·        Religion/Science conflict: 50’s –60’s, Social Scientists predicted decline of religious interest in future decades.

·        Prediction was wrong. Even greater interest now (Assurance and Hope)


·        Anth committed to understanding of religious phenomena.


·        What can Anth ( a behav. Sci.) tell us about  religion?


·        Cannot make judgments or verify beliefs or practices


·        Why? Because it is based on Faith (not subject to falsification or verification through empirical means)


·        Faith is anchored on subjective experience (Internal beliefs) that are not provable through objective, sensory experience.


·        Not the purpose or goal of Anth to verify or falsify anyone’s religious beliefs


·        What is role of Anth in the study of religion?  : Focus on the external dimension of religion, that is the materials and behavior that manifest the internal beliefs. Public behaviors that are shared and observable.

·        Anth investigative methods help reveal both the internal and external aspects of religious belief and practice.


·        Generally speaking Anth is more concerned with the interrelationships and interconnections between peoples religious traditions and doctrines and other aspects of their society, such as the link between religious belief/practice and the economy, social life, politics, and art.



·        Cultural Anth: Enthnology  Study of contemporary cultures around the world.

·        Ethnography (description) Typically reports on environmental setting, economic patterns, social organization, political system, religious system and beliefs based on ethnographic data

Research strategy:

·        Fieldwork & participant/observation (learning through direct observation)

·        Key informant (interviews) Records qualitative data (Field Notes –systematic documentation of observations


·        Fundamental concept within Anth:

·        Adaptive system based on all the learned and shared ideas and products of a society.

·        (society group of people inventing/using culture)

·        Knowledge---------------behavior--------------outcome of behavior

·        Learned, shared, symbolic, integrated

·        Acquired through Enculturation

·        Formal/informal & consciously/unconsciously (social interaction)

1.     Situational learning: conditioning/ trial and error learning/ stimulus and response

2.     Social learning: Observed in social context and added to the personal collection

3.     Symbolic learning: based on linguistic capacity..our ability to create and use symbols (arbitrary meaningful units, or models that we use to represent reality.Conceptual devises used to communicate abstract ideas to one another.)

·       This is what the majority of human learning is based on.most creative….forms the basis for our capacity to use culture.

Culture is the historical accumulation of symbolic knowledge that is shared by a society.

·       Enculturation is an imperfect process!

Material and non-material aspects of culture:

·       Technology

·       Values: explicit standards defining good/bad, ugly/beautiful, sacred/profane, shared by the society, and well known. Used to influence behavior

·       Beliefs: cultural conventions concerning true/false assumptions, specific descriptions  of the natural universe and our place in it….more specific that values (usually)

·       Worldview: interrelated beliefs and assumptions about the nature of reality. I.E. empirical. Provides a usually consistent orientation toward the physical, social and metaphysical world. They help people interpret and understand the world around them.

·       Cosmology: how humans are connected with the universe, explains existence, origins..addresses profound questions.

·       Norms: (Folkways or etiquette) Societies rules of right and wrong: guide to how it ought to be! Generally connected to values, beliefs and worldviews. Provides us with a set of expectations and assist members of a society in predicting what others will do in a particular circumstance. Mores are a type of norm stronger than etiquette norms..usually carry a more stringent negative sanction if broken.



Anthropological Study of Religion


















“Religion can be looked upon as an extension of the field of people’s social relationships beyond the confines of purely human society.”


“I shall define “religion” as “an institution consisting of culturally patterned interaction with culturally postulated super human beings.”


“….a religion is (1) a system of symbols which acts to (2) establish powerful, pervasive, and long-lasting moods and motivations in men by (3) formulating conceptions of a general order of existence and (4) clothing these conceptions with such an aura of factuality that (5) the moods and motivations seem uniquely realistic.”





The major implication of defining the subject more broadly than these writers is that we would not exclude magic.

