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E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F
RELIGION
S E C O N D E D I T I O N


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E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F
RELIGION
S E C O N D E D I T I O N
13
SOUTH AMERICAN
LINDSAY JONES
INDIAN RELIGIONS
EDITOR IN CHIEF

TRANSCENDENCE
AND IMMANENCE

eorel_fm 3/2/05 8:36 AM Page iv
Encyclopedia of Religion, Second Edition
Lindsay Jones, Editor in Chief
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Encyclopedia of religion / Lindsay Jones, editor in chief.— 2nd ed.
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1. RELIGION—ENCYCLOPEDIAS. I. JONES, LINDSAY,
1954-
BL31.E46 2005
200’.3—dc22
2004017052
This title is also available as an e-book.
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E D I T O R S A N D C O N S U L T A N T S
EDITOR IN CHIEF
Program in Religious Studies,
SIGMA ANKRAVA
LINDSAY JONES
University of Wisconsin—Madison
Professor, Department of Literary and
Associate Professor, Department of
C
Cultural Studies, Faculty of Modern
HARLES H. LONG
Comparative Studies, Ohio State
Professor of History of Religions,
Languages, University of Latvia
University
Baltic Religion and Slavic Religion
Emeritus, and Former Director of
Research Center for Black Studies,

DIANE APOSTOLOS-CAPPADONA
BOARD MEMBERS
University of California, Santa Barbara
Center for Muslim–Christian
DAVÍD CARRASCO
Understanding and Liberal Studies
MARY N. MACDONALD
Neil Rudenstine Professor of Study of
Program, Georgetown University
Professor, History of Religions, Le
Latin America, Divinity School and
Art and Religion
Moyne College (Syracuse, New York)
Department of Anthropology, Harvard
DIANE BELL
DALE B. MARTIN
University
Professor of Anthropology and Women’s
Professor of Religious Studies, and
Studies, George Washington University
GIOVANNI CASADIO
Chair, Department of Religious
Australian Indigenous Religions
Professor of History of Religions,
Studies, Yale University
Dipartimento di Scienze
KEES W. BOLLE
AZIM NANJI
Professor Emeritus of History,
dell’Antichità, Università degli Studi
Professor and Director, The Institute
University of California, Los Angeles,
di Salerno
of Ismaili Studies, London
and Fellow, Netherlands Institute for
WENDY DONIGER
JACOB OLUPONA
Advanced Studies in the Humanities
Mircea Eliade Distinguished Service
Professor, African American and
and Social Sciences
Professor of the History of Religions,
African Studies Program, University
History of Religions
University of Chicago
of California, Davis
MARK CSIKSZENTMIHALYI
GARY L. EBERSOLE
MICHAEL SWARTZ
Associate Professor in the Department
Professor of History and Religious
Professor of Hebrew and Religious
of East Asian Languages and
Studies, and Director, UMKC Center
Studies, Ohio State University
Literature and the Program in
for Religious Studies, University of
Religious Studies, University of
INÉS TALAMANTEZ
Missouri—Kansas City
Wisconsin—Madison
Associate Professor, Religious Studies
Chinese Religions
JANET GYATSO
Department, University of California,
RICHARD A. GARDNER
Hershey Professor of Buddhist Studies,
Santa Barbara
Faculty of Comparative Culture,
The Divinity School, Harvard
Sophia University
University
CONSULTANTS
Humor and Religion
GREGORY D. ALLES
CHARLES HALLISEY
Associate Professor of Religious Studies,
JOHN A. GRIM
Associate Professor, Department of
McDaniel College
Professor of Religion, Bucknell
Languages and Cultures of Asia and
Study of Religion
University and Co-Coordinator,
v

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vi
EDITORS AND CONSULTANTS
Harvard Forum on Religion and
TED PETERS
Religion, University of Chicago
Ecology
Professor of Systematic Theology,
Law and Religion
Ecology and Religion
Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary
TOD SWANSON
JOSEPH HARRIS
and the Center for Theology and the
Associate Professor of Religious Studies,
Francis Lee Higginson Professor of
Natural Sciences at the Graduate
and Director, Center for Latin
English Literature and Professor of
Theological Union, Berkeley,
American Studies, Arizona State
Folklore, Harvard University
California
University
Germanic Religions
Science and Religion
South American Religions
URSULA KING
FRANK E. REYNOLDS
MARY EVELYN TUCKER
Professor Emerita, Senior Research
Professor of the History of Religions
Professor of Religion, Bucknell
Fellow and Associate Member of the
and Buddhist Studies in the Divinity
University, Founder and Coordinator,
Institute for Advanced Studies,
School and the Department of South
University of Bristol, England, and
Asian Languages and Civilizations,
Harvard Forum on Religion and
Professorial Research Associate, Centre
Emeritus, University of Chicago
Ecology, Research Fellow, Harvard
for Gender and Religions Research,
History of Religions
Yenching Institute, Research Associate,
School of Oriental and African
GONZALO RUBIO
Harvard Reischauer Institute of
Studies, University of London
Assistant Professor, Department of
Japanese Studies
Gender and Religion
Classics and Ancient Mediterranean
Ecology and Religion
DAVID MORGAN
Studies and Department of History
HUGH B. URBAN
Duesenberg Professor of Christianity
and Religious Studies, Pennsylvania
Associate Professor, Department of
and the Arts, and
State University
Comparative Studies, Ohio State
Professor of Humanities and Art
Ancient Near Eastern Religions
University
History, Valparaiso University
SUSAN SERED
Politics and Religion
Color Inserts and Essays
Director of Research, Religion, Health
CATHERINE WESSINGER
JOSEPH F. NAGY
and Healing Initiative, Center for the
Professor of the History of Religions
Professor, Department of English,
Study of World Religions, Harvard
and Women’s Studies, Loyola
University of California, Los Angeles
University, and Senior Research
University New Orleans
Celtic Religion
Associate, Center for Women’s Health
New Religious Movements
M
and Human Rights, Suffolk University
ATTHEW OJO
Healing, Medicine, and Religion
R
Obafemi Awolowo University
OBERT A. YELLE
African Religions
LAWRENCE E. SULLIVAN
Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow, University
of Toronto

J
Professor, Department of Theology,
UHA PENTIKÄINEN
Law and Religion
Professor of Comparative Religion, The
University of Notre Dame
History of Religions
University of Helsinki, Member of
ERIC ZIOLKOWSKI
Academia Scientiarum Fennica,
WINNIFRED FALLERS SULLIVAN
Charles A. Dana Professor of Religious
Finland
Dean of Students and Senior Lecturer
Studies, Lafayette College
Arctic Religions and Uralic Religions
in the Anthropology and Sociology of
Literature and Religion
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

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A B B R E V I A T I O N S A N D S Y M B O L S
U S E D I N T H I S W O R K
abbr. abbreviated; abbreviation
3 Bar. 3 Baruch
2 Chr. 2 Chronicles
abr. abridged; abridgment
4 Bar. 4 Baruch
Ch. Slav. Church Slavic
AD anno Domini, in the year of the
B.B. BavaD batraD
cm centimeters
(our) Lord
BBC British Broadcasting
col. column (pl., cols.)
Afrik. Afrikaans
Corporation
Col. Colossians
AH anno Hegirae, in the year of the
BC before Christ
Colo. Colorado
Hijrah
BCE before the common era
comp. compiler (pl., comps.)
Akk. Akkadian
B.D. Bachelor of Divinity
Conn. Connecticut
Ala. Alabama
Beits. Beitsah
cont. continued
Alb. Albanian
Bekh. Bekhorot
Copt. Coptic
Am. Amos
Beng. Bengali
1 Cor. 1 Corinthians
AM ante meridiem, before noon
Ber. Berakhot
2 Cor. 2 Corinthians
amend. amended; amendment
Berb. Berber
corr. corrected
annot. annotated; annotation
Bik. Bikkurim
C.S.P. Congregatio Sancti Pauli,
Ap. Apocalypse
bk. book (pl., bks.)
Congregation of Saint Paul
Apn. Apocryphon
B.M. BavaD metsiEaD
(Paulists)
app. appendix
BP before the present
d. died
Arab. Arabic
B.Q. BavaD qammaD
D Deuteronomic (source of the
EArakh. EArakhin
Bra¯h. Bra¯hman.a
Pentateuch)
Aram. Aramaic
Bret. Breton
Dan. Danish
Ariz. Arizona
B.T. Babylonian Talmud
D.B. Divinitatis Baccalaureus,
Ark. Arkansas
Bulg. Bulgarian
Bachelor of Divinity
Arm. Armenian
Burm. Burmese
D.C. District of Columbia
art. article (pl., arts.)
c. circa, about, approximately
D.D. Divinitatis Doctor, Doctor of
AS Anglo-Saxon
Calif. California
Divinity
Asm. Mos. Assumption of Moses
Can. Canaanite
Del. Delaware
Assyr. Assyrian
Catal. Catalan
Dem. DemaDi
A.S.S.R. Autonomous Soviet Socialist
CE of the common era
dim. diminutive
Republic
Celt. Celtic
diss. dissertation
Av. Avestan
cf. confer, compare
Dn. Daniel
EA.Z. EAvodah zarah
Chald. Chaldean
D.Phil. Doctor of Philosophy
b. born
chap. chapter (pl., chaps.)
Dt. Deuteronomy
Bab. Babylonian
Chin. Chinese
Du. Dutch
Ban. Bantu
C.H.M. Community of the Holy
E Elohist (source of the Pentateuch)
1 Bar. 1 Baruch
Myrrhbearers
Eccl. Ecclesiastes
2 Bar. 2 Baruch
1 Chr. 1 Chronicles
ed. editor (pl., eds.); edition; edited by
vii

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ABBREVIATIONS AND SYMBOLS
EEduy. EEduyyot
Hung. Hungarian
Lith. Lithuanian
e.g. exempli gratia, for example
ibid. ibidem, in the same place (as the
Lk. Luke
Egyp. Egyptian
one immediately preceding)
LL Late Latin
1 En. 1 Enoch
Icel. Icelandic
LL.D. Legum Doctor, Doctor of Laws
2 En. 2 Enoch
i.e. id est, that is
Lv. Leviticus
3 En. 3 Enoch
IE Indo-European
m meters
Eng. English
Ill. Illinois
m. masculine
enl. enlarged
Ind. Indiana
M.A. Master of Arts
Eph. Ephesians
intro. introduction
Ma Eas. MaEaserot
EEruv. EEruvin
Ir. Gael. Irish Gaelic
Ma Eas. Sh. MaE aser sheni
1 Esd. 1 Esdras
Iran. Iranian
Mak. Makkot
2 Esd. 2 Esdras
Is. Isaiah
Makh. Makhshirin
3 Esd. 3 Esdras
Ital. Italian
Mal. Malachi
4 Esd. 4 Esdras
J Yahvist (source of the Pentateuch)
Mar. Marathi
esp. especially
Jas. James
Mass. Massachusetts
Est. Estonian
Jav. Javanese
1 Mc. 1 Maccabees
Est. Esther
Jb. Job
2 Mc. 2 Maccabees
et al. et alii, and others
Jdt. Judith
3 Mc. 3 Maccabees
etc. et cetera, and so forth
Jer. Jeremiah
4 Mc. 4 Maccabees
Eth. Ethiopic
Jgs. Judges
Md. Maryland
EV English version
Jl. Joel
M.D. Medicinae Doctor, Doctor of
Ex. Exodus
Jn. John
Medicine
exp. expanded
1 Jn. 1 John
ME Middle English
Ez. Ezekiel
2 Jn. 2 John
Meg. Megillah
Ezr. Ezra
3 Jn. 3 John
Me Eil. MeEilah
2 Ezr. 2 Ezra
Jon. Jonah
Men. Menah.ot
4 Ezr. 4 Ezra
Jos. Joshua
MHG Middle High German
f. feminine; and following (pl., ff.)
Jpn. Japanese
mi. miles
fasc. fascicle (pl., fascs.)
JPS Jewish Publication Society trans-
Mi. Micah
fig. figure (pl., figs.)
lation (1985) of the Hebrew Bible
Mich. Michigan
Finn. Finnish
J.T. Jerusalem Talmud
Mid. Middot
fl. floruit, flourished
Jub. Jubilees
Minn. Minnesota
Fla. Florida
Kans. Kansas
Miq. MiqvaDot
Fr. French
Kel. Kelim
MIran. Middle Iranian
frag. fragment
Ker. Keritot
Miss. Mississippi
ft. feet
Ket. Ketubbot
Mk. Mark
Ga. Georgia
1 Kgs. 1 Kings
Mo. Missouri
Gal. Galatians
2 Kgs. 2 Kings
MoEed Q. MoEed qat.an
Gaul. Gaulish
Khois. Khoisan
Mont. Montana
Ger. German
Kil. Kil Dayim
MPers. Middle Persian
Git.. Git.t.in
km kilometers
MS. manuscriptum, manuscript (pl.,
Gn. Genesis
Kor. Korean
MSS)
Gr. Greek
Ky. Kentucky
Mt. Matthew
H
. ag. H
. agigah
l. line (pl., ll.)
MT Masoretic text
H
. al. H
. allah
La. Louisiana
n. note
Hau. Hausa
Lam. Lamentations
Na. Nahum
Hb. Habakkuk
Lat. Latin
Nah. Nahuatl
Heb. Hebrew
Latv. Latvian
Naz. Nazir
Heb. Hebrews
L. en Th. Licencié en Théologie,
N.B. nota bene, take careful note
Hg. Haggai
Licentiate in Theology
N.C. North Carolina
Hitt. Hittite
L. ès L. Licencié ès Lettres, Licentiate
n.d. no date
Hor. Horayot
in Literature
N.Dak. North Dakota
Hos. Hosea
Let. Jer. Letter of Jeremiah
NEB New English Bible
H
. ul. H
. ullin
lit. literally
Nebr. Nebraska
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ABBREVIATIONS AND SYMBOLS
ix
Ned. Nedarim
pop. population
sp. species (pl., spp.)
Neg. Nega Eim
Port. Portuguese
Span. Spanish
Neh. Nehemiah
Prv. Proverbs
sq. square
Nev. Nevada
Ps. Psalms
S.S.R. Soviet Socialist Republic
N.H. New Hampshire
Ps. 151 Psalm 151
st. stanza (pl., ss.)
Nid. Niddah
Ps. Sol. Psalms of Solomon
S.T.M. Sacrae Theologiae Magister,
N.J. New Jersey
pt. part (pl., pts.)
Master of Sacred Theology
Nm. Numbers
1Pt. 1 Peter
Suk. Sukkah
N.Mex. New Mexico
2 Pt. 2 Peter
Sum. Sumerian
no. number (pl., nos.)
Pth. Parthian
supp. supplement; supplementary
Nor. Norwegian
Q hypothetical source of the synoptic
Sus. Susanna
n.p. no place
Gospels
s.v. sub verbo, under the word (pl.,
n.s. new series
Qid. Qiddushin
s.v.v.)
N.Y. New York
Qin. Qinnim
Swed. Swedish
Ob. Obadiah
r. reigned; ruled
Syr. Syriac
O.Cist. Ordo Cisterciencium, Order
Rab. Rabbah
Syr. Men. Syriac Menander
of Cîteaux (Cistercians)
rev. revised
TaE an. TaEanit
OCS Old Church Slavonic
R. ha-Sh. RoDsh ha-shanah
Tam. Tamil
OE Old English
R.I. Rhode Island
Tam. Tamid
O.F.M. Ordo Fratrum Minorum,
Rom. Romanian
Tb. Tobit
Order of Friars Minor
Rom. Romans
T.D. Taisho¯ shinshu¯ daizo¯kyo¯, edited
(Franciscans)
R.S.C.J. Societas Sacratissimi Cordis
by Takakusu Junjiro¯ et al.
OFr. Old French
Jesu, Religious of the Sacred Heart
(Tokyo,1922–1934)
Ohal. Ohalot
RSV Revised Standard Version of the
Tem. Temurah
OHG Old High German
Bible
Tenn. Tennessee
OIr. Old Irish
Ru. Ruth
Ter. Terumot
OIran. Old Iranian
Rus. Russian
T
. ev. Y. T
. evul yom
Okla. Oklahoma
Rv. Revelation
Tex. Texas
ON Old Norse
Rv. Ezr. Revelation of Ezra
Th.D. Theologicae Doctor, Doctor of
O.P. Ordo Praedicatorum, Order of
San. Sanhedrin
Theology
Preachers (Dominicans)
S.C. South Carolina
1 Thes. 1 Thessalonians
OPers. Old Persian
Scot. Gael. Scottish Gaelic
2 Thes. 2 Thessalonians
op. cit. opere citato, in the work cited
S.Dak. South Dakota
Thrac. Thracian
OPrus. Old Prussian
sec. section (pl., secs.)
Ti. Titus
Oreg. Oregon
Sem. Semitic
Tib. Tibetan
EOrl. EOrlah
ser. series
1 Tm. 1 Timothy
O.S.B. Ordo Sancti Benedicti, Order
sg. singular
2 Tm. 2 Timothy
of Saint Benedict (Benedictines)
Sg. Song of Songs
T. of 12 Testaments of the Twelve
p. page (pl., pp.)
Sg. of 3 Prayer of Azariah and the
Patriarchs
P Priestly (source of the Pentateuch)
Song of the Three Young Men
T
. oh. t.ohorot
Pa. Pennsylvania
Shab. Shabbat
Tong. Tongan
Pahl. Pahlavi
Shav. ShavuEot
trans. translator, translators; translated
Par. Parah
Sheq. Sheqalim
by; translation
para. paragraph (pl., paras.)
Sib. Or. Sibylline Oracles
Turk. Turkish
Pers. Persian
Sind. Sindhi
Ukr. Ukrainian
Pes. Pesahim
Sinh. Sinhala
Upan. Upanis.ad
Ph.D. Philosophiae Doctor, Doctor
Sir. Ben Sira
U.S. United States
of Philosophy
S.J. Societas Jesu, Society of Jesus
U.S.S.R. Union of Soviet Socialist
Phil. Philippians
(Jesuits)
Republics
Phlm. Philemon
Skt. Sanskrit
Uqts. Uqtsin
Phoen. Phoenician
1 Sm. 1 Samuel
v. verse (pl., vv.)
pl. plural; plate (pl., pls.)
2 Sm. 2 Samuel
Va. Virginia
PM post meridiem, after noon
Sogd. Sogdian
var. variant; variation
Pol. Polish
Sot.. Sot.ah
Viet. Vietnamese
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ABBREVIATIONS AND SYMBOLS
viz. videlicet, namely
Yad. Yadayim
* hypothetical
vol. volume (pl., vols.)
Yev. Yevamot
? uncertain; possibly; perhaps
Vt. Vermont
Yi. Yiddish
° degrees
Wash. Washington
Yor. Yoruba
+ plus
Wel. Welsh
Zav. Zavim
minus
Wis. Wisconsin
Zec. Zechariah
= equals; is equivalent to
Wis. Wisdom of Solomon
Zep. Zephaniah
× by; multiplied by
W.Va. West Virginia
Zev. Zevah.im
→ yields
Wyo. Wyoming
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N



v o l u m e t h i r t e e n
m a g e s
i
I a
M An
G E d
S
A N D T H E B O D Y
t h e b o d y
One of the few generalizations about religion that may be
safely declared is that the practice of belief is always, in one
way or another, a firmly embodied affair, transpiring in the medium of the human
body. Even in the hands of the most zealously ascetic or scholastic adherents,
religion’s deep register is the body
that is denied, cloaked, disciplined,
or scorned. In less repressive religious
cultures, the body is celebrated as the
vessel of memory, the bearer of social
status, the medium of divine pres-
ence, and the richly adorned display
of fecundity, transport, joy, or sexual
union.
The human body offers manifold
possibilities to act as the medium of
belief. Costume for ritual occasions
such as prayer or recitation of holy
writ (a) shapes personal performance
by investing the individual with the
solemnity of public display. More
permanent changes to the body, such
as tattoos, make personal statements
that link the individual to a variety of
communities—some of them ethnic
or racial, but also the associations of
tattoo wearers linked through tattoo
shops, clubs, newsletters, and maga-
zines. Religious iconography, such as
(a) A Jewish boy reads from the Torah
at his bar mitzvah. [©Nathan Nourok/
Photo Edit]

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IMAGES AND THE BODY
that displayed on the back of the woman shown here (b),
operates across the lines of many subcultures.

In addition to the decoration of the body itself, art-
ists everywhere have made use of the human form in
objects and images that allow endless permutations of
meaning. The Luba people of the Democratic Republic
of the Congo carve figural stools (c) for the complex
array of seating arrangements that structure the hierarchy
of the privileged members of the Luba court. The stools
consist of female figures (but can also be abstract forms)
upholding the sitter, which is a male chief or a member of
the royal court. The female body possesses the power of
birth-giving and serves as the vessel containing the spirit
of the king. Past kings remain invested in their stools. The
features of the female figure, particularly the patterns of
scarification, are material texts that encode royal history.
Luba women are believed to hold the taboos and restric-
tions of kingship within their bodies and as such serve as
the figures symbolically holding up the kings.
(b) ABOVE. A cross and the opening words of Psalm 23 tattooed
on a woman’s back. [©Steve Chenn/Corbis] (c) RIGHT. Luba cary-
atid stool of carved wood, Democratic Republic of the Congo.
[©Christie’s Images/Corbis]
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IMAGES AND THE BODY

The material forms of religious practice are found to
address all aspects of human embodiment. Four objects
from South Pacific societies make this clear. Drumming
is part of the liturgical life of peoples as far apart as
Oceania, native North America, Africa, and Mongolia.
As an accompaniment to song and dance, the drum helps
to celebrate key ritual occasions, such as funerals or the
completion of a house or canoe among peoples in Papua
New Guinea (d). The steady beat of the drum structures
chant and resonates through the body, harmonizing the
group that sings clan songs, initiates youth, or performs
the lamentation of burial. The drum is an instrument that
evokes bodily participation in the social life of ritual. No
less a part of ceremony is the painting of the body. Dishes
such as the one reproduced here (e) were used in Papua
New Guinea to mix pigments. It has been suggested that
since the figures on such dishes represent clan animals and
ancestors, using them for the mixing of colors applied to
the body may have been part of a ritual absorption of clan
(d) ABOVE. A hand drum from East Sepik province in Papua New
Guinea, wood, fiber, shell, animal hide, and pigment. [Masco Col-
lection; photograph by Dirk Baker]
(e) LEFT. A pigment dish from
East Sepik province in Papua New Guinea, wood, fiber, and pig-
ment. [Masco Collection; photograph by Dirk Baker]
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IMAGES AND THE BODY
or ancestral spirits into the very body of the participant.
On the island of New Zealand, richly carved objects were
used to attend to other aspects of the body. A carved
wooden bar, called paepae (f ), may have been part of the
ritualizing of excreting waste. It has been suggested that
such a device was bitten by someone using a latrine as the
final act of elimination, providing a cleansing of taboo
caused by excretion. The Maori also used another type
of carved device, the feeding funnel (g). It was forbidden
for food to touch the lips of chiefs while they healed from
the application of tattoos. The feeding funnel allowed the
chief to eat semi-liquid food. The elaborately tattooed
faces on the outside of the funnel may correspond to the
power the funnel seeks to preserve in the tattooed face of
the chief who ate with the funnel.
(f ) TOP. A paepae of carved wood and haliotis shell, New Zea-
land. [Masco Collection; photograph by Dirk Baker] (g) LEFT. A
Maori feeding funnel (koropata) of carved wood and haliotis
shell, New Zealand. [Masco Collection; photograph by Dirk Baker]
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IMAGES AND THE BODY

Religious practices mine the human body for its rich
metaphorical significance. Olmec artists produced mar-
velous ceramic figures of infants (h), whose interpretation
remains inconclusive, but which have been linked to
funerary practices, shamanistic rites, and fertility ceremo-
nies. For example, small figures shown in the care of old
women have led some to believe that the infant figures
helped shamans perform rites effecting cures or healthy
births. Other forms of evidence associate the sculptures of
infants with sacrificial rites that transformed the infants
into rain and vegetation, thus procuring seasonal regen-
eration and agricultural fertility. One authority indicates
that the ceramic figures themselves may have been used
in such rites, or may represent the children who were
sacrificed. In either case, infancy meant rebirth and the
remarkable skills of Olmec artists at naturalistic rendition
of the infant’s gesture and fleshy forms no doubt enhanced
the efficacy of the rite.

If images of infants could assist with the renewal of
nature in ancient Olmec culture, a visual practice at the
beginning of the Common Era among Egyptians sought
to ensure an individual’s life after death. The practice
involved affixing realistic portrayals of individuals to
their mummified bodies in order for their spirits to rec-
ognize themselves and reside in the body after death (i).
These portraits were commissioned during the lifetime of
(h) TOP. An Olmec figure, 1200–900 bce, Mexico. [©Kimbell
Art Museum/Corbis] (i) RIGHT. A mummy case with a portrait
of Artemidorus, Hawara, Egypt, Roman period, c. 100–120 ce.
[©HIP/Scala/Art Resource, N.Y.]
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IMAGES AND THE BODY
the individual and displayed at home, then used in the
preparation of the body after death. This close associa-
tion of image and body may have been incorporated into
Christian practice, which found an important place for
the relics of saints and martyrs. The fifteenth-century
bust of Saint Margaret of Antioch (j) recalls the early
fourth-century saint who defeated a dragon, which is seen
here lying docilely beneath her hand. She was martyred
during the reign of Diocletian, one of the last pagan
emperors of late antiquity. Now missing is the relic of the
saint that occupied the compartment in the figure’s chest.
Margaret’s dedication to assisting women in labor made
her popular in the Middle Ages and the infantile size of
the dragon may dramatize her power to soothe the pain
of childbirth.

Another martyred woman, Daphne, was portrayed
by the artist Kiki Smith in a way that recalls the torture
of Christian saints. According to Ovid, Daphne was
metamorphosed into a laurel tree in order to be delivered
from the amorous pursuit of Apollo. When she prayed
“change and destroy the body which has given too much
delight,” her human flesh changed to bark, limbs, and
(j) ABOVE. Nicolaus Gerhaert and workshop, Bust of Saint
Margaret of Antioch, c. 1465–1470, walnut. [Lucy Maud
Buckingham Medieval Collection, 1943.1001 overall; photograph
by Robert Hashimoto; reproduction, The Art Institute of
Chicago] (k) RIGHT. Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Apollo and
Daphne, 1624, marble. [©Scala/Art Resource, N.Y.]
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IMAGES AND THE BODY
leaves (Ovid, Metamorphoses, bk. 1). Smith portrays the
body of the helpless nymph crucified by her own wish.
Although Ovid indicates that it was the malice of Cupid
that inflicted love upon the chaste girl by piercing Apollo
with his fated arrow, Daphne blames her body for incit-
ing desire. Smith leaves us to wonder why the body of a
woman suffers as the victim of the male assault of desire.
By contrast, the Baroque sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini
produced a virtuoso performance in marble (k) in which
the viewer is intended to marvel at the sensuous trans-
formation of marble into flesh as well as marble into tree
limbs and foliage, almost without pausing to consider the
injustice done to Daphne.

The violent stilling of desire occupies a great deal of
religious energy. Hinduism, like Christianity, possesses a
long-established ascetic tradition in which practitioners
deny themselves physical comforts, dress, and possessions,
and take only the least amount of nutrition, as in the case
of the Indian Sādhu or holy man shown here (l). One of
the oldest aspects of Christianity is mortification of the
flesh. In the later Middle Ages and the early modern peri-
od, visual contemplation of Christ’s suffering was one of
the primary forms of Christian spirituality. Following the
Protestant Reformation, a reassertion of images of suffer-
ing—portraying Christ, his disciples, and the saints—were
designed to invite devout viewers to direct their attention
and devotion to the self-effacing merits of Christ (m) and
(l) ABOVE. An Indian sādhu and a woman at prayer in Vārān.asī.
[©David Samuel/Corbis] (m) LEFT. Giovanni di Paolo, Christ Suf-
fering and Christ Triumphant
, later fifteenth century, portrays the
two aspects of Christ, demonstrating the doctrine of salvation
afforded by his sacrifical death on the cross and his power over
death as final judge. [©Scala/Art Resource, N.Y.]
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IMAGES AND THE BODY
his martyred followers (n). At times this imagery was
especially graphic in order to jolt viewers to attention and
to elicit from them an empathic response accompanied
by remorse and self-incrimination. The sacrifice and pain
undertaken by Christ and the saints were the means of
human salvation and were to be regarded with solemn
gratitude.
BIBLIOGRAPHY
Clifton, James. The Body of Christ in the Art of Europe and New
Spain, 1150–1800. Munich and New York, 1997.
Coe, Michael D., et al. The Olmec World: Ritual and Rulership.
Princeton and New York, 1995.
Posner, Helaine. Kiki Smith. Boston, 1998.
Roberts, Mary Nooter, and Allen F. Roberts. Memory: Luba Art
and the Making of History. New York and Munich, 1996.
Wardwell, Allen. Island Ancestors: Oceanic Art from the Masco Col-
lection. Seattle and Detroit, 1994.
David Morgan ()
(n) Giovanni Francesco Guercino, Saint Peter Martyr, oil on
canvas, seventeenth century. Holding the symbolic palm of
martyrdom and calmly posing with the instrument of his death
lodged in his head, the saint receives the reassurance of divine
acceptance from two angels. [©Scala/Art Resource, N.Y.]
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C O N T S
I N U E D
SOUTH AMERICAN INDIAN RELIGIONS
This entry consists of the following articles:
AN OVERVIEW
MYTHIC THEMES
HISTORY OF STUDY
SOUTH AMERICAN INDIAN RELIGIONS: AN OVERVIEW
Since the Indians of South America do not conform culturally, there is no religious unifor-
mity among them. Despite this inconsistency, an acceptable overview can be achieved by
subdividing the continent’s large, geographically distinct regions into the following cul-
tural areas.
1. The Andes. This mountain range stretches from present-day Colombia to Chile. The
highland regions of Peru, lying between the Pacific coast region and the valleys that
cut through the mountain range, were taken over in the distant past by highly ad-
vanced agrarian cultures. Among the most significant of these cultures was the Inca
empire, which extended into the dawn of historical times. Direct descendants of ear-
lier Andean cultures, the Quechua and Aymara peoples inhabit present-day Peru and
Bolivia.
2. Amazon and Orinoco rivers. These jungle- and savanna-covered regions were con-
quered by tropical farming cultures. From the standpoint of cultural history, this area
also includes the mountainous sections of present-day Guyana; in early historical pe-
riods, the Amazon cultural area eventually spread to the Atlantic coast. As in the past,
it is now inhabited by tribes belonging to a number of linguistic families, both small
and large (Tupi, Carib, Arawak, Tucano, and Pano), and by a number of linguistical-
ly isolated tribes. Together they form cultural subareas that display religious special-
izations.
3. Mountains of eastern Brazil. This region is occupied by groups of the Ge linguistic
family, who practice rudimentary farming methods; they settled in these hinterlands
of the Atlantic coast region, joining indigenous hunting tribes. A few of these Ge
groups have survived culturally up to the present time.
C LOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT CORNER. Sixteenth-century illuminated miniature of dancing dervishes,
from the “Sessions of the Lovers.” [©Bodlein Library, University of Oxford]; South torana at the
Great Stupa at Sa¯ñc¯ı, India. [©Adam Woolfitt/Corbis]; Eleventh-century S´iva Nat:ara¯ja from
Southern India. Musée Guimet, Paris. [©Giraudon/Art Resource, N.Y.]; The “Wedded Rocks”
at Futamigaura in Ise, Japan. [©Werner Forman/Art Resource, N.Y.]; Angkor Vatt, Cambodia.
[Dave G. Houser/Corbis].
8575

8576
SOUTH AMERICAN INDIAN RELIGIONS: AN OVERVIEW
4. The Gran Chaco. The bush and grass steppes of this area
cocha eventually ascended to the ranks of the highest pan-
stretch from the Paraguay River west to the foothills of
theon as a result of speculation on the part of the Inca priest-
the Andes. The area was initially divided among hunt-
hood. At the beginning of the sixteenth century, Viracocha
ers, fishers, and gatherers, and these cultures came under
was represented in anthropomorphic sculptures that ap-
diverse influences from neighboring agriculturists. A se-
peared in special Inca temples and was venerated through
ries of more or less acculturated groups of the Guiacurú
prayers and sacrificial offerings. Inti, the Inca sun god, is por-
linguistic family (the Mataco and the Mascoy) may still
trayed with a human face within a golden disk, and as the
be encountered at the present time.
tribal god of the ruling Inca dynasty he was embodied in the
Inca emperor.
5. The Pampas and Patagonia. Hunting groups wandered
through these flatlands of the southern regions of South
The establishment of an elaborate cult for an indigenous
America. The extinct Pampa and Tehuelche Indians
supreme being is a typical occurrence in highly advanced cul-
were among the peoples of this region. The Tierra del
tures, but such cults are seldom found in South America out-
Fuego archipelago, near the Strait of Magellan, is also
side the Andes region. When they do appear elsewhere they
included within this territory. Although the inhabitants
are likely the result of the influence of these advanced civili-
of these regions—the Selk’nam (Ona), Yahgan, and Ala-
zations on compatible cultural and geographical situations.
caluf—are considered extinct, their culture and religion
A report by Karin Hissink and Albert Hahn (1961) on the
were well documented before they vanished.
cultures from the lowlands of Bolivia, near the Andes, points
out that the Tacana Indians of the Beni River area maintain
6. Southern Andes. This area, especially its middle and
the belief in a supreme being known as Caquiahuaca, who
southernmost regions, is populated by the agrarian
created the earth, human beings, animals, and plants. An old
Araucanians of Chile, who have prospered up to the
man with a white beard, Caquiahuaca lives in a cave in a
present time. Their success has been attributed to their
mountain that bears his name and that forms the center of
development of a self-sufficient culture a few decades
the world. In temples he is represented by a small bees-
before the Spanish invasion in the early sixteenth centu-
wax figure surrounded by a series of larger wooden statues
ry. This development was the result of the influence of
that represent the lower gods, known as edutzi, who assist
highly advanced Peruvian cultures, as the Inca empire
him. As the instructor of the priest-shamans, or yanacona,
progressed to the Maule River in Chile. In the eigh-
Caquiahuaca assists them in the performance of their office,
teenth and nineteenth centuries, the Araucanians ex-
and as their master he is responsible for their religious
panded eastward, but this part of the group, like its pre-
vocation.
decessors in the area, eventually became extinct.
In addition to this, Deavoavai, the lord of the animals,
Pronounced differences in religious phenomena appear with-
also represents a creator, culture hero, and master of the
in each of these cultural areas; these phenomena present cer-
dead. In his capacity as ruler of the game, Deavoavai is rooted
tain discrepancies when seen together. The most outstanding
in an earlier cultural-historical level—that of hunters, fishers,
contrast appears between the highly developed Andean reli-
and gatherers. Such a deity is also found among other agri-
gions, which are founded on priesthood and ruling cults, and
cultural peoples, including peoples of the Amazon lowlands.
the religious beliefs of the tribes in the eastern lowlands.
Despite their reliance on an economic subsistence that has
Some typical examples of their forms and their respective be-
long since undergone the transition from a hunting to an ag-
liefs should help to clarify their differences.
ricultural base, these groups of the Amazon Basin maintain
DEITIES, CULTURE HEROES, AND ANCESTORS. The tradi-
a religious emphasis that incorporates a dependence on a
tion of a creator as the prime mover and teacher of mankind
powerful being who controls the game, an aspect that will
is universal among the Indians of South America (Métraux,
receive attention below. It is sufficient here to point out that
1949). In the majority of cases, the mythical person most
within this region a relationship exists between the master
often represented is not directly involved in the daily activi-
of the hunted game and the supreme being, a concept first
ties of mortals and therefore does not enjoy particular venera-
recognized by Adolf E. Jensen (1951).
tion. There is no fundamental discrepancy between this dis-
Culture hero as supreme being. Konrad T. Preuss was
interested deity and the omnipotent creator whose cultic
convinced that Moma (“father”) was the paramount, indeed,
worship is integrated into a religious system; similar charac-
the only true god of the Witóto of the Putumayo area of the
teristics are attributed to both figures. A god previously ven-
northwestern Amazon and that he was identified with the
erated may fade to the position of a mythical figure, just as
moon. According to creation legends among these people,
a mythical character can achieve cultic significance.
Moma came into existence from the “word,” that is, he was
Under certain conditions, a creator, a culture hero, or
a product of magico-religious incantations and myths that
an ancestor may rise to the position of a deity or supreme
are endowed with supernatural powers. He was also the per-
being. Such a case occurred in the old cultures of Peru with
sonification of the “word,” which he bestowed upon human
the religious figure Viracocha. Perhaps originally a culture
beings, and the “word” was the doctrine that represented the
hero of the Quechua or some other Andean people, Vira-
driving force behind all religious ceremonies that Moma in-
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SOUTH AMERICAN INDIAN RELIGIONS: AN OVERVIEW
8577
troduced. The original father created the earth and all things
tered frequently in South American mythology. According
of the world from the archetype (naino), the “not-substance,”
to the Waríkyana, death is the beginning of the soul’s jour-
of each individual entity. On the other hand, in a myth that
ney to heaven, where it will be reincarnated—a journey that
explains the creation of the organic world, Moma extracts all
is modeled after the eternal cycle of the sun.
the plants and animals from his own body. The blossoms of
Yanoama and Mundurucú supreme beings. Kruse’s
the food plants used by humans are evidence of his omnipo-
work stimulated Josef Haekel to write an article about mono-
tent presence, and when the trees of the earth no longer bear
theistic tendencies among Carib-speakers and other Indian
fruit they go to Moma in the underworld. In addition to
groups in the Guianas, as well as among those groups border-
being the moon in the heavens, he resides below as master
ing the western areas of the Guianas (Haekel, 1958). Accord-
of the dead. He was the first being to experience the suffering
ing to Haekel’s findings, reference to the name Pura in con-
of death, but in the fruits of the plants he is continually resur-
nection with a supreme being occurred in no other Carib-
rected.
speaking tribe except the Waríkyana. To the west of their
Among the Witóto, such a representation demonstrates
territory in the Guianas, however, the expression is used with
intensely the character of a particular form of culture hero,
only slight variation, even among different linguistic groups
that is, one who is at the same time a supreme entity. Jensen
such as the isolated Yanoama (Yanonami) on the Venezuelan
applied the term dema deity in describing such a culture hero
and Brazilian borders. According to the beliefs of some
among the Marind-anim of New Guinea (Jensen, 1951).
groups in Brazil, Pore is the name of a supreme being who
The distinguishing characteristics of this deity are revealed
descended to earth (Becher, 1974). Together with the moon,
in his slaying, which occurred in primal times, and the conse-
who is known as Perimbo, Pore established a dual relation-
quent growth of all food plants out of his body.
ship composed of both sexes—male and female—that was
conceptually unified as a supreme entity who controls heav-
Waríkyana supreme being. A supreme god is also
en, earth, and the underworld. As the most well-informed
manifested among the Waríkyana (Arikena), a Carib-
researcher of the Brazilian Yanoama, Hans Becher considers
speaking tribe of the Brazilian Guianas. The highest deity in
their mode of life to be strongly influenced by myths con-
the religion of the Waríkyana is Pura (a name that, according
nected with the moon; the sun, on the other hand, is entirely
to the Franciscan missionary Albert Kruse, means “god”).
unimportant. The awe in which these Indians hold Pore and
With his servant Mura, Pura stands on the zenith of heaven’s
Perimbo is so intense that they do not call on this supreme
mountains and observes all things that take place below
being directly. Instead, they employ the indirect services of
(Kruse, 1955). At the command of Pura, the rain is sent from
intermediaries in the forms of plant and animal spirits
the sky. Pura and Mura are small men with red skin and are
(hekura) that reside on specific mountain ranges. Shamans
ageless and immortal. They appeared at the beginning of the
identify with these spirits and when intoxicated with snuff
world, together with water, the sky, and the earth. In early
come into contact with them.
times Pura and Mura came down to earth and created hu-
mans and animals. Because mankind did not obey the ethical
There are strong similarities between the supreme being,
precepts of Pura, he retaliated by sending a great fire that was
Pura, of the Waríkyana and the figure of Karusakaibe, the
followed by a deluge. A segment of the human race survived
“father of the Mundurucú” (an expression coined by Kruse,
this catastrophe, and the Waríkyana people believe that
who was also a missionary among this central Tupi tribe).
when the end of time comes, Pura will create another holo-
Karusakaibe once lived on earth and created human souls,
caust. It was therefore Pura to whom prayers were directed,
the sky, the stars, game animals, fish, and cultivated plants,
and in his honor a celebration took place in which manioc
together with all their respective guardian spirits, and he
cakes were offered to him.
made the trees and plants fruitful. Karusakaibe is omniscient:
he taught the Mundurucú how to hunt and farm, among
Protasius Frikel, another Franciscan, completed Kruse’s
other things. He is the lawgiver of the tribe and the origina-
description, noting that the Waríkyana view the supreme
tor of its dual social structure. Karusakaibe is immortal. Be-
being as a reflection of the primal sun (Frickel, 1957). Pura
cause he was treated badly at one time by the Mundurucú,
continues to qualify as the superior god, and in addition he
he went off to the foggy regions of the heavens. He is also
was also thought of as the world onto which the primal sun
credited with having transformed himself into the bright sun
pours its blinding light. Pura also represents universal power,
of the dry season. When the end of the world comes, he will
a belief that Frikel considers to be relatively recent among
set the world and all mankind on fire. But until that time
the Waríkyana.
he will look after the well-being of his children, the
In another instance, Pura is considered to be a “primor-
Mundurucú, who direct their prayers and offerings to him
dial man” or culture hero (ibid.). In any case, Pura resides
when fishing and hunting and in times of sickness. Martin
in heaven and reigns over all elements. His companion and
Gusinde (1960) is of the opinion that Karusakaibe was once
servant Mura is somehow connected with the moon and dis-
a superior god among the Mundurucú. Later his status
plays some features of a trickster. Such dual relationships as
changed to that of a culture hero.
sun and moon, god and companion, culture hero and trick-
Tupi-Guaraní supreme beings. Resonances of a su-
ster—pairs that are often represented as twins—are encoun-
preme being concept among the Tupi-Guaraní linguistic
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8578
SOUTH AMERICAN INDIAN RELIGIONS: AN OVERVIEW
groups are mentioned by Alfred Métraux, who was the most
ditional support for this theory in the prayers that are offered
important specialist in their religious systems (Métraux,
to the solar god and in the role he plays in visions. An Apin-
1949). Among these groups, the creator often has the charac-
agé chief spoke of an encounter he once had on a hunting
teristics of a transformer, and as a rule he is also the lawgiver
expedition in which he met the sun-father in human form.
and teacher of early mankind. After he fulfills these tasks, he
The Apinagé consider the establishment of the dual organi-
journeys westward to the end of the world, where he rules
zation of the tribe, as well as the placement of the two moie-
over the shades of the dead.
ties within the circular settlement, to be the work of the Sun.
A final supporting element observed by Nimuendajú (1939)
Among the ancient Tupinamba of the Atlantic coast
is the Apinagé’s consumption of round meat patties, which
and the Guarayo of eastern Bolivia, traces were found of a
are eaten at feasts and are said to represent the sun.
cult devoted to the creator, Tamoi. In Métraux’s opinion,
the various culture heroes, including Monan and Maira-
At the beginning of the harvest season, a four-day dance
monan) were derived from a single mythical figure—the
festival is celebrated in honor of the Sun at which the dancers
tribal grandfather, Tamoi. The occurrence of an eclipse of
apply red paint to themselves in patterns representative of the
the sun or the moon is a signal that according to the beliefs
sun. The Canella also publicly implore the heavenly gods,
of the Tupinamba relates directly to the end of the world,
the Sun and the Moon, for rain, the safety of the game ani-
and the men must sing a hymn to Tamoi. These eschatologi-
mals, the success of their harvest, and an abundance of wild
cal beliefs are characteristic of the Tupi-Guaraní and may be
fruit. In a similar manner, the Xerente call the sun “Our Cre-
connected to the messianic movements of the Tupinamba
ator” and pay the same devout tributes to the Sun-father as
at the beginning of the Portuguese colonization period. Such
do the Apinagé. The Sun and the Moon themselves, howev-
movements frequently led to mass migrations in search of the
er, never appear, but the Xerente receive instructions from
mythological land of Tamoi, a region perceived as a paradise
these solar and lunar bodies through other celestial gods (the
where the inhabitants share immortality and eternal youth.
planets Venus, Mars, Jupiter) who are associated with the
A similar cult devoted to the worship of the great ancestor
Sun and the Moon moieties. The most important ceremony
among the Guarayo was coupled with messianic movements
of the Xerente is the Great Feast, at which a pole is erected
at the beginning of the nineteenth century. In this case,
so that the tribe members may climb to the top and pray to
Tamoi was considered the ruler of the celestial western king-
the Sun. At the end of the celebration, the master of ceremo-
dom of the dead as well as the dominant figure at burial rites
nies climbs this pole. Once at the top, he stretches his hand
and in beliefs about the afterlife.
outward to the east and receives a message from a star within
The most revered god of the Guaraní-Apapocuvá ac-
the constellation Orion, who acts as a celestial courier. In
cording to Curt Nimuendajú, the outstanding authority on
most cases, satisfaction is expressed and rain is assured.
this tribe at the beginning of the twentieth century, is the
The ceremonial pole as a link to the heavenly world is
creator Nanderuvuçu (“our great father”). Nanderuvuçu has
also believed to have been employed by the Botocudos, who
withdrawn to a remote region of eternal darkness that is illu-
were among the hunting tribes that once lived near the At-
minated solely by the light that radiates from his breast (Ni-
lantic Ocean but are now extinct. Their religion was appar-
muendajú, 1914). He holds the means to destroy the world
ently characterized by a belief in a supreme being in heaven,
but retains the privilege of using this power for as long as he
named White Head because of the image he created (the top
pleases. Because he is not concerned about the daily activities
of his head is white and his face is covered with red hair).
that occur on earth, no cultic practices are directed toward
He was also the chief of the heavenly spirits, who were
him. His wife Nandecy (“our mother”) lives in the “land
known as maret. The maret spirits could be called to earth
without evil,” a paradise that at one time was believed to be
by the shaman, but in a form that is visible only to him; they
in the east and then again in the west; this paradise also be-
also had to return to heaven in the same way. They took on
came the goal of various messianic movements of the Guara-
the function of intermediaries between mortals and the su-
ní-Apapocuvá.
preme being when the shaman, through prayers and songs,
Ge solar and lunar gods. In the eastern Brazilian area,
turned to them in times of sickness or in an emergency. No
the majority of the northwestern and central Ge tribes (Apin-
one ever saw Father White Head face to face; although he
agé, Canella, and Xerente) hold that the Sun and Moon are
was sympathetic toward mankind, he punished murderers
the only true gods. Both Sun and Moon are masculine.
and was responsible for sending rain storms.
Though not related to each other, they are companions; the
Mother goddesses. As Métraux (1946) pointed out, the
Sun, however, is predominant.
missionaries who searched for belief in a supreme being
The supremacy of a solar god among the Apinagé led
among the Indians of the Gran Chaco were not at all success-
Jensen to the conclusion that here the mythical concept of
ful. The only mythical personality who comes close to the
a sun-man has a secondary identity, that is, he is also a su-
concept of a superior god, in Métraux’s opinion, is Eschetew-
preme god (Jensen, 1951). To support this theory, Jensen di-
uarha (“mother of the universe”), the dominant deity among
rects attention to the fact that human begins alone have the
the Chamacoco, a Samuco group in the north Chaco region.
privilege of addressing this deity as “my father.” He finds ad-
She is the mother of numerous forest spirits as well as of the
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SOUTH AMERICAN INDIAN RELIGIONS: AN OVERVIEW
8579
clouds. As the controller of all things, Eschetewuarha ensures
to abstain from any form of veneration of this perfect su-
that mankind receives water. In return for this favor, she ex-
preme being, since any attempt to influence his will would
pects her people to send songs to her nightly, and when such
have been fruitless. For this reason, it is not known what for-
expectations are not fulfilled she punishes them. Herbert
mal prayers were addressed to Xolas nor whether cultic prac-
Baldus (1932), who provided in-depth information about
tices associated with him were performed.
Eschetewuarha, compares her with the universal mother of
the Cágaba (Koghi), a Chibcha tribe in Colombia that had
Watauineiwa (“ancient one, eternal one”) behaved quite
been influenced by more advanced cultures. This compari-
differently, according to the beliefs of the Yahgan. He pre-
son facilitates postulating at least a phenomenological rela-
ferred to be addressed as “my father,” and he was reputed to
tionship between the two.
be the lord of the world and ruler over life and death. He
was an astute observer of the actions of humans and pun-
The obvious characteristics of a supreme god are appar-
ished violations of the laws he had established in relation to
ently present in Kuma, the goddess of the Yaruro, who sub-
morals and customs. Such rules were inculcated into the
sist on fishing, hunting, and gathering along the Capanaparo
young (boys and girls concurrently) during initiation rituals,
River, a tributary of the Orinoco in Venezuela. She is consid-
which formed the core of Yahgan religious life. In seeking
ered to be a moon goddess and consort of the sun god, who
contact with Watauineiwa, the individual Yahgan could
is unimportant. Kuma created the world with the help of two
draw upon numerous established prayers. A person would
brothers, the Water Serpent and the Jaguar, after whom the
implore Watauineiwa, who was the controller of the game
tribal moieties were named. Although she apparently created
animals and of all food plants, to help him to secure his sub-
the first two human beings herself, her son, Hatschawa, be-
sistence needs and would turn to Watauineiwa to ensure his
came the educator and culture hero of mankind. Kuma dom-
continued health, to cure him of sickness, and to protect him
inates a paradise in the west in which gigantic counterparts
from inclement weather and from drastic environmental
for every plant and animal species exist. Shamans are capable
changes. But Watauineiwa was also the target for harsh com-
of seeing the land of Kuma in dreams and visions and are
plaints in cases of ailments and misfortune, and in the event
able to send their souls there. As a reliable informant ex-
of death he was accused with the words “murderer in
plained, “Everything originated from Kuma and everything
heaven.”
that the Yaruro do has been arranged so by her; the other
gods and cultural heroes act according to her laws” (Petrullo,
The supreme god of the Yahgan maintained a closer
1939). Métraux drew attention to the typological affinities
contact with human beings than did Témaukel, the
between Kuma and Gauteovan, the mother goddess of the
Selk’nam’s supreme god. Témaukel (“the one above in heav-
Cágaba, who in turn is connected with Eschetewuarha of the
en”) was considered to be the originator and protector of
Chamacoco (Métraux, 1949).
mankind’s moral and social laws, although he was otherwise
uninterested in daily life on earth. Témaukel had existed
Supreme beings of Tierra del Fuego. Among the peo-
from the beginning of time, but he entrusted Kenos, the first
ple living in the southern regions of the continent, a belief
ancestor, with the final configuration of the world and the
in a supreme being is common in hunting and fishing tribes,
institution of social customs. In spite of the respect they ac-
especially the Selk’nam (Ona) of Tierra del Fuego and the
corded Témaukel, the Selk’nam prayed to him less frequent-
Yahgan and Alacaluf of the Tierra del Fuego archipelago.
ly than did the Yahgan to their supreme god. Contrastingly,
Despite many years of European influence in this area and
the Selk’nam meticulously observed the practice of throwing
the astonishing similarities of their beliefs to aspects of Chris-
the first piece of meat from the evening meal out of their huts
tianity, Métraux believed that the religion of these three
with the words “This is for him up there,” an action that can
tribes remained substantially independent of Christianity
be considered a form of sacrificial offering. The dead were
(Métraux, 1949). Martin Gusinde, a member of the ethno-
also believed to travel to Témaukel.
logical school of Wilhelm Schmidt, provided us with re-
search information about these tribes shortly before their
Supreme beings of the Pampas, Patagonia, and the
cultural extinction (Gusinde, 1931, 1937, 1974). The
southern Andes. Although our knowledge of the religious
Selk’nam, the Yahgan (Yámana), and the Alacaluf (Halak-
practices and beliefs of the earlier inhabitants of the Pampas
wulip) maintain belief in a supreme being who is an invisible,
and Patagonia is sparse and relatively superficial, it is almost
omnipotent, and omniscient spirit living in heaven, beyond
certain that the Tehuelche had a supreme being. Like Té-
the stars. He has no physical body and is immortal; having
maukel of the Selk’nam, the god of the Tehuelche was char-
neither wife nor children, he has no material desires. Among
acterized by his lack of interest in worldly activities; he was
the Alacaluf, the creator god is named Xolas (“star”), and de-
also lord of the dead. This supreme being was, in general,
spite the great distance that separates him from the earth, he
sympathetic toward human beings, but there is no proof of
concerns himself with the daily life of human beings.
a public cult devoted to him. Traditionally he was called Soy-
Through his initiative a soul is allowed to enter the body of
chu. A benevolent supreme being of the same name was also
a newborn baby; it remains in the human being until death,
found in the religious beliefs of the Pampa Indians, at least
at which time it returns to Xolas. The Alacaluf were obliged
after the eighteenth century.
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8580
SOUTH AMERICAN INDIAN RELIGIONS: AN OVERVIEW
It would appear that the tribal religions of the southern
nature spirits characteristically display strong individualistic
areas of South America were, in general, marked by a belief
tendencies and are often considered to be demons (Métraux,
in a supreme god. The Araucanians of the southern Andes,
1949). From the standpoint of cultural history, they are re-
and in particular the Mapuche, have left behind traces of the
lated to the lord of all beasts and have affinities with him that
concept of a superior god, as well as a devout veneration of
stem from the same hunting and fishing mentality.
him that survived well into the eighteenth century. In most
Tupi master of the animals. The most important rep-
instances the supreme being is referred to as either Ngenec-
resentation of a master of the animals in the tropical lowlands
hen (“lord of mankind”) or Ngenemapun (“lord of the
is the forest spirit Korupira, or Kaapora, of the ancient east-
land”). Other, more feminine descriptions may reveal an an-
ern Tupi and a few primitive isolates of the Tupi tribes, as
drogynous character. Ngenechen is thought of as living in
well as of the caboclo, or mixed race, people of Brazil. A series
heaven or in the sun and is credited with being the creator
of recorded myths and verbal descriptions have facilitated a
of the world as well as the provider of life and of the fruits
reconstruction of this deity.
of the earth. Although he is responsible for the well-
being of mankind, he is not associated with the moral laws.
Although the use of two names creates the impression
An individual would turn to Ngenechen in personal emer-
that Korupira and Kaapora are two separate mythical figures,
gencies with prayers, the sacrifice of an animal, or an offering
they are so closely related as to be nearly indistinguishable.
of the first fruits of the harvest. A public ritual known as the
Korupira, the master of the animals, is the protecting spirit
Ngillatun, which has survived up to the present time among
of the beasts as well as of the forest; he punishes those who
the Araucanians, consists of offering the blood of a sacrificial
maliciously destroy the game and rewards those who obey
animal to him. Two important objects employed at this feast
him or those on whom he takes pity. For a portion of tobac-
are the rewe, a thick, step-notched pole, and a sacrificial altar,
co, Korupira will lift the restrictions that he places on the
both of which are circled by the participants at the beginning
killing of his animals. Encounters in recent times with a
of the ceremony. In addition to the master of ceremonies,
small isolated Tupi tribe, the Pauserna Guarasug’wä, who
the female shaman (machi) takes over some of the most vital
live in eastern Bolivia, have shown that the belief in Ko-
functions at the Ngillatun. With a flat drum (kultrun), she
rupira/Kaapora has survived. Kaapora originated as a human
climbs the ceremonial pole and upon reaching the top turns
being—that is, he was created from the soul of a Guarasu
to Ngenechen, who is now symbolically nearer. Métraux
Indian. He is the lord of all animals of the forest and has put
(1949, p. 561) and John M. Cooper (1946, pp. 742–743)
his mark somewhere on each of the wild animals, usually on
have both come to the conclusion that in this instance the
its ear. A hunter must turn to him with a plea to release part
older features of god among the Araucanians have been con-
of the game, but he is only allowed to kill as many as he will
ceptually modified through the centuries to conform with
absolutely need for the moment. In thanksgiving for his suc-
the concepts of the conquering Western civilization.
cess, the hunter will leave the skin, the feet, or the entrails
of the slain animal behind when he leaves the forest: by doing
Earlier Spanish chroniclers viewed the thunder god Pil-
so he begs forgiveness from the animal for having killed it.
lán as the central, if not the supreme, being of the Araucani-
After such reconciliations, the soul of the animal returns
ans. Ewald Böning, in a more recent account, pointed out
home to Kaapora. Presumably this tribe, like others, believes
convincingly that the Mapuche describe Pillán in general as
either that the spiritual owner of the game will create an en-
a powerful, extraordinary, and tremendous apparition (Bön-
tirely new animal or that the soul of the animal itself is capa-
ing, 1974, p. 175). Pillán primarily represents an impersonal
ble of reproducing a new material form from the remains the
power, but he can also manifest himself in a personal form.
hunter leaves behind. (The preservation of the bones of game
The concept of impersonal power seldom occurs in the men-
in the so-called bone ritual appears to be widely distributed
tality of the South American Indians. The Nambikwára of
throughout South America.)
the Mato Grosso, for example, believe in an abstract power,
known as nande, that is present in certain things and that
Kurupi-vyra of the Guarasug’wä is a part-animal, part-
contains a magic poison or a real poison. Although any indi-
human forest spirit, but not a lord of the animals. He is,
vidual can, to a certain extent, achieve contact with nande,
however, a possible source of help for hunters in emergen-
it is the shamans above all who can manipulate this power.
cies. At such times he will lend his miraculous weapon, a
N
hardwood wand that he himself uses to kill game, and in re-
ATURE SPIRITS, HUNTING RITUALS, AND VEGETATION
R
turn he demands total obedience. Evidence of a master of the
ITES. In dealing with beliefs in a superior god, I have men-
animals and a helping spirit is well documented in other re-
tioned how the lord, or master, of the animals is one way in
gions of the South American subcontinent.
which the supreme being is conceptualized among South
American tribes. Owing to the fact that hunting belongs to
Mundurucú protective mother spirit. In the Amazon
one of the oldest phases of human history, gods who are asso-
region, the idea of a lord of all animals is sometimes replaced
ciated with this category of subsistence represent archaic be-
by the belief in a lord or master of each individual animal
liefs. Not only do the Indians of South America believe in
species, and sometimes both concepts occur. Starting from
a master of all animals but they frequently display a belief
the basic Tupi premise that every object in nature possesses
in supernatural protectors of the various animal species. Such
a mother (cy), the Mundurucú, a Tupi-speaking group, rec-
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SOUTH AMERICAN INDIAN RELIGIONS: AN OVERVIEW
8581
ognize and venerate a maternal spirit of all game. She is the
ritual hunting dances devoted to the peccary, including those
protector of the animal kingdom against mankind and main-
of other Carib-speaking tribes of the Guianas; he concluded
tains a mother-child relationship between herself and the
that a relationship existed between these and the peccary
beasts. Although she possesses a homogeneous character, she
dances of the Mundurucú (Schuster, 1976).
does not have a definite external form, nor does she exist as
Animal dances devoted to the attainment of game and
an independent personal goddess. The shaman alone knows
fish are found among other tribes of the Amazon area and
and understands the methods for approaching her. In an ec-
the Gran Chaco. Instead of focusing on the controlling mas-
static frenzy, he will feed her sweet manioc when she mani-
ter of the animals, however, they are often directed at the
fests herself in any one of her various forms (for example, as
soul of the animal itself. Dances in which the animals, or
a specific type of land tortoise). The Mundurucú also attri-
their spiritual master, are depicted with masks made from
bute to each individual animal species a mother spirit that
bast fiber, straw, or wood frequently do not belong to hunt-
serves as a species protector.
ing rituals as such. Instead, they are used in conjunction with
Formerly the Mundurucú held a reconciliation ceremo-
rites of passage, especially initiation and mourning feasts.
ny at the beginning of the rainy season in honor of the guard-
This applies to the animal-mask dances of the northwestern
ian spirits of the game and fish. At the climax of this ceremo-
Amazon, the tribes of the upper Xingu River, and the north-
ny, two men sang songs devoted to the spirit of each animal
western Ge tribes of eastern Brazil.
in order to call on the spirit mothers. They performed this
The jaguar. The predatory jaguar occupies a special po-
act while sitting in front of the skulls of numerous animals
sition in the religious practices of peoples inhabiting an ex-
that had been taken in the hunts of the previous year. These
tensive area of South America that stretches from the coast
skulls were arranged in parallel rows, according to species,
of Brazil to the central Andes. The religious life of these peo-
in front of the men’s house. Additionally, a bowl of manioc
ples is dominated by activities related to the jaguar. The trib-
porridge was offered to the mothers of the animals to eat.
ute paid the jaguar takes a number of forms: in some cases,
When the shaman was convinced that the spirits had arrived,
attempts are made to pacify or to ward off the spirits of cap-
he blew tobacco smoke over the skulls and then, using a
tured jaguars; in others jaguars are ceremonially killed; in yet
bamboo tube, proceeded to symbolically suck out arrow-
others, the jaguar is venerated as a god.
heads or bullets that had entered the spirits. Through this
Among the ancient Tupinamba, the cadaver of a jaguar
action the animals were pacified and the dancing could
was ornamented and then mourned by the women. The peo-
begin. Such dances, performed by the men, consisted of pan-
ple addressed the dead animal, explaining that it was his own
tomimes of a herd of peccary, followed by representations of
fault that he had been captured and killed since the trap into
the tapir and other animals. This organized presentation by
which he had fallen had been intended for other game. He
the Mundurucú was the most pregnant and illuminating of
was implored not to take revenge on human children.
such ceremonies in the Amazon region.
Among the western groups of the Boróro tribe of the Mato
Hunting dances. The concept of a lord, or master, of
Grosso, who are included in the eastern Brazil cultural area,
a particular species also plays an important role in the reli-
there is a dance of reconciliation performed for the slain jag-
gious systems of the Carib-speaking tribes of the Guianas.
uar. Such dances take place at night and consist of panto-
This is exemplified by the frequent use of the term father or
mimes of the jaguar acted by a hunter who wears a jaguar
grandfather when speaking of a certain type of animal. The
skin and is decorated with its claws and teeth. These Boróro
Taulipáng and the Arecuná of the inland regions of the Guia-
groups believe that the soul of the jaguar will in this way be
nas believe that each individual animal type has a father (po-
assimilated into the hunter. At the same time, the women
dole), who is envisioned as either a real or a gigantic, legend-
mourn and cry emphatically to pacify the soul of the animal,
ary representative of that particular species, and who displays
which might otherwise take revenge by killing the hunter.
supernatural qualities. Two “animal fathers” are especially
The eastern groups of the Boróro tribe attach quite a differ-
meaningful for their hunting ritual: the father of the peccary
ent significance to their rites for the dead jaguar. Here the
and the father of the fish. Both of these figures were original-
ceremonies are held in conjunction with the hunting rituals
ly human shamans who were transformed into spiritual be-
that accompany the death of an individual, and in this sense
ings and became incorporated into the opening dances of the
they belong to mourning rites.
Parischerá and the Tukui, the magical hunting dances of the
Up to the beginning of the twentieth century, the Shi-
Taulipáng. In the Parischerá, a long chain of participants,
paya and Yuruna, Tupi-speaking tribes located on the mid-
wearing palm-leaf costumes and representing a grunting pec-
dle Xingu River, knew of a cult dedicated to the creator of
cary herd, dance to the booming of cane trumpets or clari-
their tribe, who was known as Kumaphari. In the beginning
nets. Performing the Parischerá ensures a plentiful supply of
Kumaphari had a human form, but in a state of anger he di-
four-legged animals, just as the Tukui dance guarantees a suf-
vorced himself from human beings and settled in the north-
ficient supply of birds and fish. Starting with a dance per-
ern end of the world, where he became an invisible, cannibal-
formed by the neighboring Maquiritaré that is similar to the
istic jaguar. Through the shaman, who acted as a medium,
Parischerá of the Taulipáng, Meinhard Schuster classified the
the jaguar god occasionally demanded human flesh, where-
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8582
SOUTH AMERICAN INDIAN RELIGIONS: AN OVERVIEW
upon a war party was organized for the purpose of acquiring
Plant fertility rites. I now turn to those religious rites
a prisoner. The victim was shot with arrows and a portion
that center around the theme of fertility, not only of planted
of the body was consumed by the participants in the ritual;
crops but also of wild edible plants. The most impressive reli-
the remaining part was presented to Kumaphari, the jaguar
gious celebrations of the tribes in the lowlands of the Ama-
god. The ceremonies practiced in this cult apparently main-
zon are those held for the vegetation demons by the peoples
tained ritual cannibalistic elements found among the Tupi-
in the northwestern section of this region. Such demons are
namba of the sixteenth century, although at that time the of-
usually, though incorrectly, identified with the worst of all
fering of a captured warrior to a deity was not recorded.
demons among the ancient eastern Tupi, which demons
An active jaguar cult was also known to the Mojo, an
(and their cults) are known as yurupary in the local vernacu-
Arawakan tribe in eastern Bolivia. The killing of a jaguar,
lar (Métraux, 1949).
which automatically bestowed great prestige on the hunter,
Among the Tucanoan and Arawakan groups of the
was accompanied by extensive rites. During the entire night,
upper Rio Negro and the basin of the Uaupés River, the
a dance was held around the slain animal. Finally the animal
Yurupary rites take place at the time when certain palm fruits
was butchered and eaten on the spot. The skull, paws, and
particularly favored by the Indians are ripe. At the beginning
various other parts were then placed within a temple of the
of the festival, baskets of these fruits are ceremonially escort-
jaguar god, and a sacrificial drink for the benefit of the hunt-
ed into the village by men blowing giant trumpets. These sa-
er was presented by the jaguar shaman. The shaman was re-
cred instruments, which represent the voices of the vegeta-
cruited from among those men who were distinguished for
tion demons, are hidden from the women and children, who
having escaped alive after being attacked by a jaguar. They
must therefore remain within the huts at this time. During
alone could summon and console the jaguar spirit and could
the first part of the ceremony, in which the men scourge one
allegedly turn into jaguars, a transformation known to many
another with long rods, the women are also obligated to re-
other Indian tribes of the Amazon region. It is justifiable to
main within their houses. After the secret part of the ritual
view the jaguar god of the Mojo as a “lord of the jaguars”
has ended, however, the women may join the men in feasting
in the same sense that the concept “master of the animals”
and drinking, which continues for several days. The purpose
is applied among hunting groups.
of this feast is to thank the demons for a good harvest and
This feline predator also played a part in the religion of
to beg them to provide a rich yield in the coming season. In
ancient Peru. Either a particular god possessed attributes of
former times, the so-called Yurupary rites of the Arawakan
the jaguar, or the jaguar was an independent deity who
groups, the Tariana and their neighbors, incorporated the
served as the lord of the earthly jaguars and who appeared
use of two matted “mask suits” made from the hair of mon-
in the constellation Scorpius.
keys and women. These suits, worn by a pair of dancers, were
Protection from slain animals. Rituals established
also not allowed to be seen by the women.
around various slain animals are especially obvious in eastern
The underlying meaning of the Yurupary rites involves
Brazil and Tierra del Fuego. Among the Boróro of eastern
the son of Koai, the tribal hero of the Arawakan groups.
Brazil, the shaman enters a state of ecstasy after big game has
Milomaki of the Yahuna (a Tucano group), on the other
been killed. In this condition he performs various activities
hand, is a sun hero with an amazing talent for singing who
related to the game—for example, breathing over the meat.
was responsible for having created all edible fruits. He gave
He may also sample it before the rest of the members of the
these gifts to mankind, although he himself was burned to
tribe partake of the meal. In this way he bestows a blessing
death by men for having killed members of the tribe. From
that will protect against the revenge of the slain animal spirit
the ashes of his body sprang the palm tree that provides the
(bope). When the Kaingán-Aweicoma (Xokleng) in the state
wood for making the large trumpets used at the feasts. The
of Santa Catarina in southern Brazil have killed a tapir,
trumpets allegedly have the same tones as his voice.
chopped greens, which are particularly favored by this ani-
mal, are spread over its head and body, which is supported
Sacred wind instruments. The reproduction of the
upright. At the same time, the spirit of the animal is ad-
voices of supernatural beings through the use of sacred wind
dressed with friendly words. It is asked to give a favorable
instruments, including wooden flutes and trumpets made
report to the other animals of its kind, to report how well
from rolled bark, is an element that is, or at least was, wide-
it was treated, and to persuade them that they too should let
spread over much of tropical South America. Their use is
themselves be killed. Similarly, when a hunter of the
most often connected with the expansion of the Arawakan
Selk’nam of Tierra del Fuego removed the skin from a slain
peoples from the north to the south. In the area north of the
fox, he spoke apologetic phrases, such as “Dear fox, I am not
Amazon, these instruments are utilized in cultic activities de-
evil-minded. I have respect and don’t wish to harm you, but
voted to vegetation deities, whereas south of the Amazon
I am in need of your meat and your fur.” By this means, the
they are a central aspect of autonomous cults that have an
entire fox society was expected to be pacified after the loss
esoteric character, but have little connection to fertility ritu-
of one of its members. The offering of such deceptions and
als. They appear in the Flute Dance feast of the Arawakan
fabrications to the slain animals is a typical archaic ritual that
Ipurina of the Purus River as a representation of the ghostly
also finds expression among hunters in the Old World.
kamutsi, who reside under water and are related not only to
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SOUTH AMERICAN INDIAN RELIGIONS: AN OVERVIEW
8583
the sun but also to the animals. The Paresi-’Kabishi, an Ara-
obvious expression through the rule that every woman who
wakan tribe in the western Mato Grosso, have a secret cult
plants a manioc cutting must sit on a manioc tuber. The
in which the snake demon Nukaima and his wife are repre-
same theme is expressed in the ritual for the first manioc cut-
sented by a huge trumpet and a smaller flute. The Alligator
ting that is taken from a field whose yield is intended to be
Jump dance of the old Mojo (an Arawakan group) is consid-
used at the Tobacco festival. The cutting is painted red, and
ered to be the equivalent of the snake cult of the Paresi. At
the woman to be honored places it against her groin.
the climax of this alligator cult feast, a procession is formed
Even the tsantsa, the fist-sized shrunken head trophies
in which twelve men play nine-foot-long bark trumpets.
of the Jivaroans, are connected with the fertility of the fields.
Women and children are not allowed to see the proceedings;
The power that resides within these heads is expected to be
were they to do so, they would allegedly risk being swallowed
transferred into the crops as the successful hunter, wearing
by an alligator. The cultural wave responsible for the use of
the trophy around his neck, passes the fields. From the tro-
sacred wind instruments in the reproduction of the voices of
phies the hunter also receives information concerning the
spiritual beings apparently died out in the upper Xingu cul-
fields, which he passes on to the women who tend them. The
tural area.
Quechua and Aymara peoples of the central Andes region
The flutes, which are taboo for women, are stored in
frequently call upon Pachamama, the goddess of the earth,
special flute houses like those of the Arawakan Mehináku.
who is essentially responsible for the fertility of plants and
They are associated with a mother spirit (mama’e) who has
who is believed to live underground. In addition to being
the form of a bird, the jacu (Crax spp), and is represented by
connected with many celebrations, she is also associated with
masked dancers during the ceremonies. Among the Ca-
many daily rituals. The cult devoted to her originated in pre-
mayura (a Tupi group), the Jacu feast was organized for the
Hispanic times. It has survived to the present, a persistence
purpose of obtaining help from three manioc mama’e whose
that is undoubtedly related to Pachamama’s identification
assistance was needed to guarantee success with a new mani-
with the Virgin Mary.
oc field.
For the cultural areas of eastern Brazil, the Gran Chaco,
Human and plant fertility. Among the Kaua (an Ara-
the Pampas, and Patagonia (including Tierra del Fuego), in-
wakan group) and the Cubeo (a Tucano group) in the north-
formation concerning gods or spirits related to the fertility
western Amazon region, fertility rites are obviously connect-
of cultivated plants is partial, has little significance, or is com-
ed with a human generative power. At the end of the masked
pletely lacking.
dances, in which the dancers represent animals, the partici-
THE SOUL, THE DEAD, AND ANCESTORS. Most of the Indian
pants unite to perform the Naädö (phallus dance). They hold
groups of South America believe that a human being has sev-
artificial phalluses made of bast fiber in front of their bodies,
eral souls, each residing in a different part of the body and
and with coital gestures they mimic the scattering of semen
responsible for numerous aspects of life. After death, each of
over houses, fields, and forests.
these souls meets a different fate. One of the most interesting
Farther to the west, we encounter the primal father
examples of this idea is found among the Guaraní-
Moma of the Witóto, a superior god who has a strong influ-
Apapocuvá (Nimuendajú, 1914). One soul, called the ayvu-
ence on the fertility of all useful plants. Moma is responsible
cue (“breath”), comes from one of three possible dwelling
not only for the flourishing of the planted crops, including
places: from a deity in the zenith, who is the tribal hero; from
manioc and maize, but also for useful wild fruits. In his
“Our Mother” in the east; or from Tupan, the thunder god,
honor, the Okima, the festival of yuca (manioc) and of the
in the west. In its place of origin the soul exists in a finished
ancestors, is performed. Those under the earth are invited to
state, and at the moment of birth it enters the body of the
participate in the festival by their worldly descendants above,
individual. It is the shaman’s task to determine which of the
who stamp their feet or beat rhythmically on the ground with
three places of origin each soul comes from. Soon after birth
“stamping sticks” that are fitted with rattles. In the ball game
the breath soul is joined by another soul, the acyigua
festival known as Uike, the soul of Moma is believed to be
(“vigorous, strong”). The acyigua resides in the back of a per-
present within the ball, which is bounced back and forth on
son’s neck and is considered to be an animal soul responsible
the knees of the persons participating. Additionally, this ball
for the temperament and impulses of that person, which cor-
symbolically represents the fruits that are brought to the
respond to the qualities of a particular animal. Immediately
feast, the idea being that the bouncing ball makes the same
after death the two souls part company. The ayvucue of a
movements as the fruits in the branches of the trees.
small child goes to paradise, the “Land without Evil.” The
destination of the ayvucue of adults is another afterworld that
Among the Jivaroan people in Ecuador, the cult of the
lies just before the entrance to paradise. The animal soul or
earth mother Nunkwi is restricted to those cultivated plants
acyigua transforms itself into a much-feared ghost, called an-
whose soul is believed to be feminine—for example, manioc.
géry, that persecutes mankind and must therefore be fought.
The soul of the earth mother resides within a strangely
shaped stone (nantara) that has the power to summon
Research on a number of Indian tribes indicates that
Nunkwi. The association between fertility of human females
meticulous preservation of the bones of the dead is a wide-
and the growth of plants considered to be feminine receives
spread practice. Such action, which is similar to the preserva-
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8584
SOUTH AMERICAN INDIAN RELIGIONS: AN OVERVIEW
tion of the bones of hunted game, can be traced to the belief
at sib gatherings. The sound they emit is believed to be a
that residual elements of the soul remain in the bones after
source of male strength when played during a men’s bath in
death. The conceptualization of a “bone soul” has led to the
the river.
ritual consumption of bone ash from dead family members.
Among the Mundurucú in central Brazil, the large wind
This form of endocannibalism is practiced at the present
instruments are the embodiment of the sib ancestors when
time by different groups of the Yanoama and appears to have
played at a particular men’s feast. Like the trumpets of the
been relatively widespread in western South America.
Cubeo, they are not allowed to be seen by the women. At
Among the Yanoama, we find a perception of a soul that re-
the end of the Mundurucú ceremony, a special drink made
sides outside the body of a living individual, a concept sel-
from manioc is poured into the instruments and is collected
dom documented in South America. Such a soul most often
in a calabash bowl as it comes out the other end; it is then
dwells in an animal, but sometimes also in plants. This type
drunk by the participants. This ritual, which is looked upon
of soul may reside, for example, in a harpy eagle if the soul
as a form of spiritual communion with the ancestors, is in-
is that of a man, or in an otter if it belongs to a woman. The
tended as an act of reconciliation that will win their favor and
predominant element of such a concept is that of an identical
help their descendants.
life pattern: when the respective animal dies, its human
counterpart will also die, and vice versa. An animal soul, usu-
The combination of a memorial service for the recently
ally referred to as a “bush soul,” represents the alter ego of
dead and a commemorative ceremony for the legendary trib-
a specific individual.
al ancestors can be seen in the Kwarup ritual of the Ca-
mayura, a Tupi group of the upper Xingu. The Kwarup
Some of the fundamental beliefs in an alter ego preva-
(from kuat, “sun” and yerup, “my ancestor”) centers around
lent in South America stem from within the shamanic do-
a number of posts, each about three feet high, outfitted and
main. The Araucanian female shaman (machi) possesses an
ornamented as human beings and carved from the sacred
alter ego in the form of an evergreen canelo tree (Drimys win-
camiriva wood from which the creator, Mavutsine, allegedly
teri) that she tends in the forest and whose fate is intimately
fabricated the first Camayura. The chant given as people
linked to her own. If someone discovers this tree and destroys
dance around these posts is the same one that Mavutsine
it, the machi invariably dies.
sang as he created mankind. In the Kwarup ritual the ances-
Honoring the dead was an essential component within
tors return symbolically for the purpose of welcoming those
the religions of old Peru, as exemplified by the care that
who have recently died.
mummies of the ancestors were given by priests (Métraux,
Death cults and ancestor worship also play an important
1949) and by the sacrificial victims brought to them. Mum-
role in the eastern Brazilian cultural area, particularly among
mies were also taken on procession at certain festivals.
the Boróro. This tribe makes a sharp distinction between na-
One of the few cases of a developed cult of the dead in
ture spirits and spirits of the dead. The Boróro believe that
the tropical woodlands is exemplified by the ghost dance of
the souls of their ancestors (aroe) hold a close relationship to
the Shipaya of the lower Xingu, which is the most significant
mankind that influences and maintains its daily life. On cer-
religious celebration of this Tupi tribe. The souls of the dead,
tain social occasions, the spirits of the dead are ceremonially
which are well disposed toward mankind, express a desire to
invoked by special shamans to whom the spirits appear and
the shaman—through the words of the tribal chief—that the
whom they enlighten in dreams. As a result of this important
celebration known as the Feast for the Souls of the Dead
attachment to the spirits, the funeral rites of the Boróro are
should be held. It is believed that the souls of those long dead
highly developed and complex. After a ceremonial hunt, the
will take possession of the shaman, who is covered with a
successful hunter becomes the representative of the dead man
white cotton mantle; in this form, the soul can participate
at the funeral proper, which consists of a series of established
in the dancing and drinking enjoyed by the living in the cen-
rites. Among these is a dance in which the most interesting
ter of the village. When souls have borrowed the body of the
elements are large disk-shaped bundles of wood that repre-
shaman, his own soul lies idle in his hut. The ceremony con-
sent the dead person. At the same time that the dance is
tinues for eight or more nights, during which other men who
being performed, the deceased person’s bones, which have
have also become the embodiment of dead souls appear in
been buried for two weeks, are exhumed and painted red
similar dance mantles.
with urucú. Feathers associated with clan colors are glued to
the bones. The specially decorated skull is then displayed to
An ancestor cult is also the focal point in the religion
the mourners. After a period of safekeeping in the house of
of the Cubeo who live in the northwest Amazon region. The
the deceased, the basket in which the bones have been placed
soul of a dead person proceeds to the abode of the benevolent
is sunk in a deep section of the nearby river.
ancestors, which is located near the dwelling place of his sib,
where all its dead are reunited. The ancestors are represented
Among the Ge-speaking Canella (eastern Timbira), it
by large trumpets that are used not only at funeral rites but
is the medicine men who usually establish contact with the
also at the initiation ceremonies for the boys of the tribe, who
spirits of the dead, since they are omniscient. But even those
are whipped as these trumpets are played. The ancestors, rep-
members of the tribe who do not possess particular spiritual
resented by the trumpets once again, are also guardian spirits
abilities seek advice from their ancestors in emergencies. In
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SOUTH AMERICAN INDIAN RELIGIONS: AN OVERVIEW
8585
the first phase of the initiation ceremonies for young boys
uarha. Formerly the performers wore artistically intricate
in which religion is emphasized, the initiates learn how to
feather masks that were later replaced by sacks worn over the
contact the dead. This knowledge is acquired in a race in
head with eyeholes cut in them. In either case, the women
which each person to be initiated carries a wooden block that
were not allowed to discover that these spirits were in reality
is said to be the ghost of a dead ancestor. In the funeral ritu-
men from their own tribe.
als, the men carry much larger blocks in a similar race.
The Lengua of the Gran Chaco use a masked dance to
The cult of the dead is not only an impressive ritual but
represent symbolically the supernatural danger that threatens
a basic foundation of the culture of the Kaingán, the south-
women at the onset of menstruation. In this dance, the single
ernmost Ge tribe. The objective that lies at the core of this
men, wearing rhea-feather belts and masks, approach the
ritual is the elimination of the ties that connect the living and
young women during a typical female puberty celebration.
the dead. This ritual insures that the souls of the deceased
The young women believe them to be the bad spirits. They
will finally arrive at the resting place in the underworld, lo-
are eventually driven away by the adult women after they ha-
cated in the west.
rass and threaten the young girls.
CONCLUSION. Because of the extreme variety of time periods
A cult of the dead among the indigenous people in the
from which information about these tribes is drawn, the only
southern regions of South America, including the Gran
perspective that can be achieved in such an overview is of a
Chaco and the southern Andes, contains few authentic reli-
diachronic nature. To close this survey of the various forms
gious elements. At a funeral, the surviving family members
of religion, I shall briefly indicate phenomena that are partic-
sponsor a large feast in honor of the dead relative. The vari-
ularly characteristic of the individual cultural areas.
ous ceremonies that take place during this feast—for exam-
ple, eating and drinking bouts, lamenting, playing of music,
The central Andes of pre-Columbian times is character-
feigned attacks, riding games, and speeches—are intended to
ized by a belief in high gods and their respective cults, by the
drive from the village the dreaded spirits of the dead or the
worship of ancestors and of the dead, and by agrarian rites
death demons, who are responsible for the death of the tribal
directed to a female earth deity. The peoples of the region
member, to prevent them from causing more harm. Among
of the Amazon and Orinoco rivers occasionally display signs
the people in the Gran Chaco, an attempt is made to console
of high-god worship (Witóto, Tupi-Guaraní). Along with
the dead and to pacify them in their anger at having passed
the vegetation cults (northwestern Amazon) that are typical
away. The mourning ceremonies, which begin immediately
of crop-cultivating peoples, there is a markedly large number
after a person dies, are meant to serve this end. Often an in-
of ceremonies and rites associated with deities of the hunt
valid is set outside or buried before having actually died. Lit-
and of wild animals (including fish). The Ge of eastern Brazil
tle has been recorded regarding beliefs about life of the soul
exhibit clear signs of worship of astral deities—the Sun and
after death among the peoples of the Gran Chaco.
Moon. The cults of the dead and of ancestors dominate
much of their religious life. The Gran Chaco, by contrast,
INITIATION RITES. Among the Indians of Tierra del Fuego
is noticeably lacking in religious ceremonies and rites in the
there is no trace of a cult of the dead to be found in the funer-
narrow sense. First-fruit ceremonies related to hunting and
ary practices. In this region, socioreligious emphasis was
fishing predominate; there are no agrarian rites. In the Pam-
placed on rites that are generally associated with the initia-
pas and Patagonia region a number of socioreligious rites are
tion of members of both sexes and particularly on those ritu-
attested. The Selk’nam and Yahgan of Tierra del Fuego Ar-
als connected with the acceptance of young males into men’s
chipelago believe in a high god, but there is little indication
organizations (the Kloketen of the Selk’nam and the Kina of
of cult worship. The regions of southern and central Andes
the Yahgan). During these rites, a chain of men came out to
share many aspects of religious life. The high-god cult (Nge-
frighten the women. The participating men wore conical
nechen) is associated with a cultivation and fertility ritual.
masks made from bark or animal skin that covered their
A highly developed form of shamanism is also prominent.
heads and faces. Their bodies were painted black, white, and
Throughout South America outside the Andean region, the
pink in various patterns. Although they represented specific
shaman remains the pillar of the religious life.
demons and spirits of the sea, forest, and animals, there was
apparently no ghost of the dead among them.
SEE ALSO Amazonian Quechua Religions; Ethnoastronomy;
Ge Mythology; Inca Religion; Inti; Jaguars; Lord of the An-
The appearance of masks so far south is correctly attri-
imals; Mapuche Religion; Selk’nam Religion; Shamanism,
buted to the extensive influence of the Tropical Forest cul-
article on South American Shamanism; South American In-
tural areas. Between the Tropical Forest and Tierra del
dians, articles on Indians of the Andes in the Pre-Inca Peri-
Fuego, there are no gaps in the appearance of masked dances
od and Indians of the Gran Chaco; Supreme Beings; Te-
in connection with initiation celebrations, as for example the
huelche Religion; Viracocha; Yurupary.
Anapösö, or Forest Spirit feast, of the Chamacoco. In this
region of the Gran Chaco, the performers representing the
BIBLIOGRAPHY
forest spirits were elaborately decorated with feathers. These
Baldus, Herbert. Die Allmutter in der Mythologie zweier sudameri-
spirits are believed to have been ruled by the dog demon Po-
kanischer Indianerstämme (Kagaba und Tumereha). Berlin,
hitschio, who was the consort of the great mother, Eschetew-
1932.
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8586
SOUTH AMERICAN INDIAN RELIGIONS: MYTHIC THEMES
Becher, Hans. Poré/Perimbó: Einwirkungen der lunaren Mythologie
SOUTH AMERICAN INDIAN RELIGIONS:
auf den Lebensstil von drei Yanonámi-Stämmen, Surára, Paki-
MYTHIC THEMES
dái und Ironasitéri. Hanover, 1974.
South American mythology is a vast field whose purview ex-
Böning, Ewald. Der Pillánbergriff der Mapuche. Sankt Augustin,
tends linguistically and archaeologically beyond the conti-
West Germany, 1974.
nent proper to include the oral traditions of Panama and
Cooper, John M. “The Araucanians.” In Handbook of South Amer-
eastern Costa Rica as well as those of the autochthonous in-
ican Indians, edited by Julian H. Steward, vol. 2.,
habitants of the West Indies. This article will consider myths
pp. 687–760. Washington, D. C., 1946.
from the point of view of religious studies and will emphasize
Eliade, Mircea. “South American High Gods.” History of Religions
the cosmological patterns and sacred symbolism in narratives
8 (1968): 338–354 and 10 (1970–1971): 234–266.
from nonliterate South American societies of both ancient
Frikel, Protasius. “Zur linguistisch-ethnologischen Gliederung der
and modern times.
Indianerstämme von Nord-Pará (Brasilien) und den anlie-
genden Gebieten.” Anthropos 52 (1957): 509–563.
Since the early sixteenth century more than one thou-
Gusinde, Martin. Der Feuerland Indianer. 3 vols. Vol. 1, Die Selk-
sand languages, representing a variety of linguistic stocks and
nam. Vol. 2, Die Yamana. Vol. 3, Die Halakwulup. Mödling,
many unrelated tongues, have been listed for this area—a
1931–1974. Johannes Wilbert has translated volumes 1 and
fact that suggests that South America was populated over a
2 as Folk Literature of the Selknam Indians (Berkeley, 1975)
great number of centuries by successive migratory groups
and Folk Literature of the Yamana Indians (Berkeley, 1977),
that trekked down from Siberia, North America, and Central
respectively.
America. One classification of South American languages at-
Gusinde, Martin. Review of Mundurucú Religion by Robert F.
tempts to reduce hundreds of mutually unintelligible
Murphy. Anthropos 55 (1960): 303–305.
tongues to only three groups: Macro-Chibchan, Andean-
Haekel, Joseph. Pura und Hochgott: Probleme der südamerikanisc-
Equatorial, and Ge-Pano-Carib. This classification, however,
hen Religionsethnologie. Vienna, 1958.
is admittedly provisional and, in the case of the last two
Hissink, Karin, and Albert Hahn. Die Tacana: Ergebnisse der Fro-
groups, very uncertain. These migrations began more than
benius-Expedition nach Bolivien 1952 bis 1954, vol. 1, Erzä-
twenty thousand years ago. The majority of early South
hlungsgut. Stuttgart, 1961.
American archaeological sites date from between twelve and
Hultkrantz, A˚ke. Les religions des indiens primitifs de l’Amérique.
fourteen thousand years ago, but quartz tools found in Brazil
Stockholm, 1967.
in 1983 have been dated at about twenty-five thousand years
Jensen, Adolf E. Myth and Cult among Primitive Peoples. Chicago,
before the present.
1973.
The higher civilizations of ancient South America occu-
Kruse, Albert. Pura, das Höchste Wesen Arikena. Fribourg, 1955.
pied the Andean region and the Pacific coast from northern
Métraux, Alfred. La religion des Tupinamba et ses rapports avec celle
Colombia to central Chile. From the point of view of mytho-
des autres tribus Tupi-Guarani. Paris, 1928.
logical studies the more or less “primitive” cultures are at
Métraux, Alfred. “Ethnography of the Chaco.” In Handbook of
least as important as the higher civilizations because the less
South American Indians, edited by Julian H. Steward, vol. 1,
pp. 197–370. Washington, D.C., 1946.
developed societies usually possess abundant collections of
sacred stories. The exceeding diversity of South American ab-
Métraux, Alfred. “Religion and Shamanism.” In Handbook of
original peoples has precluded the formation of a common
South American Indians, edited by Julian H. Steward, vol. 5,
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pantheon or mythico-religious system for the whole conti-
nent. Nevertheless, since many societies have been in contact
Métraux, Alfred. Religions et magies indiennes d’Amériques du Sud.
Paris, 1967.
at one time or another, more than a few myths are common
to several tribes. Moreover, a large number of motifs are not
Nimuendajú, Curt. Die Sagen von der Erschaffung und Vernichtung
only found in the mythologies of different South American
der Welt als Grundlagen der Religion der Apapocúva-Guaráni.
Berlin, 1914.
groups but are also known to peoples of other continents,
leaving room for speculation as to whether these motifs
Nimuendajú, Curt. The Apinayé. Washington, D.C., 1939.
spread through diffusion or originated independently.
Petrullo, Vincenzo M. “The Yaruros of the Capanaparo River,
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MYTHS OF ORIGIN. South American sacred stories about
Ethnology Bulletin 123 (1939): 161–290.
how the world originated do not, as a rule, conform to the
Schuster, Meinhard. Dekuana. Munich, 1976.
pattern of creation out of nothing by the will of an omnipo-
Trimborn, Hermann. “South Central America and the Andean
tent god. Rather, they commonly depict the coming into
Civilizations.” In Pre-Columbian American Religions, edited
being and unfolding of a primordial spirit. In many cases lit-
by Walter Krickeberg et al., chap. 2. London, 1968.
tle is said about the actual genesis of the world, but a detailed
Zerries, Otto. “Primitive South America and the West Indies.” In
description of the structure of the universe is given. This de-
Pre-Columbian American Religions, edited by Walter Kricke-
scription points out the universe’s tiered levels, the axis
berg et al., chap. 4. London, 1968.
mundi (often in the shape of a cosmic tree), and the heavenly
OTTO ZERRIES (1987)
bodies (whose existence is mostly conceived as the product
Translated from German by John Maressa
of the transformation of heroes, animals, or other creatures).
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8587
Many myths deal with characteristics of the sky, and not a
connect the sky and the earth. People of the earth used to
few with those of the underworld. There are also many sto-
climb the tree and hunt in the sky, but an old man who had
ries about the origin of night. Even more abundant than
been given a miserable portion of the game meat avenged
myths of world creation are those about the destruction of
himself by burning the tree. The hunters could not return;
the world, the recurrent agents of destruction being water or
they became the Pleiades. The children of the hunters, who
fire or both.
remained on earth, received from their mother, who was also
stranded in the sky, a deerskin full of honey that she dropped
Creation of the world. The Piaroa, who live on the
from above. They grew up and became the ancestors of the
south bank of the Orinoco and speak a language of the Sáli-
present-day Mataco.
va-Piaroan family, believe that everything was created by the
powers of imagination. In the beginning, they say, there was
The Macuna of the Lower Pira-Parana River in the Vau-
nothing at all. The first thing to appear was the sky, and then
pés region of Colombia, who speak a language of the Tu-
the air and the wind. With the wind, words of song were
canoan family, think that the earth is the shape of a disk. A
born. The words of song are the creative powers that produce
subterranean river is united with the earth by a whirlpool.
thoughts and visions. Out of nothing they imagined and cre-
The river is inhabited by monsters and bad spirits. Over the
ated Buoko, the first being, who developed in the words of
earth is a hot-water lake on which the sun sails from east to
song. Then Buoko imagined his sister Chejaru, and Chejaru
west in his boat every day. Over Sun Lake there is a house
was born. Because of this, humankind also has the power of
where the Lord of the Jaguars lives, a place that only sha-
imagination. The Piaroa say that thought is actually the only
mans, in their flights to heaven, can reach. On top of the cos-
thing humans have.
mos is a layer that covers all others like a lid. Nothing beyond
The Koghi, speakers of a Macro-Chibchan language
it is known. The earth disk consists of several concentric
who live in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, have a creation
zones, the innermost being the Macuna homeland. At the
story that also underscores the spiritual nature both of the
center, just below Sun Lake, stands a sacred mountain, which
first beings and of the essence of the universe. According to
supports the firmament. No stone is taken from this moun-
this myth, creation took place in nine stages, from the bot-
tain lest it fall, taking the sky with it. At a certain point on
tom up. Each stage is both a cosmic level and a spiritual
the earth’s level is the House of the Dead. The outer zones
being called the Mother, who is sometimes accompanied by
are occupied by other Indian tribes, whites, and blacks.
a Father or another spiritual being. The first level, which lies
Sky and underworld. The sky and the underworld are
in darkness, is also the Sea; the second, the spiritual Tiger;
cosmic levels of special interest. They appear in myths influ-
the fifth, the first House of Spirit. Finally, the Fathers of the
enced by the shamans’ narratives of their ecstatic trips to the
World find a huge tree and make a temple in the sky above
upper and lower worlds. The Marikitari, a Carib-speaking
the water. They call it the House of Spirit.
people living in the Upper Orinoco area, say that in the be-
The Muisca (Chibcha) lived in the highlands of Colom-
ginning the whole world was sky. There was no separation
bia at the time of the arrival of the Spanish, and spoke a lan-
between heaven and earth. There was only light. In the sky
guage of the Macro-Chibchan family. According to their cre-
dwelled good, wise people who never died; nor did they
ation myth, before there was anything in the world, it was
work: Food was always available. In the highest sky was
night, and light was kept inside a great thing that, according
Wanadi, who is still there. He gave his light to the people
to the Spanish chronicler who recorded the story, is the same
and they were happy. One day he said that he wanted to
that Europeans call God—an omnipotent, universal, ever-
make people on that part of the sky called “earth.” He sent
good lord and maker of all things. The great being began to
a spirit who made the first people and brought them knowl-
dawn, showing the light that he had in himself, and he com-
edge, tobacco, the maraca, and the shaman’s quartz power
menced, in that primordial light, to create. His first creations
stones. Later, an evil spirit called Orosha introduced hunger,
were some black birds that he commanded to go everywhere
sickness, war, and death.
in the world blowing their breath from their beaks. That
The sky and the cosmic tree. Some of the myths so far
breath was luminous and transparent, and, the birds’ mission
recounted show a close connection between the cosmic levels
accomplished, the whole world remained clear and illumined
and the axis mundi, often represented by a gigantic tree. In
as it is now.
the Mataco myth the danger of the sky falling down is clearly
Cosmic levels. In many South American myths, the
pointed out. The same motif appears in many other myths
universe is conceived as a series of layered planes—three or
of tropical forest tribes. The Ge-speaking Kayapó of central
four in many cases, but sometimes more. The Mataco, whose
Brazil say that in the east there was a gigantic tree called End
language is a member of the Mataco-Mataguayo family and
of the Sky. It supported the heavens, which in those days
who live in the Gran Chaco between the Pilcomayo and Ber-
were parallel to the earth. After several tries, a tapir succeeded
mejo rivers, distinguish the levels of earth, sky, underworld,
in gnawing the trunk until it broke. Then the sky drooped
and (according to some) that of another earth farther down.
down at the edges, forming the celestial vault. At the place
Originally the sky had been joined to the earth, but the
where the tree has its roots all kinds of strange beings live.
Owner of the Sky separated them. Afterward, a tree grew to
When a group of people went to explore the east, they found
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SOUTH AMERICAN INDIAN RELIGIONS: MYTHIC THEMES
it so frightening that they fled back home with no desire to
family, were skilled navigators of the Caribbean Sea and had
return to the End of the Sky.
a rich lore about stars and constellations, some of which has
survived to the twentieth century. One of their stories tells
Sky, light, and darkness. Myths in which the sky, usu-
about a newly married girl who was seduced by a man in the
ally associated with light, is related to the origins of night are
shape of a tapir who asked her to follow him eastward to the
also common. The following story is told by the Cuiba, who
place where earth and sky meet. Serikoai, her husband, acci-
live in the western plains of Colombia and speak a language
dentally cut off his leg with an ax and, after being cured by
of the Guahiboan family. In ancient times there was no
his mother, set out in search of his wife. He finally found
night, only an endless daytime. People could not sleep. A
her in the company of Tapir, whom he shot, severing Tapir’s
woman who had gone out of her mind wanted to break the
head. He implored his wife to return, saying that if she re-
sky. Her husband, who was a shaman and had had a dream,
fused he would follow her forever. She hurried on, chased
warned her to be careful and not to damage the sky, which
by her lover’s spirit and her husband. On arriving at the
belonged to the locusts. But she paid no attention and hurled
earth’s steep edge, she threw herself into the deep blue sky.
a stone that broke the sky, which was made of mud. Directly
On a clear night, one can still watch her; she has been turned
it became dark and the earth was invaded by locusts as big
into the Pleiades, with Tapir’s head (the star cluster Hyades,
as iguanas. They ate the eyes of everybody except the sha-
the star Aldebaran being Tapir’s red eye) close behind, and
man. Then the swallows, who are able to carry heavy loads,
Serikoai (Orion, with Rigel indicating the upper part of her
brought all the necessary mud and repaired the sky again.
husband’s sound limb) in pursuit.
Other stories about the origin of the night suggest that
it was created because girls, or wives, would not grant their
MYTHS OF DESTRUCTION. Stories about the destruction of
favors to their lovers, or husbands, since it was always day-
the world and humankind by a deluge—be it from excessive
time. A Tupi myth from central Brazil indicates that night
rain, or by high tides, or both—are fairly common in most
was kept in a coconut that was opened against the formal
regions of South America. Another type of myth of wholesale
prohibition to do so.
destruction is that of the world fire. In some cases these sto-
ries may recall actual catastrophes, but their significance
Sun, moon, and stars. The sun and moon play impor-
seems to be symbolic of divine punishment for transgression
tant roles in many South American myths. Their origins, like
of traditional taboos. Often, the destruction is believed to
those of stars and constellations, are due in many cases to the
have occurred in the past; sometimes, however, the world fire
transformation of humans at turning points or denouements
is projected into the future.
in the mythical stories. Many versions of the widespread
myth of the “twins and the jaguar” end with the heroes’ as-
The Deluge. The earliest recorded American myth of
cending to the sky to become the sun and moon. This is per-
the deluge comes from the Taino, whom Columbus met on
haps the most ubiquitous myth of South America, found
his first voyage of discovery. According to this version of the
from Panama to the Gran Chaco and from the eastern coast
myth, a young man who wished to murder his father was
of Brazil to the Amazonian forests of southern Peru, among
banished and later killed by him. The old man kept his son’s
dozens of tribes that speak mutually unintelligible languages.
bones in a calabash where he and his wife could see them.
Different versions of this story diverge considerably, but the
One day they accidentally overturned the gourd and the
following summary contains a number of essential points
bones turned into fish. Another day, as the man was out in
common to a great number of stories known to widely scat-
the fields, four brothers, whose mother had died at their
tered groups. A mysterious god or a civilizing hero impreg-
birth, took the calabash and ate all the fish. Hearing that the
nates a woman and then abandons her. While walking alone
father was returning, they hurried to hang the vessel back in
in the forest carrying twins in her womb, she is killed by one
place, but it fell to the ground and broke. The water from
or more jaguars, but the jaguars’ mother takes care of the ba-
the calabash filled the whole earth and from it also came the
bies and raises them. A bird or other animal tells the twins
fish in the sea. The theme of the Deluge as a consequence
how their mother died. The twins determine to avenge their
of killing forbidden fish is still present among the contempo-
mother and prepare themselves to do so through several or-
rary Mataco of Argentina and southern Bolivia. In the Ande-
deals. They finally kill all the jaguars except one, which es-
an countries, Deluge myths are generaly associated with a
capes and becomes the ancestor of present-day jaguars. After
magic mountain where humankind takes refuge. As the wa-
some quarreling, the twins climb to the sky, where they can
ters rise, the mountain also rises, thereby saving the lives of
be seen as sun and moon. As an example of the differences
those who have reached the top. One of the best-known ex-
between many versions of this story, it may be mentioned
amples of this motif was recorded as early as the seventeenth
that in the rich Mashco account of this tale the twins do not
century; its memory persists to this day among the speakers
appear; in this case the extraordinary boy Aimarinke kills the
of dialects of the Araucanian language.
jaguars and then goes up to heaven and becomes Yuperax,
In the native traditions of the Huarochiri area of Peru
the god of lightning.
that were collected from Quechua speakers early in the sev-
The pre-Columbian Carib of northern South America,
enteenth century, the Deluge is caused by a god whose pres-
speakers of one or another language of the extensive Carib
ence is not recognized by people who are reveling. Enraged,
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SOUTH AMERICAN INDIAN RELIGIONS: MYTHIC THEMES
8589
he advises a young woman who has tended him and won his
are more commonly known by the name of Urus (“wild ani-
friendship to take refuge on a high mountain nearby. Soon
mals”), as they are called by their Aymara neighbors. The
afterward, heavy rain carries the village away, leaving no one
Carib-speaking Waiwai of Guyana say that before human-
alive. Among the Kaueskar-speaking Alacaluf of southern
kind existed there were on earth sky spirits, which now have
Chile, who were once supposed to have preserved no mythol-
the form of birds and which fly in the second heavenly layer.
ogy, an increasing collection of mythic tales has been gath-
Some of them, however, have human form. Present-day hu-
ered since the late 1970s. Among these stories is one about
mankind descends from the children of a woman who was
a devastating flood caused by the breaking of a taboo forbid-
one of these spirits and who, surprised while alone in the for-
ding the killing of an otter. Only a young couple is saved,
est, was impregnated by a grasshopper-man.
again by climbing a mountain.
The Quechua-speaking Inca of Peru had several myths
The World Fire. The Carib-speaking Taulipáng of
of their origins that were recorded by Spanish chroniclers.
Venezuela connect the deluge with the world fire. They say
According to one of these stories, the high god Vi-racocha
that after the great flood, when everything had dried up,
created Alcaviza, a chieftain; and told him that after his
there was a great fire. All the game animals hid in an under-
(Viracocha’s) departure the Inca noble would be born. Alcav-
ground pit. Fire consumed everything: people, mountains,
iza resided at the place that would later become the main
stones. That is why big chunks of coal are sometimes found
square of Cuzco, the capital of the Inca empire. Seven miles
in the earth. The Zapiteri, of the Mashco ethnic group of
away, at a place called Paccaritambo (“lodge of dawn”), the
the southwestern Amazon, say that in the beginning of time
earth opened to form a cave, from which the four Ayar
it rained blood, but later the sun began to heat up and there
brothers emerged, dressed in fine clothing and gold. Fearing
was a great fire. The tribes of the Gran Chaco have a rich
the colossal strength of the one who had come out of the cave
repertoire of myths about the world fire. One of these myths,
first, his brothers asked him to go back into the cave and
from the Mataco, says that long ago the Mataco lived in great
fetch some golden objects that had been left behind. While
disorder. One day black clouds broke into lightning and rain
he was inside, the others immured him there forever. Ayar
began to fall. The drops were not water but fire, which
Manco, who had come out last, took the prisoner’s wife for
spread everywhere. There were only a few survivors, among
himself. Another brother displayed big wings, flew to the sky,
them Tokhuah the trickster, who went underground for the
and from high above told Ayar Manco that the sun had or-
duration of the fire.
dered that he should change his name to Manco Capac
(“Manco the Magnificent”) and take the winged man’s wife
Many fragments have been collected of what is thought
for himself. Finally the winged man turned into a stone. In
to have been a widely diffused myth of the destruction of the
the company of his only remaining brother and their wives,
world by fire. According to the Tupi-speaking Apocacuva
Manco Capac walked to Cuzco, where Alcaviza recognized
Guaraní, the World Fire was the first of four cataclysms that
from their garments that they were indeed the children of
annihilated almost all creatures, and it will be repeated when
the Sun and told them to settle at whatever place they liked
the creator removes from under the earth the crossed beams
best. Manco Capac, the first Inca ruler, chose the site where
that hold it in place. Then the earth will catch fire, a long-
later the Coricancha, or court of the sun, would be built. His
lasting night will set in, and a blue tiger will devour human-
brother went away to settle another village.
kind.
HIGH GOD. The belief in a high god conceived as omni-
Such Ge-speaking tribes as the Apanyekra, Apinagé,
scient and benevolent to humans rather than as an omnipo-
Craho, and Ramkokamekra tell stories about the beginnings,
tent and perfect creator (which in some cases he also is) is
when only two persons existed, Sun and Moon, both of them
documented in many South American myths. It was first re-
male. One day Sun obtained a beautiful plumed headdress
ported by Fray Ramón Pané in the earliest ethnological study
that looked like fire. Because Moon also wanted one for him-
of American Indians. He wrote that the Taino of Haiti be-
self, Sun got another and threw it to Moon, warning him not
lieved in the existence of an immortal being in the sky whom
to let it touch the ground; but Moon was afraid to grab it
no one can see and who has a mother but no beginning. At
and let it fall to earth, and it immediately started to burn,
the the southernmost extreme of South America, the belief
consuming all the sand and many animals.
in the existence of a high god has been acknowledged among
MYTHIC ANCESTORS. Different South American myths place
the tribes of Tierra del Fuego. The Tehuelche of Patagonia
the origin of humans at distinct levels of the universe and
seem to have believed in a supreme being conceived as a good
variously depict the human race as being born from minerals,
spirit who was also the lord of the dead. From the Araucani-
plants, or animals. Women are sometimes assigned a separate
ans (Mapuche) come testimonies of a belief, possibly autoch-
origin. The Urus of Lake Titicaca, speakers of a language of
thonous, in a supreme celestial being, Nguenechen. Very
the Uro-Chipaya family, relate that in the time of darkness
early reports say that the Tupí believed in a being they called
the universal creator made the Chullpas, who were the first
Monan, and that they attributed to him the same perfections
men. They were destroyed by a cataclysm when the Sun ap-
that Christians attribute to their God: He is eternal, and he
peared, and their survivors became the ancestors of those
created the heavens and the earth as well as the birds and
who now call themselves Kotsuns (“people of the lake”), but
animals.
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SOUTH AMERICAN INDIAN RELIGIONS: MYTHIC THEMES
The most famous of all South American high gods is the
being. Among the Ayoré of western Paraguay and eastern Bo-
Andean deity Viracocha. Several etymologies have been pro-
livia, who speak a language of the Zamuco family, there is
posed to explain the meaning of his name, among them “sea
an origin myth (or sometimes several) for every single object,
of grease” (as a rich source of life) and “lord of all created
whether natural or manmade. According to the Ayoré, most
things.” In any case the belief in a high creator god among
things originated through the transformation of an ancestor.
the Andean peoples probably goes back to early prehistoric
In many cases, however, cultural objects were in the begin-
times. It has been suggested that Viracocha is none other
ning owned by the ancestor who, at a certain point, gave
than the same world creator and culture hero found in the
them to humankind.
mythology of many tribes from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego.
Apparently, the ancient high god was obscured for a time by
ORIGINS OF FIRE. Fire, the natural element required to
his conflation with the Inca sun god, but later the Inca were
transform the raw into the cooked, separates humans from
obliged to revert to the ancient high god of archaic mytholo-
animals and establishes the basis of culture; as such, it is the
gies in order to secure the support of their allies when Cuzco
subject of many mythic stories, which can be broadly divided
was threatened by other peoples. Another important Andean
into myths about the origin of fire and myths about the ori-
high god is Illapa, lord of rain, lightning, and thunder. As
gin of the techniques for fire-making. Most stories of the for-
do some other Andean deities, Illapa hierophanically pres-
mer group recount how, in the times of the beginnings, hu-
ents himself in trinitarian form comprising Illapa the Father,
mans first obtained fire, either as a gift from a god or as an
Illapa the Elder Son (or Brother), and Illapa the Younger Son
element stolen by a culture hero.
(or Brother). Illapa’s name is related to the Quechua
The greatest variety of myths about fire among South
word illa, meaning both “protective spirit” and “light” or
American societies probably occurs in the traditional oral lit-
“lightning.”
erature of the Mataco. According to one of these stories,
While Illapa is a god of the Andean highlands, Con and
Raven was the owner of fire, and Toad, in an unsuccessful
Pachacámac belong to the Peruvian coast. Con is said to have
attempt to steal it, almost extinguished it. But Tokhuah, the
created the sky, the sun, the moon, the earth with all its ani-
trickster, did succeed in getting it, and, when chased away,
mals, the Indians, and the fish by means of his thought and
waved his burning stick in all directions. The branches of all
breath. After having made everything, he ascended into the
the species of trees that caught fire are now gathered to make
sky. Con was followed later by a more powerful god called
drills for producing fire by friction. In another Mataco myth,
Pachacámac (“world maker,” or “the god who gives orders”).
Vulture, the guardian of fire, flapped his huge wings from
O
time to time to fan the live coals. If someone attempted to
RIGINS OF PLANTS AND CULTURE. The introduction of
seeds for agriculture and the origins of certain staple plants
take a burning piece of wood, however little, Vulture would
and their fruits are recounted as etiological motifs in many
flutter his wings with such force that the fire would flare up
South American myths. In Peru, several sacred personages of
and the would-be thief would be burned to ashes. But ac-
legendary times are credited with the creation of produce.
cording to the most widely reported version of the Mataco
According to an ancient story, the god Pachacámac trans-
myth, the owner of the fire is Jaguar. In this story, Jaguar
formed the sacrificed body of a divine being into the basic
loses his fire to Rabbit, who puts live coals under his chin
food plants of the Andean peoples.
and runs away. Later Rabbit throws the embers in a meadow
and the world begins to burn. People were thus able to ob-
In the traditions of the Ge-speaking Apinagé, Kayapó,
tain fire and to cook their meals, but Jaguar had to learn how
Craho, and Xerenté, among the tribes of the Tropical Forest,
to hunt and to eat his game raw. Then Tokhuah put the spir-
as well as among the Mataco of the Gran Chaco, many fruits
it of fire into the wood of the sunchu tree, which the Mataco
of the earth came from the heavens as gifts brought by Star
use to make their fire-drills.
Woman for her lover and his people. That is the way the
Apinagé first came to know of sweet potatoes and yams and
ORIGINS OF DEATH. Several types of myths about the origin
learned to plant maize and make maize cakes. The Kayapó
of death have been noted among South American tribes. One
obtained manioc, sweet potatoes, yams, and bananas
of these may be called the “waxing and waning moon” type.
through the good offices of Sky Woman, who was the daugh-
The Ayoré of the Gran Chaco say that instead of following
ter of Rain. Maize, however, was revealed by a little mouse
Moon, who waxes again after waning into nothing, their an-
who showed it to an old woman. Among the Waiwai it is
cestor followed Tapir, who dies and never rises again.
said that an old woman allowed herself to be burned, and
The Warao of the Orinoco delta have several traditional
from her charred bones sprouted cassava plants of the type
stories representing different types of myth about the origins
still in use today. In a Witóto myth an old woman who was
of death. One type concerns the “serpent and his cast off
ascending the sky in pursuit of a handsome youth fell down,
skin.” It says that people lived happily on earth until one of
transforming herself into the bitter yuca, while the young
them fell ill and died. He was buried, and the Master of the
man became the sun.
Palm-Leaf Fiber said that they should wail for their dead.
In many tribal societies there are traditional stories
The snakes immediately cried and shed their skins. That is
teaching how artifacts and social intitutions first came into
why snakes do not die, but people do.
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SOUTH AMERICAN INDIAN RELIGIONS: MYTHIC THEMES
8591
Another type of myth, and a very common one, attri-
daughter of Meni caught Rijocamacu, who instantly turned
butes humanity’s fate to its disobedience of a divine com-
into a little baby. The girl put him to her breast. Her father
mandment. It is said that death and sickness came to the
approved of what she was doing, and kindled some wax,
Warao as a punishment inflicted by the Master of Water
blowing on the smoke in order to chase away the spirits of
Spirits because his daughter, who had married a Warao, had
the dead so that they could not frighten the baby and make
been obliged to go into the menstruation hut when she had
him cry. Since that time, when a woman gives birth, the chief
her menses, according to the customs of her husband’s village
blows on the household fire and only then are the people al-
but against her will, and she died. To castigate the Indians,
lowed into the house. In many tales, Meni is said to have
the water spirits caused accidents, sickness, and death.
been the first to do the things that the Barasana do now.
Yet another myth type, the “ill-timed answer,” is found
The close relationship between myth and ritual has been
not only among the Warao but also in Guyana and else-
established in the case of the complex of sacred stories, holy
where. Once, when the world was young and animals could
performances, and tabooed musical instruments and other
talk, a chief announced that Death would pass by that night.
items that are associated with the name Yurupary, known to
The chief added that Death would call to them first, and that
many tribes in the western Amazon region. The stories about
a good spirit would call afterward. If they answered the sec-
Yurupary differ from one tribe to another. One of these sto-
ond call, people would never die, but if they answered the
ries, told among the Macuna, was that Yurupary was an old
first call, all would surely die. The chief asked everybody to
jaguar-shaman whose female companion was Romi Kumu,
stay awake, but a young man went to sleep. Night came and
another powerful being. Since he devoured many men, two
all was quiet. About midnight they heard a voice that they
ancestors decided to kill him, and they did. Afterward they
did not answer, but the young man who was sleeping woke
burned his body; but his ashes produced a palm tree that shot
up and answered it. From that time, people began to die.
quickly into the sky. The ancestors cut the palm to pieces
and these became musical instruments: three male trumpets
The “malevolent decision” motif and the “shouting at
and one female flute that did not give out any sound until
and scaring away the revenant” motif sometimes overlap, as
a hole was made to imitate the vagina of Romi Kumi. When
in the Mataco myth according to which there was a time
the ancestors found Romi Kumi on an island, they stuck the
when everybody lived for five hundred years and died only
flute between her legs, and that was the origin of menstrua-
of old age. Three days after death they would return to life
tion. They gave the instruments to men, who at that time
again, rejuvenated. Nevertheless, when Tokhuah, the trick-
performed the agricultural work that is now performed by
ster, saw Moon, who was a handsome young man with an
the women. In the Yurupary ceremonies, females are not al-
oversized member, beginning to shine again, Tokhuah was
lowed to see the instruments.
frightened, shouting “Go away!” and threatening Moon with
a stick. Moon fled upward until he reached the sky. Tokhuah
MODERN MYTHS. The myths mentioned above are ancient
did the same to those who returned from the dead, and it
stories exhibiting the characteristics of South American cul-
is surmised that because of his actions the dead do not come
tures before contact with European civilization, but the cre-
back to life any more.
ative forces of native imagination were not totally withered
by the impact. Old myths were recast in new molds, making
Another widely scattered motif is the “resurrection ritu-
allowance for the presence of the whites and their ways.
al that fails.” The SelkDnam of Tierra del Fuego used to say
Hundreds of legends—that is, myths with some historical
that when their hero Kenos reached old age and seemed to
component— were coined in colonial times, and the process
die, he rose up again, and caused other men who died to
is still alive today in many areas where indigenous and for-
come back to life by washing them. Subsequently, when he
eign cultures meet. One such legend is the so-called myth
decided at one point not to rise again and went into the sky
of Inkarri, which has been traced to several localities in the
and became a star, he instructed Cenuke, a powerful sorcerer,
vicinity of Cuzco, but has also been found in other areas of
to wash old people and make them young again. But
Peru. Its gist is that the Spanish conqueror Pizarro impris-
Kwanip, another powerful sorcerer, ordained that no person
oned and beheaded Atahuallpa, the Inca king (Span., Inca
should be raised from the sleep of age. He hurried up to the
rey = Inkarri), but the head, which is secretly kept some-
sky where he also became a star. Since then nobody comes
where, is not dead, and is growing a body, which when com-
back from the grave.
pleted will shake off the chains and fetters that hold the Inca
RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN MYTH AND RITUAL. According to
people in bondage. Eventually, Inkarri will reestablish justice
a well-known theory, myths recount rituals and rituals per-
and bring back the ancient culture of the vanquished.
form myths. Although this idea will hardly hold if applied
to all myths and rituals, it is true that some myths relate the
SEE ALSO Atahuallpa; Yurupary.
origins of certain rites. The southern Barasana, speakers of
a Tucanoan language, tell a story of their culture hero
BIBLIOGRAPHY
Warimi, who in his childhood was called Rijocamacu and
The best collection of sources, translated into English from the
who always succeeded in escaping when pursued by the
Spanish, Portuguese, and other European languages, is the
daughters of the supernatural Meni. One day the youngest
multivolume The Folk Literature of South American Indians,
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

