Spirits • A supernatural being that is less powerful than a god and is usually more localized; often one of a collection of nonindividualized supernatural beings that are not given specific names and identities. • Spirits are very much involved in humanly affairs and can have a negative or positive influence. • Spirits also reside in the human world, and are often seen as inhabiting natural or man-made objects. • Ireland, Brittish Isles • Leprechaun, Fairy • Statues and Shrines • A shrine is an object or building that contains sacred objects or is associated with a venerated person or deity • Ex:: Fairy Circle • Ex: Aten temple, Akhenaten • Japan • Kami, Obake (bakemono) or “a thing that changes”, and Yokai (usually has some sort of supernatural power) • Hayao Miyasaki Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, Howl’s Moving Castle • Spirited Awayclip (in-class) • Princess Mononokeclip (Japanese): http://www.tudou.com/programs/view/oAOaRNLEpns/ (57:00 – 65:00 min) • Keane and Kami: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mIuk2fVyXwA
Jinn A spirit being created of fire without smoke. 1 of 3 types of beings (Jinn, humans, angels) described in the Qur’an. When visible, can alter shape and features at will. Like humans in that they can be good or bad, have different personalities, get married, have families A person can form an alliance with a jinn, gaining supernatural powers in the process Ex: Genii from Arabian Nights stories Anthropological study: Jinn of the Hofriyat village Black Jinn: Possession leads to serious illness and sometimes, death. Red Jinn (Zairan pl., Zarsing.): cause illness. Of different cultures and ethnic groups. Can be good/bad, have diff. behaviors, but tend to be amoral and easily lead by emotions, fickle. A Zarmay possess members of the community, usually women of childbearing age. Possession is lifelong and women will attend possession ceremonies, wear clothing and eat a specific diet designed to pacify the Zar. The woman will therefore maintain a “cure” and the Zarwill gain access to the human world. Christian Angels and Demons Angles:In Christianity, Judaism and Islam mediators between humanity and God. Often represented as agents of revelation, executors of divine will or as witnesses to divine activity. Besides Ghosts, Angels are most highly popular supernatural entities in American Culture. Demons: An evil spirit being Demons and Satan rebelled against God and were cast out of heaven Closely associated with human evil, Hell, and Adam/Eve’s casting out of The Garden of Eden In Catholicism, they are those that are cast out during Exorcism. The 2005 film, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, about the demonic possession of a young woman, was based on Anneliese Michel: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x4n9vK0_mdk Modern Philippines ex: http://video.nationalgeographic.com/video/player/places/culture-places/beliefs-and-traditions/philippines_exorcism.html 15th-17th Century Europe/America Witchcraze: Incubi: Male demons who have sex with human women while they sleep, resulting in the birth of demons, witches and deformed children. Succubae: Female demons who have sex with human men while they sleep, resulting in damnation of the men’s souls. Spirits cont.
Gods • An individual supernatural being, with… • a distinctive name and personality • control or influence of a major aspect of nature that encompasses the life of an entire community or a major segment of the community • Gods are Anthropomorphic • Non-human entities that are made to resemble humans in physical appearance and behavior. • Creator Gods and Otiose Gods • Creator God: Responsible for the creation of the physical earth and the plants and animals that live on it. • Often very powerful and at the top of the God hierarchy. • Also, can be many Creator Gods in a hierarchy, responsible for the creation of specific types of plants, animals, geological features, humans. • Ex: • Olodumare (Yoruba) who dwells in the heaven/sky • Gnostic Demiurge and the God of the Old Testament • Otiose God: A remote God who is too uninterested in human activity to participate in human fate. • Categorizes Creator Gods who withdraw themselves from humanity after time of creation. • Ex: • Olorun (Yoruba) the source of all supernatural power but can only be contacted through the Orisha (intermediary gods like Esu) • The all-encompassing, all-powerful concept of Ntr (netcher) in Ancient Egypt
God Theory • Functionalist Approach • Èmile Durkheim • Religious symbolism marks as sacred important institutions of human society that are necessary for the group’s survival. • Loyalty, respect, obligation, hierarchy, etc. found in human society mirrored in the activities of the gods. Roles (brother/sister/father/mother/) also reflected in the gods. • Robin Horton • Supernatural beings function to extend the realm of social relations. • Lesser gods associated with interpretations of events occurring in the local area • High god associated with interpreting world events that relate to the local area • The more contact with other societies, the more necessary that this High god has traits that are in league with perceived human universals. • Ex: Incoming Spanish conquistadors to Mayan society. • Ex: Roman pantheon gods to absorbing traits of local deities to create a unifying religion within the expanding Roman empire. • Nature of gods depend on how one acquires status in society. • Ascribed status (status is given/handed down, i.e. gender, family line) • Focus is more on lesser gods who focus on local issues within the community. • Achieved status (Based upon an individual’s personal achievements) • Personal success and failure a reference to a high god who rules over a wider realm. • Psychosocial Approach • Sigmund Freud • Gods as anthropomorphic entities that take on attributes of parents. Symbolic of the relationship between parents and children. • If parents are punitive so are gods; if parents are indulgent, so are gods.
Polytheism • The belief in many gods • Pantheon: A collection of gods within a polytheistic religious system • Supreme God: The head of the gods within a pantheon • Ex: Zeus, Jupiter, Amun, Isis and Osiris • Attribute Gods: Gods who rule over a narrowly defined domain • Associated with specific activities such as; forces of nature, human fertility and the human life cycle, economic activities and war. • Ex: Ares, Artemis Table 9.1 pg. 205. • Famous Gods? • Famous Goddesses?
Monotheism • The belief in one god • “Big 3”: Christianity, Judaism, Islam • Must reconcile God as being… • Omnipotent (all powerful) • Omniscient (all-knowing) • Omnibenevolent (all-good) • Questions such as: How can there exist an Omniscient God alongside human free will? How about an Omnibenevolent God with the existence of evil?
Atheism and Agnosticism • Atheism (literally, no God): Disbelief in or denial of the existence of God or gods. • Historical meaning: Not accepting the current conception of the divine. • 16th century (Europe): used as an insult to describe someone who did not agree with you about the nature of God. At this time, there was no separation of (some sort of) God/gods from day to day living. • This was before The Enlightenment, before Science became a substitute for religion in Western lives. • 18th century and the Enlightenment • Separation of Church and State, advent of the Scientific Method. God was seen as a fact of life that could be examined in much the same way as the natural world. • Concept of God was not rejected outright, but rather the anthropomorphism attached to God was rejected. • Atheist was becoming less of an insult and more a badge of intellect and learning. • Agnosticism (literally, knowledge not attainable): The question of the existence of a god is unsolvable, unprovable. • Compare to Gnosis: direct experiential knowledge of the supernatural or divine.
Additional terms to know • Avatar What it really means… • From the root word “descent” in Arabic • The incarnation or embodiment of a god in human form • Ex: Zeus, Ishtar • Misogynistic • Characterized by a hatred of women • An accusation leveled at modern (circa 3,000ish B.C.E. onward) Western religion as a whole.