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The Search for New Meaning

Wicca: Popularized by Gerald Gardner in the1950s. An amateur anthropologist who found and ... Wicca is a polytheistic religion with varying gods and goddesses. ...

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The Search for New Meaning

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  1. The Search for New Meaning What happens when small-scale societies are drawn into a larger, more complex world? What happens to their religion? Does it cease to exist, or does it adapt to survive?

  2. Change • Most religious practices will be conservative • A society’s belief system is often considered to be ancient and sacred. • Rituals, the repetition of the same, ensures that religious meaning is preserved. • Change is not often welcomed, but is necessary for a religious system to survive…

  3. Mechanisms for Change Nothing in this world is stagnant. Everything changes in one way or another. Think of the most permanent thing you can. Perhaps a mountain? The fact that humans breathe oxygen? The Sun? • In regards to culture, there are a few factors we can label as gentle agents of change… • Discovery: A new awareness of something that exists in the environment • Invention: When a person, using the technology at hand, comes up with a solution to a particular problem. • Diffusion: The apparent movement of cultural traits from one society to another. When two groups, such as those within a culture area, face similar problems, solutions that are developed in one group through discovery and invention might be adopted by the other. • Stimulus Diffusion: A new trait invented by a culture based upon a similar trait introduced by a neighboring culture.

  4. Mechanisms for Change cont. • There are also more intense agents of change, change that comes from economic/political/social control of one society over another… • Acculturation: The process whereby a culture received traits from a dominant society. • When two technologically unequal societies come into contact with each other, the subordinate society will experience change as traits are accepted from the dominant society. (Often at a rate that is too rapid to properly integrate the traits into the culture.) • Assimilation: A condition whereby a dominated culture has changed so much because of outside influences that it ceases to have its own distinct identity. • Ex: Many Native American groups • Syncretism: A fusing of traits from two cultures to form something new and yet permitting the retention of the old by subsuming the old into a new form. • Ex: Sarapis, Trobriand Cricket, The influence of “Western” culture (Coke, McDonald’s, Starbucks, Hollywood, etc.)

  5. Haitian Vodou An example of syncretism • Vodou is a concept often misunderstood in Western culture and conjures up images of evil, sorcery, dolls w/ pins, etc. • Ex: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9SSUQxGjZZ4 (Godsmack: Vodoo) • Arose in Haiti during the first half of the 19th century (~1804-1860) centered around the symbols of music, art and dance. • Chromolithographs: Color printed posters of the saints used by early priests who attempted to bring Christianity to Haitian slaves. Seen as symbolic of West African deities. • Mainly Yoruba(with some Fon, Kongo) beliefs of West Africa combined with Christian elements to form Vodou. • Vodou means “spirit” or “deity” in the Fon language. • Pantheon of deities called Lwaand are very similar to the Yoruba orisha that we have previously studied. 2 important sub-groups of Lwa: The Rada nanchon which are similar to the Yoruba gods, and the Petwo nanchon, aggressive/assertive gods born out of the slave experience. • Legba, or Papa Legba is the first Lwa to be contacted when trying to breach the threshold between the human and supernatural worlds. Same function as the Yoruba Orisha Esu-Elegba, but not so much of a trickster, rather seen as a more compassionate figure, hence the “Papa.” Papa Legba is often syncretised with the Catholic St. Peter (shown above). • Fon, Kongo and Yoruba beliefs of West Africa combine with Christian elements to form Vodou. • Vodou means “spirit” or “deity” in the Fon language. • Haiti: • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kpeLdXeIbwA&feature=related • Brooklyn and the diaspora (the movement of a population out of their homeland) • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zYWFL3Bj2LU&feature=related • Have pg. 247 (Table 11.1) open as a references while watching the above. Pay attention to mentions of “Legba” and “Gede”. The Lwa here are called spirits. Look for the Vede (sign) for Papa Legba (symbol shown here on the left).

