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Small Scale Religions: Sometimes referred to as “primal” becauseSometimes referred to as “primal” because “Primal” because they came before the major religions.

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Presentation on theme: "Small Scale Religions: Sometimes referred to as “primal” becauseSometimes referred to as “primal” because “Primal” because they came before the major religions."— Presentation transcript:

1 Small Scale Religions: Sometimes referred to as “primal” becauseSometimes referred to as “primal” because “Primal” because they came before the major religions in the world“Primal” because they came before the major religions in the world Provide special insight into the mythic and ritual dimensions of religionsProvide special insight into the mythic and ritual dimensions of religions All religions stem, more or less directly from primal beginningsAll religions stem, more or less directly from primal beginnings

2 The Storytellers: Generally traditions of non-literate peopleGenerally traditions of non-literate people Do not depend on scriptures or written teachingsDo not depend on scriptures or written teachings Myths and stories are handed down from generation to generationMyths and stories are handed down from generation to generation

3 Tribal People: Primal religions tend to be the traditions of tribal peoplesPrimal religions tend to be the traditions of tribal peoples Usually live in small villages rather than citiesUsually live in small villages rather than cities Exceptions would include the Yoruba and the Aztecs of MesoamericaExceptions would include the Yoruba and the Aztecs of Mesoamerica

4 Australian Aborigines Native to AustraliaNative to Australia Unaffected by outsiders until about 200 years agoUnaffected by outsiders until about 200 years ago Early traditions remain in largely intact todayEarly traditions remain in largely intact today

5 The Dreaming The foundation of Aboriginal religionThe foundation of Aboriginal religion Belief that the world was originally formlessBelief that the world was originally formless Supernatural beings called Ancestors roamed the earthSupernatural beings called Ancestors roamed the earth Ancestors gave the world shape and created various forms of lifeAncestors gave the world shape and created various forms of life

6 The Dreaming (conti.) ‏ Ancestors organized humans into tribes and gave language, territory, rules, and customs to the people.Ancestors organized humans into tribes and gave language, territory, rules, and customs to the people. Left behind symbols of their presenceLeft behind symbols of their presence Natural landmarks, rock paintings, etc…Natural landmarks, rock paintings, etc…

7 The Dreaming A mythic period of the AncestorsA mythic period of the Ancestors Aborigines believe that the spiritual essence of the Ancestors continue to live today and the period continues to live on today.Aborigines believe that the spiritual essence of the Ancestors continue to live today and the period continues to live on today. Spiritual symbols are said to be filled with sacred powerSpiritual symbols are said to be filled with sacred power Only certain people are allowed to visit the sacred sitesOnly certain people are allowed to visit the sacred sites

8 Sacred Sites Approaching the sites the Aborigines re-enact mythic events of the DreamingApproaching the sites the Aborigines re-enact mythic events of the Dreaming Every notable landmark has great significanceEvery notable landmark has great significance Spiritual essence of the Ancestors is thought to live within each personSpiritual essence of the Ancestors is thought to live within each person Unborn child receives the spirit of the Ancestor the mother contactsUnborn child receives the spirit of the Ancestor the mother contacts

9 Totem: The natural form in which the Ancestor appeared in the DreamingThe natural form in which the Ancestor appeared in the Dreaming May be an animal, a rock formation, or other landscape featureMay be an animal, a rock formation, or other landscape feature Totemism: the system of belief and ritual based on totemsTotemism: the system of belief and ritual based on totems

10 Three aspects of reality Supernatural, human world, and world of nature are all interrelatedSupernatural, human world, and world of nature are all interrelated Aborigines seek harmonious relationships between the threeAborigines seek harmonious relationships between the three Spiritual perfectionSpiritual perfection

11 Aboriginal Religious Life Recreating the mythic past of the Dreaming in order to receive sacred powerRecreating the mythic past of the Dreaming in order to receive sacred power Ritual is essential; only through ritual that sacred power can be experiencedRitual is essential; only through ritual that sacred power can be experienced A myth behind every ritualA myth behind every ritual

12 Taboo Certain people are forbidden to participate in certain ritualsCertain people are forbidden to participate in certain rituals Violation of this principle sometimes results in the punishment of deathViolation of this principle sometimes results in the punishment of death Men, women, maturity determine participation in ritualsMen, women, maturity determine participation in rituals

