religion are now abandoned.
7. 1922: Lucien Levy-Bruhl - advanced the theory of Primitive Mentality.
a. He suggested that "savages" used a "pre-logical thinking" which was different from our own.
o Levy-Bruhl criticized the assumption of other writers who stressed similarities between all humans and imagined how they would act and think under primitive conditions.
b. Levy- Bruhl emphasized the different conditions and mental processes of civilized and primitive people.
o for example he said that all uncivilized races explain death by other than natural causes, as being due not simply to disease or weakness of old age, but rather to the agency of a mystical force.
c. Levy-Bruhl, like many other writes on the origin of religion (in the past 100 years), was an armchair theorist.
1. He had no experience of modern primitive peoples, and little knowledge of how pre- historic men and women thought.
2. He made primitive people out to be much more superstitious than they are, since they do not live simply in an imaginary world but are close to nature and can only survive if they direct their lives by reason and experiment.
o Primitive people understand well how death is caused physically, though generally they add a spiritual explanation.
The Social Importance of Religion
1. 1912: Emile Durkheim (French) published a book on the elementary forms of religious life.
a. He emphasized religion as a social fact and not simply the product of the psychology of certain individuals.
o It could not be an illusion, for religion was universal and had appeared in every age, producing great cultures and systems of morality and law.
b. For Durkheim, religion is the worship of society itself, though it may be disguised by myths and symbols.
Society is an abiding reality: it has full control over people and they depend upon it and pay it their reverence.
c. Durkheim had to base his case on some of the aborigines of Australia.
1. He came to the conclusion that all primitive peoples have behaved like the aborigines.
2. The aborigines belong to clans which hold certain plants or animals sacred and do not harm them or eat them.
3. Their sacred objects and pictures made of them were described as totems because of their similarity to the totems of North American Indians.
4. Durkheim saw the totems as embodying the ideals of the clan, so that in fact people worshipped society itself.
o The meaning of the Australian totems is still being debated: it differs from place to place, and the assumption that this is the earliest form religion is unwarranted.
Problem in Durkheim's Research:
a. He never went to Australia to observe the aborigines.
b. He based his theory upon the incomplete research of others.
d. People do not usually worship society but claim to revere something greater an more abiding, often in opposition to the dominant organization of society.
2. 1913: Sigmund Freud published the book Totem and Taboo.
a. His theory on the origin of religion was based on the behavior of some Pacific tribes, and also of wild animals.
b. In Ancient Times the powerful father of the horde kept all the females to himself and drove away his growing sons.
c. The sons eventually became strong and joined forces and killed their father dividing the females among themselves.
d. Freud said that these cannibalistic savages ate their victim by which he meant they identified themselves with whom they had feared, both acquiring his strength and giving him honor in repeated totemic feasts.
1. They made totems of animals which were symbols of the power of the father.
2. The Totem Feast would be the commemoration of this criminal act with which Freud argued, social organization, morality, art and religion began.
e. There is no historical evidence that primitive peoples ate their totems nor is there any evidence (historical or archaeological) for the supposition that religion began with a murderous attack on a father by jealous sons.
One Supreme Being:
1. In opposition to psychological or sociological theories of religious origins, some writes have put forward the claim that the earliest religious belief was in one supreme being.
1898: Andrew Lang - The Making of Religion
1912-55: Wilhelm Schmidt - The Origin of the Idea of God
a. These men were two leading exponents of this view.
b. Lang based his attitude from further study in Australia.
Schmidt influenced by the Genesis story conducted an extensive comparative study of primitive cultures.
Both concluded that a belief in god existed among the most primitive peoples and might be called the earliest form of religion.
2. Later writers, while agreeing that many peoples have a belief in a heavenly god, who by location is high and lofty and often supreme over others, try to show that this belief has existed along side a faith in many spiritual beings and gods, so that this is not a primitive monotheism, but an aspect of polytheism.
3. Today scholars are very cautious about speculating about the origin of religion due to so many errors in the past.
Mircea Eliade (Rumanian Authority): says that the modern historian of religions knows that it is impossible to reach the origins of religion, and this is a problem that need no longer cause concern.
The important task today is to study the different phases and aspects of religious life, and to discover from these the role of religion for human kind.
4. It is important to bring a scientific approach to the study of religious beliefs and practices of specific peoples at different levels of material development.
a. Beliefs and rites must be studied as facts, whether or not they are appealing.
b. It is an error to approach religious studies with the intent to explain it away or hoping to undermine later and higher religions.
c. The importance is to attempt to understand the manner in which a people conceives of a reality and their relation to it.
