Chapter 2: Death in indigenous religions Flashcards Preview

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Flashcards in Chapter 2: Death in indigenous religions Deck (12)
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Define the psychic unity of humanity

  • all human beings, living in all times, and all cultures more or less have the same minds. Our cognitive equipment is the same therefore the difference is what is introduced to the cognitive equipment by culture.
  • his approach was couched in various forms of unfortunate Victorian/British exceptionalism
  • all human beings are alike due to our shared cognitive apparatus

Define Numinous


The feeling of the numinous (experience of spiritual presence): mysterium (the sense that something is strange, out of the ordinary), tremendum (provokes fear and trembling) et fascinans (fascination and compelled)


Define Tupilak


it was an avenging monster fabricated by a shaman by using various objects various objects such as animal parts (bone, skin, hair, sinew, etc.) and even parts taken from the corpses of children. The creature was given life by ritualistic chants. It was then placed into the sea to seek and destroy a specific enemy.


Define Shaman


Many, but not all, primal societies depend on specially trained people among them to communicate with the spirit world in order to resolve conflicts and ensure harmony between humans and non-humans, to negotiate the needs of humans when they conflict with the interests of other beings, and to protect the community from the harmful activities of evil spirits.


Define near death experience


The contemporary example used in class was Ebon Alexander’s book and experience, proof of heaven. He was in a deep coma and experienced the afterlife.


Define commensal community


a group of people that does rituals that include the dead ancestors to reaffirm bonds, the most common is by sharing food


Explain the role of affect in religion


Rudolph and otto and the idea of the holy. The feeling of the numinous (experience of spiritual presence): mysterium (the sense that something is strange, out of the ordinary), tremendum (provokes fear and trembling) et fascinans (fascination and compelled). What assumptions are being made by Otto? Monotheism


explain some of the common characteristics shared by many indigenous (Basilov)

  1. “Animation or spiritualization of the whole surrounding world in which human beings exist”
  2. “Belief in mutual all embracing connections in nature”
  3. “No separation from the surrounding world” (human beings are part of the natural world, our needs are fulfilled by and depend upon the surrounding world and this includes spirits)
  4. “the cosmos is accessible” (shamans (religious professionals) may be able to access a spiritual realm)
  5. “religion is a form of social consciousness”

explain Wari’ funeral practice


Background: cosmology. No hunting among the spirits, the peccary. The ancestors emerge from the realm of spirits as a peccary in order to provide support for the living in terms of food. Dichotomy between Wari (the people) and the Animals (relationship between the eaters and the eaten). They never allow the body to be alone after death someone is always holding or cradling the body.
Death and mourning: Symbolic: death of mourners –> ritual of piling with the dead body on top of the piling (the people on the bottom pass out due to heat and lack of oxygen)
Disembodiment of corpse (is now outlawed). Bodies were dismembered and the edible pieces were put into cooking pots. Most emotional part of the process.
Mortuary cannibalism (seen as a way of honoring the deceased not due to a lack of food). Mourning continues during consumption of the meat, not seen as disrespectful. The matter of the individuals body does not touch the ground in order to honour the body, and share it among the people and not the earth. What would be disrespectful is allowing the dead to be alone in the woods and consumed by nature (wolves, ants, biodegrading)
Dead relative–> generalized ancestor (through being consumed they can become an ancestor that provides food and support)
Affect: detachment from the dead and avoidance of grief. Once the person has been consumed all evidence of a person’s existence must be destroyed (homes- the timbers are used to cook the body, the name is no longer used it becomes taboo no one says it again)


Explain souls / spirits in indigenous religions


Multiplicity (In many indigenous religions there are multiple souls that exist within a human body, in different parts of the body ex. Inuit soul in the larynx and on the left side of the body)
Souls are described as being vulnerable to attack, disease or destruction
Mobility (soul can leave your body; this can be problematic because your soul has the potential to get lost)
Materiality (in the sense of having specific shapes, and being susceptible to various types of interventions


explain the Melpa understanding of souls


The spirits in this story have similarities with the Christian God. A story like this provides a compelling rationale for why you should do your sacrifices and honour the dead. Reinforces the idea of continued relationships with the dead.


Consider issues of terminology related to the study of primal / indigenous religions


The terms “elementary” and “primitive” assume an evolutionary progress, every aspect of human life and culture was building towards a cultural apex
Contemporary debate: “Primal religions” vs. “indigenous religions”. Perennialist vs. post modern usages
Perennial: common core of truth or meaning across religious cultures. These primal tradition
Indigenous: most often used in a post modern context, colonialism