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  1. !Kung Myth & Religion Definitions !Kung Ritual and Healing !Kung Art Future of the !Kung

  2. Myth and Religion Definitions • Religion is defined, following Wallace, as belief and ritual concerned with supernatural beings, powers, and forces. • So defined, religion is a cultural universal.

  3. Kinds of Religion • Religious forms vary from culture to culture but there are correlations between political organization and religious type. • Religious Practitioners and Types • Wallace defined religion as consisting of all a society’s cult institutions (rituals and associated beliefs), and developed four categories from this: • Shamanic religions shamans are part-time religious intermediaries who may act as curers--these religions are most characteristic of foragers. • Communal religions have shamans, community rituals, multiple nature gods, and are more characteristic of food producers than foragers. • Olympian religions first appeared with states, have full-time religious specialists whose organization may mimic the states, have potent anthropomorphic gods who may exist as a pantheon. • Monotheistic religions have all the attributes of Olympian religions, except that the pantheon of gods is subsumed under a single eternal, omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent being.

  4. Origins, Functions, and Expressions of Religion • Neanderthal mortuary remains provide the earliest evidence of what probably was religious activity. • Animism • Tylor first studied religion anthropologically, and developed a taxonomy of religions. • Animism was seen as the most primitive, and is defined as a belief in souls that derives from the first attempt to explain dreams and like phenomena. • Mana and Taboo • Mana is defined as belief in an immanent supernatural domain or life-force, potentially subject to human manipulation. • The Polynesian and Melanesian concepts of mana are contrasted. • Melanesian mana is defined as a sacred impersonal force that is much like the Western concept of luck. • Polynesian mana and the related concept of taboo are related to the more hierarchical nature of Polynesian society.

  5. Magic and Religion • Magic refers to supernatural techniques intended to accomplish specific aims. • Magic may be imitative (as with voodoo dolls) or contagious (accomplished through contact). • Anxiety, Control, Solace • Magic is an instrument of control, but religion serves to provide stability when no control or understanding is possible. • Malinowski saw tribal religions as being focused on life crises.

  6. Rituals & Rites of Passage • Rituals • Rituals are formal, performed in sacred contexts. • Rituals convey information about the culture of the participants and, hence, the participants themselves. • Rituals are inherently social, and participation in them necessarily implies social commitment. • Rites of Passage • Rites of passage are religious rituals which mark and facilitate a persons movement from one (social) state of being to another (e.g. Plains Indians’ vision quests).

  7. Rites of passage have three phases: • Separation – the participant(s) withdraws from the group and begin moving from one place to another. • Liminality – the period between states, during which the participant(s) has left one place but has not yet, entered the next. • Liminality is part of every rite of passage, and involves the temporary suspension and even reversal of everyday social distinctions. • Incorporation – the participant(s) reenters society with a new status having completed the rite. • Communitas refers to collective liminality, characterized by enhanced feelings of social solidarity and minimized distinctions.

  8. Totemism • Rituals play an important role in creating and maintaining group solidarity. • In totemic societies, each descent group has an animal, plant, of geographical feature from which they claim descent. • Totems are the apical ancestors of clans. • The members of a clan did not kill or eat their totem, except once a year when the members of the clan gathered for ceremonies dedicated to the totem. • Totemism is a religion in which elements of nature act as sacred templates for society by means of symbolic association. • Totemism uses nature as a model for society. • Each descent group has a totem, which occupies a specific niche in nature. • Social differences mirror the natural order of the environment. • The unity of the human social order is enhanced by symbolic association with and imitation of the natural order.

  9. Religion and Cultural Ecology • Sacred Cattle in India • Ahimsa is the Hindu doctrine of nonviolence that forbids the killing of animals. • Western economic development experts often use this principle as an example of how religion can stand in the way of development. • Hindus seem to irrationally ignore a valuable food source (beef). • Hindus also raise scraggly and thin cows, unlike the bigger cattle of Europe and the U.S. • These views are ethnocentric and wrong as cattle play an important adaptive role in an Indian ecosystem that has evolved over thousands of years • Hindus use cattle for transportation, traction, and manure. • Bigger cattle eat more, making them more expensive to keep.