8592
SOUTH AMERICAN INDIAN RELIGIONS: HISTORY OF STUDY
edited by Johannes Wilbert (Los Angeles, 1970–), published
2 vols. (Syracuse, N.Y., 1984). Many South American
as part of the “UCLA Latin American Studies” series. Sepa-
myths, or parts of them, are included in the first three vol-
rate volumes have been devoted to the Warao (1970),
umes of Claude Lévi-Strauss’s monumental Mythologiques,
SelkDnam (1975), Yamana (1977), Ge (1979), Mataco
translated as The Raw and the Cooked (New York, 1969),
(1982), Toba (1983), Boróro (1983), and Tehuelche (1984).
From Honey to Ashes (New York, 1973), and The Origin of
Extensive compilations of South American myths are Theo-
Table Manners (New York, 1978), also useful for its extensive
dor Koch-Grünberg’s Indianermärchen aus Südamerika
bibliographies.
(Jena, 1901), which does not include the Andean civiliza-
There is no large-scale treatment of South American mythology
tions, and Raffaele Pettazzoni’s Miti e leggende, vol. 4, Ameri-
from the point of view of religious studies. The best overview
ca Centrale e Meridionale (Turin, 1963).
is Harold Osborne’s South American Mythology (London,
Other sources are included in more restricted ethnological studies
1968). A survey of the field since the publication of the
or in anthologies devoted to Indians of a single country, such
Handbook of South American Indians, 7 vols., edited by Julian
as the following works: Walter E. Roth’s An Inquiry into the
H. Steward (Washington, D.C., 1946–1959), is found in
Animism and Folk-Lore of the Guiana Indians (Washington,
Juan Adolfo Vázquez’s “The Present State of Research in
D.C., 1908–1909), which has myths of the Arawak, Carib,
South American Mythology,” Numen 25 (1978): 240–276.
and Warao; An Historical and Ethnological Survey of the Cuna
Although dated in many respects, the Handbook has not been
Indians, by Erland Nordenskiöld in collaboration with
replaced as a general work of reference. Invaluable for the
Ruben Pérez Kantule, edited by Henry Wassén (Göteborg,
ethnological background to the mythology of many tribes,
1938); Herbert Baldus’s Die Jaguarzwillinge (Kassel, 1958),
it also includes brief summaries on religions and mytholo-
with myths from Brazil; Fray Cesáreo de Armellada and Car-
gies, and an article by Alfred Métraux, “Religion and Sha-
mela Bentivenga de Napolitano’s Literaturas indígenas vene-
manism” (vol. 5, pp. 559–599). The article “Inca Culture at
zolanas (Caracas, 1975); Hugo Nino’s Literaturas de Colom-
the Time of the Spanish Conquest” by John Howland Rowe
bia aborigen: En pos de la palabra (Bogotá, 1978). The
(vol. 2., pp. 183–330) provides an excellent introduction to
Taulipan and Arekuna are represented in Theodor Koch-
the subject and includes sections on Inca religion and my-
Grünberg’s Von Roroima zum Orinoco, vol. 2 (Stuttgart,
thology. The chapters on archaeology can be updated by
1924); the Marikitare, in Marc de Civrieux’s Watunna: An
consulting Gordon R. Willey’s An Introduction to American
Archaeology,
vol. 2, South America (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.,
Orinoco Creation Cycle (San Francisco, 1980). Myths from
1971). The field of South American linguistics has been sur-
some tribes of the huge Amazonian area are included in C.
veyed by different authors, among them Cestmír Loukotka
Manuel Nunes Pereira’s Moronguêtá: Um Decameron indí-
in his Classification of South American Indian Languages, ed-
gena, 2 vols. (Rio de Janeiro, 1967); Gerardo Reichel-
ited by Johannes Wilbert (Los Angeles, 1968).
Dolmatoff’s Amazonian Cosmos: The Sexual and Religious
Symbolism of the Tukano Indians
(Chicago, 1971); Gerald
The following periodicals have published many myths from South
Weiss’s Campa Cosmology: The World of a Forest Tribe in
America: Amérindia (Paris, 1976–), Anthropos (Mödling,
South America (New York, 1975); Manuel García-
1906–), Journal de la Société des Américanistes (Paris, 1895–),
Renduelas’s ‘Duik Múum’: Universo mítico de los aguarunas,
Journal of Latin American Lore (Los Angeles, 1975–), Latin
2 vols. (Lima, 1979); Stephen Hugh-Jones’s The Palm and
American Indian Literatures (Pittsburgh, 1977–1984) Revista
the Pleiades: Initiation and Cosmology in Northwest Amazonia
do Museu Paulista (Sa˜o Paulo, 1895–1938, 1947–), and
(Cambridge, 1979), on the Barasana, important for the study
Scripta Ethnologica (Buenos Aires, 1973–).
of the Yurupary myth; Mario Califano’s Analisis comparativo
New Sources
de un mito mashco (Jujuy, Argentina, 1978), based on ver-
Bierhorst, John. The Mythology of South America. New York,
sions from three groups of southeast Peru; Peter G. Roe’s The
1998.
Cosmic Zygote: Cosmology in the Amazon Basin (New Bruns-
Gutiérrez Estéves, Manuel, ed. Mito y ritual en América. Madrid,
wick, N.J., 1982), on Shipibo mythology. Classic studies in
1988.
Guaraní mythology are part of Alfred Métraux’s La religion
des Tupinamba et ses rapports avec celle des autres tribus Tupi-

Fischer, Manuela. Mito Kogi. Quito, 1989.
Guarani (Paris, 1928) and Curt Nimuendajú’s “Die Sagen
Manuela de Cora, María Kuai-Mare. Mitos Aborigenes de Venezue-
von der Erschaffung und Vernichtung der Welt als Grundla-
la. Caracas, 1993.
gen der Religion der Apapocuva-Guarani,” Zeitschrift für Et-
Morales Guerrero, Enrique Rafael. Mitologia Americana: Estudio
hnologie 46 (1914): 284–403. For the Kamayurá and other
preliminar sobre mitologia clásica. Santafé de Bogoté, 1997.
tribes of the Upper Xingu: Orlando Villas Boas and Claudio
Villas Boas’s Xingu: The Indians, Their Myths (New York,
Urban, Greg. A Discourse-Centered Approach to Culture: Native
1973). The myth of the “twins and the jaguar,” widely dif-
South American Myths and Rituals. Austin, 1991.
fused in the Amazon, is studied in relation to early Andean
JUAN ADOLFO VÁZQUEZ (1987)
civilizations by Julio C. Tello in his article “Wira Kocha,”
Revised Bibliography
Inca 1 (1923): 93–320, 583–606. Two recent anthologies of
Andean myths are Henrique Urbano’s Wiracocha y Ayar: Hé-
roes y funciones en las sociedades andinas
(Cuzco, 1981) and
Franklin Pease’s El pensamiento mítico (Lima, 1982). The
SOUTH AMERICAN INDIAN RELIGIONS:
best edition of the Huarochiri traditions collected by Fran-
HISTORY OF STUDY
cisco de Ávila is Jorge L. Urioste’s Hijos de Pariya Qaqa: La
Systematic study of South American indigenous religions
tradición oral de Waru Chiri: Mitología, ritual y costumbres,
began with the arrival of the first Europeans. Almost imme-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

