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Flashcards in Religious Authorities Deck (19)
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Max Weber's 3 types of religious authorities

1) charismatic
- a persons charisma and ability to motivate
- ex: the pope, cult leaders, prophets (Jesus)

2) traditional
- authority that is tied to tradition and custom
- ex: Kings, Muslim Khalif's

3) legal-rational
- based on formalized rules, regulations, and laws
- ex: imams


what are religious specialists

- religious specialists have the ability to communicate with the supernatural world (they mediate between our world and the supernatural world)

- multiple terms to describe religious specialists (cannot generalize functions of religious specialists)

- 2 major categories: shaman and priests
(not mutually exclusive categories, can share qualities - on a spectrum)


what is shamanism

- refers to techniques used by specific kinds of religious specialists

- can be found in a variety of cultures and religions

- the term shaman originates from the Tungus language of Central Siberia (there, shamans use handheld drums and spirit helpers to heal the sick, divination, and hunting)


Common features of shaman

- communicate with supernatural through trance or ASC
- use of spirit helpers
- use culturally specific symbols and paraphernalia in rituals


characteristics of shaman

- mainly part time religious specialists
- mainly operates in small scale societies
- they are chosen by the spirit world (receive their calling through a dream, trance, illness)
- they receive their power and abilities directly from the spirt world (communication with the supernatural world may be conducted through trance or other ASC)


roles and rituals of shaman

ritual for supernatural communication: establishing and maintaining contact with their "spirit familiar" or "spirit helpers" including animal spirits
- success lies in their ability to 1) successfully establish contact and 2) maintain control over the experience - not in the ritual itself

ability to enter and remain in control of ASC
- in this state, with the assistance of spirt helpers, a shaman is able to manipulate the natural world, treat illness or cause illness, and divine the future
- in this case where the illness is caused by "soul loss" shaman recaptures the patients soul


becoming a shaman

- selected: chosen by the spirits
- hear a calling: receive the call in a dream, trance, or an induced altered state of consciousness (the call usually happens during periods of stress or illness)
- tested: candidate is tested by the spirits, and in a sense, must die before they can be reborn a shaman (death, transformation, rebirth)
- training: they will train with an older shaman, learning knowledge and how to use their gifts (learn to enter in an ASC and control their experience to manipulate the supernatural)


roles and rituals of shaman

shamanic rituals can be public or private
- many use theatrical techniques (drumming, singing, dancing, costumes, ventriloquism, sleight of hand)

shamans travel to the spirit world through ASC by ay of axis mundi
- Axis Mundi: central axis linking our world with the higher and lower realms
- in art and ritual, depicted as a tree, ladder, or a pole

this journey is linker to the shaman ability to transform
- into animals, other beings, other genders a


Pentecostal healers

- like shaman they, they enter ASC to heal participants (achieved through rhythmic speech and music)
- participants are encouraged to dance, shout, cry, run up and down the aisles as part of the healing ritual
- healing rituals is known as "laying on of hands"
- Holy Spirit is believed to possess both the preacher and the participant (convulsion or speaking in tongues - Glossolalia)
- Pentecostal Preachers report hearing "the call" similar to shamans



- full time religious specialists that are often associated with a religious institution
- found in larger, complex, industrialized societies
- they represent a particular ideology and moral authority
- held to high standards


priests: roles and rituals

represent their community in their dealings with supernatural authorities

responsible for performing rituals
- must have knowledge of how to perform rituals and why they are important
- this is more important that achieving/controlling ASC
- periodic rituals, rites of passage, crisis rituals, occasional rituals

rituals are usually performed in a space that is considered sacred
- often a community space

priests reinforce existing belief systems
- social rites of intensification
- birth, death, marriage, sabbath etc


characteristics of priests

- increases focus on memorization and knowledge of sacred narratives
- formal training - high degree of specialization
- priesthood may be an inherited right/responsibility
(priestly lineages such as the Levites of Hebrew Bible of the Brahmins caste in Hinduism)
- other elect to become a priest for many reasons
(sense of purpose, divine calling, means to an end, escaping marriage)
- becoming a priest or priestess is seen as a rite of passage - Ordination
(new role with responsibilities)
- Hierarchies


Okinawan Priestesses

- Okinawa, Japan
- religion influenced by Shinto, Buddhism, and Taoism
- only known society in which women lead a mainstream, official, publicly funded religion
- Kami as spiritual leaders


Kaminchu (priestesses)

- chief position inherited from mother (duty)
- undergoes minor illness or bodily rupture
- embodies a particular Kami associated with the clan


Yuta (shaman)

- reluctant to take on role as Yuta
- undergoes serious psychological, physical, or social dysfunction
- after becoming a social outcast, they heal themselves and now able to heal others


other religious specialists

on the priest and shaman spectrum:
1) herbalists
2) diviners
3) prophets



specialists that use plant and other materials to heal and cure



- someone who specializes in divination
- divination: supernatural techniques for obtaining information about things known, including future events
- card readers, tea leaf readers, ASC



- mouthpiece of God(s)
- obligated to communicate divine messages to the common people
- can have special shaman like abilities
- divination, healing, manipulation of nature