13 Initiation: Symbolic Death, Spiritual Rebirth Awaken the young to their spiritual identity and social positionAwaken the young to their spiritual identity and social position Symbolic death of childhoodSymbolic death of childhood Boys and girls undergo initiationBoys and girls undergo initiation Boys’ ritual is more elaborate than girls’Boys’ ritual is more elaborate than girls’

14 Male Initiation Rite Takes place around 9 th birthday; lasted monthsTakes place around 9 th birthday; lasted months 2 lower teeth knocked out & buried2 lower teeth knocked out & buried Circumcision with a stone knifeCircumcision with a stone knife Wilyaru performed by the adult tribesmenWilyaru performed by the adult tribesmen Struck w/ intent to form scars; symbolic deathStruck w/ intent to form scars; symbolic death

15 Bull-roarer Sacred instrument consisting of a piece of wood attached to a long string made from human hairSacred instrument consisting of a piece of wood attached to a long string made from human hair Recreates the sound of the deities and is forbidden for women to useRecreates the sound of the deities and is forbidden for women to use

16 Initiation Rituals The boy lived in the wilderness alone for months.The boy lived in the wilderness alone for months. When the blood wore off his skin and wounds were healed he returned to the villageWhen the blood wore off his skin and wounds were healed he returned to the village Much celebration….. He became a man.Much celebration….. He became a man.

17 An African Tradition: The Yoruba Representative of other African religionsRepresentative of other African religions Consists of about 10 million peopleConsists of about 10 million people Yoruba is about 1000 years oldYoruba is about 1000 years old

18 The Yoruba and Their Universe: Live in the western regions of central AfricaLive in the western regions of central Africa Nigeria, Benin, TogoNigeria, Benin, Togo Not a nation but a group with a common language and cultureNot a nation but a group with a common language and culture Prefer living in citiesPrefer living in cities Ife center of Yoruba religion; Orisha-nla began to create the worldIfe center of Yoruba religion; Orisha-nla began to create the world

19 Yoruba Cosmology: Reality is divided into 2 separate worlds: heaven and earthReality is divided into 2 separate worlds: heaven and earth Heaven: home to the deities and ancestorsHeaven: home to the deities and ancestors Earth: home to human beings (descended from gods) and witches and sorcerers who must be controlledEarth: home to human beings (descended from gods) and witches and sorcerers who must be controlled

20 Purpose of the Yoruba Religion: “….to maintain the balance between the human beings of earth and the gods and ancestors of heaven, while guarding against the evil deeds of sorcerers and witches.” “….to maintain the balance between the human beings of earth and the gods and ancestors of heaven, while guarding against the evil deeds of sorcerers and witches.”

21 The Inhabitants of Heaven: Supreme god: OlorunSupreme god: Olorun Less powerful deities called orishasLess powerful deities called orishas AncestorsAncestors

22 Olorun, the High God: Primary source of powerPrimary source of power Original source of powerOriginal source of power Does not become involved in human affairsDoes not become involved in human affairs No shrines/rituals to him because he is a distant godNo shrines/rituals to him because he is a distant god

23 Orishas: Lesser deitiesLesser deities Function as mediators between humans and OlorunFunction as mediators between humans and Olorun Hundreds existHundreds exist Can help or harm humansCan help or harm humans Some worshipped by all; some by one familySome worshipped by all; some by one family Orisha-nal; OgunOrisha-nal; Ogun

24 Esu Dual nature both good and evilDual nature both good and evil Trickster figure: a mischievous supernatural being; disrupts the normal course of lifeTrickster figure: a mischievous supernatural being; disrupts the normal course of life Mediates between heaven and earthMediates between heaven and earth Has a place in every shrine and at every worshipHas a place in every shrine and at every worship

25 Ancestors of the Living: Deceased humans who have gained supernatural statusDeceased humans who have gained supernatural status Have sacred power that can hurt or helpHave sacred power that can hurt or help Worshipped like the orishasWorshipped like the orishas Family and deified ancestorsFamily and deified ancestors

26 Ritual Practitioners: Mediate between gods and ancestors and humansMediate between gods and ancestors and humans A specialistA specialist Diviners: specialized priests who practice divination (one’s future) ‏Diviners: specialized priests who practice divination (one’s future) ‏ Role passed from parent to childRole passed from parent to child Future is importantFuture is important