  10. Social Control • The power of religion affects action. • Religion can be used to mobilize large segments of society through systems of real and perceived rewards and punishments. • Witch hunts play an important role in limiting social deviancy in addition to functioning as leveling mechanisms to reduce differences in wealth and status between members of society. • Many religions have a formal code of ethics that prohibit certain behavior while promoting other kinds of behavior. • Religions also maintain social control by stressing the fleeting nature of life.

  11. Religion and Change • Revitalization Movements • Religious movements that act as mediums for social change are called revitalization movements. • The colonial-era Iroquois reformation led by Handsome Lake is an example of a revitalization movement. • Syncretisms • A syncretism is a cultural mix, including religious blends that emerge when two or more cultural traditions come into contact. • Examples include voodoo, santeria, and candomlé. • The cargo cults of Melanesia and Papua New Guinea are syncretism of Christian doctrine with aboriginal beliefs. • Syncretisms often emerge when traditional, non-Western societies have regular contact with industrialized societies.

  12. Secular Rituals • A Pilgrimage to Walt Disney World • Walt Disney World functions much like a sacred shrine, which is a major pilgrimage destination • It has an inner, sacred center surrounded by an outer more secular domain. • Parking lot designations are distinguished with totemlike images of the Disney cast of characters. • The monorail provides travelers with a brief liminal period as they cross between the outer, secular world into the inner, sacred center of the Magic Kingdom. • Within the Magic Kingdom • Spending time in the Magic Kingdom reaffirms, maintains, and solidifies the world of Disney as all of the pilgrims share a common status as visitors while experience the same adventures. • Most of the structures and attractions at the Magic Kingdom are designed to reaffirm and recall a traditional set of American values. • Recognizing Religion • It is difficult to distinguish between sacred and secular rituals as behavior can simultaneously have sacred and secular aspects. • Americans try to maintain a strict division between the sacred and the profane, but many other societies like the Betsileo do not.

  13. African Bushmen Creation Myth People did not always live on the surface of the earth. At one time people and animals lived underneath the earth with Kaang (Käng), the Great Master and Lord of All Life. In this place people and animals lived together peacefully. They understood each other. No one ever wanted for anything and it was always light even though there wasn't any sun. During this time of bliss Kaang began to plan the wonders he would put in the world above.

  14. First Kaang created a wondrous tree, with branches stretching over the entire country. At the base of the tree he dug a hole that reached all the way down into the world where the people and animals lived. • After he had finished furnishing the world as he pleased he led the first man up the hole. He sat down on the edge of the hole and soon the first woman came up out of it. Soon all the people were gathered at the foot of the tree, awed by the world they had just entered. • Next, Kaang began helping the animals climb out of the hole. In their eagerness some of the animals found a way to climb up through the tree's roots and come out of the branches. They continued racing out of the world beneath until all of the animals were out.

  15. Kaang gathered all the people and animals about him. He instructed them to live together peacefully. Then he turned to the men and women and warned them not to build any fires or a great evil would befall them. They gave their word and Kaang left to where he could watch his world secretly. • As evening approached the sun began to sink beneath the horizon. The people and animals stood watching this phenomenon, but when the sun disappeared fear entered the hearts of the people. They could no longer see each other as they lacked the eyes of the animals which were capable of seeing in the dark. They lacked the warm fur of the animals also and soon grew cold. • In desperation one man suggested that they build a fire to keep warm. Forgetting Kaang's warning they disobeyed him. They soon grew warm and were once again able to see each other.

  16. However the fire frightened the animals. They fled to the caves and mountains and ever since the people broke Kaang's command people have not been able to communicate with animals. Now fear has replaced the seat friendship once held between the two groups. • The Bushmen of Africa believe that not only are plants and animals alive, but also rain, thunder, the wind, spring, etc. They claim: • What we see is only the outside form or body. Inside is a living spirit that we cannot see. These spirits can fly out of one body into another. For example, a woman's spirit might sometime fly into a leopard; or a man's spirit fly into a lion's body.

  17. Religious Beliefs • High God • Kaang (Käng) • Sometimes depicted as an elephant. • Lesser God • Trickster God (Praying Mantis) • Animal Spirits • Luck and Misfortune • Success and Failure

  18. Trancing • Summoning the forces of life, a man or woman dances in a circle of clapping, singing people. • After some hours he/she will fall into a trance, then rise to heal the sick. • Besides treating physical illnesses, the “trance dance” traditionally was used to heal spiritual sicknesses, which, it was believed, led to conflicts and broken relationships. • Such healing power allowed Bushmen to live together peacefully under harsh, stressful conditions.