SOUTH AMERICAN INDIAN RELIGIONS: HISTORY OF STUDY
8593
diately after landing in the New World, scholars, priests,
and political lines drawn within Europe itself by the Refor-
scribes, and soldiers began describing and assimilating the
mation.
Indians’ peculiar and, to them, outlandish practices for their
For Iberians, however, it was the Reconquista or Libera-
Old World sponsors and public. The confrontation between
tion of Catholic Spain from Moorish rule that lent the study
these early explorer-chroniclers and their indigenous subjects
of religion an urgent, practical tone. If Indian souls were to
established the basis of a religious opposition between Chris-
be recruited to the ends of the “one true religion,” it was nec-
tian reformer and “pagan” Indian; and it is no exaggeration
essary to isolate and eradicate those aspects of the indigenous
to say that these early accounts set the stage for all later schol-
religions that stood in the way of conversion. Priests had to
arly and scientific studies of the continent’s diverse religious
be instructed, catechisms written, and punishments devised
traditions.
for specific religious offenses. The ensuing campaigns to ex-
tirpate idolatries produced the first true studies of religion
All early accounts of religion were driven by the practi-
in the Andean highlands. Combining knowledge of Chris-
cal needs of empire. For the Spaniards, the political impor-
tian doctrine and missionary zeal with an increasing practical
tance of understanding and analyzing native religious belief
familiarity with indigenous life, theologians and priests such
first arose through their encounters with the powerful Inca
as José de Acosta (1590), José de Arriaga (1621), Cristóbal
state of highland Peru. Chroniclers such as Juan de Betanzos
de Albornóz (c. 1600), and Francisco de Ávila (1608) set out
(1551), Pedro Cieza de León (1553), and Cristóbal de Moli-
to define in a rigorous and scholarly way the parameters of
na (1572) among others provided vivid accounts of imperial
indigenous religion.
religion and Inca state mythologies. Two concerns tempered
their descriptions and choice of subject matter: the spectacle
A few indigenous and mestizo writers sought to vindi-
of Inca rituals and the parallels they imagined to exist be-
cate their culture and religion from the attacks of these Cath-
tween their Christian millenarian and apostolic traditions
olic campaigners, in the process contributing greatly to the
and the natives’ own beliefs in a “creator god” whose prophe-
historical study of Andean religion. Among the most inter-
sized return coincided with—and thus facilitated—the ini-
esting of the indigenous chronicles is an eleven-hundred-
tial Spanish conquests in Peru. Similar messianic beliefs
page letter to the king of Spain written between 1584 and
among the Tupi-Guaraní of eastern Brazil attracted the at-
1614 by Felipe Guamán Poma de Ayala, a native of Ayacu-
tention of the explorers Hans von Staden (1557) and Anto-
cho, Peru, who had worked with the extirpation campaigns.
nie Knivet (1591). Their writings provide fascinating ac-
Other native accounts include the chronicle of Juan de San-
counts of Tupi religion as part of an argument intended to
tacruz Pachacuti Yamqui Salcamaygua (c. 1613) and the
prove the presence of the Christian apostle Thomas in South
monumental History of the Incas (1609), written by the half-
Inca Garcilaso de la Vega. These native writers defended the
America long before its sixteenth-century “discovery.” Such
goals but not the cruel methods, of Christian conversion and
early accounts inevitably strike the modern-day reader as eth-
defended many native beliefs and practices as more just and
nocentric. The tone of these writings is understandable,
rational than the abuses of the Spanish colonizers.
however, since their purpose was to make sense of the new
cultures and peoples they met within the historical and con-
Other chronicles record European reactions to religions
ceptual framework provided by the Bible. Within this frame-
of the Amazonian lowlands; these include among others the
work, there was only one “religion” and one true God. All
travel accounts of Claude d’Abbeville (1614) and Gaspar de
other belief systems, including those encountered in the
Carvajal, a priest who accompanied the first exploratory voy-
Americas, were judged as pagan. For some early theologians,
age up the Amazon River system in 1542. But if what the
the pagan practices of the South Americans placed them well
Europeans understood by “religion”—that is, hierarchies,
outside the domain of the human. Others, however, believed
priests, images, and processions—fit in well with what they
the Americans were humans who had once known the true
found in the Andean state systems, it differed markedly from
God and then somehow fallen from grace or were innocents
the less-institutionalized religions of the tropical forest re-
with an intuitive knowledge of God. Early accounts of reli-
gion. Accounts of lowland religions were accordingly
gious practices were driven by this desire to uncover evidence
couched in an exaggerated language stressing atrocity, pagan-
of the Indians’ prior evangelization or intuitive knowledge
ism, and cannibalism. Such emphases had more to do with
of God. Catholic writers thus often interpreted the indige-
prevailing European mythologies than with the actual reli-
nous practices they observed by comparing them to such fa-
gious beliefs of tropical forest peoples.
miliar Catholic practices as confession. In what is perhaps the
This early literature on Andean religion provided irre-
most sympathetic account of a native religion, the Calvinist
placeable data about ritual, dances, offerings, sacrifices, be-
Jean de Léry made sense of the religious practices of the Bra-
liefs, and gods now no longer in force—including, in the case
zilian Tupinambá Indians by comparing their ritual canni-
of Guamán Poma’s letter, a sequence of drawings depicting
balism to the Catholic Communion, in which Christians
indigenous costume and ritual and, in the chronicle of Fran-
partook of the body and blood of Christ. De Léry’s account
cisco de Ávila, a complete mythology transcribed in Que-
suggests the extent to which all early inquiries into South
chua, the native language. But these colonial writings also
American religions were inevitably colored by the religious
provided a powerful precedent for religious study thereafter.
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SOUTH AMERICAN INDIAN RELIGIONS: HISTORY OF STUDY
From the time of the extirpators on, religion was the salient
manticizing and exoticizing, however, tended to occur un-
element or institution by which indigenous peoples were
evenly. Thus whereas religions of the Amazon Basin were
judged in relation to their Christian or European conquer-
subject to the most exotic and picturesque stereotypes of
ors. Religion, in short, became the principal index for defin-
what a tropical primitive should be, the less-remote Andean
ing the cultural and social differences separating two now ad-
Indians were described primarily in terms of their degenera-
jacent populations. Such religious criteria helped shape as
tion from the glories of a lost Inca religion that was consid-
well the unfortunate stereotypes applied to Amazonian peo-
ered to be more enlightened or “pure.”
ples and cultures.
EARLY- TO MID-TWENTIETH-CENTURY STUDIES. The twen-
N
tieth century ushered in new forms of scientific inquiry and
INETEENTH-CENTURY TRAVEL AND EXPEDITIONARY LIT-
scholarly ideals. Departing from the narrative, subjective
ERATURE. The interval between the seventeenth-century
campaigns against idolatry and the early-nineteenth-century
styles of the chroniclers, travelers, and natural historians,
independence period was marked by an almost complete ab-
modern writers sought to describe indigenous religion inde-
sence of religious studies. In Europe itself the accounts of
pendently of any personal, cultural, or historical biases about
Garcilaso de Vega, de Léry, and others provided the raw ma-
it; subjectivity was to be subsumed to a new ideal of relativ-
terials from which eighteenth-century philosophers crafted
ism and objectivity. These writers conform to two general
their highly romanticized image of the American Indian.
yet interrelated disciplinary fields: (1) the anthropologists
While Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712–1778) and others
and historians of religion, who use a comparative and typo-
looked to the Tupinambá as a model for the “noble savage,”
logical framework to examine the universal, phenomenologi-
other French philosophers held up Inca religion as an exam-
cal bases of religious belief, and (2) the area specialists, or
ple of what an enlightened monarchy and nonpapal deist re-
Americanists, who are interested in defining the specificity
ligion could look like. Although far removed from South
and social cultural evolution of religions in the Americas.
America itself, these writings continued to influence the
The first group included such early scholars of lowland
study of South American religions for many future genera-
religions as Paul Ehrenreich (1905), Max Schmidt (1905),
tions.
and Adolf E. Jensen (who later founded the Frankfurt ethno-
With their independence from Spain in the early nine-
graphic school, home to such important modern scholars of
teenth century, the new South American republics became
South American religions as Otto Zerries and Karin His-
once again available to the travelers, adventurers, natural his-
sink). Their comparativist theories proved an impetus for the
torians, and scientists who could provide firsthand observa-
later field studies of Martin Gusinde (1931–1937) in Tierra
tions. Whereas earlier colonial observers had approached the
del Fuego, William Farabee (1915–1922), and Günter Tess-
study of religion through the political and theological lens
mann (1928–1930) in the Northwest Amazon, Konrad T.
of empire and conversion, these nineteenth-century travelers
Preuss (1920–1930) in both highland and lowland Colom-
used the new languages of science and evolutionary progress
bia, and Theodor Koch-Grünberg (1900–1930) in the Ori-
to measure the Indians’ status with respect to contemporary
noco and in Northwest Brazil. These field-workers wrote de-
European cultural and historical achievements. While none
tailed general accounts of lowland or Amazonian religions
of these travelogues and natural histories was intended as a
and placed special emphasis on the analysis of iconography,
study of indigenous religion per se, many of them include
mythology, and animism.
reports on religious custom. Among the most important of
Studies of highland religion during this early-twentieth-
these are the travel accounts of Ephraim George Squier
century period tended to focus almost exclusively on antiqui-
(1877), Charles Wiener (1880), Friedrich Hassaurek (1867),
ties. The most important of these studies are the linguistic
and James Orton (1876) for the Andean highlands and Jo-
treatises of E. W. Middendorf (1890–1892) and J. J. von
hann Baptist von Spix and Carl von Martius (1824), Henri
Tschudi (1891) and the archaeological surveys of Max Uhle
Coudreau (1880–1900), Alcides d’Orbigny (1854), and
and Alfons Stubel (1892). Both Incaic and contemporary
General Couto de Magalha˜es (1876) for the Amazonian low-
Andean materials, however, were included in the broad sur-
lands. Such descriptions were augmented, especially in the
veys done by the scholars Adolf Bastian (1878–1889) and
Amazon, by detailed and often highly informative accounts
Gustav Brühl (1857–1887), who were interested in compar-
of “pagan” practices written by missionary ethnographers
ing the religions and languages of North, South, and Central
such as José Cardus (1886) in Bolivia and W. H. Brett
America to establish a theory of cultural unity.
(1852) in British Guiana (now Guyana).
The Americanists’ interdisciplinary studies of indige-
This nineteenth-century literature tended to romanti-
nous religion drew on the early twentieth-century German
cize the Indians and their religions through exaggerated ac-
studies and on at least three other sources as well. The first
counts of practices such as head-hunting, cannibalism, blood
was the fieldwork during the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s by
sacrifice, and ritual drinking. In these “descriptions” of reli-
European ethnologists such as Alfred Métraux, Paul Rivet,
gion emphasis is placed on the exotic, wild, and uncivilized
and Herbert Baldus as well as by American anthropologists
aspects of the Indians’ religious practices—and on the narra-
from the Smithsonian Institution’s Bureau of Ethnology. Be-
tor’s bravery and fortitude in searching them out. Such ro-
yond describing the general social organization, religion, rit-
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SOUTH AMERICAN INDIAN RELIGIONS: HISTORY OF STUDY
8595
ual, and mythologies of the Indians, these men were interest-
subsequently compiled a vast archive of oral traditions, “cus-
ed in classifying the cultures and religions they found by
toms,” and ritual practices. Notable among these folklorists
tracing their interrelationships and linguistic affiliations. In
and anthropologists are Antonio Paredes Candia and En-
their writings therefore a detailed account of religion is often
rique Oblitas Poblete of Bolivia, Roberto Lehmann-Nitsche
subordinated to an overriding interest in linguistic data and
of Argentina, Gregorio Hernández de Alba of Colombia, and
material culture. For example, detailed studies of shamanism
Jose-María Arguedas, Jorge Lira, and Oscar Nuñez del Prado
were produced by the Scandinavian ethnographers Rafael
of Peru. Unique among them was the Peruvian archaeolo-
Karsten, Henri Wassen, and Erland Nordenskiöld as part of
gist-anthropologist Julio C. Tello. One of the most creative
a broader comparative examination of the material culture
archaeologists working in Peru, Tello was also the only one
of South America. Of these early ethnographers, the German
interested in exploring the relation of the religious data he
anthropologist Curt Nimuendajú stands out both for the ex-
unearthed to modern-day Quechua beliefs and practices. His
tent of his fieldwork among the Ge, Boróro, Apinagé, Tu-
ethnographic publications of the 1920s are landmarks in the
cano, and Tupi tribes and for the degree to which his inter-
study of Andean religion, and his archaeological investiga-
ests in describing these groups focused on their religious and
tions of the 1930s and 1940s extended knowledge of the An-
ritual life. Other important sources on religious practices
dean religious mind into a comparative framework interrelat-
during this period are provided in the accounts of missiona-
ing highland and lowland cosmologies and religions.
ries and priests, such as Bernadino de Nino (1912) in Bolivia,
The major work to appear out of the formative period
Gaspar de Pinelli (1924) in Colombia, and Antonio Colbac-
of Americanist studies is the seven-volume Handbook of
chini and Cesar Albisetti (1907–1942) in Brazil.
South American Indians edited by Julian H. Steward (1946–
A second group that influenced early Americanist ap-
1959). Though somewhat outdated, the Handbook’s articles,
proaches to religion was composed of ethnohistorians and ar-
which cover aspects of prehistory, material culture, social or-
chaeologists. Often hailed as the first true Americanists to
ganization, and ecology, still provide what is perhaps the
work in the Southern Hemisphere, the archaeologists left a
most useful and accessible comparative source for beginning
distinctive imprint on South American studies by the nature
study of South American religions. Its interest for a history
of their specialty: the study of the pre-Spanish Andean past.
of religious studies, however, also lies in what it reveals about
Excavations, surveys, and analyses of previously unstudied
the biases informing Americanists’ treatment of religion.
sites in both coastal and highland Peru by Max Uhle and Ad-
These are (1) a preoccupation with relative historical or evo-
olph Bandelier were followed by the more detailed chrono-
lutionary classifications and the description of religious sys-
logical studies of Alfred Kroeber, Junius Bird, Wendell Ben-
tems in terms of their similarity to, or degeneration from, a
nett, and John Rowe. Although the chronologies and site
pre-Columbian standard, (2) a lowland-highland dichotomy
inventories constructed by these archaeologists did not focus
informed by this evolutionary mode and according to which
tropical forest religions are judged to be less “complex” than
on religion per se, the temple structures, burials, offerings,
the pre-Hispanic prototypes formulated for the Andes by ar-
textiles, ceramics, and other ritual paraphernalia they un-
chaeologists and ethnohistorians, and (3) the comparative
earthed provided new data on the importance of religion in
framework used by scholars who were more interested in dis-
pre-Columbian social organization and political evolution.
covering the cultural affinities and evolutionary links that
Interpretation of this material was facilitated by the work of
connected different religious practices than they were in de-
ethnohistorians such as Hermann Trimborn and Paul Kirch-
scribing and analyzing the function and meaning of religious
off. Their historical investigations of both highland and low-
practices on a local level. The shortcomings of this dispersed
land religions contributed inmeasurably to an overall work-
and comparative focus are intimated by many of the Hand-
ing definition of South American religious systems and their
book’s authors, who lament the inadequacy of their data on
relation to systems of social stratification, state rule, and eth-
specific religious systems.
nicity.
FUNCTIONALIST AND
FUNCTIONALIST-INFLUENCED
A third and final group that helped shape Americanist
STUDIES. The next group of scholars to address religious is-
studies was composed of South American folklorists, indi-
sues set out specifically to remedy this situation by studying
genists, and anthropologists. In attempting to resurrect in-
indigenous religion in its social context. The manner in
digenous culture and religion, indigenista writers of the
which local religious systems were treated was, however, once
1930s and 1940s differed from the foreign ethnologists of
again tempered by the theoretical orientations of their ob-
these formative Americanist years. Their work was motivated
servers. Thus the first group of anthropologists to follow the
largely by an explicit desire to record South American life-
Handbook’s lead during the 1950s and early 1960s was influ-
ways and religions before such practices—and the people
enced by the functionalist school of British anthropology.
who practiced them—disappeared completely. The emphasis
According to this theory, society is an organic whole whose
of the indigenista studies on the vitality of living religious sys-
various parts may be analyzed or explained in terms of their
tems also served as an important counter to the archaeolo-
integrative function in maintaining the stability or equilibri-
gists’ initial influence on Americanist thinking. The prodi-
um of a local group. Religion was considered to be a more
gious group of national writers influenced by indigenismo
or less passive reflection of the organic unity of a total social
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8596
SOUTH AMERICAN INDIAN RELIGIONS: HISTORY OF STUDY
system. Examples of this approach are the monographs of
ta, Egon Schaden, Neils Fock, and Gerald Weiss. Though
William W. Stein (1961) on the Peruvian Andes, Allan R.
departing from the structuralists’ methodologies, these an-
Holmberg (1950) on the Siriono of lowland Bolivia, and Ir-
thropologists shared with the structuralists an interest in
ving Goldman (1963) on the Cubeo of Brazil. In several
studying religion as an expression of social organization, soci-
cases more detailed monographs were written that focused
ety-nature classifications, and broad cultural identities.
specifically on the role of religion in indigenous social orga-
nization; these include works by Robert Murphy on the Bra-
In the Andes, where mythologies and religion were
zilian Mundurucú, Segundo Bernal on the Paez of Colom-
judged to be less pristine and less divorced from the ravages
bia, David Maybury-Lewis on the Akwe-Xavante, and Louis
of historical, social, and economic change, Lévi-Strauss’s the-
C. Faron on the Mapuche, or Araucanians, of coastal Chile.
ories generated interest in the study of social continuity
through examination of structural forms. These studies of
One variant of this functionalist approach brought out
underlying structural continuity were based on extensive
the role of religion as a means of achieving or maintaining
fieldwork by ethnographers and ethnohistorians such as Bil-
balance between social and ecological systems. Prime exam-
lie Jean Isbell, Juan Ossio, Henrique Urbano, Gary Urton,
ples of this approach are Gerardo Reichel-Dolmatoff’s bril-
John Earls, and Alejandro Ortíz Rescaniere. These scholars
liant, Freudian-influenced treatments of mythology, sha-
have argued for the existence of a constant and culturally spe-
manism, and cosmology among the Koghi Indians of
cific religious (as well as mythological and astronomical)
Colombia’s Sierra Nevada highlands and the Desána (Tu-
structure by means of which indigenous groups have retained
cano) of the Northwest Amazon. Other studies of shaman-
their cultural identity over time. Their studies of postcon-
ism, cosmology, and hallucinogens have been carried out by
quest religious continuity drew on ethnohistorical models of
the anthropologists Douglas Sharon in coastal Peru and Mi-
Andean social organization, in particular R. Tom Zuidema’s
chael Harner in eastern Ecuador.
complex structural model of Inca social relations and ritual
geographies and María Rostworowski de Diez Canseco’s
STRUCTURALIST STUDIES. During the 1960s and 1970s
studies of pre-Hispanic coastal societies. Both of these ethno-
scholars began to question the passively reflective, or “super-
historians have emphasized the role of mythology, ritual, and
structural,” role to which much of functionalist anthropolo-
religious ideology in the shaping of Andean economic and
gy had relegated religion as well as the simplistic and ulti-
political history.
mately evolutionist dichotomies between the Andean and
tropical forest cultures. The major theoretical impetus for
Structuralist methodology also motivated a new type of
this new approach came from structuralism, which proposed
comparative study focusing on the similarities linking Ande-
to analyze the affinities connecting mythologies and ritual
an and Amazonian religions. For example, Zuidema’s struc-
practices and the societies in which they occurred by refer-
tural model for Inca socioreligious organization pointed out
ring all to a pervasive symbolic or cognitive structure based
the important similarities between this elaborate highland
on dual oppositions and on diverse forms of hierarchical or-
state system and the equally complex modes of ritual and so-
ganization. The pioneering works of this tradition were Cl-
cial organization found among the Ge and Boróro Indians
aude Lévi-Strauss’s studies of social organization and my-
of Brazil. D. W. Lathrap’s archaeological model for the evo-
thology in the Amazon basin and his four-volume
lution of South American social organization used similar
Mythologiques (1964–1971), which presented a system for
comparative techniques to establish a common heritage of
analyzing mythic narratives as isolated variants of an organi-
lowland and highland cosmologies. By combining this com-
zational logic whose standardized structure he invoked to ex-
parative insight with the historical dynamics of archaeology
plain the commonality of all North and South American
and ethnohistory and by assigning to religion a determinative
modes of religious expression and social organization.
role in the evolution of social systems, such models not only
questioned but in many ways actually reversed the prevailing
The structuralist approach has been particularly impor-
stereotypic dichotomy between “primitive” Amazon and
tant for the study of religion. For the first time a mode of
“civilized” Andes.
thinking—evidenced by religion and mythology—was not
only taken as the principal index of cultural identity but was
HISTORICAL AND POSTSTRUCTURALIST VIEWS. In the final
also seen to influence and even partly to determine the orga-
decades of the twentieth century anthropologists and other
nization of other spheres of social and economic life. In its
students of religion began increasingly to question the no-
renewed focus on religion, structuralism inspired myriad
tions of unity, coherence, and continuity that had character-
studies of lowland ritual and mythology, including those by
ized much earlier work on indigenous religion. Structuralists
Jean-Paul Dumont, Michel Perrin, Terence Turner, Jacques
had intepreted myth as the partial expression or transforma-
Lizot, Anthony Seeger, Stephen Hugh-Jones, and Christine
tion of mental structures that endured over time and ritual
Hugh-Jones. These structuralist studies of mythology and
as the symbolic performance of the formal, structural princi-
social organization were completed—and often preceded—
ples that lent meaning to a particular culture’s cosmology or
by collections of mythologies and descriptions of cosmolo-
worldview. Through such forms of analysis, structuralists
gies (or “worldviews”) by ethnographers such as Johannes
emphasized the coherency and mobility of the structural
Wilbert, Marc de Civrieux, Darcy Ribiero, Roberto DaMat-
principles expressed in the many different domains of social
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SOUTH AMERICAN INDIAN RELIGIONS: HISTORY OF STUDY
8597
life. In so doing they also made important claims concerning
movements and indigenous political resistance took shape.
the pervasive character of “religion” and the impossibility of
Other examples include the work of anthropologists Robin
drawing a definite boundary between religious and secular
M. Wright and Jonathan Hill on northern Amazonian reli-
activities in indigenous societies.
gious movements and political organization; Xavier Albó,
Platt, Olivia Harris, Abercrombie, and Roger Rasnake on the
Poststructuralist work has built on and expanded this
colonial origins and rationality of the sacred landscapes, so-
methodological and theoretical claim that “religion” must be
cial practices, and authority structures through which Ayma-
studied in many different and overlapping domains of social
ra religious practices engage issues of politics and power; and
life. At the same time scholars working in the 1980s and
Jean Jackson and Alcida Ramos on ethnic relations and in-
1990s used historical methodologies to question structural-
digenous politics in the Colombian and Brazilian Amazon.
ism’s claims regarding the coherency and stability of mental
Although the concept of a religious syncretism between colo-
and symbolic structures. Because the study of indigenous so-
nial (usually Catholic) and indigenous belief systems has long
cieties often depended on the use of documentary sources
been a central issue in anthropological treatments of religion,
written by Spaniards and other nonindigenous authors, his-
these new historical studies move well beyond the notion of
tory or ethnohistory has been a foundational methodology
syncretism to paint a more complex picture of how individu-
for many South Americanists. For example, Zuidema and
als, groups, and political movements strategically manipulate
other structualists built their models of pristine Inca and An-
and conceptualize the semantic and epistemic divides that
dean religious systems through the creative, critical use of
ideally differentiate “native” and “colonial,” Indian and mes-
Spanish chronicles and archives. The new historical work on
tizo, resistance and accommodation.
religion by Tristan Platt, Thomas A. Abercrombie, Joanne
Rappaport, and others has drawn on ethnohistorical meth-
Ethnographers have also begun to question the models
ods in their search for an indigenous “voice” in the colonial
of culture and meaning through which early anthropologists
archive. Unlike the earlier structuralists, however, their goal
once defended the unity of indigenous cultural systems and
was not to reconstruct the elements of a precontact society
the interpretation of ritual and myth. Rather than looking
but to understand the complex role played by religion in the
for the inner “meaning” hidden within religious words and
political worlds formed through the interaction of indige-
practices, these ethnographies build on poststructuralist
nous and European societies.
models of language and practice to explore how meaning ac-
crues to words and practices as they unfold in time. Though
In part because of their heavy debt to structualist meth-
focused on different areas of social production, these ethnog-
odologies and perspectives, early historical anthropologies
raphies hold in common the idea that “religion” is best stud-
tended to approach religion as an inherently conservative do-
ied across different domains of social practice rather than as
main of belief whose persistence in colonial times could be
a discrete symbolic system that functions to give “meaning”
read as a form of resistance to colonial rule. Of particular im-
to other domains of indigenous experience. Thus ethno-
portance in this respect were the studies of messianic move-
graphers such as Catherine J. Allen in the Peruvian Andes
ments as forms of religious conservatism coupled with situa-
have examined etiquette and sociality as lived domains in
tions of social resistance or even revolution. In the Andes
which religious belief takes hold not as an extant symbolic
such work was stimulated largely by ethnohistorical studies
system but as the moral and ethical perspective that is played
of colonial messianisms by the Peruvian anthropologists Juan
out through the many small routines and interactions of
Ossio, Franklin Pease, and Luis Millones. Other studies in-
daily life.
terpreted indigenous religious beliefs and practices as strate-
gies for consolidating ethnic identities threatened by the en-
Studies of Andean spatial practices and aesthetics by
croachment of “modern” national societies. These include
Urton, Nathan Wachtel, and Rappaport among others em-
studies by Norman E. Whitten Jr. in Amazonian Ecuador,
phasized how “religious” meanings are woven into such col-
the mythology collections of Orlando Villas Boas and Clau-
lective material practices as wall construction and territorial
dio Villas Boas in the Brazilian Xingu River area, Miguel
boundary maintenance. Other anthropologists, such as Greg
Chase-Sardi’s studies of ethnicity and oral literatures in Para-
Urban and Jackson, have looked at the linguistic practices
guay, and William Crocker and Cezar L. Melatti in the Bra-
through which myths are recounted and interpreted in local
zilian Amazon.
social life. Finally, Michael T. Taussig’s important work on
the Colombian Putumayo and modern Venezuela has ex-
Through its emphasis on contingency, political com-
plored shamanism as a lens on the working of power, fear,
plexity, and intrigue, subsequent work has tended to compli-
and memory in the shaping of Colombian modernity. Taus-
cate the category of resistance itself, along with the dual-
sig’s work has been particularly important in that it takes the
society models that were often implied by the concept of re-
claims of indigenous religious belief and historical narrative
sistance. Stefano Varese’s groundbreaking work on the
seriously as a force in the shaping of modern Latin America.
Peruvian Campa or Ashaninka, based on fieldwork conduct-
Taussig thus succeeds in questioning the spurious distinction
ed during the late 1960s and early 1970s, provides an early
between magical and rational thought and with it the catego-
example of a political anthropology of religion that empha-
ries of myth and history that permeated so much earlier work
sized the political economic contexts in which messianic
on South American religion.
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SOUTH AMERICAN INDIAN RELIGIONS: HISTORY OF STUDY
CONCLUSION. Taken together historical and poststructural-
chival materials that describe religious practices of the time
ist approaches have had the singular effect of undermining
as well as an analysis of the Spaniards’ motives for initiating
the integrity and coherency of the very categories “religion”
the campaign.
and “indigenous” that animated so much earlier anthropolo-
Krickeberg, Walter, et al. Pre-Columbian American Religions.
gy in the region. For a majority of the anthropologists and
Translated by Stanley Davis. London, 1968. Contains survey
historians working in South America, it is no longer possible
articles by Hermann Trimborn and Otto Zerries. Informa-
to speak of indigenous communities, practices, identities, or
tive for its breadth of material, it has a sample of the types
beliefs without situating them in broader regional and na-
of analyses used by historians of religion in the German tra-
tional histories. As the notion of indigenous religion becomes
dition.
unhinged from its original location in the pristine, or sup-
Lévi-Strauss, Claude. Mythologiques. 4 vols. Paris, 1964–1971.
posedly pristine, life of the “Indian community,” it has be-
Translated into English by John Weightman and Doreen
come possible for scholars to think critically and historically
Weightman as Introduction to a Science of Mythology. 3 vols.
about the place of different Christian belief systems in South
New York, 1969. A collection and analysis of myths from the
Western Hemisphere by the originator of structuralist meth-
American indigenous life. Anthropologists have begun to
od in anthropology. It is best read along with Lévi-Strauss’s
study the Protestant evangelical and Catholic charismatic
earlier works, Tristes Tropiques (New York, 1974) and Struc-
sects that have become so prominent in many indigenous
tural Anthropology, 2 vols. (New York, 1963).
communities of South America. Wachtel, Antoinette
MacCormack, Sabine. Religion in the Andes: Vision and Imagina-
Fioravanti-Molinié, and others have analyzed the persistence
tion in Early Colonial Peru. Princeton, N.J., 1991.
of indigenous religious beliefs regarding threatening ñakaqs,
or spirits who extract body fat, in contexts of uncertainty and
Métraux, Alfred. Religions et magies indiennes d’Amérique du Sud:
Édition posthume établie par Simone Dreyfus. Paris, 1967.
change, including among urban indigenous groups. Similar-
Métraux was one of the founding figures of Americanist
ly the category of “popular Catholicism” that was first intro-
studies. This collection of his articles covers nearly all the
duced by Liberation theologists in the aftermth of Vactican
areas in which he did fieldwork, including Peru (Quechua),
II has become a stable of anthropological writing about in-
Bolivia (Uro-Chipaya and Aymara), the Argentinian Chaco
digenous religion, allowing for a similar extension of the cat-
(Guaraní), Chile (Mapuche), and Brazil (Tupi).
egory of indigenous religion to encompass a broader array of
Mills, Kenneth. Idolatry and Its Enemies: Colonial Andean Religion
ritual practices and beliefs that are more consonant with the
and Extirpation, 1640–1750. Princeton, N.J., 1997.
actual experiences of modern indigenous people living in na-
Nimuendajú, Curt. The Eastern Timbira. Translated and edited
tion states.
by Robert H. Lowie. Berkeley, Calif., 1946. One of several
An important inspiration for studies focused on subal-
detailed descriptive monographs of lowland social organiza-
tern or indigenous groups is the new work by historians such
tion and religion produced by Nimuendajú, a German field-
as Sabine MacCormack on the philosophical and theological
worker who lived most of his life among the indigenous peo-
origins of South American notions of idolatry, redemption,
ples of south-central Brazil and who adopted an indigenous
surname.
and the miracle and Kenneth Mills on the complex political
and religious forces behind the sixteenth-century campaigns
Reichel-Dolmatoff, Gerardo. Amazonian Cosmos: The Sexual and
against indigenous “idolatry.” Through such works it be-
Religious Symbolism of the Tukano Indians. Chicago, 1971. A
comes possible to appreciate the long route that has been tra-
Freudian and ecological analysis of the lowland cosmology
(Tucano or Desána of the Vaupés River, Colombia) by one
versed from early scholarly obsessions with locating a pure
of Colombia’s leading anthropologists. His other books, Los
indigenous religion to the more historically grounded schol-
Kogi: Una tribu de la Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, Colom-
arship in which religious practices are at once seen as fully,
bia, 2 vols. (Bogotá, Colombia, 1950–1951), and The Sha-
even paradigmatically modern, without for that reason ceas-
man and the Jaguar: A Study of Narcotic Drugs among the In-
ing to be any less “indigenous.”
dians of Columbia (Philadelphia, 1975) are also considered
classics in South American religious studies.
SEE ALSO Ge Mythology; Jensen, Adolf E.; Preuss, Konrad
Steward, Julian H., ed. The Handbook of South American Indians.
T.; Structuralism.
7 vols. Washington, D.C., 1946–1959. A compilation of ar-
ticles by archaeologists, historians, and anthropologists that
BIBLIOGRAPHY
provides the best overall introduction to the variety of reli-
Allen, Catherine J. The Hold Life Has: Coca and Cultural Identity
gious forms in South America as well as to the theoretical ap-
in an Andean Community. Washington, D.C., 1988. A sensi-
proaches that had, up until the time of the Handbook’s publi-
tive ethnography of daily life in the Peruvian Andes, focused
cation, informed their study. Its seven volumes are divided
on the ritualized use of coca. It highlights the pervasive pres-
by geographic area, with two volumes devoted to compara-
ence of the religious ideals and attachment to landscape that
tive studies.
shape social interaction.
Sullivan, Lawrence E. Icanchu’s Drum: An Orientation to Meaning
Duviols, Pierre. La lutte contre les religions autochtones dans le Pérou
in South American Religions. New York, 1988. A wide-
colonial: “L’extirpation de l’idolâtrie,” entre 1532 et 1660.
reaching survey of the religions of South America from the
Lima, Peru, 1971. A historical study of the Catholic
perspective of a historical of religions. It contains an unprece-
Church’s campaign against Andean religions. It contains ar-
dentedly thorough bibliography.
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SOUTH AMERICAN INDIANS: INDIANS OF THE ANDES IN THE PRE-INCA PERIOD
8599
Taussig, Michael T. Shamanism, Colonialism, and the Wild Man:
fifteenth centuries CE), who devised colossal irrigation works
A Study in Terror and Healing. Chicago, 1986. An explora-
that enabled them to bring extensive areas of desert under
tion of shamanism and religious healing in the Colombian
cultivation. The dramatic, abruptly changing topography of
Putumayo region in the context of regional histories and ex-
the eastern cordillera is covered by dense tropical vegetation.
periences of violence. Offers compelling evidence of the
Peoples of the intermontane valleys entered this region and
power and presence of indigenous religious beliefs and im-
built the cities of Machu Picchu and Pajatén, and they ter-
ages in the Colombian national imagination.
raced vast areas of the rugged, wooded hillsides to gain land
Tello, Julio C., with Prospero Miranda. “Wallallo: Ceremonias
for cultivation and to prevent erosion.
gentílicas realizadas en la región cisandina del Perú central.”
Inca 1, no. 2 (1923): 475–549. Written by the father of Pe-
The sheltered agricultural cultures of the Andes have in-
ruvian archaeology and published in the anthropological
terrelated since ancient times. The areas where such cultures
journal he edited, this article gives detailed descriptions of in-
did not develop, although geographically “Andean,” are not
digenous ritual practices in the central highlands of Peru,
considered part of the Andean cultural region. The territory
comparing them with the pre-Columbian religion.
of the central Andes—basically equivalent to present-day
Wilbert, Johannes, and Karin Simoneau, eds. Folk Literature of
Peru—became the center of the Andean cultural process.
South American Indians. 7 vols. Los Angeles, 1970–. A con-
The northern Andes (parts of present-day Colombia and Ec-
tinuing series containing compilations of myths from the Bo-
uador) was the scene of the Quimbaya and Muisca (Chibcha)
róro, Warao, Selk’nam, Yámana, Ge, Mataco, and Toba In-
cultures and of the earlier Valdivia culture, which may have
dians. It contains materials from the classic, early
given the initial impulse to the entire high-Andean culture.
ethnographies of these groups as well as from more recent an-
thropological studies. It is annotated by Wilbert, who has
More than ten thousand years have passed since human
also published extensively on the mythologies and cosmolo-
beings first trod the Andes. The earliest settlers were hunters
gies of indigenous groups in the Orinoco.
and Neolithic agriculturalists. By the third millennium BCE
Wright, Robin M. Cosmos, Self, and History in Baniwa Religion:
there appear incipient signs of complex cultures, such as that
For Those Unborn. Austin, Tex., 1998. An excellent example
of Aldas on the northern coast of Peru, whose people built
of new historical work on indigenous religion, including dis-
monumental temples. During the second and first millennia
cussions of shamanism and its relation to mythic and historic
BCE, the appearance of Valdivia and Chavín represented the
consciousness and the Baniwas’ conversion to Protestantism.
first flowering of developed culture, which set the foundation
DEBORAH A. POOLE (1987 AND 2005)
for the developments that eventually culminated in the Inca
empire. By the time that Europeans arrived in the Americas,
the Inca empire stretched for more than four thousand miles
SOUTH AMERICAN INDIANS
along the western part of South America, from southern Co-
This entry consists of the following articles:
lombia in the north to Maule, in south central Chile, in the
south. The empire passed into Spanish dominion in 1532,
INDIANS OF THE ANDES IN THE PRE-INCA PERIOD
INDIANS OF THE COLONIAL ANDES
when Atahuallpa, the thirteenth and last of the Inca sover-
INDIANS OF THE MODERN ANDES
eigns, was beheaded. From then on, the breakdown of indig-
INDIANS OF THE NORTHWEST AMAZON
enous Andean cultural values is apparent.
INDIANS OF THE CENTRAL AND EASTERN AMAZON
INDIANS OF THE GRAN CHACO
SOURCES OF DOCUMENTATION. Study of Andean religion
rests on two principle sources: the reports of early chroniclers
and the archaeological documentation that presents a visual
SOUTH AMERICAN INDIANS: INDIANS OF
record of Andean civilizations. A number of chronicles exist
THE ANDES IN THE PRE-INCA PERIOD
that were written in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries
The Andean region is formed by the Andes mountain range,
by Indians, mestizos, and Spaniards (who based their ac-
which extends the entire length of western South America.
counts on the reports of native informants). There are also
This region can be divided into three geographically con-
other reports—files relating to the prosecution of cases of
trasting subareas: the highlands, the coast, and the eastern
“witchcraft”—that remain scattered in archives, mostly un-
cordillera. In the highlands the intermontane valleys lie at al-
edited. The detailed reports composed by the “eradicators of
titudes of between three and four thousand meters. These
idolatries” are of special value. For the most part, the chroni-
valleys were the places in which the Chavín (tenth to first
clers’ accounts are interwoven with evident prejudices of di-
centuries BCE), Tiahuanaco-Huari (eighth to tenth centuries
vers origin.
CE), and Inca (fifteenth century CE) cultures flourished. In
the region along the Pacific coast, composed mostly of low-
Even though the archaeological and iconographic evi-
lying desert plains, life was concentrated out of necessity in
dence is scanty, it may be that the conclusions drawn from
the valleys formed by the rivers that drain from the highlands
it are founded on a firmer basis than are those derived from
into the ocean. The coastal valleys in the Peruvian sector of
chroniclers’ reports. Naturally, study of iconography requires
the Andes region were the cradles of cultures such as the
specific hermeneutic methods, especially when drawings are
Moche (second to eighth centuries CE), the Paracas-Nazca
heavily loaded with symbols or are confusingly executed.
(second to eighth centuries CE), and the Chimú (twelfth to
Present-day Andean religious practices (especially in rural
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SOUTH AMERICAN INDIANS: INDIANS OF THE ANDES IN THE PRE-INCA PERIOD
areas), which in many cases represent survivals of the pre-
attributes, however, Viracocha was thought by the sixteenth-
Conquest Andean religious world, represent a third source
century Spaniards to resemble the God of Christianity, al-
of documentation.
though Christian-Andean syncretism preserved some aspects
S
of Viracocha’s indigenous origin. Thus, according to the sto-
UBSISTENCE AND RELIGION. The peoples of the Andes are
predisposed toward mysticism and ceremonial; even today,
ries told about him, Viracocha molded humans in clay or
Andeans are steeped in an elaborate religious tradition. A sig-
sculpted them in stone. (They finally spring from the womb
nificant part of their intense religiosity may be explained by
of Pachamama, “mother earth,” which is sometimes repre-
ecological factors: No other agricultural society in the world
sented as a cave.) On the other hand, stories about Viracocha
has had to face a more hostile environment than that of the
also portray him as entering into confrontations with other
Andes region, with its vast areas of desert, its enormous
divine beings and as engaged in other tasks ordinarily associ-
wastes, and the heavy tropical vegetation that covers the
ated with culture heroes (for example, “teaching the created
mountains’ rugged eastern flanks. All physical effort, all orga-
people”). Evidence of Viracocha’s original character as a god
nization of human labor, and all technological solutions are
of sustenance may be found in the prayer to him that was
insufficient to counter the environment, to whose ordinary
transcribed by the seventeenth-century chronicler Cristobal
harshness are added nature’s frequent scourges, especially
de Molina, in which Viracocha is presumed to be based “in
droughts. This endemic state of crisis could only be exor-
thunder and tempests.” Franklin Pease (1973) assigns to him
cised, it seems, through intense magico-religious practices;
outright solar and fertility attributes.
only through manipulation of supernatural powers have An-
Pachacámac. The myth of Pachacámac (“animator of
dean peoples believed it possible to guarantee their existence.
the world”) links this Andean deity even more strongly than
The dramatic situation imposed by the environment
Viracocha with the creation of the first generation of human
perhaps explains why Andean religiosity appears to have been
beings. This deity is characterized, above all, as bringing to
unencumbered by the moralizing of other religious tradi-
humankind the food necessary for survival as a result of the
tions. Rules such as “Thou shalt not steal” and “Thou shalt
entreaties of a primordial woman, Mother Earth. The provi-
not commit adultery” were of course enforced, but theft and
sion of edible plants is shown in other myths: In one of these,
adultery were considered social offenses: It was the duty of
Pachacámac disguises himself, taking the form of the sun (in
the administrators of state law to punish offenders. There
some instances, the son, the brother, or even the father of
was no concept of a future expiation. The relationship be-
Pachacámac, according to the chronicler Francisco Lopez de
tween religion and morality was closest in regard to behavior
Gómara), who with his rays fertilizes the primordial woman,
toward the deities; if their worship was not properly carried
perhaps the incarnation of Pachamama. In another myth,
out, they were affronted, resulting in a series of calamities
Pachacámac kills what he has created, and this action may
that could be checked through prayers, weeping, and sacri-
be interpreted as the institution of human sacrifice to nour-
fices. The hostility of nature in the Andes led to a perma-
ish the food and fertility deities. When the victim is buried,
nently febrile state of religiosity.
his teeth sprout maize, his bones become manioc, and so on.
GODS OF SUSTENANCE. Andean deities jointly governed
Inti. According to both the surviving mythic literature
both individual and collective existence by providing suste-
and the images discovered by archaeologists, the masculine
nance. Soil fertility plays a significant role in Andean reli-
creative force was incarnated in Inti, the sun. He offers heat
gion, as demonstrated by the profuse worship given to the
and light, and his rays possess fertilizing powers, as is evident
deities that personified and controlled the forces of nature.
in the myth of Pachacámac. Mythic literature testifies to the
The gods, though individualized, form a hieratic unit and
Andeans’ reliance on the power of the sun and to their anxi-
share one focus: the economic state of the people. They are
ety that he may disappear, causing cataclysm and the destruc-
conceived in the image of nature, which simultaneously sepa-
tion of humankind (an event that would be followed by the
rates and conjoins the creative forces, masculine and femi-
creation of a new generation of humans). This anxiety ex-
nine. Thus the first basic division appears in the opposition
plains the redoubled prayers and supplications during solar
of Inti-Viracocha-Pachacámac and Quilla-Pachamama. Both
eclipses—rituals that ended with loud cries and lamentations
of these deity-configurations are creative forces, but in accor-
(even domestic animals were whipped to make them howl!).
dance with the social order of the sexes, the supremacy of the
Archaeological evidence of another form of magico-religious
former, masculine element is asserted. The powerful Illapa
defense against this premonition of the tragic disappearance
(“thunder, weather”) is also integrated into the sphere of
of the sun is found in stone altars called intihuatanas, a word
Inti-Viracocha-Pachacámac, but, above all his other func-
revealingly translated as “the place where the sun is tied.” Inti
tions, Illapa directly provides life-giving rain.
was also associated with fertility through water, as when the
Viracocha. Glimpses of a culture hero on whom divine
sun ceases to give light, yielding to clouds and rain (which
attributes have been superimposed can be seen in the figure
would seem a contradiction were it not for the fact that the
of Viracocha, and therefore Pierre Duviols (1977) and María
thunder and weather god Illapa was conjoined with the sun).
Rostworowski de Diez Canseco (1983) correctly deny him
In visual representations, particularly those at Chavín and
the character of a creator god. Because of these same divine
Tiahuanaco, Inti appears with big teardrops that surely sym-
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SOUTH AMERICAN INDIANS: INDIANS OF THE ANDES IN THE PRE-INCA PERIOD
8601
bolize rain. Gold was the symbol par excellence of the sun,
stress sexual characteristics, but, curiously, they seldom por-
and the robes of head shamans were covered with oscillating
tray pregnant women or women giving birth. Perhaps the an-
metal disks that reflected the sun’s rays and imitated its
thropomorphic figures with birdlike attributes that appear
radiance.
on the walls of Pajatén—which figures are shown in crouch-
ing positions with spread legs—are in fact female procreators
Pachamama-Quilla. Pachamama (“mother earth”)
(Kauffmann Doig, 1983, p. 531). Except for the cases of sex-
symbolized the feminine element of divinity for the Andeans.
ual representations from Vicus and, especially, in Moche art
Pachamama is incarnated as the primordial mother of mythic
(both from the northern coast of Peru), images of women
literature, and she is personified as Quilla, the moon. In this
found throughout the Andean culture region seem to under-
connection she is symbolized by silver; with this metal many
score that female sexuality was marked by modesty.
representations of Pachamama were made, especially in the
form of the half-moon (called tumi), which was one of the
Pachamama continues to play an important role in the
most important religious symbols of the Andes. The cult of
deeply rooted peasant magic of today’s Andean people. She
Pachamama was, and still is, extensive (Mariscotti de Görlitz,
is even venerated in Christian churches. In the Peruvian vil-
1978). Pachamama was held to be the producer of food, ani-
lage of Huaylas, for example, Saramama (a version of Pacha-
mals, and the first human. As primordial mother, she creates
mama) is venerated in the form of two female saints who are
through the fertilizing action of the Sun, and she later be-
joined in a single sculpture—like Siamese twins—to give vi-
comes co-donor of food plants, especially maize.
sual representation to a pathetic fallacy: the symbolization of
abundance that is identified in the double or multiple ears
The mythological literature tells of several female super-
of grain that maize plants often generously produce.
natural beings. These are likely regional versions of Pachama-
ma. Among them are Chaupiñanca, the primordial mother
Illapa. The deity Illapa (generally translated as “thun-
of Huarochirí mythology; Illa, who appears in the mythic
der,” “lightning,” or “weather”) occupies a preferential place
traditions of the Ecuadorian Andes; and Urpihuáchac, sister
in the Andean pantheon. Much of the mythological litera-
and wife of Pachacámac, who seems to be an expression of
ture makes reference to Illapa, who takes on regional names
Cochamama, the marine form of Pachamama. To Cochama-
and is expressed in varying forms: Yaro, Ñamoc, Libiac,
ma is attributed the creation of fish and of seabirds such as
Catequil, Pariacaca, Thunapa (possibly), and so on. To refer
the guanay, which latter act is in turn related to agricultural
to these beings as if they were separate would be artificially
productivity because of the use of guano to fertilize crops.
to crowd the Andean pantheon by creating too great a num-
ber of distinct deities—a trap into which many interpreters,
Ancient documents show that Pachamama was individ-
both early and recent, have fallen. Illapa may be seen as the
ualized ad infinitum to guarantee the abundance of specific
incarnation of Inti, the sun, in Illapa’s primary mythic form
produce—maize, for example. Andean iconography offers
of a hawk or eagle (indi means “bird” in Quechua), a form
representations of Pachamama incarnated in specific vegeta-
to which were added human and feline attributes; thus Inti-
ble forms: multiple ears of maize, for instance, or groups of
Illapa may be said to be a true binomial in the Andean
potatoes. In other instances these agricultural products meta-
pantheon.
phorically acquire human aspects, and they are also por-
trayed as being fertilized by a supernatural, anthropomorphic
Associated with meteorological phenomena such as
personage. Pachamama in her Cochamama aspect also ap-
thunder, lightning, clouds, and rainbows, Illapa personifies
pears to symbolize the presence of abundant water—essential
rain, the element that fecundates the earth. As the direct
for fertilizing the agricultural fields.
source of sustenance—giving rains to the highlands and riv-
ers and rich alluvial soils to the coastal valleys—Illapa is re-
The symbolism of Pachamama has implications regard-
vered in a special and universal way. Yet he is also feared: for
ing the social status of women: As compared with the male
the crash of his thunder, for lightning that kills, for cata-
element of divinity, Pachamama, the female, is clearly a pas-
strophic hailstorms, severe floods, and even perhaps earth-
sive and subaltern being. Her dependence on the male is es-
quakes. The worst of his scourges is drought. Proof of Illapa’s
tablished in the mythological literature. She uses her femi-
prestige is the major temple to him (individualized as the
nine attributes to win from the male gods favors, such as
ruler of atmospheric phenomena) that stood in Cuzco, the
irrigation canals, that are beneficial to the collectivity. Pacha-
Inca capital; according to the plan of Cuzco drawn by Gua-
mama also enshrines the modesty and passivity in sexual
man Poma and the description written by Molina, Illapa’s
matters that characterizes the Andean woman to this day.
temple was rivalled only by the Coricancha, the temple of
The attitude of sexual modesty is to be seen in the many rep-
the sun.
resentations that appear to show versions of Pachamama,
from the archaic terracotta figures of Valdivia to those of the
After the Conquest, Andeans fused Illapa with images
late Chancay civilization of the central coast of Peru. In all
of James the Apostle, a syncretism perhaps suggested by earli-
these, sexual characteristics are not pronounced: The figures
er Spanish traditions. In the realm of folklore, Illapa’s cult
seem to represent almost asexual beings, and they remind
may be said still to flourish in the veneration of hills and high
one of the existence of non-Christian sexual taboos (see
mountains, which are the nesting places of the huamani (fal-
Kauffmann Doig, 1979a). Not only do these figures rarely
cons) sacred to this deity. Also associated with Illapa are the
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SOUTH AMERICAN INDIANS: INDIANS OF THE ANDES IN THE PRE-INCA PERIOD
apus, the spirits of the mountains, and the spirits of the lakes,
of prey (a falcon?), represented naturalistically, in which ele-
which, if they are not worshiped, make the waves rise de-
ments of human anatomy are sometimes completely absent.
structively, and which are offended if approached by some-
This “winged feline” may be the most ancient and authentic
one not protected by the sacred coca leaf.
representation known to us of an Andean god. The convolut-
ed, baroque style of Chavín art is responsible for the fact the
When he appears as an incarnation of, or as joined to,
the “winged feline” has sometimes been identified as a cai-
Inti, Illapa may be represented by a male feline with human
man and sometimes as a lobster, a shrimp, or even a spider.
and avian attributes. According to iconographic studies, Illa-
These animals, however, do not appear in relation to the di-
pa’s image as the “flying feline,” or “tiger bird” (Kauffmann
vine sphere at any later stage of Andean culture.
Doig, 1967; 1983, p. 225) is still current in the Andes, as
witnessed in the oral documentation collected by Bernard
Supernatural beings of the highest category are to be
Mishkin (1963) regarding Qoa, a god who is ruler of meteo-
found in representations of the culture-heroes/gods Ai-apaec
rological phenomena. Qoa still appears as a flying cat, his
and Ñaymlap and of the gods at Tiahuanaco and Paracas-
eyes throwing out lightning and his urine transformed into
Nazca. All are anthropomorphic beings that combine traits
fertilizing rain. Pictorial representations of the “tiger bird,”
of both bird and feline; in this context they imply an evolu-
which have been made since the formative period, especially
tionary development of the older “winged feline” of Chavín.
in Chavín and allied art (see below) have recently been relat-
In the archetypical versions of Ai-apaec, the figure bears
ed to Qoa by Johan Reinhard (1985, pp. 19–20).
wings (Kauffmann Doig, 1976; 1983, pp. 362, 624). At
Paracas-Nazca, one figure seems to represent an evolution
ANDEAN ICONOGRAPHY. Iconographic portrayal of super-
from a purely birdlike body into one that incorporates
natural beings is abundant and dates back more than three
human elements (Kauffmann Doig, 1983, pp. 303, 325,
thousand years. In iconographic representations, supernatu-
331–332). Feline and ornithomorphic ingredients are evi-
ral beings are configured in complex ways; their hierarchal
dent in the large figures at Tiahuanaco and Huari; from their
aspects are emphasized, and some achieve the status of gods.
eyes fall large tears in the form of birds, which, since Eugenio
Supernatural beings other than gods are the figures repre-
Yacovleff (1932) and even before, have been interpreted as
sented in Sechín and in some Chavín art. Beings with the
symbolic of the fertilizing rainwater of Pachamama (Mama-
rank of gods are found in Chavín and related cultures—
pacha).
Vicús, Moche, Paracas-Nazca, Tiahuanaco, Huari, and oth-
ers (especially Lambayeque).
Connubial gods in which the male element radiates fer-
tilizing solar rays are found especially in the iconography de-
Mythological literature indicates that those male beings
rived from Huari and, more particularly, in the valleys of
who fertilize Mother Earth form the topmost division of the
Huara, Pativilca, and Casma on the coast of Peru (Kauff-
hierarchy of the Andean pantheon, which, again, is made up
mann Doig, 1979a, pp. 6, 60). The examples of Inca art that
of deities of sustenance. One of the most obvious expressions
have survived have but scant votive content. But both the fe-
of the Andean gods’ character as providers is the anthropo-
line and the falcon continue to occupy their place of honor
morphic wooden figure of Huari style adorned with symbols
among iconographic elements, as may be seen in the “heral-
referring to basic food products that was found in the tem-
dic shield” of the Inca rulers drawn by Guaman Poma.
ples of Pachacámac near Lima.
FORMS OF WORSHIP. Through acts of worship, the sphere
The image of a conspicuously superior being is found
of the sacred could be manipulated to benefit humankind.
in the initial stages of high Andean civilization (especially in
The effectiveness of human intervention into the realm of
Chavín and related cultures). This image, typically a human
the supernatural powers depended on the intensity with
form with feline and raptorial-bird attributes, is repeated in
which the rites were performed. In the Andean world, where
practically all the Andean cultures that succeeded Chavín,
natural factors put agricultural production and even exis-
with variations of secondary importance. At Chavín, such hi-
tence itself to a constant test, worship assumed an extraordi-
erarchal figures of the highest order appear on the Raimondi
nary intensity and richness of form. The calamities that en-
Stela; although lacking human elements, the figures on the
dangered personal and collective welfare were believed to
Tello Obelisk and the Yauya Stela, both Chavín in style, may
have been caused by offenses to supernatural beings and es-
also be considered as representations of the highest level of
pecially to a lack of intensity in worship. Offerings to the
being, because of their monumental stature and fine execu-
gods of sustenance and to other supernatural beings related
tion. The central figure of the Door of the Sun at Tiahuana-
to them complemented the cultic display. Cruel sacrifices
co is an almost anthropomorphic representation of the high-
were necessary to worship’s efficacy; in times of crisis they
est-ranking god. Attributes of a culture hero are perhaps also
were performed lavishly and included human sacrifices.
incorporated here.
The diversity of forms of worship in this region was due
A frequently encountered image of what was perhaps
in part to the variety of forms of divine or magical conditions
the same god as the one described above (but represented in
that these people perceived. These conditions were in general
a clearer and more accessible form) is that of a hybrid being
denoted by the term huaca, which can be translated as
that also had a form somewhere between a feline and a bird
“holy.” Huaca could refer to various unusual geographical
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SOUTH AMERICAN INDIANS: INDIANS OF THE ANDES IN THE PRE-INCA PERIOD
8603
features (including special stones, hills, lakes, etc.), heavenly
abundant water, and the multiplication of domestic animals.
bodies, atmospheric phenomena, mummies, amulets, idols,
Often bodies were buried in the cultivated fields in order to
and even the Inca (i.e., the ruler) himself in his capacity as
enrich them. As has recently been reported from Ayacucho,
a living god.
Peru, this practice survives in secret, isolated cases even to
the present day: A mentally ill person is selected, intoxicated
The popular form of communication with huaca (i.e.
with liquor, thrown into a pit, and buried alive. Such
the entire supernatural world) was effected through the
“strengthening” rites were, according to sixteenth-century
muchay (“worship, reverence”). Muchay was performed by
chroniclers, also practiced in laying the foundations of hous-
removing one’s sandals, gesticulating, throwing kisses, mur-
es and bridges, and traces of these rites also have been recent-
muring supplications, bowing one’s shoulders in humility,
ly reported from the central Andes.
puffing out one’s cheeks to blow in the direction of the ob-
ject worshiped, and so on. Other forms of contact with su-
Funeral rites included expressions of grief such as loud
pernatural beings were made through oracles, whose tradi-
sobbing intermingled with chants in praise of the deceased;
tions go back to early forms of Andean cultures, such as the
a practice that also survives in isolated areas of the Andes.
Chavín. Oracles were represented in the form of idols located
The dead were mummified and taken to their tombs on
in sanctuaries such as the famous one of Pachacámac, near
stretchers. Peoples of the arid coast practiced earth burial,
Lima; these oracles rendered predictions about important fu-
but in the highlands mummies were placed—singly or in
ture events to shamans and priests.
groups—in pucullos, or chullupas (mausoleums that were
To make an offering was an act of paying tribute. Offer-
built on almost inaccessible outcrops of rock). Individual or
ings were made voluntarily, but they were also collected in
collective tombs were also hollowed out of extremely steep
the form of compulsory tribute, the administration of which
mountainsides. With few exceptions (e.g., among the
was centralized in temples. A widespread, popular offering
Moche), bodies were buried in seated positions. Frequently
was mullo, a powder made of ground seashells, which by as-
the hands held the head, perhaps to simulate the fetal posi-
sociation was linked to fertility through water; another was
tion. These “living” corpses were surrounded with food and
coca (Erythroxylon coca) in the form of a masticated wad.
drink, weapons, and other belongings meant to serve as pro-
Stone cairns in the high passes were places of worship; wads
visions in the hereafter; some were buried with their mouths
of coca would be thrown in a ritual act called Togana. The
open, both to express the terror of sacrifice and to voice sup-
mummified dead were offered special jars containing grains,
plications to the gods for success in agriculture.
fruits, and liquids. Guinea pigs and llamas served as impor-
Religious festivals were celebrated continuously in the
tant sacrificial offerings.
great plazas of Cuzco and at temples such as the Coricancha,
Among sacrifices, that of young boys and girls was the
the temple of the sun. Festivals dedicated to specific themes,
most important; sometimes human sacrifice was performed
especially in the context of food production, were held
by walling up a living female person. It appears that among
monthly with great pomp; the sovereign Inca presided, and
the Inca the sacrifice of boys and girls was received as a form
guests were invited at his expense. Great quantities of chicha
of tribute, called the capaccocha, from the provinces. The per-
(maize beer) were consumed, drunk from ceremonial wood-
son who was to serve as the capaccocha was delivered to the
en vessels (queros).
capital city of Cuzco in great pomp; after his death, his re-
Andeans have made pilgrimages since the remote times
mains were returned to his homeland and mummified; the
of Chavín, and one of the favorite huacas, or shrines, was the
mummy acquired votive rank and was the object of supplica-
sanctuary of Pachacámac. “Natural” shrines such as those on
tions for health and agricultural welfare. Necropompa
the peaks of high mountains were also popular with pilgrims.
(Span., “death rite”) was a special type of human sacrifice
The Collur Riti festival, a celebration that coincides with the
that consisted of immolations (voluntary or not) that were
Feast of Corpus Christi, follows ancient rites in which to this
performed on the occasion of the death of an illustrious per-
day people climb to heights of almost five thousand meters.
son (Araníbar, 1961). Decapitation of human sacrificial vic-
Some of the pilgrims dress as “bear men,” imitating the ges-
tims had been performed since ancient times: The Sechín
tures of animals and speaking in animal-like voices; they act
stone sculpture of northern Peru depicting this practice is
as intermediaries between other pilgrims and supernatural
over three thousand years old. Head shrinking was rare and
beings. Originally, the Collur Riti was dedicated to water,
there is no evidence of cannibalism in the Andean region.
and even today pilgrims return to their homes with pieces
(Though in the myths there are a number of supernatural be-
of ice carved from the mountain glaciers, symbolizing the fer-
ings, such as Carhuincho, Carhuallo, and Achké, who are an-
tility imparted by water. In the past, pilgrims fasted for vari-
thropophagous.) Human sacrifice, performed to achieve
able periods of time, abstaining from maize beer, ají (Capsi-
greater agricultural fertility, drew its rationale from the prin-
cum anuum), and sexual intercourse.
ciple that the Andeans believed governed nature: Death en-
MEDICINE AND MAGIC. Shamans use maracas in their heal-
genders life.
ing rites, a practice carried on into the present by Andean
The dead, mummified and revered, were expected to
curanderos (Span., “healers”). The curanderos also use halluci-
implore the supernatural powers for sustenance, soil fertility,
nogenic substances to cause them to enter the trance state.
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SOUTH AMERICAN INDIANS: INDIANS OF THE ANDES IN THE PRE-INCA PERIOD
The San Pedro cactus (Trichocereus pabhanoi) is a powerful
BIBLIOGRAPHY
hallucinogen used particularly on the Peruvian coast; it gives
Araníbar, Carlos. “Los sacrificios humanos entre los Incas, a través
the curandero the ability to discover the cause of an illness.
de las crónicas de los siglos XVI y XVII.” Ph. D. diss., Uni-
In the highlands the diagnosis is still made by rubbing the
versity of Lima, 1961.
body of a sick person with a guinea pig or with substances
Arguedas, José María. “Puquio: Una cultura en proceso de cam-
bio.” Revista del Museo Nacional (Lima) 25 (1956): 184–232.
such as maize powder. The cure was effected through the use
Cane, Ralph. “Problemas arqueológicos e iconográficos: Enfoques
of medicinal plants. Today, curanderos complement their an-
nuevos.” Boletín de Lima 37 (January 1985): 38–44.
cient remedies with modern pharmaceutical products.
Carrion Cachot de Girard, Rebeca. La religión en el antiguo Perú.
Divination was often performed under the influence of
Lima, 1959.
hallucinogens or coca. Several studies, among them those of
Cordy-Collins, Alana. “Chavín Art: Its Shamanistic/Halluci-
nogenic Origins.” In Precolumbian Art History, edited by
Alana Cordy-Collins (1977) and Ralph Cané (1985) specu-
Alana Cordy-Collins and Jean Stearn, pp. 353–362. Palo
late that the intricate art of Chavín originated in hallucino-
Alto, 1977.
genic experiences.
Curatola, Marco. “Mito y milenarismo en los Andes: Del Taqui
Oncoy a Incarrí: La vision de un pueblo invicto.” Allpanchis
Institutionalized worship gave rise to a rich range of folk
Phuturinqa (Cuzco) 10 (1977): 65–92.
magic. Thus, for example, there were magic love-stones (gua-
Duviols, Pierre. “Los mombies quechua de Viracocha, supuesto
cangui). Small stone sculptures of domestic animals, used to
‘dios creador’ de los evangeligadores.” Allpanchis Phuturinqa
propitiate the spirits of abundance, are still produced. Ce-
10 (1977): 53–63.
ramic figures representing vigorous bulls (toritos de Pucará)
Favre, Henri. “Tayta Wamani: Le culte des montanes dans le cen-
are still placed on rooftops, where they signify prosperity and
tre sud des Andes péruviennes.” In Colloque d’études péru-
fertility and offer magical protection of the home.
viennes, pp. 121–140. Aix-en-Provence, 1967.
Jijón y Caamaño, Jacínto. La religión del imperio de los Incas.
MESSIANISM. Andean mysticism and ritual experienced a
Quito, 1919.
vigorous rejuvenescence some thirty years after the Spanish
Jimenez Borja, Arturo. “Introducción al pensamiento araico per-
conquest in the form of the nativistic movement called Taqui
uano.” Revista del Museo Nacional (Lima) 38 (1972): 191–
Oncoy (see Duviols, 1977; Millones, 1964; Ossio, 1973;
249.
Curatola, 1977; Urbano, 1981). The aims of this sixteenth-
Karsten, Rafael. “Die altperuanische Religion.” Archiv für Reli-
century messianic movement were to drive the white invad-
gionswissenschaft 25 (1927): 36–51.
ers from the land and to reinstate the structures of the lost
Kauffmann Doig, Federico. El Perú arqueológico: Tratado breve
Inca past. The movement’s power was based on the worship
sobre el Perú preincaico. Lima, 1976.
of huacas, the popular form of Andean religiosity after the
Kauffmann Doig, Federico. Sexual Behavior in Ancient Peru.
Lima, 1979. Cited in the text as 1979a.
Sun had lost its credibility with the defeat inflicted by the
Kauffman Doig, Federico. “Sechín: Ensayo de arqueología icono-
Christian God. By a kind of magic purification, Taqui
gráfica.” Arqueológicas (Lima) 18 (1979): 101–142. Cited in
Oncoy sought to free the land from European intrusion after
the text as 1979b.
it was no longer possible to do so by force of arms. The
Kauffmann Doig, Federico. Manual de arqueología peruana. 8th
movement’s adherents believed that, with intensified suppli-
rev. ed. Lima, 1983.
cations and increased offerings, the huacas could become
Kauffman Doig, Federico. “Los dioses andinos: Hacia una carater-
powerful enough to help reestablish the old order. This
ización de la religiosidad andina fundamentada en testi-
movement declined after ten years, but the hope of a return
monios arqueológicos y en mitos,” Vida y espiritualidad
to the Inca past is still alive, although it is confined more and
(Lima) 3 (1986): 1–16.
more to middle-class intellectual circles in Peru and Bolivia.
Mariscotti de Görlitz, Ana Maria. Pachamama Santa Tierra: Con-
tribución al estudio de la religión autoctona en los Andes centro-
The messianic myth of Inkarri (from Span., Inca rey,
meridionales. Berlin, 1978.
“Inca king”) should also be mentioned here. Originally re-
Métraux, Alfred. Religions et magies indiennes d’Amérique du Sud.
corded by José María Arguedas (1956), the myth centers on
Paris, 1967.
a figure, Inkarri, who is the son of the Sun and a “wild
Millones, Luis. “Un movimiento nativista del siglo XVI: El Taki
woman.” According to Nathan Wachtel (1977), this arche-
Onqoy.” Revista peruana de cultura (Lima) 3 (1964).
typal “vision of a conquered people,” although of native ex-
Mishkin, Bernard. “The Contemporary Quechua.” In Handbook
traction, seems to be immersed in syncretism. The cult of In-
of South American Indians (1946), edited by Julian H. Stew-
ard, vol. 2, pp. 411–470. Reprint, Washington, D.C.,1963.
karri lacks the action that characterized the Taqui Oncoy
Ortiz Rescaniere, Alejandro. De Adaneva a Inkarrí. Lima, 1973.
movement. Inkarri is not an Andean god but rather a pale
Ossio, Juan M. “Guaman Poma: Nueva coronica o carta al rey:
memory of the deified sovereign of ancient times, who after
Un intento de approximación a las categorías del pensamien-
patient waiting will rise to life to vindicate the Andean world.
to del mundo andino.” In Ideología mesianica del mundo an-
dino,
2d ed., edited by Juan M. Ossio, pp. 153–213. Lima,
SEE ALSO Atahuallpa; Inca Religion; Inti; Viracocha.
1973.
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SOUTH AMERICAN INDIANS: INDIANS OF THE COLONIAL ANDES
8605
Pease, Franklin. El dios creador andino. Lima, 1973.
pacity for mobility, inclusion, and reimagination inherent in
Reinhard, Johan. “Chavín and Tiahuanaco: A New Look at Two
beliefs and practices surrounding images of Christ and the
Andean Ceremonial Centers.” National Geographic Research
saints offers up colonial Indian religion’s central trunk and
1 (1985): 395–422.
an analytical space from which other branches of colonial re-
Rostworowski de Diez Canseco, María. Estructuras andinas del
ligiosity and culture can be productively studied.
poder: Ideología religiosa y política. Lima, 1983.
Consider, first, an Andean system of meaning that ap-
Rowe, John Howland. “The Origins of Creator Worship among
pears to have encouraged native reception and understand-
the Incas.” In Culture in History, edited by Stanley Diamond,
ings of Christian images: beliefs surrounding, and the inter-
pp. 408–429. New York, 1969.
relationships between, Andean divinities known as huacas
Tello, Julio C. “Wira-Kocha.” Inca 1 (1923): 93–320, 583–606.
(material things that manifested the power of ancestral per-
Trimborn, Hermann. “South Central America and the Andean
sonalities, cultural founders, and also wider sacred phenome-
Civilizations.” In Pre-Columbian American Religions, edited
na [Mills, 1997, chap. 2; Salomon, 1991]). There is no es-
by Walter Krickeberg et al., pp. 83–146. New York, 1968.
caping the fact that one reads postconquest reflections upon
Valcárcel, Luis E. “Símbolos mágico-religiosos en la cultura an-
these older phenomena, and that, as with much about the
dina.” Revista del Museo Nacional (Lima) 28 (1959): 3–18.
Andean past, any process of learning involves an appreciation
Wachtel, Nathan. The Vision of the Vanquished: The Spanish Con-
of the needs of authors in a series of colonial presents (Grau-
quest of Peru through Indian Eyes, 1530–1570. New York,
bart, 2000; Julien, 2000). Yet the fact that most understand-
1977.
ings of huacas became “hybridic”—that is to say, authentical-
Yacovleff, Eugenio. “Las Falcónidas en el atre y en las creencias
ly native Andean and influenced, to one degree or another,
de los antiguos peruanos.” Revista del Museo Nacional (Lima)
by the thought worlds and vocabularies of Spanish Catholic
1 (1932): 35–101.
Christianity—is integral to the colonial processes and reali-
ties to be explored here. As will become abundantly clear,
New Sources
Burger, Richard L. Chavin and the Origins of Andean Civilization.
ideas about huacas and saints were soon shared not only
London, 1992.
among Spanish and Hispanicized Andean commentators,
but among native devotees around sacred images. Two origi-
Guinea Bueno, Mercedes. Los Andes antes de los Incas. Madrid,
1991.
nally disparate systems ceased only to repeat themselves and
were instead finding shared territories and conjoining to gen-
Isbell, William H., and Helaine Silverman. Andean Archaeology.
erate new understandings and religious forms (Sahlins,
New York, 2002.
1985). It is a case in which even the exceptions suggest the
Olsen Bruhns, Karen. Ancient South America. New York, 1994.
rule. By midcolonial times in the Andes, steadfast native op-
Stanish, Charles. Ancient Andean Political Economy. Austin, 1992.
ponents of the growing presence of Christian images in the
Stone-Miller, Rebecca. Art of the Andes: From Chavin to Inca. Lon-
hearts and minds of Indian commoners tellingly incorporat-
don, 2002.
ed within their rejections and counterteachings the very char-
Von Hagen, Adriana, and Craig Morris. The Cities of the Ancient
acterizations employed against their huacas (Mills, 1994,
Andes. New York, 1998.
pp. 106–107, passim; Cummins, 2002, pp. 159–160).
FEDERICO KAUFFMANN DOIG (1987)
And one can turn, finally, to the ways in which key
Translated from Spanish by Mary Nickson
Christian personalities such as Christ, the Virgin Mary, and
Revised Bibliography
other saints were brought inside Andean imaginations and
societies in colonial times. Space does not allow the concrete
exemplification required, but by sampling colonial Andean
SOUTH AMERICAN INDIANS: INDIANS OF
transformations, a key to understanding religious change ap-
THE COLONIAL ANDES
pears. It lies in doing two things simultaneously: appreciating
A number of promising points of entry beckon the student
the novelty and seriousness of the early modern Catholic
of emerging religious systems among people of indigenous
project, namely total and obligatory Christianization, in the
descent in the colonial Andes. These beginnings include
Andes as elsewhere in Spanish America; and allowing the
transformations within native ritual specialists’ repertoires,
many consequences of this enterprise of “spiritual conquest”
customs surrounding death and the dead, and the expansion
to slip the noose of official intentions, expectations, and pre-
of elemental Catholic Christian catechization within families
scriptions. My explorations build upon what has already
(and of sacramental life in general). But no feature of colonial
been proposed by others and myself about the contest and
religiosity was more vital and dynamic than the emergence
compatibility of Andean ways with aspects of Catholic Chris-
of the cult of the saints as reconfigured and understood by
tianity; selectively, and in somewhat chronological order,
native Andeans. The acceptance of images of Christ, the Vir-
these include Kubler (1946), Millones (1969, 1979), Du-
gin, and the other saints into the Andean religious imagina-
viols (1971, 1977), Marzal (1977, 1983] 1988), Barnadas
tion in colonial times challenges us to understand why and
(1987), Sallnow (1987), Platt (1987); MacCormack (1991),
how new understandings emerged and developed. The ca-
Dean (1996, 2002); Mills (1997, 1994, 2003), Salles-Reese
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SOUTH AMERICAN INDIANS: INDIANS OF THE COLONIAL ANDES
(1997), Saignes (1999), Cussen (1999), Cummins (2002),
ity. In crossing over the final threshold at the top of the pyra-
Gose (2003), and Estenssoro Fuchs (2003, 1996).
mid, the Spaniards faced what their Judeo-Christian tradi-
Evidence for the convergence between what one can
tion and experience had fully prepared them to identify as
surmise about an Andean huaca complex of beliefs and prac-
an “idol.” Here was a male figure carved at the top of a wood-
tices and those of the Catholic cult of the saints is compel-
en pole. It took no effort and less theology to perceive Pacha-
ling, especially in accounting for early transformations. But
cámac as Miguel de Estete did, as a thing beneath contempt,
such convergences are not confining, as if pre-Hispanic un-
a vile material form crafted by human hands and pilfering
derstandings of huacas had to dictate an entire colonial after-
the adoration human beings ought to reserve only for the
math of belief and action. What stands out, rather, is the un-
Christian God. The precious offerings, reportedly piled
remitting dynamism of that which came to converge, a
around the figure and adorning the site, showed only how
thrilling capacity for localized adaptation and translocal re-
much Andean peoples had been hoodwinked by an active
production shown both by huacas (Urton, 1990; Taylor,
devil who “appeared to those priests and spoke with them,”
1987; Salomon and Urioste, eds., 1991) and by Christian
conspiring to siphon “tribute” from up and down the entire
images in the hands and minds of native Andean people.
coast and demanding a respect that in Incan times was ri-
Saints, like huacas, were many and various, and they were re-
valed only by the Temple of the Sun in Lake Titicaca (Pizar-
producible in ways that defy simple notions of how copies
ro, [1533] 1920; Estete, [c. 1535] 1924). It mattered partic-
and peripheries relate to originals and centers. Evidence of
ularly to establish whether the famous voice and oracular
the often unofficial and overlapping diffusion of saintly cults
utterings of Pachacámac were the handiwork of the devil
and their devotional communities turns up everywhere and
speaking through him or, as Hernando Pizarro sought to
in ways that ought to revise not only elderly presentations
prove through interrogation of an Indian minister, artifice
of a “spiritual conquest of Indians” but also the most unidi-
worked by the false god’s attendants.
mensional portrayals of indigenous cultural agency and resis-
It was not long, however, before Pachacámac gave pause
tance. This brief entry emphasizes colonial Indians’ complex
to different minds. Pedro de Cieza de León, who blended his
motivations and continuing kinds of receptivity to ideas and
own observations and inquiries with information about the
practices that, whether sparked by non-Indian mobilizers or
coastal region gained from the Dominican Domingo de
not, often became operative in shared and transforming colo-
Santo Tomás, among others, can represent an uneasy transi-
nial terms.
tion. While still content to label his subject the “devil Pacha-
A P
cámac” and fascinated by tales of the vast quantities of gold
ROLIFIC PAST IS PERCEIVED. An exploration of the ways
in which the originally foreign power of saints was brought
and silver the “notables and priests” of Pachacámac were said
within and became vital parts of a colonial Andean cultural
to have spirited away in advance of Hernando Pizarro’s arriv-
and religious system begins with conquest-era perceptions.
al, Cieza also pushed harder and uncovered more (Cieza de
One of the first in a series of perceptions glides past the An-
León, [1553] 1995, pp. 214–215). His closer examinations
dean phenomena whose divine personalities and webs of re-
and those of others beginning in the 1540s and 1550s began
lations would guide early indigenous understandings of
to reveal the huacas’ multifaceted natures and interrelation-
Catholic Christian saints.
ships with other divine figures.
Pachacámac’s divine personality offers one of the more
When Hernando Pizarro and other members of his ad-
majestic but still broadly illustrative cases in point. While
vance raiding party wrote about their time in the coastal val-
consistently described across coastal and Andean regions
leys of Peru just south of what became the Spanish capital
as a predominant creative force “who gives being to the
of Lima in January 1533, theirs were among the first Europe-
earth” (Castro and Ortega Morejón, [1558] 1938, p. 246;
an minds with an opportunity to engage with fundamental
Santillán, [1563] 1968, p. 111b; MacCormack 1991,
native Andean religious forms and meanings.
pp. 351–352, 154–159), he coexisted with other divine fig-
Their encounter with Pachacámac, a venerable divine
ures. The other huacas, too, were sometimes creative found-
force of pan-Andean proportions, reveals Spanish instincts
ers, oracular voices, and otherwise translocally significant. In
in the period immediately after the seizure of the Inca Atahu-
some cases, sacred oral histories recounted these ancestral be-
allpa in Cajamarca. Despite learning from Andean infor-
ings’ origins, featured their contributions to local and region-
mants and from one of Pachacámac’s attendants of the divin-
al civilization, in many cases told of their lithomorphosis into
ity’s long oracular tradition, and of an awesome world-
the regional landscape, and, importantly, explained their in-
making and world-shaking might that had been taken
terrelationships and coexistence with other divine beings. Ex-
carefully into account by the Incas, Pizarro and his compan-
planations of the natural environment and entire histories of
ions were otherwise concerned. Accumulated offerings of
interaction between human groups were encapsulated within
gold and silver to Pachacámac caught their attention. They
the durably fluid form of the huacas’ narratives, which them-
admired, too, the jewels, crystals, and corals bedecking a
selves were remembered by ritual tellers, singers, and dancers
door at the very top of the pyramid structure.
(Salomon, 1991).
Pachacámac himself struck the treasure seekers both as
In Pachacámac’s midst, Dominican friars from the con-
hideous and as a sad indication of the native people’s gullibil-
vent at Chincha in the 1540s and 1550s learned much about
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SOUTH AMERICAN INDIANS: INDIANS OF THE COLONIAL ANDES
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one of these other regional ancestors and “creators,” a divine
the “maker of the earth” whom Topa Inca sought. Yet Pacha-
figure named Chinchaycama. He was revered by the Yunga
cámac also explained that he was not alone as this kind of
people at a certain rock from which the divinity was said to
force. He explained that while he had made (literally “given
have emerged. And Chinchaycama had hardly been the only
being”) to all things “down here,” that is to say on the coast;
huaca of the Yunga. He was, rather, one of a number “who
the Sun, who “was his brother,” had performed the same cre-
responded” to the requests and entreaties of his people. Ac-
ative function “up there,” in the highlands. Delighted to hear
cording to what the Dominicans learned and could express
that such an understanding had been struck, the Inca and
about this set of relationships, the Yunga made choices and
his traveling companions sacrificed llamas and fine clothing
assigned precedence according to their own changing re-
in honor of Pachacámac. Their tone, according to Santillán’s
quirements (including economic and environmental stress,
report, continued as gratitude, “thanking him [Pachacámac]
and also political necessity). They effectively moved between
for the favour he had bestowed.” The Inca even asked Pacha-
huacas “who responded” and “this not always but only when
cámac if there was anything else he particularly desired. The
they had need of them.” This apparently selective horizon-
great coastal divinity replied that since he had a “wife and
tality did not much impress Spanish commentators, and
children,” the Inca should build him a house. Topa Inca
it has struck at least one modern historian as an approach
promptly had a “large and sumptuous” house for the huaca
that treated “matters of religion somewhat casually” (Castro
constructed. But the gifting in the interests of his progeny
and Ortega Morejón, [1558] 1938; MacCormack, 1991,
had only begun. Pachacámac also spoke of his “four chil-
p. 155).
dren.” They, too, would require houses, shrines. One was in
In fact, such glimpses of Chinchaycama’s place within
the valley of Mala just to the south, another in Chincha, and
a broader picture, and of Yunga attitudes towards their hua-
there was a third in the highlands, in Andahuaylas near
cas, suggest fundamental Andean religious notions. When
Cuzco. A fourth child of Pachacámac was conveniently por-
the Incas entered this coastal region in force, with settlers
table and would be given to Topa Inca for his safekeeping
from other zones, they built a shrine to their principal divini-
while he traveled about so that he could “receive responses
ty the Sun and impressed upon others the importance of this
to that for which he asked” (Santillán, [1563] 1968, p. 111;
divinity’s attributes and consecration of themselves as his
Rostworowski, 1992; Patterson, 1985).
children. But Inca expansionism tended to incorporate rath-
er than erase existing cults, effectively smoothing over neces-
Santillán’s story merits both caution and close attention.
sary conflict and injecting themselves into longer regional
Notably, privilege is granted to an Incan point of view, and
mythohistoric trajectories. Cieza found that the cult of
to the origin of relatively recent Incan constructions at an
Chinchaycama continued for the natives of Chincha, operat-
oracular cultic center that was over half a millennium old.
ing alongside those of other divinities, including those fa-
One is being treated to an explanatory narrative of political
vored by the arriving Incas (Cieza de León, [1553] 1995,
and religious incorporation in the interest of Incan overlord-
p. 220). Later fragments of learning, while steadily reflecting
ship. Scholars from a variety of disciplines have added differ-
more Cuzco-centered understandings of the historical and
ent perspectives to show this kind of action to have been rep-
spiritual interrelationships between Andean divinities and
resentative of how the Incas adopted certain oracular huacas
the Sun, point in similar directions. Plastic and practical rela-
in accordance to their need for effective regional influence
tionships between divine beings and between huacas and
and advice (Patterson, 1985; Gose, 1996; Topic et al., 2002).
their peoples marked something of a ruling principle.
Yet there is a simultaneous demonstration here of the corre-
sponding benefits of Inca sponsorship for Pachacámac and
One such multiply informative bit of colonial learning
his cult: alliance and support were the surest ways to ensure
was produced by the lawyer Hernando de Santillán amid a
that Pachacámac’s “children,” or new expressions, would
1563 response to a royal cédula inquiring about Inca taxa-
spread across the land. In Pachacámac’s case, one such ex-
tion. Along his purposeful way, Santillán rendered an oral
pression needs no place and is to be carried about by the trav-
tradition about Topa Inca Yupanqui on the eve of Inca ex-
eling Inca, ready to be consulted if the ruler should require
pansion into the coastal valleys of the Yunga. While Mama
a response.
Ocllo was pregnant with the child who would become Topa
Inca, his voice was said to have issued from within her belly
The story invites us to contemplate what Andean huacas
to inform her that a great “creator of the earth” lived on the
were and how they related to one another (Julien, 1998, esp.
coast, in the “Irma valley” (today the valley of Lurín, south
pp. 64–65). The matter of just how huacas’ multiple perso-
of Lima). When Topa Inca was older, his mother told him
nae, diffusions, and relationships with other divine figures
of the experience, and he set out to find this creator. His
might remain operative in colonial times—in cases where
wanderings led him to the sacred place of Pachacámac. Once
huacas endure and especially where Christian personalities
in the presence of the great huaca, the story stresses, the
enter the picture—must simply hover about us for the mo-
Inca’s gestures were those of a respectful supplicant, for he
ment. Pachacámac’s power continued to spread well beyond
spent “many days in prayer and fasting.”
the regional landscape in which he was revered as a founder
After forty days, Pachacámac was said to have broken
and creator because of developing relationships of cultic in-
the silence, speaking from a stone. He confirmed that he was
terdependence and his ability to replicate himself across time
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SOUTH AMERICAN INDIANS: INDIANS OF THE COLONIAL ANDES
and space. Evidence of this prolific quality struck and clearly
Quite convinced of the devil’s wiles, but much closer to
troubled Hernando de Santillán. He explained it to himself
the ground of an early colonial local religiosity than either
and his imagined readership in the following way: “The
Acosta or Garcilaso, were the Augustinian friars stationed in
Devil, who speaks through them [the huacas], makes them
Huamachuco in the northern Andes in the 1550s. They met
believe that they [the huacas] have children,” Santillán wrote.
and attempted to destroy a number of provincial huacas in
“And thus,” he continued,
what had clearly been a bustling pre-Hispanic religious land-
they [native Andeans] built new houses for them, con-
scape but found themselves particularly embedded within
ceived of new forms of worship to the huacas from
the realm of a divinity named Catequil. As with Pachacámac
whom they believed themselves descended, and under-
on the central coast, the oracular fame of Catequil had been
stood them all to be gods. Some they worshipped as
fanned by close association with the Inca dynasty and, in his
men, others as women, and they assigned devotions to
case, with Huayna Capac. Despite the fact that this Inca’s
each one according to a kind of need: they went to some
son, Atahuallpa, had turned against this huaca after unfavor-
in order to make it rain, to others so that their crops
able news and attempted his destruction, Catequil’s essence
would grow and mature, and to [still] others to ensure
in a large hill and high rocky cliffs proved impossible to ex-
that women could become pregnant; and so it went for
tinguish. Because the children or expressions of Catequil had
all other things. What happened with so much multi-
plication is that soon almost every thing had its huaca.
already begun to spread, sometimes with resettled people and
And through the huacas the Devil had them [the Indi-
as part of Incan political policy in the time of Huayna Capac,
ans] so thoroughly deceived that herein lies the chief
he had other ways to endure (Topic et al., 2002, p. 326).
obstacle in that land to lodging the faith firmly among
What is more, his pattern of cultic diffusion appears only to
native peoples . . . to make them understand the de-
have continued as Catequil’s tangible “pieces,” or children,
ception and vanity of it all [reverence for these huacas].
were spread by mobilizing devotees. A perplexed Fray Juan
(Santillán, [1563] 1968, pp. 111–112)
de San Pedro, writing on behalf of the divinity’s newest ene-
Other Spanish commentators reported similarly upon the
mies, the Augustinians, claimed to have discovered some
Andean huacas’ ability to enjoy multiple selves, propagate be-
three hundred of Catequil’s “sons” arrayed through various
yond original territories, take over new specializations, and
towns and smaller settlements in the region. Most were par-
win local loyalties by making themselves indispensable. San-
ticularly beautiful stones that seemed easy enough to confis-
tillán himself noted the findings of his contemporary and fel-
cate and grind into dust, but in other ways Catequil seemed
low lawyer Juan Polo de Ondegardo, who claimed in 1561
to be everywhere at once. San Pedro believed that this multi-
to know of more than four hundred temples [adoratorios]
plication of “idols” had continued “after the arrival of
within one and a half leagues of Cuzco at which offerings
the Spaniards in the land” (San Pedro, [1560] 1992,
were actively made (Santillán, [1563] 1968, p. 112 and n.
pp. 179–180).
1). Expressions of alarm were often followed by attributions
As the words of these post-Pizarran commentators ac-
of diabolic authorship seen in Santillán’s account. More than
knowledged, in one way or another huacas’ cults were various
a decade later, for instance, the Jesuit José de Acosta claimed
and overlapping. While one divine being might remain root-
to have received a priest’s report in Chuquisaca (today Sucre,
ed in a precise physical landscape and connected to a certain
Bolivia) about a huaca named Tangatanga, whom that re-
association and responsibility (often as a founding ancestor),
gion’s Indians believed represented three divine identities in
others developed multiple roles and personalities that al-
one and one in three, like the Christian holy Trinity. “When
lowed them to transcend local beginnings and associations.
the priest shared his astonishment at this,” Acosta wrote,
In the cases of Pachacámac and Catequil, translocal signifi-
I believe I told him that the Devil always stole as much
cance and power were augmented by their association with
he could from the Truth to fuel his lies and deceits, and
members of the Inca line. Yet as the unparalleled narrative
that he did so with that infernal and obstinate pride
evidence collected in the late sixteenth- and early seven-
with which he always yearns to be like God (Acosta,
teenth-century province of Huarochirí would prove in the
[1590] 1962, p. 268).
case of the cult of Pariacaca, not every important regional
Writing almost two decades later, El Inca Garcilaso de
huaca with multiple identities and a vibrant supporting cast
la Vega went to some trouble to point out the fragility of the
of mythohistoric “relatives” who had been important in the
evidence upon which Acosta relied. But what stands out in-
times of Tawantinsuyu was so actively promoted by the Incas
stead is his conviction that this understanding of an Andean
(Taylor, ed., 1987; Salomon and Urioste, eds., 1991). In
divinity was a “new invention” of the Indians of Chuquisaca
fact, Pariacaca can stand as a most famous representative for
in colonial times, “constructed after they had heard of the
legions of other huacas not only in his region but across the
Trinity and of the unity of Our Lord God” (Garcilaso de la
Andes. While regionally powerful, these ancestral divinities
Vega, [1609] 1985, p. 54). While Garcilaso disapproves of
were not so completely adopted (or rejected) by the Incas.
what he depicts as a blatant effort to impress Spaniards and
Their intricate regional networks and transforming roles and
gain from a supposed resemblance, he raises the distinct pos-
significance for indigenous people continued deep into colo-
sibility that such colonial “inventions” were commonplace
nial times, especially in rural areas, where they were investi-
among native Andeans, and without the cunning he implies.
gated and harassed sporadically by inspectors of native Ande-
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SOUTH AMERICAN INDIANS: INDIANS OF THE COLONIAL ANDES
8609
an religious error through the seventeenth and early
parish status. “Arguments in stone,” or at least in adobe
eighteenth centuries (Mills, 1994; Mills, 1997).
blocks, could be made by native Andean Christians as well
as by hopeful church officials (Brown, 2003, pp. 29–32).
Spanish churchmen who were commissioned as inspec-
tors of “idolatry” in the seventeenth- and early eighteenth-
Sacred images and the voluntary lay religious associa-
century archdiocese of Lima sometimes found precisely what
tions (cofradías, confraternities) around them sometimes
an earlier Santillán or Acosta might have guessed they would
coaxed new religious allegiance directly out of older ones, as
find among so persistently credulous a people. They found
in the cases in which confraternities of Indians took over the
the latest, elastic work of the devil. Did it ever seem too easy
herds and lands dedicated to the kin groups’ huacas and mal-
to these inspectors when Indian witnesses who appeared be-
lquis. Like Andean people at the sacrament of baptism, and
fore them sometimes confessed that they ministered to fig-
like Indian towns themselves, members of the lay associa-
ures whom they called the devil? Part of what the devil repre-
tions took on a saint as an advocate and protector, and these
sented in this emerging religious reality was evidence of self-
became new markers of identity and difference. But if the
Christianization, that unpredictable by-product of uneven
rise of an image-centered, confraternity Christianity was en-
Spanish evangelization. After all, diabolic explanations for
couraged by a striking convergence of Andean needs with the
the huaca complex of beliefs and practices in pre-Hispanic
arriving European institution (Celestino and Meyers, 1981;
and emerging colonial Andean religious life had, for genera-
Garland Ponce, 1994), the reimagination of what came to-
tions, been broadcast in Quechua in schools for the sons of
gether, and the answers cofradías proferred to colonial lives,
regional nobles, during confession, and from the pulpits in
were just as crucial. The cofradías facilitated new kinds of be-
Andean churches. Not surprisingly, the huaca-like appear-
longing especially for displaced individuals and kin groups
ance, nature, and competences of these reported “devils”
in parts of the colonial world where older kinship ties had
were unmistakable and continued to change (Mills, 1997).
fragmented or where resettlements and work regimes kept
While the wild omnipresence of these Andean devils only
people far from their home territories. In these conditions,
served to confirm many Spanish churchmen in their under-
new generations were born. A parish and, even more, a co-
standing of who had spoken through the huacas and made
fradía, appears to have offered spaces in which members
them seem so powerful to indigenous people all along, it
might come together for each other and themselves. Indian
should signal rather more to us.
cofradías emerged in such great numbers by the late sixteenth
What remains pertinent is the fact that the devil was an
century that churchmen worried openly about their lack of
originally Spanish Christian idea that, through persistence of
supervision. Prelates from at least the time of the Third Pro-
association and gradual processes of selective appropriation
vincial Council of Lima (1582–1583) attempted to discour-
and reinvention, had been reconstituted and internalized by
age new foundations among Indians (Vargas Ugarte, 1951–
Indians. If reconfigured Andean “devils” had lodged inside
1954, vol. 1, p. 360). The discouragement was not always
a transforming huaca complex, what other originally foreign,
observed by churchmen, let alone by indigenous cofrades, nor
extraordinary things encouraged by Spanish Christian ef-
did thriving lay associations of Indians fall obediently into
forts, and simultaneously attractive and useful to native An-
decay. According to the Jesuit provincial Rodrigo de Cabre-
deans, had also been brought within the ordinary?
do, the principal Jesuit-sponsored confraternity of Indians in
Potosí, that of San Salvador (sometimes called Santa Fe),
A NATURALIZATION OF IMAGES AND INSTITUTIONS. Some
boasted “more than 1,000 Indian men and women” in 1602.
of the ways in which colonial Catholic Christianity was lived
Contemporary observers wrote admiringly of the religious
in the Andes recalled older indigenous forms and purpose,
leadership of female confraternity members in particular and
and thus encouraged a gradual transformative process. For
of the care they gave the image of the Baby Jesus in the Jesuit
example, when new population centers and administrative
church (“Carta anua del año de 1602,” [1603] 1986,
districts coincided or approximated older territorial under-
pp. 231–233; Ocaña, c. 1599–1608, fol. 181r).
standings, this integrative process began with the settling of
extended kin groups (ayllus) in new towns (reducciones de in-
Catholic Christianity’s convergence, through the saints,
dios). It is impossible to generalize about the consequences.
with structures that had guided the operations of an older
Proximity to huacas, and the bodies of mallquis too, com-
huaca complex do not offer straight and easy answers or a
bined with a sporadic or unevenly demanding Catholic cleri-
singular “way” in which change occurred. In the middle of
cal presence, encouraged everything from survivals through
the seventeenth century, the indigenous parishioners in the
coexistence to innovative fusions (Mills, 1994, 1997; Gose,
town of San Pedro de Hacas, Cajatambo, revealed something
2003). Even when such “new” communities failed in the
of the complexity of the colonial religiosity and culture at
wake of the late sixteenth-century epidemics, or were aban-
hand. In testimonies before an investigator of their “errors”
doned because of excessive tribute exactions or Spanish and
between 1656 and 1658, they explained how their local
mestizo interlopers, the more remote places and hamlets into
huaca, Vicho Rinri, was annually consulted on the eve of the
which Indian families settled reflected changes. The churches
Catholic festival of the town’s eponymous patron. What was
and chapels that went up in very small and remote places
more, their celebrations had come to feature sacred dances,
suggested more than a hankering for “annex” or secondary
indigenous ritual confessions, and Andean offerings to Saint
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SOUTH AMERICAN INDIANS: INDIANS OF THE COLONIAL ANDES
Peter in the home of his standard’s honorary bearer. While
sociations between the images of saints and Christ and their
the officiating Spanish judge and his notary insisted that the
colonial groupings of people. Early-seventeenth-century Ay-
huaca was being asked permission (as the devil might wish)
mara speakers on the shores of Lake Titicaca, for instance,
and that the activities of the saint’s guardians and the inti-
were said to have bestowed the title of mamanchic (maman-
mate sacrifices before the representation were the height of
cheq), “mother of all,” upon Francisco Tito Yupanqui’s
irreverence, our interpretative options should not close so
sculpture of the Virgin of the Candlemas at Copacabana
readily. It seems more likely that for at least some of the pa-
(Ramos Gavilán, [1621] 1988; Salles Reese, 1997, p. 162).
rishioners of Hacas, Saint Peter had been brought within an
Similarly, their contemporaries, indigenous mineworkers
emerging system in ways that altered but did not interrupt
and their wives and families in Potosí, flocked to a miracu-
older religious allegiances and understandings (Mills, 1994).
lous painting of Our Lady of Guadalupe from Extremadura
in the church of San Francisco whom they called the señora
Reproducibility offers another critical theme to consid-
chapetona, “the new lady in the land” (Ocaña, c. 1599–1608,
er. Just as important huacas developed multiple personalities
fols. 159r). Such familiar and localizing designations abound
and specializations, generating expressions of themselves in
for images of Mary (Dean, 2002, pp. 181–182), but they
other places, so too was it common for saints to transcend
were not confined to her. As Thierry Saignes has found, the
their original forms, functions, and places through networks
inhabitants of main Andean towns sometimes included (and
of image “copies” and shrines. In this sense, the local reli-
subordinated) the sacred images of annex hamlets in a re-
gious enthusiasms of Spanish Christianity for images, newly
markably similar fashion: “the crosses and statues that deco-
defended and refortified at the Council of Trent (Christian,
rated the village chapels were considered the ‘sons-in-law’ of
1981a, 1981b) were planted in most fortuitous soil. In some
those belonging to the church in town” (Saignes, 1999,
cases, huacas themselves were Christianized, morphing into
p. 103).
saintly personages as their places became sacred shrines in the
Catholic system (Sallnow, 1987, p. 54). Like ambitious hua-
The Marian images featured above are, of course, only
cas who, through their ministers and often out of necessity,
two of many. They offer illustrative examples of the signifi-
tied their fortunes to Inca rulers or speculated through “chil-
cance of multiplication and circulation and of a wider range
dren” in widening locations, Christ, Mary, and the other
of devotional networks across the Andean zone and early
saints were amenable to being co-opted, copied, and reener-
modern world. It is to ponder only an inviting surface to
gized in new environments. Many sacred images, either
note that Tito Yupanqui’s Our Lady of Copacabana from the
brought originally from Europe or made in the Andes but
early 1580s both was and was not an Andean “original.” Her
based upon Old World models, both capitalized on their cu-
Indian maker famously modeled his Virgin of the Candlemas
rious novelty and shed their identity as foreigners, becoming
on a statue of Our Lady of the Rosary brought from Seville
“localized and . . . renewed” in the Andes, as elsewhere
to the Dominican convent and church in Potosí, an image
(Dean, 1996, p. 174; Gruzinski, 1990). Whether “new” ex-
that had caught his eye and fired his devotion when he was
pressions or faithful copies, saints became local originals, fa-
learning his art in the silver-mining center (Mills et al., 2003,
voring a horizontal approach to religious matters similar to
pp. 167–172). The miraculous image at Copacabana herself
that which Santillán, the Dominicans, and others had so
quickly spawned many sculpted and portrait “copies” that
worried over among the Yunga. William B. Taylor’s words
were enshrined in chapels across the Andes. These local cop-
on the character and development of “devotional landscapes”
ies grew more compelling to devotees by signaling their con-
in colonial Mexico apply just as usefully to our understand-
nection to the divine presence of their originals. Some began
ing of how saints appealed to and worked for the colonial
to sweat, others moved, and many were judged responsible
descendants of the Yunga and their Andean neighbors: “Peo-
for interceding with God to produce miracles, the narratives
ple were likely to be interested in more than one shrine or
of which spread in the street and were broadcast from the
saint,” Taylor writes, “and felt a more intense devotion to
pulpits and pages of clerical promoters and patrons. In the
one or another at a particular time, as the array of saints’ im-
case of a copy of the Virgin of Copacabana among a group
ages available in most churches suggests; and devotees may
of disgruntled, resettled Indians in Lima’s Cercado, the
never have actually visited the shrine of a favourite image or
image reportedly cried for attention and devotion, prompt-
relic” (Taylor, 2004).
ing decades of contest not only over the purported miracles
but over her rightful place and constituency. The intersect-
The working of saints’ images and their copies can be
ing roles of different Indian groups, African slaves, prelates,
partly explained through the “familiar” language and associa-
secular clergy, and Jesuits in this case defy simple expla-
tions used most often to elucidate divine connections and ex-
nations.
pansion. Spanish, Indian, and mestizo descriptions of huacas
as ancestors, husbands, wives, and progeny, and of them-
The image of the Virgin of Guadalupe de Extremadura
selves as the children of these beings, abound. Idioms of kin-
painted by Ocaña in Potosí can seem a more straightforward
ship and marriage that had symbolized interrelationships and
case, that of an official purveyor’s painstakingly faithful ex-
subtle hierarchies between huacas and their peoples offered
pression of a Spanish original being transplanted in the
affectionate titles and also a vocabulary for characterizing as-
Andes. Yet the localization and rooting of a new expression
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SOUTH AMERICAN INDIANS: INDIANS OF THE COLONIAL ANDES
8611
here also repays closer inspection. The image’s creator, the
pened to be nurtured and championed by his religious order,
Jeronymite Diego de Ocaña, claimed to have rendered the
it can be tempting to throw in the towel. It was, he wrote,
image with the Indians’ self-identification and affections
as if the Virgin of Guadalupe in the north coastal valley of
foremost in mind: “Since I painted her a little dark, and the
Pacasmayo, the Virgin of Copacabana in Chucuito, and the
Indians are like that, they said that That Lady was more
Virgin of Pucarani (toward La Paz) were divinely linked and
beautiful than the other images, and [that] they loved her a
spread apart so as “to bless [beatificar] the different territories
lot because she was of their colour.” Among other aspects of
in which they are venerated, and so as not to tire travelers
his orchestration of new devotions around this image in Po-
and pilgrims when they go in search of them” (Calancha,
tosí, Ocaña quickly mobilized the Franciscan preacher Luis
[1638] 1974–1982, p. 1362). Yet we must view this as more
Jerónimo de Oré to preach to the Indians in their tongue
than Augustinian pride and claim-making against the en-
about the history of the original Virgin of Guadalupe and
croachments of other religious, and more, too, than simply
about the transfer of this celestial advocate’s powers through
a solemn register of God’s designs in these friars’ favor. Ca-
the new image to their place. (Ocaña, c. 1599–1608, fols.
lancha’s appeal is arguably also to native Andean devotees
159r, 163v; Mills, 2003). A miraculous narrative tradition
who he knows from experience had once moved across these
was being added to and reshaped in Potosí as new Andean
very territories according to earlier divine markers and
stories were being spun.
divisions.
AN ANDEAN CHRISTIAN INTERCULTURE. The cult of the
The representations of the Jesuit provincial Rodrigo de
saints offers an aspect of the Catholic Christian system that
Cabredo in 1600 as he described the work of padres from the
appealed to colonial native Andeans as much for its familiari-
Jesuit college at Cuzco in towns and villages in the region
ty as for its access to new local powers. In highly interactive
of Huamanga (modern Ayacucho) in 1599 offer an even
regions such as the Andean zones on which Spanish Chris-
more illuminating example for our purposes. In one place
tians began to impinge in the 1530s, that which was foreign
(probably San Francisco de Atunrucana), the Jesuits had set
was not unexpected. The foreign and novel might—like a
to building a new church to replace one struck by lightning
new huaca, like the concept of the devil—require under-
and burned to the ground. In the presence of many people,
standing initially in terms that would allow definition within
including the kuraka, sacred images of the town’s patrons
emerging systems of meaning and practice. But the allure
San Francisco and the Baby Jesus had been enshrined and
and utility of unfamiliar expressions of sacred power were
a sermon was given in commemorative thanks that local peo-
tied to their perceived ability to summon valuable powers
ple had been freed from their blindness and the clutches of
from “outside” (Helms, 1993). In time, visual expressions of
the devil. According to Cabredo:
Christ, the Virgin Mary, and other saints appear to have of-
fered this kind of power for many native Andeans. Closer
One of the principal fruits of this mission was teaching
the Indians about the veneration (adoración) of images,
studies need to be made of a variety of divine personalities
telling them [first] not to worship (adorar) them as In-
and sacred territories over time to understand whether the
dians do their huacas, and [second] that Christians do
associations and competences of particular huacas are related
not think that virtue and divinity resides in them [the
in any way to the specializations of saints as advocates and
images] themselves but, rather, look to what they repre-
if a tendency away from highly localised and specificist saints
sent. . . . [Teaching] this [matter] is of the utmost im-
and toward generalist advocates such as the Virgin and
portance, because a bad Christian with little fear of God
Christ proposed by William Christian (1981) for contempo-
had sowed a very pernicious and scandalous doctrine in
rary rural Castile plays out in cultic developments in the co-
this pueblo, saying many things against the honor and
lonial Spanish Americas. But what is clear is that the saints
reverence that the images deserve.
became principal inhabitants and powers within what
Cabredo’s emphasis falls ultimately on what was needed to
Thomas Cummins has called a contested but mutual “cul-
“remedy the poison the Devil had sown through his minis-
tural area between Catholic intention and Andean reception”
ter” (“Carta anua,” [1600] 1981, pp. 73–76). The notion of
(Cummins, 1995; 2002, p. 159).
a wandering “bad Christian” as the devil’s instrument, lead-
Discovering how the thoughts of contemporaries can
ing Indians astray with “pernicious and scandalous” confu-
inform us on such matters—and, more often than not, inter-
sions about images and huacas, does not fail to raise questions
preting their silences—offers a constant challenge. This is as
and suggest complications. For even if this “bad Christian”
true of representations of saints and their developing do-
did exist, he or she appears to have found a ready audience
mains as it is of renderings of the huacas’ pre-Hispanic na-
for comparative thoughts about saints’ images and huacas, an
tures and what had been their catchment areas. Yet even tri-
audience of Indians at the dawn of the seventeenth century
umphant declarations about the saints that seem to skate
about whom the Jesuits in Huamanga and well beyond had
over difficulties and ignore complex possibilities hold prom-
grown concerned.
ise for our project. For instance, when considering the fact
Cross-cultural thinkers and mobilizers—contemporary
that the seventeenth-century Augustinian Creole Antonio de
people who conceptualized, influenced, and reflected reli-
la Calancha carved up Peru into three devotional zones
gious in-betweens in the colonial Andes—offer perhaps the
watched over by miraculous images of Mary that just so hap-
most remarkable indications of why and how the cult of the
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SOUTH AMERICAN INDIANS: INDIANS OF THE COLONIAL ANDES
saints came to underpin local Andean Christianities. As dis-
Near the heart of such further efforts, in this Jesuit’s
missive as the mestizo humanist El Inca Garcilaso de la Vega
opinion, should be “historical narration and . . . personal
had found himself in thinking over the possible interpreta-
conversations in which the saints’ lives are told and matters
tive needs of colonial Indians in Chuquisaca, as noted above,
of virtue are treated.” Picking up on what his contemporaries
he did concoct a definition of the concept of huaca with con-
the Creole Oré and the peninsular Ocaña also believed and
siderably more paths into emerging colonial understandings
were putting into action, the anonymous Jesuit wrote that
than dead ends. At its center was a denial that people in
if an evangelizer’s skills were such that he could translate
Incan times had understood huacas to be gods and a hint that
Christian narratives into the Indians’ languages, then so too
the appeal of Christian images and miracle stories to a native
could the articles of the faith, the commandments, the works
Andean might follow on naturally (Garcilaso de la Vega
of mercy, and the sacraments be rendered, allowing the arriv-
[1609] 1985, pp. 51–55, pp. 45–55; MacCormack, 1991,
ing religion, finally, to be deeply understood. His emphasis
pp. 335–338). Saints, like the extraordinary ancestral beings,
upon the gains which might come from “conversaciones par-
might be represented in forms, and stories of their deeds
ticulares” about the saints captures his understanding both
might be conveyed, collected, and retold by special humans.
of the intimate and horizontal manner in which the cult of
Luis Jerónimo de Oré, the experienced Franciscan Cre-
the saints had already begun to enter the hearts and minds
ole whom Diego de Ocaña had recruited to preach about the
of native Andeans, and of the way that self-Chris-
Virgin of Guadalupe in Potosí in 1600, was a figure who ap-
tianization—daily ritual activity, communication, and devel-
proached such matters of possible congruence directly, in the
oping understandings among Indian women and men, with-
course of evangelization. Engraved images of the Virgin
in families and lay sodalities, and between friends and ac-
begin and end his Symbolo Catholico Indiano of 1598, accom-
quaintances—would see this process continue. Saints could
panied by words to guide contemplation. Mary was also a
take on new Andean lives in Quechua. Only the older gener-
principal concern in the book itself, as Oré translated her and
ation of Indians and their oral traditions seemed to present
his faith through prayers and hymns, expounding doctrine
an obstacle to this vision. But for this too, the Jesuit had a
and mysteries for Quechua-speaking Christians (Oré, [1598]
suggestion. Indian children could begin “to sing before them
1992). The so-called anonymous Jesuit of the late sixteenth
[the adults] so that in this way they forget the ancient songs”
or early seventeenth century—possibly but not certainly the
(Jesuita Anónimo, [c.1594] 1968, pp. 80–81).
mestizo Blas Valera (Jesuita Anónimo [c. 1594] 1968, BNS
ms. 3177; Urbano, 1992; Hyland, 2003), offers another rich
The “ancient songs” stand in here for the huacas and,
case in point. He was an author immersed in a project of in-
in a certain sense, for the pre-Hispanic religious complex as
terpreting the Incan past as an ordered and moral anticipa-
a whole. This Jesuit’s optimistic view of his colonial present
tion for Catholic Christianity, particularly as directed by the
and his faithful glimpse into the future sees a gradual substi-
Jesuits in structured environments such as Lima’s resettled
tution of one set of songs, beliefs and practices for another,
enclosure for Indians, Santiago del Cercado. Yet he had also
the old for the new. But students of these matters are not
had much else to say en route.
obliged to think so instrumentally. The author’s acknowl-
edgment of what one might call a “creative tension” between
The Jesuit held, for instance, that the only mode of
modes of religious understanding and ritual remembrance in
entry into Christianity that was working for native Andeans
operation in the colonial Andes is more telling. He believes
in his day amounted to self-Christianization sustained by a
that a fundamental Andean religious aptitude and enthusi-
regular experience of the sacraments. Certainly the people
benefited from priests fluent in the Quechuan language to
asm for the saints, and for their hagiographic narratives and
administer to them, and they required good examples to ex-
edifying stories, had come from somewhere elastic and en-
cite their faith, just as his contemporary Acosta insisted more
during in native Andean cultural tradition. Evidence of the
famously. “But when they lack someone to instruct them,”
survival of huaca cults, and their relationships and sacred his-
the anonymous Jesuit added, “they look for ways to pick up
tories, exists into the eighteenth century and beyond and
what is required and teach it to their children.” Like Oré, this
suggests that he was correct. But what can be understood
Jesuit believed that native Andeans were inclined toward
about huacas should not stop just here, split off, as if the
Catholic Christianity by their pre-Hispanic understandings
study of pre-Hispanic phenomena, much less colonial “idola-
and that their depth in the faith depended most upon Chris-
try,” can be separated from the culturally dialogic reality of
tianity being enlivened by careful formulations in the
evangelization and response and from the emergence and
Quechuan language. Most Indian Christians were new and
fruition of Andean Christianities. Huacas, with their multi-
vulnerable, in his view, but this did not make them any less
ple personalities and translocality, provided Spanish and Hi-
genuine additions to the fold. The arrival at a moment when
spanicizing minds with ways of thinking and expressing reli-
the pace and character of religious change would depend
gious relationships, and they provide colonial indigenous
upon the Indians’ own efforts and controls was already at
people with ways of understanding the images of saints and
hand in some places, he implied, even if further work was
their “copies” as newly local repositories of beneficence and
needed on communicating key aspects of the faith.
power.
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THE MODERN ANDES
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The Quechua and Aymara Indians of the Andes mountains
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pp. 59–137. Cambridge, 1999.
groups will be referred to, collectively, as “Andeans.”
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Although some Andeans have moved to large urban
is a universal deity, referring to all the earth and the universe
centers, such as La Paz, Bolivia, and Lima, Peru, the majority
because she represents the principle of nature that recycles
live in small communities (from twenty to five hundred fam-
life from death, and death from life. Pachamama is unlike
ilies) scattered throughout the Andes, with a population den-
the achachilas, the mountain spirits who represent certain
sity of three hundred persons per square kilometer of habit-
peaks.
able and arable land. Indians live in rectangular, single-
Ritually, Andeans libate Pachamama with drops of li-
family, adobe huts with thatched gable or hip roofs. The
quor before drinking and present her with three coca leaves
Aymara group their huts in extended-family compounds sur-
before chewing coca. The husband places coca leaves daily
rounded by a wall with a central patio. For both Aymara and
into the male family members’ earth shrine, an indentation
Quechua, marriage is monogamous, with trial marriages last-
within the adobe bench surrounding the inside of the patio,
ing several years. Residence is patrilocal, with bilateral inheri-
and the wife puts leaves under her household shrine, a table
tance among the Quechua and patrilateral inheritance
within the cooking house, so that Pachamama will provide
among the Aymara.
the family with food. Diviners also offer ritual meals (mesas)
Andeans practice intensive agriculture using crop rota-
to Pachamama during August, before Andeans begin plant-
tion, irrigation, dung fertilization, and terracing of fields.
ing. Andeans believe that the earth is open at that time and
They cultivate more than fifty species of domesticated plants,
needs to be given food and drink.
in a number of ecological niches: Potatoes, quinoa, and oca
Roman Catholic missioners attempted to replace Pacha-
are grown at the highest levels of cultivatable land; corn
mama with the Blessed Mother, but this resulted in beliefs
(maize) at lower levels; and beans, squash, sweet manioc, pea-
that associate the Blessed Mother with the bountifulness of
nuts, peppers, fruit trees, and cotton in the deep valleys and
the earth. For example, two major pilgrimage sites in the Bo-
along the coast. Herders graze alpacas, llamas, and sheep on
livian Andes are La Virgen de Copacabana and La Virgen de
fallow fields and in high, nonarable tundra regions (14,000–
Urkupiña. Nominally, these shrines refer to the Blessed
17,000 ft.). Although Andeans live dispersed over wide areas,
Mother, but Andeans associate them with Pachamama and
resource exchange unifies the people of different communi-
the earth (Urkupiña means “rock hill”). People travel to these
ties. The ecological band narrows as the altitude increases,
shrines in August to feed Mother Earth and thus ensure an
so that there are many distinct communities, each utilizing
abundant harvest and an increase in flocks, offspring, or,
the natural resources characteristic of its altitude. Because of
more recently, money. This illustrates how Catholicism be-
ecological specialization, exchange of resources is very impor-
came syncretized with the ecological symbols of the Andean
tant. Andean civilization arose through these efforts to utilize
religion.
many vegetational zones to furnish communities with a vari-
ety of resources.
Achachilas are mountain spirits, indistinct from the
mountains themselves, who are the masculine protectors of
Andeans have also adapted to this mountainous region
the earth and ancestors of the community. Diviners feed ac-
by means of a religion that is essentially a system of ecological
hachilas with ritual meals. Every Andean community has cer-
symbols. They use their ecological setting as an explanatory
tain bordering mountains that are considered sacred: For ex-
model for understanding and expressing themselves in my-
ample, the achachilas of La Paz, Bolivia, are the snow-crested
thology and ritual. Andeans are very close to their animals,
mountains (16,000–20,000 ft.) of Illimani (“elder brother”),
plants, and land. Their origin myths tell how in times past
Mururata (“headless one”), and Wayna Potosi (“youth-
llamas herded humans; in present times humans herd llamas
Potosi”). A more traditional Aymara community, Cacacha-
only because of a linguistic error when llamas misplaced a
qa, near Oruro, Bolivia, has eleven achachilas that together
suffix in Quechua, saying “Humans will eat us” instead of
encircle it and separate it from neighboring communities.
“We will eat humans.” Andeans consider coca (Erythoxylum
Each peak symbolizes an aspect of nature—a mineral, plant,
coca) a divine plant: “The leaves are like God. They have wis-
animal, bird, or person—that is suggested by its shape and
dom.” Diviners learn about nature by chewing coca and
its particular resources and natural environment. Condo, a
reading its leaves. Andeans see themselves as part of nature,
neighboring community north of Cacachaqa, shares with
intrinsically affected by its processes and intimately linked
Cacachaqa two achachilas, which shows how neighboring
with plants and animals. Moreover, Andeans believe they
communities are united by achachilas.
originated in the earth and will return to it.
Throughout the Andes, there are hierarchical relation-
PACHAMAMA AND ACHACHILAS. Earth and mountains pro-
ships among the achachilas. Ancestral achachilas are related
vide two principal Andean symbols, Pachamama and the ac-
to tutelary peaks of the community, the community’s tute-
hachilas. Pachamama means “mother earth,” but pacha also
lary peaks to the region’s, and the region’s to the nation’s.
refers to time, space, and a universe that is divided into heav-
Traditionally, the metaphor for this relationship is a kinship
en, earth, and a netherworld. For Andeans, time is encapsu-
pyramid: At the apex is the chief of the clan, followed by the
lated in space. Pacha is an earth that produces, covers, and
heads of the major lineages and then the leaders of the local
contains historical events, and Pachamama symbolizes the
lineages. Although clans are no longer found in the Andes,
fertile nature of the earth, which provides life. Pachamama
lineages are important, and Andeans refer to achachilas in
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SOUTH AMERICAN INDIANS: INDIANS OF THE MODERN ANDES
kinship terms—machula (“ancestor”), apu (“leader”), awqui
individuals for their divining skills. A typical diviner reads
(“grandfather”), and tío (“uncle”). In sum, mountains exhibit
coca leaves by first selecting twelve perfect leaves. He marks
a hierarchy that is analogous to social and political systems.
them with insectlike bites and designates the significance of
The worship of these mountains, then, made Andeans con-
each: good luck, bad luck, community, road, a person’s
scious of social, political, and natural systems.
name, enemies, or whatever concerns the person paying for
E
the divination. He then casts the leaves, like dice, upon a
ARTH SHRINES. Diviners are responsible for naming and
feeding earth shrines (huacas), which are pre-Columbian in
cloth to see which leaves pair with good luck and which with
origin and are still ritually important. Earth shrines are natu-
bad luck. If the cast is unfavorable, the participants often
ral openings or small holes dug into the ground through
argue about the outcome and require another cast. Because
which the earth is ritually fed. They are found near passes,
coca leaves usually do not fall in a conclusive way, diviners
water holes, knobs, and rocks. Alongside the hole is usually
are free to suggest their insights. There are many kinds of di-
a rock pile, where Indians place their coca quids before fresh
viners: Some read the signs of nature and predict when to
leaves are put inside the hole. A shrine’s many names may
plant and harvest, others are skilled in social dynamics and
express history, humor, geography, and social relationships.
redress conflicts, and still others understand human prob-
For example, one earth shrine is called Jilakata’s Recourse,
lems and treat mental illnesses. A few possess mystical knowl-
because it was once a rest stop for Indian officials on their
edge and can reveal the inner nature of the Andean universe.
journey to pay tribute to the Spanish. This shrine’s knob sug-
Such people are highly esteemed, and Andeans travel long
gests its other names: Goat Corral, Bachelor’s Haven, Co-
distances to seek them out.
itus, and Chicha (corn beer) Bubble. Another earth shrine
Diviners conclude divinations with ritual meals (mesas),
was formed, according to legend, when a certain leader ex-
which are the basic rituals of the Andes. Although mesas vary
pelled his sister-in-law from his land and set her upside down
regionally, they follow a similar pattern. A diviner sets a table
alongside the road. She became a rock shaped in the form
(mesa) with a ritual cloth and scallop shells for plates, each
of buttocks and a vagina. Today, Andean travelers place coca
of which is assigned an achachila and an earth shrine. He
in the crotch of this earth shrine. Other earth shrines are ded-
places a llama fetus at the head of the table for Pachamama.
icated to irrigation canals, agricultural fields, and livestock.
Next, the diviner places white llama wool, coca, llama fat,
An apacheta is an earth shrine at a mountain pass, that is, the
carnation petals, and animal blood on the scallop shells, be-
highest point of the trail. Travelers rest at these sites, discard
seeching the invited deities to accept the offerings. The par-
their coca, and pray, “With this quid may my tiredness leave
ticipants imitate the diviner. There are other ritual foods, de-
me, and strength return.”
pending upon the ecological zone, but the three principal
Earth shrines are stratified according to ecological levels,
foods are coca, which symbolizes knowledge, fat, symboliz-
social groupings, time, and historical epochs. Individuals
ing energy, and blood (preferably from the llama), symboliz-
have their own earth shrines; an Andean baby receives an
ing vitality. Finally, the diviner wraps the food with the wool
earth shrine at birth, and must reverence it throughout his
to make about twelve bundles (kintos) and ties them to the
or her life. If they move from their natal village, they will pe-
back of the llama fetus. The diviner places this in an earth
riodically return to pay homage to their shrines, which con-
shrine, and burns it, which symbolizes the consumption of
tinually beckon for their return until they die and are buried
the food. Andeans say that if the fire sparkles and crackles,
with their ancestors near their sacred mountain. The patri-
then Pachamama and the achachilas have enjoyed the meal
lineage has its household shrines dug into the inside and out-
and will repay them with a good harvest.
side of the house; the community has its shrine correspond-
ing to its level on the mountain; and the ayllu, an
Sorcerers. Sorcerers are different from diviners. Divin-
economically and religiously related group of communities,
ers are usually male and feed the earth shrines with llama fat,
has its shrines up and down the mountain. Certain irrigation
llama fetuses, and white llama wool at specific times—
canals have earth shrines that are associated with the Inca civ-
Wednesday and Thursday nights. They are ritualists for ac-
ilization, and, in many villages, the chapel in the plaza is
hachilas, Pachamama, and earth shrines. In contrast, sorcer-
often interpreted as another earth shrine, reminiscent of the
ers are often female and feed the wind and river with pig fat,
Spanish conquest. Yet the earth is the center that perdures
rat fetuses, and black sheep wool on Tuesday and Friday
through time, and that unifies the different places and earth
nights. They are ritualists for the supaya, a term that has often
shrines.
been equated with the Spanish concept of the devil, although
it actually refers to certain of the dead who either have not
RITUALISTS. Ritual specialists of the Andes fall into two cate-
completed something in this life or have died in a strange
gories: diviners and sorcerers.
fashion. The supaya belong to the netherworld of the dead
Diviners. Andeans frequently consult with diviners, the
(ura pacha), but they act in the world of the living (kay pacha)
principal ritualists of the Andes. All Andean communities
as living shadows. Supaya enter the world of the living to
have diviners. Although they are identified from within the
gather companions for the netherworld. Symbolically, they
group by being associated with some extraordinary natural
represent the consumptive forces of nature, such as death and
event (commonly, a bolt of lightning), they are selected as
decay, which are necessary to renew life. When someone is
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SOUTH AMERICAN INDIANS: INDIANS OF THE MODERN ANDES
8617
sick and a supaya is implicated, sorcerers attempt to appease
shrine for Curva and Chullina, neighboring ayllus. Earth
him by killing and substituting the life of a llama for that
shrines, when shared by several ayllus, religiously unite sepa-
of the sick person. They also offer pig fat and rat fetuses at
rate mountains, and so Qollahuaya Andeans claim that they
mesas de contra (“misfortune tables”), so called because the
are one people because they worship the same shrines. Pacha-
ritual items are contrary to those employed by diviners in a
qota, a large lake at the head of the mountain, is the “eye”
mesa de suerte (“good-luck table”) or mesa de salud (“health
into which the sun sinks; it symbolizes death, fertilization,
table”). Pig fat is inferior to llama fat because Andeans con-
and llamas. On the shores of the lake, the herders of the high-
sider the pig a tropical animal that lives on fecal matter and
land community of Apacheta celebrate the All Colors rite for
garbage. Rat fetuses, symbolizing destructive rodents, are in-
the increase of llamas. Pachaqota is also associated with the
ferior to llama fetuses, which symbolize an animal very bene-
lakes of uma pacha (at the top of a mountain), from which
ficial to Andean society.
animals and humans derive their existence and to which they
return after death.
Andeans select sorcerers by their reputation for either
removing or inflicting misfortunes. Some sorcerers claim re-
The Great Shrine (Jatun JunchDa), associated with the
sponsibility for as many as seven deaths, but others are secre-
liver and the central community of Kaata, is a major shrine
tive about their reputation because sorcerers are occasionally
of Ayllu Kaata because of its central location and physiogra-
killed in revenge by victims of unsuccessful sorcery. Sorcery
phy. The Great Shrine rests on a spur, which rises from the
takes many forms in the Andes, but one way sorcerers curse
slopes and resembles a small mountain. The Great Shrine is
people is by placing nail filings or hair of the victim inside
nourished at the rite of Chosen Field, in the middle of the
the skulls of a cat and a dog, whose teeth are locked as if in
rainy season, and it is also the site of a mock battle (tinku)
battle, which symbolizes that husband and wife are fighting.
between the elders and clowns during Carnival. The clowns,
(The breakdown of the household is a major tragedy in the
who sprinkle people with water, are symbolically put to
Andes because it is the unit of production and subsistence.)
death by the elders slinging ripe fruit at them.
The sorcerer hides the skulls inside the thatched roof of the
Similar ritual battles are fought throughout the Andes:
victim. If the victim is aware of this, he can remove the curse
The Aymara of the Bolivian Altiplano, for example, wage
by having another sorcerer perform a mesa de contra. Some-
theatrical warfare between the upper and lower divisions of
times the victim has the sorcerer brought before the magis-
the community. Tinku emphasizes the importance of con-
trate, who fines her and makes her take an oath not to do
trasting pairs, and in the Andes almost everything is under-
it again. Sorcery is taken seriously and is often the attributed
stood in juxtaposition to its opposite. Earth shrines, also,
cause for loss of livestock, crops, money, health, and even
have meanings corresponding to binary opposition. Cha-
life.
qamita and Pachaqota, for example, correspond to life and
THE AYLLU AND ITS EARTH SHRINES. The ayllu is basic to
death, as well as to the rising and setting of the sun, and each
Andean social organization. Although ayllus are often based
term explains the other; moreover, each leads to the other.
on kinship ties, they are also formed by religious, territorial,
The highlands, central altitudes, and lowlands of
and metaphorical ties. One contemporary example is Ayllu
Mount Kaata have community shrines reflecting their eco-
Kaata of the Qollahuaya Indians, who live in midwestern Bo-
logical zones, but from the viewpoint of the ayllu, the com-
livia. Ayllu Kaata is a mountain with three major communi-
munity shrine is only one part of the body of the mountain.
ties: Niñokorin, Kaata, and Apacheta. The people of Niño-
In some way every level must feed all the mountain’s shrines
korin are Quechua speakers who farm corn, wheat, barley,
during the allyu rites, such as the New Earth rite. The people
peas, and beans on the lower slopes of the mountain
of Apacheta, Kaata, and Niñokorin come together during
(10,500–11,500 ft.). The people of Kaata, who also speak
New Earth to recreate the mountain’s body. The upper and
Quechua, cultivate oca and potatoes on rotative fields of the
lower communities send leaders to Kaata for this rite, each
central slopes (11,500–14,000 ft.). In the highlands
bringing his zone’s characteristic product: a llama or some
(14,000–17,000 ft.), the Aymara-speaking people of Apa-
chicha (corn beer). The llama’s heart and bowels are buried
cheta herd llamas and sheep. The three communities use the
in the center fields, and blood and fat are sent by emissaries
metaphor of the human body to understand their ayllu: Apa-
to feed the earth shrines of the mountain. The body awakes
cheta corresponds to the head, Kaata to the trunk, and Niño-
to become the new earth.
korin to the legs. Just as the parts of the human body are or-
ganically united, so are the three levels of Ayllu Kaata.
The New Earth rite is one illustration, of which there
are many others throughout the Andes, of how Pachamama,
The thirteen earth shrines of Ayllu Kaata are understood
the achachilas, and earth shrines are holistically understood
in relation to the body metaphor and to ecological stratifica-
in terms of metaphor, ecology, and ayllu. The New Earth rite
tions. The three community shrines are Chaqamita, Pacha-
expresses how levels of land are understood in terms of a
qota, and Jatun JunchDa. Chaqamita, a lake located to the
body with a head, heart, bowels, and legs, through which
east near the legs, is related to the sun’s birth, fertility, and
blood and fat circulate when ritualists feed the earth shrines.
corn, making it a suitable shrine for Niñokorin, whose Corn
Specific earth shrines not only refer to specific ecologial
Planting rite reverences this site. This lower lake is also a
zones but also symbolize parts of the body that holistically
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SOUTH AMERICAN INDIANS: INDIANS OF THE MODERN ANDES
constitutes the achachila and symbolizes the social and politi-
community. Traditionally, many Andeans believe that peo-
cal unity of Mount Kaata. Andeans experience the solidarity
ple originate from and return to the highland lakes of the
of their mountain and ayllu similarly to the way they experi-
mountain. They compare death to the eclipse of the sun:
ence the organic unity of their corporeal bodies. The individ-
Death is ecliptic, hiding the dead within the earth, where
ual’s corporeal life is dependent on environmental life. Thus,
they journey with the movements of the sun, seasons, and
the New Earth rite assures the individual’s organic life by
land.
awakening Mother Earth to provide a good harvest.
The Feast with the Dead is an annual rite of passage
RITUAL CALENDAR. Andeans insert themselves by ritual into
from the dry to the wet season and from the activity of the
the cycles of nature—not to control them, but to experience
dead to that of the living. The dry season connotes resting;
them and be in harmony with them. New Earth, for exam-
the wet season, growth. The living invite the dead to a meal
ple, is the second of three rites dedicated to the rotative field
when the harvest and festive times have ended and planting
of the year. Through these three rites the earth is gradually
rituals begin. At this pivotal point in the Andean year, the
awakened. One year before planting, the community leaders
dead visit the living, and then they are sent on another year’s
study the fertility of the fields lying fallow to see which one
journey with their share of the harvest.
is ready to begin another growth cycle of potatoes, oca, and
At noon on November 1, the leader of the community
barley. A diviner observes nature’s omens and asks the neigh-
awakens the dead with dynamite, and for twenty-four hours
boring mountains (achachilas) for their assistance. Once a
the dead are served food on tables that usually have three
field is picked, the people of the ayllu celebrate the rite of
tiers, symbolizing highlands, central altitudes, and lowlands.
Chosen Field (Chacrata Qukuy) in the middle of the rainy
The arrival of a fly or the flickering of a candle signals to the
season. Leaders dance across the field’s terraces to the music
living that the dead are present. The living and dead share
of flutes, and they offer a llama fetus to the earth shrine of
in a meal and communicate with each other by laments and
the selected field. The fetus brings new life to the soil, and
prayers. At noon the next day, everyone returns to the ceme-
thus the field becomes the anointed land for the year. Ande-
tery to place more food near the graves. Relatives of the de-
ans later fertilize their plots by spreading sheep dung along
ceased distribute food to friends, who pray for the dead rela-
the furrows where they will plant potatoes.
tives. Later the same afternoon, the fiesta ends with a meal
The rains continue to soak the anointed field, and near
and drinking.
the end of the rainy season, in April, Andeans prepare to
COSMOLOGY. For Andeans, the finality of death is alleviated
plow. But before the earth can be entered, it must be nur-
by their ecology. During life, Andeans become part of the
tured by the sacrifice of a grown llama during the rite of New
land that they work: As their bodies get older, their land in-
Earth. With this rite the land is vitalized; it is opened for
creases. When they die, they enter into the mountain, jour-
water, air, dung, and blood, until the time of Potato Plant-
ney upward, and have access to the land of the dead. More-
ing, when it is covered over again. Potato Planting (Khallay
over, the decay of their bodies enriches the land of the living.
Papa Tarpuna), in mid-November, is the field’s final ritual,
The visible levels of the living are only half of the mountain;
celebrated after the Feast with the Dead. According to Ande-
the other half consists of the subterranean waterways of the
an legends, the dead push the potatoes up from the inside
dead.
of the earth. Also in November, people of lower levels cele-
brate Corn Planting (Khallay Sara Tarpuna), and at Christ-
The Andeans’ worldview is an extension of the three
mastime herders sponsor their herding rituals, All Colors
mountain levels; they divide their universe into the heavens
(Chajru Khallay). Although each rite is concerned with the
(janaj pacha), this world (kay pacha), and the netherworld
animal and plant life of its zone, collectively the rites influ-
(ura pacha). Each place has an ancient, a past, and a present
ence the corporate life of the ayllu and region, and leaders
time, to which specific beings correspond. The heavens are
from the various communities participate in all of the rituals
where the elders of lightning, sun, and stars have dwelled
of the ayllu and the region.
since ancient times; where God, Jesus, and Santiago have
roamed since past times; and where dead baptized babies are
Between the cycle of the seasons there is a day when an-
descending to the uma pacha in present times. By their per-
cestors return to the community—2 November, the Feast
manent and cyclical features, the heavens suggest origination
with the Dead. Ancestor worship remains an important part
and restitution, whereas the experiences of this world are
of Andean religion. Prior to the conquest, Andeans mummi-
temporal and consecutive. The three times of this world are
fied the dead by wrapping them in cloth and seating them
symbolized by chullpas, the cross, and the graveyard, which
in chullpas, which are rock monuments above subterranean
refer respectively to the ancestor mummies, Jesus, and the re-
cists. The Incas dressed the mummies of their kings in fine
cent dead (those who have died within three years). The an-
textiles and kept them in the Temple of the Sun in Cuzco,
cestor mummies and the past and recent dead journey to the
where they were arranged in hierarchical and genealogical re-
highlands within the subterranean waterways of the nether-
lationships. Today, Andeans dress the dead person for a jour-
world, which is the recycling area between death and life.
ney, provide him or her with coca, potatoes, corn, and a can-
The supaya are dead unable to travel because of some unfin-
dle, and bury the deceased in a cemetery near the
ished business. They bridge the gap between the netherworld
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SOUTH AMERICAN INDIANS: INDIANS OF THE MODERN ANDES
8619
and this world. The earth shrines denote being, space, and
and carnations from the lowlands, potatoes from the central
time, the metaphysical concepts for the universe, which are
lands, and llama fat and a fetus from the highlands. The
intertwined in each of the three gradient levels; thus the
gathering of the ritual items reinforces the concept that
mountain serves as an expression of Andean cosmology.
health is related to the utilization and exchange of resources
from different levels. Indirectly, the ritual affects health by
The uma pacha is the point of origin and return for tra-
reinforcing the need for a balanced diet. In this way, Andean
ditional Andeans. The highlands are the head (uma) of the
ritual promotes holistic health rather than merely removing
achachila. Bunchgrass grows near the summit of the moun-
disease.
tain, as hair on the head. The wool of the llamas that graze
on this grass resembles human hair. As human hair grows
Traditionally, Andeans distinguish between curanderos,
after cutting, so llama wool and bunchgrass grow continually
who cure with natural remedies, and diviners (yachaj), who
in the highlands. In a manner similar to the regeneration of
cure with supernatural remedies. Andeans have many classes
hair, humans and animals originate in the highland lakes, or
of curanderos, revealing a striking knowledge and classifica-
the eyes (nawi) of the achachila. The sun dies into these eyes
tion of anatomy and an enormous list of medical parapherna-
of the highlands, but from the reflections within the lake
lia. Because they have excelled in the practice of native medi-
come all living creatures. The lake’s reflections (illa) are the
cine, Andeans have adapted to an environment that produces
animals and people returning from inside the earth to this
many stresses (hypoxia, hypothermia, malnutrition, and epi-
world.
demics). Qollahuaya herbalists, for example, use approxi-
mately one thousand medicinal plants in curing. Andeans
Animals and people originate in and return to the head
visit both diviners and herbalists for treatment of a disease,
of the mountain. It is the place of origin and return, like the
because both kinds of specialist are needed to deal with all
human head, which is the point of entry and exit for the
the physical, social, spiritual, and ecological factors involved.
inner self. The dead travel by underground waterways to the
mountain’s head, the uma pacha, from whose lakes they can
CHRISTIANITY. Andeans have incorporated Catholicism into
arise to the land of the living. The living emerge from the
their traditional way of life by stratifying it according to place
eyes of the mountain (the lakes of the uma pacha), journey
and time and thus allowing it to function in ways analogous
across its head, chest, trunk, and legs (high, center, and low
to the function of an earth shrine. For many Andeans, Ca-
levels), and die in the lowlands. They are buried and return
tholicism is a state religion that replaced the Inca religion.
with the sun to the uma pacha, point of origin and return.
Every Andean community has a chapel with a statue of a
saint who is the patron protector of the village. Sculptors
SICKNESS AND HEALTH. Western medicine ascribes sickness
mold a realistic statue from plaster of paris, and seamstresses
to internal disorders of the body or to the malfunctioning
dress it with velvet and gold cloth. These statues appear al-
of organs within it, whereas Andean curing looks outside the
most alive, like waxworks. For some Andeans, the saint rep-
body to the malfunctioning of the social and ecological
resents a white rock; for others, the saints are transformations
order. Bodily illnesses are signs of disorders between the per-
of the dead ancestors whom they venerated during Inca
son and the land or between the person and his lineage. The
times.
diviner’s role is to reveal this conflict and to redress it by ritu-
al, which resolves the dispute or reorders the land. Diviners
Annually, each village celebrates a fiesta to its saint,
cure not by isolating the individual in a hospital, away from
whose statue is paraded around the four corners of the plaza
his land, but by gathering members of a sick person’s social
while brilliantly costumed groups dance to the music of
group for ritual feeding of the earth shrines of the achachila,
flutes, drums, and trumpets. The official sponsor, the preste,
because if their lineage and mountain are complete, then
walks alongside the saint, for which privilege he provides the
their body will also be complete (healthy). Community and
participants with alcohol, coca, and food. Ritual and natural
land are inextricably bound to the physical body, and disinte-
kin, as well as people in debt to the preste, contribute supplies
gration in one is associated with disorder in the other.
and sponsor dance groups. For the first day or two, the fiesta
is a celebration of great beauty and festivity, but by the third
One illustration of how diviners interrelate environ-
day it often degenerates into drunkenness and brawling. One
mental and social factors with sickness is the mesa de salud
reason is that during recent times raw alcohol has replaced
(“health table”), a commonly performed ritual in the Andes.
the traditional beverage, chicha, which has a much lower al-
This ritual begins with a preliminary divination session in
cohol content. However, alcohol and coca also relax the par-
which the diviner casts coca leaves to determine the causes
ticipants, making them susceptible to the liminal meanings
of an illness. Relatives of the sick person attend and contrib-
of the fiesta—the basic Andean meanings being expressed in
ute to the analysis of the causes. Diviners then redress social
the dance, music, and ritual. These elements are highly struc-
conflicts within the lineage. If the sick person, for example,
tured and communicate underlying symbolic patterns im-
has fought with her mother-in-law, the diviner delves into
portant to Andean culture.
the cause of this conflict and instructs the patient to gather
some ritual item from the mother-in-law’s household. The
Although the cult of the saints reflects the importance
participants then spend several days gathering ritual items
of Catholicism in contemporary Andean culture, Andeans
symbolic of the various altitudinal levels: chicha (corn beer)
are only nominal Catholics: They baptize their babies pri-
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8620
SOUTH AMERICAN INDIANS: INDIANS OF THE MODERN ANDES
marily to prevent hailstorms and to obtain padrinos
viners are famous throughout the Andes. Rituals provide the
(“godfathers”), who provide social and political connections.
context for understanding the metaphorical relationship of
Sometimes couples marry in the church, but only after a trial
Andeans with their land.
marriage (iqhisiña) to see whether the wife is fertile. Catholic
Bastien, Joseph W., and John N. Donahue, eds. Health in the
catechists and Protestant missionaries have recently been
Andes. Washington, D.C., 1981. First part contains three ar-
converting Andeans to an evangelistic Christianity opposed
ticles on how rituals are used to cure sick Andeans. Other
to earth shrines, fiestas, and traditional Andean beliefs. Many
parts contain environmental information concerning
evangelistic Protestants emphasize literacy and the reading of
Andeans.
the Bible. Protestantism cannot be incorporated into the tra-
Cuadernos de investigación (La Paz, 1974). Pamphlets on Andean
ditional Andean system because it tends to be comparatively
culture and religion published by the Centro de Investiga-
barren of symbols and ritual. Consequently, converts to cer-
ción y Promoción del Campesinado. Especially insightful are
tain Protestant sects have radically changed their traditional
those by Javier Albo, Tristan Platt, and Olivia Harris.
cultural patterns. In sum, Catholicism has been adapted pe-
Isbell, Billie Jean. To Defend Ourselves: Ecology and Ritual in an
ripherally to traditional Andean religious practices, whereas
Andean Village. Austin, 1978. Describes marriage, hydraulic,
evangelistic Protestantism has been very effective in changing
harvest, and fertility rituals in the village of Chuschi, Ayacu-
traditional belief systems. This is because many Andeans see
cho Department, Peru. Treats the relationship between ecol-
ogy and ideology through the observation and analysis of rit-
traditional religious practices, which reflect verticality, re-
uals.
source exchange, ayllu solidarity, and ecology, as being unim-
portant to modernization, with its emphasis on literacy, hori-
Lewellen, Ted. Peasants in Transition: The Changing Economy of
zontal links, competition, and individuality.
the Peruvian Aymara. Boulder, 1978. Analyzes the impact of
Protestantism on social and economic factors of an Aymara
Nevertheless, the traditional religion retains a strong
community.
hold on Andeans, who continue to look to earth and nature
Millones Santa Gadea, Luis. Las religiones nativas del Peru: Recuen-
for their identity. Their land and their mountains continue
to y evaluación de su estudio. Austin, 1979. A review of studies
to be their deities—not as abstract symbols but as real entities
concerning Andean religion. Very useful for early studies on
with whom they live and work and with whom they share
Andean religion.
important relations of reciprocity. For these reasons, the An-
Núñez del Prado, Juan Victor. “The Supernatural World of the
deans built a high civilization in a mountainous land that
Quechua of Southern Peru as Seen from the Community of
they came to worship.
Qotobamba.” In Native South Americans, edited by Patricia
J. Lyon. Boston, 1974. Delineates the structure of the super-
B
natural world in southern Peru from the mythology and eth-
IBLIOGRAPHY
Allen, Catherine J. “Body and Soul in Quechua Thought.” Jour-
nographic data of two Quechua communities.
nal of Latin American Lore 8 (1982): 179–195. Explores the
Orlove, Benjamin S. “Two Rituals and Three Hypotheses: An Ex-
conceptual basis of “animistic” ideology, focusing on atti-
amination of Solstice Divination in Southern Highland
tudes toward death and the custom of “force feeding.” Excel-
Peru.” Anthropological Quarterly 52 (April 1979): 86–98.
lent description of relationship between ancestors and the
Describes two solstice divinations in Peru. Illustrates how
living.
Andeans weigh alternatives and make decisions.
Allpanchis Phuturinqa (Cuzco, 1969–). Published by the Instituto
Ossio, Juan M., ed. and comp. Ideología mesiánica del mundo an-
de Pastoral Andina, this review was founded to educate pas-
dino. Lima, 1973. Compilation of articles by anthropologists
toral agents about Andean culture and includes many articles
and historians concerning messianism among Andean peas-
on Andean religion.
ants. Many authors employ structuralist interpretations of
Andean religion.
Arguedas, José María. Deep Rivers. Translated by Frances Horning
Barraclough. Austin, 1978. Noted Peruvian novelist de-
Paredes, M. Rigoberto. Mitos, supersticiones y supervivencias popu-
scribes conflict within mestizos caught between the Andean
lares de Bolivia (1920). 3d ed., rev. & enl. La Paz, 1963. A
and Spanish cultural systems. Shows how myth bridges the
reference book for religious practices of the Aymara.
gulf between the magico-religious world of the Andean and
Sharon, Douglas. Wizard of the Four Winds: A Shaman’s Story.
the social reality of mestizo life. A penetrating book.
New York, 1978. Documents a modern shaman’s view of the
Arriaga, Pablo Joseph de. The Extirpation of Idolatry in Peru
world. Describes mesas performed by a shaman in Trujillo
(1621). Translated by Horacio Urteaga (Lima, 1920) and L.
Valley in the northern Andean highlands. A well-written and
Clark Keating (Lexington, Ky., 1968). An extirpator’s manu-
insightful book about Andean shamanism.
al accurately describing Andean religious practices of the six-
Taussig, Michael T. The Devil and Commodity Fetishism in South
teenth and seventeenth centuries, many of which are still
America. Chapel Hill, N.C., 1980. Discusses the social sig-
found in the Andes. Shows how missioners suppressed Ande-
nificance of the devil in the folklore of contemporary planta-
an religion and attempted to replace it with Catholicism—
tion workers and miners in South America. The devil is a
and how Christianity got off to a bad start in the Andes.
symbol of the alienation experienced by peasants as they
Bastien, Joseph W. Mountain of the Condor: Metaphor and Ritual
enter the ranks of the proletariat.
in an Andean Ayllu. Saint Paul, 1978. A description and anal-
Tschopik, Harry, Jr. “The Aymara of Chucuito Peru.” Anthropo-
ysis of rituals performed by Qollahuaya Andeans, whose di-
logical Papers of the American Museum of Natural History 44,
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SOUTH AMERICAN INDIANS: INDIANS OF THE NORTHWEST AMAZON
8621
pt. 2 (1951):137–308. Examines how ritual establishes social
and may, in the future, provide important elements for un-
equilibrium among the peasants of Chucuito, Peru. Includes
derstanding their religions. In any case, it is certain that the
detailed description of ritual paraphernalia.
vast majority of the societies of the Rio Negro, the main
Urton, Gary. At the Crossroads of the Earth and Sky: An Andean
northern tributary of the Amazon that connects with the
Cosmology. Austin, 1981. Examines the astronomical system
Orinoco via the Cassiquiare Canal, were Arawak-speaking
of Misminay, Peru, to understand celestial cosmology of
peoples. There were also significant numbers of Tukanoan-
modern Andeans. Shows how celestial formations interrelate
speaking peoples in the region of the Uaupés River and its
with the agricultural and ritual calendars.
tributaries; forest-dwelling Makuan peoples in a vast region
Valdizán, Hermilio, and Angel Maldonado. La medicine popular
from the lower to the upper Negro; Cariban-speaking peo-
peruana. 3 vols. Lima, 1922. An encyclopedia of minerals,
ples on the tributaries of the upper Orinoco; and Yanomami
plants, and animals used in healing and ritual.
populations in the mountainous forest regions north of the
Wachtel, Nathan. The Vision of the Vanquished: The Spanish Con-
Rio Negro.
quest of Peru through Indian Eyes, 1530–1570. Translated by
EARLY HISTORY OF THE REGION. A survey of the first histor-
Ben Reynolds and Siân Reynolds. New York, 1977. An ac-
ical sources and the earliest recorded traditions of the socie-
count of the structural disintegration of Inca society and cul-
ties of Northwest Amazon indicates the widespread distribu-
ture during the early years of the conquest. Illustrates how
a present-day fiesta in Oruro, Bolivia, enacts this drama.
tion of a ritual complex involving the use of sacred flutes and
trumpets, masked dances, and the practice of ritual whip-
New Sources
ping, associated with a mythology the central themes of
Bolin, Inge. Rituals of Respect: The Secret of Survival in the High
which included initiation, ancestors, warfare, and seasonal
Peruvian Andes. Austin, 1998.
cycles marked by festivals. Early observers noted that this rit-
Gade, Daniel W. Nature and Culture in the Andes. Madison,
ual complex was of central importance, and that the guard-
1999.
ians of the sacred trumpets formed an elite priestly class with
Larson, Brook, and Olivia Harris, eds. Ethnicity, Markets and Mi-
a supreme leader who was also a war chief. There are indica-
gration in the Andes: At the Crossroad of History and Anthro-
tions of ceremonial centers where rituals were celebrated
pology. Durham, N.C., 1995.
among societies of different language groups.
Van Cott, Donna Lee. Indigenous Peoples and Democracy in Latin
The evolution of this complex was drastically truncated
America. New York, 1994.
and transformed by the advance of the Portuguese and Span-
JOSEPH W. BASTIEN (1987)
ish slaving commerce in the seventeenth and eighteenth cen-
Revised Bibliography
turies. Many of the most powerful chiefs were co-opted into
destructive wars to obtain slaves, thus irremediably fragment-
ing political-religious formations, as well as leaving vast parts
SOUTH AMERICAN INDIANS: INDIANS OF
of the Northwest Amazon region depopulated, as people
THE NORTHWEST AMAZON
were herded into mission-run settlements, where they were
forced to adapt to Western culture. By the late eighteenth
In principle, the Northwest Amazon includes, as its southern
century, even with a brief respite in the advance of coloniza-
limits, the region from approximately the Middle Amazon,
tion, many of the surviving societies had been introduced to
around the mouth of the Rio Negro, to the Upper Solimo˜es;
Christianity and had adopted its calendric festivals, if not its
all of the Rio Negro and its northern tributaries, including
belief system, into their religious patterns.
the Parima mountain range, up to the upper Orinoco Valley;
and an arc connecting the Upper Orinoco to the Upper
In the second half of the nineteenth century, as an early
Solimo˜es. Historically, the societies that inhabited this vast
reaction to exploitation by merchants, pressures from mis-
region, at least at the time of Spanish conquest in the six-
sionaries, and the waves of epidemics that decimated the In-
teenth century, were far more numerous than they are today,
dian population, a sequence of prophetic movements and re-
and far more complex in terms of their social and political
bellions broke out in the Northwest Amazon region.
organization and interrelations amongst each other. Un-
Dressing as priests and identifying themselves with Christ
doubtedly, their religious organizations and institutions were
and the saints, prophet-shamans led the people in the
more complex as well. Sixteenth-century chroniclers left tan-
“Dance of the Cross,” a fusion of traditional rituals with ele-
talizing notes describing the existence of chiefdoms and
ments of Catholicism that promised freedom from white op-
priestly societies in the Amazon floodplains region that were
pression and relief from the “sins” that were believed to be
similar to those of the circum-Caribbean region.
causing the epidemics. While many of these movements suf-
The usefulness of these notes for understanding native
fered repression, the prophetic tradition continued among
religions at the time of conquest is, however, limited and
both Tukanoan- and Arawak-speaking peoples until well
subject to much guesswork. Scholars are not even certain
into the twentieth century in areas that escaped the attention
which languages many of these societies spoke, much less
of missionaries and government officials.
what their religious beliefs were. Modern archaeology is just
CONTEMPORARY PEOPLES AND THEIR RELIGIOUS TRADI-
beginning to uncover the rich complexity of these societies
TIONS. For the indigenous peoples of the Northwest Amazon
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SOUTH AMERICAN INDIANS: INDIANS OF THE NORTHWEST AMAZON
today, religion is not an institution differentiated from other
birds who fly high; the tops of mountains; or even a head
aspects of their lives. When they use the term religion, they
adorned with a headdress of red and yellow macaw feathers,
are generally referring to the Christian religions introduced
which are the colors of the sun. In the same way, the under-
among them in their long history of contact with nonindige-
world can be the River of the Dead below the earth, the yel-
nous society. When they wish to refer to their own beliefs
low clay below the layer of soil where the dead are buried,
and practices that have to do with the sacred, they generally
or the aquatic world of the subterranean rivers. In any case,
use such phrasings as “our tradition” and “the wisdom of our
what defines the “sky” or the “underworld” depends not only
ancestors.” To understand these traditions, it is useful to
on the scale and context, but also on the perspective: at night,
consider four dimensions that characterize all religious tradi-
the sun, the sky, and the day are below the earth and the dark
tions: cosmogony (the meaning of the beginning); cosmolo-
underworld is on top.
gy (spatial and temporal structures of the universe); anthro-
In symbolic terms, the longhouse is the universe, and
pology (the relations among living beings, including
vice versa. The thatched roof is the sky, the support beams
“specialists” who mediate relations with the spirits and divin-
are the mountains, the walls are the chains of hills that seem
ities); and eschatology (the meaning of the end). This entry
to surround the visible horizon at the edge of the world, and
will seek to provide a minimum understanding of these di-
under the floor runs the River of the Dead. The longhouse
mensions from the rich and complex contemporary tradi-
has two doors: the one facing east, called the “water door,”
tions of the Tukanoan-speaking peoples, the Arawak-
is the men’s door; the other, facing west, is the women’s
speaking Baniwa and Kuripako, and the Maku of the Rio
door. A long roof beam called the “path of the sun” extends
Negro region and its main tributaries, the Uaupés and Içana;
between the two doors. In this equatorial region, the under-
the Yanomami of the Parima highlands on the border of Bra-
world rivers run from west to east, or from the women’s door
zil and Venezuela; and the Carib-speaking Makiritare of the
to the men’s door; completing a closed circuit of water; the
upper Orinoco Valley.
River of the Dead runs from the east to the west.
Tukanoans. Tukanoan-speaking peoples inhabit the
The longhouse is likewise a body—the “canoe-body” of
rainforest region on the border of Brazil and Colombia. Al-
the ancestral anaconda—which, according to the myth of
though they are divided into numerous linguistic groups,
creation, brought the ancestors of humanity, the children of
they nevertheless share a body of broadly identical mytholo-
the ancestral anaconda, inside it, swimming upriver from the
gy. Religious life revolves around these myths; the impor-
Amazon to the Uaupés in the beginning of time. These chil-
tance of sacred flutes and trumpets representing the ancestors
dren are the inhabitants of the longhouse, replica of the origi-
of each group; shamans and chant specialists; and a cosmolo-
nal ancestor, containers of future generations and they them-
gy centering on the themes of mortality and immortality,
selves are future ancestors. But if the longhouse is a human
death and rebirth, and the conjunction of male and female
body, its composition is also a question of perspective. From
principles in the creation and reproduction of culture.
the male point of view, the painted front of the longhouse
The myths explain the origins of the cosmos, describing
is a man’s face, the men’s door his mouth, the main beams
a dangerous, undifferentiated world with no clear boundaries
and side beams his spinal column and ribs, the center of the
of space and time and no difference between people and ani-
house his heart, and the women’s door his anus. From the
mals. They explain how the first beings created the physical
female point of view, however, the spinal column, ribs, and
features of the landscape, and how the world was gradually
heart are the same, but the rest of the body is inverted: the
made safe for the emergence of true human beings. A key ori-
women’s door is her mouth, the men’s door her vagina, and
gin myth explains how an anaconda-ancestor entered the
the inside of the house her womb.
world-house through the “water-door” in the east and trav-
In the Tukanoan life cycle, there is a notion of reincar-
eled up the Rio Negro and Uaupés with the ancestors of all
nation shared by all Tukanoans: at death, an aspect of the
humanity inside his body. Initially in the form of feather or-
dead person’s soul returns to the “house of transformation,”
naments, these spirit-ancestors were transformed into human
the group’s origin site. Later the soul returns to the world
beings over the course of their journey. When they reached
of the living to be joined to the body of a newborn baby
the center of the world, they emerged from a hole in the
when the baby receives its name. People are named after a
rocks and moved to their respective territories. These narra-
recently dead relative on the father’s side. Each group owns
tives give the Tukanoan peoples a common understanding
a limited set of personal names, which are kept alive by being
of the cosmos, of the place of human beings within it, and
transmitted back to the living. The visible aspect of these
of the relations that should pertain between different peoples
name-souls are the feather headdresses worn by dancers, or-
and between them and other beings.
naments that are also buried with the dead. The underworld
river is described as being full of these ornaments and, in the
The universe consists of three basic levels: the sky, earth,
origin story, the spirits inside the anaconda-canoe traveled
and underworld. Each layer is a world in itself, with its spe-
in the form of dance ornaments.
cific beings, and can be understood both in abstract and in
concrete terms. In different contexts, the “sky” can be the
Buried in canoes, the souls of the dead fall to the under-
world of the sun, the moon, and the stars; the world of the
world river below. From there they drift downstream to the
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SOUTH AMERICAN INDIANS: INDIANS OF THE NORTHWEST AMAZON
8623
west and to the upstream regions of the world above.
tice. As a knowledgeable senior man, the kumu is typically
Women do not give birth in the longhouse, but in a garden
also a headmen and leader of his community and will exercise
located inland, upstream, and behind the house—also the
considerable authority over a much wider area. Compared
west. The newborn baby is first bathed in the river, then
to the sometimes morally ambiguous yai, the kumu enjoys
brought into the longhouse through the rear women’s door.
a much higher status and also a much greater degree of trust,
Confined inside the house for about a week with its mother
which relates to his prominent ritual role. The kumu plays
and father, the baby is again bathed in the river and given
an important role in the prevention of illness and misfortune.
a name. Thus, in cosmological terms, babies do indeed come
He also officiates at rites of passage and effects the major
from women, water, the river, and the west.
transitions of birth, initiation, and death, transitions that en-
sure the socialization of individuals and the passage of the
In the Tukanoan view, masa, the word for “people,” is
generations, and which maintain ordered relations between
a relative concept. It can refer to one group as opposed to
the ancestors and their living descendants. The kumu’s other
another, to all Tukanoans as opposed to their non-Tukanoan
major function is to officiate at dance feasts, drinking parties,
neighbors, to Indians as opposed to whites, to human beings
and ceremonial exchanges and to conduct and supervise the
as opposed to animals, and finally to living things, including
rituals at which the sacred instruments are played, rituals that
trees, as opposed to inanimate objects. In myths and sha-
involve direct contact with dead ancestors.
manic discourse, animals are people and share their culture.
They live in organized longhouse communities, plant gar-
The yearly round is punctuated by a series of collective
dens, hunt and fish, drink beer, wear ornaments, take part
feasts, each with its own songs, dances, and appropriate mu-
in intercommunity feasts, and play their own sacred instru-
sical instruments, which mark important events in the
ments. All creatures that can see and hear, communicate with
human and natural worlds—births, initiations, marriages,
their own kind, and act intentionally are “people”—but peo-
deaths, the felling and planting of gardens, the building of
ple of different kinds. They are different because they have
houses, the migrations of fishes and birds, and the seasonal
different bodies, habits, and behaviors and see things from
availability of forest fruits and other gathered foods. The
different bodily perspectives. Just as stars see living humans
feasts take three basic forms: cashirís (beer feasts), dabukuris
as dead spirits, so also do animals see humans as animals. In
(ceremonial exchanges), and rites involving sacred flutes and
everyday life, people emphasize their difference from ani-
trumpets. The rituals involving sacred musical instruments
mals, but in the spirit world, which is also the world of ritual,
are the fullest expression of the Indians’ religious life, for they
shamanism, dreaming, and ayahuasca visions (ayahuasca
synthesize a number of key themes: ancestry, descent and
being a psycho-active liquid that is drunk on ceremonial oc-
group identity, sex and reproduction, relations between men
casions), perspectives are merged, differences are abolished,
and women, growth and maturation, death, regeneration,
the past is the present, and people and animals remain as one.
and the integration of the human life cycle with cosmic time.
(For a complete description and analysis of these rites, and
In Amazonia, ritual specialists with special powers and
the symbolism of the sacred instruments, see Hugh-Jones,
access to esoteric religious knowledge are often referred to as
1979.)
“shamans.” In order to operate successfully in the world, all
adult men must be shamans to some extent. But those who
Effective missionary penetration among the Tukanoans
are publicly recognized as such are individuals with greater
began towards the end of the nineteenth century with the
ritual knowledge and a special ability to “read” what lies be-
arrival of the Franciscans. The Franciscans, and the Salesians
hind sacred narratives; they are individuals who choose to use
who followed them, saw native religion through the lens of
their skills and knowledge on behalf of others, and who ac-
their own closed religious categories. Without knowing or
quire recognition as experts. With rare exceptions, ritual ex-
caring about what Tukanoan religion meant, the missiona-
perts are always men, but the capacity of women to menstru-
ries set about destroying one civilization in the name of an-
ate and to bear children is spoken of as the female equivalent
other, burning down the Indians’ longhouses, destroying
of shamanic power.
their feather ornaments, persecuting the shamans, and expos-
ing the sacred instruments to women and children. They or-
Tukanoans distinguish between two quite different ritu-
dered people to build villages of neatly ordered single-family
al specialists, the yai and the kumu. The yai corresponds to
houses and send their children to mission boarding schools,
the prototypical Amazonian shaman whose main tasks in-
where they were taught to reject their parents’ and their an-
volve dealing with other people and with the outside world
cestors’ ways of life.
of animals and the forest. The shaman is an expert in curing
the sickness and diseases caused by sorcery from vengeful
If the missionaries were resented for their attack on In-
creatures and jealous human beings. Yai means “jaguar,” a
dian culture, they were also welcomed as a source of manu-
term that gives some indication of the status of the shaman
factured goods, as defenders of the Indians against the worst
in Tukanoan society. The kumu is more a savant and a priest
abuses of the rubber gatherers, and as the providers of the
than a shaman. His powers and authority are founded on an
education that the Indian children would need to make the
exhaustive knowledge of mythology and ritual procedures,
most of their new circumstances. From the 1920s onwards,
knowledge that only comes after years of training and prac-
the Salesians established a chain of outposts throughout the
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8624
SOUTH AMERICAN INDIANS: INDIANS OF THE NORTHWEST AMAZON
region on the Brazilian side of the frontier. At the beginning
they seek in their cures, for his body consists of all sicknesses
of the twenty-first century, the growing body of evangelicals
that exist in the world (including poison used in witchcraft,
apart, most Tukanoan Indians would consider themselves to
which is still the most frequently cited “cause” of death of
be Catholics. As more and more people now leave their vil-
people today), the material forms of which he left in this
lages and head for urban centers in search of education and
world in the great conflagration that marked his “death” and
employment, life in the longhouses and the rich variety of
withdrawal from the world. The shamans say that Kuwai’s
ritual life that went with it now persists only in the memories
body is covered with fur like the black sloth called wamu.
of the oldest inhabitants. On the Colombian side of the bor-
Kuwai ensnares the souls of the sick, grasping them in his
der, the more liberal Javerians preach tolerance of Indian cul-
arms (as the sloth does), and suffocating them until the sha-
ture and accommodation with its values and beliefs, allowing
mans bargain with him to regain the souls and return them
the Tukanoans to conserve much of their traditional religion
to their owners.
and way of life to this day.
In Baniwa cosmology, the universe is formed by multi-
Baniwa and Kuripako. The religious life of the Ara-
ple layers associated with various divinities, spirits, and
wak-speaking Baniwa and Kuripako of the Brazil/Venezuela/
“other people.” According to one shaman, it is organized into
Colombia borders was similarly based on the great mytho-
an enormous vertical structure of twenty-five layers or
logical and ritual cycles related to the first ancestors and sym-
“worlds”(kuma), there being twelve layers below “this world”
bolized by sacred flutes and trumpets, on the central
(hliekwapi) of humans, collectively known as Uapinakuethe,
importance of shamanism, and on a rich variety of dance rit-
and twelve above, collectively known as Apakwa Hekwapi,
uals called pudali, associated with the seasonal cycles and the
the “other world.” Each one of the layers below the earth is
maturation of forest fruits.
inhabited by “people” or “tribes” with distinctive characteris-
Baniwa cosmogony is remembered in a complex set of
tics (people painted red, people with large mouths, etc.).
numerous myths in which the main protagonist is
With the exception of the people of the lowest level of the
Nhia˜perikuli, beginning with his emergence in the primordi-
cosmos, and one other underworld, all other peoples are con-
al world and ending with his creation of the first ancestors
sidered to be “good” and assist the shaman in his search for
of the Baniwa phratries and his withdrawal from the world.
the lost souls of the sick. Above our world are the places of
Many of these myths recount the struggles of Nhia˜perikuli
various spirits and divinities related to the shamans: bird-
against various animal-tribes who seek to kill him and de-
spirits who help the shaman in his search for lost souls; the
stroy the order of the universe. More than any other figure
Owner of Sicknesses, Kuwai, whom the shaman seeks in
of the Baniwa pantheon, Nhia˜perikuli was responsible for
order to cure more serious ailments; the primordial shamans
the form and essence of the world; in fact, it may even be
and Dzulíferi, the Owner of Pariká (shaman’s snuff) and to-
said that he is the universe.
bacco; and finally, the place of the creator and transformer
Another great cycle in the history of the cosmos is told
Nhia˜perikuli, or Dio, which is a place of eternal, brilliant
in the myth of Kuwai, the son of Nhia˜perikuli, and the first
light, like a room full of mirrors reflecting this light. The sun
woman, Amaru. This myth has central importance in Bani-
is considered to be a manifestation of Nhia˜perikuli’s body.
wa culture for it explains at least four major questions on the
With the exception of the level of Kuwai, all other levels are
nature of existence in the world: (1) how the order and ways
likewise inhabited by “good people.” Some may “deceive” or
of life of the ancestors are reproduced for all future genera-
“lie” to the shaman, but only the “sickness owner” possesses
tions, the Walimanai; (2) how children are to be instructed
death-dealing substances used in witchcraft.
in initiation rituals about the nature of the world; (3) how
This world of humans is, by contrast, considered to be
sicknesses and misfortune entered the world; and (4) what
irredeemably evil. Thus, of all the layers in the universe, four
is the nature of the relation among humans, spirits, and ani-
are considered to be comprised of wicked people. It is re-
mals that is the legacy of the primordial world. The myth
markable how, in the context and from the perspective of the
tells of the life of Kuwai, an extraordinary being whose body
most elaborate cosmic structure thus far recorded amongst
is full of holes and consists of all the elements of the world,
the Baniwa, the theme of evil in this world of humans clearly
and whose humming and songs produce all animal species.
stands out. In shamanic discourse, this world is frequently
His birth sets in motion a rapid process of growth in which
characterized as maatchikwe (place of evil), kaiwikwe (place
the miniature and chaotic world of Nhia˜perikuli opens up
of pain), and ekúkwe (place of rot [due to the rotting corpses
to its real-life size.
of the dead]), contrasting it with the world of Nhia˜perikuli,
The myth of Kuwai marks a transition between the pri-
which is notable for its sources of remedies against the sick-
mordial world of Nhia˜perikuli and a more recent human
nesses of this world. This world is considered to be contami-
past, which is brought directly into the experience of living
nated by the existence of sorcerers and witches. Shamanic
people in the rituals. For that reason, the shamans say that
powers and cures, by contrast, are characterized in terms of
Kuwai is as much a part of the present world as of the ancient
the protective, beneficial, and aesthetically correct: to make
world, and that he lives “in the center of the world.” For the
the world beautiful; to make this world and the people in it
shamans, he is the Owner of Sicknesses and it is he whom
better and content; to not let this world fall or end (meaning,
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SOUTH AMERICAN INDIANS: INDIANS OF THE NORTHWEST AMAZON
8625
to be covered in darkness and overrun by witches); to retrieve
ern Brazil and southern Venezuela. Accounts of creation vary
lost souls and make sick persons well—all are phrases that
considerably among the groups, although a common theme
appear in shamanic discourses about journeys to the other
holds that after the destruction of the primordial world by
world. In all phases of this journey, the beauty, goodness,
a cosmic flood, humans originated from the blood of the
unity, order, and truth—in a word, the “light”—of the other
Moon. The souls of deceased Yanomami, whose bone ashes
world (with the exception of the places of Kuwai) stand in
are consumed during the rituals of reahu, are incorporated
contrast with this world of multiple pain and evil. In one
into the blood-lakes of the Moon, where they are regenerated
sense, then, the shaman’s quest would seem to be one of
and later reincarnated, through falling rain, to a new exis-
“beautifying” this world by seeking to create order and pre-
tence on earth.
venting the darkness of chaos.
The Yanomami word urihi designates the forest and its
In the 1950s, the majority of the Baniwa converted to
floor. It also signifies territory or the region currently inhab-
evangelical Protestantism, introduced by missionaries of the
ited. The phrase for “the forest of human beings,” the forest
New Tribes Mission. Their mass conversion was historically
that Omama, the creator, gave to the Yanomami to live in
continuous with their participation in prophetic movements
generation after generation, is “Yanomami land” or “the
ever since the mid-nineteenth century; however, evangelical-
great forest-land.” A source of resources, for the Yanomami,
ism provoked a radical break from their shamanic traditions,
urihi is not a simple inert setting submitted to the will of
as well as serious divisions and conflicts with Catholic Bani-
human beings. A living entity, it has an essential image and
wa and those who sought to maintain their ritual traditions.
breath, as well as an immaterial fertility principal. The ani-
Today, after half a century, evangelicalism is now the pre-
mals it shelters are seen to be avatars of mythic human/
dominant form of religion in over half the Baniwa communi-
animal ancestors of the first humans, who ended up assum-
ties, although there is a growing movement among non-
ing their animal condition due to their uncontrolled behav-
evangelicals to revitalize the initiation rituals and mythic tra-
ior, an inversion of present-day social rules. Lurking in the
ditions.
tangled depths of the urihi, in its hills and its rivers, are nu-
Maku. The universe of the nomadic Maku Indians of
merous malefic beings, who injure or kill the Yanomami as
the interfluvial region in the Northwest Amazon takes the
though they were game, provoking disease and death. On
form of an upright egg, with three levels or “worlds”: (1) the
top of the mountains live the images of the animal-ancestors
subterranean “world of shadows,” from where all the mon-
transformed into shamanic spirits, xapiripë. The xapiripë
sters come, such as scorpions, jaguars, venomous snakes, the
were left behind by Omama to look after humans. The entire
river Indians, and whites; (2) “our world”; that is, the forest,
extent of urihi is covered by their mirrors, where they play
and (3) the “world of the light” above the sky, where the an-
and dance endlessly. Hidden in the depths of the waters is
cestors and the creator, the Son of the Bone, live. Light and
the house of the monster Tëpërësiki, father-in-law of
shadow are the two basic substances from which all beings
Omama, where the yawarioma spirits also live; their sisters
are composed in varying proportions. Light is a source of life.
seduce and enrage young Yanomami hunters, thereby en-
Shadow is a source of death. In “our world,” leaves and fruit
abling them to pursue a shamanic career.
are the beings with the highest concentration of light, while
The initiation of shamans is painful and ecstatic. Dur-
carnivores have the highest concentration of shadow. For this
ing initiation, which involves inhaling the hallucinogenic
reason, it is better to avoid eating carnivores and restrict one’s
powder ya˜ko˜ana (the resin or inner bark fragments of the
diet to herbivores. In the world of light after death, people
Virola sp. tree, dried and pulverized) for many days under the
nourish themselves with delicious fruit juices and become
supervision of older shamans, they learn to “see” or “recog-
eternal adolescents.
nize” the xapiripë spirits and to respond to their calls. The
The main mythological cycle of the Maku relates the
xapiripë are seen in the form of humanoid miniatures deco-
epic tale of the Son of the Bone, whose name varies with the
rated with colorful and brilliant ceremonial ornaments.
subgroup. The myth describes the survivor of a fire that put
Above all, these spirits are shamanic “images” of forest enti-
an end to the previous creation. His attempts to recreate the
ties. Many are also images of cosmic entities and mythologi-
world resulted in a series of blunders: conflicts, sickness, and
cal personae. Finally, there are the spirits of “whites” and
death, all resulting from the mess left behind. After his wife
their domesticated animals.
is abducted by his youngest brother, the Son of the Bone
Once initiated, the Yanomami shamans can summon
leaves this world behind forever, going to live in the world
the xapiripë to themselves in order for these to act as auxiliary
of light, above the sky and the thunder, from where he some-
spirits. This power of knowledge, vision, and communica-
times emits an expression of revenge. Coincidence or not, in
tion with the world of “vital images” or “essences” makes the
real life, brothers often fight among themselves, in dispute
shamans the pillars of Yanomami society. A shield against the
over the same women, or with their affines, in accordance
malefic powers deriving from humans and nonhumans that
with the clan system.
threaten the lives of members of their communities, they are
Yanomami. The Yanomami comprise four linguistic
also tireless negotiators and warriors of the invisible, dedicat-
subgroups inhabiting the mountainous rainforests of north-
ed to taming the entities and forces that move the cosmologi-
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8626
SOUTH AMERICAN INDIANS: INDIANS OF THE CENTRAL AND EASTERN AMAZON
cal order. They control the fury of the thunder and winds
BIBLIOGRAPHY
brought by storms, the regularity of the alternation between
Albert, Bruce. “Yanomami.” In Povos indígenas no Brasil. Instituto
day and night, or dry season and rainy season, the abundance
socioambiental (Socio-Environmental Institute), 1999.
of game, and the fertility of gardens; they keep up the arch
Available in Portuguese and English from http://
of the sky to prevent its falling (the present earth is an ancient
www.socioambiental.org/website/pib/epienglish/yanomami/
fallen sky), repel the forest’s supernatural predators, and
yanomami.shtm. Basic information on Yanomami society,
culture, and cosmology.
counterattack the raids made by aggressive spirits of enemy
shamans. Most importantly, they cure the sick, victims of
De Civrieux, Marc. Watunna: An Orinoco Creation Cycle. Edited
human malevolence (sorcery, aggressive shamanism, attacks
and translated by David M. Guss. San Francisco, 1980.
on animal doubles) or nonhuman malevolence (coming from
Major myth cycle of the Makiritare Indians of the upper Ori-
noco, collected by the author during twenty years of field-
malefic waripë beings).
work.
Makiritare. The Makiritare, Carib-speaking peoples of
Hugh-Jones, Stephen. The Palm and the Pleiades: Initiation and
the upper Orinoco Valley, recount the story of their creation
Cosmology in Northwest Amazonia. Cambridge, U.K., 1979.
in the great tradition called Watunna. According to this tra-
One of the earliest and most important monographs on the
dition, the primordial sun brought the heavenly creator
ritual and religious life of an indigenous peoples, the Tu-
Wanadi into being. Through his shamanic powers, Wanadi
kanoan-speaking Barasana of the Northwest Amazon. Struc-
created “the old people” and then, in his desire to place
turalist analysis of initiation rites, myths, and cosmology.
“good people” in houses on the earth, he dispatched three
Pozzobon, Jorge. “Maku.” In Povos indígenas no Brasil. Instituto
aspects of himself to earth. The first buried his own placenta
socioambiental (Socio-Environmental Institute), 1999.
in the earth, which gave rise to an evil being, called Odosha,
Available in Portuguese and English from http://www. so-
who then sought to destroy every creative effort and intro-
cioambiental. org / website / pib / epienglish / maku /
duced death into the world. The second aspect of Wanadi
maku.shtm. Basic information on Maku society, culture, and
was sent to teach the people that dying is an illusion and that
cosmology.
dreaming holds the true power of reality. He brought good
Sullivan, Lawrence. Icanchu’s Drum: An Orientation to Meaning
people, as sounds, inside a stonelike egg to earth, where they
in South American Religions. New York, 1988. Outstanding
would be born, but Odosha prevented this from happening.
source on native South American religions by a historian of
Wanadi then hid them in a mountain to wait until the end
religions. Examines the cosmogonies, cosmologies, anthro-
of the world and the death of Odosha. Wanadi’s third aspect,
pologies, and eschatologies of native peoples across the conti-
Attawanadi, then came to earth to create the enclosed struc-
nent. Masterful work of interpretation of myths, rituals, and
ture of the earth, which was then shrouded in the darkness
beliefs.
created by Odosha. A new sky, sun, moon, and stars were
Wright, Robin. Cosmos, Self, and History in Baniwa Religion: For
created in this house, village, universe. Then there ensued a
Those Unborn. Austin, Tex., 1998. Monograph on the Bani-
struggle between Odosha and Attawanadi in which Odosha
wa peoples of the Northwest Amazon, focusing on cosmogo-
is initially victorious, but Attawanadi outsmarts the evil
ny, cosmology, eschatology, and conversion to Protestant
being by assuming elusive guises. As trickster, Attawanadi
evangelicalism.
thwarts Odosha’s constant attempts to destroy existence in
Wright, Robin, with Manuela Carneiro da Cunha. “Destruction,
a sort of negative dialectic of the sacred. Thus cosmic history
Resistance, and Transformations—Southern, Coastal, and
was set in motion.
Northern Brazil (1580–1890).” In The Cambridge History of
the Native Peoples of the Americas
, Vol. 3: South America, ed-
Other episodes of this important cycle relate the de-
ited by Stuart Schwartz and Frank Salomon, part 2,
struction through deluge of the primordial beings and their
pp. 287–381. New York and Cambridge, U.K., 1999. Histo-
world, and the origins of periodicity, differentiation, and
ry of three centuries of contact between indigenous societies
bounded spaces. The deluge was the result of the killing of
in three regions of Brazil, and the expanding colonial
a primordial anaconda-monster. After this destruction,
frontier.
Wanadi decided to make houses and “new people,” who live
ROBIN M. WRIGHT (2005)
in a symbolic world in which, through song, ritual, and
weaving, they recall these primordial events. The landscape
of the Makiritare world provides constant reminders of the
primordial times. The center of the universe is a lake in
SOUTH AMERICAN INDIANS: INDIANS OF
Makiritare territory where, in ancient times, waters poured
THE CENTRAL AND EASTERN AMAZON
forth from the cut trunk of the tree that originally bore all
The vast region covered by the central and eastern Amazon
fruit. This lake contains the sea that once flooded the earth
may, for the purposes of this entry, be delimited by the Río
and is now bounded at the edges of the world.
Negro at the western end, the mouth of the Amazon to the
Although numerous Makiritare communities converted
east, the Guyana highlands to the north, and the central pla-
to Protestant evangelicalism in the 1980s, many others re-
teau of Brazil to the south. Within this region many of the
jected conversion, maintaining firm belief in the Watunna
great language families of South America are represented: Ar-
tradition.
awak, Tupi, Carib, Ge, and Timbira. Besides this diversity
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SOUTH AMERICAN INDIANS: INDIANS OF THE CENTRAL AND EASTERN AMAZON
8627
the area is also notable for some of the most complex prehis-
by diseases, as mission industries and towns struggled to sur-
torical cultures, such as Marajoara and Santarém. This entry
vive. With the depopulation of the main tributaries, expedi-
provides an overview of the religious systems of prehistoric
tions penetrated ever farther into the interior to “persuade”
and contemporary indigenous peoples as well as of peasants
whole populations to relocate to ethnically mixed, mission-
or caboclos.
run settlements. This process led to the formation of a
neoindigenous stratum of the population, whose original
PREHISTORIC CULTURES AND RELIGIOUS MANIFESTATIONS.
cultural and linguistic differences had been neutralized, dis-
Archaeological excavations at Marajó Island in the Amazon
solving ethnic diversity into the homogeneity of generic In-
Delta reveal the existence of a complex society of Mound
dians that eventually gave rise to the caboclo or mixed popu-
Builders spanning the period from roughly 500 to 1300 CE.
lation of the region.
The abundance of ceremonial and funerary remains on the
higher mounds attests to the existence of political and cere-
With the decline of colonial control by the end of the
monial centers. Differential burials, houses for the dead, and
eighteenth century, many peoples withdrew from colonial
possibly temples indicate ancestor cults. Marajoara ceramics
settlements to reorganize and reconstitute their societies,
are marked by the use of animal motifs with clear supernatu-
often in new territories and with new sociopolitical and reli-
ral and mythical connotations that modern studies have
gious forms of organization. From the mid–nineteenth cen-
sought to interpret in terms of Amerindian perspectivism.
tury until well into the twentieth, rubber extraction and ex-
The symbolism of death and rebirth, shamanic motifs, bina-
portation became the dominant form of labor organization
ry images, abstract geometric patterns, and bodily images are
in the Amazon, and with the severe droughts in northeastern
all characteristic of Marajoara ceramics, indicating a complex
Brazil at the end of the nineteenth century, there was a mas-
religious system (see Schaan, 2001). Similarly the prehistoric
sive influx of northeastern migrants into the Amazon region.
Santarém culture at the mouth of the Tapajós was the center
By the late twentieth century even the most isolated regions
of a great chiefdom from the tenth century to the sixteenth
of the central and eastern Amazon, which until then had
century. Female fertility is a predominant element in ceramic
served as a refuge for many indigenous peoples, were invaded
motifs; the famous caryatid vessels display bicephalous hu-
by highways, miners, and ranchers.
manlike zoomorphic figures (especially the king vulture), re-
calling the transformations experienced in shamanic trance
CONTEMPORARY INDIGENOUS RELIGIONS. The religions of
or in great collective rituals using psychoactive substances in
several peoples will be briefly considered. Those included are
which great trumpets representing the divinities were played.
the Palikur (Arawak) of the state of Amapá; the Araweté and
Finally, mention should be made of the many cemeteries
Juruna (Tupian) of the state of Pará; the Kayapó and Xikrin
with large funerary urns discovered near the Maracá River
(Ge) of the state of Pará; the Canela and Krahó (Timbira)
on the lower Amazon. These urns display anthropomorphic
of Maranha˜o; and the Arara (Carib) of Pará.
or zoomorphic figures, with the anthropomorphic figures,
Palikur (Arawakan). For the contemporary Palikur,
often female, being seated, decorated, and painted. It has
the creation and structuring of the universe and all that is
been suggested that the Maracá culture was linked to early
part of it is the work of the Christian God. They usually dis-
Arawakan populations that were possibly ancestors of the
parage the beliefs of their ancestors, declaring that they were
Palikur.
superstitions, and cite as an example the constitution of the
BRIEF HISTORY OF CONTACT. The size and complexity of
universe in layers. In the early twenty-first century they
Amazon floodplain societies astonished the first European
“know that the world is round.” Nevertheless they possess
explorers in the mid-sixteenth century. Their populations
a vast repertoire of myths that reveals a good part of their an-
were dense, internally stratified, and settled in extensive vil-
cient cosmology.
lages capable of producing surpluses for a significant in-
tertribal commerce. The sociopolitical organization of what
The myths can be divided into two categories: cosmo-
observers called “provinces” was far more elaborate than any
gonic myths that tell of the emergence of the Palikur and
indigenous society since then, with reports of local chiefs
their relations with the environment or with other ethnic
subordinate to regional chiefs endowed with sacred qualities,
groups of the region, and those myths that speak of the rela-
hierarchically organized lineages, sacrifice of concubines at
tion with the “beings of the other world.” The myths are gen-
the deaths of chiefs, ancestor cults with the preservation of
erally further classified into two types: “stories of the old
the corpse through rudimentary techniques, and other evi-
times, of the past, a long time ago” and “false stories.” They
dence of social and ritual stratification.
always refer to a time past, in which the “true” belief, the
Christian religion, was unknown. At times, however, narra-
None of this resisted the advance of the European slave
tors reflect and point out that the fact in question is real and
hunters, spice collectors, diseases, and missionaries who, by
still occurs, revealing the ambiguity with which the Palikur
the end of the seventeenth century, had penetrated well into
regard the myths. It is exactly this ambiguity that has allowed
the Amazon Valley. Their advance resulted in the dispersion
for the coexistence of indigenous mythology with Christian
and captivity of a majority of the riverine peoples such that
religion, but that has not occurred with the rituals, for which
the eastern Amazon was practically depopulated and infested
reason they are no longer held. Myth is consciously relegated
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SOUTH AMERICAN INDIANS: INDIANS OF THE CENTRAL AND EASTERN AMAZON
to an inferior position in relation to the Christian religious
causing the sky to crash down. The ultimate cause of all
system.
deaths is the will of the Máï, who are conceived as being at
once ideal Araweté and dangerous cannibals. The Máï are
The mythical universe appears to be divided into three
not thought of as creators, but their separation from humani-
layers: the world below, the terrestrial plane, and the celestial
ty produced old age and death. Among the hundreds of types
plane. The first is the mythical space par excellence, for in
of Máï, most of which have animal names, the Máï hete (real
it dwell the supernatural spirits. Located just below the sur-
gods) are those who transform the souls of the dead into
face of the earth, its parallel position in relation to the terres-
Máï-like beings by means of a cannibal-matrimonial opera-
trial level facilitates contact between the two worlds, a neces-
tion. That is, following its arrival in the celestial realms, the
sary condition for the existence of the mythical world, since
soul of the dead is killed and devoured by the Máï, after
this plane only makes sense in connection with the world of
which it is resurrected by means of a magical bath and made
humans. The representation of the passage between the two
into a godlike being who will be married to a Máï and live
worlds is physical: there is a “hole” in the terrestrial level that
forever young. Besides the Máï, there are also Ani forest spir-
allows for displacement from one sphere to another. The
its, savage beings who invade settlements and must be killed
switch from one plane to another is marked by the transfor-
by the shamans, and the powerful Master of the River, a sub-
mation of supernatural beings that, in their world, have
aquatic spirit who delights in kidnapping women’s and chil-
human form but, to come up to the terrestrial level, need to
dren’s souls, which must then be retrieved by shamans.
“clothe themselves” with a “cloak” that gives them animal
form.
The most important shamanic activity is bringing down
the Máï and the souls of the dead to visit the earth and par-
On the terrestrial level live human beings, plants, ani-
take of ceremonial meals. In these ceremonial banquets col-
mals, and occasionally supernatural beings. This level has a
lectively produced food (honey, fish, and cauim, a fermented
topography that is analogous to this earth, about which there
corn beverage) is offered to the celestial visitors before being
are many mythical narratives; however, geographical loca-
consumed. The cauim festival is the climax of ritual life and
tions are fluid and vary from one narrative to another.
contains religious and warrior symbolism. The leader of the
Finally, the celestial plane seems to be a space that is
dances and songs that accompany the consumption of cauim
dominated exclusively by Christian cosmology—represented
is ideally a great warrior, who learned the songs directly from
as Eden, inhabited by the Trinity, and reserved for the cho-
the spirits of dead enemies. Singing is thus the heart of cere-
sen, meaning those who have “accepted Jesus” before the
monial life. The “music of the gods” sung by shamans and
“end of time.” In terms of Palikur myths, heaven appears to
the “music of the enemies” sung by warriors are the only two
be empty. But even while fragmentary, several aspects of in-
musical genre known to the Araweté, and both are formed
digenous cosmology still occupy space in this domain. The
by the words of “others” quoted in complex ritual formulas.
Palikur believe there are six unnamed levels. Among these,
The souls of the recently deceased often come to earth
two have notable inhabitants: on the second level lives the
in the shaman’s chants to talk to their living relatives and tell
two-headed king vulture and on the sixth is Jesus Christ,
them of the bliss of the afterlife. After two generations they
awaiting the chosen “in the celestial Eden made of gold.”
cease to come, for there will be no more living contempo-
The other levels are described as “display windows” of purga-
raries who remember them; they are not ancestors, however.
tory, in which one sees the souls of those who do not attain
eternal life. These souls are anthropomorphic, with a human
Juruna cosmology has three basic coordinates. First is
body up to the neck dressed in a white cloak and the head
the opposition between life and death. This is far from being
of an animal (monkey, alligator, and so on).
a drastic dichotomy as in Western cosmology, because there
are various transitions, such as minor temporary “deaths,” as
In 1926 Curt Nimuendajú mentioned the existence of
in sleep, that typically take the form of dreams. The relation
three heavens: Inoliku, the lowest, Mikene, and Ena. Just
between life and death involves not so much the notion that
above the first there was a special heaven, Yinoklin, inhabited
if someone is dead he or she cannot be alive but rather that
by the Yumawali spirits (or “demons,” as Nimuendajú called
someone can be dead in one place but alive in another or that
them) of the mountains. This division of the sky by named
he or she may be alive here but already dead somewhere else.
levels does not exist now, but with small alterations, the
In other words, the relation is one of relative disjunction,
names given to the heavens are confirmed.
which allows for important conjunctions. Juruna shamans
used to be masters at such transitions.
Araweté and Juruna (Tupian). The guiding thread of
Araweté religion is the relationship between humanity and
Second, the world axes are formed by the oppositions
the Máï, the immortal beings who left the earth at the dawn
between river and forest and sky and earth, each being articu-
of time and now live in the sky. Humans define themselves
lated with the opposition between the presence and absence
as the “abandoned ones,” or “forsaken,” meaning those who
of cannibalism. The river and the sky have a positive link
were left behind by the gods. Humans and Máï are related
with cannibalism. One can say that all existence can be divid-
as affines, for the souls of the dead are married to the gods.
ed into these oppositions: human beings (river peoples and
The Máï may, and in the long run will, destroy the earth by
forest peoples), spirits of the dead (those living in the cliffs
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SOUTH AMERICAN INDIANS: INDIANS OF THE CENTRAL AND EASTERN AMAZON
8629
on the banks of the Xingu, who do not like human flesh, and
Other Canela myths explain the origin of fire and corn.
those living in the sky), mammals (forest species and those
A boy brought fire for his people after having stolen it from
living on the river bed), and so on. In addition the Juruna
the hearth of a female jaguar. Star Woman fell in love with
believe everything that exists on earth also exists in the sky,
a Canela and so came down to live for a while among his
which is a kind of earth resembling that of humans. Even
family members. During her stay she indicated that corn
though the Juruna do not consider the river to be a copy of
would grow in the forest, and she taught them that it was
the forest, they say it can be viewed by some river inhabitants
good to eat. This was the origin of gardens. She then re-
as a copy of the earth, except that the forest in their earth
turned to the sky with her mate and both transformed into
resembles human gallery forests, and their gardens are por-
twin stars, known as Castor and Pollux.
tions of land broken off from the river banks. Finally, there
Krahó. Krahó origin myths are similar to those of the
is an opposition between the viewpoints—or perspectives—
Canela. Indeed these myths seem to suggest that everything
of living, conscious human subjects and alien beings, such
in Krahó culture, even shamanism, came from the outside.
as animals, spirits, and the dead. The dynamism and com-
Like the Canela, the Krahó believe all of their culture was
plexity of Juruna cosmology depends on the confrontation
created by the twins Sun and Moon. The Krahó disapprove
between these discordant viewpoints.
of the actions of Moon not only because he was less skilled
Juruna shamanism used to be composed of two systems,
than Sun but also because he insisted that Sun do what he
each related to a society of the dead. Rarely was it possible
requested, for it was from these requests that the evils that
for a shaman to practice both types of shamanism. The spirits
afflict humans entered the world.
of the dead inhabiting the river cliffs fear those living in the
sky, whose society is composed of the souls of warriors and
Other myths tell how the Krahó studied agriculture, ob-
their leader. Indeed the Juruna fear these spirits of the sky
tained fire, and learned the rituals and songs. Generally the
the most, and thus this form of shamanism was considerably
myths tell the story of an individual who leaves the village
more powerful, dangerous, and difficult to perform. Each
and, in the world outside, learns something important, later
system of shamanism was associated with a great festival in
returning to the village where he or she transmits the new
honor of its particular category of the dead. The festival for
knowledge. In the case of agriculture, however, a being from
the dead of the river cliffs was accompanied by the sound of
nature brings the knowledge of planting to the villagers and
flute music and songs performed by the dead through the
then withdraws to the outside world. The myth of Auke,
mouth of the shaman. Another festival was accompanied by
which is important for understanding Krahó participation in
the music of a set of trumpets. When the Juruna offered food
messianic movements in the 1960s, follows the same pattern.
to the souls of warriors during their festival, they said they
But Auke, on entering the village, is not given the opportuni-
would rather eat the flesh of roasted Indians brought from
ty to teach the Indians what he knows, for they are afraid of
the other world; they also refused to drink manioc beer, say-
him and end up violently expelling him from the village.
ing they were already drunk enough. By contrast, the spirits
Auke then creates white humans. Several other myths tell of
from the river cliffs would drink plenty after eating the meal
individuals who, having been expelled from the village, do
from their hosts, spicing up the manioc beer made by Juruna
not return with new things that could be used by its inhabi-
women with a dose of beer brought from the other world.
tants; rather, they stay in the world outside, transforming
The last of these celebrations was held in the 1970s. Despite
themselves into animals or monsters.
the changes in their ritual life, the Juruna continue to cele-
The Krahó have many rituals. Some are short and linked
brate beer parties and two major festivals every year, each
to individual life crises (such as the end of seclusion after the
held for approximately one month.
birth of a first child, the end of a convalescence, and the last
Ge-Timbira. Ge-Timbira religiosity is marked by a
meal of a deceased person) or to occasional collective initia-
strong dualism. That characteristic divides creation, nature
tives (such as exchanges of foods and services). Others are as-
and society, and the groups that make up society.
sociated with the annual agricultural cycle, for instance,
those that mark the dry and wet seasons, the planting and
Canela. A Canela origin myth recounts that Sun and
harvesting of corn, and the harvesting of sweet potatoes. Yet
Moon walked over the land, transforming the world that al-
other rites form part of a longer cycle, associated with male
ready existed and thus creating the norms for social life. Sun
initiation, that must take place in a certain order; nowadays
established the norms favorable to life, whereas Moon modi-
this cycle is difficult to reconstitute, in part because one of
fied them to test its imperfections. Sun created ideal men and
the rites has been abandoned. Various rites related to the an-
women, whereas Moon created those with twisted hair, those
nual and initiation cycles have myths that explain their ori-
with dark skin, and those seen as deformed. Sun allowed ma-
gins. However, there is not a strict correspondence between
chetes and axes to work by themselves in the gardens, where-
the sequence of myths and that of rites, although they over-
as Moon made them stop. Consequently people had to work
lap in some ways.
hard to make their gardens—the origin of work. There are
at least a dozen episodes of this myth that recount the begin-
The first human who acquired magical powers was car-
ning of death, floods, and forest fires, why the buriti palms
ried up to the heavens by vultures, where he was cured and
are tall, why the moon has its spots, and other conditions.
received powers from the hawk. There is apparently no
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SOUTH AMERICAN INDIANS: INDIANS OF THE CENTRAL AND EASTERN AMAZON
trance among Krahó shamans, which might suggest that they
names are borrowed from nature. Shamans enter into con-
are not true shamans. But each shaman explains how, like
tact with the natural spirits and learn new songs and names
the man who went up to the sky in a myth, he was initiated
from them, introducing them into culture through the large
through a sort of spontaneous rite of passage. He became sick
naming ceremonies.
and was abandoned, he was rescued by an animal (or other
being) that cured him and gave him magical powers, which
On these occasions most of the ritual sequences take
he tested, and then he was sent home with his new powers.
place in the village’s central plaza, where an inversion of ordi-
In some cases there seems to occur a transformation of the
nary social space may be noted. The center of the village,
shaman into the being that gives him powers, for example,
normally organized on the basis of friendship and nonkin-
the animal puts parts of his own organism into the body of
ship, is converted into the domain of activities in which both
the shaman, makes him eat the same food, and so on.
personal family bonds and natural—and therefore “wild” el-
ements, such as the personal names or those of killed prey—
Kayapó. As among the Timbira, the village is the center
are central. The true nature of “beauty” is not only visual but
of the Kayapó universe and the most socialized space. The
also refers to an inner beauty that results from the group’s
surrounding forest is considered an antisocial space, where
activity, from the common effort required to “socialize” the
humans can transform into animals or spirits, sicken without
names of people or of other precious objects.
reason, or even kill their relatives. Beings who are half-
animal, half-people dwell there. The farther one goes from
Xikrin. For the Xikrin, the center of the world is like-
the village, the more antisocial the forest becomes, and its as-
wise represented by the center of the circular village plaza,
sociated dangers increase. As there is always the danger that
where rituals and public life in general unfold. The symbol
the “social” may be appropriated by the natural domain, es-
of the center of the world and the universe is the rattle, a
caping human control, the Kayapó engage in a symbolic ap-
round, head-shaped musical instrument, played as the Indi-
propriation of the natural, transforming it into the social
ans sing and dance following a circular path that accompa-
through curing chants and ceremonies that establish a cons-
nies the solar trajectory. The Indians say that, when dancing,
tant exchange between humans and the world of nature.
they return in time to their mythic origins, thereby re-
creating the energy required for the continuity and stability
The section of forest in which the village population
of the environment and the resources needed for survival, the
hunts, fishes, and cultivates land is first socialized by the at-
continual reproduction of life, and the different social insti-
tribution of place names. Thereafter human modifications
tutions that ensure the equilibrium indispensable to life in
of the natural world are accompanied by rituals. The opening
the community.
of new gardens is preceded by a dance presenting many struc-
tural similarities to the war ritual. Opening up new gardens
The Xikrin define distinct natural spaces of their uni-
can be interpreted as a symbolic war against a natural rather
verse: the earth, divided into open tracts and forest, the sky,
than human enemy. Returning from the hunt, men must
the aquatic world, and the subterranean world. These are
sing to the spirits of the game they themselves have killed in
thought to possess distinct attributes and inhabitants,
order for the spirits to remain in the forest. Each animal spe-
though related among themselves in different ways. The for-
cies designates a song that always begins with the cry of the
est is home to different ethnic sets of enemies, terrestrial ani-
dead animal.
mals, and plants. Disrespectful appropriation of the animal
world causes the fury of the spirit owner-controller of the an-
Kayapó rites express basic values of their society, reflect-
imals who, through sorcery, regulates the predatory activities
ing the image the group has of itself, the society, and the uni-
of humans. On the other hand, the forest is also the source
verse. Each rite translates a part of this cosmological vision
of important attributes of Xikrin sociability, for there, in
and establishes a link between humans and nature, in which
mythical times, the Indians acquired fire and ceremonial lan-
above all the human-animal relationship is reinforced.
guage. Clearings—places formed by the village or the swid-
Kayapó rituals are many and diverse, but their importance
dens—are the site for kinship and alliance relations and for
and duration varies greatly. They are divided into three main
the individual’s socialization, in other words, for the defini-
categories: the large ceremonies for confirming personal
tion of Xikrin humanity. The aquatic domain provides the
names; certain agricultural, hunting, fishing, and occasional
possibility for strengthening physical and psychological as-
rites, for example, performed during solar or lunar eclipses;
pects of the individual, because water causes rapid matura-
and rites of passage. The last are frequently solemn affairs,
tion through ritual immersions yet without altering the
though short and only rarely accompanied by dances or
being’s substance. Water is a creative element in contrast to
songs. Examples of rites of passage include all ceremonies
fire, which is a transformative element. An owner-controller
qualified by the term merêrêmex (people who extend their
also exists in the aquatic domain whose relationship with hu-
beauty), a reference to the highly elaborate way in which peo-
mans is one of solidarity. It was the owner-controller of the
ple decorate themselves on such occasions. Such ceremonies
waters who taught humans to cure sicknesses. Medicinal
are group-based activities whose goal is to socialize “wild” or
plants come from the terrestrial domain, but their knowledge
antisocial values. This applies to the attribution of names, a
and the rules for manipulating them were acquired in the
central theme of most Kayapó ceremonies; in fact personal
aquatic world through the mediation of a shaman. The sub-
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8631
terranean world is linked with blood, raw food, and canni-
over from the primeval cosmological floor that broke up and
balism, representing a truly antisocial condition in which hu-
fell from the sky after the combat. That floor was also the
mans are prey rather than predators. It represents all that
edge of the domain where all benign beings used to live. Out-
humans do not want to be. In the celestial domain, the East
side that domain, there were only malicious beasts who con-
is the place of humanity par excellence, the place where the
stantly fought, living a horrifying existence. With the shatter-
Xikrin originated. The Xikrin have two myths that conse-
ing of the cosmos, the coexistence of all types of living beings
crate them as inhabitants of the earth, in opposition to the
became a necessity. Consequently extraordinary and evil
sky where they originated and in opposition to the subterra-
creatures even now can appear on the terrestrial plane. To
nean inhabitants, whom they succeeded in eliminating
distinguish what is ordinary and beneficial from what is ex-
forever.
traordinary and vicious, one must develop expertise through
shamanic experiences.
In Xikrin society an individual becomes a shaman after
he survives an ordeal, in which he climbs a giant spider web
As an institution Arara shamanism is dispersed, dif-
and reaches celestial space with its eternal light, where the
fused, and generalized among the men. Acting as healers and
nape of his neck is symbolically perforated by a large harpy
agents for mediating with powerful metaphysical beings, all
eagle and he thus acquires the capacity to fly. As in other na-
the men are initiated and practice at least some part of the
tive societies, the shaman has the power to transit between
shamanic techniques and arts. They are also responsible for
the human world and the natural and supernatural worlds.
ensuring, with metaphysical beings, the conditions for the
In life humans accumulate over time attributes from differ-
hunts and rites that in turn ensure the circulation of game
ent cosmic domains, but the shaman lives, shares, and con-
meat and beverages among the various subgroups. Game
stantly communicates with these domains. In his role of in-
meat and drink make up an integral part of a system whose
termediary, he lives in human society, shares the social world
main axis is the native doctrine concerning the circulation
of animals and the supernatural, and has the capacity to ma-
of a vital substance called ekuru. Passing from the blood of
nipulate the different domains. He negotiates with the
killed animals to the earth and from there to the liquids that
owner-controllers of the animal world for plentiful game or
nourish and stimulate the growth of plants, this vital sub-
an abundant catch of fish. He has the capacity to “see” in
stance is the main object of desire—not only of human be-
the widest sense, perceiving what is invisible to humans.
ings, but also of all beings who inhabit the world. Humans
seek to acquire ekuru through the deaths of animals during
When a community has enough people and thus human
the hunt and the transformation of plants into a fermented
resources, the cycle of rituals is continuous. During rituals
drink called piktu—a primordial source for acquiring these
individuals acquire knowledge of aspects of social organiza-
vital substances for humans.
tion and reproduction. Song, choreography, and decora-
The capacity of the earth to reprocess vital substances,
tions, which humans acquired in mythical time, are repro-
transforming them into plant nutrients with which humans
duced in ritual as manifestations of the present situation of
produce beverages, also shapes Arara funeral practices. In
humanity in the cosmos. The most important rituals are
general the Arara do not bury their dead but construct a plat-
those focused on male and female naming and male initia-
form for them in the forest inside a small funeral house built
tion, consisting of five phases, each of which is symbolically
especially for the occasion. Raised above the earth, the de-
related to one of the particular cosmic domains. These rituals
ceased gradually dries out, losing the body’s vital substances
are sometimes inserted within others, such as the new maize
that are absorbed by metaphysical beings that lurk around
festival or merêrêmei, “beautiful festival,” which takes place
corpses and feed on the elements that previously gave life to
during the transitional period between the dry and rainy sea-
the deceased. The Arara funeral is thus a kind of an eschato-
sons; the festivals incorporating new members of a ceremoni-
logical exchange or reciprocity with the world’s other beings.
al society, such as the armadillo society; the marriage ritual
On the other hand, the circulation of ekuru takes place
or mat festival; and the funerary rituals and ritual fishing
among the living through the exchange of meat for drink in
using timbó vine poisons. There are also newly introduced
the rites that follow the return of the hunters. Consequently
rituals, such as Kworo-kango, or the manioc festival, which
rituals are the mode through which the circulation of vital
comes from the Juruna people. At certain periods, the ritual
substance conjoins various subgroups through reciprocity
cycle attains its climax and develops over several days with
and mutual dependence. Through their overall symbolism,
high intensity and lavish style. Ceremonial life also acts as
the prominent rites associated with the collective hunting
a crucial context for the expression of the ways in which the
trips are an efficient mechanism through which ethical and
Xikrin reflect on the relationships developed with the white
moral values become manifest and serve to constitute a na-
world.
tive idea of their own collectivity. An intricate network of
Arara (Carib). The history of the formation of the
values and principles of interaction related to good conduct,
Arara cosmos states that the primordial cosmos was shattered
kindness, solidarity, and generosity finds its primary medium
after a fight occurred between two people related as ipari
of expression in the rituals.
(matrilateral cross-cousins or, more generally, affines). The
CABOCLO RELIGION. The caboclo population lives in com-
land on the terrestrial level now is said to be what was left
munities from the mouth of the Amazon to its headwaters
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8632
SOUTH AMERICAN INDIANS: INDIANS OF THE GRAN CHACO
and on many of its tributaries. Caboclos are the mixed descen-
McEwan, Colin, Cristiana Barreto, and Eduardo Neves, eds. Un-
dants of Indians and whites, and their religiosity consists of
known Amazon: Culture in Nature in Ancient Brazil. London,
an intermixture of the rituals and beliefs of indigenous sha-
2001.
manism and popular Catholicism. Both forms are ways of
Melatti, Júlio César. O Messianismo Krahó. Sa˜o Paulo, Brazil,
explaining and dealing with the powers of the universe.
1972.
The shamanic universe is populated by “enchanted be-
Nimuendaju, Curt. “Os índios Palikur e seus Vizinhos.” Unpub-
lished manuscript in process of translation by Thekla Hart-
ings,” which were left by God as guardians of the forest, the
mann. 1926.
waters, game animals, and so on. They are entities with pow-
ers of enchantment, metamorphosis, and hypnosis and can
Schaan, Denise. “Into the Labyrinth of Marajoara Pottery: States
be either generous or vengeful. They include the “father” or
and Cultural Identity in Prehistoric Amazonia.” In Unknown
Amazon: Culture in Nature in Ancient Brazil,
edited by Colin
caboclo of the forest,” protector of the forest; the caipora, re-
McEwan, Cristiana Barreto, and Eduardo Neves,
sponsible for game animals; and the “caboclos of the water,”
pp. 108–133. London, 2001.
which can take humans to the bottom of rivers and streams.
Sullivan, Lawrence E. Icanchu’s Drum: An Orientation to Meaning
There are also animals (snakes, deer, and turtles) with human
in South American Religions. New York, 1988.
features that can protect, deceive, hypnotize, or make pacts.
Teixeira-Pinto, Márnio. Ieipari: Sacrifício e vida social entre os ín-
The presence of these entities in nature makes the rela-
dios Arara (Carib). Sa˜o Paulo, Brazil, 1997.
tions of the caboclo to the forest, rivers, and game highly ritu-
Turner, Terence. “The Sacred as Alienated Social Consciousness:
alized. Daily activities, such as going into the forest or fish-
Ritual and Cosmology among the Kayapó.” In Icanchu’s
ing, are marked by prayers or requests from the spirit entities
Drum: An Orientation to Meaning in South American Reli-
to hunt or fish; the failure to do so could bring panema (bad
gions, edited by Lawrence Sullivan, pp. 278–298. New York,
luck), a force that infects humans, animals, or objects and
1988.
makes them incapable of action. As there are procedures to
Vidal, Lux Boelitz. Morte e vida em uma sociedade indígena bra-
cure panema, there are also procedures to enhance the power
sileira: Os Kayapó-xikrin do Rio Cateté. Sa˜o Paulo, Brazil,
of the hunter, sometimes called “pacts,” in which, for exam-
1977.
ple, the hunter exchanges the blood of the animal for greater
Wagley, Charles. Uma comunidade amazônica: Estudo do homem
productivity in the hunt. The relation of the caboclo to na-
nos trópicos. Sa˜o Paulo, Brazil, 1977.
ture is thus one of dependence that is kept in balance by re-
R
specting norms of relations with its inhabitants and the ex-
OBIN M. WRIGHT (2005)
ploitation of its resources.
The other aspect of caboclo religiosity is popular Cathol-
icism, which, far from being opposed to the supernatural be-
SOUTH AMERICAN INDIANS: INDIANS OF
ings, consists of entities and practices that are integral parts
THE GRAN CHACO
of a single religious field. In general appeals are made to the
The Gran Chaco (chaco, derived from Quechua, means
Catholic saints to deal more with human affairs, whereas the
“hunting land”) is an arid alluvial plain in the lowlands of
enchanted beings and pacts have relatively more to do with
south-central South America. Approximately 725,000 square
relations to nature. As in other regions of Brazil, popular Ca-
kilometers in area, it lies between the Andes in the west and
tholicism involves saint day festivals, collective reciting of the
the Paraguay and Paraná rivers in the east, and between the
rosary, novenas, devotion to patron saints, and making vows.
Mato Grosso to the north and the Pampas to the south. The
The actual presence of church representatives (priests) is in-
scrub forests and grasslands of the Gran Chaco, though
frequent in this region, as it is restricted to annual visits to
sparsely populated, were the home of numerous indigenous
administer the Sacraments.
groups. In the main they were hunters, fishers, and gatherers,
moving seasonally in search of food and practicing supple-
B
mentary farming. Few still follow their traditional way of life.
IBLIOGRAPHY
Capiberibe, Artionka. “Os Palikur e o Cristianismo: A construça˜o
The religion of the indigenous groups of the Gran
de uma Religiosidade.” In Transformando os Deuses, vol. 2:
Chaco can be understood through an examination of their
Igrejas Evangélicas, Pentecostais e Neopentecostais entre os Povos
mythic narratives, which contain their primary structures of
Indígenas no Brasil, edited by Robin M. Wright. Campinas,
meaning. These myths give an account of a primordial time
Brazil, 1999.
in which an ontological modification was produced by the
Castro, Eduardo Viveiros de. Araweté: Os Deuses Canibais. Rio de
actions of various supernatural beings who shaped present-
Janeiro, 1986.
day cultural reality. This rupture may be caused by a lawgiver
Crocker, William H., and Jean Crocker. The Canela: Bonding
(who frequently has the appearance of a trickster), or it may
through Kinship, Ritual, and Sex. Fort Worth, Tex., 1994.
be the result of infractions by ancestors or by the transforma-
Lima, Tânia Stolze. O Dois e seus Múltiplos: Reflexo˜es sobre o per-
tions of ancestors. Numerous supernatural beings with
spectivismo em uma cosmologia tupi: Mana. Rio de Janeiro,
avowedly demonic characteristics monopolize the realm of
1996.
fear and danger; their ambivalent intentions toward human
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SOUTH AMERICAN INDIANS: INDIANS OF THE GRAN CHACO
8633
beings are usually resolved through malevolent action that
sóri) describe an offense inflicted on lightning by the
manifests itself in illness, culminating in the death of the in-
nanibahai, their punishment in the form of a continual
dividual. The general notion of power, such as the la-ka-áyah
rain that inundated the world, and the survival of a few
of the Mataco, or specific powers, such as the uhopié of the
Ayoré, who became the first aquatic animals.
Ayoré, are the structures that ontologically define the super-
(4) The cycle of “water that washes away.” These tales de-
natural beings as well as people who have been consecrated
scribe a flood (yotedidekesnasóri) similar to that that ap-
by them.
pears in the preceding cycle, which was caused by
The spectrum of supernatural beings encompasses ev-
Diesná (“cricket”), the ruler of water.
erything from shamans and witches, in the cases of the
(5) The cycle of the Asohsná bird. This bird (Caprimulgidae
Guiacurú or the Mataco, to the state of “amorous exaltation”
spp) is surrounded by numerous puyák. The central tale
known to the Pilagá. For an integral understanding of the
of this cycle relates the life of the female ancestor who
peoples of the Chaco it is important to consider the contri-
created this bird. Asohsná is a supernatural being who
butions of these special personages and states of being, which
established the annual ceremony that divides the year
contribute a unique cultural identity to each group’s cosmol-
into two segments, one of which is characterized by an
ogy. In almost all the ethnic groups of the Gran Chaco the
incalculable quantity of restrictions.
shaman occupies the central role in religious tasks, some-
times defending and protecting, and, at other times, injur-
(6) The cycle of Asningái. This cycle relates the courage of
ing. When engaged in healing practices, he can combine var-
an ancestor named Asningái (“courage”), who threw
ious techniques, such as singing, shaking rattles, blowing,
himself onto the fire, transforming himself into an ani-
and sucking, and can command the collaboration of familiar
mal with certain morphological characteristics. It also
spirits who are generally powerful owing to their demonic
established the meaning of slaughter, an important in-
nature. An important aspect of Gran Chaco religions is the
stitution among the Ayoré, since an individual could
idea that one or many souls are incarnated in an individual.
rise to the status of chief (asuté) through contamination
Once the individual is dead, these souls, or spirits, enter a
by spilled blood.
demonic state. Although they are directed to an established
Illness is thought to be caused in almost all cases by the indi-
underworld, they continue to prey upon human communi-
vidual’s violation of puyák. The cure is entrusted to the iga-
ties.
sitái, those who have knowledge of sáude, whose power can
THE ZAMUCO FAMILY. The two members of the Zamuco
undo the illness through the powerful word of the ancestors.
language group are the Ayoré and the Chamacoco of Para-
The shaman, or daihsnái, arrives at this state through an ini-
guay, in the northeastern Chaco.
tiation that involves the ingestion of a strong dose of the juice
The Ayoré. The religion of the Ayoré (Ayoreo, Ayor-
of green mashed tobacco, which enables him to assume a spe-
eode) is expressed primarily in an extensive set of myths. All
cial potency called uhopié. When an individual dies, the body
natural and cultural beings have their origins related in
(ayói) and mind (aipiyé) are destroyed; the soul (oregaté)
mythic tales, and in certain cases in various parallel myths.
moves to the underworld (nahupié).
The morphology of the myths centers upon the metamor-
The Chamacoco. The narrative of the Chamacoco,
phosis of an ancestral figure into an entity of current reality.
which recounts sacred events, is called “The Word of
Each tale narrates events that occurred in primordial times
Eˇsnuwérta.” This tale constitutes the secret mythology of
and is accompanied by one or more songs, which may be
those men who have undergone initiatory ordeals and con-
used for therapeutic (sáude) or preventive (paragapidí) pur-
tains the social and religious knowledge of the group.
poses.
Eˇsnuwérta is the primordial mother. The myth is connected
Despite the abundance of tales, it is possible to classify
to the women of primordial times who were surprised by
the Ayoré myths in different cycles as they relate to a particu-
harmful supernatural beings (axnábsero). “The Word of
lar supernatural being or theme:
Eˇsnuwérta” includes the actions of these axnábsero, charac-
(1) The cycle of ancestors. Each tale in this cycle recounts
ters to whom Chamacoco reality is subordinated. The physi-
events in the life of an ancestor (nanibahai). These gen-
ognomy of these supernatural beings is similar to that of the
erally end with the ancestor’s violent transformation
Ayoré ancestors in that current reality originates from their
into an artifact, plant, animal, or some other entity of
transformations and their deaths. The distinctive characteris-
the cosmos, and with the establishment by the ancestor
tic of the axnábsero is their malignant power (wozós) over
of cultural prescriptions (puyák) governing the treat-
people.
ment of the new being and punishments for ignoring
The foundation of the social order is presented in this
these prescriptions.
myth, since Eˇsnuwérta instituted the clans as well as the male
(2) The cycle of Dupáde. A celestial supernatural being, Du-
initiation ceremonies in which the participants identify
páde is associated with the sun; he causes the metamor-
themselves with the principal deities of the myth.
phosis of the ancestors.
The Chamacoco shaman (konsáxa) exercises a power ap-
(3) The cycle of the Flood. The tales of the Flood (gedekesna-
propriate to a specific region of the cosmos; for this reason
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SOUTH AMERICAN INDIANS: INDIANS OF THE GRAN CHACO
there are shamans of the sky, of the water, and of the jungle.
possible for them to overpower passersby. The gabioamá or
The shaman initiation begins with a vision of Eˇsnuwérta,
iliabün act as the spirit familiars of the shaman, and with him
who reveals the cosmos as well as the practices appropriate
their role is ambivalent in a positive sense. For example, they
to the work of the shamans. Another custom originating
are in charge of recapturing and restoring the souls of the
from Eˇsnuwérta is called kaamták and has to do with a ritual
sick.
offering of food; it relates to the impurity of blood, among
According to Angaité myth, fire was obtained by a theft
other themes.
in which a bird was the intermediary; it was stolen from a
THE TUPI-GUARANÍ FAMILY. The Tupi-Guaraní language
forest demon, one of the iek Damá, who are anthropomorphic
family includes the Chiriguano of Bolivia and the Tapuí of
but have only one leg. Also anthropomorphic is the soul-
Paraguay.
shadow (abiosná), whose eyes are its distinguishing feature.
The Chiriguano. The tale of the mythical twins
The concept of corporal material as such does not exist, ex-
Yanderú Túmpa and Áña Túmpa is the most prevalent myth
cept for the iek Damá (“living cadaver” or “skeleton”), which
among the Chiriguano (Miá) and appears in conjunction
is what remains after death.
with lunar mythology. The celestial supernatural being
During the initiation process, the shaman goes into the
Yanderú Túmpa made the cosmos and bestowed its goods
depths of the forest or to the banks of the river, where the
on the Chiriguano, at the same time instructing them in cul-
familiar spirits (pateaskóp or enzlép) come to him in a dream.
tural practices. He conceived and made Áña Túmpa, who,
He communicates with the familiars through ecstatic dreams
because of envy, attempts to undermine all Yanderú
and songs. His therapeutic labors include sucking harmful
Túmpa’s works. Áña Túmpa received from his maker power
agents from the bodies of the sick and applying vegetable
(imbapwére), which he in turn gives to other beings (áñas)
concoctions whose efficacy resides in their “bad smell.”
who aid him in his malignant activities. As a result the world
There are shamans with purely malignant intentions, such
has undergone a profound alteration. It is now the actions
as the mamohót, who are responsible for tragic deaths among
of the áñas that determine the condition of the Chiriguano
members of the group. The benevolent shaman is responsible
world, and they have introduced calamities such as illness
for discovering the identity of the bewitching shaman and
and death. The expression túmpa is difficult to comprehend,
for quartering and burning the body of the victim as a restor-
but it appears to designate a quality that transforms the vari-
ative vengeance. The Angaité do not have “lords” or “fathers”
ous entities into “state beings.” The terms áña and túmpa de-
of the species; the figures closest to this theme are Nekéñe
fine the supernatural nature of these beings, that is to say,
and Nanticá, male and female supernatural beings respec-
they emphasize that they are extraordinary.
tively, who are anthropomorphic and whose realm is the
The shaman and the sorcerer are both initiated by the
depths of the waters.
acquisition of power from the áñas. The initiation itself is
The Lengua. The anthropogenic myth of the Lengua
centered on the áñas. Due to their ambivalence, an initiate
(Enlhít, Enslet) attributes the formation of giant supernatu-
can become a shaman (ipáye) if their intent is benevolent; if
ral beings and the ancestors of the Lengua to Beetle, who uti-
their intent is malevolent, the initiate receives only malignant
lized mud as primary material. After giving these beings a
power that causes misfortune to the people and the com-
human form, he placed the bodies of the first enlhíts to dry
munity.
on the bank of a lake, but he set them so close together that
Tapuí and Guasurangwe. The religion of the Tapuí
they stuck to one another. Once granted life, they could not
and the Guasurangwe, or Tapieté (an offshoot of the for-
defend themselves against the attacks of the powerful giants,
mer), does not differ essentially from that of the Chiriguano;
and Beetle, as supreme deity, separated the two groups.
the same structures of meaning and the same supernatural
Eventually the inability of the enlhíts to resist pursuit and
beings may be observed.
mistreatment by the giants became so grave that Beetle took
away the giants’ bodies. The giants’ souls gave birth to
LENGUA-MASCOY FAMILY. The Lengua-Mascoy language
kilikháma who fought to regain control of the missing bo-
group of Paraguay includes the Angaité, Lengua, Kaskihá,
dies, and it is for this reason that they torment present-day
and Sanapaná peoples.
humans.
The Angaité. The religious nature of the Angaité (Cha-
The important Lengua myths include the origin of
nanesmá) has undergone syncretism owing to their proximi-
plants and fire and the fall of the world. Ritual dramatiza-
ty to the Mascoy and Guaranian groups. Their mythology
tions of the myths are part of the celebrations for female pu-
makes reference to three levels—the underworld, the terres-
berty (yanmána), male puberty (waínkya), the spring and au-
trial world, and the celestial world—all of which are inhabit-
tumn equinoxes, the summer solstice, war, the arrival of
ed by supernatural beings characterized by their ambivalent
foreigners, marriage, and mourning.
actions toward humans. The deity of the dead, Moksohanák,
governs a legion of demonic beings, the enzlép, who pursue
Human reality consists of a “living soul” (valhók), whose
the sick, imprison them, and carry them to the “country of
dream existence is important. At death, a person is transport-
the dead,” which is situated in the west. At night it is even
ed to vangáuk, which is a transitory state that leads to the
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SOUTH AMERICAN INDIANS: INDIANS OF THE GRAN CHACO
8635
kilikháma state. The apyoxólhma, or shaman, receives power
by the shamans, in both individual and communal form,
(siyavnáma) through visions and apprenticeship to the song
with the objective of expelling illnesses according to Tokh-
of the plants, whose ingestion, though lacking hallucinogenic
wáh’s teachings.
properties, produces ritual death. Once he obtains siyavná-
ma,
the shaman commands the kilikháma, who control nu-
The shamanic initiation includes possession (welán) by
merous beings and realms of the universe. The territory of
a demonic spirit (ahát) and the consequent separation of the
the dead (pisisl), situated toward the west, is the destination
initiate’s soul (o Dnusék), which undertakes journeys to the dif-
of the souls of the dead, although some remain close to the
ferent realms of the cosmos. When the initiation is complete,
living.
the shaman has achieved an ontological alteration in the state
of his soul—he has been transformed into a demonic being.
The Kaskihá. The “masked celebration” of the Kaskihá
The smoking or inhalation of the dust of the sumac (Anade-
is of particular interest. It is based on a myth that describes
nanthera macrocarpa) is a frequent shamanic practice.
the origin of the festive attire following the quartering of the
water deity Iyenaník. The practice of kindáian, which is a
The Chulupí. The mythology of the Chulupí (Nivaklé,
dance, is the only medium for invoking the power of such
Aslusláy) comprises three narrative cycles on the deities who
deities.
acted in primordial times, but who then distanced them-
selves from humanity and the earthly world. The Xitscitt-
The Sanapaná. The rich mythic narrative of the Sana-
sammee cycle describes a supernatural being comparable to
paná focuses on the war between the heavenly world, inhab-
an almost forgotten deus otiosus. The cycle of the supernatu-
ited by the ancestors (inyakahpanamé), and the terrestrial
ral being Fitsók Exíts includes prescriptions for the rites of
world, inhabited by the fox (maalék). The ancestors, who dif-
female initiation; myths recounting the origin of women, of
fer morphologically from present-day humanity, introduced
the spots on the moon, and of honey, among other things;
the majority of cultural goods. Among the fundamental
and the tale of the expulsion from the universe of the super-
structures distinguished by the Sanapaná is the “dream,” the
natural creator. The Kufiál cycle relates the cataclysmic
soul’s life in its wanderings separate from the body. Death
events accompanying the fall of heaven and the subsequent
is understood as theft of the soul by demonic forces, the souls
actions of the demiurge Kufiál, to name a few of its themes.
of the dead that stalk during the night in forests and marshes.
The demonic spirits are anthropomorphic. Some are malig-
A structure essential to the Chulupí religion is siˇc Dee, or
nant, including those whose mere appearance can cause im-
ultimate power, which defines and dominates a vast group
mediate death. There are also benevolent spirits who are the
of beings and actions. In effect, siˇc Dee is the strange made
familiars of shamans (kiltongkamák). The shaman’s initiation
powerful, which can manifest itself in unexpected guises—in
involves fasting and other tests.
human or animal form, by means of a sound or a movement
like a whirlwind, or as master of the spirits of the forest. The
MATACO-MAKKÁ FAMILY. The Mataco-Makká language
siˇc Dee plays a significant role in the initiation of the shaman
family of the central Chaco includes the Mataco, Chulupí,
(siˇc Dee): He appears to the shaman in the guise of an old man,
Choroti, and Makká.
for example, who offers the shaman power and grants him
The Mataco. The religious universe of the Mataco
the spirit familiars called wat Dakwáis. By fasting, enduring
(Wichí) centers on the notion of power (la-ka-áyah), which
solitude in the woods, and drinking potions made of various
is the property of innumerable supernatural beings of de-
plants, the initiate achieves a revelatory experience rich in vi-
monic (ahát) or human (wichí) nature, personifications of
sions, many of which are terrifying. The Chulupí idea of ani-
such phenomena as the sun, moon, stars, and thunder. The
mistic reality is extremely complicated and varied, given that
Mataco recognize a dualism of body (opisán) and spirit
the soul can appear in any number of manifestations.
(o Dnusék) in humans. Death changes the oDnusék into a malev-
The Choroti. The principal cycles of the Choroti are
olent supernatural being.
five in number. The cycle of Kixwét describes a supernatural
The central character in Mataco mythic narrative (pah-
being, of human appearance but gigantic, whose role com-
lalís), Tokhwáh, is the one who imposes cosmic and ontolog-
prises the duplicity of both the demiurge and the trickster.
ical order on the present-day world. The actions of this su-
The cycle of Ahóusa, the Hawk, the culture hero par excel-
pernatural being, who has a demonic nature, are
lence, recounts how he defeated the beings of primordial
incorporated in his trickster aspect; nonetheless, he is per-
times, stealing and distributing fire and teaching humans the
ceived by the Mataco as a suffering and sad being. In his law-
technique of fishing and the making of artifacts. The cycle
giving role he introduces economic practices and tools; hu-
of Woíki, the Fox, who partakes of the intrinsic nature of
manizes the women who descend from the sky by
Kixwét and is a very important figure in indigenous cultures,
eliminating their vaginal teeth; institutes marriage; and
contains myths describing his creation of various beings and
teaches the people how to get drunk, to fight, and to make
modalities of the present-day world. The cycle of WeDla, the
war. He also introduces demonic spirits who cause illnesses
Moon, relates the formation of the world. The cycle of Tse-
(aités) and establishes the shamanic institution (hayawú) and
matakí alludes to a feminine figure characterized by her ill
death. The most important Mataco ceremony is carried out
will toward men and her uncontainable cannibalism.
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SOUTH AMERICAN INDIANS: INDIANS OF THE GRAN CHACO
The Choroti shaman (aíew) receives power (i-tóksi)
of illness, the death of domestic animals, the destruction of
from the supernatural beings (thlamó), and the strength of
farms, or a poor harvest of fruit from wild plants. Such con-
his abilities depends on the number of familiars (inxuélai) he
cepts as the “master-dependent” (logót-lamasék) and the
has.
“center-periphery” (laiñí-laíl) allow the Pilagá to classify be-
ings and entities according to a hierarchy of power.
The Makká. The Makká mythology can be classified as
eclectic, as it demonstrates cultural contact with almost all
The initiation of women takes place at the onset of men-
the other indigenous groups of the Gran Chaco. The Makká
ses. The young girl is locked in a corner of her hut and forced
cycle of the fox is similar to the narrative cycle surrounding
to fast rigorously. When males reach adolescence, they sub-
the Mataco supernatural being Tokhwáh and demonstrates
mit to scarification of their arms and legs by a shaman, and
similar themes, such as the origin of women and the toothed
the young man is given the characteristics of the species of
vagina. The Makká hero Tippá, who possesses an immense
animal whose bone was used as a scarifier. Throughout entire
penis, is somewhat reminiscent of Wéla, the Mataco moon
lives, men continue to scarify themselves, especially when
deity.
preparing for the hunt or going into battle.
The Toba. The principal themes of Toba (Kom) narra-
In earlier times, power (t Dun) was obtained by capturing
tive are celestial cosmology and mythology, which appear in
a scalp, after which a complex ceremony was held in which
stories about Dapicˇi and the Pleiades; cataclysms; the origin
the scalp was discarded but the soul (le sinkál) of the dead
of specific entities; stories of animals; stories of the trickster
enemy was retained as a personal familiar, or spirit helper.
WahayakaDlacigu, the lawgiver TaDankí, and Aˇsien, a super-
This familiar would manifest itself during sleep by means of
natural being with a repulsive appearance; and encounters
a song that even today is sung during drinking bouts. Cere-
between Toba people and the supernatural being Nowét.
monies of drinking bouts among adults permit the regula-
The morphology of these characters, all of whom were pow-
tion of power among people. The ceremony of female initia-
erful in the primordial times, fluctuates between the human
tion is also important, as is true throughout most of the Gran
and the animal.
Chaco.
For the Toba, the central structure of the cosmology is
The organization of the traditional religious universe
nowét, which appears in the forms of the masters of animals
was altered through the introduction of Christianity by Gen-
and of the spheres. Nowét, as a supernatural being, initiates
eral J. Belaieff, who brought the Makká from the interior of
the shamans (pi Dogonák) and grants them power that can be
the Chaco to the outskirts of Asunción. The icon of Belaieff
used equally to heal or to harm. Outside the shamanic
is now a central theme in Makká shamanism. Just as among
sphere, all special skills—hunting, fishing, dancing, and so
the Mataco, the shaman (weihet Dx) is charged with control-
on—derive from power given by Nowét. Dreams are struc-
ling the demonic supernatural beings (inwomét).
tures that have importance in the relations between humans
GUIACURÚ-CADUVEO FAMILY. The Guiacurú-Caduveo lan-
and Nowét. Shamanic power is established by the possession
guage family of the Gran Chaco and Brazil includes the
of spirit familiars (ltawá), who help shamans cure serious ill-
tribes known as the Pilagá, the Toba, the Caduveo, and the
nesses, which are considered intentional and also material.
Mocoví.
Therapy combines singing, blowing, and sucking as methods
The Pilagá. Certain mythic cycles may be distinguished
of removing the harmful agent from the victim’s body.
in the Pilagá mythology. One cycle describes the celestial
Some of the important ceremonies of the Toba are
deity Dapicˇi, to whom is attributed the inversion of the cos-
name giving, the initiation of young boys, the offering of
mic planes and the transference of some animals and plants
prayers to Dapicˇi, matutinal prayers to the heavenly beings,
to the sky. In the past, prayers were offered for his help in
and the supplications of the hunters to some supernatural
the most diverse activities. Another cycle describes Wayay-
being in a nowét state.
kaláciyi, who introduced death, made the animals wild, and
The Caduveo. Go-neno-hodi is the central deity of
established hunting techniques, modifying the Edenic habits
Caduveo mythology; he is maker of all people and of a great
of an earlier time. Among the eminent supernatural beings
number of the cultural goods. His appearance is that of a
is Nesóge, a cannibalistic woman who determines the prac-
Caduveo, and he is without evil intention. In his benevo-
tices of the witches (konánagae). Such characters and themes
lence, he granted the Caduveo, in ancient times, an abun-
as the Star Woman and the origin of women appear in Pilagá
dant supply of food, clothes, and utensils, as well as eternal
myths.
life, but the intervention of Hawk, astute and malicious,
Among the significant structures, the payák is the most
made Go-neno-hodi modify the primordial order. Nibetád
important. This notion defines nonhuman nature, which is
is a mythical hero identified with the Pleiades; he greeted the
peculiar to supernatural beings, shamans (pyogonák), ani-
ancestors during the ceremony celebrating the annual reap-
mals, plants, and some objects. Relations with the payák de-
pearance of this cluster of stars and the maturation of the al-
termine conditions in the indigenous world. Either people
garoba (mesquite).
acquire payáks as familiars who aid them in their customary
The shamanic institution is actualized in two different
activities, or the payáks inflict suffering on them in the form
individuals: the nikyienígi (“father”), who protects and bene-
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SOUTHEAST ASIAN RELIGIONS: HISTORY OF STUDY
8637
fits the community, and the otxikanrígi, the cause of all
There are only a few specific works that deal with particular
deaths, illnesses, and misfortunes in the group. Celebrations
groups; among those few are Los indios Ayoreo del Chaco Bore-
that are particularly worthy of note are the lunar ceremonies,
al by Marcelo Bórmida and myself (Buenos Aires, 1982).
the rites celebrating the birth of the chief’s son, and the initi-
Branislava Susnik has also given attention to the Chulupí na-
ations of young men and women.
tives in Chulupí: Esbozo gramatical analítico (Asunción,
1968). Also worthy of mention are Miguel Chase-Sardi’s
The Mocoví. Prominent in the scattered Mocoví mate-
Cosmovisión mak’a (Asunción, 1970) and El concepto Nivaklé
rial is the myth of an enormous tree that reached to the sky.
del Alma (Lima, 1970). Bernardino de Nino wrote an Ethno-
By climbing its branches, one ascended to lakes and to a
grafía Chiriguano (La Paz, 1912). In reference to the Cadu-
river. An angry old woman cut down the tree, extinguishing
veo culture, see Darcy Ribeiro’s Religia˜o e mitologia Kadiuéu
the valuable connection between heaven and earth.
(Rio de Janiero, 1950). One can also consult Johannes Wil-
bert’s Folk Literature of the Mataco Indians and Folk Litera-
Gdsapidolgaté, a benevolent supernatural being, pre-
ture of the Toba Indians (both Los Angeles, 1982).
sides over the world of the living. His activity contrasts with
that of the witches. Healing practices among the Mocoví are
New Sources
Arce Birbueth, Eddy, et al. Estrategias de Sobrevivencia entre los
the same as those of the other shamans of the Gran Chaco,
Tapietes del Gran Chaco. La Paz, 2003.
with the addition of bloodletting. The Mocoví, like all the
Clastres, Pierre. Mythologie des Indiens Chulupi. Edited by Michael
Guiacurú, believe in the honor of war and value dying in
Carty and Hélène Clastres. Leuven, 1992.
combat as much as killing. When they return from a battle
they hang the heads of the vanquished on posts in the center
Fritz, Miguel. Los Nivaclé: Rasgos de una cultura paraguaya. Quito,
1994.
of town and they sing and shout around them. The horse
plays an important role in daily life and in the hereafter;
Fritz, Miguel. Pioneros en El Chaco: Misioneros oblatos del Pilcoma-
yo. Mariscal Estigarribia, 1999.
when the owner of a horse dies, the horse is sacrificed and
buried beside the owner to bear him to his final destination
Tomasini, Alfredo. El Shamanismo de los Nivaclé del Gran Chaco.
in the land of the dead.
Buenos Aires, 1997.
Tomasini, Alfredo. Figuras protectoras de animales y plantes en la
ARAWAK FAMILY. The extensive Arawak family of languages
religiosidad de los indios Nivaclé:Chaco Boreal, Paraguay.
includes the Chané of Argentina. Fundamental distinctions
Quito, 1999.
cannot be made between the corpus of Chané myths and that
of the Chiriguano; similarities abound between them, partic-
MARIO CALIFANO (1987)
Translated from Spanish by Tanya Fayen
ularly with respect to the figure of the shaman. There are two
Revised Bibliography
kinds of shamans: one with benevolent power (the ipáye) and
another dedicated exclusively to malevolent actions that
cause death (the ipayepóci). The mbaidwá (“knower, investi-
SOUTHEAST ASIAN RELIGIONS
gator”) has dominion over the individual destinies of
This entry consists of the following articles:
humans.
HISTORY OF STUDY
One of the most important aspects of Chané religion is
MAINLAND CULTURES
INSULAR CULTURES
the carnival of masks (also celebrated by the Chiriguano).
NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS IN INSULAR CULTURES
Some of the masks are profane, representing animals and fan-
tastic anthropomorphic characters. The sacred masks repre-
sent Áña, and these are deadly playthings that cannot be sold
SOUTHEAST ASIAN RELIGIONS: HISTORY OF
to travelers. When the carnival is finished, the masks become
STUDY
dangerous and must be destroyed.
Southeast Asia straddles one of the two trade routes linking
East Asia and the Mediterranean. For many centuries, mer-
B
chants traveled through the Straights of Malacca to points
IBLIOGRAPHY
One can find an abundant bibliography on indigenous groups of
further east, bringing spices, gold, and other precious com-
the Gran Chaco in Ethnographic Bibliography of South Ameri-
modities, and with them came religious texts, modes of ritual
ca, edited by Timothy O’Leary (New Haven, Conn., 1963).
practice, iconographies, and other religious systems. A conse-
The Handbook of South American Indians, 7 vols., edited by
quence of this strategic location is that virtually all of the
Julia H. Steward (Washington, D.C., 1946–1959), offers
major religions of the world can be found in Southeast Asia.
general characteristics on habits and customs of the peoples
Today by far the most common religious traditions are
of this cultural area. The Censo indígena nacional (Buenos
Therava¯da Buddhism, Islam, Roman Catholicism, and the
Aires, 1968) is restricted to the Argentine Chaco. Fernando
Vietnamese variant of traditional Chinese religion. Yet there
Pagés Larraya’s Lo irracional en la cultura (Buenos Aires,
are also communities of Balinese and Tamil Hindus, Protes-
1982) studies the mental pathology of the indigenous people
of the Gran Chaco and then reviews their religious concep-
tant Christians, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians. Prior to the Second
tions. Scripta ethnológica (1973–1982), a periodical pub-
World War there were significant Jewish communities. One
lished by the Centro Argentino de Ethnología Americana,
can also find a vast array of indigenous religions in tradition-
Buenos Aires, contains more systematic information about
ally isolated portions of the region that are either upland or
the aboriginal peoples of the Gran Chaco.
on remote islands far from the trade routes.
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8638
SOUTHEAST ASIAN RELIGIONS: HISTORY OF STUDY
The diversity of religion in Southeast Asia has attracted
means through which Europeans sought to dominate and
area specialists in almost all religious traditions to study the
domesticate potentially hostile religious elites. Much the
region, and the theoretical orientations and methodologies
same can be said of colonial scholarship on Southeast Asia.
employed in the study of religion in the region are nearly as
Such works as compilations of customary law and gazet-
diverse as the religions of the region itself. The academic
teers describing local customs and periodic rituals were of
study of religion in Southeast Asia began in the early decades
immediate value to colonial officials and other resident Euro-
of the nineteenth century. The earliest works are largely de-
peans. They remain valuable resources for scholars concerned
scriptive. Most of them were written by colonial officials or
with religious change, and are particularly important for
Christian missionaries. Stamford Raffles, John Crawfurd,
scholars of the indigenous religions of tribes of the region.
and Christiaan Hurgronje were among the colonial officers
An overwhelming number of these groups converted to
who made enduring contributions to the study of religion
Christianity in the first half of the twentieth century. As their
in Southeast Asia. Among the most important works by mis-
traditional religions were orally transmitted, European writ-
sionary scholars are Hans Scharer’s studies of the indigenous
ings provide the only available information about those early
religions of Kalimantan (Borneo) and Paul Bigandet’s study
religions.
of Burmese Buddhism. Subsequent scholars have employed
a variety of philological, archeological, historical, literary-
The study of religion also provided instruments for
critical, political-science, and anthropological approaches.
domination in a more subtle sense. Many of the monumen-
Many more general works provide important data for schol-
tal works of colonial scholarship, including Stamford Raf-
ars of religion. Among the most important of these are dis-
fles’s History of Java (1817) and Paul Mus’s Barabud:ur
trict gazetteers and other publications of colonial govern-
(1935), locate the greatness of Southeast Asian cultures in
ments. These often provide the only available materials for
the distant past. These studies provided support for colonial-
the study of the history of religion at the local level. James
ist apologetics, a major theme of which was that Southeast
Scott’s Gazetteer of Upper Burma and the Shan States (1900–
Asian cultures had become decadent and corrupt and that
1901) and John Crawfurd’s History of the Indian Archipelago
benevolent Europeans were assisting these cultures with colo-
(1820) are outstanding examples. Novels and other works of
nial rule. While intended for a European audience, these
fiction can also provide valuable information. A clear exam-
works were also read by many Southeast Asians and are in
ple is Pramoedya Ananta Toer’s four-volume novel Buru
part responsible for the sense of cultural dislocation so vividly
Quartet (1996), which is a fictionalized account of the reli-
described by Toer in his novels.
gious and cultural forces that contributed to the rise of Indo-
Islam and Buddhism were equally misrepresented,
nesian nationalism.
though in very different ways. Raffles and Theodore Pigeaud
Despite this double diversity, one can detect the follow-
went to great lengths to deny the Islamic character of Indo-
ing general themes and questions that have shaped the aca-
nesian and particularly Javanese civilization. For them, Islam
demic study of religion in Southeast Asia:
was a threat to colonial authority. Portraying Indonesia as a
Hindu culture was part of a strategy of colonial domination.
• Links between scholarly agendas and the agendas of co-
Indonesian elites educated in Dutch schools were taught that
lonial and postcolonial states.
their culture and religion were an amalgamation of Hindu-
• Relations between religion and politics in traditional
ism and Mahayana Buddhism, and were discouraged from
Southeast Asian states.
learning more than the rudiments of Islam. Christiaan Hur-
• The development of increasingly nuanced understand-
gronje, the greatest Islamicist of the colonial era, also con-
ings of the nature of religious traditions.
tributed to this agenda. His studies of the Achehnese and the
Southeast Asian community in Mecca were as much political
• The emergence, in the last decades of the twentieth cen-
briefings as they were scholarship. The Dutch were involved
tury, of a symbiotic relationship between religious
in a bitter war with the Achehnese and regarded Mecca as
studies and the social sciences, particularly cultural an-
a dangerous source of rebellion.
thropology.
Buddhism was misrepresented in a different way. Many
These four factors interact in very complex ways in the aca-
of the early works on Therava¯da Buddhism in Southeast Asia
demic discourse about religion in Southeast Asia.
were written by scholars who, if not Buddhists themselves,
POLITICAL AGENDAS. The political agendas of colonial and
were extremely sympathetic towards a particular understand-
postcolonial states did much to shape the development of
ing of Buddhism. James Scott, Harold Fielding-Hall, and
scholarly traditions. They have influenced the topics scholars
others understood Buddhism as an abstract rational science
have chosen to investigate and the interpretation of their
of the mind with little use for spirits, gods, or what they un-
findings. The academic study of religion in Southeast Asia
derstood as superstitious practice. They regarded what are
dates back to the early decades of the nineteenth century at
now clearly understood as Buddhist ritual practices as either
a time when the British, French, Dutch, and Spanish were
the superstitions of the lower classes or remnants of a heathen
consolidating colonial empires. Edward Said has argued that
past. Like many other earlier European interpreters of Bud-
in the Middle East, colonial scholarship was among the
dhism, they imagined Buddhism as they wished it to be.
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SOUTHEAST ASIAN RELIGIONS: HISTORY OF STUDY
8639
The academic study of religion continues to be political-
survived from the precolonial period, a substantial number
ly significant in the region. This is especially true of scholar-
concern theories of kingship. This concern is also found in
ship published in the languages of the region. Religious
nineteenth-century texts, many of which are preserved in li-
studies are not well developed in the region, but with the ex-
braries and archives in Holland, Great Britain, and France,
pansion of modern education since the end of the colonial
as well as Southeast Asia. Other important sources of the role
era, studies of religion by Southeast Asian scholars have be-
of religion in politics include Chinese texts, inscriptions on
come increasingly common. Many Southeast Asian scholars
monuments, and archeological sites, such as Pagan, Angkor,
of religion are trained in history; others in area, Buddhist,
Ayutthaya, and Borobudur. George Coedes, Robert Heine-
or Islamic studies. In many instances the lines between aca-
Geldern, Stanley Tambiah, and others have found that
demic and committed scholarship is a fine one. In Southeast
Southeast Asian kingdoms were structured as representations
Asia many scholars of religion are actively engaged in politi-
of Hindu or Buddhist cosmologies and that kings were often
cal causes, movements, or parties. In addition to more tradi-
described as divine or semidivine beings. Muslim kingdoms
tional academic venues, intellectuals regularly publish in
retain some of the symbolism of the Hindu and Buddhist
daily papers and weekly news magazines. Among the issues
past and also describe Sultans as descendants of the Prophet
of concern to these scholars are economic development, eco-
Muhammad and as representatives of God on earth.
logical degradation, human rights, social justice, and democ-
A substantial body of scholarship focuses on the role of
ratization. There are no systematic studies of the writings of
traditional religious concepts in contemporary Southeast
scholar-activists in European languages. In the Islamic socie-
Asian politics. Benedict Anderson, Clifford Geertz, and oth-
ties of the region, questions concerning banking and finance
ers suggests that traditional concepts of power and authority
are also important because of the traditional Islamic prohibi-
continue to inform political discourse and the conduct of
tion on interest. Most of this literature is inaccessible to non-
politics throughout the region. In modern Southeast Asia, re-
specialists because there are very few translations.
ligion has been used to legitimize the political programs of
More conventional scholarship may also be pointed.
states, leaders, and parties, be they authoritarian or liberal.
Muslim Indonesia provides a cogent example. Indonesian
ON THE NATURE OF RELIGIOUS TRADITIONS. For most of
scholars are familiar with Western scholarship that has de-
its history, the academic study of religion has looked to an-
picted traditional cultures as being only trivially Muslim. Is-
cient, philosophically complex texts for the essence of reli-
lamists often cite the works of Clifford Geertz as proof that
gious traditions and has assumed that popular and contem-
their own critiques of religious traditionalists are valid. To
porary variants of these texts are in some sense corrupt. This
establish the orthodoxy of their positions, traditionalists have
understanding of world religions is apparent in many impor-
produced countertexts that can be read simultaneously as
tant studies of contemporary Southeast Asian religions, in-
history and theology. Zamakhsyari Dhofier’s The Pesantren
cluding Melford Spiro’s Buddhism and Society (1982) and
Tradition (1999) is a ready example. In this way academic
Clifford Geertz’s The Religion of Java (1960). As Boone ob-
scholars of religion are drawn into Southeast Asian religious
serves, this has lead to the construction of artificial canons
discourse.
recognized only by Western or Western-trained scholars.
Political considerations have also influenced which
The tendency to understand world religions as philosophical
communities are studied and which are not. Politically sig-
systems embodied in ancient texts has contributed to the
nificant communities receive greater attention than minori-
view that Southeast Asian Buddhists, Hindus, and Muslims
ties. Scholarly neglect of Southeast Asian Christianity, tradi-
are only superficially such and that indigenous animisms re-
tional Chinese religion, and Tamil Hinduism is especially
main the most important of Southeast Asian religions. This
apparent. Neglect of Southeast Asian Christianity is among
view was articulated by Raffles in the early nineteenth centu-
the most serious problems confronting the field. The conver-
ry and has been subject to serious criticism only since the
sion of many tribal and Chinese people to Christianity has
mid-1970s.
fundamentally altered the religious landscape of Southeast
As scholars of religion have become increasingly con-
Asia. In general, there has been very little research on the in-
cerned with religion as lived experience, many have come to
teraction of religious communities in any Southeast Asian
question the assumptions of traditional philological scholar-
country. The religions of Myanmar (Burma) have also suf-
ship. As a result, there is a greater appreciation of noncanoni-
fered from scholarly neglect, but for a different reason: very
cal texts and the relation of religion to daily social life. This
few scholars have been able to conduct research there since
has lead to a creative convergence of religious studies and cul-
the middle of the twentieth century.
tural anthropology.
RELIGION, POLITICS, AND CULTURE. Many scholars of
RELIGIOUS STUDIES AND CULTURAL ANTHROPOLOGY.
Southeast Asian religions have been concerned with the role
Since the 1970s the distinction between cultural anthropolo-
of religion in indigenous political systems and the interrela-
gy and religious studies has been muted by developments in
tion of religion and culture. Archeologists and historians
both disciplines. Earlier generations of anthropologists gen-
have attempted to discern the religious foundations of
erally focused on exclusively oral traditions. Even those who
Southeast Asian statecraft. Of the few manuscripts that have
studied Buddhists, Muslims, and other adherents of literary
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8640
SOUTHEAST ASIAN RELIGIONS: HISTORY OF STUDY
religions paid scant attention to religious texts. This state of
ential study of the religious orientations of premodern
affairs began to change in the 1960s and 1970s as anthropol-
Southeast Asian States.
ogists became increasingly concerned with systems of sym-
Hurgronje, Christiaan Snouck. Mekka in the Later Part of the 19th
bols and meanings and as scholars of religion turned their
Century: Daily Life, Customs, and Learning of the Moslims of
attention to contemporary versions of world religions. This
the East-Indian-Archipelago. Leiden, 1931. Reprint, 1970.
convergence began in communities of scholars focused on
One of the few ethnographic accounts of Muslim Mecca. It
Therava¯da Buddhism and Balinese Hinduism and has prog-
focuses on Southeast Asian Muslims resident in the holy city.
ressed to the point where works by cultural anthropologists
Lithai, King of Sukhothai. The Three Worlds According to King
and scholars of religion are difficult to distinguish. Its great-
Ruang: A Thai Buddhist Cosmology. Translated by Frank Rey-
est impact is seen in the study of Southeast Asian Islam,
nolds and Mani Reynolds. Berkeley, Calif., 1982. A transla-
which has moved from the margins to the mainstream of
tion of a Thai text describing the Therava¯da Buddhist
scholarly discourse on Southeast Asian religion and the Is-
cosmos.
lamic tradition more generally.
Luce, Gordon. Old Burma—Early Pagan. 3 vols. Locust Valley,
CONCLUSIONS. Southeast Asia offers a wealth of research op-
N.Y., 1969–1970. A massive study of Buddhism, art, and ar-
portunities for scholars of many disciplines concerned with
chitecture in ancient Myanmar (Burma).
the study of religion. Scholars can study particular variants
Lukens-Bull, ed. Sacred Places and Modern Landscapes: Sacred Ge-
of most of the major religions of the world or social and cul-
ography and Social Religious Transformations in South and
tural systems comprising multiple religious communities,
Southeast Asia. Tempe, Ariz., 2004. Includes papers on con-
with their different religious traditions and languages.
temporary Buddhist, Muslim and Christian sacred geogra-
phies in the region.
SEE ALSO Anthropology, Ethnology, and Religion; Bud-
Mus, Paul. Barabud:ur: Sketch of a History of Buddhism Based on
dhism, article on Buddhism in Southeast Asia; Fiction, arti-
Archaeological Criticism of the Texts (1978). Translated by Al-
cle on Southeast Asian Fiction and Religion; Hinduism in
exander W. Macdonald. New Delhi, 1998.
Southeast Asia; Islam, article on Islam in Southeast Asia.
Pigeaud, Theodore. Java in the Fourteenth Century: A Study in
Cultural History. 5 vols. The Hague, 1960–1963. Based on
BIBLIOGRAPHY
a translation of an old Javanese text discover in Bali. Includes
Anderson, Benedict. Language and Power: Exploring Political Cul-
a vast amount of material on religion, culture, and politics
tures in Indonesia. Ithaca, N.Y., 1990. Explores the religious
in Indic Java.
and cultural foundations in modern Indonesian political dis-
course and praxis.
Raffles, Stamford. The History of Java. London, 1817. Reprint,
Bigandet, Paul. The Life or Legend of Gaudama, the Budha of the
New York, 1965. An early description of Javanese religion
Burmese. Rangoon, 1858.
and culture focusing primarily on the pre-Islamic period.
Boon, James. Affinities and Extremes: Crisscrossing the Bittersweet
Scott, James. Gazetteer of Upper Burma and the Shan States. 2 vols.
Ethnology of East Indies History, Hindu-Balinese Culture, and
Rangoon, 1900–1901. Includes a vast quantity of informa-
Indo-European Allure. Chicago, 1990. A rich, interdisciplin-
tion about northern Myanmar (Burma) shortly after the
ary account of the history of Balinese religion and culture.
British annexation.
Coedes, George. The Indianized States of Southeast Asia. Edited by
Smith, Bardwell, ed. Religion and Legitimation of Power in Thai-
Walter Vella. Translated by Susan Cowing. Honolulu, 1968.
land, Laos, and Burma. Chambersburg, Pa., 1978. Includes
The standard work on the Indianization of Southeast Asia
articles on Thai Buddhism by historian of religion Frank E.
from the first to the fourteenth century.
Reynolds.
Crawfurd, John. History of the Indian Archipelago: Containing an
Spiro, Melford. Buddhism and Society: A Great Tradition and Its
Account of the Manners, Arts, Languages, Religions, Institu-
Burmese Vicissitudes. 2d, expanded ed. Berkeley, Calif., 1982.
tions, and Commerce of Its Inhabitants. Edinburgh, 1820.
A psychologically oriented ethnographic account of
One of the earliest account of the territory that is now Indo-
Therava¯da Buddhism in Myanmar (Burma).
nesia.
Tambiah, Stanley. World Conqueror and World Renouncer: A Study
Dhofier, Zamakhsyari. The Pesantren Tradition: The Role of the
of Buddhism and Polity in Thailand against a Historical Back-
Kyai in the Maintenance of Traditional Islam in Java. Tempe,
ground. Cambridge, U.K., 1976. The classical study of Bud-
Ariz., 1999. A detailed studies of the Islamic boarding
dhist notions of kingship and political authority in Thailand.
schools (pesantren) of east Java.
Toer, Pramoedya Ananta. The Buru Quartet. New York, 1996. A
Fielding-Hall, Harold. The Soul of a People. London, 1898. An
series of four novels (This Earth of Mankind; Child of All Na-
early British interpretation of Therava¯da Buddhism in
tions; Footsteps; House of Glass) depicting the life and times
Myanmar (Burma).
of a young Dutch-educated Javanese aristocrat.
Geertz, Clifford. The Religion of Java. New York, 1960. The clas-
sic study of popular religion in Java, though subsequent
Woodward, Mark. Islam in Java: Normative Piety and Mysticism
studies demonstrate that Geertz underestimated the impor-
in the Sultanate of Yogyakarta. Tucson, Ariz., 1989. Empha-
tance Islam in Javanese culture.
sizes the Islamic character of royal and popular religion in
Java.
Heine-Geldern, Robert. Conceptions of State and Kingship in
Southeast Asia. Ithaca, N.Y., 1956. A classic and highly influ-
MARK R. WOODWARD (2005)
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8641
SOUTHEAST ASIAN RELIGIONS: MAINLAND
ic language that was transformed under the influence of Chi-
CULTURES
nese. The distinctive Karennic languages spoken by peoples
Mainland Southeast Asia has been termed the “crossroad of
living on the eastern border of Burma and in parts of western
religions,” for in this region, today divided into the countries
Thailand are thought by linguists to be descendants of Tibe-
of Burma, Thailand, and Laos, Cambodia (Kampuchea), and
to-Burman stocks. Speakers of Miao-Yao languages, distantly
Vietnam, a large diversity of autochthonous tribal religions
connected to Tibeto-Burman and Sinitic language families,
are intermingled with Hinduism, Therava¯da and Maha¯ya¯na
have migrated from southern China into mainland Southeast
Buddhism, Daoism, Confucianism, Islam, and Christianity,
Asia only within the past century or so. Major migrations
as well as the modern secular faith of Marxist-Leninism. Be-
from China and India, spurred by the economic changes
neath this diversity there are many religious practices and be-
during the colonial period, also led to the introduction into
liefs that have common roots in the prehistoric past of peo-
the region of large numbers of speakers of Sinitic, Dravidian,
ples of the region. This is not to say, as have some scholars,
and Indo-European languages.
that the historic religions are merely a veneer and that those
PREHISTORIC FOUNDATIONS. People have lived in mainland
Southeast Asians who adhere to religions such as Buddhism
Southeast Asia for as long as there have been Homo sapiens,
have been, as Reginald LeMay said of the Northern Thai, an-
and there is evidence of Homo erectus and even earlier homi-
imists from time immemorial. Although certain beliefs and
nid forms in the region as well. Paleolithic hunting-and-
practices can be seen as linking peoples of the present to an-
gathering peoples must have constructed their religious un-
cient Southeast Asian religions, they have often been refor-
derstandings of the world out of images drawn from their ex-
mulated to make sense within worldviews shaped by historic
periences in their environments and from the workings of the
religions. The processes of religious change have, moreover,
human body. Beyond this, little can be said, for there is no
intensified in the wake of radical shaking of traditional orders
mainland Southeast Asian equivalent of the cave paintings
taking place throughout the twentieth century.
of Lascaux to provide insight into the world of Paleolithic
Mainland Southeast Asia is not only a region of religious
humans. It would, moreover, be quite illegitimate to project
diversity; it is also a veritable Babel. Insofar as historical lin-
the religious beliefs of the Negritos of the Malay Peninsula,
guistics permits a reconstruction of the past, it would appear
the last remaining significant groups of hunter-gatherers in
that most of the earliest inhabitants of the region spoke Aus-
the region, into the prehistoric past, for these beliefs have de-
troasiatic languages ancestral to such modern-day descen-
veloped through as long a period as have other religions and
dants as Khmer and Mon. Many of the tribal peoples living
have, moreover, been influenced by the religions of neigh-
in the highlands of central Vietnam and Laos, as well as a
boring peoples.
few groups found in northern Thailand and as far distant as
The first significant evidence of religious beliefs and
Assam in India and Hainan Island belonging to China, speak
practices in mainland Southeast Asia comes from the period
Austroasiatic languages. Speakers of Austronesian languages,
when humans in the region first began to live in settled agri-
whose major modern-day representatives are the peoples of
cultural communities. The domestication of rice, which may
Indonesia, Malaysia, Micronesia, and Polynesia, as well as
have taken place in mainland Southeast Asia before 4000
parts of Melanesia and Madagascar, were also present from
BCE, led to the emergence of a powerful image that was to
prehistoric times in what is today southern Vietnam and the
become incorporated in almost all of the religious traditions
Malay Peninsula. Cham living in southern Vietnam and in
of the region. To this day, most Southeast Asians think of
Cambodia, as well as tribal peoples such as the Rhadé and
rice as having a spiritual as well as a material quality; rice,
Jarai in southern Vietnam, speak Austronesian languages. In
like humanity, has a vital essence and is typically associated
the northern uplands of the region and in what is today
with a feminine deity. The recognition of rice as fundamen-
northeastern India and southern China most peoples in pre-
tal to life among most peoples in mainland Southeast Asia
historic times appear to have spoken languages belonging to
has been intertwined in religious imagery with the nurturing
the Tibeto-Burman language family. The present-day Bur-
attribute of a mother.
mans and such tribal peoples as the Chin, Kachin, Lisu,
Akha, and Lahu all speak Tibeto-Burman languages. Speak-
Neolithic burial sites, many only recently discovered,
ers of Tai (or Daic) languages seem to have originated in
are proving to be sources of knowledge about prehistoric reli-
southern China and did not begin to settle in mainland
gions in Southeast Asia. The very existence of such sites sug-
Southeast Asia until much before the tenth century CE.
gests that those who took so much trouble to dispose of the
Today, however, Thai (or Siamese), Lao, Northern Thai (or
physical remains of the dead must have had well-formed
Yuan), and Shan—all speakers of Tai languages—constitute
ideas about the afterlife and about the connection between
the major peoples of Thailand, Laos, and the Shan state of
the states of the dead and the living. In the mass burial sites
Burma, and Tai-speaking tribal peoples such as the Tho, Red
of Ban Chiang and Non Nok Tha in northeastern Thailand,
Tai, Black Tai, and White Tai are found in northern Viet-
the graves contain many items, including pottery, tools, and
nam as well as northeastern Laos. Modern-day Vietnamese,
metal jewelry. The items found in the graves may be inter-
which linguists assign to the distinctive Viet-Muong lan-
preted, on the basis of ethnographic analogy, as constituting
guage family, is believed to have evolved from an Austroasiat-
goods believed to be used by the dead in the afterlife. In com-
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SOUTHEAST ASIAN RELIGIONS: MAINLAND CULTURES
munities in northeastern Thailand today, the dead are cre-
tinctive religious traditions. Even though drums were widely
mated in accord with Buddhist custom, but the practice of
traded throughout the region, they were most certainly put
burning personal belongings of the deceased at the same time
to different ritual purposes by different peoples.
perpetuates a pre-Buddhist tradition.
An older generation of scholars, best represented by
In a Neolithic burial site in western Thailand, the grave
Robert Heine-Geldern, posited an underlying unity of pre-
of an old man was found to contain a perforated stone disk
historic Southeast Asian religions that stemmed from the dif-
and an antler with the tines sawed off. Per So⁄rensen, the ar-
fusion of a cultural complex from a single European source.
chaeologist who excavated the site, believes these items may
While there were certainly contacts among peoples widely
represent the headdress of a shaman; if so, they would be the
separated in Southeast Asia in prehistoric times, and while
earliest evidence of shamanism in mainland Southeast Asia.
these contacts resulted in the diffusion of some practices and
Shamanism must have an ancient pedigree in the region be-
beliefs, most basic similarities must be understood to reflect
cause it is found among most tribal peoples. Among the most
the ordering of similar experiences (for example, those relat-
intriguing Neolithic burial sites are ones in central Laos
ed to death, human fertility, cultivation of rice) that follow
where large stone jars were found containing cremated
universal modes of human thought.
human remains. This discovery suggests either that crema-
Drawing on later historical data as well as ethnographic
tion predates Indian influence in Southeast Asia or that the
analogy, Paul Mus, a distinguished student of Southeast
jars were used long after they had originally been constructed
Asian civilization argued that the autochthonous religions of
as depositories of remains by peoples who had adopted the
protohistoric Southeast Asia coalesced around cults he
Buddhist practice of cremation.
termed “cadastral.” Such cults were organized around images
Sites mainly in northern Vietnam and southern China
drawn from the local worlds of everyday experience. Spirits,
dating to the first millennium BCE contain bronze drums as-
such as the nats of various Tibeto-Burman peoples or the ph¯ı
sociated with assemblages termed Dong-Son after a site in
of the Tai, populated these worlds. Humans were able to act
northern Vietnam. Dong-Son-type drums were later distrib-
in their worlds because they had “vital spirits,” often con-
uted widely not only in mainland Southeast Asia but in the
ceived of as multiple, as with the Vietnamese hon, Khmer
islands of the region as well, although manufacture of the
pralu Dn, or Tai khwan. These vital spirits, which only in some
drums apparently continued to be restricted to a rather small
cases constituted souls that gained immortal states after
area in northern mainland Southeast Asia. In more recent
death, could leave the body for periods of time, but unless
times, drums have been used by tribal peoples such as the
called back and secured—a practice widely seen among many
Karen in funerary rites, and some archaeologists believe that
peoples in Southeast Asia—the person would weaken and
the drums were always associated with death customs. Boat
die.
designs found on some of the Neolithic drums have been in-
These cadastral cults constituted the religions of agricul-
terpreted as being symbols of the means whereby souls of the
tural peoples who had long since made rice their staple, al-
dead were conveyed to the afterworld. The soul-boat image
though some cultivated it by swidden or slash-and-burn
is found in a number of Southeast Asian cultures today, and
methods and others cultivated by irrigation. Rice also was be-
a prehistoric notion may have persisted also in transformed
lieved to possess a vital spirit. Even today, peoples as diverse
form in the Buddhist symbol of the boat that conveys the
as the Chin in Burma, Lawa in northern Thailand, Lao in
saved across the sea of sam:sa¯ra to nibba¯na (Skt., nirva¯n:a).
Laos, Jarai in southern Vietnam, and Khmer in Cambodia
The designs on the drums, including concentric circles,
all perform rites after the harvest to call the spirit of the rice
frogs, birds, snakes or dragons, human figures in headdresses,
to ensure that it will provide essential nourishment when
buildings, and in some southern Chinese drums miniature
consumed. Some peoples also believe that other beings—
scenes of rituals, have been variously interpreted. Some un-
especially the water buffalo used for plowing in wet-rice
derstand these as indicating a type of shamanism in which
communities and elephants used for war and heavy labor—
the drum played a part; others have seen them as having to-
also have vital spirits.
temic significance. It is quite probable that at least some
The cosmologies of protohistoric Southeast Asian farm-
drum designs encode a dualistic cosmology, symbolized in
ers, like those of primitive peoples throughout the world,
part by an opposition between birds and snakes/dragons. Of
were structured around fundamental oppositions. In South-
particular interest are the images of buildings on piles, which
east Asia, the oscillation between the rainy rice-growing sea-
may probably be regarded as a type of ritual hall or perhaps
son and the dry fallow season found expression in such reli-
a men’s house, and which are clearly related both to those
gious imagery. The fertility of the rainy season is widely
found in many tribal communities today and to the dinh, the
associated with a female deity, the “rice mother,” although
communal ritual hall of the Vietnamese.
a male image, that of the na¯ga, or dragon, and sometimes a
There was never a uniform Dongsonian culture in
crocodile, is also found in many traditions. In some cases—
northern mainland Southeast Asia. Peoples of the region in
such as among the Cham, as attested by seventh-century CE
late prehistoric times were often isolated from each other by
inscriptions—the female deity is a na¯g¯ı. The dry season finds
the numerous ranges of hills and must have developed dis-
expression in images of male creator gods associated with the
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SOUTHEAST ASIAN RELIGIONS: MAINLAND CULTURES
8643
sun. To this day, many peoples who have long been Bud-
ic” and “autocratic” communities found among tribal peo-
dhists still engage in rites that entail a dualistic conception
ples such as the Kachin of Burma even in recent years. What
of the cosmos. The Lao perform a rite toward the end of the
made it possible for Southeast Asians to imagine themselves
dry season, heavy with sexual symbolism, at which they set
as parts of communities whose members, both living and
off rockets to inform the gods that it is time to send the rains.
dead, were not all known personally was the introduction of
At the end of the rainy season, when the rivers have flooded,
religious conceptions fixed in written texts.
another ceremony is held at which men compete in boat
races. The boats, representing na¯gas, serve to ensure that the
Some evidence, especially from among tribal peoples in
earth as supreme na¯ga will accept the flood waters before they
what is today southern China, suggests that writing was in-
drown the rice. The concern with the power of the earth con-
vented independently by Southeast Asian peoples. However,
tinues after the harvest when attention is turned to the Rice
the historical fact is that the earliest written records are either
Mother, who is propitiated at the same time that the vital
in some form of Indian script or in Chinese logographs.
spirit of the rice is called.
With these borrowed writing systems came Indian and Chi-
nese texts, rites rooted in the texts, and institutions to per-
The world in which protohistoric peoples lived was
form the rites and perpetuate the textual traditions.
marked by uncertainty: Crops might fail as a consequence
of late rains or devastating floods; women might be barren,
Sinitic influences. Chinese influences appear first in
die in childbirth, or lose child after child; and both men and
conjunction with the Han conquest of what is now northern
women might die young. Hence, people wished to influence
Vietnam. Between the first Han movement into the area, in
the spirits and cosmic forces that controlled fertility and life.
124 BCE, and 43 CE, when the Chinese suppressed a rebellion
The fundamental method of gaining the favor of spiritual
led by the legendary Trung sisters, Chinese influence appears
powers was through sacrifices. Human sacrifice was rare in
to have lain rather lightly on the Vietnamese. From the first
mainland Southeast Asia, although the Wa of northern
century CE, however, the Vietnamese came increasingly to
Burma and southern China even in recent times took heads
see themselves as part of a Sinitic world, which they knew
to offer at New Year rites. Most peoples sacrificed domestic
through the same texts as were used in China proper. This
animals, with lesser rites requiring a chicken and more im-
sense of belonging to a Chinese world remained even after
portant rites, a pig or even a carabao. In tribal groups such
the Vietnamese gained independence from China in the elev-
as those in Burma and northeastern India, those men who
enth century.
organized large-scale sacrifices and the so-called feasts of
The Chinese model was most significant for literati—
merit associated with them acquired not only the esteem of
the Confucian mandarinate, Maha¯ya¯na Buddhist monks,
their fellows but also a spiritual quality that was believed to
and even some Daoist priests—who derived their cultural
persist even after their death. Such tribal chiefs are assumed
understanding of the world from Chinese and Sino-
to be similar to what O. W. Wolters calls “men of prowess,”
Vietnamese texts. As none of these literati ever attained the
who were the heads of protohistoric chiefdoms. What is
role of a dominant priesthood in the villages, pre-Sinitic tra-
noteworthy about the tribal chiefs, and presumably about the
ditions, centered on a multitude of local spirits and deities,
earlier men of the same type, is that because of the vagaries
continued to be perpetuated by spirit mediums, soothsayers,
of life, their potency could never be firmly established. At-
and sorcerers (thay). Those Vietnamese who moved out of
tempts were made to fix this potency by making the remains
the Red River delta in the “push to the south” that began
of men of prowess objects of cultic attention, especially by
in the thirteenth century and continued into recent times
those who succeeded them. Rough stone monuments associ-
came into contact with other traditions—those of the hind-
ated with early Cham culture in southern Vietnam and up-
uized Cham and Khmer, the Buddhist Khmer, and local
right stones found together with the prehistoric stone jars in
tribal peoples. In part because of significant non-Sinitic in-
Laos have been interpreted, by analogy with the practice by
fluences in southern Vietnam, the impress of Chinese culture
such modern tribal peoples as Chin of Burma and related
was somewhat less evident in the popular culture of that re-
groups in northeastern India, as monuments that perpetuat-
gion than in that of northern Vietnam. Vietnamese in south-
ed and localized the potency of men who had succeeded dur-
ern Vietnam have to the present often turned to non-Sinitic
ing their lifetimes in effecting a relationship between the so-
religious practitioners—montagnard sorcerers and Thera-
ciety and the cosmos. Such monuments were to lend
va¯da monks, for example—for help in confronting funda-
themselves to reinterpretation in Hindu-Buddhist terms
mental difficulties in their lives. Many of the religiously in-
when Indian influences began to appear in Southeast Asia.
spired peasant rebellions originating in southern Vietnam as
HISTORICAL TRANSFORMATIONS. Prior to the adoption of
well as some modern syncretic popular religons have drawn
Indian or Chinese models, there appears to have been no
inspiration from non-Chinese sources. This said, Vietnamese
priesthood in any Southeast Asian society capable of enforc-
religion in all parts of the country has assumed a distinctly
ing an orthopraxy among peoples living over a wide area. As
Sinitic cast, being organized primarily around ancestor wor-
the ritual effectiveness of men of prowess waxed and waned,
ship in the Chinese mode. Elsewhere in mainland Southeast
so did the relative power of the polities they headed, thus giv-
Asia, only migrant Chinese and those tribal peoples such as
ing rise to a classic pattern of oscillation between “democrat-
the Hmong and Mien who have lived long in Chinese-
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8644
SOUTHEAST ASIAN RELIGIONS: MAINLAND CULTURES
dominated areas show similar concern with ancestor wor-
similation of the king to Siva, as represented by a lingam.
ship.
The capital was a place where, through erection of temples,
dedicated not only to S´iva but also to Vis:n:u and other Hindu
Indian influences. In those areas of mainland South-
gods and to bodhisattvas, each king could ensure that his
east Asia where Indian influences first appeared in the early
man:d:ala was a microcosm of the cosmos. While the Ang-
centuries of the common era, individuals were rarely apothe-
korean empire experienced a number of defeats by rulers of
osized for being apical ancestors in a line of descent. If, how-
other man:d:alas, it was not until the fifteenth century that it
ever, a man (but rarely a woman) succeeded in his lifetime
finally ended; by this time, the religious orientations of the
in demonstrating through effective action in ritual and in
populace had begun to change radically.
warfare that he possessed some charismatic quality, this qual-
ity could continue to be influential after the individual’s
On the western side of mainland Southeast Asia, Bur-
death by giving him a cosmic body to replace his worldly
mese kings also succeeded in establishing a man:d:ala, that of
one. The earliest monuments of indianized civilization in
Pagan, that between the eleventh and thirteenth centuries ri-
Southeast Asia appeared in significant numbers between the
valed the splendor and power of Angkor. Although the Bur-
fourth and eighth century CE. Particular examples are S´iva
mese kings promoted cults that usually equated them with
lin:ga¯ of the Cham in southern Vietnam, the Buddhist sema¯
the Buddha rather than with Hindu gods, the stupas and
(Skt., s¯ıma¯) or boundary markers with scenes from the life
temples they built were like the Hindu and Maha¯ya¯na tem-
of the Buddha or from the Ja¯takas in bas-relief found in
ples at Angkor; they were both funerary monuments in
Dva¯ravat¯ı sites in northeastern Thailand, and the stupas at
which the kings became immortalized, albeit in this case
Beikthano and S´r¯ıks:etra in central Burma, Thaton in lower
in Buddhist terms, and recreations of the sacred cosmos. In
Burma, and Nakhon Pathom in central Thailand. These
both Pagan and Angkor, Meru, the sacred mountain that lies
monuments can best be interpreted as having been put up
at the center of the universe and is also an axis mundi, was
to elevate a man of prowess to a divine form. Whereas an
represented in the temple or stupa erected by a king.
older generation of historians often associated early historical
The man:d:ala organized around a shrine that served as
sites in mainland Southeast Asia with large kingdoms, most
an axis mundi became the model for villages as well as capi-
historians now accept that there were many petty kingdoms
tals. In nearly every village in Buddhist Southeast Asia, a
in the area whose power waxed and waned much as did that
stupa has been erected. Those who contribute to its construc-
of the chiefdoms that preceded them. The proliferation of
tion believe they gain merit that will ensure a better rebirth
monuments, a pattern that climaxes in the classical civiliza-
and perhaps even rebirth at the time of the next Buddha,
tions of Angkor in Cambodia and Pagan in Burma, most
Metteyya (Skt., Maitreya). The localized cults of the relics
likely represents a continuing effort by new kings, their fami-
of the Buddha link Southeast Asians not only with early Indi-
lies, and their rivals to establish their own claims to be identi-
an Buddhism but also with the cosmographic practices of the
fied with divine and cosmic power.
rulers of the classical indianized states and beyond that with
Influential mainland Southeast Asians who worked with
the cadastral cults of pre-indianized Southeast Asia.
Indian texts made minimal use of the Indian idea that one’s
The cult of the relics of the Buddha does not constitute
place within the world was fixed at birth by some cosmic
the whole of Buddhism as practiced in Southeast Asia. Be-
plan. The caste system did not survive the voyage across the
tween the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries, missionary
Bay of Bengal except in a very modified form, whereby kings
monks established a Therava¯da Buddhist orthodoxy among
claimed to be ks:atriya; even then a man of quite lowly origins
the majority of peoples, both rural and urban, living in what
could become a ks:atriya by successfully usurping the throne
are today Burma, Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia. In a sense,
and clothing himself in sacralized regalia.
orthodox Buddhism made sense to Southeast Asians because
of the pre-Buddhist idea that religious virtue is not a product
The process of indianization in Southeast Asia included
solely of descent from particular ancestors but also a conse-
identifying a power believed to be embodied in a local shrine
quence of one’s own religiously effective actions. In Buddhist
with divine or cosmic powers known in Indian texts. This
terms, this idea was formulated so that people understood
made possible the creation of larger polities, since peoples in
that although they were born with a certain karmic legacy
very different parts of a realm saw themselves as part of the
of both merit and demerit they also continually acquire new
same cosmos and worshiped the same gods, often gods who
merit and demerit from morally significant acts.
were also equated with the rulers. The polity was a man:d:ala,
the “circle of a king,” a domain in which a particular ruler
Those who became adherents of Therava¯da Buddhism
succeeded in being viewed as the link between the world and
also retained pre-Buddhist beliefs in spirits and deities. These
the cosmos. The kings who founded Angkor near the Great
beliefs were given new significance in the context of a Bud-
Lake in Cambodia in the ninth century were notably success-
dhist worldview. Some of the supernatural beings were uni-
ful in establishing a cult of the devara¯ja, a god-king, whose
versalized and identified with Hindu deities also known to
man:d:ala included at its height all of present-day Cambodia,
Buddhism. More significantly, spirits and deities were ac-
the Mekong Delta of southern Vietnam, and central and
corded a subordinate place within the Buddhist cosmic hier-
northeastern Thailand. The devara¯ja cult centered on the as-
archy generated by the law of karman. Beliefs in pre-
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SOUTHEAST ASIAN RELIGIONS: MAINLAND CULTURES
8645
Buddhist concepts of the vital spirit—the leikpya of the Bur-
Chinese. An interesting variant on the myth is found among
mese, the khwan of the Tai, the pralu Dn of the Khmer—also
some Karen in Burma, who were converted in significant
remained and continued to be part of ritual. These beliefs
numbers to Christianity beginning early in the nineteenth
were, however, reformulated to take into account the Bud-
century. Their myth tells how the book will be returned to
dhist teaching that the soul is not immortal and that “con-
them by foreign brothers who are identified with the West-
sciousness” (Pali, viñña¯n:a) links one life with the next.
ern missionaries. Even among Karen, however, more have
become Buddhist than have become Christian.
The Therava¯da revolution in mainland Southeast Asia
did not lead to the demise of the man:d:ala; on the contrary,
Missionization—not only by Christians but in recent
it led local lords to demonstrate their effectiveness by claim-
years by Buddhists—and the spread of modern systems of
ing to be righteous rulers and validating such claims by as-
compulsory education have rendered tribal religions increas-
serting their independence or even embarking on military
ingly peripheral. So, too, have improved health care and sec-
ventures to extend their domains at the expense of other
ular education undermined beliefs in spirits that were previ-
lords. Despite the political fragmentation of premodern
ously elements of the religions of Southeast Asian Buddhists
Buddhist societies, all could conceive of being part of a com-
and Vietnamese. Moreover, as agriculture has been trans-
mon Buddhist world. Such a conception was expressed, for
formed by large-scale irrigation works and the introduction
example, in the recognition of important pilgrimage
of new technology and new high-yield varieties of rice, peo-
shrines—ones containing relics of the Buddha—that lay in
ples in the region have become less inclined to credit super-
other domains.
natural powers with the control over fertility. They may con-
The success of Therava¯da Buddhism led to a much
tinue to perform traditional rites, but these are becoming
sharper distinction between the religious traditions of the
more secular celebrations than sources of religious meaning.
peoples of the western part of mainland Southeast Asia and
Nonetheless, even as the worlds of Southeast Asians are radi-
those east of the Annamite cordillera. Not only were the
cally transformed by political-economic forces and cultural
Vietnamese becoming increasingly sinicized, but the Cham,
changes that have occurred over the past century and a half,
who had once had an important indianized culture in south-
there still remains among many the ancient idea of cultivat-
ern Vietnam, turned from this tradition and embraced Islam,
ing virtue through morally effective action.
a religion that was becoming established among other Aus-
S
tronesian-speaking peoples in major societies of the Indone-
EE ALSO Ancestors, article on Ancestor Worship; Boats;
Buddhism, article on Buddhism in Southeast Asia; Burmese
sian archipelago and on the Malay Peninsula.
Religion; Drums; Folk Religion, article on Folk Buddhism;
Tribal peoples in Southeast Asia, mainly located in
Islam, article on Islam in Southeast Asia; Khmer Religion;
highland areas where they practiced swidden cultivation, did
Kingship, article on Kingship in East Asia; Lao Religion;
not remain totally isolated from the changes occurring in the
Megalithic Religion, article on Historical Cultures; Merit,
lowlands. A myth among many tribal peoples in the northern
article on Buddhist Concepts; Na¯gas and Yaks:as; Nats; Ne-
part of the region tells of a “lost book” or “lost writing.” The
grito Religions; Pilgrimage, article on Buddhist Pilrimage in
Kachin version of the myth is typical. Ninggawn wa Magam,
South and Southeast Asia; Sam:gha, article on Sam:gha and
the deity from whom humans acquired culture, called all the
Society in South and Southeast Asia; Stupa Worship; Thai
different tribes of humans together. To each tribe he gave a
Religion; Therava¯da; Vietnamese Religion.
book to help them in their lives. Shans and Burmans received
books written on palm leaves; Chinese and foreigners (i.e.,
BIBLIOGRAPHY
Westerners) received books on paper; and Kachin received
Robert Heine-Geldern interprets archaeological and ethnographic
a book of parchment. The Kachin, not truly understanding
evidence with reference to a diffusionist thesis that posited
the significance of the book, ate it and have been without
the source of a prehistoric “megalithic complex” in Europe.
writing ever since. The myth reveals a sense on the part of
His most recent formulation of his position appears in
tribal peoples of being culturally deprived relative to those
“Some Tribal Art Styles in Southeast Asia,” in The Many
who have writing.
Faces of Primitive Art, edited by Douglas Fraser (Englewood
Cliffs, N.J., 1966), pp. 161–214. Kenneth Perry Landon, in
When tribal peoples have turned to expand their hori-
Southeast Asia: Crossroads of Religion (Chicago, 1969) and
zons, they have tended to do so through acquiring access to
Pierre-Bernard Lafont, in “Génies, anges et démons en Asie
the literature of their lowland neighbors. The Lawa, an Aus-
du Sud-Est,” in Génies, anges et démons (Paris, 1971), provide
troasiatic tribal people in Thailand, see themselves as Bud-
introductions to Southeast Asian religions in other than dif-
dhists, like their Northern Thai neighbors, but unable to
fusionist terms. By far the most detailed comparison of be-
liefs and practices relating to agriculture found among peo-
practice the religion in the hills where they have no monks
ples not only in mainland Southeast Asia but also on the
to instruct them. When they move down from the hills,
islands of the region is Eveline Porée-Maspero’s Étude sur les
however, they quickly transform themselves into Northern
rites agraires des Cambodgiens, 3 vols. (Paris, 1962–1969).
Thai. Mien, who are found more in southern China than in
Also see in this connection P. E. de Josselin de Jong’s “An
Southeast Asia, long ago developed a tradition of craft litera-
Interpretation of Agricultural Rites in Southeast Asia, with
cy, with ritual specialists being able to read Daoist texts in
a Demonstration of Use of Data from Both Continental and
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

