An Anthropology of Animism and Shamanism | Takako Yamada - webob.info
Animism is the religious belief that objects, places and creatures all possess a distinct spiritual . That is, self-identity among animists is based on their relationships with others, rather than some distinctive feature of the self. . Hence the shaman's ability to heal individual instances of dis-ease (or imbalance) within the. Missionaries often assume that Western practices of medicine is superior to all animist's belief that spiritual beings . impersonal cause and effect relation-. This was the very start of my study on animism and shamanism. the dynamic relationships between ecology and cosmology in Western Tibet”; in , . of how the words of the shaman, in combination with the healing techniques used .
Shaman Rituals and Techniques Siberian shaman and drum Shaman use various techniques to put themselves into trances: When in a trance they have visions, speak in strange voices or languages, communicate with dead ancestors, gods, demons and natural spirits, and receive instruction from them about how to help the person who has sought the shaman's help.
Maybe the patient has broken a taboo, offended a spirit or ancestor or lost his soul. The shaman then carries out ritual directed a the particular problem that often involves communicating with the demon making the person sick and defeating or controlling him or seeking the help of a friendly spirit who will make the patient well again.
Sometimes foreign objects are removed from patient's body in a symbolic ritual in which the object is sucked in and spit or vomited out. These people often believe that if the soul remains out of the body for too long the patient dies.
Shaman help patients to overcome their illnesses by calling on spirits to help the patients to get in contact with and bring back their souls. Modern shaman are employed as exorcists, prophets, fortune-tellers, medicine men, healers and interpreters of dreams.
Some write down messages they receive for the dead while in a trance. Some light a few a candles and say a few prayers or tell fortunes by throwing beans, coins, pieces of grain or some other method after you buy them a bottle of locally-made liquor.
Others are brought in for major rituals. Before rituals, the shaman often fast for a day or two. It is generally thought that gods and spirits generally only take the spirit of the food and drink offered them.
What remains is consumed by participants in the ritual. Becoming a Shaman Senegalese Marabout Shaman can be both men and women. Traditionally, they have not chosen to become shaman but rather had shamanism thrust upon them.
What's the difference between Animism and Shamanism?
The process of becoming a shaman usually follows five steps: Most shaman begin their careers with a life-threatening illness, during which time they embark on a spiritual journey and communicate with the gods, spirits and ancestors that become the source of their powers.
After recovering from the illness, they go through a long period of training, characterized by fasts and hardships and instruction from senior shaman that climaxes with a long period of isolation in which the shaman goes without food and experiences more visions. One shaman told the anthropologist Zoe Avstreih: As I came out of the tepee, both my thighs began to hurt, and suddenly it was like waking from a dream I was very sick.
Both my legs and both my arms were swollen and my face was puffed up. Path of the Shaman by Zoe Avstreih] Describing his journey into the other world the shaman said: Suddenly there was nothing but a world of cloud He was shown the history of his people, and instructed how to use herbs and finally awoke feeling healthy and reborn Shaman Rituals Shaman's Drum During shamanist rituals shaman do things like sip powerful rice wine mixed with the feathers of a sacrificed chicken through a long straw and, after becoming intoxicated, chant rhythmically to accompaniment of a brass gong.
After each series of chants more wine is consumed and the shaman goes into a trance. While in a trance shaman attempt to communicate with dead, the gods, demons and natural spirits and make out the form and destiny of a person's soul and heal illnesses with this knowledge. Illnesses, the ethnic minority people, believed was caused by straying souls who became influenced by demons. The shaman's objective was to bring the soul back, a task that was usually performed while in an ecstatic trance.
Shaman from the Yi ethnic group in China are known as bimo. Held in the highest respect, they carry out sacrifices and perform healing rituals with incense and bowls of chicken blood while headmen are responsible for controlling ghosts with magic. Often bimo were the only people in a village who could read the sacred texts that included clan histories, myths and literature.
Ancestor Worship Burning money and yuanbao at a cemetery Ancestor worship involves the belief that the dead live on as spirits and that it is the responsibility of their family members and descendants to make sure that are well taken care of.
If they are not they may come back and cause trouble to those family members and descendants. Unhappy dead ancestors are greatly feared and every effort is made to make sure they are comfortable in the afterlife.
In some societies, people go out of their way to be nice to one another, especially older people, out of fear of the nasty things they might do when they die. Some people attribute poor weather to unhappy ancestors, so prayers are said and special ceremonies are performed so the dead will use their influence to bring good weather and enough rain to produce a good harvest.