5. 1859: Charles Darwin's "Theory of Evolution"
a. Darwin's theory is one of the most influential ideas of modern times, and it has also been applied to the development of religion.
b. It was assumed that evolutionary growth proceeded everywhere in the same manner, that all peoples passed through the same stages and that progress was inevitable.
c. Those who are now at low stage of material culture were thought to have been there since pre-historic times.
o Little attention has been given to the fact of degeneration as well as progress.
1. Those who are primitive today were believed to show what religion was like in its earliest forms.
2. On the other hand, the "higher religions" were supposed to represent the supreme peak of religious development.
d. Are these assumptions fact? Can they be proved?
1. There is no reason why all peoples should pass through the same stages of religious growth, and there are great differences that cannot be explained by inevitable development.
2. Some primitive peoples believe in a supreme god, while many advanced Buddhists do not.
1. Assumption: that religion in some form or other has been an essential element in the life and culture of mankind - prior to the beginning of history.
o Many of the beliefs and practices of later religions, both ancient and modern, are rooted in their prehistoric prototypes of the Old Stone Age (c. 500,000 - 10,000 B.C.)
o It is also necessary to try to understand the mentality of prehistoric time -- to understand that they were human beings with human emotion.
2. What is the importance of the "Shanidar Cave"?
o Paleolithic excavation in Northern Iraq -- a skeleton of a man was found whose arms were severed in his youth.
o It may show that there was an acceptance of non utility and the valuing of humanity just for itself.
3. The primary concern of Man: Survival
a. He was aware of the physical and natural world around him -- ie. Life Cycle.
b. Birth, subsistence, and death were issues that early man was involved and absorbed in.
c. Man first attempted to understand the "mysterious powers" to provide food and children.
d. John Bowker (British) said that early man had to crack or break its "compound of limitations" to gain another generation's worth of life.
COMPOUND OF LIMITATIONS: any set of factors that threatens a species' existence.
o the need for food, liable to disease, vulnerable to natural disasters. Spiritual Vulnerabilities: madness, loss of hope, and non-cooperation.
4. The earliest traces of religious belief are centered around the burial of the dead.
a. There is evidence that ca. 500,000 years ago (from caves around Peking) human bodies were buried in the hope of an afterlife.
1. Evidence has been found of the cutting off and preserving of heads of some of those buried.
2. This was done either to keep them as trophies or to remove their contents to be eaten in order to obtain the vitality of the deceased.
b. A corpse was laid in a grave containing red orcheous powder, sometimes with quantities of shells and other objects in bone and ivory.
1. The Ochre represented blood, the life giving agent.
2. The shells were often shaped in the form of a portal through which a child enters the world.
o these symbols were associated with the female principle and were used as fertility charms and givers of life.
3. If the dead were to live again in their own bodies, to color the body red was an attempt to revive it for its occupant in the next world.
c. A number of skeletons have been discovered that were buried with great care and supplied with grave goods.
1. Near the hand was the foot of an ox, with the vertebral column of a reindeer at its back. There were quantities of flint implements and remains of broken bones of contemporary animals.
2. There seemed to be a need to provide the corpse with what would be needed after death.
5. Man believed that he was a part of the physical world around him.
a. From pre-historic art, it appears that plants and animals were conceived as being fellow creatures closely linked to humans in the chain of life.
b. The food supply had to be maintained as well as procured.
1. Scenes (cave paintings) have shown a concern for hunting magic and animal fertility.
2. The "Sorcerer": depicted with a human face and long beard, the eyes of an owl, the claws of a lion and the tail of a horse.
o He is believed to be a deity controlling the multiplying of animals bringing men and animals together in fellowship to conserve and promote the food supply.
c. The Sky and the Earth:
1. Early man was aware of Nature's powers of life and death -- thus he felt a part of the seasonal cycles.
2. Animals and plants were fellow creatures linked to man in the chain of life.
3. The female principle was personified as the Great Mother.
o As the mother of the race, woman was regarded as the life-producer before the role of her male partner was recognized.