8646
SOUTHEAST ASIAN RELIGIONS: MAINLAND CULTURES
Insular Asia,” Journal of Asian Studies 24 (February 1965):
Perspectives, discusses the man:d:ala model, a model also dis-
283–291. A general introduction to Southeast Asian reli-
cussed at somelength under the rubric of the “galactic polity”
gions with reference to their social context is provided in my
by Stanley J. Tambiah in World Conqueror and World Re-
book The Golden Peninsula: Culture and Adaptation in Main-
nouncer (Cambridge, 1976).
land Southeast Asia (New York, 1977).
A. Thomas Kirsch in “Complexity in the Thai Religious System:
The volume Early South East Asia: Essays in Archaeology, History,
An Interpretation,” Journal of Asian Studies 36 (February
and Historical Geography, edited by R. B. Smith and William
1977): 241–266; Melford E. Spiro in Burmese Supernatural-
Watson (Oxford, 1979), contains information on prehistoric
ism, 2d ed. (Philadelphia, 1978); and Stanley J. Tambiah in
and protohistoric religion; the work also has a good bibliog-
Buddhism and the Spirit Cults in North-East Thailand
raphy. H. G. Quaritch Wales’s Prehistory and Religion in
(Cambridge, 1970) discuss the relationship between pre-
Southeast Asia (London, 1957), although dated and relying
Buddhist and Buddhist beliefs in Thai and Burmese religion.
too heavily on diffusionist theory, still remains the only work
Similar attention to pre-Sinitic religious beliefs in Vietnam-
to attempt a synthesis of prehistoric evidence. Per So
ese religion is given by Leopold Cadière in Croyances et pra-
⁄ rensen
reports on the find he interprets as evidence of prehistoric
tiques religieuses des Viêtnamiens, 3 vols. (Saigon and Paris,
shamanism in “‘The Shaman’s Grave,’” in Felicitation Vol-
1955–1958). See also Pierre Huard and Maurice Durand’s
umes of Southeast-Asian Studies Presented to Prince
Connaissance du Viêtnam (Paris and Hanoi, 1954).
Dhaninivat, vol. 2 (Bangkok, 1965), pp. 303–318. The
Kirk Endicott’s Batek Negrito Religion (Oxford, 1979) describes
model of the “cadastral cult” was advanced by Paul Mus in
the religion of the last remaining major population of hunt-
India Seen from the East: Indian and Indigenuous Cults in
ing-and-gathering people on the mainland. Karl Gustav Izi-
Champa, translated by I. W. Mabbett and edited by I. W.
kowitz’s Lamet: Hill Peasants in French Indochina (Göteborg,
Mabbett and D. P. Chandler (Cheltenham, Australia, 1975).
1951), Peter Kunstadter’s The Lua D (Lawa) of Northern Thai-
O. W. Wolters, in History, Culture, and Region in Southeast
land: Aspects of Social Structure, Agriculture and Religion
Asian Perspectives (Brookfield, Vt., 1982), proposes the no-
(Princeton, 1965), and H. E. Kauffmann’s “Some Social and
tion that “men of prowess” was a general type in prehistoric
Religious Institutions of the Lawa of Northwestern Thai-
and protohistoric Southeast Asia. His interpretation is based,
land,” Journal of the Siam Society 60 (1972): 237–306 and
in part, on A. Thomas Kirsch’s argument developed in a
65 (1977): 181–226, discuss aspects of religious life among
comparison of Southeast Asian tribal ethnography in Feasting
Austroasiatic-speaking tribal peoples. Among the more de-
and Social Oscillation: A Working Paper on Religion and Soci-
tailed accounts of the religions of Hmong (Meo) and Mien
ety in Upland Southeast Asia (Ithaca, N.Y., 1973). Kirsch, in
(Yao) peoples are Jacques Lemoine’s Yao Ceremonial Paint-
turn, has elaborated on the idea of oscillation between “dem-
ings (Atlantic Highlands, N.J., 1982); Guy Morechand’s
ocratic” and “autocratic” chiefdoms first advanced by Ed-
“Principaux traits du chamanisme Méo Blanc en Indochine,”
mund Leach in Political Systems of Highland Burma (Cam-
Bulletin de l’École Française d’Extrême-Orient 54 (1968):
bridge, Mass., 1954).
58–294; and Nusit Chindarsi’s The Religion of the Hmong
Ñua
(Bangkok, 1976). Theodore Stern in “Ariya and the
Vietnamese scholars have shown considerable interest in recent
Golden Book: A Millenarian Buddhist Sect among the
years in tracing the Southeast Asian origins of Vietnamese
Karen,” Journal of Asian Studies 27 (February 1968): 297–
civilization. Much of their work is discussed by Keith Weller
328, and William Smalley’s “The Gospel and Cultures of
Taylor in The Birth of Vietnam (Berkeley, Calif., 1983). The
Laos,” Practical Anthropology 3 (1956): 47–57, treat some as-
process of “indianization” and the relationship between this
pects of religious change among tribal peoples.
process and what H. G. Quaritch Wales called “local genius”
in the shaping of Southeast Asian religious traditions has
New Sources
Benjamin, Geoffrey, and Cynthia Chou, eds. Tribal Communities
been most intensively explored by George Coedès in The In-
in the Malay World: Historical, Cultural and Social Perspec-
dianized States of Southeast Asia, edited by Walter F. Vella
tives. Singapore, 2002.
and translated by Susan Brown Cowing (Canberra, 1968);
H. G. Quaritch Wales in The Making of Greater India, 3d
Do, Thien. Vietnamese Supernaturalism: Views from the Southern
rev. ed. (London, 1974) and The Universe Around Them:
Region. London, 2003.
Cosmology and Cosmic Renewal in Indianized Southeast Asia
Kipp, Rita Smith, and Susan Rodgers, eds. Indonesian Religions in
(London, 1977); O. W. Wolters in “Khmer ‘Hinduism’ in
Transition. Tucson, 1987.
the Seventh Century,” in Early South East Asia: Essays in Ar-
Lemoine, Jacques and Chiao Chien, eds. The Yao of South China:
chaeology, History and Historical Geography and in History,
Recent International Studies. Paris, 1991.
Culture and Region in Southeast Asian Perspectives (both cited
Morrison, Kathleen D., and Laura L. Junker, eds. Forager-Traders
above); Hermann Kulke in The Devaraja Cult, translated by
in South and Southeast Asia: Long-term Histories. New York,
I. W. Mabbett (Ithaca, N.Y., 1978); and I. W. Mabbett in
2002.
“Devaraja,” Journal of Southeast Asian History 10 (September,
Swearer, Donald K. The Buddhist World of Southeast Asia. Albany,
1969): 202–223; “The ‘Indianization’ of Southeast Asia: Re-
1995.
flections on Prehistoric Sources,” Journal of Southeast Asian
Tarling, Nicholas, ed. The Cambridge History of Southeast Asia.
Studies 8 (March 1977): 1–14; “The ‘Indianization’ of
Cambridge, 1992.
Southeast Asia: Reflections on the Historical Sources,” Jour-
nal of Southeast Asian Studies
8 (September 1977): 143–161;
Wijeyewardene, Gehan. Ethnic Groups across National Boundaries
and “Varn:as in Angkor and the Indian Caste System,” Jour-
in Mainland Southeast Asia. Singapore, 1990.
nal of Asian Studies 36 (May 1977): 429–442. O. W.
CHARLES F. KEYES (1987)
Wolters, in History, Culture and Region in Southeast Asian
Revised Bibliography
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SOUTHEAST ASIAN RELIGIONS: INSULAR CULTURES
8647
SOUTHEAST ASIAN RELIGIONS: INSULAR
islands some sailing skills were abandoned, but a coastal or
CULTURES
riverine orientation was generally maintained. During most
The cultures of insular Southeast Asia are made up predomi-
of their protohistory, Austronesian populations lived in im-
nantly of peoples speaking Austronesian languages, and the
permanent settlements and combined shifting cultivation
traditional religions of the area, despite substantial diversity
with hunting and gathering. The development toward cen-
and extensive borrowing from other sources, retain signifi-
tralized states began on Java, on the coast of Sumatra, and
cant features that reflect a common origin. Linguistic evi-
in several other coastal areas that were open to trade and out-
dence indicates that the point of origin of the languages of
side influences. Chief among these influences were religious
present-day Austronesians was the island of Taiwan (Formo-
ideas and inspiration that derived variously, at different peri-
sa) and possibly also the adjacent coastal region of southeast-
ods, from Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, and Christianity.
ern China. The initial expansion of the Austronesians began
The earliest Hindu inscriptions found in insular South-
in the third millennium BCE and proceeded, by stages,
east Asia date from the fourth century CE; their location and
through the Philippines and the islands of Indonesia, then
composition, however, suggest a long period of prior regional
east to the islands of the Pacific, and eventually west as far
contact with Indian religious ideas. By the fifth century,
as the island of Madagascar.
Hinduism is reliably reorted to have been established on
In the first stage of this expansion, migrating Austrone-
Java, and by the sixth century, there is evidence of Buddhist
sian groups possessed a basic cultural technology that includ-
influence on Sumatra and Java, with the port of Srivijaya de-
ed the domesticated dog and pig, a knowledge of the cultiva-
veloping into a major Buddhist center of learning in the sev-
tion of rice, millet, and sugarcane, and a developing
enth century. Javanese monuments dating from the eighth
craftsmanship in pottery, weaving, and barkcloth making. At
to the fourteenth centuries indicate a lively development and
a later stage in the course of this continuing expansion, the
interrelation of Saivaite, Vaisnavite, and Buddhist traditions.
Austronesians developed further forms of cultivation involv-
By the thirteenth century, Islam had begun to spread
ing breadfruit, bananas, taro, and yams and the use of a vari-
through the islands and exert a major influence. By the fif-
ety of fruit-bearing or starch-yielding palms. By this time
teenth century, Catholicism had reached the region with the
they also possessed domesticated chickens and had developed
arrival of the Portuguese and Spanish, and by the sixteenth
sails for their canoes and some of the sailing techniques that
century, Protestantism had made its appearance with the
were to carry them from island to island. By about 2500 BCE
Dutch and English. In addition, the popular traditions of
they had expanded through the southern Philippines and
Taoism and Confucianism were brought to the region by
into Borneo and had begun to penetrate the islands of both
Chinese traders and settlers. Both individually and together
eastern and western Indonesia.
these religions have had a profound effect in shaping reli-
gious practice in the region.
Because this expansion involved a scattering of numer-
ous small groups through thousands of islands over several
At present, 88 to 89 percent of the Indonesian popula-
millennia, it gave rise to considerable linguistic and cultural
tion is classified as Muslim, although a significant portion
diversity. Earlier island populations were undoubtedly assim-
of this population, particularly on Java, still adheres to tradi-
ilated, although there is very little linguistic evidence on
tional practices that are not considered orthodox. In the Phil-
these peoples except for those in Melanesia.
ippines, approximately 84 percent of the population is Cath-
olic; 3 percent is Protestant; and a further 5 percent are
Regional variation is indicated by the various linguistic
classified as Aglipayan, followers of an independent Philip-
subgroups of Austronesian that are currently recognized.
pine Christian church. Muslims constitute a small minority
Formosan languages are distinguished from Malayo-
of approximately 5 percent in the Philippines, while Chris-
Polynesian languages within the Austronesian family and the
tians make up about 9 percent of the Indonesian population.
Malayo-Polynesian languages are divided into (1) a western
In Indonesia, Bali forms a traditional Hindu-Buddhist en-
subgroup that includes the languages of the Philippines, Bor-
clave but there has occurred a recent resurgence of Hinduism
neo, Madagascar, and western Indonesia as far as the island
on Java and elsewhere. Many members of the Chinese popu-
of Sumbawa, (2) a central subgroup that begins in eastern
lation of Indonesia are officially considered Buddhists, al-
Sumbawa and comprises the languages of the Lesser Sundas
though some continue to practice forms of Taoism or Con-
and most of the Moluccas, and (3) an eastern subgroup that
fucianism. A considerable portion are also Christian. Official
includes the languages of southern Halmahera and all of the
statistics from Indonesia and the Philippines thus indicate
languages of the Pacific.
only a small minority of the population in either country as
In the course of migration, natural ecological variation
official adherents of some form of traditional religion. In Sa-
as well as numerous outside influences led to the develop-
rawak and Sabah, adherents of tradition constitute a high
ment, emphasis, or even abandonment of different elements
percentage of the population of their local area, but in Ma-
of a general Neolithic culture. In the equatorial zones, for ex-
laysia as a whole they are a minority. In Brunei, similar
ample, reliance on rice and millet gave way to a greater de-
groups form an even smaller minority.
pendence on tubers and on fruit- and starch-gathering activi-
National policies of the countries of the region affect the
ties. As populations moved into the interior of the larger
practice of traditional religions. Indonesia gives official rec-
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8648
SOUTHEAST ASIAN RELIGIONS: INSULAR CULTURES
ognition only to Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Hindu-
in Sabah, the Dusun, Murut, and Lun Dayeh; all of these
ism, and Buddhism, with the result that in effect no tradi-
tribal populations and other small groups as well have under-
tional religion is regarded as a religion. In some areas a tacit
gone conversion to Christianity in varying degrees.
tolerance of traditional practices has developed, but in gener-
Other adherents of traditional religion are more difficult
al there is mounting pressure to assimilate to an officially rec-
to classify. Some form small enclaves, often consisting of no
ognized religion. On the basis of early cultural borrowings
more than a few villages, whose traditional practices repre-
and some similarity in forms of worship, various ethnic
sent nonacceptance of the dominant religion of their region.
groups have gained recognition of their traditional religion
Such groups would include the Badui (or Kanekes) of West
as a Hindu sect. In the Philippines, missionary efforts by
Java, the Tengger of East Java, and the Waktu Tiga villagers
both Catholics and Protestants have been directed to conver-
of Lombok. All of these three groups maintain special priest-
sion of the remaining adherents of tribal religions. In Sara-
hoods. Badui priests are confined to an inner territorial
wak and Sabah, there is pressure to convert to Islam as well
realm, whereas among the Tengger, there is one priest for
as to Christianity. In all the countries of the region the adher-
each of twenty-eight villages. Both groups claim to preserve
ents of traditional religions are minorities whose distinct
an “Agama Budha,” which refers not to a form of Buddhism
ways of life are under pressure to change. Generally, they par-
but to a pre-Islamic fusion of Indic and local practice. The
ticipate only at the margins of national life.
Tengger priests, for example, follow an ancient Saiva liturgy
The tribal religions of the region vary according to the
that is kept secret from the village population, who see their
groups that continue to practice them. These groups include
worship as an ancestral cult.
small, often isolated peoples whose economy is based primar-
Many of the millenarian movements that have occurred
ily on hunting and gathering with limited cultivation. Exam-
in Indonesia and the Philippines can be seen as religious
ples of such groups are the Sakkudei of the island of Siberut
movements and the communities of members of these move-
off the coast of western Sumatra; various wandering bands
ments, such as the Kesepuhan in West Java, the Samin of
of Kubu scattered in the interior forests of Sumatra; groups
Central Java, or the Rizalistas of Luzon, may also be consid-
of a similar kind in Kalimantan who are referred to generical-
ered as traditional religious adherents. In addition, many
ly as Punan; as well as a variety of other small-scale societies
other individuals and groups carry on traditional rituals
on other islands—the Agta and other Aeta of Luzon, the
under nominal adherence to another formally recognized re-
Batak of Palawan, the DaDa or To Lare of Sulawesi (Celebes),
ligion. On the island of Flores, for example, the people of
or the Alifuru groups, such as the Huaulu and Nuaulu, of
Tana Wai Brama continue to maintain their traditional cere-
Ceram in eastern Indonesia. Many of these groups, with
monial cycle, even though they are formally classified as
their simplified technology, no longer possess the range of
Catholics. The same is true for other populations, both
economic pursuits attributed to the early Austronesians.
Christian and Muslim, throughout the islands. Official sta-
Other adherents of traditional religions include the uncon-
tistics are therefore often misleading in assessing the extent
verted members of larger, economically and socially more
of traditional religious adherence.
complex populations: some Batak, particularly Karo, from
north Sumatra; Ngaju communities in Kalimantan; various
Studies of traditional religion, many of which have been
Toraja peoples in Sulawesi; as well as the Sumbanese,
written by missionaries or colonial administrators, document
Savunese, and Timorese in eastern Indonesia. Sumba has the
beliefs and practices that have since been either abandoned
distinction of being the only island in Indonesia where a ma-
or modified through the process of conversion. Significant
jority of the population profess to follow their traditional
evidence on traditional religion is also derived from present
religion.
practices and general conceptions that have been incorporat-
ed and retained in the major recognized religions in the
Some of these Indonesian populations have formally es-
course of their accommodation to the traditions of the
tablished religious associations to preserve their traditional
region.
practices and some have come to be identified as followers
of Hindu-Dharma, a status that affords them official govern-
Chief among these basic conceptions and practices are
ment recognition. This is one possibility available to mem-
the following: (1) the prevalence of complementary duality;
bers of the Toraja “Alukta,” the Batak “Pelbegu,” the Ngaju
(2) the belief in the immanence of life and in the interdepen-
“Kaharingan,” and the Bugis “Towani.”
dence of life and death; (3) the reliance on specific rituals to
mark stages in the processes of life and death; and (4) the cel-
In the Philippines, a majority of the indigenous peoples
ebration of spiritual differentiation. All of these notions may
in the mountains of northern Luzon (among them the Isneg,
be regarded as part of a common Austronesian conceptual
Ifugao, Bontok, Ibaloi, Kalinga, and Ilongot), in Mindoro
heritage.
(the Hanunoo, Buhid, and Alangan), and in the interior of
Mindanao (the Subanun, Bukidnon, Tiruray, Manobo, Ba-
THE PREVALENCE OF COMPLEMENTARY DUALITY. Forms of
gabo, and Mandaya) have retained their traditional religions
complementary dualism are singularly pervasive in the reli-
despite increasing missionary efforts. In Sarawak, similar
gions of the region. Such dualism figures prominently, for
tribal peoples include the Iban, Kayan, Kenyah, and Kelabit;
example, in a wide variety of myths of the origin of the cos-
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SOUTHEAST ASIAN RELIGIONS: INSULAR CULTURES
8649
mos that combine themes of reproduction and destruction.
So plant an areca nut at her foot
Among the Ngaju of Kalimantan (Borneo) creation begins
And Soma Lopo has perished
when the mountain abodes of the two supreme deities clash
So plant a coconut at her head
repeatedly, bringing forth the upperworld and underworld
Let the coconut grow fruit for her head
and various of its parts; in the next phase of the creation,
And let the areca nut grow flowerstalks for her feet.
male and female hornbills of the two deities, perched on the
This parallelism, which is a common feature of oral composi-
tree of life, renew the struggle, destroying the tree but in the
tion, resembles in form the parallelism that is to be found
process creating the first man and woman. Among the Toraja
in the sacred literatures of other peoples of the world. (Both
of Sulawesi the universe originates from the marriage of
the Psalms and the Popol Vuh of the Quiche Maya provide
heaven and earth: Heaven lies upon the broad earth and, as
good examples of such canonical parallelism.) Myths of the
they separate, the land is revealed and all their divine chil-
Batak, of the people of Nias, of the Ngaju, Kendayan, and
dren, including the sun and moon, come forth. Among the
Mualang Dayak, of the Toraja, and of a majority of the peo-
Mambai of east Timor, a formless hermaphroditic being
ples of eastern Indonesia adhere to relatively strict forms of
molds and shelters Mother Earth and Father Heaven; they
parallelism, whereas the myths of other traditional religious
separate and the pregnant Mother Earth bears the first
adherents follow freer forms of parallel compositions. In all
mountain, known as the Great Father. Heaven descends
cases, a form of duality is an essential part of the very process
upon Earth again and from their union are born the first
of composition.
trees and rocks and the first men and women. At each birth,
Conceptions of complementary dualism continue to
the waters of the world increase, until Father Heaven eventu-
pervade even those societies that have adopted Hinduism,
ally abandons Mother Earth, who is left to decompose and
Islam, or Christianity. Balinese society is replete with dual-
disintegrate.
ism. The opposition between Barong and Rangda, which
Ideas of complementary duality are reflected in ideas
forms one of Bali’s best-known dramatic temple perfor-
about the principal divinity, who is often conceived of as a
mances, is a particularly striking example of complementary
paired being (Mahatala/Jata among the Ngaju, Amawolo/
dualism. The Javanese wayang, or shadow theater, is similarly
Amarawi among the Sumbanese, or Nian Tana/Lero Wulan
based on forms of dual opposition. Although the initial basis
among the Ata Tana Ai); in ideas about categories of spirits,
for many of the most important dramas was Indian, the Java-
heroes, and other ancestral figures; in ideas about the division
nese have developed and extended these dramas to suit local
of sacred space: upperworld and underworld, upstream and
conceptions. In the Bha¯ratayuddha (in the Javanese version
downstream, mountainward and seaward, or inside and out-
of the Hindu epic Maha¯bha¯rata), the Pandawa heroes defeat
side; and above all, in ideas about classes of persons and the
and destroy their cousins, the Korawa. Yet according to the
order of participants in the performance of rituals.
Korawasrama, an important Javanese text for which there ex-
Major celebrations based on this complementarity can
ists no Sanskrit equivalent, the Korawa are resuscitated to
become a form of ritual combat that reenacts the reproduc-
continue their struggle with Pandawa for, as the text asserts:
tive antagonisms of creation. To choose but one example, the
“How could the world be well ordered if the Korawa and
Savunese of eastern Indonesia gather on the day preceding
Pandawa no longer existed? Are they not the content of the
the night of a full moon to form male and female groups ac-
world?”
cording to lineage affiliation; they position themselves at the
BELIEF IN THE IMMANENCE OF LIFE. Virtually all of the tra-
upper and lower end of a sacred enclosure on the top of a
ditional religions of the region are predicated on a belief in
particular hill. There they engage in ceremonial cockfighting
the immanence of life. In the literature this concept is often
that is timed to reach its crescendo precisely at noon. This
simplistically referred to as “animism.” In traditional my-
high cosmological drama is based on a series of complemen-
thologies, creation did not occur ex nihilo: The cosmos was
tary oppositions: the conjunction of male and female, the
violently quickened into life and all that exists is thus part
union of the upper and lower divisions of the cosmos, and
of a living cosmic whole. Life is evident everywhere in a mul-
the antagonism of spirits of the mountain and sea, all of
titude of forms whose manifestation can be complex, par-
which are timed to climax when the sun is at its zenith and
ticularistic, but also transitory. There are many different
the moon at its fullest.
classes of beings, including humans, whose origin may be
identified in some mythological account but the system is in-
A significant feature of the traditional religions of the
herently open and other classes of beings may be recognized
region is the preservation of sacred knowledge through spe-
whose origin is unknown, even though their manifestation
cial forms of ritual language that are characterized by the per-
is evident. In many of the traditional religions there is no sin-
vasive use of parallelism. Parallelism is a form of dual phrase-
gle origin of humankind. Commonly, humans either de-
ology and, in its most canonical form, results in a strict
scended from a heavenly sphere or emerged from earth or
dyadic expression of all ritual statements. The following
sea; yet, often, the origin of some categories of humans is left
lines, excerpted from a traditional Rotinese mortuary chant,
unexplained. The openness of these systems does not neces-
give an idea of the parallelism of such ritual poetry:
sarily involve indifference so much as a recognition of the
Delo Iuk has died
limitations of human knowledge.
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SOUTHEAST ASIAN RELIGIONS: INSULAR CULTURES
Although there exists an ultimate ground of identity to
inently in the religious activities of the living and the tombs
all manifestations of life, the traditional view makes no as-
of the dead are often sources of religious benefit. In some
sumption of identity or equality among particular manifesta-
areas, as on Sumba, the tombs of the dead occupy the
tions. The result is a general acceptance of a plurality of be-
center of the village; elsewhere they form the focal point of
ings and at the same time, especially in the mystic traditions
pilgrimage.
elaborated in Java, a recognition of the oneness of the indi-
The chief sacrificial animals in the traditional religions
vidual with the whole in the commonality of life.
are the chicken, the dog, and the pig (although among those
The traditional religions differ markedly, however, in
populations that keep them the water buffalo is by far the
their classification of categories or classes of beings. Priests
most important sacrificial animal). Sacrifice generally in-
of the Ifugao, for example, are reported to be able to distin-
volves creative analogies on an ordered scale. The people of
guish over fifteen hundred spirits or deities, who are divided
Nias, who perform spectacular pig sacrifices, describe them-
into forty classes. By contrast, the Rotinese recognize two
selves as “God’s pigs.” In the mortuary ceremonies of the
broad classes of spirits—those of the inside and those of the
Toraja, the sacrificial water buffalo is identified with the de-
outside—and are only concerned with naming the spirits of
ceased but, in other contexts, can represent the entire descent
the inside. The traditional religions also differ significantly
group. Among the Rotinese, as among other peoples of
in attitudes to the spirit world. For some, all spirits are poten-
Southeast Asia, the water buffalo can also be analogically
tially malevolent and must be placated; in others, benevolent
identified with the whole of the cosmos and sacrifice can thus
spirits are called upon to intervene against troublesome spir-
be conceived as a reenactment of creation.
its. In the majority, however, attitudes vary according to
The entrails of chickens and the livers of pigs frequently
types of spirits. The result is a kind of spiritual empiricism
provide a means of divination within a sacrificial context.
in which various ritual procedures are employed as experi-
These forms of divination, as well as others, such as the augu-
ments to see what occurs. Often this is highly individualistic:
ry of birds or divination by spear, together with spirit posses-
What works for one person may not work for another. In
sion form part of a complex revelatory process by which hu-
general, all traditional religions aim to achieve some form of
mans seek to interpret the wishes and intentions of the spirit
ritual balance that accords each category of life its appropri-
powers.
ate due.
RITUALS OF LIFE AND DEATH. The rituals of the different
Although rarely accorded philosophical justification ex-
traditional religions of the region invariably constitute part
cept in the more consciously elaborate traditional religions,
of a continuing process or cycle and are primarily concerned
there exists the underlying assumption that, since all is part
with the enhancement of life, either the life of particular per-
of a whole, any part can stand for the whole. Among the sim-
sons or the life of large collectivities, including that of the
plest but most common microcosmic representations of the
cosmos as a totality. Life-cycle rituals mark the process of life
macrocosm are rock and tree, whose union is variously inter-
and death. They may be seen to begin with marriage—the
preted as the primordial source of life and as the progenitori-
union of male and female—and proceed through specific
al conjunction of male and female. Other representations
stages. Prominent among these rituals are those that mark
abound. Ceremonial space may be constructed to mirror the
the seventh month of a woman’s pregnancy, haircutting,
whole: Villages, houses, or ships may be symbolically ar-
tooth filing, circumcision (which may have had a pre-Islamic
ranged on a macrocosmic basis, or particular objects, such
origin but has been given increased significance through the
as the kayon that is held up to begin and end a wayang perfor-
influence of Islam), the coming of adulthood through mar-
mance, the four-cornered raga-raga rack that hangs suspend-
riage, and the formation of an autonomous household,
ed in a traditional Batak house, or merely a flag and flagpole,
which in many societies centers on the celebration of the
can be vested with all-embracing cosmic significance. Fre-
completion of a house. In numerous societies, tattooing is
quently, the human body itself may represent the whole of
a physical marking of this process of development and special
the cosmos. All such representations have a potency that is
tattoos are used to identify individuals who can claim out-
centered, ordered, and ultimately diffused outward.
standing achievements. Often tattoos are regarded as a pre-
requisite for admission as well as individual identification in
A fundamental feature of the traditional religions is
the world after death.
their recognition that life depends upon death, that creation
derives from dissolution. This is the emphatic theme of most
Death rituals are part of the same process as those of life
myths of creation and is repeated in origin tales and in much
and in general are celebrated throughout the region with
folklore. In widespread tales of the origin of the cultivation
great elaboration. Death rituals are also performed in stages
of rice, millet, or of various tubers, for example, the first
commencing with burial and continuing sometimes for
sprouts or shoots of the new crop come from the body of
years. Such rituals are believed to chart, or even effect, the
some ancestral figure. Moreover, since life comes from death,
progress of the spirit of the deceased in its journey or eleva-
the ancestral dead or specific deceased persons, whose lives
tion through the afterworld. Major celebrations often occur
were marked by notable attainments, are regarded as capable
long after initial burial, when only the bones of the deceased
of bestowing life-giving potency. Thus the dead figure prom-
remain. These bones, separated from the flesh, may either be
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SOUTHEAST ASIAN RELIGIONS: INSULAR CULTURES
8651
reburied in a special sepulcher or reunited in a single tomb
In social terms, these spiritual premises are conducive
with the bones of other members of the descent group. Often
to notions of precedence and hierarchy. No society in the re-
the groups involved in performing these mortuary rituals
gion is without some form of social differentiation. Even in
complete and reverse the exchanges that began at the mar-
the simplest of tribal societies the birth order of the children
riage ceremony of the parents of the deceased, thus ending
of the same parents becomes a means for such distinctions.
one phase and beginning the next phase of a continuing
In many societies—perhaps a majority of the societies of the
cycle. On Bali, a Hindu cremation marks a comparable stage
region—forms and degrees of differentiation are endowed
following a similar pattern, whereas in Java and elsewhere,
with considerable importance. The populations of many of
despite an Islamic requirement of immediate burial, the spir-
these societies regard themselves as derived of different ances-
its of the dead are given regular offerings and the tombs of
tral origins or even of different classes of creation. Thus, for
former great rulers and leaders are prominent places of
example, the ranked class structures of the Ngaju of Kali-
pilgrimage.
mantan, of the Bugis of south Sulawesi, or of the peoples of
Sumba or Tanimbar in eastern Indonesia are all predicated
A feature of many of the rituals of life and death is their
on distinct creations.
botanic idiom, which reflects a common Austronesian agri-
cultural inheritance. The rituals describe a process of plant-
Equally, the same spiritual premises may promote no-
ing, growing, and ripening into old age; after the harvest
tions of achievement. A recurrent image of life involves the
comes the renewal of the cycle with the planting of new seed.
metaphor of the “journey of achievement.” Myths recount
Thus the rituals of the life cycle often parallel those of the
the founding journeys of the ancestors, folk tales extol the
agricultural cycle. Conceptually they are part of the same
attainments of heroic journeys, and dreams and séances can
process.
take the form of a spiritual journey. Furthermore, many so-
cieties encourage a period of journeying in early adult-
Headhunting was once a prominent feature of the social
hood as a means of gaining knowledge, wealth, fame, and
life of many of the peoples of the region. Although this form
experience.
of limited warfare was given various cultural interpretations,
Literally and spiritually, individuals are distinguished by
headhunting was frequently linked in rituals to the general
their journeys. Rank, prowess, and the attainment of wealth
cycle of death and renewal. In this sense, headhunting was
can be taken as evident signs of individual enhancement in
a form of “harvest” in which particular individuals were able
a life’s odyssey, and this enhancement may be celebrated
to achieve great reknown.
through major rituals, both in life and after death. In many
THE CELEBRATION OF SPIRITUAL DIFFERENTIATION. In the
traditional religions, mortuary rituals and the feasting that
traditional religions of the region, there is no presumption
generally accompanies them are the primary indicators of a
of identity attached to any of the manifestations of life. Cre-
person’s social and spiritual position and are intended to
ation produced myriad forms of being and the processes of
translate this position into a similarly enhanced position in
life that began in the past continue to the present. Generally,
the afterlife. These rituals invariably invoke a journey, often
not even humankind is credited with a single origin or source
described as the sailing of the ship of the dead, and by these
of being. The result is an essential openness to life, a basic
rituals the living act to accord the deceased a proper spiritual
acceptance of life’s many manifestations, and ultimately a
position. (Often heaven or the underworld are considered to
celebration of spiritual differentiation.
have many layers through which the soul of the dead wanders
to find its proper abode.)
The tendency in most traditional religions is to person-
In return for the performance of the mortuary ritual, the
alize whatever may be considered a manifestation of life. In-
deceased ancestor becomes capable of returning benefits to
cluded among such manifestations are the heavenly
the living. In ancient Java, these ideas were given an Indic
spheres—the sun, moon, and stars; the forces of nature—
interpretation in the mortuary elevation of rulers to identifi-
thunder, lightning, or great winds; points of geographical
cation with S´iva or the Buddha. Similar ideas still underlie
prominence—high mountain peaks, volcanic craters, water-
major temple rituals on Bali, megalithic tomb building
falls, caves, or old trees; places endowed with unusual signifi-
among the Sumbanese, the spectacular mortuary ceremonies
cance as the result of past occurrences—sites of abandoned
and cliff burial of the SaDdan Toraja, or the simple, less ob-
settlement, a former meeting place of some spirit, or the
trusive rituals of rock and tree elsewhere in the archipelago.
point of a past, powerful dream; and simpler iconic represen-
tations of life—ancient ancestral possessions, royal regalia,
Today throughout insular Southeast Asia, the basic
amulets, and other objects of specially conceived potency.
premises of traditional religions are under challenge from re-
Veneration for all such objects is accorded to the potency
ligions such as Islam and Christianity that preach transcen-
that the objects are considered to possess, but only as long
dence in place of the immanence of life and assert spiritual
as this potency is evident. Confrontation with any new
equality rather than celebrate spiritual differentiation. These
source of unknown power requires a kind of ritual empiri-
religions are also under challenge from modernizing national
cism to discover precisely what is that power’s appropriate
governments that insist upon bureaucratic homogeneity and
due.
positive rationalism. Yet despite present pressures, traditional
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8652
SOUTHEAST ASIAN RELIGIONS: NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS IN INSULAR CULTURES
ways of thinking and acting continue to show remarkable re-
McAmis, Robert Day. Malay Muslims: The History and Challenge
silience and continuity with the past.
of Resurgent Islam in Southeast Asia. Grand Rapids, Mich.,
2002.
SEE ALSO Balinese Religion; Batak Religion; Bornean Reli-
Schiller, Anne Louise. Small Sacrifices: Religious Change and Cul-
gions; Buddhism, article on Buddhism in Southeast Asia;
tural Identity among the Ngaju of Indonesia. New York, 1997.
Bugis Religion; Drama, article on Javanese Wayang; Islam,
Wessing, Robert, and Roy E. Jordaan. “Death at the Building
article on Islam in Southeast Asia; Javanese Religion; Mega-
Site: Construction Sacrifice in Southeast Asia.” History of Re-
lithic Religion, article on Historical Cultures; Melanesian
ligions 37 (1997): 101–121.
Religions, overview article; Toraja Religion.
JAMES J. FOX (1987)
Revised Bibliography
BIBLIOGRAPHY
A useful starting point for the study of Southeast Asian religions
is Waldemar Stöhr and Piet Zoetmulder’s Die Religionen In-
SOUTHEAST ASIAN RELIGIONS: NEW
donesiens (Stuttgart, 1965). A French translation of this vol-
RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS IN INSULAR
ume is available: Les religions d’Indonésie (Paris, 1968). Stöhr
CULTURES
examines various specific traits of the tribal religions of Indo-
Uprisings with religious content have occurred throughout
nesia and the Philippines on a regional basis, while Zoet-
insular Southeast Asian history, but religious movements
mulder provides a succinct introduction to Hinduism, Bud-
dhism, and Islam in Indonesia, together with an excellent
show a distinctive focus. They are not anarchic protests but
discussion of the Balinese religion. Stöhr has since extended
organized efforts, of national or international scope, to
his general examination in Die Altindonesischen Religionen
achieve reforms or some other positive objective. Such move-
(Leiden, 1976). Both volumes have extensive and useful bib-
ments are apparent especially since the beginning of this cen-
liographies. The general study of animism by the Dutch mis-
tury. By limiting the discussion to such movements, we can
sionary-ethnographer A. C. Kruijt, Het animisme in den In-
at least begin to summarize a complicated fabric of history
dischen archipel (The Hague, 1906), is of historic interest as
in which local processes are as varied as they are fascinating.
is the study of the Batak religion by the German missionary
For the sake of simplicity, it is convenient to group the myri-
Johannes G. Warneck, Die Religion der Batak (Leipzig,
ad insular Southeast Asian religious movements under the
1909). Three studies of particular traditional religions by
three streams of religious tradition from which they draw,
Leiden-trained anthropologists emphasizing features of com-
in part, their inspiration: Buddhism and Hinduism, Islam,
plementary duality are Richard Erskine Downs’s The Reli-
gion of the Bare De-Speaking Toradja of Central Celebes
(The
and Christianity. These are discussed with reference to the
Hague, 1956), Hans Schärer’s Ngaju Religion, translated by
major island or peninsular areas of Southeast Asia: Indonesia,
Rodney Needham (1946; reprint, The Hague, 1963), and
Singapore, Malaysia, and the Philippines.
Peter Suzuki’s The Religious System and Culture of Nias, Indo-
HINDU-BUDDHIST MOVEMENTS. The first important twen-
nesia (The Hague, 1959). Roy F. Barton has provided con-
tieth-century Hindu-Buddhist movement was Budi Utomo
siderable documentation on the Ifugao, including a study of
(“high endeavor”) founded in 1908 by three students from
their religion, The Religion of the Ifugaos (Menasha, 1946);
the colonial Netherlands Indies medical school (STOVIA).
Clifford Geertz has contributed enormously to the study of
The movement gained early adherents in other colonial tech-
Java, particularly with an influential book, The Religion of
Java
(Glencoe, Ill., 1960). Our understanding of traditional
nical schools, those for veterinarians and engineers, suggest-
religions has also been greatly enhanced by a series of recent
ing that the Western technical training was leaving the native
ethnographies: Erik Jensen’s The Iban and Their Religion
students without any cultural or religious grounding, and
(Oxford, 1974), Michelle Z. Rosaldo’s Knowledge and Pas-
that such grounding is what they sought in movements like
sion (Cambridge, 1980), Gregory L. Forth’s Rindi (The
Budi Utomo. Budi Utomo hoped to revitalize the deeply
Hague, 1981), and Peter Metcalf’s A Borneo Journey into
cherished Hindu-Buddhist-Javanist core of the Indonesian
Death (Philadelphia, 1982), as well as by a number of as yet
identity, so that a meaningful and respectable alternative
unpublished Ph.D. dissertations: Elizabeth Gilbert Traube’s
could be found to the values offered by the West. Looking
“Ritual Exchange among the Mambai of East Timor” (Har-
to India’s Rabindranath Tagore and Mohandas Gandhi as
vard University, 1977), Robert William Hefner’s “Identity
inspirations in the revival of these traditions, Budi Utomo
and Cultural Reproduction among the Tengger-Javanese,”
(University of Michigan, 1982), E. D. Lewis’s “Tana Wai
was controlled by the aristocracy and intelligentsia and never
Brama” (Australian National University, 1982), and Janet
gained a broad popular following, although it had amassed
Alison Hoskins’s “Spirit Worship and Feasting in Kodi,
some ten thousand members within a year of its founding.
West Sumba” (Harvard University, 1984).
Another movement, Taman Siswa (“garden of learn-
New Sources
ing”), has a cultural grounding similar to that of Budi
Gibson, Thomas. Sacrifice and Sharing in the Philippine High-
Utomo, but, unlike the earlier movement, it emphasized ed-
lands: Religion and Society among the Buid of Mindoro. Lon-
ucation. Taman Siswa was founded by Suwardi Surjaningrat,
don and Dover, N.H., 1986.
later known as Ki Hadjar Dewantara (“teacher of the gods”).
Kipp, Rita Smith, and Susan Rodgers, eds. Indonesian Religions in
Inspired by Tagore as well as such critics of Western ed-
Transition. Tucson, 1987.
ucation as Maria Montessori, Dewantara founded schools
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8653
designed to restore lost traditions and identities by combin-
Asian Muslims, many of whom remained in the Near East
ing Western and Javanist-Hindu-Buddhist values. Taman
for study, to make the pilgrimage to Mecca. By the begin-
Siswa schools taught the Javanese arts to encourage the child
ning of the twentieth century, several Malay, Indonesian,
to express its inner identity, and they encouraged a family
Arab, and Indian citizens of insular Southeast Asia had come
like school community in which students and teachers were
under the influence of the proponent of Islamic modernism,
mutually involved as “brothers in learning.” By 1940, De-
Muhammad Abduh of Cairo’s al-Azhar center of learning.
wantara had succeeded in building some 250 schools
Returning to Singapore or other ports of embarkation and
throughout the islands, some of which survive today.
disembarkation to the Near East, these students founded
schools, journals, and associations that spread through the
A third major Hindu-Buddhist movement is really
islands and were known as the Kaum Muda (“new faction”)
many movements and cannot be reduced to any single date
of Southeast Asian Islam.
of founding. These are known as kebatinan, from the Java-
nese word (of Arabic origin) batin, meaning “inner.” Some-
Pressing for a return to the fundamental truths of text
thing in the range of one thousand different kebatinan sects
and tradition, the QurDa¯n and the h:ad¯ıth, while rejecting the
now flourish, primarily on Java, most founded since the be-
authority of teachers, scholars, and the ornate speculations
ginning of the twentieth century but rooted in practices and
of medieval Islam, modernists extolled the method of itjiha¯d:
beliefs that go back to the beginnings of the Javanese Hindu-
analysis of the original Arabic scriptures in order to read for
Buddhist civilizations in the eighth century CE.
oneself the word of God. Paradoxically, the return to scrip-
ture stimulated an advance to modernity, at least in certain
The aim of Javanese kebatinan is to mute the crude feel-
respects. Folk practices that were not in the text were excised,
ings and perceptions of the material world in order to experi-
while proper reading was held to demonstrate an Islamic
ence the underlying reality that is simultaneously god, self,
basis for modern economics, science, medicine, and law. In
and cosmos. The techniques are ascetic practice (abstinence
what they themselves termed a “reformation” (reformasi), the
from food, sleep, or sex), philosophical and psychological
devout Muslim could rediscover a pure identity and inspira-
speculation, and meditation. Guidance in kebatinan meet-
tion while equipping himself for the challenges of modernity.
ings is provided by a teacher who is believed to possess charis-
matic and sacral qualities. The objective is not only to reach
Gaining impetus first in Singapore, where returning
ultimate truth but also to balance and unify the self and, in
scholars founded such still-existing schools as Alsagoff, the
this way, the wider society and world. Some kebatinan move-
Kaum Muda encountered resistance in Malaya but spread
ments, such as Subud, have established branches in the West,
rapidly throughout the islands of Indonesia. Of the many In-
while others, such as Sumarah, have attracted Westerners to
donesian organizations standing for the Kaum Muda view-
Java; but, on the whole, kebatinan movements remain a
point, the most successful is the Muh:ammad¯ıyah, founded
quintessentially Javanese phenomenon.
in 1912 by Kiai H. A. Dahlan, in the court city of Jogjakarta,
Java. Muh:ammad¯ıyah worked not only to purify Islamic
While Budi Utomo, Taman Siswa, and kebatinan are
practice to accord with QurDa¯n ic teaching but also in educa-
primarily Javanese movements, Balinese Hinduism has been
tion and welfare, building a large system of schools as well
an important stimulus for a revival of Hindu traditions as an
as clinics, orphanages, and hospitals. Muh:ammad¯ıyah has
organized movement spreading through Java as well as Bali.
been notable, too, in the strength of its women’s movement,
Associated with this Neo-Hinduism is a Neo-Buddhism that
Aisjajah. Having survived periods of turmoil and repression,
claims as a root the only surviving folk-Buddhist population,
Muh:ammad¯ıyah now boasts some six million members.
the Tengger, who live near Mount Bromo on Java. The In-
donesian Buddhist Association claims to have built ninety
In reaction to Kaum Muda, the so-called Kaum Tua
monasteries and acquired fifteen million adherents since
(“old faction”) took steps to cement its cherished traditions,
1965 (when, following the massacre of an estimated half-
which the reformers threatened to sweep away. In Malaya,
million so-called Communists, all Indonesians were required
where Islam was identified with the state, the old could be
to declare some explicit religion or risk being branded atheis-
buttressed simply by stiffening the established hierarchy of
tic and, therefore, Communist). These revivals, which hold
Islamic officialdom. In Indonesia, lacking such an establish-
massive celebrations at such revered monuments as Lara
ment, reaction took the form of a counterreformation. In
Janggrang and Borobudur, combine indigenous Bali-Java
1926, Indonesian traditionalists founded the Nahdatul
traditions with Hindu-Buddhism.
Ulama (“union of Muslim teachers”) to withstand the threat
MUSLIM MOVEMENTS. Where the Hindu-Buddhist move-
of reformism. Ruled by a dynasty centered around a famous
ments of insular Southeast Asia have been confined primarily
religious school in East Java, Nahdatul Ulama has out-
to Java and Bali, the Muslim movements have ranged more
stripped Muh:ammad¯ıyah in gaining support from the rural
widely: throughout the three thousand miles of Indonesian
masses. While Nahdatul Ulama’s membership is larger, its
islands and into Singapore, Malaysia, and the southern Phil-
organization is looser, and this organization has not equalled
ippines. The stimulus for these movements was the opening
Muh:ammad¯ıyah in educational and welfare activities.
in 1870 of the Suez Canal and associated increase in steam-
CHRISTIAN MOVEMENTS. Although significant Christian
ship travel, which encouraged great numbers of Southeast
populations are found in Indonesia—especially among the
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8654
SOUTHEAST ASIAN RELIGIONS: NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS IN INSULAR CULTURES
Batak, the Amboinese, the Toraja, and the Minahas—and
ernment party, but in this highly modernized, formally plu-
among the Chinese throughout insular Southeast Asia, the
ralistic society, religious movements have not played a post-
only Christian nation is the Philippines. More than 80 per-
war role equal to that in the other insular Southeast Asian
cent of the Philippine population is Roman Catholic but an
nations.
estimated 350 distinct Christian bodies exist there today,
In all of these countries, religious movements were
many of which could be termed “movements.” Most signifi-
dominant sources of nationalism and creative ferment in the
cant, perhaps, is the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI, or
early twentieth century. Later, as the impetus toward inde-
Philippine Independent Church). The foundations for this
pendence was seized by more purely political movements,
offshoot of the Roman Catholic church were laid during the
the religious movements became relatively less important.
Philippine revolt against Spain in 1896, but the IFI was offi-
After independence was achieved, the regimes in these coun-
cially founded in 1902 by Gregorio Aglipay, who became its
tries (especially the two largest, Indonesia and the Philip-
first archbishop. When the Spanish were defeated, the Filipi-
pines) have tended to become authoritarian, while religious
no priests of the IFI took over parishes held by the friars and
movements (such as the Muslim fundamentalists) have
achieved a membership of 1.5 million, or 25 percent of the
eclipsed the Communists and others as the locus of aspira-
Christian population. Highly nationalistic, the IFI has been
tion independent of the government. The beginning of the
known to raise the Philippine flag at the time of the consecra-
twenty-first century could parallel the beginning of the twen-
tion of the Host in the Mass.
tieth, in that the stage is set for religious movements to re-
At one time the IFI canonized José Rizal, the Filipino
sume their earlier role as a reformative force independent of
novelist and nationalist martyr, and other movements, too,
the central power.
deify Rizal as a Christ of the Malays. An example is Iglesia
SEE ALSO Buddhism, article on Buddhism in Southeast
in Cristo, founded in 1914 by Feix Manalo and now a highly
Asia; Christianity, article on Christianity in Asia; Gandhi,
organized movement based on a special method of medita-
Mohandas; Islam, article on Islam in Southeast Asia; Ta-
tion. Another Rizalist group, Lapiang Malaya, attacked the
gore, Rabindranath.
city of Manila in 1967. Believing themselves immune to bul-
lets, they provoked the police and military into violent reac-
BIBLIOGRAPHY
tion and thirty-three of them died. Such movements fuse
An outstanding account of religiously grounded uprisings before
Christian inspiration with nativism, nationalism, and mille-
the twentieth century is P. B. R. Carey’s Babad Dipanagara:
narianism, often opposed to westernization, modernization,
An Account of the Outbreak of the Java War, 1825–1830
and oppression.
(Kuala Lumpur, 1981). Other excellent accounts for Java in-
clude Sartono Kartodirdjo’s The Peasants’ Revolt of Banten in
RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS AND CONTEMPORARY SOCIETY IN
1888: Its Conditions, Course and Sequel; A Case Study of Social
INSULAR SOUTHEAST ASIA. At different periods and in differ-
Movements in Indonesia (The Hague, 1966). For Sumatra,
ent places, these religious movements have contributed dif-
see Christine Dobbin’s Islamic Revivalism in a Changing
ferently. Most of them, regardless of affiliation, were inspira-
Peasant Economy: Central Sumatra, 1784–1847 (London,
tional catalysts in giving rise to the striving for independence
1983).
and modernity that led to the more directly political nation-
On Budi Utomo, see Bernard H. M. Vlekke’s Nusantara: A Histo-
alist movements that began in the early twentieth century
ry of Indonesia, rev. ed. (The Hague, 1959), pp. 348–391.
and culminated in the independence of these new nations
On Taman Siswa, see Ruth T. McVey’s “Taman Siswa and
soon after World War II. Since independence, their role has
the Indonesian National Awakening,” Indonesia 4 (October
1967): 128–149; on Sumarah, David Gordon Howe’s “Su-
varied. In Indonesia, the Muslims have generally acted as an
marah: A Study of the Art of Living” (Ph. D. diss., University
oppositional force complementing the government, while
of North Carolina, 1980); on kebatinan, J. A. Niels Mulder’s
the Hindu-Buddhist streams have either fed into the Javan-
Mysticism and Daily Life in Contemporary Java: A Cultural
ist-oriented national culture and government or provided
Analysis of Javanese Worldview and Ethics as Embodied in Ka-
personal fulfillment outside the governmental arena.
batinan and Everyday Experience (Amsterdam, 1975).
In Malaysia, the Muslims have identified more strongly
For Islamic reformism in Malaya and Singapore, see chapters 2
with the government, while Hindu-Buddhism has not
and 3 of William R. Roff’s The Origins of Malay Nationalism
claimed a place in the national political culture equal to that
(New Haven, 1967). For Indonesia, see Taufik Abdullah’s
Schools and Politics: The Kaum Muda Movement in West Su-
of Hindu-Buddhism in Indonesia. In the Philippines, Islam
matra, 1927–1933 (Ithaca, N.Y., 1971); my Muslim Puri-
has been oppositional, entrenched in the south against Chris-
tans: Reformist Psychology in Southeast Asian Islam (Berkeley,
tian incursions identified with the national polity; Christian-
1978); and, specifically for Muhammadiyah, see Howard M.
ity has been identified more with governmental authority, al-
Federspiel’s “The Muhammadijah: A Study of an Orthodox
though Christianity, too (exemplified by such movements as
Islamic Movement in Indonesia.” Indonesia 10 (October
the Christians for National Liberation and church support
1970): 57–79.
of Corazon Aquino during her rise to power in 1986), has
A good summary of the religious situation in the Philippines can
had an oppositional role. In Singapore, the Muslims have
be found in David Joel Steinberg’s The Philippines: A Singu-
played an oppositional role in relation to the dominant gov-
lar and a Plural Place (Boulder, Colo. 1982.)
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SOUTHERN AFRICAN RELIGIONS: AN OVERVIEW
8655
For an overview of contemporary movements, see Robert W. Hef-
systems and institutions discussed here indeed still exist
ner’s (ed.) The Politics of Multiculturalism: Pluralism and Cit-
widely but are not the sole beliefs or practice of whole popu-
izenship in Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia (Honolulu,
lations.
2001); Raymond L. M. Lee’s and Susan E. Ackerman’s Sa-
cred Tensions: Modernity and Religious Transformation in Ma-