 To establish our working definition we will consider the following:

 Religion: any set of attitudes, beliefs, and practices pertaining to Supernatural power, whether it be forces, gods, spirits, gods, ghosts, demons, or any other imagined power.



Sources of mystical (Supernatural) significance: Ways of Knowing (Invented Truth)


Religion: any set of attitudes, beliefs, and practices pertaining to Supernatural power, whether it be forces, gods, spirits, ghosts, demons, or any other imagined power.


In other words: All behavior, thoughts, and feelings that imply mystical (supernatural) power, whether that power is believed to reside in people, animals, inanimate things or events, or in beings that so far as observation tells us are imaginary.


Religion explains and gives meaning it also provides cohesion, support, education, discipline, revitalizes/euphoric, ecological…many over-lap.


Types of belief:

Supernatural Power (Mana)

Supernatural Beings, Gods, Souls, Demons, Ghosts, Tricksters, Witches (innate and unconscious) vs. Sorcery, which is a conscious and acquired skill)


Mystical Power: Common element is religion.

Power different from material power of physical forces and from personal forces of social interaction. (Distinction not always present in some cultures)


Often attributed to living persons or to supernatural entities.


Often appealed to explain events/actions/feelings


Mystical power as the core of religious thought was stressed in early accounts of Manna in the cultures of the Pacific. It was erroneously described as impersonal.


Mana:  Mana is a neutral force but very powerful. (concept) Like the air, it is everywhere, though it is often concentrated in objects, or people, or even part of a person.









Sought by persons through a Quest, Acquistion/Purchase/Ceremonies/Medicine bundles/Gifts from Divinity/Killing another Human/Eating Human flesh


Can reside outside the person, in place (geographical) or in supernatural beings.


Magic:  Technique used to manipulate various supernatural forces or beings


Myth: sacred story taken to be true (based on believe)

Folklore: body of shared, common knowledge taken in a particular social context in accordance with a particular performance.


Science: (Modern) ---it seeks to explain the universe purely in terms of observable or testable natural mechanisms. Therefore, physics describes the atomic nucleus with specific concepts governing energy and matter, and it tests those descriptions experimentally. Physicists introduce new particles, such a quarks, to flesh out their theories only when data show that the previous descriptions cannot adequately explain observed phenomena. The new particles do not have arbitrary properties, moreover---their definitions are tightly constrained, because the new particles must fit within the existing framework of physics.


Scientific Method:

Theory: many people learned in elementary school that a theory falls in the middle of a hierarchy of certainty…above a hypothesis but below a law. However, scientists do not use the term that way



Time and again, science has shown that it can provide useful answers to many questions, detailed explanations to what were seemingly impenetrable mysteries: the nature of light, the causes of disease, how the brain works, how the living world took shape. According to the National Academy of Sciences, a scientific theory is “a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world that can incorporate facts, laws, inferences, and tested hypotheses.” No amount of validation changes a theory into a law, which is a descriptive generalization about nature. So when a scientist talks about the theory of something (evolution or the atomic theory), or the theory of relativity, they are not expressing reservation about its truth.


In addition to theory, one may speak of the FACT…the NAS defines Fact as “an observation that has been repeatedly confirmed and for all practical purposes is accepted as ‘true.’”


Taboo: Rules for Right and Wrong.


Taboo: a ban or prohibition. The word comes from Polynesian language where it means religious restriction, to break would mean an automatic punishment.


In English the word has little of that meaning and little to do with religion. It generally implies a rule which has no meaning (reason), or one that cannot be explained.


·        Cpt. Cook in Tahiti noting women were not allowed to eat with men, when asked the reply was “because it is right.” To the outsider the taboo seems irrational.

·        Orthodox Jewish prohibition of lighting or maintaining fires, lighting or putting out lamps on the Sabbath.

·        Usually land observers in some predicament: Eating Teal to circumvent prohibition of eating meat (Teal eat fish), or Maori hairdresser prohibited form using hands to feed himself after cutting hair of Chief.