  6. Santeria • Similar to Vodou. Developed in Cuba combining mostly Yoruba beliefs with Roman Catholicism. • Deities are, as in Yoruba religion, referred to as Orisha • “Santeria” name originally stemmed from a perceived over-concentration on the Saints (“San”). Proper name for the religion is Regla de Ocha or “Rule of the Orisha. • Similar to Vodou practitioners who refer to their religion as “serving the spirits” • Animal sacrifice is used in ritual, which has caused conflict between religious freedom and animal rights

  7. Revitalization movements • A movement that forms in an attempt to deliberately bring about change in a society • Usually occurs when a dominating culture overwhelms (politically, socially, economically) a subordinate one. • Introduction of items/technologies to the subordinate culture might mean the destruction of the culture and assimilation into the dominating culture. • If people from the subordinating culture survive, they are more often than not living on the fringes of the dominating society and are demoralized (their worldview, culture, mythology has either been destroyed or changed so radically as to be unrecognizable). • Revitalization movements then occur, including… • Nativistic Movements • A type of revitalization movement that develops in traditional societies that are threatened by the activities of more technologically advanced societies. These movements stress the elimination of the dominant culture and a return to the past, keeping the desirable elements of the dominant culture to which the society has been exposed, but with these elements now under the control of the subordinate culture. • Ex: The Ghost Dance (1890) (Wavoka, Nevada Pauite, Lakota Sioux, South Dakota Massacre at Wounded Knee) • Revivalistic Movements • A type of revitalization movement that Attempts to revive what is often perceived of as a past golden age in which ancient customs come to symbolize the noble features and legitimacy of the repressed culture. • Ex: Celtic revival Ireland • Millenarian Movements • A type of revitalization movement that envisions change through an apocalyptic transformation • Ex: Unarians (see later slide) • Ex: Branch Davidians (Students of the Seven Seals): An example of a Millenarian group. Begun in 1940s by Victor Houteff a branch of the 7th Day Adventists. Secret information about the return of Jesus, contained in a scroll with 7 seals, hence the name. Vernon Howell (“David Koresh”) believed that the apocalypse would come soon with an assault on the Branch Davidians. They stockpiled weapons for this event. 1993, Waco Texas Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms decided to arresh Koresh on the grounds of illegally possessing these weapons. Thinking the apocalypse had come, a gunfight broke out, lasting 51 days. In the end 71 Branch Davidians (21 children) died due to fires. • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Er7gzj0BbSE • Messianic Movments • A type of revitalization movement that is based on the appearance of a divine savior in human form who will bring about the solution to the problems that exist within the society. • Ex: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormonism): Founded in early 19th century by Joseph Smith (1804-1844). Smith was a Prophet who received a message from Jesus and the angel Moroni (hence “Mormonism”) that all the various versions of Christianity cropping up were all in error. Smith would then go on pen the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ based on golden tablets on which were written supposed supplements to biblical history. Brigham Young would later take over the cult (his accession based also on prophecy) and moved the group to Utah. • Ex: Cargo Cults (late 19th century-end of WWII in Melanesia) “Cargo” made by ancestors, U.S. military had somehow intercepted the goods meant for the Melanesians. Cults emerged based on prophets who had foreseen how to control the cargo. Rituals were developed that mimicked activities of the soldiers (marching with sticks over their shoulder, marking on paper, wearing European clothes.) When these rituals failed, groups went so far as to destroy sacred objects, crops and food sources, thinking that cargo would not arrive for them as long as they had these items. Results were tragic. • 50 years ago: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qmlYe2KS0-Y&feature=related • Present day: acculturation has occurred, still keep rituals of original cult, but the mood is no longer desperate: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YfSC6RDyVA0&feature=related

  8. Neo-Paganism and Revival • Neopaganism: pre-Christian religious traditions that have been revived and are practiced in contemporary times. A revivalistic movement. • Wicca: Popularized by Gerald Gardner in the1950s. An amateur anthropologist who found and joined a coven of witches who he believed to be one of the last from a line of pre-Christian movements. • Wicca is a polytheistic religion with varying gods and goddesses. Gender equality is stressed. Rituals and holidays often Celtic in nature.http://video.nationalgeographic.com/video/player/places/culture-places/beliefs-and-traditions/uk_wicca.html • An Athame (ritual knife) and a Chalice are used in ceremonies to represent the balance of male/female. • Magic is used, but only for good, unlike in Satanism.