CONCEPTS OF GOD. Throughout southern Africa there is an
laysia (Columbia, S.C., 1997); and Tony Day’s Fluid Iron:
apprehension of God as a numinous being associated with
State Formation in Southeast Asia (Honolulu, 2002).
light, brightness, and sheen. God may be represented by a
J
high mountain glittering with snow, a tree symbolizing the
AMES L. PEACOCK (1987 AND 2005)
mountain, or a sacred grove. There is a lively belief in the
survival of the dead and in their power over the living, a
power closely akin to that which living senior kinsmen have
SOUTHERN AFRICAN RELIGIONS
over their juniors. There is a belief in medicines—material
This entry consists of the following articles:
substances which can be manipulated for good or ill, healing
AN OVERVIEW
or murder, and which include poisons put in food as well
SOUTHERN BANTU RELIGIONS
as ointments which are rubbed on the body to make a hunt-
er’s aim true, a warrior “slippery,” a candidate successful in
SOUTHERN AFRICAN RELIGIONS: AN
examinations, or a choir or rugby team victorious in compe-
OVERVIEW
tition. Everywhere the power of evil is feared—a power
There is a basic similarity in religious practice, symbols, and
thought to be incarnate in certain persons or familiars they
ideas throughout southern Africa, from Uganda to the south-
control, which is called witchcraft. The notion of witchcraft
ern sea, from the east coast to Cameroon. This is the area
involves the personification of anger, hate, jealousy, envy,
in which Bantu languages are spoken, and there is a link,
lust, and greed—the negative feelings which people observe
though no absolute coincidence, between language family
in themselves and in their neighbors. All these beliefs are gen-
and religious symbolism. Some of the religious symbols of
eral, but they appear in infinite variety, modified by kinship
Africa also occur in Europe: The divine king of the Ganda,
and political structure, by economy, and by poetic imagina-
the Bemba, the Nyakyusa, and the Zulu appeared in the
tion, and they have changed through time.
Grove of Nemi in ancient Italy and in Stuart England; but
How clearly God is distinguished from the first human,
there are many other symbols of more limited provenance,
or from the founding heroes of a particular lineage, also var-
such as fire, symbol of lordship or authority, and blowing out
ies with place and time. Among some peoples, at least, the
water, or “spitting,” a symbol of the confession of anger and
distinction became clearer as outside contacts extended and
the act of forgiveness and goodwill.
the known world was no longer confined within a frame of
Religious belief in southern Africa can best be under-
kinship. Over many centuries Hebrew, Christian, and Islam-
stood through its symbolism, for religion here is expressed
ic ideas of God, with their symbolism of monotheism and
more through drama and poetry than through dogma or
of God on high, have impinged on other ideas in Africa, no-
theological speculation. The invisible is embodied in tangible
tably the association of the dead with the earth; in some
symbols which are bent to human purposes. Hence attention
places a process of change may be traced over the past hun-
must focus on the rituals celebrated.
dred years.
Among any one people there are likely to be dominant
Throughout southern Africa God has been remote, ap-
symbols which recur in one ritual after another, and full un-
proached only by exceptional priests or by the “elders.” The
derstanding of them depends upon analysis of the whole ritu-
dead are regarded as alive, and it is the shades, or ancestors,
al cycle. Examples of such symbols are the mudyi tree (with
the senior dead kin, who are the mediators between humani-
a milky latex), which among the Ndembu represents
ty and divinity, communicating human needs to the divine.
matriliny, motherhood, and womanhood, and the plantain
Prayer or direct offerings to God himself rarely occur in tra-
and sweet banana—the leaves, flowers, fruit, succoring
ditional practice, but awe of God is constantly manifested,
stem—which among the Nyakyusa represent male and fe-
as fear of contamination, as a distancing of humanity from
male respectively. These symbols are as obvious to a Nyakyu-
God, and avoidance of such emblems of sacred power as the
sa as the skirt and trousers used to differentiate gender on
thunderbolt, the tree struck by lightning, and the python in
washroom signs are to a European or an American.
the grove. One does not speak readily of God, and one speaks
The present tense is used for observations made during
of him not at all if he is near. Once, when this writer was
the twentieth century (with some references to earlier observ-
at school in London, a fellow student (later a head of state
ers); but since rapid change is going on throughout Africa
in Africa) started in his seat when this writer was so rash as
and since traditional African practice exists side by side with,
to discuss lightning on a day when the Lord was muttering
and interacts with, modern Christian and Islamic practice,
overhead. Unusual fecundity, such as twin birth, is also of
this article should be read in conjunction with others in the
God and fearful, hence twins and their parents are isolated
encyclopedia. What is described here is but a fragment of
from the normal village community and, because of their di-
current religious practice in southern Africa: The symbolic
vine connection, they function as “herds” to drive off storms.
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8656
SOUTHERN AFRICAN RELIGIONS: AN OVERVIEW
Gabriel M. Setiloane, himself a Methodist minister, ar-
The living and the dead are so closely associated in
gues cogently in The Image of God among the Sotho-Tswana
southern Africa that it is common for a man’s heir (a brother,
(Rotterdam, 1976) that the first missionary to the Tswana,
son, or sister’s son) and a woman’s heir (a sister, daughter,
Robert Moffat (the father-in-law of David Livingstone), mis-
or brother’s daughter) to take the property, the name, the so-
understood the Tswana language (into which he translated
cial position, and the responsibilities of the deceased. Hence
the New Testament) and hence the Tswana experience of
one may be told that the holder of some office—a priest,
God. But it is John V. Taylor who shows, in The Primal Vi-
chief, king, or senior kinsman—is “Mswati the third” (or
sion, that in Africa God is both there and not there, that he
tenth, as the case may be). A founding hero frequently has
is both sought and rejected. Bishop Taylor fastens upon the
a living representative in this sense, a “divine king,” that is,
“significance of this ambivalence,” saying that humans have
a ruler or priest on whose health and virility the health and
been aware of the numinous and their dependence upon it
fertility of men, cattle, and land are thought to depend. Even
but have sought to separate themselves from it.
into the twentieth century, a divine king who was ailing or
feeble would be smothered—he must “die for the people”—
SHADES. Among southern African peoples shades are of two
and then be replaced.
categories: the dead senior kin (male and female) of each
family or lineage and the founding heroes. Family shades are
Founding heroes typically are associated with a bed of
relevant only for their junior kin who celebrate “rituals of
reeds, from which the first man is said to have sprung; with
kinship”; founding heroes (male or female) have relevance
a river source along the watershed between the Zambezi and
for political units, that is, chiefdoms, groups of chiefdoms,
Kongo rivers; with a pool in one of the rushing rivers of the
or regions which honor a hero and his or her descendants
south; with a hole in the ground (from which men and cattle
in “communal rituals.” The ancestors of a ruling lineage,
emerged) on the dry edge of the Kalahari Desert; or with a
where one exists, commonly claim descent from the found-
grove of trees. Like family shades, heroes are of the earth and
ing hero; or the hero may be thought of as a benefactor or
water, not of the sky. The place of celebration has moved as
prophet who left no descendants but who is celebrated in
groups of kinsmen have moved, as chiefs have been installed
some grove or cave by a lineage or priests. The ancestors of
and later buried, and as trees planted as boundary marks or
a chief, it is believed, retain power over the country they once
on graves have spread into thickets.
ruled, so in addition to rituals for founding heroes there may
RITUAL LIFE. Communal rituals are of various sorts, includ-
be a series of offerings to past chiefs.
ing offerings to the founding heroes, their living representa-
Like God, the shades are associated with brightness,
tives, and chiefly descendants. Such offerings are celebrated
light, radiance, and whiteness. Among the Zulu and Xhosa
by the leading men of the region, chiefdom, or village. The
a gray-leafed helichrysum, whose leaves and pale gold flowers
common people know little of the details; they are aware
both reflect light, is linked with the shades; in Pondoland
only that a celebration has taken place.
“the medicine of the home” is a small, yellow-flowered sene-
But there is also a type of purification ritual that con-
cio which gleams in the veld. The beads offered to shades and
cerns everyone. Sometimes it is linked to a celebration of first
worn by a diviner, novice, or pregnant bride are white, and
fruits; at other times it is accompanied by a military review.
when an animal is slaughtered and offered to the shades, the
At the break of the rains in tropical Africa, or at the summer
officiants wipe their hands in the chyme, a strong bleaching
solstice farther south, and in any general emergency such as
agent. But again, as with God, contact with the shades is seen
plague or war, the people may be called upon to purify them-
to be somehow contaminating. A shade must be “pushed
selves, to sweep the homesteads, throw out the old ash from
away a little”; it must be kept from continually “brooding”
hearths, and rekindle new fire. Among at least some peoples
over humans as a hen broods over its chicks. The dead must
everyone is expected to “speak out,” that is, to confess anger
be separated from the living and then “brought home,” that
and grudges held against neighbors and kin, or against fellow
is, transformed.
priests and leading men. It is a spring-cleaning of hearts and
minds as well as homesteads.
Although they are numinous, the shades are held in far
less awe than is God himself. To many Africans the shades
In the Swazi kingdom today—as formerly in other
are constantly about the homestead, evident in a tiny spiral
Nguni kingdoms and chiefdoms on the southeastern coast
of dust blowing across the yard or through the banana grove,
of Africa—all the men of the country, and many women
or in the rustling of banana leaves; thought to be sheltering
also, gather at the time of the summer solstice to celebrate
near the byre or in the shade of a tree, or sipping beer left
the first fruits and strengthen their king, while regiments
overnight at the back of the great house. Their presence is
dance and demonstrate their loyalty. The Zulu form of this
so real in Pondoland that (into the twentieth century) a wife
ritual was powerfully interpreted by Max Gluckman (1954)
of the homestead carefully avoids the yard and the byre
as a “ritual of rebellion,” but it now seems that this early anal-
where men sit, even at night, lest the shades be there, and
ysis was based on a mistranslation. According to Harriet
as she walks through a river associated with her husband’s
Ngubane (1977), a Zulu anthropologist, the key phrase used
clan she lets her skirts trail in the water, for to tuck up her
in the ritual expresses a rejection of pollution: “What the
skirts would insult his shades.
king breaks to pieces and tramples upon is a gourd that sym-
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SOUTHERN AFRICAN RELIGIONS: AN OVERVIEW
8657
bolizes the evil of the past year.” This exactly parallels rituals
offering milk or a slaughtered animal. If the people cultivate,
farther north for “cleansing the country” in which the popu-
beer is added. Among banana-eating peoples the altar is set
lation of entire regions “throw out the rubbish,” especially
in a plantain grove, at the base of a succoring stem which rep-
ashes from all the hearths, and distribute newly kindled fire.
resents the patrilineage; among hunting peoples it may be a
The Ngonde (Malawi) chant: “Let us dance, let us fight that
tree or branch on which are placed trophies of the chase. To
the homesteads may be peaceful. . . . Let us throw out the
the Lele, who live on the southern edge of the equatorial for-
ashes that death may leave the homesteads and they be at
est belt, the forest is holy and is associated with men; the
peace.” Close analysis shows that such rituals symbolically
grassland, where villages are built, has no prestige and is asso-
cast out the anger in people’s hearts. The Taita of Kenya cele-
ciated with women. Among other peoples the cleavage is be-
brate a similar rite of casting out anger, as Grace Harris
tween the open pastureland or bush (the veld) and the vil-
(1978) has shown.
lage; or, within the village itself, between the byre and its
These cleansing rites speak repeatedly of ridding the
gateway-where prayer and offerings are made and men gath-
people of “the dirt” of the past year. The similarity to ancient
er—and the great hut occupied by the senior woman of the
Hebrew rituals is obvious, although published reports from
homestead. But everywhere the hearth and house, especially
southern Africa make no mention of any symbolism having
the doorway of the house, are sacred also, for among some
to do with driving out a scapegoat. Rather, the symbols
peoples explicitly, and probably for all implicitly, the house
which recur here are those of heat and coolness. Heat is asso-
represents the mother, the hearth stands for the marriage,
ciated with pollution, which in turn is closely associated with
and the doorway is the passage through which children are
anger and sexual activity; coolness is associated with rain,
born. Taboos surrounding the hearth, the fire, and the whole
tranquility, and purification. These symbols are familiar to
reproductive process may be seen as an expression of the holi-
all Sotho-Tswana-speaking peoples and to others also.
ness of normal fertility and procreation, processes which are
thought to be controlled by the shades.
Throughout southern Africa communal rituals have to
do with rain, especially the dramatic “break of the rains,” so
Offerings to the shades consist of staple foods, especially
eagerly awaited after the dry season. Local rituals celebrate
choice foods such as a tender cut of beef eaten by the one
seedtime and harvest; the firing of pasture to destroy unpalat-
on whose behalf prayer is made (the same cut from the right
able grass and bush which harbor tsetse flies; game drives or
foreleg is used by peoples from Tanzania to the southern
a fishing battue; murrain or plague; war and peace; the coro-
coast of Africa); a libation of fermented milk or beer; a sprin-
nation of a chief and/or the handing over of power from one
kling of flour or porridge; seeds of pulses, cucurbits, and
generation to the next. Details of such celebrations vary both
grains. A strongly pastoral people will cling to the symbolism
with economy and with political structure. Regional rituals
of slaughtering an animal—shedding blood—even when
may involve the distribution of once-scarce goods, such as
they live in a city. White goats may yet be seen grazing on
salt and iron tools, which in former times were brought to
the outskirts of the African quarters of Cape Town, or one
the shrine from beyond the boundaries of the political unit.
may see them being led along a country road or wandering
The priests who brought the goods were sacred people:
about on some modern farm where African laborers are em-
Among the Nyakyusa these priests traveled in safety, an-
ployed. They are there to be used as offerings at times of
nouncing their status by drumbeat. Other rituals may be
birth or death, sickness or initiation, when meat from the
connected with the growth of chiefdoms. J. Matthew Schof-
butcher will not suffice; at such times informed authority
feleers has written about the spread of the Mbona cult with
turns a blind eye. The beer poured out may be made of sor-
the development of MangDanga chiefdoms in Malawi.
ghum, millet, bananas, bamboo, or even maize or cassava,
KINSHIP RITUALS. Unless they concern a royal family, the
which reached the coasts of Africa only in the sixteenth cen-
rituals of kinship have no political overtones. They are cele-
tury and parts of the interior only in the nineteenth century.
brated on the great occasions of a person’s life: at birth and
Whatever the material used, the intention of the offer-
death, at maturity and marriage. In southern Africa each
ing is the same: The shades are called to feast, and what is
family or lineage directs its celebrations to its own dead se-
offered is a communion meal for living and dead kinsmen.
nior kinsmen, who are not sharply distinguished from living
If an ox has been slaughtered or much beer brewed, friends
seniors. The living may indeed be referred to by the term for
and neighbors will be asked to gather with the kinsmen, but
a shade as they grow old. In 1931 in Pondoland this writer
they do not share in the sacred portions set aside for kin, who
heard the word itongo (“a shade”) used in reference to an el-
first eat and drink in a place set slightly apart from the main
derly father’s living sister. Living as well as dead seniors are
gathering. At an offering to the shades it is essential that kins-
thought to bring sickness, sterility, and other misfortunes—
men be present—the range of kin summoned depending
even failure to secure a job or a residence pass—on insolent,
upon the gravity of the occasion—and that they be loving
quarrelsome, or neglectful juniors.
and charitable to one another. Any quarrels must be admit-
Family rituals vary with the economy, for the place of
ted and resolved. This writer has heard the officiant at such
the shrine and the form of the offering depend upon the sta-
a ritual urging all the kinsmen present to “drink up and speak
ple foods. Among a pastoral people the altar is the byre, the
out.” Sometimes a funeral feast, or a feast celebrating the re-
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SOUTHERN AFRICAN RELIGIONS: AN OVERVIEW
turn of a prodigal son to his father, may seem like a cursing
Americans. Setiloane describes the vitality of such rites in
match as one after another participant admits “anger in the
Sotho-Tswana families of professing Christians.
heart,” a grudge against kinsmen. This writer heard individu-
All the kinship rituals, but especially funerals, are an af-
al women complain that they had not been received with due
firmation of kinship and the unity of the extended family,
respect by a brother’s wife when they visited and the broth-
and the efficacy of the ritual depends upon the presence, in
er’s wife reply that her sister-in-law had been seen picking
love and charity, of a network of kin. Exactly who is involved
and stealing, taking green food from the garden as she passed
varies both with the people—be they Ndembu, Bemba,
through, and so forth. Unspoken anger, festering in the
Zulu, or Sotho—and with the occasion. The celebrations are
heart, is thought both to be the root of witchcraft and to in-
a strong conservative force, for the health and well-being of
validate an offering to the shades, for quarreling between
the whole kinship group is thought to depend on “following
kinsmen infuriates the shades.
the customs of the ancestors” in observing the ritual. This
When an offering is made, an officiant, usually the se-
is evident even in a city.
nior man of the lineage, or occasionally a dead father’s sister
Maturity rituals have many aspects; the extent to which
or a grandmother of the homestead, addresses the shades,
any one aspect is stressed varies from one society to another.
calling them by name, explaining why the offering has been
This article has classed maturity rituals as religious, since they
made—that is, what is troubling the homestead—and re-
are explicitly concerned with fertility, which in turn is con-
questing help. The calling of ancestors by name is in itself
trolled by the shades; often they involve an offering and invo-
a form of praise, and the manner of speech is that used in
cation to the shades, whose blessings are sought. Frequently,
the presence of a senior kinsman, or (as among the Nguni)
perhaps always, there is a symbolic death, a period of seclu-
that used to honor a chief. Prayer and praise are here barely
sion when the novice must observe taboos associated with the
distinguishable.
world of the dead, which is followed by a rebirth after which
The occasions of family rituals are constant throughout
he or she returns to ordinary life. The rituals are viewed as
the area: death and birth, especially abnormal birth such as
a proper prelude to, if not a condition of, marriage and pro-
that of twins; maturity, whether physically or socially de-
creation. Rituals of maturity for boys often (but not invari-
fined; marriage; misfortune and serious illness; reconciliation
ably) involve circumcision: Those for girls may or may not
after a quarrel; and the first fruits that the family celebrates
involve clitoridectomy or some lesser operation.
after the national or regional ritual. Thanksgiving rituals also
Circumcision is most often celebrated for a group, and
occur, particularly after escape from danger in war or hunt-
those who have endured this rite together share a bond for
ing, or on the return home of a migrant laborer or a person
life. The boys’ group may become a unit in the army, and
released from imprisonment; and there are rituals invoking
in areas where the political structure is based on age, its
blessing for an important new tool such as a plough, but
members may graduate together as elders holding legal and
these are less general than the rituals of life crises. Everywhere
administrative office, and finally, as old men, share ritual
the death rituals persist through time and are adapted to the
functions. Where there are chiefs, a royal youth is sought to
new economy. In the south funeral parlors with facilities for
lead each circumcision group, and those circumcised with
keeping a corpse exist even in some country districts, and fu-
him become his closest followers. The circumcision school
nerals are delayed until close kin, scattered at work centers,
draws a youth out of the immediate network of kin and es-
can gather. Sometimes the corpse of a town worker who has
tablishes links with scattered contemporaries and political
not visited the country for years is brought “home” to the
authority, links sometimes expressed in an esoteric language
country to be buried. Great numbers of people come to
known only to those initiated.
mourn, and, relative to the family’s earnings, enormous sums
are spent on traveling, funeral expenses, and food for guests.
Girls’ initiation, on the other hand, is most often an in-
Many guests bring a contribution of money, but even so the
dividual celebration at the first menstruation, and wider links
family may be crippled financially. Whether a man has been
with contemporaries or political authority are not treated as
buried in a Johannesburg township or a remote village, as of
important. But among a few peoples, notably the Sotho-
1982 family status still depended on lavish expenditure just
Tswana and the neighboring Venda in precolonial times,
as it did among the Nyakyusa in 1935, when a hundred cat-
girls’ initiation was a group affair with political implications;
tle might be slaughtered on the death of a rich chief.
a women’s regiment was linked to a men’s regiment, and,
like its male counterpart, it might be called out for public
Although funerals have been adapted to the new econo-
service.
my, they include certain traditional rites, notably a washing
and purification rite after the burial and a lifting of mourn-
Maturity rituals are everywhere concerned with incul-
ing after about a year. Among the Nguni peoples of the
cating respect for authority: respect for seniors, shades,
southeast coast a commemoration dinner may replace the
chiefs, and respect of a wife for her husband. A man must
rite of “bringing home” the shade and implies an awareness
learn to keep secrets and never reveal the affairs of his chief
of the continuing existence of the dead which is much greater
or the secrets of the lodge. A woman likewise must learn to
than that experienced by many contemporary Europeans and
hold her tongue; she must not create conflict through gossip
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SOUTHERN AFRICAN RELIGIONS: AN OVERVIEW
8659
or reveal the affairs of her husband. Often there are taboo
these rituals do not occur at all, and among peoples with a
words and riddles with a set answer, knowledge of which are
long tradition of distant trade, such as the Shona and Tson-
taken as proof of initiation. In Chisungu Audrey I. Richards
ga, possession is often interpreted as being the work of an
(1956) admirably demonstrates the use of songs, mimes, de-
outsider, not that of a family shade. This phenomenon has
signs, and models to inculcate in a Bemba girl the proper be-
appeared recently among the Zulu, as Harriet Ngubane
havior of a wife. Always the rituals instruct the novice in the
(1977) has shown, and, according to John Beattie (1969),
behavior required of an adult man or woman, and a transfor-
it exists among the Nyoro of Uganda as well.
mation from childish behavior to responsible behavior is
expected.
Diviners are thought to be in a peculiarly close relation-
ship with their shades, who reveal themselves in dreams and
The rituals assert the authority of a senior generation
trances. Communication with the shades is fostered by
over a junior: The initiated secure the young novice’s sub-
cleansing and purging, observance of taboos (including sexu-
mission through the pain of an operation, beating, scolding,
al abstinence), fasting, isolation in the bush, offerings to the
and threats, or by playing upon the novice’s fear of the un-
shades, and dancing to clapping or drums. The emotion is
seen and longing to become an honored and fertile man or
often intense when, with an insistent beat of clapping pro-
woman. The ritual creates a fraternity or sorority of those
vided by a packed crowd, a novice speaks of what she has
who have undergone the ordeal: Those who have not under-
seen in dreams. In Western society the closest analogue to
gone it are outsiders, but all who have endured are free to
the diviner in this respect is the medium, and among some
participate in the admonition of their juniors. A determina-
peoples—notably the Shona of Zimbabwe—a state of trance
tion to use circumcision rites to bolster civil authority was
undoubtedly occurs. Even though it may be a stranger spirit
made explicit in October 1981 when the Ciskei, later an “in-
who possesses the medium, she remains in close contact with
dependent state” on the border of the Republic of South Af-
her family shades.
rica, passed legislation empowering a chief to compel a
young man to be circumcised, on the ground that “it is well
Most mediums deal with the domestic problems and
known that circumcision causes irresponsible youths to be-
health of clients who come to consult them. Occasionally,
have in a responsible manner.” This happened at a time
however, a medium may influence public events, as did Non-
when opposition by school boys and students to Ciskeian po-
gqause, the Xhosa girl who in 1856 urged all Xhosa on the
litical authority was intense.
eastern frontier of the Cape of Good Hope to kill their cattle
and destroy their grain, prophesying that when they did so
Why maturity rituals have survived among some peo-
the dead would rise up and sweep the whites into the sea,
ples but not others, or for one sex but not the other, in fast-
or the Shona medium who in 1898 urged resistance against
changing societies can only be demonstrated by analyzing
whites in what is now Zimbabwe. During the colonial period
historical events in particular areas. What is certain is that
old prophecies of the coming of whites were repeatedly re-
in some areas changes in practice have occurred since the
corded, and these may be seen partly as a reconciliation of
eighteenth century, rites spreading or being abandoned; but
old and new. To at least some Nyakyusa Christians, such
there is also eyewitness evidence from survivors of wrecks on
prophecies were evidence of the reality—“the truth”—of an-
the southeastern coast of Africa which suggests minimal
cient institutions, the prescience of past prophets. Had not
change in circumcision rites among Xhosa and Thembu peo-
the prophecy been fulfilled?
ples over three centuries.
WITCHCRAFT. In southern African belief, evil does not come
CULTS OF AFFLICTION, SPIRIT POSSESSION, AND DIVINA-
from the shades, who are essentially good. They discipline
TION. Besides the cycle of rituals associated with families and
erring descendants, sending sickness or sterility if they have
the birth, maturity, and death of individuals, and the cycle
been starved (for in a real sense the shades partake of the
celebrated for a chiefdom or region, there is a cycle of rituals
communion meal—that is, the beer and flesh—and are satis-
for those individuals “called” by their shades to become di-
fied by it) or neglected, not informed of a marriage, or af-
viners, or for sufferers whose sickness has been relieved by
fronted by the quarrels of their juniors. But they are con-
what Victor Turner has called a “ritual of affliction.” Cults
cerned about the welfare of their children and are held to be
or guilds are formed of those who have suffered a particular
the source of blessing. Rather, evil comes from another
travail and been cured by a particular ritual. Their experience
source: witchcraft. It is thought to be embodied in a ser-
entitles them to participate in any celebration for a sufferer
pent—a “python in the belly” (Nyakyusa), a “snake of the
of the same category. Rituals for diviners who have been
women” (Pondo); or it takes the form of a baboon, or a fabu-
called (as opposed to herbalists who learn certain medicines)
lous hairy being with exaggerated sexual organs (Xhosa), and
and rituals of affliction are much less widespread than those
so forth. Such creatures are as real in imagination as was the
for birth, maturity, and death, or those for a chiefdom or re-
pitchfork-wielding Devil to the medieval European, and like
gion. They are not contained within the frame of kinship or
him they walk the earth seeking those whom they may de-
locality and seem to have proliferated with trade and travel,
vour. The witch familiars (and witchcraft generally) personi-
but of that process not much is yet known. What is certain
fy the evil recognized as existing in all humans, specifically,
is that among some isolated peoples (such as the Nyakyusa)
anger, hatred, jealousy, envy, lust, greed. Even sloth appears,
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8660
SOUTHERN AFRICAN RELIGIONS: AN OVERVIEW
in the belief that certain evil people have raised others from
confessions have at times been extracted forcibly (through a
the dead to work their fields for them.
poison ordeal or torture), since the recovery of the victim is
held to depend upon the witch’s confession and subsequent
The form of witch belief varies with the social structure,
expression of goodwill toward the victim.
as does the relationship of victim and accused, for the points
of friction in a society vary with the form of residence and
RITUAL, ORDER, AND THE RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE. Analy-
economic cooperation (i.e., who lives and works together),
sis of ritual is important in any study of religion, for ritual
the occasions of competition, and the location of authority.
enshrines the dogma and values of participants. There is al-
Injury is thought to come from those with whom one has
ways a gap between the values expressed and everyday prac-
quarreled: a co-wife, mother-in-law, half sibling, fellow em-
tice, but ideals and ideas of ultimate reality are embodied in
ployee, rival claimant for inheritance, affine claiming mar-
ritual action. In southern Africa there is constant emphasis
riage cattle, litigant in court against whom judgment has
on fertility—of human beings, stock, and fields; on health;
been given, or fellow priest. In some societies it is mostly
on goodwill between kinsmen and neighbors; on amity
women, poor men, and juniors who are accused; but in socie-
among the ruling men of the region; on respect of juniors
ties where egalitarian values are stressed the rich man is sus-
for seniors and the responsibility of seniors toward their de-
pect, as is the successful grower of cash crops who is thought
pendents; on the continuation of life after death.
to have attracted the fertility of his neighbors’ fields to his
Order exists in the universe, and the natural and social
own. The one legitimately greater than the commoner (i.e.,
orders are felt to be interrelated: As in King Lear, disharmony
the chief) may covet the cattle of a wealthy stock owner, who
in the world of humans is reflected both in the world of phys-
is then accused of some wrongdoing—or so outsiders have
ical elements and in the tempest within a person’s mind—in
thought.
madness. If the divine king breaks a taboo, drought or flood
Again and again during the colonial period, “witch-
may follow; if the ritual for a widow or a nubile girl is ne-
finding” movements arose when some prophet would call on
glected, she may become distraught. Right order is expressed
his people to reject evil, to purge themselves of witchcraft
in traditional custom, and in their essence, rituals—whether
and medicines used for sorcery. Over large regions people in
positive action or negative avoidance—express the sacredness
fact complied, bringing out horns of medicines or other ob-
both of physiological processes, that is, menstruation, co-
jects to throw publicly on a pyre and implicitly or explicitly
ition, parturition, and death, and of the approved relation-
admitting evil in themselves and expressing goodwill to all.
ships of men and women, old and young, leaders and follow-
The bamucapi movement which swept through what are
ers. Both family and communal rituals are occasions of
now Zambia, Malawi, and parts of Zimbabwe and Tanzania
emotion, and the celebrations themselves arouse emotion, as
in 1934 was followed by a somewhat similar movement in
is obvious to any observer who listens to the drumbeat and
much the same area (but with greatest influence in what is
watches the dancing. Rituals, then, channel emotion and
now Tanzania) between 1956 and 1964. Long before these
teach the mourner, the adolescent, or the parent what it is
movements arose, the Xhosa of the eastern Cape frontier had
proper to feel. Nyakyusa mourners were required to express
repeatedly been urged to purify themselves and reject witch-
the passion of grief and fear to the men “fighting death” in
craft. In 1856 Nongqause, a sixteen-year-old medium, re-
the war dance and to widows, mothers, and sisters weeping
ported to the noted diviner Mhlakaza, her father’s brother,
violently and smearing themselves with ash and mud; but the
that the shades had told her they would come to the rescue
rituals reveal little of the actual experience of the individual.
of their Xhosa descendants in their long war with whites over
land on the eastern frontier, on condition that the living pu-
Any understanding of religious experience must come
rify themselves and kill all their cattle. In the famine that en-
primarily from what individuals report of their own lives.
sued, twenty thousand people died. There is no evidence that
Firsthand accounts are meager, but there is evidence that an
such revivalist movements began in the colonial period: They
awareness of the numinous exists. The talk of priests hints
may well have happened periodically before that, although
at their fear of a grove in which a founding hero or chief has
certain characteristics of movements in colonial times, nota-
been buried; at a communion meal of living and dead kins-
bly millennialism, were related to Christian missionary
men, there is a sense that the shades are present and that the
teaching.
participants find satisfaction in their company; people speak
of the comfort felt in a moment of danger when a man or
People are known to confess to the practice of witch-
woman has called on the shade of a parent or grandparent
craft, usually following an accusation and pressure to confess.
and sensed its presence; the fear aroused by a nightmare may
One young mother in Pondoland explained to this writer
be interpreted as the attack of a witch. Dreams are indeed
that her baby had at first refused to nurse because she had
the most common experience of the unseen, and so real that
had a witch-lover (who appeared in the form of a young man
in recording the experiences of southern Africans I often had
she named). The mother had then confessed, complying
to ask, “Were you asleep or awake when this happened?”
with the instructions of the midwives and giving her account
Those closest to their shades, and hence most aware of the
precisely in terms of current beliefs; she was now being
numinous, are the hereditary priests, or rainmakers, and di-
cleansed, and the baby was nursing all right. In some areas
viners who have been “called” and who practice as mediums.
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SOUTHERN AFRICAN RELIGIONS: AN OVERVIEW
8661
SEE ALSO Affliction, article on African Cults of Affliction;
Kenyatta, Jomo. Facing Mount Kenya (1938; New York, 1962).
Bemba Religion; Central Bantu Religions; Interlacustrine
A valuable firsthand account of Kikuyu ritual and belief.
Bantu Religions; Khoi and San Religion; Kongo Religion;
Mbiti, John S. African Religions and Philosophy. New York, 1969.
Luba Religion; Mbona; Ndembu Religion; Nyakyusa Reli-
Mbiti, John S. Concepts of God in Africa. London, 1970. Useful
gion; Shona Religion; Swazi Religion; Tswana Religion;
on the concept of time in East Africa. Makes clear that ances-
Witchcraft, article on African Witchcraft; Zulu Religion.
tors are not worshiped; offerings to them are family celebra-
tions with the “living dead.”
BIBLIOGRAPHY
To supplement the relatively few works cited in the text, the works
McAllister, P. A. “Work, Homestead and the Shades: The Ritual
listed herein range over all parts of the enormous area of
Interpretation of Labour Migration among the Gcaleka.” In
southern Africa. Many of the books cited here were written
Black Villagers in an Industrial Society, edited by Philip
by missionaries, who provided most of the early published
Mayer, pp. 205–253. Cape Town, 1980. Evidence on a very
evidence of the traditions of peoples in the area.
conservative section of Xhosa on the southeast coast.
Beattie, John, and John Middleton, eds. Spirit Mediumship and
Middleton, John, and E. H. Winter, eds. Witchcraft and Sorcery
Society in Africa. London, 1969. Firsthand accounts by
in East Africa. London, 1963. Essays based on firsthand ob-
trained observers of spirit mediums in thirteen African socie-
servation.
ties, with a comparative introduction.
Ngubane, Harriet. Body and Mind in Zulu Medicine. London,
Berglund, Axel-Ivar. Zulu Thought-Patterns and Symbolism. Lon-
1977. Particularly illuminating on the ancestors and illness,
don, 1976. By far the best study of the symbolism of an
pollution, color symbolism in medicine, and possession by
Nguni people (on the southeast coast), written by a mission-
evil spirits. An important work by an observer whose mother
ary who grew up speaking Zulu as a second language.
tongue is Zulu.
Bernardi, Bernardo. The Mugwe: A Failing Prophet. London,
Ranger, T. O., and Isaria N. Kimambo, eds. The Historical Study
1959. A competent account of a hereditary priest in Meru,
of African Religion. Berkeley, Calif., 1972.
Kenya, written by a Consolata priest who was a missionary
Richards, Audrey I. “A Modern Movement of Witch-finders.” Af-
in the area.
rica 8 (October 1935): 448–461. Describes the bamucapi
Callaway, Henry. The Religious System of the Amazulu (1870). Re-
movement of 1934.
print, Cape Town, 1970. Contains valuable statements of
Richards, Audrey I. Chisungu: A Girl’s Initiation Ceremony among
belief by Zulu. Includes Zulu texts and English translations,
the Bemba of Northern Rhodesia. London, 1956. The most
with notes, by the Reverend Canon Callaway, a Zulu-
vivid account yet written on girls’ initiation; interprets sym-
speaking missionary who sought to understand traditional
bols and explains methods of inculcating certain lessons.
ideas.
Roscoe, John. The Baganda. London, 1911. Written by a mission-
Colson, Elizabeth. The Plateau Tonga of Northern Rhodesia. Man-
ary who worked closely with James G. Frazer. Includes an ac-
chester, 1962. One volume of a longterm study by an an-
count of founding heroes and rituals at their shrines.
thropologist; gives an account of ancestral spirits and rain
shrines.
Setiloane, Gabriel M. The Image of God among the Sotho-Tswana.
Rotterdam, 1976.
Crawford, James R. Witchcraft and Sorcery in Rhodesia. London,
1967. Based on records of court cases.
Smith, Edwin W., and Andrew Murray Dale. The Ila-Speaking
Peoples of Northern Rhodesia (1920). 2 vols. Reprint, New
Douglas, Mary. The Lele of the Kasai. London, 1963. A brilliant
Hyde Park, N.Y., 1968. Smith was a missionary, Dale a mag-
essay on Lele symbolism, first published in African Worlds,
istrate, and both were very competent linguists. They lived
edited by Daryll Forde (London, 1954).
among the Ila of the Zambezi from 1902 and 1904, respec-
Douglas, Mary. Natural Symbols. New York, 1970. Discusses the
tively, until 1914. The sections on religion are chiefly the
relationship between symbols and inner experience.
work of Smith, who later served as president of the Royal An-
Douglas, Mary, ed. Witchcraft Confessions and Accusations. New
thropological Institute, London. The book is a classic of early
York, 1970. Sets witch beliefs in comparative perspective.
African ethnography.
Fortes, Meyer, and Germaine Dieterlen. African Systems of
Smith, Edwin W., ed. African Ideas of God. London, 1950. A sym-
Thought. London, 1965.
posium with twelve contributors and an introductory essay
Gluckman, Max. Rituals of Rebellion in Southeast Africa. Manches-
by Smith. Five contributors refer to southern Africa.
ter, 1954.
Swantz, Marja-Liisa. Ritual and Symbol in Transitional Zaramo So-
Hammond-Tooke, W. David. Boundaries and Belief: The Struc-
ciety, with Special Reference to Women. Uppsala, 1970. An ac-
ture of a Sotho World View. Johannesburg, 1981.
count of the ritual and symbolism of the Zaramo of the Tan-
Harris, Grace Gredys. Casting Out Anger: Religion among the Taita
zanian coast. “Every occasion of prayer,” Swantz argues, “is
of Kenya. Cambridge, 1978. A discussion of rejection of
a restatement of the position of the family in relation to their
anger, through spraying out water or beer, as the central reli-
elders and to their present leadership and authority.”
gious act among the Taita.
Taylor, John V. The Primal Vision: Christian Presence amid African
Junod, Henri A. The Life of a South African Tribe. 2d ed., rev. &
Religion. Philadelphia, 1963. A penetrating study based on
enl. 2 vols. London, 1927. A classic by a missionary; first
Taylor’s experience in Uganda and elsewhere in Africa.
published as Les Ba-Ronga (1898; reprint, New Hyde Park,
Turner, Victor. The Forest of Symbols. Ithaca, N.Y., 1967. This
N.Y., 1962).
volume was followed by Turner’s The Drums of Affliction
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8662
SOUTHERN AFRICAN RELIGIONS: SOUTHERN BANTU RELIGIONS
(Oxford, 1968), The Ritual Process (Chicago, 1969), and
Venda, but their lands still lie principally in Mozambique.
Revelation and Divination in Ndembu Ritual (Ithaca, N.Y.,
In spite of these people’s cultural diversity, their ceremonies
1975); together they constitute a profound study of Ndembu
as well as their conceptions of the world have sprung from
ritual and symbolism.
the same fundamental cosmology, either through derivation
Willoughby, William C. The Soul of the Bantu. New York, 1928.
from a common heritage or else from interactions.
Based on the experience in Botswana of a missionary who be-
A THERMODYNAMIC CONCEPTION OF THE INDIVIDUAL AND
lieved that “ritual is a variety of the vernacular.”
OF THE UNIVERSE. The opposition between hot and cold is
Wilson, Monica. Reaction to Conquest. London, 1936. Includes
fundamental to many different rites found among the south-
eyewitness accounts of animal offerings and prayers to the
eastern Bantu-speaking peoples. J. D. Krige and Eileen Jen-
shades.
sen Krige have shown the importance of this opposition
Wilson, Monica. “Witch Beliefs and Social Structure.” American
among the Lovedu. In effect, heat upsets equilibrium and
Journal of Sociology 56 (January 1951): 307–313.
causes dysphoria. To end severe drought, ward off the dan-
Wilson, Monica. Rituals of Kinship among the Nyakyusa. London,
gers associated with premature birth, and heal sickness, a
1957. This work and its companion volume, Communal Rit-
cooling treatment is applied. This is also done after the birth
uals of the Nyakyusa (London, 1957), describe the whole
of twins, for the whole country risks becoming dry.
cycle celebrated; they quote the texts and describe the situa-
tions on which interpretation of symbols is based.
The Venda also use this dialectic. Similarly, the Zulu
make a sacrificer avoid warmth before undergoing an immo-
Wilson, Monica. “Co-operation and Conflict.” In The Oxford
lation to the ancestors, who are associated with water and
History of South Africa, edited by Monica Wilson and Leon-
sperm. The day before, he has to give up drinking beer, stop
ard Thompson, vol. 1. Oxford, 1969. Shows that the Xhosa
cattle killing of 1856 was one of a series led by prophets who
making love, and keep away from fire. Communication with
urged purification from witchcraft and sacrifice to the
the ancestors is possible only if all participants are cool—
shades.
neither angry nor spiteful. According to the Tsonga, sick per-
sons give off heat, as do menstruating or pregnant women
Wilson, Monica. Religion and the Transformation of Society. Cam-
bridge, 1971. Discusses the change in traditional religion as
and excited warriors who have just killed an enemy. The cos-
the scale of societies in Africa increases.
mic order is threatened by the birth of twins because the
mother “has gone up to the sky” during pregnancy, a period
Wilson, Monica. “Mhlakaza.” In Les Africains, edited by Charles-
of dangerous overheating inside her womb. The Pedi even
André Julien et al., vol. 5. Paris, 1977. The Xhosa cattle kill-
ing has been seen by various writers as a plot of the chiefs to
recommend that pregnant women not go outside whenever
drive the Xhosa to war, as a plot of the whites to destroy the
it rains. The Tswana say that the hot blood of pregnant
Xhosa, and as a resistance movement. Little attention has
women counteracts rain medicine. Moreover, their rainmak-
been paid to its fundamental religious aspect, which is dis-
ers and chiefs must abstain from sexual intercourse through-
cussed here. (The text is, alas, marred by many mistakes in
out most of the rainy season.
the French printing of names.)
The Tsonga liken the normally born baby to a pot that
MONICA WILSON (1987)
has not cracked when baked. The mother and child are se-
cluded until the umbilical cord falls off. The father cannot
approach his wife because she is considered to be too hot.
SOUTHERN AFRICAN RELIGIONS: SOUTHERN
If the baby is male, the father runs a special risk. A series of
BANTU RELIGIONS
rites gradually separates the infant from the mother’s burning
body and integrates him into the father’s sphere. The cooling
Patrilineal herdsmen and farmers belonging to the large
process can be clearly observed during Tsonga funerals for
Bantu linguistic group, which is widely spread over central
infants. If death follows soon after birth, the body is put in-
and eastern Africa, moved into southern Africa in distinct
side a cracked pot that is covered with a layer of ashes. If
waves. They appeared in the region as distinct cultural
death occurs before the Boha Puri tribal integration, which
groups probably between 1000 and 1600 CE. The Sotho
allows the parents to resume sexual intercourse and is per-
(Pedi, Matlala, et al.) and the related Tswana settled on the
formed when the child reaches the age of one, the body is
arid inland plateau where the San were hunting and the Khoi
buried in a humid place. If the child dies after this rite, the
were raising livestock. The Nguni (Zulu, Swazi, and Xhosa)
funeral is conducted like that of an adult, and the corpse is
spread out along the southeastern coast. The Lovedu and
buried in dry earth.
Venda, two closely related peoples who became strongly
amalgamated with the Sotho in the twentieth century, suc-
The same thermal code underlies rites of passage that,
cessively broke away from the Karanga in ancient Zimbabwe;
though differing in form, are basically similar. An example
the last Venda migration may have crossed the Limpopo
is the presentation to the moon. A cooling feminine princi-
River after 1600 CE, but their predecessors were probably
ple, the moon is responsible for watching over the child’s
among the first inhabitants of the northeastern Transvaal.
growth and is often likened to a paternal aunt. During the
The Tsonga, or Thonga, migrated in the early nineteenth
first new moon visible after birth, the Pedi place the baby
century into the Transvaal, where they ran into Sotho and
on the ground for a few seconds, and water, symbolizing
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rain, is poured through the roof and onto the infant. Three
ing a python during the rainy season is strictly forbidden.
months after birth, the Tsonga present the baby to the new
During the dry season, its carcass is thrown into water, al-
moon, throwing a torch toward it. Once the torch goes out,
though the head and tail are buried in the cattle fold in order
the baby is separated from his or her mother and laid on a
to bring prosperity. People use its fat to protect themselves
pile of ashes. This example keenly reveals the transformation-
from burns and to prevent fires.
al process that brings these rites within a single symbolic sys-
Most Bantu cosmogonies are fundamentally dualistic.
tem: the Tsonga replace rain with an extinguished torch.
Thus opposite Python is Raluvhumba, who has often been
Moreover, whenever twins, as “sons of the sky,” assist at fu-
mistaken for a supreme being. His name evokes the eagle,
nerals, their fontanels are smeared with ashes because they
luvumba. Raluvhumba’s voice is thunder, and during storms
are seen as burning, hence dangerous creatures.
he is visible as a big flame. He controls the sun, which could
THE PYTHON CULT. A major divinity known as the python
burn the earth if it came too near. His complementarity with
spirit among southeastern Bantu-speaking peoples symbol-
Python stands out in a royal ceremony that is no longer ob-
izes the coolness that is responsible for individual, social, and
served. After communicating with Raluvhumba in a sacred
cosmic equilibrium. He is undoubtedly part of the most ar-
cave, the Venda king used to order his people to perform Py-
chaic Bantu cultural substratum, and both the Swazi and
thon’s dance (tshikona) for two nights. Much like other,
Venda perform ceremonies in his honor. Among the Luba
neighboring societies, the Venda believe that the universe’s
in Zaire, he has a celestial manifestation, that of the rainbow.
equilibrium depends upon the joint action of two fundamen-
The Zulu and Luba reverse his climatic functions. Nkon-
tal principles—water and fire, coolness and heat. Water and
golo, the Luba python, is, like the Zulu one, associated with
coolness have the advantage of having originated first; fire
terrestrial waters. As the rainbow, however, he burns rain
and heat are always menacing because they threaten life.
rather than bringing it. In contrast, the Zulu hold the python
Therefore, the Venda put out all fires when their king dies.
and rainbow to be two distinct spirits whose beneficial ac-
The Lovedu do the same because the earth is “hot” whenever
tions with regard to water are complementary. “Coolest of
their queen (who is responsible for keeping the rain medi-
all animals” according to Axel-Ivar Berglund, Python licks
cine—and keeping it cool) passes away.
the fat of the black sheep that rainmakers sacrifice to him.
These myths and rites parallel various fragmentary tales
On the other hand, the rainbow princess, iNkosazana, is the
collected among the Karanga. The Korekore, a branch of the
virgin daughter of the lord of heaven (and of thunderbolts),
Karanga, worship Dzivaguru (“big pool”). This rain spirit
whose changing moods are dreaded by men. She intercedes
lived on earth before he disappeared into a pool on a moun-
so that he regularly sends gentle, soaking rain. Her rays of
taintop. He was forced to vanish by the magic of a rival chief
light plunge into the waters. Virgin girls, disguised as war-
who coveted his wealth and put on red attire (the color of
riors, offer her vegetables and beer on top of a mountain for-
fire). Like the Venda Python, this vanquished spirit was the
bidden to men. The feminine rainbow cult stands opposite
primordial ruler of the world. By going down into water, he
the masculine python rite of sacrifice. Only princes may kill
brought darkness over the earth. His opponent had to use
this venerated animal provided that they not spill its blood.
a new magical trick to bring the sun back. Dzivaguru said
Its fat goes into medicines that specialized magicians use
that he would accept only sheep as offerings—the same ani-
against thunderbolts.
mal that the Zulu sacrifice to Python.
The rainbow princess cult is found specifically among
This tale is apparently a variation of a Hungwe myth,
the Nguni. Traces of it are found among the Swazi, who in-
taken down by Leo Viktor Frobenius, that accounts for the
augurate the annual Ncwala ceremony during the southern
origin of the mighty Zimbabwe kingdom, whose stone ruins
summer solstice with a quest for the waters of the world. Na-
are unique in the Bantu-speaking world. In olden times, a
tional priests lead two separate processions, one in search of
poverty-stricken people known as the Hungwe were dwelling
river water and the other in search of seawater. Carried on
on a mountain. They ate food raw because their chief, Madz-
a shield at the head of each procession is a ritual calabash,
ivoa, had lost the fire that his daughters kept in a sealed horn
called “princess.” These two calabashes represent the rain-
containing oil. Hunters from the north, the Hungwe’s ances-
bow princess. This extraordinarily complex ceremony, which
tors, came into the land. They had fire and ritually smoked
principally regenerates the king’s mystical force, ends with
a pipe to sustain their magical force. Their chief gave fire to
a purifying bonfire that is supposed to be put out by rain.
Madzivoa, married his daughter, and became the first “king”
(mambo). Many people united around him, and even Madz-
Although the Swazi apparently have no python cult,
ivoa became his servant. The name of this fallen autochtho-
Venda religion honors the python, and snake cults thrive
nous chief derives from dzivoa (“lake” or “pool”), also found
among the Karanga. According to Venda cosmogony, the
in the name Dzivaguru. These two similarly named figures
whole creation took place inside Python’s stomach. This pri-
met up with parallel fates at the hands of newcomers who
mordial, aquatic demiurge vomited nine creatures who
seized their power and wealth.
roamed over the soggy earth, which was still in darkness.
They became the sun, moon, and stars. Controlling fertility
The new mythical rulers of fire had to accommodate the
and rain, Python also presides over girls’ puberty rites. Kill-
demiurges associated with water, as told in another Karanga
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SOUTHERN AFRICAN RELIGIONS: SOUTHERN BANTU RELIGIONS
story collected by Frobenius. A snake spirit used to dwell in
of sacred kingship from the Karanga while the Sotho and
a lake on the Zimbabwe plain. The king’s daughters are
Tswana did not (sacred kingship is not apparently a feature
thought to copulate with this spirit to keep the sacred pool
of Sotho or Tswana culture despite the existence among
and rain from disappearing. The vaginas of these princesses,
them of some powerful military chieftaincies). The Swazi es-
who enjoyed total sexual freedom, had to be continuously
tablished a political and symbolic system remarkably similar
moist. Victims to be sacrificed for rainfall were chosen from
to that of the Venda. Sacred kingship is widespread through-
among them. A second group of princesses had to stay
out Africa. Surprisingly constant characteristics are thus at-
chaste. They were associated with a ritual fire kept by the
tributed to African, particularly Bantu-speaking, kings: they
king’s incestuous wife, Mwiza, who represents the morning
are uncommon beings; they take paramountcy through
star.
transgression (often incest); they are surrounded by prohibi-
The Venda myth transposes these elements. Python
tions; and they are condemned to die early unless other vic-
lived with two wives. Only the first one knew his real nature
tims make it possible for them to continue reigning.
and could visit him freely during daytime. The second could
The Swazi king, master of thunderbolts and of the sun,
draw near him only at night when she was soaked. Driven
rules along with a queen mother associated with the moon
by curiosity, she broke this rule and caught her husband
and with lush vegetation. Together they control the rains.
smoking a pipe. Angrily, Python went down into a lake. To
The king has the privilege of marrying his real or classificato-
end the subsequent drought, the guilty wife had to sacrifice
ry sisters. While young, he succeeds his father with the title
herself and join her husband in the water. The Venda pri-
“child,” and when adult he takes full power by marrying the
mordial Python clearly brings to mind Zimbabwe’s aquatic
“queen of the right hand,” with whom he commingles blood
serpent, of whom Dzivaguru and Madzivoa are avatars.
to become twins. But his real so-called twin is his mother.
These variant myths relate both the incompatibility of
During the summer solstice, his force weakens, and the
water and fire and their complementarity. The duality of the
whole nation goes through a crisis. He then performs the
Karanga princesses with dry and moist vaginas expresses the
Ncwala ceremony, which opens with the previously de-
southeastern Bantu dialectic of coolness and heat. The
scribed quest for water. He is proclaimed “bull of the nation”
Venda myth about the python who secretly smoked a pipe
after the sacrifice of an ill-treated black ox, which represents
recounts the same theme as the Hungwe one about a myste-
him. Following several events that alternately show his weak-
rious foreigner who drew force out of smoking and prevailed
ness and his force, he consumes the first fruits and is then
over Madzivoa, an aquatic spirit who used to keep fire in a
disguised as the spirit of vegetation.
horn. The sacrifice of the Venda Python’s second wife obvi-
ously corresponds to the sacrifices demanded of the Karanga
According to the Venda founding myth, the first two
princesses. Karanga symbolism vividly distinguishes a pri-
sovereigns were Sun and Moon, his twin sister as well as in-
mordial spirit associated with both terrestrial and rain waters
cestuous wife. Paradoxically, the Venda king rules with a pa-
from a ruler of fire who was his opponent or else became his
ternal aunt (Makhadzi, a title also used to refer to the moon);
ally through marriage. The Korekore see these two spirits as
an agnatic half sister takes the aunt’s place during the next
rivals but ultimately invoke Dzivaguru whenever there is no
reign. His principal wife, often a real or classificatory sister,
rain. However, this cosmogony has been obscured by the
belongs to the royal family. The king, “light of the world,”
cults of possession dedicated to regional or particularistic
controls rain through both Python and Raluvhumba. Al-
gods. The ubiquity of these cults, borrowed from the Shona,
though no ritual marks the summer solstice, Makhadzi pre-
has distracted researchers from the still-present ancient gods.
sides over the first-fruit ceremony.
In fact, Dzivaguru is the only local spirit with no medium.
Venda and Swazi symbolic configurations are related
The Venda, however, have made an original transposi-
through transformations. In practice, the Venda put agnatic
tion of the ancient dualism. Python, ruler of waters, and
ties in place of the incestuous uterine (or twin) ties of their
Raluvhumba, ruler of celestial fire, are ritually complementa-
myth. The Swazi, on the contrary, maintain these mythical
ry. In Zimbabwe, neighboring Karanga worship Mwari, a su-
ties through a fiction. Mirrored by a queen who is the king’s
preme being who combines the attributes of both. This “pos-
agnatic half sister, the Venda queen aunt obviously fills the
sessor of heaven” is also called Dzivaguru. Mwari’s
same ritual position as the Swazi queen mother, who is a
representative, the python, is venerated as a spirit of the
“twin” to her son. The queen of the right hand, who is both
mountains, whereas a water snake keeps rivers and springs
the king’s wife and fictive twin, is a substitute for the queen
from going dry.
mother. More meaningful parallels exist. The “twin body”
COSMOLOGY AND SACRED KINGSHIP. James G. Frazer was
of the Swazi kingdom expresses a great power of life; it is
the first to describe as “divine kingship” a political institution
completed by the male tinsila, the sovereign’s symbolic twins
whose primary function is control over fertility and natural
associated with his right and left hands. A similar pair in the
forces. I prefer to use the term “sacred kingship” because the
Venda kingdom corresponds to the paternal uncle and ag-
particular chiefs who are essential to this institution are not
natic half brother, respectively Makhadzi’s and the queen sis-
actual gods. The Venda and Lovedu inherited the institution
ter’s masculine doubles.
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The Lovedu’s mythic and historical traditions throw
corresponds to the Venusian cycle. Mwiza represents Venus,
light upon this structural transformation of the ideal twin
the morning star. Recall that Mwiza was surrounded by
model. A very long time ago, Princess Dzugudini, the daugh-
chaste, dry princesses. They greeted the first rising of the
ter of the king of Monomotapa, bore a son, Muhale, to her
morning star. On the other hand, the second group of humid
uterine brother. Their mother kept their secret, stole her hus-
princesses, who had intercourse with the snake spirit of the
band’s rain medicine, and gave it to her daughter, who fled
waters, probably had to do with the evening star.
southward with her young son. With some supporters, they
This cosmological system obviously differs from the
reached the Lovedu land, where Muhale, who had brought
Venda’s, even though the Karanga origins of the Venda king-
fire along, founded a kingdom. The incestuous uterine cou-
dom are beyond doubt. In charge of the rains, Karanga and
ple are thus closely associated with the ritual couple formed
Venda kings are related to aquatic snake spirits. In the Venda
by a son (keeper of fire) and mother (supplier of rain medi-
myth, both Venusian wives belonged to Python, but only the
cine). The Swazi have simply combined these two images to
daytime one could be with her husband whenever he smoked
present the queen mother as her son’s twin sister. Succession
(i.e., used fire). The morning/evening star opposition exists
in the Lovedu royal house later came into the hands of
but is concealed. Moreover, the Venda sovereign was not
women. The first queen was born out of incest between a
lunar. The first king was none other than Sun, whom Python
king and his daughter. Even though the model for perpetuat-
vomited out. Present-day rulers proclaim to be descended
ing sacred kingship through the union of a brother and his
from Raluvhumba, who controls thunderbolts and is sym-
uterine sister (ideally between twins of the opposite sex) has
bolized by the eagle. The thunderbird’s role in Karanga royal
shifted agnatically, the Lovedu did not adopt the Venda solu-
cosmogony needs to be better known. Thomas Huffman, an
tion. Their rain queen reigns alone but reputedly has inter-
archaeologist, has suggested that Zimbabwe’s famous stone
course with a brother in order to bear an heiress.
birds represent successive rulers in the form of fish eagles. In
Lovedu traditions have kept alive the incestuous mar-
old Zimbabwe, this brightly feathered bird was the mediator
riage of sacred chiefs in the ancient Karanga civilization. The
between humanity and Mwari, the celestial demiurge and
king of Monomotapa reigned with Mazarira, his sister and
congener of the Venda Raluvhumba. Recall that the Hung-
wife. A later account (Frobenius) states that, in ancient Zim-
we, whose name literally means “fish eagle,” brought fire to
babwe, Mazarira was the monarch’s own mother. The heir
the destitute folk ruled by the aquatic Madzivoa. The com-
apparent lived in incest with a sister who became his princi-
plementarity of the eagle and serpent restores the fundamen-
pal wife with the name Mwiza (in Monomotapa, Nabwiza).
tal opposition between fire and water.
When enthroned along with her brother, she lit the new ritu-
Two diverging traditions relate the origin of fire, the ce-
al fire for her keeping.
lestial symbol of sovereignty. The Venda king is apparently
associated with the second. He went ahead of Raluvhumba
Unlike the Venda one, the Karanga founding myth does
when the latter appeared on earth as a big, thundering flame.
not mention a primordial monarchy of the Sun and Moon
The stick that the king uses to stir his porridge is called “the
twins. Moon, the first king, emerged from the primeval wa-
fire lighter.”
ters. For two years he lived chastely with Morning Star, who
brought him fire and bore vegetation before being taken back
Whereas the Karanga moon kings were killed after they
by Mwari, the supreme being. Moon received a second wife,
reigned a short time (or whenever their physical forces failed,
Evening Star, who invited him to have sexual intercourse.
as in Monomotapa), the Venda kings enjoy long lives provid-
She bore mankind and animals. Moon became “ruler”
ed they do not have children after enthronement. They have
(mambo) over a large population. Two years later, Evening
to take a drug that inhibits their sexuality. Comparisons with
Star left him to go live with Snake, master of the rains. When
central Africa lead to the conclusion that this practice aims
Moon tried to take her back, Snake bit him. Moon pined
at containing the king’s dangerous, almost sorcerous, magical
away. Rain stopped falling. His children strangled him and
power. Among the Pende in Zaire, some sacred chiefs are
buried him with Evening Star who had decided to die with
forced to refrain from sexual intercourse after taking office.
him. After that the children chose a new king. This myth
Lovedu ritual ascribes power over the rains to a secretly inces-
perfectly illustrates the cosmological function of sacred king-
tuous queen who had to commit suicide. It has its place in
ship, here under the sign of the moon. Having lost his power
the same system of symbolic transformations, which goes
over nature, the weakened king was condemned to an early
back to a common ideology.
death. The rulers of Monomotapa were killed whenever they
THE RITUAL COMPLEX OF CIRCUMCISION. Neither the Ka-
showed the least physical failing, whether sickness or impo-
ranga nor the Shona practice circumcision. However, all ac-
tence. The following ceremony clearly associated them with
counts agree that this custom and its related initiation are a
the moon. At the rising of the new moon, the king had to
time-honored institution among the Sotho and Tswana, who
mock fight invisible enemies in the presence of the realm’s
have passed it on to the Lovedu, Venda, and Tsonga. Girls’
dignitaries. According to several accounts, the sacred chiefs
puberty rites usually correspond to male circumcision. Girls
of the Karanga and related peoples were eliminated after
undergo a pretended circumcision that amounts to slightly
reigning either two or four years. In the myth, this period
cutting the clitoris (Lovedu) or upper leg (Tswana) or to
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placing a knife between the legs (Pedi). The southern Sotho
Sotho symbolism can be compared to that surrounding the
designate both feminine initiation and masculine circumci-
Swazi lion king, associated with the sun and fire, who rules
sion with the same word (lebello). The Pedi, a northern Sotho
along with an elephant queen mother, associated with the
people, make boys go through two successive rites (Bodika
moon. During the Ncwala ceremony, the weakened king
and Bogwera), but girls undergo a single collective rite
runs after the summer solstitial sun. He finally has sexual in-
(Byale). The Lovedu have adopted the latter; they call it
tercourse with the queen of the right hand, a notorious ac-
Vyali and correlate it with the second masculine initiation.
tion comparable to the solar quest for virility by newly cir-
Those peoples with Karanga origins initially held only indi-
cumcised Sotho youth. During their retreat, Pedi initiates are
vidual rites (the Venda Khoba or Lovedu Khomba) at the
as weak as the Swazi king during the Ncwala. They try in
first menstruation.
vain “to run past the sun.” The king’s successor is chosen
Among the Sotho circumcision enables young men to
from among his very young sons. This child king is the only
become warriors. Each new class of circumcised youths forms
Swazi male who, at adolescence, goes through a circumci-
a regiment in their chief’s service. Although chiefs lack the
sion-like ceremony. Otherwise, the Nguni do not hold cir-
attributes of sacred kings, the symbolisms of Sotho initiation
cumcision or related initiation ceremonies, although they
and of the Swazi kingdom are strikingly close. Major Pedi
might have in the past. The Swazi seemingly concentrate the
chiefs keep a tribal fire that neither women nor uncircum-
symbolism of Sotho initiation within their royal institution.
cised boys may approach. From it initiates take a brand to
The Swazi king may never drink water, just as those under-
light the fire that will burn continuously in the center of their
going Sotho initiation may not. At the end of initiation, the
circular bush camp during the dry season. After being cir-
newly circumcised jump into water while their camp is set
cumcised, they gather each morning around this fire, the “lit-
ablaze; the Ncwala ends as the Swazi king washes while a pu-
tle lion,” and stage a feigned attack. They “pierce the laws.”
rifying bonfire is lit. Like this king, the Pedi who have com-
The solar symbolism of the lion fire is indicated by its bed
pleted initiation become lions and brave warriors. Just as
lying along an east-west axis. The sun symbolizes the adult
Pedi initiation leads to the formation of new military regi-
Pedi man. The “spotted white hyena” represents the lunar
ments, so the Swazi military age grades actively participate
feminine principle but also refers to a small conical tower for-
in the Ncwala, under the sign of the moon. Throughout the
bidden to those undergoing initiation. Built at the camp’s
Sotho region, circumcision camps fall under the chiefs’ direct
eastern entry with carefully polished stones grouted with cin-
control. The Swazi Ncwala and Sotho puberty rites are varia-
ders, it stands alongside a smaller structure, its child. At the
tions of the same symbolic and sociological themes.
end of initiation, the newly circumcised follow the “hyena’s
tracks,” a trail of cinders inside the camp, from the western
Similarities lie even closer. Recall how the lion fire in
entry northward to the eastern one. This path depicts the
the Pedi initiatory camp is lit. The chief’s principal wife has
moon’s apparent movement eastward, opposite to the sun’s.
a function like that of the Swazi queen mother—to keep rain
The discovery of the hyena monument by initiates brings to-
medicine. To be wedded, she appears at sunset as all fires are
gether pairs of opposites: sun and moon, male and female.
put out. The fire ignited in her dwelling is used to renew the
When the masculine ceremony ends, girls who have just had
tribal fire. The fire in the chief’s keeping (which he gives to
their first period begin collective initiation. They experience
those undergoing initiation) and the rain medicine kept by
a pretend circumcision and are secluded for a month under
his principal wife (who gives birth to his successor) are both
the authority of the chief’s principal wife.
complementary and opposite. The newly circumcised
youth’s solar/lunar quest for a woman is also a search for rain.
The Matlala have made interesting changes in this cere-
Strictly kept apart from the opposite sex, initiates gather
mony. The fire bed, called “lion,” also lies along an east-west
around the solar lion fire during the dry season. Ritual chants
axis. Initiates are awakened at dawn while the morning star
invite them to follow the elephant’s (woman’s) tracks “when
is shining. Since looking at the sun is forbidden during the
it rains,” for then this animal has “no more force” and can
first phase of initiation, the boys turn their faces westward.
be killed easily. Such phrases mean that a man may approach
During the second phase, they look eastward and expose the
a woman only after her menstrual period. The cycle of fertili-
right half of their bodies to the fire’s heat. During this “night
ty is linked to the change of seasons; menstruation suspends
of change,” a stake is erected and its top decorated with os-
trich feathers. Greeted as grandmother, this stake replicates
sexual relations and, like the dry season, falls under the sign
the Pedi’s lunar monument. Throughout their retreat, initi-
of fire.
ates pretend to attack the moon. The Matlala use obviously
The Tsonga and Venda use this cosmological code.
phallic metaphors to liken the waning moon to a female ele-
They borrowed and also adapted the institution of circumci-
phant that has to be “stabbed” and “made to fall.” Pedi initi-
sion camps from their Sotho neighbors. A feminine elephant
ation songs also mention a mysterious elephant, an image
fire replaces the masculine lion fire in initiation camps. How
that instructors take explicitly to mean the dangerous men-
should this inversion be understood? For many southeastern
struating woman.
Bantu-speaking peoples, particularly the Swazi and Sotho,
Just as the lion is in opposition to the elephant, so a solar
the masculine sun is complementary to the feminine moon
fire along an east-west axis is in opposition to the moon. This
(associated with rain and lush vegetation). But in general fire
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is feminine and terrestrial water masculine. Menstruation
the mysteries of feminine fire. Circumcision definitively cuts
and pregnancy have to do with heat. The profound symbolic
the maternal bond and marks the beginning of a young
changes separating Sotho and non-Sotho circumcision rites
man’s search for a wife. Wives are normally taken from
come down to a fundamental alternative: should the ritual
among pubescent girls who, excessively hot during their first
fire be given masculine and solar attributes or the hot proper-
menstruation, undergo a collective cooling rite, which is the
ties of menstrual blood? The Sotho have made the first, the
reverse of the masculine ceremony. Every morning during
lion fire, their choice; the Tsonga and Venda have opted for
their month-long retreat, they are led, with faces veiled, to
the second, the elephant fire.
a pool and dunked into water up to their necks. Back in the
hut, they are not allowed to warm themselves near the fire.
Moreover, the Tsonga do not put political authorities
During Pedi initiation, girls are also dunked into a stream
in charge of initiation. Unlike the Pedi, they entrust the ritu-
al fire to the chief’s principal wife, who keeps it burning in
to take away heat caused by menstruation, but this occurs
her dwelling in order to smoke medicine objects. Further-
at sunset. The Tsonga and Venda both apply cooling treat-
more, the moon is dissociated from the sun; Moon’s hus-
ments to lower girls’ temperatures.
band is Evening Star. For all these reasons, solar/lunar sym-
Solar symbolism remains a vital part of the Tsonga cere-
bolism sinks into the background. Instead, all symbolism
mony. Initiates leave for the place of circumcision at dawn
related to Tsonga circumcision is dominated by the opposi-
while the morning star heralds the sun, which will pull them
tion between masculine water and feminine fire, as shown
out of the “darkness” of childhood. In addition to putting
by the ritual formulas taught during initiation.
a feminine elephant fire in place of the Pedi masculine lion
Three animals successively figure in these formulas.
fire, the Venda (and probably also the Tsonga) change its di-
Symbol of the circumcising knife that makes boys fit for re-
rection along a north-south axis. According to a widespread
production, the crocodile “moves heavily across fords and in
conception in southern Africa, the sun travels from its north-
the rushes.” The hippopotamus “opens the road for ele-
ern to its southern houses between dry and rainy seasons.
phants toward the ford.” The elephant “walks slowly on dry
Like the Pedi, the Tsonga hold initiation ceremonies during
ground” where rain will fill her tracks. These metaphors
the dry season. As the southern summer solstice and the first
strongly contrast the aquatic, masculine domain of the croc-
rains draw near, the newly initiated may start “following the
odile with the solid ground of the female elephant. Between
elephant’s tracks”—fearlessly approaching women. The op-
these two lies the road opened up by the hippopotamus,
position between the elephant’s dry ground and the croco-
which is associated with a virgin girl whom young boys rape.
dile’s watery place is a sign of the changing seasons. Sexuality
They thus open the way to the female elephant, the adult
corresponds, as among the Pedi, to the cosmic order gov-
woman who becomes fertile only after menstruation, which
erned by the sun’s course.
supposedly stops with the start of the rainy season. The ele-
Thus the symbolic system of circumcision is based upon
phant fire is a sign of both feminine sterility and the dry sea-
a kind of thermodynamics that characterizes all thought
son. Every day, initiates confront this fire and “stab” it with
among the southeastern Bantu-speaking peoples. Moreover,
a phallic stick while they sing, “Elephant, stay calm!” Signifi-
circumcision resembles the mukanda complex of rituals that
cantly, they may not drink any water during their retreat.
is diffused among such matrilineal Bantu-speaking peoples
When the camp is burned down at the end of initation, they
as the Ndembu and Chokwe in western central Africa. Con-
jump into a pool as they proclaim their virility. How to inter-
sequently it brings to light a particularly interesting historical
pret this sequence? Circumcision, the necessary condition for
problem. Did the matrilineal societies in the region that is
procreative functioning, falls under the sign of masculine
now comprised of Zambia, Angola, and northwest Zaire
water. Separated from this element during seclusion, initiates
maintain a very old Bantu cultural tradition that was lost by
are brought close to a feminine fire, which they cannot extin-
other groups (much like the patrilineal Sotho and their near
guish before the rainy season. The symbolic space around the
neighbors did in southern Africa)? This hypothesis cannot
elephant fire in the center of the initiation camp and the
be dismissed a priori. However many arguments support an-
crocodile’s watery place outside the camp are clearly delimit-
other interpretation (de Heusch, 1982). It seems more plau-
ed. The elephant fire corresponds to menstruation, dry earth,
sible that the southern Bantu-speaking zone should be con-
and feminine sterility; the crocodile’s watery realm to cir-
sidered as the center of diffusion of this institution to central
cumcision, terrestrial water, and masculine fertility.
Africa. This type of diffusion would have taken place in the
By playing on these oppositions, the Tsonga merely ad-
land of the Lozi, or Rotse, where the Kololo conquerors (of
justed Sotho symbolism to the thermodynamic code with
Sotho origin) took power in 1836. They ruled until 1864
which all their rites of passage comply. Recall that newborn
and set up circumcision camps there that were associated
Tsonga children, created inside burning wombs, undergo
with the military formation of young men. Among the
cooling rites and that the growth of boys is placed under the
Ndembu these rites also make one a warrior. Everything
sign of the moon. Just before puberty, the ritual process is
leads one to believe that during the nineteenth century the
reversed, for sexuality is a new source of heat to be carefully
circumcision camps inaugurated by the Sotho conquerors
controlled. Tsonga circumcision rites are an initiation into
were gradually adopted by neighboring populations who
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8668
SOUTHERN SIBERIAN RELIGIONS
added to the circumcision rituals their own practice of using
Warmelo, N. J. van. Contributions toward Venda History, Religion
masks. Naturally, in each case the model is transformed from
and Tribal Ritual. Union of South Africa, Department of
one region to another, but this transformation always takes
Native Affairs, Ethnographical Publications, vol. 3. Pretoria,
place within the logic of symbolic thought already at work
1932.
in southern Africa.
Weischhoff, H. A. The Zimbabwe-Monomotapa Culture in South-
west Africa. Menasha, Wis., 1941.
SEE ALSO Swazi Religion.
New Sources
Bernardi, Nernardo. The Mugwe: A Blessing Prophet: A Study of a
BIBLIOGRAPHY
Religion and Public Dignitary of the Meru of Kenya. Nairobi,
Ashton, Hugh. The Basuto: A Study of Traditional and Modern Le-
1989.
sotho. 2d ed. London, 1967.
M’Inanyara, Alfred M. The Restatement of Bantu Origin and Meru
Berglund, Axel-Ivar. Zulu Thought-Patterns and Symbolism. Lon-
History. Nairobi, 1992.
don, 1976.
Ruel, Malcolm. Belief, Ritual and the Securing of Life: Reflexive Es-
Beyer, Gottfried. “Die Mannbarkeitsschule in Südafrika, speziell
says on a Bantu Religion. New York, 1997.
unter den Sotho in Nordwest-Transvaal.” Zeitschrift für Eth-
nologie
58 (1926): 249–261.
LUC DE HEUSCH (1987)
Translated from French by Noal Mellott
Daneel, M. L. The God of the Matopo Hills: An Essay on the Mwari
Revised Bibliography
Cult in Rhodesia. The Hague, 1970.
Gelfand, Michael. Shona Ritual: With Special Reference to the
Chaminuka Cult. Cape Town, 1959.
Gelfand, Michael. Shona Ritual: With Special Reference to the Ma-
SOUTHERN SIBERIAN RELIGIONS. South-
korekore. Cape Town, 1962.
ern Siberia is a region covered by a large wooded band, called
Hammond-Tooke, W. David, ed. The Bantu-speaking Peoples of
taiga, that stretches from the Ural Mountains to the Pacific
Southern Africa. 2d ed. London, 1974.
Ocean and is bordered by two treeless zones, the tundra to
the north and the steppe to the south. The taiga evokes an
Heusch, Luc de. Essais sur le symbolisme de l’inceste royal en Afrique.
Brussels, 1958.
entire procession of images: It is here where images of impen-
etrable immensity and absolute refuge mix with the intimacy
Heusch, Luc de. The Drunken King, or The Origin of the State.
of nature alone. The dense mass of huge dark trees is pene-
Bloomington, Ind., 1982.
trated only by the great rivers (Ob, Yenisei, Lena, and tribu-
Heusch, Luc de. Mythes et rites bantous, vol. 2, Rois nés d’un cœur
taries) that roll their vast waters toward the Arctic Ocean,
de vache. Paris, 1982.
flooding their valleys in the summer and offering their frozen
Heusch, Luc de. “Nouvelles remarques sur l’oncle maternel. Ré-
surfaces as bridges in the winter.
ponse à J. C. Muller.” Anthropologie et sociétés 6 (1982):
165–169.
Throughout history the natural environment has pro-
hibited any concentration of population; people continue to
Krige, Eileen Jensen. The Social System of the Zulu (1936). Pieter-
live in small scattered groups and to devote themselves to var-
maritzburg, 1950.
ious kinds of hunting, fishing, and harvesting, which causes
Krige, Eileen Jensen, and J. D. Krige. “The Lovedu of the Trans-
population shifts, varying in number and distance, through-
vaal.” In African Worlds: Studies in the Cosmological Ideas and
out the year. These forest groups (from small isloated ethnic
Social Values of African Peoples, edited by Daryll Forde,
pp. 55–82. London, 1954.
groups like the Ket—1,100 in 1979—to much larger
groups) belong to one or the other of two great families of
Krige, Eileen Jensen, and J. D. Krige. The Realm of a Rain-Queen:
the Siberian peoples: Uralic to the west of the Yenisei River
A Study of the Pattern of Lovedu Society (1943). London,
and Altaic to the east. Moreover, the majority of both groups
1965.
live in the zones bordering the forest; these areas serve as pas-
Kuper, Hilda. “Costume and Cosmology: The Animal Symbolism
toral land, while the forest is a hunting ground. Hence, one
of the Ncwala.” Man 8 (1973): 613–630.
finds ethnic groups divided between taiga and tundra or be-
Mönnig, H. O. The Pedi. Pretoria, 1967.
tween taiga and steppe. It must be noted, however, that for-
Ngubane, Harriet. Body and Mind in Zulu Medicine: An Ethnogra-
est peoples of different families are more similar to each other
phy of Health and Disease in Nyuswa-Zulu Thought and Prac-
than to steppe or tundra peoples of their own family; there
tice. London, 1977.
are specific religious features associated with hunting life in
Roumeguère-Eberhardt, Jacqueline. Pensée et société africaines: Es-
the forest.
sais sur une dialectique de complémentarité antagoniste chez les
This distribution between taiga and tundra or taiga and
Bantu du Sud-Est. Cahiers de l’homme, n. s. 3. Paris, 1963.
steppe encourages a comparative approach, deliberately fo-
Schapera, Isaac. Rainmaking Rites of Tswana Tribes. Leiden, 1971.
cusing on the specific religious implications of the forest, as
Stayt, Hugh A. The Bavenda. London, 1968.
opposed to the steppe and the tundra. However, in order to
Walk, Leopold. “Initiationszeremonien und Pubertätstriten der
avoid the pitfall of ecological determinism, the form of soci-
südafrikanischen Stämme.” Anthropos 23 (1928): 861–966.
etal organization and mode of thought must be considered
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SOUTHERN SIBERIAN RELIGIONS
8669
with the natural environment (more precisely, the means of
in the nineteenth century. The Tuva and Tofa combine this
access to natural resources). This approach can also be ham-
with the raising, riding, and milking of deer. Each clan of
pered by the nature of the sources and facts themselves. The
the Shor has its own hunting ground; any infraction of the
representations described in this article are those of the
system entails vengeance. Each Shor hunter is entitled to
pre-Soviet period, that is, of the beginning of the twentieth
hunt in the grounds of his wife’s clan and must share his
century.
booty with her father.
THE FOREST PEOPLES. The Uralic and Altaic families each
The Mongol branch is represented in the forest by the
may be divided into smaller units. The two Siberian branches
Ekhirit-Bulagat Buriats who are native to the Cisbai-kalian
of the former are the Ob-Ugrian and the Samoyed. The Ob-
forests. These people were not influenced by the Mongolian
Ugrian people, essentially a forest-dwelling group, consists
empire. Although they did borrow animal breeding from
of the Khanty and the Mansi, known in the eleventh century
their Mongolian cousins of the steppe in the sixteenth centu-
as the Yugra to the Russians of Novgorod, who traded with
ry, they have nonetheless retained an authentic hunting cul-
them for skins and furs. After their entrance into the Russian
ture as well as the remaining visible traces of a social organi-
empire in the seventeenth century they became known as the
zation divided into exogamic moieties (Ekhirit and Bulagat),
Ostiaks and Voguls, respectively. At the time of the 1979
with each moiety further subdivided into several patrilineal
census there were 21,000 Khanty and 7,600 Mansi (a minor
clans.
increase from the 1926 figures of 17,800 and 5,700, respec-
Stemming from the Tunguz branch are the Eveny
tively).
(12,000 in 1979), the various Tunguz groups along the
Because of their proximity to European Russia, the
Amur River, and the Evenki, the Tunguz of the taiga
Khanty and Mansi were severely exposed to the impact of
(28,000 in 1979 as compared to 38,804 in 1926). Contrary
colonialism. Far worse than the burden of taxation, the ap-
to the other Siberian peoples whose populations are concen-
pearance of new illnesses, and the exactions from civil ser-
trated in a particular region (albeit in scattered groups), they
vants were the appropriation of the best land, that bordering
are scattered throughout all of eastern Siberia. Still identifi-
the rivers, by Russian peasants and the forced conversion to
able in spite of a variety of lifestyles, the traditional Tunguz
Orthodox Christianity; both actions provoked strong oppo-
is a hunter, an unparalleled observer and indefatigable travel-
sition. Nevertheless, rather than staging a revolt, which
er who is also incessantly driven by the search for game. It
would be quickly crushed, some preferred submission and as-
was the Tunguz who were chosen as guides by all explorers
similation while others elected to escape into the depths of
of Siberia.
the forest. The traditional society of the Khanty and Mansi
HUNTING, ALLIANCE, AND THE HORIZONTAL CONCEPTION
is organized in exogamic moieties—the “hare moiety” and
OF THE WORLD. Considered in terms of the life they lead
the “bear moiety,” each having descended through the male
and the type of society in which they live, the Siberian hunt-
line from one clan, which eventually divided into many.
ers’ conceptions are based on a series of principles that create
The Samoyed branch, settled primarily in the tundra,
a structural analogy between the social, economic, and reli-
also has groups living in the forest: the Selkup, in particular,
gious domains and that inform the mechanism of the inter-
and a small group of the Nentsy. The Selkup (6,000 in 1926;
action of these domains. Hunting is conceived of as an alli-
3,600 in 1979; called the Yenisei Ostiaks in the past when
ance in which the game is equivalent to the woman: The
the Ket were included) were forced back from the Yenisei
exchanging partners in each case are on the same plane, thus
Valley to valleys situated farther west (Taz, Turukhan, and
the world is thought of as horizontal.
Yeloguy) with the onset of Russian farming. Here too,
Natural beings that supply sustenance are thought to be
each exogamic moiety—“eagle” and “nutcracker crow”—
organized, like humans, into clans and linked to each other
includes several patrilineal clans divided into various territo-
as well as to human clans through relations of alliance and
rial units.
vengeance. To be outside the clan is anomalous, and brings
illness, death, and other trouble; everything possible is
The other major group of forest people, the Altaic fami-
done to avoid such an anomaly. This conception applies pri-
ly, is divided into the Turkic, Mongol, and Manchu-Tunguz
marily to game that is consumed but is in general not applied
branches; these comprise the principal population of eastern
either to fish or to game hunted for fur, an occupation that
Siberia. The Turkic branch (722,500 in Siberia in 1979), the
is engaged in to meet external demand, thus making the
most important of the three, is barely represented in the for-
game simple merchandise. Although fishing is a traditional
est. However, certain ethnic groups, while primarily settled
practice and often supplies an important part of their subsis-
in the tundra (Yakuts) or steppe (eastern Tuva, Tofa, south-
tence, fish is still thought of simply as food, and rarely in-
ern Shor), are found in the adjacent mountainous forest area
volves the same ritual treatment as game. (On the other
as well.
hand, marine mammals on the coast of the Sea of Okhotsk
On the other hand, the Toj-Tuva of the upper Yenisei
are considered to be hunted and not fished; they are classified
River, the Tofa of the Sayan Mountains, and the Shor of the
under the category of consumed game.) Nor is this concept
Altaic forest still practiced the traditional kinds of hunting
applied to gathered products, which are not conceived of as
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SOUTHERN SIBERIAN RELIGIONS
beings and which depend on a woman’s activity without
which amounts to an exchange of sisters. Whereas this sys-
symbolic value. Likewise, only game that is consumed forms
tem is sociologically simple and efficient considering the pre-
the subject of sociologically pertinent collective practices
carious conditions of life known to the Siberian hunters, it
(hunting, ritual of consumption) and popular discourse
is nevertheless lacking in the constraints (debt of one side,
(myths, tales, stories).
claim from the other) necessary for its perpetuation: Partners
are released immediately through the simple act of exchange.
Birds appear to be particularly rich in symbolic value,
However, the system is conceived of by people who bring it
a value that derives primarily from their signaling function.
into operation as though it involves three stages or three part-
Thus, birds of prey and birds living on carrion, which signal
the presence of game, serve as evocations of hunting. Migra-
ners, thereby preventing a person from perceiving himself as
tors, which signal the coming and going of the seasons, evoke
both giver and taker at the same time with respect to the
the voyage to the supernatural world and the circulation of
same partner and delaying the obligation of exchange. Thus,
souls between the world of the living and that of the dead.
the taker’s and giver’s positions toward the same partner al-
ternate from one generation to the next. In this way the sys-
Species-specific hunting and consumption restrictions
tem becomes self-perpetuating within a patrilineal line:
are imposed upon each clan based on the mythical animal
Compensation for the wife taken by the father is a daughter
that is regarded as the clan’s founder. This system has led
of this same woman given by the son.
many writers to speak of totemism, but the theory linked
with this term is outdated today and even forgotten. Such
The hypothesis of the analogy of hunting with the mat-
a distribution of symbolic attributes—found in other places
rimonial system leads both to the discovery of what compen-
in the world—is to be understood as the clans’ way of assur-
sation the hunter gives for the game he has taken and to an
ing networks of relationships among themselves and the nec-
understanding of what are otherwise inexplicable practices:
essary complementarity for general cohesion. However, the
These come from the need for a third partner to create dy-
facts are insufficient to allow a systematic establishment of
namics in the exchange system. The compensation for game
the roots of the symbolic exploitation of one animal species
taken is one of the same nature as the game itself—food—
or another, except those whose relationship can be assimilat-
and is given by the hunter’s wife to small tame animals (most
ed to that of a hunter and a guide (e.g., the eagle or crow).
of which belong to species that are neither hunted nor used:
eagles, swans, cranes, nutcracker crows, foxes, etc.) as well as
In the representations and the ritual treatment of the
animal representations (furs, wooden figurines, etc.). The
slain animal, the taking of game is reduced to a taking of
latter (Selkup, khekhe; Tuva, eeren; Buriat, ongon; Tunguz,
meat. The bones are not destroyed but are disposed of (along
singken, sevek), made at the time of marriage, are “fed” pieces
with the head and other parts believed to contain the vital
of meat through their mouths, smeared with blood, and
breath of life) in such a way that the animal will be reincar-
anointed with animal fat. In this way, the food taken from
nated or that another animal of the same species will appear.
the animal world is symbolically returned. From the point
Seemingly out of gratitude to the animal that came to offer
of view of a tripartite system, these tame animals or animal
its flesh, the hunter treats it as a guest of honor and invites
representations occupy the taker position with respect to the
it to return. That he symbolically takes only meat and not
hunter and the debtor position with respect to the forest spir-
the animal as such prevents the hunt from being likened to
it, the giver of game. If they are not fed, these spirits suppos-
the murder of a member of another clan, which would un-
edly prevent the hunter from taking game and cause him and
leash a chain of vengeance. It also happens that the death of
his family to fall ill and even die.
the animal is recognized, but the responsibility for it is attri-
buted to a stranger belonging to another tribe.
Built on an analogous model, these two systems—
matrimonial and economic—also make use of mutual com-
Just as there is a system of matrimonial alliance that le-
pensation. Frequently, the myths and tales attribute a loss in
gitimizes the individual’s taking a wife, there is a system of
the realm of alliance (abduction of the hunter’s wife or sister
economic (or one could say “food”) alliance that justifies the
while he is away hunting) to excessive hunting. In the Evenk
hunter’s taking of game. These two systems are often com-
ritual called the Feast of the Bear, the taker of a wife becomes
pared in detail in mythical discourse, as are their subjects and
a supplier of game for his wife’s brother. The numerous re-
their protagonists: wife and game, the taker of wife and hunt-
strictions concerning the hunter’s sexual activity before the
er, giver of wife and giver of game. As opposed to the others,
hunt, on the one hand, and the wife’s behavior (notably con-
the giver of game is an imaginary being, generally called the
cerning menstrual blood) with respect to hunting weapons
“spirit of the forest” and qualified as “rich.” With this title
on the other, may also be interpreted in terms of maintaining
and that of “owner of hunted species,” he is indeed a “super-
a balance between hunting and alliance. Furthermore, in
natural” power in the etymological sense of the word.
these two systems, the act of taking requires the observance
In societies divided into two exogamic moieties, the
of strict rules vis-à-vis the giver, such as the giving of specific
matrimonial system is one of restricted exchange, which is
offerings and demonstrating the qualities of taker. One will
realized in the marriage of bilateral cross-cousins (children
note that what is offered to the forest spirit (incense, tobacco,
of both the mother’s brother and the father’s sister) and
amusing stories) is intended to put him in a good mood and
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SOUTHERN SIBERIAN RELIGIONS
8671
make him laugh, so that he will be easily persuaded to release
The taking (or retaking) of these souls cannot be real-
the game: The catch involves some cunning.
ized by the shaman without the aid of what is usually called
his “auxiliary spirits,” equivalent to such equally essential
Whereas these two systems and their interaction nor-
auxiliaries as the intermediary in the marriage and the beater
mally function autonomously, they are dependent both
or guide in the hunt. He sends these spirits to search for the
structurally and functionally upon the third system, shaman-
soul that has strayed from the sick and to track down venge-
ism, which is built on an analogous model. Based on the idea
ful spirits, descended from the frustrated souls of those who
that the life of the body is subordinate to what is convenient-
died violent deaths, to keep them from doing harm. The
ly called the “soul” that dwells in it, this system ensures the
Selkup rite involving the “dark tent” is held in total darkness
exchange of souls between their supernatural dispensers and
in the presence of the shaman’s kin and consists of the sha-
their natural human and animal supports. Upon death, the
man’s proving to them his ability to stir up his auxiliary spir-
souls return to the spirits (which suggests the hypothesis of
its and summon their services. His power increases with their
their reincarnation within the same clan). The artisan of this
number and promptness in hastening to his call. Their remu-
circulation is the shaman, who, it is believed, obtains the
neration is found in the type of offering given them (primari-
souls of game and people from their supernatural dispensers.
ly food) and, for those descended from wandering souls, in
From the standpoint of the system, the shaman is ho-
their reinstatement.
mologous to both the wife-taker and the hunter, a fact that
In each system, the relationship between the taker and
is often clearly demonstrated by the idea that he has a sym-
his auxiliary has the character of a personal contract, updat-
bolic wife who is the daughter of either the forest spirit or
able and reversible, corresponding to an exchange of services.
water spirit (Selkup), or of the earth spirit Khosedam, as the
These services, which are not identical but complementary,
Ket believe. The office of the shaman is generally transmitted
are not organized into a hierarchy: Thus, hunter and beater
through the patrilineal line, usually from grandfather to
or guide have an equivalent status and an equal part regard-
grandson; agnatic relatives oversee the rites of investiture and
less of the catch. This relationship between taker and auxilia-
control the position and the exercise of the shamanic func-
ry is based on the general principle of a dualist organization
tion. Thus, among the Selkup, the death of every adult blood
of the operating units from various levels, which finds expres-
relative entails the destruction of the shaman’s drum and its
sion in the very name of the Khanty-Mansi (bear, hare) or
replacement by a larger one. In fact, the shaman’s power in-
Selkup (eagle, crow) moieties (in the myths of origin, the
creases as each soul of a deceased relative rejoins the spirit
moieties being descended either from two brothers-in-law or
world. The very presence of the shaman in the midst of his
from two brothers, forming separate lines), in the custom of
group guarantees the existence of a relationship with the
nomadic camping set up by two allied families, and so on.
soul-giving spirits. This relationship can be reinforced by cer-
The Feast of the Bear, celebrated by most of these peoples,
tain detailed roles, such as the Buriat shaman acting as godfa-
is still the totalizing ritual par excellence, despite some differ-
ther to newborns and the Tunguz shaman leading the souls
ences. There, the organization in moieties of the different
of the dead to the otherworld. However, the shaman’s active
units and the three systems of exchange come into play, a fact
intervention is essential whenever there is a disturbance: scar-
that illustrates the exceptional symbolic versatility of the
city of game; lack of descendants; or departure of a soul,
bear.
which, by leaving the body vacant, renders it sick and soon
dead. The shaman, who performs a divination procedure
While the forest world is at once aerial and terrestrial
(throwing an object that falls on the “good” or “bad” side,
and dominates symbolic space, the aquatic world also plays
answering his questions “yes” or “no”), then determines the
an important role. The souls of the dead descend along the
cause of the disturbance. The two major causes considered
course of the great rivers; boats or representations of boats
are infractions of the rules governing the exchanges (excessive
appear in certain funerary or commemorative rites. Because
or insufficient hunting or alliances, inadequate amount of
of the orientation of the rivers, both the north and down-
food given to tamed animals and figurines, violation of ta-
stream water are associated with death. Symmetrically, up-
boos concerning hunting, etc.) and the death of any animal
stream water and the south have a positive connotation.
or human surviving outside the framework of the clan and
Birds that migrate from the south are offered ritual recep-
thus outside the system, which results in a wandering, unin-
tions upon arrival and invitations to return upon leaving, as
tegrated soul that is consequently harmful. Mediator par ex-
if to materialize the rebirth of life (since it is believed that
cellence, the shaman then negotiates a return to order with
they bring the souls of newborns). The simultaneous pres-
the spirits, tricking them somewhat, but also giving them of-
ence of quadrupeds and birds does not really affect the
ferings or a new cult (for example, by making a new figurine
uniqueness of the forest, represented by the omnipresent but
to be fed, zoomorphic in the event of a hunting infraction
indivisible element that is the tree. The declivity of the rivers
and anthropomorphic in the event of a deceased outsider to
there does not result in a separation of “upstream” from
be reinstated). Thus, he symbolically secures the reappear-
“downstream.” “Up” and “down” are not superposed posi-
ance of game, the birth of children, the return of the soul
tions; rather, they are contiguous in the depth of the same
to the ailing person’s body, and so on.
horizontal plane, a plane in which forest and water are essen-
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8672
SOUTHERN SIBERIAN RELIGIONS
tial constituents conceived of, respectively, as giver of game
The Russian empire instituted Peter the Great’s idea of
and giver of fish.
“only one God, only one Tsar.” At the same time, the Ortho-
dox church searched for (or created) indigenous equivalents
CATTLE BREEDING AND THE VERTICAL CONCEPTION OF
compatible with its own concepts and refused all compro-
THE WORLD. The notion of superposed worlds—and correl-
mise with other beliefs. The traditional spirits were lowered
atively of a vertical liaison between them—develops from the
to the rank of “devils and demons” and confined to the un-
opposition of upstream/downstream, which is reinterpreted
derworld. The promotion of heavenly bodies (sky, sun) to
in terms of up/down and then divided into the oppositions
the rank of supreme being owes as much to the Christian at-
of sky/earth and earth/lower (or subterranean) world. This
tempt to support the idea of God as to the native effort to
is due to the combined influence of two factors: the adoption
set up a rival against it and make more powerful their tradi-
of animal breeding and incorporation into a state organiza-
tional view of the world (since a God is conceived of as
tion, the Russian empire.
“higher” than mere ancestors).
In that the adoption of animal breeding (or, with a sub-
The case of the sun (Num, Nom) among the Uralic peo-
tle difference, agriculture) creates a patrimony to be handed
ples is an example of this process. Its artificially constructed
down (herds, fields), ties of descent filiation develop and the
image as a supreme being is vague, fluctuating, and without
systems of relationships tend to become vertical. Thus the
ritual importance. In the myths of creation attributed to it
alliance increasingly attempts to postpone reciprocity and be-
the only constant element is its opposition to Nga, its (or his)
gins to follow the model of a “generalized exchange” (accord-
son or brother-in-law, depending upon the case, an opposi-
ing to which the clan from which one takes a wife is not the
tion that, rather than illustrating the Christian notion of a
same as the clan to which one gives a sister). Instead of be-
relationship between God and the devil, is indicative of a
coming segmented, the clans organize their lineages into a
fundamental problem of kinship among the Uralic peoples
hierarchy. In the economic system, alimentary compensation
concerning the opposition between older and younger peo-
is given to a “consecrated” or “tabooed” reindeer (or other
ple that is the framework of the creation myths. The same
domestic animal), fed along with its own herd but never uti-
is true with the Tunguz concerning the bugha (“sky,” derived
lized. Whereas the ritual treatment of the bones of the game
from an earlier meaning, “moose”). Relationships with the
animal aimed at its reincarnation on earth, the sacrifice of
spirits are reinterpreted. That which was nothing but a reac-
the domestic animal (always slaughtered in a manner differ-
tion by the spirits (beneficial or baleful) to the treatment re-
ent than the hunted wild animal) is intended to increase the
ceived from humans is radicalized into a moral opposition
herds of spirits. The animal gradually becomes less a being
of good and evil. The shaman’s “voyages” to the forest and
and more a product; the proportion of zoomorphic represen-
aquatic worlds are replaced by an ascension into the sky or
tations decreases. This ideological change, only initiated with
descent to the underworld. Nevertheless, the traditional
the animal breeding in the forest, expresses itself through the
pragmatic sense remains: The icons of the saints, interpreted
obviously production-oriented breeding found in the steppe
as the souls of the dead, are “fed” in the same way as tradi-
(and, to a lesser degree, in the tundra). Associated with the
tional representations in order to ensure the proper continua-
hierarchical centralization, it lays the groundwork for the
tion of domestic life.
emergence of transcendental entities and is receptive to
the adoption of a world religion with dogma and clergy, such
SEE ALSO Bears; Birds; Khanty and Mansi Religion; Num;
as Russian Orthodoxy or Buddhism.
Ongon; Samoyed Religion; Shamanism; Tunguz Religion;
Yakut Religion.
It is significant that the animal breeders living in the for-
est consider their own shamans as decadent and the shamans
BIBLIOGRAPHY
of their neighbors, who remained, for the most part, depen-
Delaby, Laurence. Chamanes toungouses. Études mongoles et
dent on hunting, as powerful. Such is the case with the Nen-
sibérienes, no. 7. Paris, 1976. Analytical bibliography of
tsy toward the Entsy, the Entsy toward the Selkup and the
Tunguz shamanism with a carefully documented general
Ket, and with all of them toward the Tunguz. This is because
presentation.
in the cattle breeders’ ideology the giver is now conceived of
Delaby, Laurence, et al. L’ours, l’autre de l’homme. Études mon-
in terms of the irreversible mode of filiation and therefore
goles et sibériennes, no. 11. Paris, 1980. Collection of docu-
ments and analyses on the symbolism of the bear, which
acquires the status of absolute superiority. He is no longer
serves to conceptualize “the other”: the allied or the deceased.
a partner with whom one negotiates, but a master on whom
The mechanism of the alliance seen through the Evenk Feast
one is dependent. The shaman’s capacity to act is therefore
of the Bear is analyzed by A. de Sales.
necessarily reduced in principle (since he is more dependent
Diószegi, Vilmos, ed. Popular Beliefs and Folklore Tradition in Si-
and has fewer opportunities to negotiate). As for the spirits,
beria. Uralic and Altaic Series, no. 57. Budapest, 1968. Col-
the pastoral ideology organizes them into a hierarchy, multi-
lection of articles, primarily by Soviet and Hungarian
plies and localizes them (which leads to the notion of spirit-
authors.
master of separate places), and also develops supporting
Diószegi, Vilmos, and Mihály Hoppál, eds. Shamanism in Siberia.
myths and figures of the founders and creators over the
Translated by S. Simon. Budapest, 1978. Collection of arti-
ancestors.
cles on various subjects.
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