In the last century, in European usage the word came to imply inferior mentality due to general ignorance of the physical world. Taboos (rules) were result of false science, leading to mistaken hygiene and faulty medicine.

Essentially bans on touching seeing, eating, speaking to avoid dangers and sickness.


Since it was seen as a rule to keep certain classes (categories) of people and things apart lest misfortune befall, it was considered a theory about contagion. It was a comparison: our hygiene protects from a real danger of contagion, theirs from something imaginary. Not a valid comparison. Misconception  of comparing True religion and primitive  magic, and modern medicine and primitive hygiene.


The mistake is to suppose our idea of dirt connotes and objectively real class from which real dangers of health may arise, and whose control depends on valid rules of hygiene. Dirt, like beauty, resides int eh eye of the beholder. (5 second rule)


We look at them separating this area from that, stopping x form touching y, men from eating with women and creating elaborate scales of edibility and inedibility among the animal and plant world……..we too are in the business of ordering and classifying things and activities.


No Taboo can ever make sense by itself. It is part of a whole system of rules. It makes sense as a part of a classification whose meaning is so basic to those who live by it that no piece-meal explanation can be given. It’s just the right thing to do.

The 19th century scholars had such a hard time understanding Taboo because they were working out of the separate compartments of their own taboo system. For them, religion, magic, hygiene and medicine were as distinct as civilized and primitive. They put it in the realm of native thought. And therefore saw it as insoluble. Today we see it more as a problem of human learning.


·        Discard the idea that there is anything like a true, complete view of the world. Between what the scientists tell us and what we make of their knowledge there is a synthesis which is our own usable approximation of the rules we need to know to operate in the physical world.


·        Discard the idea that there can ever be a final and correct world view..the fullness of reality will always evade our singular comprehension. Learning is filtering and organizing. No 2 people will ever register the same identical patterns and faced with a similar environment, 2 cultures will construe 2 different sets of natural constraints and regular sequences. In other word; every culture constructs its own universe.


·        Every culture attributes to its own world a set of powers to be harnessed and dangers to be avoided.


·        Traditional culture, because of isolation has a unique world view. Modern industrial nations share a common experience, generally share the same rules about the powers and the dangers aroused.


·        For all humans the universe is a system of imputed rules. Using our own distinctions we can distinguish First: physical Nature, (inorganic, organic) with rules governing growth, lifespan, and death. Second: Human behavior, Third: interaction between these 2 groups, and Fourth: other intelligent beings, whether incorporeal, like gods, devils, and ghosts or mixtures of human and divine or human and animal and Fifth: interaction between the fourth group and the rest. Notice I have not used the word Supernatural to avoid the distinction between the natural and supernatural.


·        To reiterate: Taboos are understood to be rules about our behavior which restrict the human use of things and people. To break the rules is to be subject to consequence. Like rules of a game.


·        Try to imagine what social life would be like without any classification. It would be like playing a game without any rules. It is no exaggeration to de3scribe social life as the process of building classification systems. Everyone is trying to make sense of what is happening.


·        In the process of explaining, classifications are developed and more and more meanings are successfully added to them as people are persuaded to interpret them in the same way. Socail meaning is created.



·        The west room in an Irish farmers house used to be the room where the old couple retired when the eldest son married and brought his wife to the farm. West meant retirement as well as sundown.

·        In the Buddhist religion east is high status. Buddha’s statue is always placed on the shelf on the east wall. The husband always sleeps to the east of his wife. East means male and social superior.

·        Up, down, right , left sun ,moon, hot, cold , all the antithesis are able to carry meanings from social life.


·        Anyone who supports the social system finds him/herself impelled to support the classification system which gets meaning from it. Anyone who challenges the social system finds themselves up against a set of classifications which have to be rethought.


·        This is why a breech of the taboo arouses such strong feeling. Not because a minor classification is threatened but because the whole society is shaken if someone gets away with challenging the taboo.