6. Rite of Passage: Death
a. Man may have thought of death as a rite of passage, a threshold to a new existence (or level of existence).
b. There may have been the belief that one's life force would animate another breathing creature, even another human being.
c. Man was probably aware of the interconnectedness of living things.
o one often takes life from another to live.
d. They may have asked for aid from the Sky and Earth to carry the dead across to a new life.
o The cyclical conflict of life and death may have formed the center of pre-historic religion.
a. Man lived off animal flesh thus establishing a bond to the animal world and a change in his evolution -- (Eliade) "Hunting determined the division of labor in accordance with sex thus reinforcing hominization.
b. The earliest remains believed to be used for religious purposes are bones.
o meaning is difficult to ascertain.
c. Cave Paintings: Paleolithic Period (30,000-9,000 B.C.)
1. France: portrays a man killed by a bison with its side pierced by a spear. To the left is a woolly rhinoceros which seems to be moving away after having ripped up the bison. In front of the man is a bird on a pole.
2. Meaning: may be a votive painting to a deceased hunter who was buried in the cave. It may have been painted with the intent to bring about the destruction of the hunter.
o Whether good or evil, it must have been considered having great power - painted in a very difficult and dangerous part of the cave.
d. Mesolithic Period: ca. 9,000 B.C.
1. Paintings show a concern with women and human fertility -- an increased interest in human procreation and sexual complementariness.
2. Man attempted to coordinate sex, sacrifice, death, animals, the moon and the stars.
3. Hunting Tribes: probably developed a code of behavior and taboos which were attributed to their ancestors.
1. The Mesolithic Period saw the advent of settled communities and the domestication of plants and animals.
o 6500 B.C. - different Near Eastern Communities had domesticated sheep, goats, and pigs.
2. The nomadic culture had depended on hunting, blood sacrifices, and a close identification with animals - this heritage was kept alive by military groups.
3. The religious impact of agriculture was revolutionary.
a. Man had to calculate the seasons more accurately -- leading to astronomical calculations, astrology, and the worship of planets and stars.
b. Greater awareness of the regular cycle of death and Re- birth.
c. The cultivator buries life in order to secure life.
o Eliade: says it is a remembrance of the primordial murder.
d. In agriculture - generative elements became the most sacred elements.
1. Women dominated agriculture and "Mother Earth" was the prime focus.
2. Women developed agriculture and controlled it because they issued all human life.
e. All of nature moved through a religious cycle of conception, gestation, birth, nurturance, growth, decline, and death.
4. Houses, villages, shrines, and burial vaults resembled a "womb" architecturally.
a. The earth is a womb: from it we come, to it we return.
b. Myths of human creation speak of first ancestors crawling forth from mines and caves.
o Funeral Ritual place the dead offspring back in Mother Earth.
5. Neolithic Period: saw village life develop into city life as agriculture spread and became more permanent.
a. Crafts (pottery, weaving, tool manufacturing) were established.
b. Cults of fertility and death assumed greater importance.
1. Turkey-ca. 7,000 B.C.: remains indicate worship involved skulls and various gifts such as jewels, weapons, and textiles.
2. Principal Deity was a goddess (in three forms)-- a young woman, a mother, and a old woman.
o she is represented giving birth, breasts deco- rate her cave site.
o in many caves the double ax, symbol of the storm god, is present emphasizing the fertility theme (rain impregnates mother earth).
3. Subordinate to the goddess was a male god, a boy or youth, who seems to be her child and lover and who has some correlation to the bull.
c. The Bronze Age - ca. 3500 B.C.: allowed more specialized work to develop. ie. mining, smelting, and casting
1. More efficient farming implements were made which led to a surplus of food and division of labor.
2. A new class of religious specialists emerged and metals led to exploration and colonization of new territories.
6. Iron Age: between 1900 - 1400 B.C. iron came into wide spread use.
a. The Hittites were the first people to develop the smelting of iron.
b. The production of bronze and iron increased the symbolic importance of Mother Earth.
1. Iron was originally a gift from the Sky coming in the form of meteorites.
2. Mined iron came from the womb of the earth.
o a whole disciple of fasting, meditation, and purification developed for those who had to go into the sacred depths and extract a new form of life.
c. A whole mythology of beings developed who lived under- ground, assisting or witnessing the slow gestation of mother earth's strongest children, the ores.
1. Coming from mother earth and a boon to humanity, metals were sacred.
2. Being invulnerable and easily an instrument of death, metal was too close to evil for humans to handle it comfortably.
o The smiths entered the mythology of the gods fashioning weapons for their heavenly battles and tools for their heavenly enterprises.
Megaliths: one of the last prehistoric phenomenon.
1. Megalith means "great stone" -- it is seen in the remains of the famous cromlech (circle of stones) at Stonehenge in England.