SOZZINI, FAUSTO PAVOLO
8673
Donner, Kai. Among the Samoyed in Siberia. Edited by Genevieve
Jacobson, Esther. The Deer Goddess of Ancient Siberia: A Study in
A. Highland and translated by Rinehart Kyler. New Haven,
the Ecology of Belief. New York, 1993.
1954. The account of a long voyage through eastern Siberia
Martynov, Anatolii Ivanovich. The Ancient Art of Northern Asia.
from 1911 to 1913, originally published in German in 1926,
Translated and edited by Demitri B. Shimkin and Edith M.
is filled with ethnographical notations hitherto unpublished.
Shimkin. Urbana, 1991.
Hadjú, Péter. The Samoyed Peoples and Languages. Translated by
Marianne Esztergar and Attila P. Csanyi. Uralic and Altaic
ROBERTE HAMAYON (1987)
Series, no. 14. Bloomington, Ind., 1963. A good manual and
Translated from French by Sherri L. Granka
guide that reviews and classifies the knowledge on the various
Revised Bibliography
Samoyed groups.
Hoppál, Mihály, ed. Shamanism in Eurasia. 2 vols. Göttingen,
1984. Collection of articles on various subjects.
SOZZINI, FAUSTO PAVOLO (1539–1604), was
Levin, G. M., and L. P. Potapov, eds. The Peoples of Siberia.
an antitrinitarian theologian, known in Latin as Faustus So-
Translated by Stephen P. Dunn. Chicago, 1964. Historico-
cinus. Sozzini was born in Siena on December 5, 1539.
ethnographical encyclopedia, according only very limited
When his uncles fell under suspicion of heresy, and the In-
space to social and religious facts.
quisition threatened the Sozzini family, Sozzini left Italy on
Lot-Falck, Eveline. Les rites de chasse chez les peuples sibériens. Paris,
April 21, 1561, for Lyons, France. After the death of his
1953. General panorama organized by topic, including the
uncle Lelio Sozzini on May 14, 1562, Fausto acquired Lelio’s
clan organization of animals, rites intended to permit the
manuscripts, which decisively turned his interests from liter-
“resurrection” of game, and the abundance of rules that re-
ary studies to religious studies, specifically to doctrinal re-
lease the hunter from guilt and legitimize his catch.
form. His Explicatio primae partis primi capitis Ioannis (Ex-
Mazin, Anatolii Ivanovich. Traditsionnye verovaniia i obriady
planation of the First Part of the First Chapter of John’s
Evenkov-Orochonov (konets XIX-nachalo XX v.). Novosibirsk,
Gospel), written in 1562 during his stay in Zurich and Basel,
1984. An excellent description of hunting rites and shaman-
ism among a Tunguz tribe (the Orochon).
developed more fully Lelio’s view of Christ as the person who
revealed God’s new creation by his teachings and his life.
Paproth, Hans-Joachim. Studien über das Bärenzeremoniell, vol. 1,
Bärenjagdriten und Bärenfeste bei den tunguschen Völkern.
Sozzini returned to Italy in 1563, where he served at the
Uppsala, 1976. Comprehensive panorama of facts on the
court of Cosimo I, duke of Florence (later grand duke of
Feast of the Bear.
Tuscany). In 1574, after Cosimo’s death, he returned to
Vasilevich, G. M. Evenki: Istoriko-etnograficheskie ocherki (XVIII-
Switzerland and spent the following three years in Basel
nachalo XX v.). Leningrad, 1968. A remarkable book, the re-
studying scripture and theology. In his greatest work, De Jesu
sult of a long period of work on the subject of the Evenki.
Christo Servatore (On Jesus Christ, the Savior), completed in
Vdovin, I. S., ed. Priroda i chelovek v religioznykh predstavle-niiakh
1578, he attacked the doctrine that God requires satisfaction
narodov Sibiri i Severa. Leningrad, 1976. Collection of pa-
for human sins, argued that Christ is savior by his teachings
pers devoted to religious representations about man and na-
and exemplary life, and emphasized the importance of faith,
ture in Siberia. Contains very valuable materials.
as trust in God and in Christ, as essential for salvation. In
Vdovin, I. S., ed. Khristianstvo i lamaizm u korennogo naseleniia
his response to Francesco Pucci (a widely traveled Italian hu-
Sibiri. Leningrad, 1979. Collection of articles tracing the his-
manist from Florence) in 1578, De statu primi hominis ante
tory of religious contacts and presenting the various effects
lapsum (On the State of the First Man before the Fall), Soz-
of their influence. The introduction, a global assessment of
zini argued that humanity is mortal by nature; immortality
christianization, takes into account the linguistic obstacle
is a gift of God. He next traveled to Kolozsvár, Transylvania,
and the refusal of Christianity to compromise with local
beliefs.
to attempt to dissuade the Hungarian theologian Dávid
Ferenc (Francis Dávid) from his opposition to prayer to
Vdovin, I. S., ed. Problemy istorii obshchestvennogo soznaniia abori-
Christ (a view known as nonadorantism—that is, a denial
genov Sibiri. Leningrad, 1981. Many papers in this volume
concern shamanism in Siberia, based on data collected in the
that either religious worship or prayers for aid should be ad-
nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
dressed to Christ). When Dávid refused to change his stance,
Sozzini went on to Cracow, Poland, in 1579.
Voyages chamaniques. 2 vols. Special issue of L’ethnographie (Paris),
nos. 74–75 (1977) and nos. 87–88 (1982).
Although he was not admitted as a full member of the
New Sources
Minor Reformed Church of Poland (the Polish Brethren)
Balzer, Marjorie Mandelstam. Shamanism: Soviet Studies of Tradi-
because he did not regard adult baptism as essential for
tional Religion in Siberia and Central Asia. Armonk, N.Y.,
church membership, Sozzini became the outstanding theolo-
1990.
gian of that church, uniting its various groups. He wrote nu-
Buell, Janet. Ancient Horsemen of Siberia. Brookfield, Conn.,
merous works defending the church against attacks on its an-
1998.
titrinitarian theological views and its pacifist social and
Diószegi, Vilmos, and Mihály Hoppál, eds. Folk Beliefs and Sha-
political views. In De Sacrae Scripturae auctoritate (On the
manistic Traditions in Siberia. Translated by S. Simon and
Authority of Holy Scripture), which was published under a
Stephen P. Dunn. Budapest, 1996.
pseudonym in 1580, Sozzini used rational and historical ar-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