·        Classification involves definition; definition involves reducing ambiguity; ambiguity arises in several ways and it is misguided to think it will ever be eliminated or excluded from our lives.



·        Animal classification : Structure, Habitat, Behavior

·        Penguin: behavior is more like a fish than a bird (using walking flying or swimming)

·        Structure: Skeletal and reproduction it is more bird like, than a flying fish.

·        Most classification is untidy. Men behave like women, adults act like children, even physically there are those that are born intersexed.

·        Rules of marriage and inheritance require clear cut categories, but there are always the exceptions.

·        Human classifications are always too crude for reality

·        A system of taboos covers up this weakness. It points in advance to the defect and insists that no one will give recognition to the inconvenient facts or behave in such a way as to undermine the acceptability and clarity of the system as a whole.


Taboos inject order into life:

·        The potential for disorder is tremendous, particularly when you consider the disorder of the mind.

·        Taboos help to break up the disorder into classes and rules, and so judges some activities to be right and proper and some to be horrific

·        This kind of rationality is the justification for taboos that we ourselves observe when we say it is not acceptable to pee in the kitchen sink, wash dishes in the toilet, or have sex on the front lawn at noon.

·        It helps us to inject order into our lives. It is not arbitrary, but is derived from social categories.

·        A taboo system upholds  a cultural system and a culture is a pattern of values and norms; social life is impossible without such a pattern.

·        Because taboos flow from the social boundaries and support the social structure, they seem irrational to the outsider. And as such, beyond challenge to the person living in the society.


RITUAL:  Behavior that is formalized and regularly repeated.


·        Ritual may or may not be associated with supernatural beliefs.

·        Often involves symbols: cross, candle, totem, icon, or even a natural object like the sun and moon.

·        It may include action such as prayer, recitation, sacrifice, dance or other physical activities.

·        It has been seen as reinforcing group solidarity and cohesion as well as serving the psychological needs of individuals and the social needs of groups


·        Early studies limited the understanding of ritual to its role in the religious life of “Primitive” societies through Function, structure and meaning (symbols)

·        Contemporary analysis relax the connection between ritual and the sacred, and point out the relation between ritual, the sacred and power. (compelling force)

·        Today, in is common to look at commonalities between religious ritual and secular ritual.

·        Ritual and ritual symbols of varying kind are seen as playing a key part in creating tradition, and legitimizing power structures.


·        The social environment is “ritualized” in the sense of being habitually structured by predictable patterns of human action. (Remember, much of culture is seen in patterned behavior.) Thus ritual is now seen not only as plying a role in formulating times, eternal order, but rather as historically and socially constructed.

·        Ritual is primarily a distinct way of doing things.

·        Ritual encodes, actualizes, encourages and regulates social relationships in a powerful way.

·        To fully understand its power it has to be studied from a relational framework in which the significance of its symbols, and actions in the social and historical context in which it occurs.

·        Ritual has a crucial role in the construction of reality as provided by our worldview.


Rites of Passage:

A category of ritual that has been studied cross-culturally. Term was coined by Belgian sociologist Arnold Van Gennep.

·        Term use to refer to rituals associated with the stages in the arc of life: birth, puberty, adulthood, death, and other crucial occasions marking critical points of transition in an individuals life. (Universal biological phases)

·        They may include other rituals created to mark the social progress of an individual during their liftime. (change of status/role)

·        As a person moves from one biological and social stage to the next the persons social status and role within the group also changes.

·        Because of this change culturally created rituals will always involve the members of that specific group----either the entire culture or a segment (family, common interest group)

·        Members of one’s group must be able to change they way they have previously interacted with the individual as the transitions occur.

·        For example: We interact differently with adults than with children, and when a person dies the group must alter its relationship with the deceased.

·        In small societies, everyone is effected by the change, so involvement in the group activity prepares you for your own transitions.