2. In some cases, either cromlechs or dolmens (huge capstone(s) supported by several upright stones arranged to form a sort of enclosure or chamber. (from slabs weighing as much as 300 tons).
3. Megalith was the major symbol for the cult of the dead -- stone was a symbol of permanence -- of resistance to change, decay, or death.
4. Megalith tribes sought close communion with the dead -- probably because they regarded death as a state of security and strength.
a. It was believed that ancestors could be powerful helpers and great allies.
b. By associating with "ancestral" stones - the bones of mother earth - man might overcome his frailty and impermanence.
5. The megaliths represent burial vaults or ritual areas where this faith was practiced.
a. The Cromlech at Stonehenge was in the middle of a field of funeral mounds.
o Stonehenge was a sophisticated instrument that could be used for making astronomical calculations.
b. Huge stones probably prompted certain ideas about death, ancestors, permanence, and escape from time and decay to peoples.
o If most prehistoric peoples were moved to consider their mortality more deeply because of agriculture, perhaps they used stones to assist them in their contemplation.
6. Megalith societies continued into the 20th Century:
o In Indonesia and Melanesia -- stone monuments defended the soul during its journey to the beyond, ensured an eternal existence after death, linked the living and the dead, and fertilized the crops and animals through their sacred durability.
Conclusions: The Ancient Religious Mind
1. The cyclical conflict between life and death probably formed the center of prehistoric religion.
a. Early man knew death on intimate terms (a life expectancy of less than half our own) -- they may have had to make friends with the forces that seemed to oppose death: the sun, the rain, the personages they depicted as controlling animals.
b. When Man had to kill, to secure food or ward off enemies- he probably did so with a feeling a need to purify himself.
1. He did this so that he might not alienate the powers of life.
2. The killing power of warriors seemed to conflict with the nurturing power of mothers. Prehistoric man probably kept these two powers apart, insisting that both birthing mothers and slaying warriors seclude themselves from the community.
2. Religious rites depicted on prehistoric caves suggest a concern with making contact with powers of life that controlled the world.
a. Man identified himself with different natural forces and animals that impressed or appealed to him.
b. To dance in the gait of a bear, to prowl in the step of a tiger, could be to associate himself with the bears strength and take on some of the tiger's grace.
c. To draw these animals or other life - associated forces, man would project himself into the world of their vitality and strength.
d. Changing of seasons, the migration of herds, the flight of birds had both economic and religious importance to early man.
o Man concerned with the mysterious forces that seemed to direct the interaction between human beings and animals.
NON - LITERATE TRIBAL PEOPLES:
1. Traditional Africans have been shaped by their land -- they have been forest people or mountain people.
2. The habitat of Africans has even determined their sense perception (how they see and hear the world).
o Anthropologists have found Africans that can not see things in perspective at far distances.
3. Because they were oral peoples, no materials are available for a history of the cultural development of traditional Africans.
a. Analyst of African mythology find indications of very ancient thought patterns, as well as of extensive cross- cultural influences.
b. Among the Dogon, there is thought evidence of a time of gathering and hunting, a time of early land cultivation, and a time of contact with Hellenistic Culture.
c. Parallels have been drawn between Egyptian attitudes more than 4,000 years old and the twentieth century African view.
4. World View
a. In traditional African religion, most tribes have had a Supreme Being.
Mulungu (the name implies an impersonal spirit that is far away).
1. Mulungu is creative, omnipotent, and omnipresent. It can be seen in lightning and heard in thunder.
2. When personified, Mulungu is seen as having a wife and a family -- he molds human bodies and gives them breath.
b. Subordinate Natural Powers: the most important are the spirits of the storm, but earth spirits, water spirits, and spirits associated with crafts (like blacksmithing and weaving) have considerable influence.
c. West Africans have families of gods and build temples.
1. They pray daily usually for health, security, good farming, or safe travel.
2. They normally sacrifice to a god usually offering a liquid or cereal offering.
3. Special occasions may prompt an animal sacrifice, and in ancient days human sacrifice (usually to provide companions for a deceased king).
o Kings were crucial mediators of cosmic harmony, and so somewhat divine.
4. The ox sacrifice of the Nuer takes place on special occasions as weddings or feud settlements.
o Africans in general show great regard for cattle, and the main idea in cattle sacrifice seems to revere and tap the powers of procreation that bulls and cows represent.
d. Rites of Passage are also emphasized.