8674
SPACE, SACRED
guments to refute the skeptical views of those who doubted
SPACE, SACRED SEE SACRED SPACE
the divine authority of the Bible.
In 1586, Sozzini married Elzbieta Morsztyn, who died
SPARAGMOS
within a year. The Inquisition cut off his income from Italy,
SEE DISMEMBERMENT
and university students tried to kill him as a heretic. In 1589
he moved from Cracow to Luclawice. His colloquies with his
followers in 1601 and 1602 at Raków presented his mature
SPEAKING IN TONGUES SEE GLOSSOLALIA
views. Sozzini died at Luclawice on March 3, 1604.
Sozzini viewed Christ as unique, a man who is divine,
SPEECH, SACRED SEE LANGUAGE, ARTICLE
not by nature, but by virtue of his office, for God instructed
ON SACRED LANGUAGE
Christ, resurrected him, and gave him all power over the
church in heaven and on earth. He opposed the nonadorant-
ism of Dávid and others, insisting on prayer to Christ for
SPEKTOR, YITSH:AQ ELH:ANAN (1817–1896)
guidance and for aid. He regarded scripture as God’s revela-
was an Orthodox rabbi and foremost traditional Jewish legal
tion and denied that God can be known through a natural
authority during the last half of the nineteenth century. Born
theology. He held that humankind is mortal by nature and
in Rosh, in the Grodno district of Russia, Spektor was raised
that only the righteous will be resurrected. At death, sinners
in a highly traditional milieu and as a young boy mastered
suffer eternal extinction.
the study of Talmud under the tutelage of his father, YisraDel
Sozzini’s theological analyses and arguments elicited in-
Isser. After his arranged marriage at the age of thirteen, Spek-
tense controversies, which resulted in significant changes in
tor went to live with his in-laws in Volkovysk, where
the thought of some Protestant theologians, particularly on
Binyamin Diskin instructed him in rabbinics and ordained
the doctrine of the atonement. The Polish Brethren modified
him as a rabbi. Spektor occupied his first rabbinical post at
and continued his biblical, rational theology in their famous
the age of twenty and served as rabbi in several Russian
Racovian Catechism.
towns, including Nishvez and Novogrudok, centers of tradi-
tional Talmudic scholarship. In 1864 Spektor became rabbi
of Kovno, where he also headed the kolel (advanced rabbinic
BIBLIOGRAPHY
academy) until his death.
Works by Sozzini
Spektor’s piety, his absolute command of traditional
Alodia Kawecka-Gryczowa has provided detailed information on
rabbinic sources and methods, and his virtually unparalleled
the original publications of Sozzini’s works in Arian´skie ofi-
genius in rendering Jewish legal decisions made him the
cyny wydawnicze Rodeckiego i Sternac-kiego: Dzieje i bibliogra-
communal leader of Orthodox Jewry in Russia during his
fia / Les imprimeurs des antitrinitaires polonais Rodecki et
day. He participated in a host of charitable and civic affairs
Sternacki: Histoire et bibliographie (Cracow, 1974),
on behalf of Russian and world Jewry, arbitrated Jewish com-
pp. 177–187, 290–323. The principal comments on each
work are in Polish and in French. Sozzini’s works have been
munal disputes throughout the world, and was a staunch
collected and reprinted as Socini opera, volumes 1 and 2 of
supporter of Jewish colonization in Palestine. In addition,
Bibliotheca Fratrum Polonorum quos Unitarios vocant (Am-
Spektor attempted to defend traditional Judaism against
sterdam, 1656). Ludwik Chmaj has added detailed notes to
many of the onslaughts of modernity. He himself was unable
his Polish translation of Sozzini’s correspondence, Listy, 2
to speak Russian and was an opponent of the Haskalah (Jew-
vols. (Warsaw, 1959). Letters discovered since that date have
ish Enlightenment); he forbade the translation of the Tal-
been published in various scholarly journals.
mud into Russian and opposed the creation of modern rab-
binical seminaries where secular subjects would be taught.
Works about Sozzini
The Radical Reformation (Philadelphia, 1962), by George H. Wil-
Spektor’s first volume of responsa (Jewish legal deci-
liams, gives an authoritative account of the historical con-
sions), Be Der Yitshaq (1858), was published when he was thir-
texts and main themes of Sozzini’s work. The most complete
ty-one years old, a relatively young age for such a work. Two
study available, Ludwik Chmaj’s Faust Socyn, 1539–1604
other collections of responsaNahal Yitshaq (1872, 1884)
(Warsaw, 1963), is in Polish with one-page summaries in
and EEin Yitsh:aq (1889, 1895)—further enhanced his stat-
Russian and English. George H. Williams has illuminated
ure. His decisions, marked by an astonishing ability to cite
many issues in Sozzini’s theology in “The Christological Is-
the whole range of rabbinic literature in arriving at a judg-
sues between Francis Dávid and Faustus Socinus during the
ment, display a tendency toward leniency. They remain a
Disputation on the Invocation of Christ, 1578–1579,” in
valuable and authoritative source for contemporary Ortho-
Antitrinitarianism in the Second Half of the Sixteenth Century,
dox rabbis in dealing with Jewish legal issues. The largest Or-
edited by Róbert Dán and Antal Pirnát (Leiden, 1982),
pp. 287–321.
thodox rabbinical school in the United States, the Rabbi
Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary of Yeshiva University
JOHN C. GODBEY (1987)
in New York, is named after him.
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