Van Gennep viewed these types of rituals as occurring in 3 separate stages:

·        Separation (pre-liminal) Gk: limen: threshold : wherein the individual is removed or separated from the present group

·        Transition (liminal): Marked by a change in the individual, usuall the person is subject to certain rules or taboos. Sometimes, the normal rules of the society are suspended. (Cutting of foreskin or loss of virginity)

·        Reincorporation (post-liminal): The individual is reintegrated into the group in a new status /role, altered state. 

Conception: Male role

Birth: Couvade

Adulthood: Circumcision/sub-incision/ FGM: partial or complete removal of the clitoris or partial sewing together of the vulva (infibulation)


Kepele burning knife shaman

M’Buti (Bamiki Bandula)


Identify 3 rites of passage in your culture (subculture) that are identified and defined culturally rather than biologically.

Define each in terms of the three stages proposed by Van Gennep.

Remember to use criteria such as change of status or role.



 Shamanism:  (From Tungus, saman: Sanskrit, sramana ; German, der schaman.)

Aka: medicine man, medium, sprit or faith healer, priest, oracle, witch doctor.


Romantic view: Religious virtuoso who takes magical, hallucinatory flights into the supernatural world, learns from and/or fights with spirits, ghosts or daemons, recapturing lost souls. Primordial, prototypical religious practitioner who has direct contact with the supernatural.











Sorcery/Wizardry (witchcraft):

·        Duality of terminology clouds meaning. Not all cultures/languages offer the distinction.

·        As with religion, belief and acceptance has not been diminished by the spread of literacy, science and the modern lifestyle.

·        Basic meaning is: spiritual malpractice, mystical evildoing, occult practice

·        Whatever it is called it is recognized world-wide.

o       Contains an element of opposition in its manner of operation: controlled/uncontrolled, internal/external, inherited/acquired, and motivation of practitioner: human feelings such as anger, jealousy, envy, malice


·        Common elements:

o       Ability to cause harm, misfortune, sickness, and death.

o       Part of the socio-political process (social control/power)


·        Witch Hunts:

o       Gender issues

o       Classic scapegoat figure often seen in other parts of the world is the person of anti-social habits who has no relative to defend them.

o       Movements seem to arise when dominant values are challenged by changing circumstances and/or social conditions are disrupted by famine, warfare, epidemics, etc..

o       Perception that there is a concentrated threat of anti-social/deviance (evil) in society

o       Social authority need to purge that source to legitimize and protect

o       Legal mechanism established to accomplish purge


·        Satanic Ritual Abuse:

o       Repeat of historical elements:

o       Dissemination and acceptance by those in power of a series of beliefs about secret activities of evildoers…defines the evil and justifies their persecution.

o       Willingness to act on the beliefs by setting in place procedures to apprehend, interrogate and prosecute suspects.

Dale Akiki Case













·        The idea that there is a hidden evil among us, neighbors, and kinsmen, who could be guilty of the most hideous antisocial crimes: incest and cannibalization of innocent babies, is clearly a recurring cosmic nightmare.

·        It is clear that human fantasies about evildoing display remarkable similarity in a core area of elements.

Ancient themes revisited



Aboriginal religions:



Animism: E.B.Tylor: concept of spiritual entity such as a soul

Animatism: supernatural force



Supernatural Beings:




 Culture Heroes: Mythical figures said to have created in the distant past various features of the culture. To these should be added, as partial supernaturals, individual persons who are considered to have mystical powers




What Does "Halloween" Mean?

·        The name is actually a shortened version of "All Hallows' Even," the eve of All Hallows' Day. Hallow is an Old English word for "holy person," and All Hallows' Day is simply another name for All Saints' Day, the day on which Catholics commemorate all the saints. At some point, people began referring to All Hallows' Even as "Hallowe'en" and then simply "Halloween."











All Saints' Day



















All Souls' Day











A soul cake!

A soul cake!

Have mercy on all Christian souls, for

A soul cake!























