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 Away clip: Bathhouse Spirits (3:20-5:30min.): • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SdJfMj4Hb9c • River God: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ErDogte0Ls • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lpuF3sj9ZvU (until 3:20min) • Princess Mononoke clip http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7fwS929hejI • Keane and Kami: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hmXY2MSrguE
Spirits cont. • 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., Zar sing.): 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 Zar may 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 Zar will 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 Exorcism of Emily Rose clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B0I3SAizRbk • Based on Anneliese Michel: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x4n9vK0_mdk • 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.
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 • 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.