Sometimes property is still believed to be in the procession of dead ancestors, and before a piece of property or a family possession is sold, the dead are consulted through special ceremonies. Ancestor worship is perhaps the world's oldest religion. Some anthropologists theorize that it grew out of belief in some societies that dead people still exist in some form because they appear in dreams. Ancestor worship is a strong cohesive force in primitive societies and one of the most widespread beliefs in primitive religions.
Customs and traditions are passed down orally, without written records, there is no sense of history as we know it, and often myth and fact from the past become inseparable. Ancestor Worship in China Home ancestor altar in Fujian, China Ancestor worship is very deeply rooted in China and still very much alive today.
Ancestors are generally honored and appeased with daily and seasonal offerings and rituals. It has been said spirituality emanates from the family not a church or temple.
Pictures of dead relatives are featured on family alters in many Chinese homes, where religious rituals and prayers are regularly performed. Candles are regularly lit and offerings are made at ancestral shrines and graves, which are often visited during holidays. One Chinese man told AFP that the Chinese "believe their ancestors are still watching them, unlike the Western Christian belief that their ancestors go to heaven and that's the end of it.
Instead of having an ancestor altars, some families now pay to have ancestral tablets set up in temples, where priests pray to the deceased every day. Ancestor Worship and the Afterlife in China Offerings to ancestors Home ancestor altar Ancestor worship goes back deep into Chinese history. More than 5, years ago, the cultures of northern China were venerating the dead through highly systemized ceremonies.
Echoes of these traditions still survive today. Royal names were changed after death to mark the transition to new roles. The purpose of ancestor worship was not to remember the way people had been in life. Instead, it was about currying favor with the departed, who'd been given distinct responsibilities. Many oracle-bone inscriptions request that an ancestor make an offering of his own to an even higher power. Some Taoist philosophers didn't believe in life after death, but Buddhism, which began to influence Chinese thought in the second century A.
Ideas of eternal reward and punishment also filtered in from Buddhism and Christianity. Cemeteries are often destroyed by building projects, and many rural Chinese have migrated to cities, making it impossible to return home for Qingming.
For example, one of my familial Scottish clans once believed they were children of the Yew tree and it has been used as their totem and symbol for longer than there is written record of. Shamanism is not animism. Shamanism is a practice found within cultures with animistic belief systems. Shamans are the leaders, healers, and spirit intermediaries of their animist tribe. They have supernatural abilities that allow them to work with spirits, work against spirits, heal relationships with spirits, heal physical damage or illness caused by spirits, and the ability to travel between our physical world and the dream world, the spirit world, the world of the dead and safely back again.
Ancestor worship is another universal commonality between animistic peoples and involves the belief in the existence of the soul after death which leads to an entire cult of ancestor reverence and worship within each culture.
Ancestor worship is tenacious and survives conversion to other religions. Catholics still have an active ancestor cult through the worship of saints and the celebrations of All Saints Day and All Souls Day.
It fascinates me that animism seems to always be bedfellows with ancestor worship. It makes sense to honour the spirits of the dead when following a practice so deeply rooted in working with spirits. The perfect example from Europe being the fairy-faith prevalent throughout many localities which is the combined belief in inhuman nature spirits and the spirits of the dead.
Where you find the fairy-faith you find animism, and where you find animism you find ancestor worship. The Rituals of Animism The belief in a world full of spirits within animism leads to very specific sets of rituals with similar formulas followed across cultures.
There will always be cultural differences in details and etiquette, but the ritual formulas usually contain similar steps. Before anything is done within an animist community, a ceremony is performed to ask permission of a specific set of spirits and to see if the results of the action will be favourable. Declare your intent aloud and request permission from the ruling spirit s of said place. Submit a suitable and respectful offering to said spirit s and hope it is accepted. Flatter the hell out of the spirit s with sweet words and songs this can be the offering.
Ask for a specific and realistic sign of approval the calls of animals, rain, or perform divination. If you receive the sign and everything seems sunshine and roses, go do the thing. When you return from doing the thing successfully, thank the spirit s and leave a bigger offering. Another step sometimes included is to threaten the spirit s which is mostly unheard of in modern Pagan and magical traditions, but very common in folk religions and animistic indigenous cultures.
It has to be a good threat though and you have to know which spirits you can get away with threatening and which ones it would be incredibly disrespectful to threaten. A ceremony of blessing is performed before any action is taken to help influence the best possible outcome whether the action is a journey, a marriage, a new baby, building a new house, or as simple as weaving cloth, going fishing, or cooking a meal.