Note on Pumpkins:Frightful Fruit

·        Pumpkins, which are actually fruits, not vegetables, range considerably in size. Some varieties weigh less than a pound and giant pumpkins can grow to more than 1,000 pounds!

·        Pumpkins are members of the gourd family, which also includes watermelons and zucchini. They are 90-percent water and also contain high concentrations of  potassium and vitamin A.

·        Pumpkins, which grow from vines, originated in Central America and were a popular crop among Native Americans. Certain tribes used the seeds for food and medicine and made sleeping mats out of dried pumpkin strips.

·        American colonists invented the pumpkin pie, but their original version used the pumpkin as the crust, not the main ingredient. They cut off pumpkin tops to make handy edible bowls, which they filled with milk, honey and spices and then cooked over a fire or hot ashes.


 Bobbing for Apples






Other modern traditions of Halloween, (most of which evolved in the United States.)

American Traditions



NOTE: Dressed to the Nines

·        Halloween continues to be extremely popular with kids of all ages; 85 to 90 percent of U.S. children go trick-or-treating or engage in other Halloween festivities every year, and many adults also join in on the fun.

·        In a 2000 poll, the National Retail Federation found that 65 percent of U.S. adults between 18 and 34 attended Halloween costume parties or other celebrations.

·        In the United States, Halloween lags just behind New Year's Eve and the Super Bowl in total number of parties, and it's second only to Christmas in total consumer dollars spent.

·        According to the National Retail Federation, U.S. consumers will spend an average of $44 per household in 2002 on Halloween candy, costumes and decorations. Familes with young children plan to spend an average of $62. The holiday should bring in about $6.9 billion in sales in the United States.


·        A number of other Halloween activities fill the whole month of October. These traditions preserve Samhain's spirit of revelry in the face of frightening thoughts of death and the supernatural.


·        Americans have added scary movies, community haunted houses, ghost stories and Ouija boards to the celebration. Greeting cards and festive decorations are also a big part of Halloween. The holiday is second only to Christmas in total revenue dollars for retailers.



Halloween Controversy








Why Do People Love Halloween?



























135-9 New World Religions/ Mesoamerica & North America










Olmec:  oldest Mesoamerica. Civilization (People of the rubber country).


Maya:   600 BCE Tikal: pyramids, ball courts, blood offerings


Teotihuacan: 125,000- 2000,000 pop. Valley of Mexico (Place of the Gods) Temples of Sun and Moon, two levels of religion, state and household.


Aztec: 1300  Several Deities, many appropriated from neighboring , conquered groups. Like Maya religion, involved offering of blood. Related to Aztec creation story:

Lord and Lady Duality produced 4 sons each associated with a specific color and direction….a vegetation diety /red, a omnipotent diety /Jaguar & black, Windstorms, rain/white, and War/blue, they create lessor gods, humans a calendar, underworld, heavens, water, fire, earth.  After creation 5 “suns” transpire. An “age” is brought to a close by a battle between the 4 sons, Aztec believed they were created during the 5th sun, when a god brought back bones and ashes of people killed during the 4th sun. Aztec are created from these remains , plus the blood of the god that retrieved them. Humans must repay this “blood debt”


Chaco Canyon: (850 –1130 CE), 13 large towns linked by 250 miles of roads in modern Arizona Pueblo Bonita was largest (500 rooms and many smaller Kivas and a grand Kiva (55” in diameter) Ancestors of modern Hopi/Zuni       (kachinas)


Mississippian Cultures: A fortified site in Mississippi Valley (1000- 1450 CE) Cahokia is largest Pop est. at 50k covered 5  square miles. Mounds created in phases over 300 years. Woodhenge observatories rebuilt every 100 years: focused on ancestor worship and fertility, capture and rebirth of sun, revitalization and rebirth. Natchez are modern descendents.