  19. Healing Dance • The San people have few medicines and generally use dancing and ceremonies to cure illness and ailments. • This involves dancing near a sacred fire. In this dance, the spiritual leaders, which are diviners and healers, dance around the fire until they are in a trance-like state, when they believe they receive the power to heal. • They then attempt to pull out the invisible arrows affecting the person they are healing. When they reach this state they are able to heal large numbers of people at one time.

  20. Healing • Despite the lack of medicines, the San people generally live long and healthy lives. • However, lung infections and skin diseases are a constant threat. • Kwashiorkor is also a serious threat. This is a result of a lack of protein in the San’s diet. Kwashiorkor causes anemia, weakness, hair loss and an extended belly. It occurs exclusively in children.

  21. //Gangwasi • Concept that the dead come back to bother people and cause sickness and death. • Why? Longing for living. • Healers in trance talk to the dead and try to convince them to leave the live person alone. When the dead won’t “hear” them the sickness gets worse and the individual dies.

  22. Art • The Rock Art of the San (Bushmen) people of Southern Africa has been described as one of humankind’s greatest treasures from the past. • It is found over a large area of Southern Africa and more than 15 000 sites occur in South Africa alone. The discovery of fragments of rock art – dated at more than 26 000 years old – suggest that southern African rock art is one of the longest continuous art traditions in the world. • This priceless heritage – as depicted in the collection of the Centre for Indigenous Knowledge of the University of Pretoria – is a valuable aid to understanding the spiritual search of the San people.

  23. Art & Religion • San religion and mythology are of significance in interpreting rock art. • The rock artists depicted human and animal subjects; handprints and a range of geometric designs were often added to enhance the meaning. • Later visitors often interacted with images by scratching or rubbing them. For the San, rock art images marked places of access to supernatural spiritual power.

  24. Hunting • The San believe that when an eland dies, supernatural energy is released that may be accessed or harnessed by the shaman priests to perform services such as healing and rain making. • They would dance around the animal and sing eland songs to invite the eland spirit to enter their bodies. Such a scene is depicted in this superb, upside-down eland body.

  25. Ritual • So important was the eland that it features significantly in the rituals performed at initiation ceremonies. • When a young boy hunts his first eland he is considered to be ‘of age’. Since this is such an important event, certain rites are performed to ensure his safe transition to a new stage of life. • When an eland has been killed, the skin is stretched out on the sand. The young man is invited to take his place on the skin while the other members of the group dance around him and make eland footprints all around the skin, using the dismembered eland hooves. • This is a symbolic gesture which means that whichever direction the young person should choose to move out towards, from the focal point of the outstretched eland, he would move across the path of the eland, since one’s spirit, and that of animals, lingers within your footprints.

  26. Two San people painted in profile and gracefully elongated, not only for aesthetic reasons but also probably displaying the visual distortion experienced as a result of the trance experience. • Objects seem attenuated and weightless, almost floating, as depicted here. • The one figure bends forward, possibly in a dancing position, or else as a result of the abdominal muscle contractions experienced during the initial stages of trance. • The figures display details of hunting equipment but the string of the bow, which was painted in a lighter colour, cannot be discerned due to the age of the artwork. The decorative detail of the leather aprons, as well as the tassles of the headdress and the short shoulder wrap are all carefully depicted.

  27. This rock painting of Nguni cattle being herded by a San hunter forms part of a larger narrative depiction and reveals a fascinating number of contrasts and contradictions. • Traditionally the San were hunter-gatherers who did not keep cattle. A number of interpretations of the scene depicted here come to mind, the first being that this scene relates to a frontier situation, where San people and early pastoralists lived in harmony and where the San were known to have assisted in cattle herding in exchange for certain goods. • There are, however, many rock art depictions that illustrate times of strife, for instance when the need for grazing for cattle herds threatened the San’s natural food supply. • Also note the hunting bag carried over the shoulder of the hunter, where the bow and arrow can clearly be seen in profile.

