DSST Anthropology as a Discipline

The main features in the religious aspect of totemism

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The main features in the religious aspect of totemism are shown in the rites and ceremonies performed with a view to show or to attain identity with the totem. Thus, at solemn totemic festivals the totem animal is sacrificed and eaten even by its own clan. An impersonal, supernatural force that exists within certain people or objects and is believed to give strength or success is called mana. Among Melanesian and Polynesian peoples, mana is a supernatural force or power that may be ascribed to inanimate objects, persons, or spirits and may be either good or evil, beneficial or dangerous. A myth is a story, which has deep explanatory or symbolic resonance for a culture. It is therefore to be distinguished from fables, folktales, fairy tales, anecdotes, or simple fiction. The term is sometimes used pejoratively in reference to common beliefs of a culture or for the beliefs of a religion to imply that the story is both fanciful and fictional. A mythology is a relatively cohesive set of myths: stories that comprise a certain religion or belief system. Mythology figures prominently in most religions, and most mythology is tied to at least one religion. A taboo is a strong social prohibition, which can relate to any area of human activity. Breaking of the taboo is considered abhorrent by the society. For instance, in some Hindu societies, killing the totem (cow) is Taboo. Taboos can include dietary restrictions (halal and kosher diets, religious vegetarianism, cannibalism for example), restrictions on sexual activities and relationships (homosexuality, incest, bestiality, pedophilia), and use of language. "Shaman " is an Evenki term for a religious figure; who performs, essentially, an analogous function to that of a "medicine man". Such persons attempt to provide medical care via supernatural means such as magic. One of a shaman's main functions is to protect individuals from hostile supernatural influences. He or she deals with both good and bad spirits, performs sacrifices and procures oracles. Shamanistic traditions often include induction of trance through drugs (often neurotoxins known to be hallucinogens), chanting, fasting, dancing and music. The drum (tungur in Altaic) is an important instrument in shamanistic ceremonies, which may be used to induce autohypnotic phenomena. Researchers also suspect that in some cultures schizophrenia or similar conditions may predispose an individual to the role of shaman.
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A ritual can comprise a prescribed form of performing worship in a particular religion or religious denomination. Rituals can express a part of a larger social doctrine, or of a personal one. Ritual is often closely connected to reverence, thus a ritual is in many cases an act of expressing reverence of a deity. The earliest known evidence of burial rituals dates from around 20,000 years ago. Most rituals mark off a particular time of the day, month, year, stage in life, or commencement of a new event or vocation. This temporal characteristic of ritual is often called "Sacred Time." What must not be forgotten in the study of ritual is a special aspect of ritual that is often described as "sacred space." Time and place are essential features of ritual action, and both mark a specific orientation or setting for ritual.
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Christopher Reinemann
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