135-10 Festivals


·        Rituals open to the whole community or large segments



·        Pacific Northwest :(Many groups rely on the salmon as a source of protein and eat fish for many months. (caught in the ocean, rivers and dried)

·        For most NW tribes the year was divided into 2 parts (Bella Coola metaphor: For 9 months the canoe of the salmon was in the Bella Coola country.) When it departed another canoe bringing the winter ceremony arrived and remained for 4 months.

·        Appearance of first Salmon marked by the First Salmon Ceremony (distinguished by addressing needs of the entire community rather than an individual)

·        This ceremony was directed at ensuring the supply of an essential food for the entire community

·        Ceremony based on view that the salmon willed themselves to be caught, were potentially immortal, and must be treated in such a manner to ensure they would cooperate in being available in the future

·        These basic elements were a constant but particulars varied from one group to another.

·        For example some groups emphasized  taboos to ensure the fish was not offended – any person who was ritually “unclean” was to stay away from the ceremony.

·        Usually these taboos were strengthened by myth, such as telling how Coyote, long ago established the rules for the ceremony.

·        Sometime practical acts were emphasized – hear to first salmon caught was buried to make sure dogs didn’t desecrate it by eating it – or bones and heart were returned to the water to encourage reincarnation – Addressing the salmon by honorific titles when thanking it for giving its life for the people.

·        For some tribes this ceremony marked the beginning of a “new Year” and was part “world Renewal”, a common feature of many Native American groups. That is, renewing a productive relationship with the natural world.

·        To that end they were built around recall of the life of the spirits that had preceded humankind and after whom humans had patterned their lives.

·        In that manner the tribal economy was linked with the traditional cosmic view.

·        Creek: horticulturalist had ceremonies of similar significance – An 8 day ceremony timed to mark the ripening of corn, fire was newly made, people took purgative emetics, fasted, for bodily renewal, followed by feasting.


135-10 Creek cont.

·        Preceded by “stomp dances” and a feast celebrating the renewal of love and friendship.

·        Participation was considered a community obligation.

·        Pueblo: Incredible longevity and perseverance after 450 year of contact with Spanish and Americans.

·        Explicit function was to control sprits responsible for weather and growing season, and therefore crop yield.

·        This increased public confidence in getting a good harvest.

·        The festivals also involved a large accumulation of food, which was redistributed ceremonially. (leveling mechanism)

·        Potlatch : Held in winter, not because they relate to activities of that season, but because they require an accumulation of food and other goods, that can be accumulated only after a period of maximum economic productivity.

·        Describe Potlatch




135-10 OCEANIA cont.

preparation, cultivation, and harvest cycle. Among the Trobrianders the yam exchange festivals were not communal banquets, but rather a ritual giving of food for storage. Some food was set out for consumption by the spirits, shoes participation at the time of the harvest was crucial.





 AFRICA cont.





Death & Afterlife

·        Deceased no longer available for customary interaction with others. Life connections are severed. A gap is created in the life of the survivors.

·        Grief appears as a response in most societies, even specific expressions are near universal. i.e.: Crying occasioned by death

·        Problem is how to work through it and resume some normality in the face of a loss.

·        Some responses are to remove physical items that were associated with deceased, move away from scene of death, no longer speaking the deceased name

·        Responses are often viewed in light of religious beliefs.


·        Though the problem may not have been created by religion , it is often solved by religious means.

·        Even in our scientific world (medicine), people ask “Why my family?”




Survival of the Soul:

·        Almost every society holds beliefs that some part of the person survives beyond bodily death.

·        Definite statements that the belief is absent are rare. (Hadza of Tanzania are explicit is stating when a person dies the body just rots and that is that!; Baka of the Ituri say that when you’re dead, you’re dead…the idea of an afterlife seems to have been introduced by missionaries; Dinka of Sudan view death as dreadful end mitigated only by the immortality of procreation.

·        Exactly what survives is thought of in various ways.

·        We’ll use the word SOUL but caution that it does not thought of or defined in  the same way everywhere. In fact many languages do not have a word to express the concept.

·        We’ll use it in its most general sense: any non-bodily part ascribed to a person. (SPIRIT is a useful term.