1. Birth, adolescence, marriage, and death have religious significance giving the self a sense of development.
2. They are usually performed at home under the guidance of a family elder.
e. Many tribes are polygamous, and so African women often are co-wives.
f. Africans consider marriage a sacred duty, and children are a great blessing.
1. Menarche (first menstruation) can be a time of tribal rejoicing.
ie. Elima: the Pygmies feast for young women.
2. Female fertility is directly linked to tribal prosperity -- (security system) African parents see many children as their hedge against old age.
5. Representative Myths
a. Creation Myths
1. The Yoruba: the supreme god sends to a marsh an artisan who is carrying a bag that lay between the great God's thighs
a. From the bag he shakes out soil and then a cock and pigeon which scratch the soil until the marsh is covered.
b. Their land is holy given from above.
2. The Dogon: God created the sun and the moon like pots with copper rings. To make the stars he flung pellets of clay into space, and he also made the earth of clay.
b. African art tends to avoid representing the supreme god -- there are numerous myths of his withdrawal to the distant heaven.
1. Stories that stress God's distance reflect an African sense of a fall from heavenly grace.
2. African prayer shows that divinity is still thought to be present and operative.
3. In ordinary times: through intermediary gods.
In crisis: through the high god himself.
c. God creates and sustains all things (though no one can see him) -- he creates man out of the ground in a number of myths.
d. Nature is perceived as being bountiful and good-- God's heavenly world is but a larger and happier version of their present good life.
o Many tribes hope that after death there will be a rebirth from the world of ghosts into another part of the sunlit world.
e. Africans think that souls are numerous, that the world is alive, and that a new child may inherit a soul from an ancestor.
o Africans fear abnormal births, and disfigured persons become outcasts.
o Twins are regarded differently. Some tribes expose them to die while other welcome and honor them.
f. Many Africans have attributed death to a mistake.
o The Kono of Sierra Leone: God gave the dog new skins for humans, but the dog put them down in order to join a feast and a snake stole them. Since then the snake has been immortal, changing skins, while humans have died.
6. Divination: the art of discerning future events.
a. Two categories: Possession and Wisdom.
b. Possession: the diviner is filled by a spirit that reads omens, interprets movements of sacred birds etc.
c. Wisdom: the spirits, gods, and the diviner's own per- sonality are subordinate to the cosmic order.
o the role of the diviner is to conceive of a comprehensive view of how all events fit into a sacred scheme.
o the difference between possession and wisdom is not clearly differentiated.
d. Zimbabwe: (Mwari cultists) believe that God speaks through mediums whom he possesses deep in certain caves, and that these messages give a comprehensive view of his operations in the world.
e. Intuitive Diviners:
o Ability to find lost articles, identify thieves, re- cognize witches etc.
f. The typical Dogon Sage is a wisdom diviner, 3 Levels.
1. Themes: such as the loss of paradise and the withdrawal of god. -- these are common to hunters and gatherers.
2. Deals with the marriage of heaven and earth -- typical of early cultivators.
3. Deals with the Cosmic Egg.
g. The Diviner along with the Witch Doctor support the forces of good.
Witches and Sorcerers are agents of evil.
1. Witches work at night (usually women) and inherit or buy a power to inflict harm from demons.
2. Sorcerers tap the power that witch doctors use turning it to harm. (potions, spells, or pins in an image of the victim).
1. The reconstruction of native Australian religious culture is very difficult because of European settlement dating from the late 18th Century.
2. European Observations:
a. A people that were sensitive to the seasons, but also a growing apparent listlessness that came with age.
b. Practical World ------- Dream World.
3. Historically: the Australian Aborigines.
a. Migrated from Southeast Asia (India, Sri Lanka) ca. 50,000 years ago.
b. Spread throughout the continent and were isolated from outside influences until the 18th Century.
c. 1778: the British established a penal colony in the area that is now Syndey.
At that time: aborigines numbered about 350,000.
Now: they number ca. 120,000 while 45,000 are of pure stock - in the semi-desert northern region, they maintain their original culture based on hunting and gathering.
4. World View:
a. E.A. Worms: essential religious features.
1. A Person Sky Being.
2. Helping Spirit Beings.
3. Belief in holy, powerful objects left by the Sky.
4. Ritual drama to renew divine creativity.
5. Initiation Rites: both sexes.
6. Sacrifice and prayer.
7. Medicine Man Leader.
b. Most tribes believed in an eternal supernatural beings whom they linked with totemic animals, plants, or natural phenomena.