27 Religion of the North American Plains Indians

28 Background of the Plains People: Migrated from Asia nearly 30, 000 years agoMigrated from Asia nearly 30, 000 years ago First inhabitants of America: Native AmericansFirst inhabitants of America: Native Americans Plains encompass vast land mass from north and south from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico and east and west from the Mississippi to the Rockies.Plains encompass vast land mass from north and south from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico and east and west from the Mississippi to the Rockies. Lakota’s serve as a model of pan-Indian religionLakota’s serve as a model of pan-Indian religion 2 basic rituals: the vision quest & the sun dance2 basic rituals: the vision quest & the sun dance

29 The Lakota: Also known as the Western SiouxAlso known as the Western Sioux “sioux” pejorative for snake“sioux” pejorative for snake Defeated Custer and his troopsDefeated Custer and his troops Massacred at Wounded Knee, SDMassacred at Wounded Knee, SD 100,000 Lakota today100,000 Lakota today

30 Lakota Beliefs: Wakan Tanka, supreme realityWakan Tanka, supreme reality Means “Great Spirit” or “Great Mysterious”Means “Great Spirit” or “Great Mysterious” 16 separate deities16 separate deities 4 most sacred of numbers; 4 compass points4 most sacred of numbers; 4 compass points Myths important & explainMyths important & explain

31 Inktomi Lakota trickster figureLakota trickster figure Mediator between humans and supernaturalMediator between humans and supernatural Means “spider”Means “spider” Taught first humans customsTaught first humans customs Offers moral lessons to children and adultsOffers moral lessons to children and adults

32 Death and Afterlife: Believe that 4 souls depart at the time of deathBelieve that 4 souls depart at the time of death One follows the “spirit path” of the Milky WayOne follows the “spirit path” of the Milky Way Old woman judges it to continue or go backOld woman judges it to continue or go back Other souls enter unborn children and are rebornOther souls enter unborn children and are reborn

33 Vision Quest Common to primal religionsCommon to primal religions Primary means to gain spiritual powerPrimary means to gain spiritual power Both men and womenBoth men and women Supervised by a medicine man/womanSupervised by a medicine man/woman Gives instructionsGives instructions Interprets vision afterwardsInterprets vision afterwards

34 Purification Ritual: Common among Native American traditionsCommon among Native American traditions Dark, airtight, made of saplings and skinsDark, airtight, made of saplings and skins Represents the universeRepresents the universe Water sprinkled over heated stones to create steamWater sprinkled over heated stones to create steam purification; physical and spiritualpurification; physical and spiritual

35 The Vision Quest Quester goes off aloneQuester goes off alone Spends time without food or waterSpends time without food or water Endures the elementsEndures the elements Vision arrives to the quester in the form of an animal or form of natureVision arrives to the quester in the form of an animal or form of nature Message often part of the visionMessage often part of the vision

36 Interpreting the Vision Vision and message interpreted by the medicine manVision and message interpreted by the medicine man Great influence over the rest of their lifeGreat influence over the rest of their life Sometimes acquires a guardian spirit to protect and instructSometimes acquires a guardian spirit to protect and instruct Religious ritual and experienceReligious ritual and experience

37 The Sun Dance Benefits all of the members of the tribeBenefits all of the members of the tribe New Year celebration; buffalo hunt preparationNew Year celebration; buffalo hunt preparation Sacred leader presides; sometimes medicine man or womanSacred leader presides; sometimes medicine man or woman Honor and responsibility to leadHonor and responsibility to lead

38 Preparation for the Sun Dance Cottonwood tree selected, felled, and ritually placedCottonwood tree selected, felled, and ritually placed “Axis mundi” center of the universe“Axis mundi” center of the universe Connects heaven and earthConnects heaven and earth 28 poles representing the 28 days in a lunar month28 poles representing the 28 days in a lunar month Universe and 4 compass pointsUniverse and 4 compass points

39 Performing the Sun Dance Facing the sun while dancing (sun: life giving) ‏Facing the sun while dancing (sun: life giving) ‏ Music and drumbeat accompanyMusic and drumbeat accompany Dancers skewer chest until their flesh tearsDancers skewer chest until their flesh tears Body is the only possession; suitable sacrificeBody is the only possession; suitable sacrifice Was once outlawed by US; legal again and practiced todayWas once outlawed by US; legal again and practiced today


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