·        Frequently, a single soul is considered intrinsic to each person, it may be analogous to breath or a person’s shadow or to the body itself (though invisible).

·        Many societies have a more complex view, assigning more than one soul to a person, of which one or more survive beyond death. DOGON of Mali: 8 souls, 4 relate to the body and 4 to sexuality and reproduction. Only the reproduction souls  become enshrined as sprits, 2 of the sex-linked souls become ancestors and are important to the continuation of the lineage

·        The RARAMURI of Mexico: One principal soul and many smaller souls, with at least one located in each part of the body that can move.

·        Lugbara of E. Africa: only males have a soul that pertains to the continuation of the lineage.

·        Variations are found all over the world.


Support for belief in Survival of the Soul:

·        Speculation as to the origin of such an idea is not scientifically tested so has been abandoned.

·        However, one answer that has been tested through fieldwork in a traditional society is that belief in the survival of the soul is supported by the training of children, adolescents and even adults by their peers and elders. (Enculturation)

·        In our society, Clergy, scriptures, etc. promotes this. Polls show that vast majority of the public accept the idea of an afterlife, suggests the power of parents and peers in implanting and sustaining such a belief. ( A US senator once announced that Eleanor Roosevelt was unfit to represent the country because she expressed uncertainty in a personal afterlife.

·        Can we find a similar process in non-literate society? Kwoma of New Guinea: fear of dead relatives (ghosts). Children observe this fear in adults, are threatened with action of ghosts i.e. nocturnal sounds of animals are explained as ghosts on the prowl.

·        Other major kinds of major experiences support this belief:

o       Dreaming about a person who is dead may be taken as a contact with the deceased

o       Dreaming itself offers impressive evidence (in a non-scientific setting) for the reality of the soul and its independence from the body. (dream travel)

o       Irrational behavior may be explained by spirit possession (malevolent ghosts)

o       Response by bereaved to cues to which he/she responded to in company of deceased prior to death may evoke a sense of the presence of the deceased as it did in the past.

o       Death will have left survivors with unfinished activities that had been planed for  and can creat  in the living a motive for fantasying the presence of the deceased for carrying out the cooperative interaction.


Character of the Afterlife:

·        No abundant evidence that the idea of immortality of the soul is widespread among native peoples. Often the idea was projected by westerners own ideas of life eternal.

·         Rather field work indicates that the ideas pertain only to the continuity of life on both sides of death rather than a conception of everlasting life.

·        Survival of the soul beyond bodily death is no guarantee of longevity of the soul.

·        Manus, Pac Isl., Soul first becomes a wanderer, then a sea slug, Zuni, Amer. SW, Souls must die 3 deaths in the afterlife then becomes an animal for which it had an affinity for in life, Kraho, Brazil, soul dies several times after death and each time becomes a smaller and smaller animal, and ends as a stone, a root, or tree stump.

·        Afterlife is often conceived in relation to the personal interests and memory of the living rather than as an abstract doctrine.

·        There does not seem to be any universality to the character of the afterlife, though such a belief is found in every society.

·        Often based on an extension of normal life, in hunting societies, the spirits hunt, in agricultural societies they cultivate, they continue familiar activities and pursuits, familiar social interactions. Often there is little gap or bride seen between the natural and supernatural world. Not always seen in terms of punishment and reward, sometimes seen as having temporal stages in which the character changes.


Mortuary Rites/Becoming an Ancestor:





  1. To dispose of the body of the deceased in a manner feasible in the physical setting and appropriate to the societies belief system.
  2. To help the survivors adjust emotionally to their loss.
  3. To facilitate any replacement that may be dictated by the kinship customs of the society.
  4. To renew commitment to the established patterns of relation among kin, neighbors, and community.
  5. To recognize the new status of the deceased person as a spirit
  6. To relate to the spirit in whatever ways customs may dictate: protect from its attack, aid it on its way in the afterlife.


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