  9. New Religious Movements • Denomination vs. Sect vs. Cult • Denomination:A religious group that differs on just a few points from the mainstream religion • Ex: Within Christianity: Baptists, Presbyterians, Catholics, Lutherans, etc. • Sect:A new branch of a mainstream religion, usually involving new revelations, new scriptures, and a new leader • Ex: Mormons (from Christianity) • Ex: Unification Church (“Moonies”):Founder Sun Myung Moon 1954 Seoul, Korea. Goal is to unite all Christian denominations. The Divine Principle contains “new truths” as revealed through Rev. Moon and serves as the cult’s main literature. Moon and his wife alternately seen by members as the “Spiritual Parents” of humanity. • Cult: • Historical meaning: A particular form or system of religious worship. • Used to describe a small, recently created, and spiritually innovative group, often with a single charismatic leader. However… • Connotations of the term include that the leader is evil, is in total control of his followers, and believes that the end of the world is imminent. These allegations usually in reaction to a religion classified as a… • High Demand Religion:A religious group in which much is demanded of members in terms of strict adherence to rules for thought and behavior • Ex: Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Heaven’s Gate

  10. UFO Religions • Usually see Extraterrestrials as advanced spiritual beings that have come to help humanity in some way. • Heaven’s Gate: Founded by Marshall Applewhite and Bonnie Nettles. Lived in a communal house in San Diego. Believed the soul was a superior entity to the body. Spiritually evolved individuals would be taken to join the ranks of extraterrestrials who were coming to Earth, hidden in the tail of the Hale-Bopp comet. March 1997, mass-suicide of 21 men and 18 women. • Documentary about the group right after the above event: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MYZD7Y-PDEk&feature=related (7 min.) • Raelians: Founded in 1973 by Claude Vorlihon “Rael” • Unarians: An example of a Millenarian movement. Founded by Ernest and Ruth Norman in LA, 1954. An apocalyptic event, extraterrestrials will provide knowledge and spiritual salvation for humanity. Along with Raelians, often accused of becoming the next “Heaven’s Gate” • Unarius Academy of Science • From www.unarius.org “The Unarius Educational Foundation provides information about the evolutionary design of life, the physics describing the mind and brain/body system, explaining the nature of consciousness substantiated by an interdimensional science of life…The founders laid down a bridge that is a cosmic link to the Space Brothers. Unarius, an acronym for Universal Articulate Interdimensional Understanding of Science is dedicated to exploring the frontiers of science and expanding our awareness and connection with galactic intelligence. The Unarius Science of Life teaching is the basis of the galactic intelligence of advanced, intelligent persons.” • Not UFO religions: • Universalists, Unitarians, Unification Church (Moonies)

  11. Fundamentalism • A religious movement characterized by a return to fundamental principles, usually including a resistance to modernization and an emphasis on certainty through a literal interpretation of scriptures. • Characterized by: • Totalism:The belief that religion is relevant to, and should be a part of, all parts of a society. • Scripturalism:The practice of justifying beliefs and actions by reference to the religious text. These texts are generally held to be inerrant and represent certainty and stability in a rapidly changing world. • Traditioning:The idea that religious texts are relevant to life today • Example (not in book): Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints • This community at the Yearning for Zion ranch in Texas practices polygamy, originally sanctioned and encouraged by Joseph Smith (founder of Mormonism). An example of a High Demand Religion. • In the last few months has garnered much media interest due to accusations of a sex offenses against minors, mainly by its behind bars leader Warren Jeffs. There was a State raid on the ranch, where all the children (~450) were removed from their parents… • Most up-to-date coverage from CNN here: http://topics.cnn.com/topics/fundamentalist_church_of_jesus_christ_of_latter_day_saints • Charges against Warren Jeffs: http://www.cnn.com/2007/US/law/09/12/jeffs.walkup/index.html#cnnSTCVideo • History of raids at the Yearning for Zion ranch: http://www.cnn.com/2008/CRIME/04/10/polygamist.towns/index.html#cnnSTCVideo • Fallout from raid, interview with community mothers: http://www.cnn.com/2008/CRIME/04/28/flds.openness/index.html#cnnSTCVideo • Freedom of religion vs. human rights?

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