Animism - Shamanic Animism
The Carmina Gadelicaa collection of oral incantations from Scotland from the late s, is full of such rites of blessing covering everything from churning butter and blessing new livestock to waking up in the morning and going to bed at night. Alignment There is no real technical term for this belief and its rites. Alignment is the practice of attempting to more closely align yourself with a spirit whether it is an animal, plant, or ancestor.
This can be achieved by ingesting or smoking a plant or rubbing on a flying ointment during ceremony to better connect to that plant or to a greater forest spirit, crafting a fetish from an animal claw or tooth to wear to imbue oneself with the powers of said animal, or even the ancient practice of cannibalizing the dead to re-absorb their soul and power into the community.
Traditional indigenous ceremonies involving costumes and masks depicting sacred animals and supernatural spirits which involve dancing and mimicking the animals and spirits are also a form of alignment which a modern Wiccan would recognize as being similar in intent to drawing down the Moon. The philosophy is simply: The more you work with the dead and are around death, the easier it will be to commune with the dead.
The more you actively work with an animal spirit, the more you will take on its positive attributes and be able to call it to your aid. Alignment also shows respect as you are consciously seeking out a relationship with spirit through actions and offerings which will likely result in reciprocation from the spirit until it becomes a familiar, ally, or helper.
The Evil Eye Rituals that involve deflecting or counteracting the evil eye also stem from animism and its belief in the existence of intentional and unintentional sorcery by both common people or supernatural means.
The belief in the evil eye is found world wide and across cultures and it can be inflicted by humans, the dead, spirits, and deities. The belief in the evil eye can be so prevalent and strong that an entire community will base its ethics and etiquette around avoiding the evil eye by practicing humility and the deflection of praise.
Protection It is not a common belief of animistic peoples that spirits are generally benevolent and mean us well, it is in fact the opposite. Spirits are to be appeased to prevent harm, spirits are to be kept at a safe distance, and spirits are to be protected against by any means necessary.
He argued that both humans and other animal species view inanimate objects as potentially alive as a means of being constantly on guard against potential threats.
The "new animism" emerged largely from the publications of the anthropologist Irving Hallowell which were produced on the basis of his ethnographic research among the Ojibwe communities of Canada in the midth century. Modernism is characterized by a Cartesian subject-object dualism that divides the subjective from the objective, and culture from nature; in this view, Animism is the inverse of scientismand hence inherently invalid. Drawing on the work of Bruno Latourthese anthropologists question these modernist assumptions, and theorize that all societies continue to "animate" the world around them, and not just as a Tylorian survival of primitive thought.
Rather, the instrumental reason characteristic of modernity is limited to our "professional subcultures," which allows us to treat the world as a detached mechanical object in a delimited sphere of activity. We, like animists, also continue to create personal relationships with elements of the so-called objective world, whether pets, cars or teddy-bears, who we recognize as subjects. As such, these entities are "approached as communicative subjects rather than the inert objects perceived by modernists.
Classical theoreticians it is argued attributed their own modernist ideas of self to 'primitive peoples' while asserting that the 'primitive peoples' read their idea of self into others! That is, self-identity among animists is based on their relationships with others, rather than some distinctive feature of the self.
Instead of focusing on the essentialized, modernist self the "individual"persons are viewed as bundles of social relationships "dividuals"some of which are with "superpersons" i. Guthrie expressed criticism of Bird-David's attitude toward animism, believing that it promulgated the view that "the world is in large measure whatever our local imagination makes it". This, he felt, would result in anthropology abandoning "the scientific project". Cultural ecologist and philosopher David Abram articulates and elaborates an intensely ethical and ecological form of animism grounded in the phenomenology of sensory experience.
In his books Becoming Animal and The Spell of the Sensuous, Abram suggests that material things are never entirely passive in our direct experience, holding rather that perceived things actively "solicit our attention" or "call our focus," coaxing the perceiving body into an ongoing participation with those things. In the absence of intervening technologies, sensory experience is inherently animistic, disclosing a material field that is animate and self-organizing from the get-go.
Drawing upon contemporary cognitive and natural science, as well as upon the perspectival worldviews of diverse indigenous, oral cultures, Abram proposes a richly pluralist and story-based cosmology, in which matter is alive through and through. Such an ontology is in close accord, he suggests, with our spontaneous perceptual experience; it would draw us back to our senses and to the primacy of the sensuous terrain, enjoining a more respectful and ethical relation to the more-than-human community of animals, plants, soils, mountains, waters and weather-patterns that materially sustains us.