Totems: animal, plant or other objects representing the emblem of a family or clan.
o Supernatural Beings = ancestors or clan founders.
c. Creation: Common Elements
1. Ungud: lived on the earth as a snake while Wallanganda was in the sky.
2. During the night they created everything through a creative dream.
d. Human Cycle
1. Life begins when a parent perceives the coming of an ancestor's spirit into the womb.
o it occurs in a dream because of moving sickness or birth pangs.
2. Initiation into Maturity: partially reenters dream-time when he or she originated out of eternity.
3. Adulthood: means returning deeper and deeper into this time through religious ceremonies.
4. Death: one crosses the final threshold and becomes a sacred spirit in the sky.
a. Puberty Rites took place in secret or on sacred ground.
b. Representative of the world in the beginning and participants relive the time of creation.
c. Boys are separated from their mothers.
1. Death and resurrection.
2. The child dies and a mature spiritual being is born.
d. Older women teach girls songs and myths of female dignity and duty.
1. The young woman then goes through a ritual bath and then are presented as adults.
2. First step: marriage, child bearing, menopause, and old age -- periods of further instruction in the nature of the sacred.
e. Myths speak of female ancestors who were more powerful than male ancestors, and of men stealing songs, powers, and artifacts that had belonged to the women.
o In modern times: they have had no part in the world of men (their folklore).
1. Men say that women do not reenter the sacred dream time.
2. Female ceremonies are not a steady return to spiritual existence in the sky.
6. The Medicine Man
a. He receives his healing power from visionary contacts with supernatural beings.
b. He possesses magical items that symbolizes his powers.
ie. quartz crystals, pearl shells, stones, bones etc.
c. His healing power was derived from his ability to "travel to heaven".
o quartz crystals (part of divinity) and his animal spirit (tiger snake) help in this.
d. Religion bound people to the land through myth and ritual that brought them into contact with ancestral totemic spirits or divinities.
e. The goal was to keep harmony with these powers.
Common Themes: Basic Religious Characteristics
1. The Sacred
a. Life and Death dominated prehistoric religion -- the ancient mind dealt with the sacred or holy.
1. It deals with the realm of the truly real, the gods (valuable).
2. Need to be in harmony with the powers of the sky, earth, and the sea.
o they saw what distinction disharmony could bring.
3. Man's imagination impacted by the power that makes everything that is.
b. The sacred can touch any aspect of creation or life-- for nothing that one saw or did was without its heavenly force (powers).
c. An attitude that sacred power is perhaps omnipresent.
d. An attitude that the sacred is good or at least an indifferent force -- if one is not in harmony it can be destructive.
2. Myth and Ritual
a. Myth: is a story, an explanation of what has happened -- man explaining how he came to be where he is.
b. Ritual: refers to the conduct of ceremonies -- dances and dramatic presentations to display their mystic histories and realities.
c. Myth and Ritual is a process (means) by which ancient peoples have explained the world, interacted with the sacred, and solidified their community.
o to understand them - one needs to understand their myths and rituals.
d. Creation Myths: is the subject of the most basic myth which ritual uses to integrate a people with the sacred.
e. Rites of Passage:
1. Ceremonies of the life cycle: religious dramas for birth, puberty, marriage and death.
2. Each was a threshold to a new stage of development, a new stage of intimacy (understanding) with the sacred.
3. Rites of Passage
a. Young Men - they stress enduring suffering.
b. Young Women - they stress preparing for feminine tasks (as a society conceives them).
c. For Both - it is a time to learn about sexuality, the tribal gods, and the discipline that adulthood demands.
f. The Shaman: Elaiade - "The Shamam is a specialist in archaic techniques of ecstasy."
1. They are selected for their ability to go outside of themselves.
2. Initiation: is a ritualized experience of suffering, death, and resurrection.
3. Functions of the Shaman:
ie. healing, guiding the dead to the afterworld, and acting as a medium between the living and the dead.
4. The Universe and Man are both dualistic.
a. Universe: includes the human realm and the spiritual realm.
b. Man: he or she has both a bodily and a spiritual part.
5. Purpose of a state of ecstasy -- to gain knowledge or power.
o While in a state of ecstasy - he reports on his progress.-- this recreates the community.
a. Reasserts their view of the world.
b. He gives then an entertaining account of his ordeal.
o Return: he often requires the community to renew itself (to recreate harmony and reaffirm its ethical ideal.)