  28. Future of !Kung

  29. What problems do they face? • The Bushmen had their homelands invaded by cattle herding Bantu tribes from around 1,500 years ago, and by white colonists over the last few hundred years. • From that time they faced discrimination, eviction from their ancestral lands, murder and oppression amounting to a massive though unspoken genocide, which reduced them in numbers from several million to 100,000. • Today, although all suffer from a perception that their lifestyle is 'primitive' and that they need to be made to live like the majority cattle-herding tribes, specific problems vary according to where they live. • In South Africa, for example, the !Khomani now have most of their land rights recognised, but many other Bushman tribes have no land rights at all. • The Gana (G//ana) and Gwi (G/wi) tribes in Botswana's Central Kalahari Game Reserve are among the most persecuted – they have no ownership rights over their land, and the Botswana government has in fact been trying to force them off their ancestral land for the last 16 years. • In 1997, many were forcibly evicted from their homes in the Kalahari desert, and those that remain have faced drastic restrictions in their hunting rights, torture and routine harassment. In the latest move to drive them out, the Botswana government has announced that it is cutting off all water supplies to Gana and Gwi communities in the reserve.

  30. Quotes • I do not want this place. It is foreign to me. My land is in there [the reserve]. I would rather die there than live here.Bushman, New Xade, May 2002 • We want to live in our land and to choose the way we want to live. Roy Sesana, April 2002 • I am feeling very sad. We were created by God on the land of our fathers and their forefathers – it is our ancestral home. The government has treated us unfairly. We were not given any choice about moving out.Molatlhwe Mokakale, April 2002 • Now we have to leave our graveyards and go. The government sees no problem with taking us out of our ancestral lands and putting us somewhere else. Our Bushman culture and our social living is destroyed, there is no respect for any of those things, there is no democracy for us. Roy Sesana, October 2001 • The government said I must leave Molapo because there’s eland here, diamonds here and other things here. I think the government tells me to leave so others will enjoy the riches of this land. But I'm going to stay because those things are mine, not the government's. Gakeitsiwe Gaorapelwe, Molapo, October 2001 • This place is not for the wildlife department. It is my father's father's father's land.Bushman woman, Molapo, October 2001

  31. Uncharted Africa Bushman Safaris, Botswana Uncharted Africa is unique in its pioneering efforts to work with the Bushman communities to provide a dignified and culturally sensitive experience.  The company has worked closely with The First People of the Kalahari, the Bushman pressure group that has been affiliated to the United Nations for many years. Uncharted Africa Safari Company offers an incredible opportunity to experience a dignified and sensitive Bushman safari. For many years, it has not been possible to offer a genuine non-patronising Bushman experience due to the threat of exploitation.  Now, the Bushman people themselves in conjunction with Uncharted Africa Safari Company offers a fascinating insight into their unique way of life, now almost extinct.  These are 4 to 7 night tailor made safaris You will be flown into the nearest Airstrip and transferred by land cruiser to a remote mobile camp site on the Namibian border at Xai

  32. Solutions?? • Botswana has a history of good governance rare in Africa. However, its aim is now the very backward one of integrating the Bushmen into the 'mainstream' and ending their way of life. • The government must halt its violations of Bushman rights, and allow them to live in peace, in a way of their own choosing. • The authorities must prevent officials from assaulting Bushmen. • The right of the Bushmen to hunt the game on which they depend must be recognized. • The right of the Bushmen to own communally the lands they live on and use within the Central Kalahari Game Reserve must be recognized. • Services on which the Bushmen now depend – health care, water and food supplies – should be maintained.

  33. How you can help • Send a brief, polite letter or fax to the President of the Republic in Botswana.  State that you are concerned about the Bushmen of the Kalahari and what must be done to preserve their rights and their culture. • The Hon F G Mogae President of the Republic Private Bag 001 Gaborone Botswana Fax: + 267 356 086 Begin: 'Your Excellency' • Send a copy of your letter to the Director of Wildlife and National Parks in Botswana: • Mr Matlhare Director of Wildlife and National Parks PO Box 131 Gaborone Botswana • Sign the online petition for the rights of the Kalahari Bushmen on the Survival website, at

  34. Spread the word!   • Tell your friends and family about the Kalahari Bushmen and the problems they face.  • Visit , the website of Survival International. • This organisation is dedicated to defending the rights of tribal societies all over the world.