SPELLS
8675
BIBLIOGRAPHY
sometimes require musical backgrounds, specially prepared
The most comprehensive work yet written on Spektor’s life is
settings, appropriate instruments, prudent timing, and atten-
Ephraim Shimoff’s “Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Spektor: His Life
tion to taboos that might be violated, such as sex, the lack
and Works” (Ph.D. diss., Yeshiva University, 1959). Samuel
of initiation, or impurity.
K. Mirsky has also written an article, “Isaac Elchanan Spek-
tor,” in Guardians of Our Heritage (New York, 1958), edited
Spells can serve either collective ends, such as victory in
by Leo Jung. While both these pieces provide valuable infor-
battle, the banishing of plagues and epidemics, or the bring-
mation for an understanding of Spektor’s life, a definitive
ing of rain, or they can serve personal ends, such as the at-
critical study remains to be completed.
tainment of love, health, power, wealth, virility, fertility,
New Sources
finding out who has stolen something, or causing harm to
Rakeffet-Rothkoff, Aaron. “Rabbi Yitshak Elhanan Spektor of
an enemy. The former collective spells require a complex cer-
Kovno, Spokesman for ‘agunot.’” Tradition 29 (1995):
emony and initiates. The latter, usually carried out on a pop-
5–20.
ular level, generally need only to be repeated continually or
D
for a magical number of times.
AVID ELLENSON (1987)
Revised Bibliography
As a general rule, spells accompany the preparation of
potions, amulets, weapons, magical paraphernalia, scepters,
and objects of sorcery. They are recited over sick people, ad-
SPELLS belong to the general context of magical thought.
dressed to the natural elements one wants to control, or mur-
They consist of words or sets of words that issue a command
mured softly and continuously. Rarely are they repeated
that is efficacious merely because it has been pronounced.
by large groups of people, although this does happen occa-
Spells represent one of the many techniques used to control
sionally.
nature and the evils arising in a given society. They are found
POWERFUL SOUNDS AND WORDS. Many scholars have con-
universally and are probably as old as language itself, having
centrated on the study of the word as a symbol. These schol-
been in existence since the Lower Paleolithic.
ars include linguists, sociologists, anthropologists, philoso-
phers, educators, psychiatrists, and occultists. Many of these
The basis of the power of spells is the primitive idea that
researchers are inclined to give an onomatopoeic value to
nothing exists without a name and that to know the names
sounds: For example, /m/ and /n/ are related to the mother
of things is to possess them. Thus, to give orders with the
because of the sound made during breastfeeding; /g/ is relat-
appropriate words is to ensure success, made even more cer-
ed to water, because that is how it sounds when swallowed;
tain when the speaker is a witch, shaman, holy person, or
and /a/ is an imperative for calling attention. Since ancient
anyone else whose profession it is to deal with mystery.
times, philosophers such as Plato (in his dialogue Cratylus)
Stated in other terms, spells are all-powerful spoken for-
have remarked on how words somehow take on the form of
mulas, words, or phrases of power. They are definitive: Once
the things they name.
uttered, the desired chain of events is set irrevocably in mo-
tion. Each word, once enunciated, has a magical value and
Nevertheless, a serious analysis yields very few sounds
weight that none can control.
or words that have the same value in all cultures. Greater uni-
versality can be found, perhaps, in the language of gestures:
The order given in the spell, addressed to deities, spirits,
assenting by moving the head up and down, negating by
or the forces of nature, can be creative, destructive, protec-
moving it from right to left, beckoning with the arm and
tive, or medicinal; it can demand triumph over an enemy,
hand, pointing things out with the index finger or the eyes
or the attainment of impossible powers or things. It can be
and brows, or threatening by raising a fist.
used to break spells, cast spells, or obtain love.
In Qabbalah, the interest in a knowledge of sounds,
CONDITIONS OF SPELLS. According to magical thought, only
written letters, and words was intensified. Each sign was
prayers can be spoken by anyone at any time and remain ef-
given a magical value that had a religious meaning and a nu-
fective. Spells, by contrast, and other such magical activities,
merical relationship. For example, the Hebrew letter alef be-
have many prerequisites. Spells in particular must be pro-
came the symbol of humankind and the abstract principle
nounced by a person who is initiated into the mysteries or
of material objects; it is the trinity in unity and its numerical
endowed with supernatural powers, and who is sexually, di-
value is 1 (Scholem, 1974). Freemasonry also produced spec-
etetically, and socially pure. The person casting the spell
ulations in this field, but it assigned many meanings to the
must know with precision the words he or she will pro-
same letter. The letter A became an emblem of the first of
nounce, the time when they must be uttered, the cardinal
the three faculties of divinity—creative power—in addition
point toward which one will face, what one will stand or sit
to being the abbreviation for the word architect (Powells,
on, how his or her person must be arranged, the clothing,
1982). This association of the word with creation is found
colors, ornaments, and objects to be used, the number of
among many peoples of the world.
times one must repeat the words, and the psychological
attitude and manners one must assume. Everything must be
The history of religions has provided several words or
precise. As a part of religious and magical activities, spells
short phrases that have been believed to be particularly pow-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

8676
SPELLS
erful. The gnostics of North Africa, for instance, made an
they developed high levels of art, magic, and religion. The
abundant use of talismans and incantations. Two words in
preparation of a scarab, carved from semi-precious stone to
particular have survived to this day: abraxas and abracadabra.
replace the heart of the deceased, required that the artisan
The word abraxas represents the supreme deity and his su-
recite the following spell: “I am Thoth, the inventor and
preme power. Numerically (a = 1, b = 2, r = 100, a = 1, x
founder of medicine and letters; come to me, thou who art
= 60, a = 1, s = 200) it adds up to 365, or the number of
under the earth, rise up to me, great spirit.” This spell was
days in the solar year, the cycle of divine action. The word
to be uttered without fail on a set number of days after the
was carved into stone as a talisman and pronounced as a pro-
new moon (Idries Shah, 1968). Many similar spells are
tective device. The word abracadabra, derived from the Ara-
known to have been used, usually with apotropaic intent. In
maic phrase “Avreiq Ead havraD ” (“Hurl thunderbolts to
addition, the Egyptian Book of Going Forth by Day records
[unto? at?] darkness”), was used to invoke the aid of the su-
spells that were to be used for each moment after a person’s
preme spirits. Inscribed as an inverted triangle, with one less
death.
letter on each successive line, it was considered a powerful
Mesopotamia. The earliest Mesopotamian cultures
talisman.
have left very few records of their magico-religious thought.
The Jews, a people rich in esoteric and magical lore,
Later Assyro-Babylonian translations make it seem that one
were the inventors of Qabbalah, which includes one of the
of the most crucial concerns of these peoples was the evil eye,
most important techniques for the numerological analysis of
the evil that surrounds people on all sides and affects them
words and letters, intended to reveal their esoteric meaning.
especially in the form of the envy of enemies. One spell
Four words in particular deserve mention. Adonai, which
against the evil eye went as follows:
means “supreme lord,” was spoken as an infallible invocation
Let the finger point to the evil desires,
of aid. Haleluyah, translated as “hymn to the lord,” also
the word of ill omen.
served as an invocation. Amen was a term that gave a full and
Evil is the eye, the enemy eye,
definitive meaning to whatever was expressed. It was under-
eye of woman, eye of man,
stood as “So be it,” but with the magical sense that things
eye of a rival, anyone’s eye.
could not be otherwise. Some think it was derived from invo-
Eye, you have nailed yourself to the door
cations to Amun. Golem referred to the basic substance from
and have made the doorsill tremble.
which God created humans. When deprived of a soul, it
You have penetrated the house. . . .
could be used to create evil beings, who could be controlled
Destroy that eye! Drive out that eye!
only by pronouncing the true and secret name of God.
Cast it off! Block its path!
Within Islam, three phrases are believed by some to
Break the eye like an earthen bowl! (Garcia Font, 1963)
have a magical power. The phrase “La¯ ila¯ha illa¯ Alla¯h”
The old spells used in Assyrian medicine had something of
(“There is no god but God”) has been used to perform mira-
a mythical nature. Take, for instance, this spell for toothache:
cles (Idries Shah, 1968). The phrase “Alla¯h akbar” (“God is
great”) serves as a basis for white magic, and the words “Ism
After Anu made the heavens, the heavens made the
al-aEz:am” are used to subjugate or subdue evil spirits.
earth, the earth made the rivers, the rivers made the ca-
nals, the canals made the swamps, and the swamps, in
Among Christians, the names Christ and Jesus serve to
turn, made the Worm. The Worm, crying, approached
stave off evil. Roman Catholics may seek triple insurance by
Shamash, and he approached Ea, spilling tears: “What
naming all three members of the holy family: “Jesus, Mary,
will you give me to eat and what will you give me to
and Joseph.”
destroy?” “I will give you dried figs and apricots.” “Of
what use are they to me? Put me between your teeth and
For Tibetan Buddhists, the phrase “Om: man:i padme
let me live in your gums, so that I can destroy the blood
hu¯m:” contains many occult meanings. It is believed that the
of the teeth and gnaw at the marrow of the
first word, om:, emanates from the cosmic vibration essential
gums. . . .” “Since you have spoken thus, O Worm,
to creation. Some scholars maintain that it is equivalent to
let Ea crush you with his powerful fist.” (Hocart, 1975)
the Amin of the Muslims and the Amen of the Jews. It is the
This was repeated until the pain disappeared.
basic name of the creator god. The complete phrase expresses
a desire to be pure and to be part of the universal spirit.
Greece. The Greeks imagined their gods as having
human form and character, and they occasionally ordered
SPELLS IN THE HISTORY OF RELIGIONS. Since ancient times
them to help the needy by means of magical formulas, as in
people have uttered and written words, phrases, and formu-
the following spell addressed to Hekate:
las that they have believed to have some magic power or irre-
sistible influence. Spells to ward off what is evil or undesir-
Come, infernal, earthly and heavenly one . . . goddess
able and to bring about what is good or desirable are known
of the crossroads, bearer of light, queen of the night,
in many cultures.
enemy of the sun, friend and companion of the dark-
ness; you who are happy with the barking of dogs and
Egypt. The basic esoteric activity of the ancient Egyp-
bloodshed, and who wander in the darkness, near the
tians was preparation for life after death. For this purpose
tombs, thirsty for blood, the terror of mortals, Gorgon,
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SPELLS
8677
Mormon, moon of a thousand forms, accept my sacri-
of Varuna, I invoke the burning force of love, in thee, for
fice. (Caro Baroja, 1964)
thee. The desire, the potent love-spirit which all the gods
Medieval Europe. In Europe, the practitioners of
have created in the waters, this I invoke, this I employ, to
witchcraft developed multiple spells for defense against ene-
secure thee for me” (Idries Shah, 1968).
mies, always preceded by the name of God and the archan-
China. One result of China’s use of ideograms is that
gels. Terrible spells that try to control enemies have also been
its magic produces mostly written talismans, although spells
found. In the anonymous medieval work Clavicula Salomonis
abound, greatly influenced by their historical past. A spell
(Small Key of Salomo), one reads: “Man or woman! Young
written on the blade of a sword could make it invincible: “I
man or old! Whoever might be the evil person trying to harm
wield the large sword of Heaven to cut down specters in their
me, either directly or indirectly, bodily or spiritually . . .
five shapes; one stroke of this divine blade disperses a myriad
MALEDICTUS ETERNAM EST, by the holy names of Ad-
of these beings” (Idries Shah, 1968).
onai, Elohim, and Semaforas. Amen.” After reciting this
spell, a candle was extinguished as a sign of the finality of
Mesoamerica. As in most cultures, magic in pre-
the curse.
Conquest Mexico was highly specialized, permitted only to
initiates. The spells themselves prove this, since their lan-
Sudan. The Sudan covers a territory between Egypt and
guage was comprehensible only to occultists of the time; for
Ethiopia, where the magic of Egyptian antiquity and the later
example, a spell for alleviating intestinal pain—very com-
Muslims is mixed with primitive animistic magic. Popular
mon in tropical countries—was recorded in the seventeenth
sorcerers and magicians abound, openly offering their ser-
century by Jacinto de la Serna:
vices. Frequently they exalt their own powers, which they ob-
tain through their spells. For example, when a hunter hires
Ea, white serpent, yellow serpent, observe that you are
damaging the coffer . . . the tendons of meat. . . .
one to obtain luck at hunting, the magician says: “I am a ma-
But the white eagle already goes ahead, but it is not my
gician, all powerful in spells. What I say comes true. I say,
intention to harm or destroy you, I want only to stop
‘Give victory to so and so.’ He will have victory in all things.”
the harm you cause by withdrawing . . . by stopping
Afterward, the magician goes about filled with the desire that
your powerful hands and feet. But should you rebel and
events might occur that will instill the hunter and the warrior
disobey, I will call to my aid the pledged spirit Huactzin
with luck. This is accompanied by whistlelike sounds and by
and also call the black chichimeco, who is also hungry
facing toward different cardinal points, whistling three times
and thirsty, and who rips out his intentines, to follow
in each direction while holding a receptacle of water. The Su-
you. I will also call my sister, the one with the skirt of
danese believe that spells are more powerful when pro-
jade, who soils and disorders stones and trees, and in
nounced over running water.
whose company will go the pledged leopard, who will
go and make noise in the place of the precious stones
The Sudanese also have spells to give power to certain
and treasures: the skeletal green leopard will also accom-
leaves that are used in the preparation of medicines. The
pany her. (de la Serna, [1656] 1953)
spells are recited over the leaves a specific number of times
The serpents mentioned at the beginning are the intestinal
in order to bring about the desired effect.
maladies (intestinal worms, pinworms, tapeworms, etc.) that
To obtain the love of the opposite sex, the magician
harm the stomach and intestines. They are threatened with
draws a magic circle within which the magician prepares a
the eagle, which represents the needle used to pierce the
potion of herbs and feathers. In order to give the potion the
stomach for bloodletting. They are also threatened with the
necessary potency, the magician repeats the following spell:
spirit of medicinal plants and liquids.
“I am a magician, O Pot, you contain the medicines of love,
Modern-day spells. With the development of experi-
the spell of love, of passion. My heart throbs like the drum,
mental science, one would expect magic and religion to de-
my blood boils like water.” This is repeated three times, and
cline. In fact all three remain active, although magic has cer-
afterward another spell is intoned: “Bring my desire to me,
tainly yielded ground. (Magic tends to gain ground in times
my name is so-and-so, and my desire is the one whom I
of crisis.) One finds both ancient and modern spells dis-
love.” This spell requires solemnity and precision. To make
guised in the folk tales recorded by the brothers Grimm, such
it more effective, one has to open and close one’s eyes four
as the traditional “Magic wand, by the powers you possess,
times, slowly, while saying it.
I command you to make me [rich, invisible, etc.].”
Such spells are not taught to laypersons, only to initi-
Mexico provides an interesting example of the survival
ates. To be able to pronounce them one has to undertake a
of ancient spells. In pre-Conquest Mexico, death was be-
series of purifications, such as abstaining from food and sex
lieved to be a change of life, and it was thought that the god
for forty to sixty days (Idries Shah, 1968).
of the underworld, Mictlantecuhtli, was a disembodied, skel-
India. The sheer number of spells used in the sacred
etal being with whom those who died natural deaths were
books of India is noteworthy in itself. The Atharvaveda in
united in burial. After the Spanish conquest, the figure was
particular is full of them. Here will be mentioned only one,
assimilated, ending up as a being who lends aid when the re-
dedicated to obtaining a man’s love: “By the power and laws
quest is made in the appropriate fashion. Thus today, at the
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8678
SPENCER, BALDWIN
entrance to thousands of churches throughout Mexico, one
Selected Studies on Ritual in the Indian Religions: Essays to D.J.
can buy prayers and spells “To Most Holy Death.” The most
Hoens. Ria Kloppenborg, ed. Leiden, 1983.
common of these tries to obtain the love of some indifferent
Versnel, H. S. “Some Reflections on the Relationship Magic-
person and says: “Death, beloved of my heart, do not sepa-
Religion.” Numen 38 (1991): 177–197.
rate me from your protection; do not leave him a quiet mo-
BEATRIZ BARBA DE PIÑA CHÁN (1987)
ment, bother him every instant, frighten him, worry him so
Translated from Spanish by Erica Meltzer
that he will always think of me.” This is repeated as often
Revised Bibliography
as possible, with the interjection of Catholic prayers.
The new mythology is even felt in the kitchen. For ex-
ample, when there is some fear the the cooking will not turn
SPENCER, BALDWIN SEE GILLEN, FRANCIS
out well, the following spell is recited: “Saint Theresa, you
JAMES, AND BALDWIN SPENCER
who found God in the stew, help my stew not to be [salty,
burned, overcooked, etc.].” It must be admitted, however,
that this and many other spells are usually said out of habit,
SPENCER, HERBERT
not from a certainty that the words, through their intrinsic
(1820–1903), was an English
power, will bring the desired results. Nevertheless, a belief
philosopher who became the most influential exponent of
in the power of spells can still be found among marginal
social evolutionism. Born in Derby, England, and educated
groups even today, as it has been found in the past.
largely in an atmosphere of religious dissent (and especially
influenced by Quakers and Unitarians of the Derby
SEE ALSO Incantation; Language; Magic; Names and Nam-
Philosphical Society), Spencer combined a practical bent (for
ing; Om:; Postures and Gestures.
railway engineering, inventions, etc.) with a constant search
for scientific principles. He became assistant editor at the
BIBLIOGRAPHY
Economist in London in 1848. After an early essay (1852) on
Caro Baroja, Julio. The World of Witches. Translated by O. N. V.
the “development hypothesis” (concerning the laws of prog-
Glendinning. Chicago, 1984.
ress), he settled on evolution as the basic principle governing
Cassirer, Ernst. Language and Myth. Translated by Susanne K.
all change in the universe and began propagating a theory
Langer. New York, 1948.
of evolution even before Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of
Cirlot, J. E. Simbolismo fonetico. Barcelona, 1973.
Species appeared in 1859.
Garcia Font, Juan. El mundo de la magia. Madrid, 1963.
The core of Spencer’s literary output was published in
Hitschler, K. Pouvoirs secrets des mots et des symboles. Paris, 1968.
several volumes under the general title A System of Synthetic
Hocart, A. M. Mito, ritual y costumbre. Barcelona, 1975.
Philosophy; this huge endeavor was left unfinished at Spen-
cer’s death. Its bearing on religion was at least fourfold. First,
Idries Shah, Sayed. Oriental Magic. New ed. London, 1968.
the prefatory volume, called First Principles (1862), contains
Jung, C. G. Symbols of Transformation, vol. 5 of Collected Works
the earliest philosophic exposition of the position known as
of Carl G. Jung. 2d ed. Edited by Gerhard Adler and translat-
agnosticism. Proceeding beyond the fideism of William
ed by R. F. Hull. Princeton, N. J., 1967.
Hamilton and Henry Mansel, both of whom maintained
Powells, L. La sociedad secreta y la iluminación interior. Buenos
that the existence of God was a matter of faith rather than
Aires, 1982.
certain knowledge, Spencer argued that the force behind the
Scholem, Gershom. Kabbalah. New York, 1974.
cosmic process of evolution was unknown and unknowable.
Serna, Jacinto de la. Manual de Ministros de Indios para el conoci-
Second, this work and his books The Principles of Biology
miento de sus idolatrías y extirpación de ellas (1656). Reprint,
(1864–1867) and The Principles of Psychology (1855–1870)
Mexico City, 1953.
defended evolution as a universal natural process of develop-
Suares, Carlo. The Sepher Yetsira: Including the Original Astrology
ment from simple and homogenous to more complex and
according to the Qabala and Its Zodiac. Translated by Vincent
differentiated forms of life over millions of years. Thus Spen-
Stuart. Boulder, Colo., 1976.
cer became embroiled with Darwin, T. H. Huxley, and oth-
New Sources
ers in the debate with those who held to a literal interpreta-
Ancient Christian Magic. Marvin Meyer and Richard Smith, eds.
tion of Genesis or who denied the simian ancestry of human
Princeton, 1999.
beings. Spencer also used the evolution debate as a forum to
Betz, Hans Dieter. Greek Magical Papyri in Translation, Including
attack the idea of established religion.
the Demotic Spells. Chicago, 1992.
Social evolutionism was the third and most important
Gager, John G. Curse Tablets and Binding Spells from Antiquity
of his system’s implications for religious questions. In The
and the Ancient World. New York, 1992.
Principles of Sociology (1876–1896), he presented a barely
Magic Spells and Formulae: Aramaic Incantations of Late Antiquity.
qualified unilineal account of religious evolution and also
Joseph Naveh and Shaul Shaked, eds. Jerusalem, 1993.
fleshed out the first “sociology of religion” (at least in En-
Magika Hiera: Ancient Greek Magic and Religion. Christopher A.
glish). Spencer thought that the origins of religion lay in the
Obbink and Dirk Obbink, eds. New York, 1991.
worship of ghosts or ancestors; he extrapolated this view
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SPENER, PHILIPP JAKOB
8679
from the balance of evidence found among “primitives,” or
tion-oriented educational philosophy, especially that of John
what he had no hesitation in describing as “the lowest races
Dewey, has been more durable.
of mankind.” Although primitive religions had, according to
Spencer, barely evolved, he believed that marks of progress
BIBLIOGRAPHY
could be found in the religions of the greater civilizations,
Other works by Herbert Spencer include Social Statics (1851; re-
and he tended to plot Greco-Roman and Hindu polythe-
print, New York, 1954), The Study of Sociology (London,
isms, the “cruder” monotheisms of Jews and Muslims, and
1873), The Man versus the State (1884; reprint, London,
the relative refinements of Catholicism and Protestantism on
1950), and An Autobiography, 2 vols. (London, 1904). There
an ascending scale, envisaging his own agnostic, scientific po-
is no monograph especially devoted to Spencer’s ideas about
sition as the pinnacle in the history of religious conscious-
religion, although one-half of my “The Origins of the Com-
ness. Apart from suggesting that history reflected progress to-
parative Study of Religions” (M.A. thesis, Monash Universi-
ward more mature insights and institutional complexity,
ty, Clayton, Australia, 1967) analyzes these in depth. Of
published works on Spencer’s social theory, J. D. Y. Peel’s
Spencer outlined the kinds of religious activity worth investi-
Herbert Spencer: The Evolution of a Sociologist (London,
gation. He isolated ceremonial institutions, for example—a
1971) and David Wiltshire’s The Social and Political Thought
category in which he placed laws of intercourse, habits and
of Herbert Spencer (Oxford, 1978) are the best. See also J. W.
customs, mutilations, and funeral rites, as well as ecclesiasti-
Burrow’s Evolution and Society (London, 1966) on Spencer
cal institutions.
in the context of British evolutionist thought as a whole; Eric
J. Sharpe’s Comparative Religion: A History (London, 1975)
Finally, his system also carried ethical implications. In
on placing Spencer in the history of the field of comparative
The Principles of Ethics (1879–1893), and in various social
religion; and my “Radical Conservatism in Herbert Spencer’s
essays (especially those in his book Education: Intellectual,
Educational Thought,” British Journal of Educational Studies
Moral, and Physical, 1861), he was seen as a liberal and an
(1969): 267–280, on religious and philosophical assump-
“individualist” who opposed punitive child-rearing, narrow
tions underlying Spencer’s views on education.
biblicist morality, and state legislation that interferes in pri-
vate affairs or with the entrepreneurial spirit.
New Sources
Agnosticism: Contemporary Responses to Spencer and Huxley. Bristol,
Spencer’s book sales were poor during his lifetime, and
U.K., 1995.
he eked out a frugal existence as a London bachelor until he
Duncan, David. The Life and Letters of Herbert Spencer (1908).
was taken in by two elderly women in his old age. Through
London, 1996.
the later popularization of his ideas, however, his influence
Fitzgerald, Timothy. “Herbert Spencer’s Agnosticism.” Religious
was immense, especially in the United States. His work and
Studies 23 (1987): 477–491.
that of E. B. Tylor were crucial in conditioning the wide-
spread preoccupation in English-speaking scholarship with
GARRY W. TROMPF (1987)
the evolution of religion. Always ready for a lively inter-
Revised Bibliography
change with other scholars and literati, Spencer struck up
close intellectual friendships with George Eliot and her com-
panion Henry Lewes and debated with Max Müller about
SPENER, PHILIPP JAKOB (1635–1705), is the
mythology and the origins of religion. Spencer combined
most widely recognized representative of early Pietism.
cautious distinctions and vitriolic attacks in an attempt to
Spener was born in Rappoltsweiler, Alsace, on January 13,
dissociate himself from Comtism and the views propounded
1635. He grew up in a Lutheran home in which the prevail-
by Frederick Harrison, an English disciple of Auguste
ing religious atmosphere was heavily influenced by Johann
Comte.
Arndt’s True Christianity, the widely beloved devotional
Spencer’s written approach to religion suffered from a
guide of seventeenth-century Lutheranism. Thus Spener was
certain dilettantism: His knowledge of foreign languages was
naturally predisposed toward Arndtian piety. Being an om-
limited, and his educational background provided him no
nivorous reader, even at a tender age, he acquainted himself
basis for the in-depth study of any single historical religion.
early with Puritan works that had been translated into Ger-
He barely traveled outside Great Britain, although his ency-
man, as well as with those coming out of the reform party
clopedic tendencies, as well as his ability to collect data
within Lutheranism, the avowed aim of which was the fur-
through travelers’ accounts and mission reports from all over
therance of religious devotion and ethical sensitivity within
the world, made him a precursor to the armchair scholarship
the Lutheran churches.
associated with James G. Frazer and The Golden Bough.
After he had completed the necessary preliminary
At the turn of the twentieth century, the liveliest popu-
studies, Spener matriculated at the University of Strasbourg
larizer of Spencer’s ideas was W. H. Hudson, and his most
in 1651. His student life manifested what was considered,
cogent critic in matters of religious sociology was Émile
by the prevailing standards of the day, an unusually ascetic
Durkheim. His impact has waned with the decline of social
tendency, insofar as he abstained from excessive drinking,
evolutionism, but his influence on cosmological theory (that
revelry, and generally rude behavior. The dominant intellec-
of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, for instance) and on evolu-
tual influence upon him during his university days was exert-
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SPINOZA, BARUCH
ed by his theology professor, Johann Konrad Dannhauer
ship and appropriate literature, the holy life expressed in love
(1603–1666), who, among other things, deepened Spener’s
for God and humans, the need for religious fellowship of
lifelong interest in the teachings of Martin Luther. Upon
like-minded people, and the hope of being able to reform the
completion of his studies, Spener spent some years in travel.
church for the purpose of reshaping a sinful world. Spener
That he did so largely in Reformed territories seems to say
was opposed chiefly because of his often expressed vision of
something about his appreciation of the piety found in vari-
a better future for the church, which implied that the church
ous Reformed circles. During his itinerary he visited Basel,
was in need of renewal; for his insistence on religious instruc-
where he studied Hebrew under Johann Buxtorf (1599–
tion and on a way of life calculated to be a protest against
1664). At Geneva the fiery French representative of Re-
the moral laxity of the day, which in the eyes of his oppo-
formed Pietism, Jean de Labadie (1610–1674), impressed
nents marked him as a zealot; and for instituting private
Spener so much that in 1667 he published a translation of
meetings (collegia pietatis), which were seen as having the po-
one of Labadie’s edificatory tracts. During an extended visit
tential to fragment the church.
to Tübingen he set in motion various impulses toward the
development of Swabian Pietism. Upon his return to Stras-
BIBLIOGRAPHY
bourg (1663) he worked for his doctoral degree, taught and
Toward the end of his life Spener published some of his writings
in his Theologische Bedencken, 4 vols. in 2 (Halle, 1700–
preached, and married Susanne Ehrhardt. They had eleven
1702), to which Karl Hildebrand von Canstein posthumous-
children.
ly added Letzte theologische Bedencken, 3 vols. (Halle, 1711).
Spener was called to a succession of pastorates, begin-
Since then many of Spener’s works have been published sin-
ning with his appointment in 1666 to the position of senior
gly, and a long series of unsuccessful attempts have been
made to bring out a complete edition of his writings. Toward
pastor at Frankfurt am Main, where his emphasis on the cat-
the end of the nineteenth century Paul Grünberg, the noted
echization of children and on confirmation began to evoke
Spener scholar, edited a modernized version of Spener’s
critical reactions. So did his introduction of private meetings
Hauptschriften (Gotha, 1889). The Historical Commission
among the laity for the purpose of promoting a life of person-
for the Study of Pietism (Kommission zur Erforschung des
al piety. Here, too, began his correspondence with highly
Pietismus) has begun publication of a multivolume edition
placed people, which gradually helped to make him the most
of Philipp Jakob Spener Schriften, edited by Erich Beyreuther
influential pastor in Germany during his time. Then, weary
(Hildesheim, 1979–). Spener’s best-known work, his Pia de-
of the controversies that his activities and writings had pro-
sideria, has been translated into very readable English and
voked, Spener accepted a call to Dresden, in Saxony, where
supplied with an introduction by Theodore G. Tappert
in 1686 he became chaplain of Elector Johann Georg III.
(Philadelphia, 1964).
However, the elector’s lack of sympathy for Spener’s con-
The classic biography of Spener is still Paul Grünberg’s Philipp
cerns prompted him to move to Berlin in 1691. As rector
Jakob Spener, 3 vols. (Göttingen, 1893–1906); volume 3
contains an exhaustive bibliography. The major contempo-
of the Church of Saint Nicholas, as a member of the Luther-
rary work on Spener is Johannes Wallmann’s Philipp Jakob
an consistory, and as inspector of churches he was now at the
Spener und die Anfänge des Pietismus (Tübingen, 1970). Mar-
zenith of his effectiveness. Enjoying the confidence of the
tin Kruse’s Speners Kritik am landesherrlichen Kirchenregiment
ruling house of Prussia and of a large segment of the German
und ihre Vorgeschichte (Witten, 1971), and Jan Olaf Rütt-
nobility, he was instrumental in opening up many pastorates
gardt’s Heiliges Leben in der Welt: Grundzüge christlicher Sit-
throughout Germany to the appointment of pastors with Pi-
tlichkeit nach Philipp Jakob Spener (Bielefeld, 1978), are im-
etist leanings. Spener died on February 5, 1705, having ex-
portant studies of Spener’s attitude toward the church
pressed the wish that he be buried in a white coffin, a symbol
government of his day and of his ethics, respectively.
of his hope that the church on earth might expect better
F. ERNEST STOEFFLER (1987)
times.
A prolific writer, Spener published many hundreds of
SPINOZA, BARUCH
letters; sermons; edificatory and catechetical tracts; works on
(16321677; known as Bento
genealogy, history, and heraldry; and writings of a polemical
in Portuguese, Benedictus in Latin) was a Jewish rational nat-
nature. The most famous of his literary productions was his
uralist of Marrano descent and the author of a rigorously mo-
Pia desideria, which appeared as a preface to Arndt’s Postil
nistic interpretation of reality expressed through an inter-
in 1675 and later was published separately at various times.
locking chain of propositions demonstrated in the
In it he proposed his program for the moral and spiritual re-
geometrical manner. Spinoza’s relentless drive for the naked
form of individuals, church, and society, which he followed
truth was of singular intensity, and his scientific assessment
throughout his life.
of traditional Jewish thought thoroughly uncompromising.
His aim was to contemplate things as they really are rather
The major emphases of Spener’s works are typical of Pi-
than as we would like them to be. Anthropocentrism is pe-
etism, namely, natural humanity’s lost estate, the necessity
remptorily and unceremoniously banished from his philo-
of its religious renewal, the possibility of its conscious experi-
sophical purview. Despite Spinoza’s unadorned style, consid-
ence of God’s regenerating and sustaining presence, the de-
erable controversy still envelops the interpretation of the very
sirability of continued spiritual nourishment through wor-
foundations of his thought.
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SPINOZA, BARUCH
8681
LIFE AND WORKS. On July 27, 1656, Bento de Spinoza was
Jonathan Israel, on the other hand, has argued eloquent-
excommunicated by the ma’amad (ruling board) of the Am-
ly and persuasively that it was Spinoza’s public and provoca-
sterdam Jewish community into which he had been born.
tive repudiation of the fundamentals of Rabbinic Judaism
His father, Mikael, had been born in Vidigere (modern-day
that made it impossible for the synagogue authorities not to
Figueira), Portugal, and had a close personal and financial
expel him (Israel, 2001, pp. 162–174). This is reinforced by
relationship with the Portuguese merchant Abraham de Spi-
the exceptional severity of the excommunication formula
noza of Nantes, who was both his uncle and his father-in-
used in his case. Israel points out that if the core ideas of Spi-
law. Bento was the son of Mikael’s second wife, Hanna De-
noza’s mature system were already outlined in Spinoza’s
bora, who died when the child was scarcely six. Spinoza was
Short Treatise (16601661), and if he was capable of con-
never trained to be a rabbi, as previously thought, and was
vincing Oldenburg in 1660 that he had outflanked Carte-
never a full-time pupil of Sha’ul Levi Morteira, a senior in-
sianism, then it seems most unlikely that if one assumes, as
structor in Talmud-Torah Ets Hayyim, although he may
most scholars do, that Spinoza started his philosophical odys-
have attended an adult group known as Yeshivat Keter Torah
sey around the time of his excommunication in 1656, just
that was led by Morteira. He apparently left school at age
four years before, that he could conceivably have reached
thirteen or fourteen to work in his father’s business. From
such a level of achievement so speedily. One must conclude
1654, the year of Mikael’s death, to 1656, the firm Bento
that he had begun his philosophical phase long before this,
y Gabriel de Spinoza was managed by Bento and his younger
as indicated by various strands of evidence. Thus Jarig Jelles
brother Gabriel. In March 1656, several months before his
affirms in his preface to Opera Posthuma that long before the
excommunication, Spinoza decided to take advantage of a
ban in 1656, Spinoza had seriously engaged the Cartesian
Dutch law that protected minors who had been orphaned,
philosophy, rebelling inwardly against the teachings of the
and dispossessed himself of his father’s estate, which was
synagogue. Similarly, the eighteenth-century historian of
heavily burdened by debts.
Amsterdam Sephardic Jewry, David Franco Mendes, stresses
that, even as a boy, Spinoza vacillated in his Jewish belief as
The manuscript of the ban, written in Portuguese, the
a result of his philosophical excursions. But the clearest
language of all documents of the Amsterdam Jewish commu-
proof, argues Israel, is what Spinoza reveals in the autobio-
nity, is still preserved in the municipal archives of Amster-
graphical passage of the Emendation of the Intellect (1658),
dam but contains no signatures. Other contemporary docu-
where he dwells on the long inner struggle he experienced
ments suggest that young Spinoza’s heretical views, which
before he could tear himself loose from the double existence
led to his excommunication, were reinforced especially by
he had been leading, in which outward conformity was un-
Juan (Daniyye’l) de Prado. Excommunicated in 1658, de
easily joined with inner turmoil. Spinoza was finally able to
Prado was also a member of Morteira’s Keter Torah circle
cut the Gordian knot when, by 1655, his family business was
and had attacked biblical anthropomorphism, poked fun at
ruined and his father’s estate became encumbered by sizable
the idea of Jewish chosenness, and asserted that the world
debts.
was eternal and the immutable laws of nature constituted the
only form of divine providence. A report of Tomas Solano
According to Israel, the only personage who seems likely
y Robles to the Inquisition of August 8, 1659 also indicated
to have guided Spinoza in a radical direction was his ex-Jesuit
that Prado and Spinoza were excommunicated because they
Latin master Franciscus van den Ende. Thus was Spinoza’s
thought the Law (Torah) untrue, that souls die with the
precocious genius caught up in the Cartesian ferment that
body, and that there is no God except philosophically
swept the Netherlands, and the resulting identity crisis that
speaking.
smoldered within him since his early teens finally came to
a head through a confluence of circumstances, in 1656. The
The precise reasons for the excommunication of Spino-
ban was consequently the inevitable outcome of a long intel-
za have been much discussed and debated. Steven Nadler has
lectual struggle that could no longer be contained.
argued strongly that it was Spinoza’s denial of personal im-
mortality of the soul that played the key role (Spinoza’s Here-
Apart from the report in Lucas’s biography of Spinoza,
sy, 2001). In seventeenth-century Amsterdam, four commu-
which elevates Spinoza to the status of a philosopher saint,
nity rabbis are especially prominent, and each one of them
there is no evidence of an appeal by the Jewish community
composed treatises in defense of immortality (Isaac Aboab,
that Spinoza be banished from the city of Amsterdam, and
Sha’ul Levi Morteira, Moses Raphael d’Aguilar, and
no legal record of any forced exile of Spinoza. In fact, says
Menasseh ben Israel). Moreover, Morteira and Menasseh
Nadler, Spinoza appears to have been in that city throughout
tended to lump together the three doctrines that seem to
most of the period of his excommunication in 1656 to the
have played a role in Spinoza’s ban: the truth of the Torah,
beginning of his correspondence in 1661 (Nadler, 1999,
divine providence, and immortality. Admittedly, the Dutch
pp. 156158, 163). It also appears that sometime before
may not have been unduly concerned with the goings on in
early 1659 he was either staying in or making periodic visits
the Jewish community, but what is significant here is the psy-
to Leiden to study at the university there. By early 1661, Spi-
chology of the community that banned Spinoza, convinced
noza was already well known as one who “excelled in the
as it was of the reality of such a threat.
Cartesian philosophy.” Nadler further suggests that it may
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have been his association with university life, where all in-
dread quarrels” (Ep. 6; Curley, 1985, p. 188; Nadler, 1999,
struction was in Latin, that first moved Spinoza to use the
p. 191).
Latinized version of his first name, Benedictus.
In April 1663 Spinoza moved to Voorburg, near The
It is to the final years of his Amsterdam period that Spi-
Hague, thus gaining the advantage of proximity to a major
noza’s earliest philosophical writings belong. According to
city. Before leaving, however, he visited his old friends in
Nadler, following Mignini, there are good reasons for think-
Amsterdam, whereupon Jarig Jelles and Lodewigk Meyer
ing that the Treatise on the Emendation of the Intellect (Trac-
prevailed upon him to expand his Euclidean exposition of
tatus de intellectus emendatione), an unfinished work on
Descartes’s Principia philosophiae and allow its publication
philosophical method and language, is the first of Spinoza’s
together with his Cogitata metaphysica (Metaphysical
extant philosophical treatises (Nadler, 1999, pp. 175176).
thoughts). This was the only book of Spinoza’s to appear in
Its content and terminology suggest a dating before the Short
his lifetime under his own name. In 1670, after Spinoza’s
Treatise on God, Man and His Well-Being (Korte Verhandeling
move to The Hague, his Tractatus Theologico-Politicus was
van God de mensch en des zelfs welstand), which he probably
published anonymously under a false imprint in Amsterdam.
began sometime in late 1660 or early 1661.
A few months thereafter, the Reformed Church Council of
Amsterdam pronounced its condemnation of the book, and
To devote himself more fully to his philosophical inves-
a series of lesser councils and consistories swiftly followed the
tigations, Spinoza decided in the summer of 1661 to settle
example. In July 1674 the Court of Holland condemned the
in the small village of Rijnsburg, a few miles outside of Lei-
Tractatus and prohibited its printing, distribution, and sale.
den. This sleepy village had been the center of Collegiant ac-
Although the great Dutch statesman Johan De Witt seems
tivity in Holland, and Spinoza may have been directed there
to have preferred not to proceed to a formal provincial ban
by his Collegiant friends, though its proximity to Leiden,
of the Tractatus, it is a mistake, according to Jonathan Israel,
with its university where he probably still had friends from
to deduce from this that he viewed it in any way favorably
the time he had studied there, must have added to its attrac-
(Israel, 2001, pp. 277–278). A surviving fragment from a
tion for Spinoza. In the back of the house in which he lodged
diary of the classicist Jacob Gronovius reveals that in the
was a room where Spinoza set up his lense-grinding equip-
Dutch governing circles Spinoza was then deemed the most
ment, where in addition to lenses he also made telescopes
dangerous of the Dutch atheists and considered by De Witt
and microscopes. Problems in optics were an abiding interest
a miscreant deserving imprisonment. Given the vehemence
for Spinoza, and Christian Huygens, a scientist of interna-
of the outcry against him, Spinoza became apprehensive
tional reputation, considered himself, Spinoza, and the
when he learned that a Dutch translation of his Tractatus was
mathematician Johannes Hudde to be the three leading spe-
about to be published, and he contacted his faithful friend
cialists who were seeking to improve and extend the capabili-
Jelles to stop the printing. The need for caution was under-
ties of the microscope. Huygens got to know Spinoza person-
lined by the trial of Adrian Koerbagh, in which the prosecu-
ally in the early 1660s and often conferred with him about
tor questioned him about his relations with Spinoza and at-
scientific matters.
tempted to obtain from him a confession that his book
While Spinoza was still in Amsterdam, his friends soon
contained Spinoza’s teachings. Koerbagh was condemned to
became aware of the originality of his philosophical approach
ten years in prison but died shortly after, in jail, in October
and persuaded him to provide them with a concise exposi-
1669. It was Adrian’s tragic end, observes Nadler, “in Spino-
tion of his developing ideas so they could study and discuss
za’s eyes a sign of collusion between the secular and the sec-
them. Acceding to their request, Spinoza composed a work
tarian authorities, that gave him the impetus to put the final
in Latin probably sometime between the middle of 1660 and
touches on his Tractatus and prepare it for publication”
his departure for Rijnsburg. When his friends asked for a
(Nadler, 1999, p. 269).
Dutch version, Spinoza reworked the text, while making
In 1672 came the French invasion of Holland and the
many additions and revisions. Fully conscious of the novelty
murder of De Witt, events that cast a dark shadow on Spino-
and daring of his thought, he urged them “to be very careful
za’s last years. In February 1673 he received an invitation
about communicating these things to others” (Nadler, 1999,
from the elector palatine Karl Ludwig to accept a professor-
p. 186). Spinoza worked on the Short Treatise throughout
ship at Heidelberg. Spinoza refused it for fear that it would
1661 and into 1662, transcribing and emending it. This
interfere with his “further progress in philosophy,” and be-
short work outlines most of the essentials of Spinoza’s ma-
cause of his misgivings about a statement in the invitation
ture system as exhibited in the Ethics. Moreover, Short Trea-
concerning the prince’s confidence that Spinoza would not
tise, discovered about 1860 and of which two Dutch versions
misuse his freedom in philosophical teaching to disturb the
are available, bears witness to the birth pangs of Spinoza’s
public religion (Nadler, 1999, p. 313).
thought, which, with its strong pantheistic coloring, is still
couched in language that is clearly theological. Spinoza hesi-
Late in the summer of 1675, Spinoza completed his
tated to publish it for fear of the Calvinist theologians who
magnum opus, the Ethica ordine geometrico demonstrata (Eth-
might be deeply offended by it and, as Spinoza himself puts
ics), and went to Amsterdam to arrange for its publication.
it, will “with their usual hatred attack me, who absolutely
There, as he wrote to Henry Oldenburg, “while I was negoti-
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ating, a rumor gained currency that I had in the press a book
imagination, meaning Christ possessed a mind far superior
concerning God, wherein I endeavored to show there is no
to those of his fellow men. Moreover, because Christ was
God” (Letter 68, September 1675). He therefore decided to
sent to teach not only the Jews but the whole human race,
put off the publication.
it was not enough that his mind be attuned only to the Jews;
it was attuned to ideas universal and true. If he ever pro-
Spinoza’s last major work, the Tractatus Politicus, writ-
claimed any revelations as laws, he did so because of the igno-
ten in 16761677, abandoned the theological idiom em-
rance of the people. To those who were allowed to under-
ployed in the Tractatus Theologico-Politicus and offered in-
stand the mysteries of heaven, he taught his doctrines as
stead a straightforward analysis of aristocracy, monarchy, and
eternal truths. To Spinoza, the biblical doctrine of the
democracy in an attempt to demonstrate how a stable gov-
chosenness of the Hebrews implies on their part a childish
ernment could be ensured. This work was unfortunately in-
or malicious joy in their exclusive possession of the revelation
terrupted by Spinoza’s death on February 21, 1677. Another
of the Bible. The doctrine is to be explained by the fact that
late work that remained incomplete was his Latin Compendi-
Moses was constrained to appeal to the childish understand-
um of Hebrew Grammar, which he “undertook at the request
of certain of his friends who were diligently studying the Sa-
ing of the people. In truth, he claims, the Hebrew nation was
cred Tongue” (Bloom, 1962, p. 11). Spinoza was buried in
not chosen by God for its wisdom—it was not distinguished
the New Church on the Spuy, and his Opera posthuma, ed-
by intellect or virtue—but for its social organization. Spinoza
ited by Jelles, Meyer, and Georg Hermann Schuller, ap-
explains the extraordinary fact of Jewish survival by the uni-
peared in November 1677 with only the initials B. D. S.
versal hatred that Jews drew upon themselves. From Jeremiah
9:23, Spinoza deduces that the Jews were no longer bound
BIBLICAL CRITIQUE. Spinoza’s excommunication left a psy-
to practice their ceremonial law after the destruction of their
chological scar that explains, partly at least, much of his sub-
state. The Pharisees continued these practices more to op-
sequent bitterness toward his own people and their tradi-
pose the Christians than to please God. (Spinoza’s view of
tions. Although his pioneering biblical critique is frequently
the Pharisees is consistently derogatory. He attributes to
illuminating (for example, his view that Moses did not write
them economic motives in their quarrel with the Sadducees
the Pentateuch was already openly expressed by Isaac La
and goes so far as to say that Pontius Pilate had made conces-
Peyrère, whose work Prae-Adamitae Spinoza possessed),
sion to the passion of the Pharisees in consenting to the cru-
much of his writing in the Tractatus is marred by a onesided-
cifixion of Christ, whom he knew to be innocent. Maimoni-
ness that distorts his judgment. Although it is undoubtedly
des is pejoratively termed a Pharisee, and Spinoza dismissed
true that Spinoza’s intended audience was a Christian one,
his interpretation of scripture as harmful, useless, and ab-
and that this dictated his partiality toward the figure of
surd.) Moreover, on the basis of Ezekiel 20:25, Spinoza finds
Christ and the Apostles, the unnecessary slurs against the
the explanation of the frequent falling away of the Hebrews
Pharisees and the Rabbis and the unmistakable hostility that
from the Law, which finally led to the destruction of their
sometimes surfaces in a number of his formulations point to
state, in the fact that God was so angry with them that he
the psychological effects, conscious or unconscious, of his ex-
gave them laws whose object was not their safety but his ven-
pulsion from the Jewish community. Spinoza characterizes
geance. To motivate the common individual to practice jus-
his new method of investigating scripture as an empirical ap-
tice and charity, certain doctrines concerning God and hu-
proach that accepts the biblical text as a natural datum. Since
mans, says Spinoza, are indispensable. These, too, are a
prophecy claims to surpass human understanding, Spinoza
product of the prophetic imagination, but they will necessar-
must somehow take it at its word. For the sake of the masses,
who cannot be reached by reason alone, Spinoza is willing
ily be understood philosophically by those who can do so.
to grant that prophecy is possible. There may be, he says,
This universal scriptural religion is distinguished both from
laws of imagination that are unknown to humans, and the
philosophical religion, which is a product of reason and is
prophets, who received their revelations from God by means
independent of any historical narrative, and from the vulgar
of the imagination, could thus perceive much that is beyond
religion of the masses, which is a product of the superstitious
the boundary of the intellect. Although Moses is the chief
imagination and is practiced through fear alone; it consists
of the prophets, his eminence consisted only in his receiving
of seven dogmas. The first four concern God and his attri-
his prophecies through a real voice rather than an imaginary
butes of existence, unity, omnipresence, and power and will.
one. In other respects, however, Moses’ imagination was not
The other three deal with people’s religious acts, and seem
especially distinguished, for he was not sufficiently aware of
to derive from a Christian context: human beings’ worship
God’s omniscience, and he perceived the Decalogue not as
of God, their salvation, and their repentance. Each of the
a record of eternal truths but as the ordinances of a legislator.
seven dogmas can be understood either imaginatively, in
Spinoza set up the figure of Christ in contrast to Moses. If
which case they would all be false, though useful, or philo-
Moses spoke with God face-to-face, Christ communed with
sophically, in which case they would all be true. Presumably,
him mind-to-mind (a probable allusion to the Johanine con-
the average individual’s score would be a mixed one.
ception of Christ as the Logos, as noted by Leavitt in Chris-
THOUGHT. Spinoza begins and ends with God. He is con-
tian Philosophy of Spinoza [1991]). No one except Christ re-
vinced that upon reflective analysis individuals become im-
ceived the revelations of God without the aid of the
mediately aware that they have an idea of substance, or that
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which is in itself and is conceived through itself. Because sub-
ers them natural facts to be studied and understood. Vice is
stances having different attributes have nothing in common
impotence, whereas virtue is power. Individuals act when
with one another, and because if two things have nothing in
anything is done of which they are the adequate cause; they
common, one cannot be the cause of the other, then it is evi-
suffer when anything is done of which they are only the par-
dent that all the entities of which humans have experience,
tial cause. The first law of nature (as the Stoics had already
including themselves, must, because they all have extension
noted) is the impulse, or effort (conatus), by which each thing
in common, constitute one substance. Although a human
endeavors to persevere in its own being. Humans do not de-
being is also characterized by thought, which has nothing in
sire anything because they think it good, but humans ad-
common with extension, since one is aware of one’s own ex-
judge a thing good because they desire it. Desire is activity
tension, these two attributes cannot denote two substances
conducive to self-preservation; pleasure marks its increase,
but must be instead two parallel manifestations of one and
pain its decrease. Spinoza offers a pioneering psychological
the same substance. Spinoza thus insists that humans have
analysis of the ways through which the human imagination
a clear and distinct idea of substance or God having at least
acts and discusses in some detail the various laws of what he
two parallel attributes. (In Ethics 1.11 he defines God as con-
calls the association and imitation of the emotions.
sisting of infinite attributes, each one of which expresses eter-
Spinoza calls active emotions those which are related to
nal and infinite essence, but some scholars believe that Spi-
the mind insofar as it acts and of which an individual is the
noza is here using the term infinite as a synonym for all, and
adequate cause. Of these there are only two: desire, or the
that what he means to say in this proposition is that God ex-
effort of self-preservation in accordance with the dictates of
ists in every possible basic way. Although he elsewhere hints
reason, and pleasure, or the enjoyment experienced from the
that there may be more than two attributes, he stops short
mind’s contemplation of itself whenever it conceives an ade-
of saying that there are. Even more controversial is the ques-
quate or true idea. In the conflict of emotions, weaker emo-
tion whether the attributes are to be understood as subjective
tions are removed by stronger ones, as Plato had already indi-
or objective.) Although this conception of substance is ulti-
cated in the Timaeus. Knowledge of good and evil can be a
mately derived from empirical observation, it is not depen-
determining factor only insofar as it is considered an emo-
dent on any particular observation as such but follows from
tion—that is, a consciousness of pleasure and pain. Inas-
the analysis of ideas and is therefore a product of the power
much as happiness consists in humans’ preservation of their
of the mind to think ideas and analyze their logical structure.
own beings and they act virtuously when effecting their self-
It is in this sense that knowledge of substance, or God, is a
preservation in accordance with their full powers, humans
priori, deriving essentially from an analysis of a given true
must seek to maximize their power to act, which means re-
definition contained within the human mind. Spinoza desig-
moving their passive emotions to the greatest possible extent
nates knowledges of this kind as intuitive; he ranks it as the
and substituting for them active emotions.
highest form of knowledge humans have, above deductive
reasoning, which is mediated by the syllogistic process, and
Spinoza suggests various remedies for the passive emo-
imagination, which is based either on hearsay or random ex-
tions, which he describes as mental diseases (already de-
perience. For Spinoza, the only adequate or clear and distinct
scribed by the Stoics). Since a passive emotion is a confused
ideas humans possess are those related to God, simple ideas,
idea, the first remedy is to remove confusion and transform
and common notions, or axioms, and what is deduced from
it into a clear and distinct idea. Another remedy is to realize
them. Knowledge derived from syllogistic reasoning (which
that nothing happens except through the necessity of an infi-
yields universal knowledge) and intuitive knowledge (which
nite causal series. Humans should also endeavor to expel the
represents the power of the mind itself, on which syllogistic
many ghosts that haunt their minds by contemplating the
reasoning ultimately rests) are necessarily true.
common properties of things. Indeed, the emotions them-
selves may become an object of contemplation. The sover-
God is eternally in a state of self-modification, produc-
eign remedy, however, is the love of God. The mind has the
ing an infinite series of modes that are manifested under ei-
capacity to cause all affections of the body to be related to
ther of his attributes. Under the attribute of extension, there
the idea of God; that is, to know them by intuitive knowl-
is the immediate infinite mode, motion and rest; and under
edge. Spinoza endeavors to demonstrate the immortality of
thought, the absolutely infinite intellect, or the idea of God.
the human mind (stripped of sensation, memory, and imagi-
Finally come the finite modes, or particular things. Sub-
nation) but insists that even during a lifetime one can experi-
stance with its attributes is called natura naturans, the cre-
ence that state of immortality which he calls blessedness and
ative or active divine power, whereas the entire modal sys-
describes as union with, or love for, God. The intellectual
tem, the system of what is created, is called natura naturata.
love of God, which arises from intuitive knowledge, is eternal
Spinoza’s God is thus not identical with the natural world
and is part of the infinite love with which God loves himself.
as such but only with the creative ground that encom-
passes it.
INFLUENCE ON LATER THOUGHT. Among the major philos-
ophers, Spinoza was the only one who did not found a
While others consider human actions and appetites as
school. During the first hundred years after Spinoza’s death,
virtues and vices to be bewailed or mocked, Spinoza consid-
his name was connected principally with the Tractatus
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Theologico-Politicus, and as Isreal has emphsized, “no one else
the heart and his denial of free will and final causes, and
rivalled his notoriety as chief challenger of revealed religion”)
called unjustified his attack on the Pharisees and on the Mo-
(Isreal, 2001, p. 259). Only toward the end of the eighteenth
saic authorship of all of the Pentateuch. Nahman Krochmal’s
century did Spinoza begin to arouse enthusiasm among men
son, Avraham, wrote an apologetic work, Eben ha-ro’shah
of letters. In 1778, Johan Gottfried Herder equated Spinoza
(1871), in which he defended Spinoza, whom he reverently
with John himself as the apostle of love, and in 1780 Got-
called Rabbenu (Our Master) Baruch (an epithet already ap-
thold Ephraim Lessing declared to Friedrich Jacobi that
plied to Spinoza by Moses Hess (1812–1875) in 1837, and
“there is no other philosophy than that of Spinoza” (Vallée,
later also adopted by Einstein). Hermann Cohen later
Spinoza Conversations, 1988, p. 86). Although a follower of
mounted a virulent attack against Spinoza, as impassioned
Christian Wolff, who directed a formidable critique against
as that by Luzzatto, in Cohen’s “Spinoza über Staat und
Spinoza, Moses Mendelssohn hailed Spinoza as early as 1775
Religion, Judentum und Christentum” (1905; 1924,
as a martyr for the furthering of human knowledge. As a re-
pp. 290372).
sult of the publication of Mendelssohn’s Morgenstunden in
Shortly after arriving at Sedeh Boker on December 13,
1785, in which he sought to attribute to Lessing a purified
1953, in order to settle at a kibbutz in the Negev, first prime
form of pantheism, Jacobi countered with a work called Über
minister of Israel, Ben Gurion, published an article in the
die Lehre des Spinoza (“On the teaching of Spinoza,” 1785),
newspaper Davar titled “Let Us Make Amends,” in which
in which he branded Spinozism as atheism and the Jewish
he expressed the wish “to restore to our Hebrew language
Qabbalah as a confused Spinozism. Goethe, on the other
and culture, the writings of the most original and profound
hand, eagerly devoured Spinoza’s Ethics, noting that it
thinker that appeared amongst the Hebrew people in the last
“agreed most with his own conception of nature,” and that
two thousand years.” The injustice that required mending
“he always carried it with him.” Goethe shared two of Spino-
was thus not the excommunication of Spinoza, since in Ben
za’s most fundamental principles, his monism and his theory
Gurion’s eyes that was nothing but a historic curiosity, which
of necessity (Bell, 1984, pp. 153, 168). Salomon Maimon,
in the course of time had been automatically nullified. What
the first to call Spinoza’s system acosmic, spoke admiringly
still needed mending was the literary cultural fact that He-
in his autobiography of the profundity of Spinoza’s philoso-
brew literature remains incomplete as long as it does not in-
phy, and his first book, Versuch über die Transendentalphilo-
clude the entire corpus of Spinoza’s writings as one of the
sophie (An essay on Transcendental philosophy, 1790), was an
greatest spiritual assets of the Jewish nation. Ben Gurion’s
attempt to unite Kantian philosophy with Spinozism. Ac-
wish has now finally been fulfilled with the appearance of all
cording to G. W. F. Hegel (1770–1831), there was “either
of Spinoza’s major works in Hebrew translation, and with
Spinozism or no philosophy,” and Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph
the establishment of a Spinoza Institute in Jerusalem which
von Schelling (1775–1854) wrote that “no one can hope to
holds biannual conferences devoted to Spinoza’s thought.
progress to the true and complete in philosophy without hav-
This piece of historical irony by which Spinoza’s philosophi-
ing at least once in his life sunk himself in the abyss of Spino-
cal legacy has now been emphatically included in the intel-
zism” (McFarland, 1969, p. 103).
lectual life of Israel would undoubtedly have afforded Spino-
Appreciation for Spinoza in England was due especially
za a measure of supreme delight. (See Dorman, 1990,
to Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who wrote in about 1810 that
pp. 154–163).
only two systems of philosophy were possible, that of Spino-
Spinoza has been regarded as the founder of scientific
za and that of Immanuel Kant (1724–1804). In a letter of
psychology, and his influence has been seen in the James–
1881, Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900) expressed his aston-
Lange theory of the emotions and in some of the central con-
ishment at the kinship between Spinoza’s position on moral-
cepts of Freud (see Bidney, 1962). A more recent version of
ity and his own, although elsewhere he is severely critical of
this kind of influence is found in the work of the noted neu-
Spinoza. Martin Buber (18781965) found much inspira-
rologist Antonio Damasio, Looking for Spinoza: Joy, Sorrow,
tion in Spinoza, seeing in him the highest philosophical ex-
and the Feeling Brain (New York, 2003). Spinoza has also re-
emplification of Judaism’s unique quest for unity, but he
ceived an enormous amount of attention in the former Soviet
criticized the Spinozistic attempt to depersonalize God.
Union. Spinoza’s concept of nature as self-caused, infinite,
and eternal was first singled out for comment by Friedrich
In the 1850s, Shemu’el David Luzzatto stirred up a lit-
Engels in his Dialectics of Nature. From the Soviet viewpoint,
erary polemic concerning Spinoza after having been aroused
Spinoza’s materialism is unfortunately wrapped in a theolog-
by the first laudatory biography of Spinoza in Hebrew
ical garb, but his consistent application of the scientific
(1846), written by the poet Me’ir Letteris; by the essays of
method is seen as overshadowing “the historically transient
Schelling’s student Senior Sachs from 1850 to 1854, in
and class-bounded in his philosophy” (see Kline, 1952,
which he links together Shelomoh Ibn Gabirol, Avraham ibn
p. 33)
Ezra, the qabbalists, and Spinoza; and by Shelomoh Rubin’s
Moreh nevukhim he-hadash (1857), which contains a positive
In America, the transcendentalists of the eighteenth cen-
account of Spinoza’s thought. Luzzatto attacked Spinoza’s
tury held Spinoza in very high regard. Oliver Wendell
emphasis on the primacy of the intellect over the feelings of
Holmes (18411935) read and reread Spinoza’s Ethics, and
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his famous formulation that freedom of thought reached a
tum und Christentum,” (1905), reprinted in Cohen’s Jüdis-
limit only when it posed a “clear and present danger” appears
che Schriften (Berlin, 1924) 3.290–372; and Menahem Dor-
to have been made under Spinoza’s influence. Moreover,
man, The Spinoza Dispute in Jewish Thought (Hakibbutz
Spinoza had special appeal for the young American Jewish
Hameuchad, 1990; in Hebrew). For Spinoza and modern
intellectuals who were children of the first wave of immi-
psychological theory, see David Bidney, The Psychology and
grants from eastern Europe. Morris Raphael Cohen (1880
Ethics of Spinoza (reprint, New York, 1962); and Antonio
Damazio, Looking For Spinoza: Joy, Sorrow, and the Feeling
1947) had, as a youthful Marxist, valued Spinoza the cosmo-
Brain (New York, 2003). For Spinoza in the former Soviet
politan who had rejected Judaism, and Lewis Feuer described
Union and in America, see G. L. Kline, Spinoza in Soviet Phi-
Horace M. Kallen’s The Book of Job as a Greek Tragedy (New
losophy (London, 1952); and Lewis S. Feuer, “Spinoza’s
York, 1918) as “embedded in a Spinozist matrix.” Some of
Thought and Modern Perplexities: Its American Career,” in
the greatest Jewish scientists and philosophers in modern
Barry S. Kogan, ed., Spinoza: A Tercentenary Perspective
times, such as Albert Einstein, Samuel Alexander, and Henri
(Cincinnati) pp. 36-79. A good brief introduction to Spino-
Bergson, also felt a deep affinity with Spinoza (see Feuer,
za is Stuart Hampshire’s Spinoza (Baltimore, 1951). The
pp. 36–79).
most detailed and illuminating commentary on Spinoza’s
Ethics is Harry A. Wolfson’s The Philosophy of Spinoza, 2
vols. (Cambridge, Mass., 1934). A comprehensive introduc-
BIBLIOGRAPHY
tion and commentary (in Hebrew) on the Short Treatise,
The best critical edition of Spinoza’s works is that by Carl Geb-
along with a Hebrew translation by Rachel Hollander-
hardt, Spinoza Opera, 4 vols. (Heidelberg, 1925; a fifth vol-
Steingart, can be found in Ma’amar qatsar ’al Elohim, ha-
ume was added in 1987). According to Nadler, this will be
adam, ve-oshero, edited by Joseph Ben Shlomo (Jerusalem,
superseded by an edition from the Groupe de Recherches
1978). A similar edition of De Intellectus Emendatione with
Spinozistes. A useful edition with translation and notes of
Hebrew commentary is Ma’amar ’al tiqqun ha-sekhel, trans-
Spinoza’s Tractatus Politicus is by A. G. Wernham, Benedict
lated by Nathan Spiegel and edited by Joseph ben Shlomo
de Spinoza, The Political Works (Oxford, 1958). For Spino-
(Jerusalem, 1972). Detailed analyses of Spinoza’s Theologi-
za’s Compendium of Hebrew Grammar, see Baruch Spinoza,
cal-Political Treatise can be found in Sylvan Zac, Spinoza et
Hebrew Grammar, ed. and trans. by Maurice J. Bloom (New
l’Interpretation de l’Ecriture (Paris, 1965); Leo Strauss, Spino-
York, 1962). A new and reliable translation of Spinoza’s
za’s Critique of Religion (New York, 1965); and André Malet,
works by E. M. Curley is The Collected Works of Spinoza, vol.
Le Traité Theologico-Politique de Spinoza et la pensée biblique
l (Princeton, N.J., 1985; vol. 2, forthcoming). In the mean-
(Paris, 1966). See also the important study of J. Samuel
time, there has appeared Spinoza, Complete Works, with
Preus, Spinoza and the Irrelevance of Biblical Authority (Cam-
translations by Samuel Shirley, edited with introduction and
bridge, U.K., 2001); Steven Frankel, “Politics and Rhetoric:
notes by Michael L. Morgan (Indianapolis, 2002). A com-
Spinoza’s Intended Audience in the Tractatus Theologico-
prehensive bibliography of Spinoza up to 1942 is Adolph S.
Politicus,” Review of Metaphysics 52.4 (June 1999): 897924;
Oko’s The Spinoza Bibliography (Boston, 1964), which has
Steven Frankel, “The Piety of a Heretic: Spinoza’s Interpre-
been supplemented by Jon Wetlesens’s A Spinoza Bibliogra-
tation of Judaism,” Journal of Jewish Thought and Philosophy
phy, 19401970, 2d rev. ed. (Oslo, 1971). See also E. M.
11.2 (November 2002): 117134; Shlomo Pines, Studies in
Curley’s bibliography in Spinoza: Essays in Interpretation, ed-
the History of Jewish Thought, edited by Warren Z. Harvey
ited by Eugene Freeman and Maurice Mandelbaum (LaSalle,
and Moshe Idel (Jerusalem, Israel, 1997), 660734 (The
Ill., 1975), pp. 263316; Wilhelm Totok’s Handbuch der
Collected Works of S. Pines, vol. 5); and Frank Leavitt, “The
Geschichte der Philosophie, vol. 4, Frühe Neuzeit 17 (Frank-
Christian Philosophy of Benedict de Spinoza,” Daat 26
furt, 1981), pp. 232296; and Theo van der Werf, H. Sieb-
(1991): 97108 (Hebrew).
rand, and C. Westerveen’s A Spinoza Bibliography, 1971–
1983
(Leiden, 1984).
Indispensable collections of documents on Spinoza’s life are I. S.
Révah’s Spinoza et le dr. Juan de Prado (Paris, 1959) and
The best biography of Spinoza is Steven Nadler, Spinoza: A Life
“Aux origines de la rupture spinozienne,” Revue des études
(Cambridge, U.K., 1999); supplemented by his Spinoza’s
juives 3 (JulyDecember 1964): 359431, and A. M. Vaz
Heresy: Immortality and the Jewish Mind (Oxford, 2001). See
Dias’s Spinoza Mercator & Autodidactus (The Hague, 1932),
also A. Kasher and S. Biderman, “Why was Baruch De Spi-
translated from Dutch in Studia Rosenthaliana 16 (Novem-
noza Excommunicated?” In Sceptics, Millenarians, and Jews,
ber 1982) and supplemented by four related articles. A sti-
edited by David S. Katz and Jonathan Israel (Leiden, 1990),
mulating account of the social-political context of Spinoza’s
pp. 98141. For Spinoza’s Marranism and his relationship
work is Lewis S. Feuer’s Spinoza and the Rise of Liberalism
to later thinkers, see Yirmiyahu Yovel, Spinoza and Other
(Boston, Mass., 1958). Two important and provocative in-
Heretics: The Maranno of Reason and The Adventure of Imma-
terpretations of Spinoza from the viewpoint of contemporary
nence (Princeton, N.J., 1989) 2 vols. Thomas McFarland,
philosophy are E. M. Curley’s Spinoza’s Metaphysics: An Essay
Coleridge and the Pantheist Tradition (Oxford, 1969); David
in Interpretation (Cambridge, Mass., 1969) and Jonathan
Bell, Spinoza in Germany from 1670 to the Age of Goethe
Bennett’s A Study of Spinoza’s Ethics (Indianapolis, Ind.,
(London, 1984). For the Pantheism Controversy, see Freder-
1984).
ick C. Beiser, The Fate of Reason (Cambridge, Mass., 1987)
44-108; and Gerard Vallée, J. B. Lawson, and C. G. Chap-
Useful collections of essays on Spinoza include Studies in Spinoza:
ple, The Spinoza Conversations between Lessing and Jacobi
Critical and Interpretive Essays, edited by S. Paul Kashap
(Lanham, Md., 1988). For Jewish critiques of Spinoza, see
(Berkeley, Calif., 1972); Spinoza: A Collection of Critical Es-
Hermann Cohen, “Spinoza über Statt und Religion, Juden-
says, edited by Marjorie Grene (Garden City, N.Y., 1973);
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

SPIRIT POSSESSION: AN OVERVIEW
8687
Speculum Spinozanum, 1677–1977, edited by Siegfried
the speech expressing the joy of inflicting hurt or curs-
Hessing (London, 1977); Spinoza: New Perspectives, edited
ing God and the universe, addressing terrible threats
by Robert W. Shahan and J. I. Biro (Norman, Okla., 1978);
now to the doctor, now to the patient herself. . . . The
The Philosophy of Baruch Spinoza, edited by Richard Ken-
most dreadful thing was the way in which she raged
nington (Washington, D.C., 1980); Spinoza, His Thought
when she had to submit to be touched or rubbed down
and Work, edited by Nathan Rotenstreich and N. Schneider
during the fits; she defended herself with her hands,
(Jerusalem, 1983); Spinoza’s Political and Theological
threatening all those who approached, insulting and
Thought, edited by C. De Deugd (Amsterdam, 1984); God
abusing them in the vilest terms; her body bent back-
and Nature: Spinoza’s Metaphysics, edited by Yirmiyahu Yovel
ward like a bow was flung out of the chair and writhed
(Leiden, 1991); Spinoza on Knowledge and the Human Mind,
upon the ground, then lay there stretched out full
edited by Y. Yovel (Leiden, 1994); Desire and Affect: Spinoza
length, stiff and cold, assuming the very experience of
as Psychologist, edited by Y. Yovel (New York, 1999); The
death. (quoted in Oesterreich, 1930, p. 22)
Cambridge Companion to Spinoza, edited by Don Garrett
(Cambridge, U.K., 1996); Spinoza: Metaphysical Themes, ed-
Some of the possessed, those who suffer what the German
ited by Olli Koistinen and John Biro (Oxford, 2002); Spino-
scholar Traugott K. Oesterreich has called a somnambulistic
za, edited by Gideon Segal and Y. Yovel (Burlington, Vt.,
form of possession, remember nothing of their possession.
2002). For Spinoza and his relationship to Judaism, see Gen-
Others experience a more “lucid” form and remember it. In
evieve Brykman, La Judeite de Spinoza (Paris, 1972); Zeev
this case the possessed become passive spectators of an “inter-
Levy, Baruch or Benedict: On Some Jewish Aspects of Spinoza’s
nal” drama. Often they are said to be inhabited simulta-
Philosophy (New York, 2002); Jewish Themes in Spinoza’s
neously or sequentially by several spirits, and their behavior
Philosophy, edited by Heidi M. Ravven and L. E. Goodman
varies according to the different possessing spirits. Although
(New York, 2002). For Spinoza and the Enlightenment, see
possession is sometimes considered desirable, as in spirit
the superb study of Jonathan Israel, Radical Enlightenment:
mediumship, more often, at least initially, it is considered
Philosophy and the Making of Modernity 1650–1750 (Oxford,
2001); and Adam Sutcliffe, Judaism and Enlightenment
undesirable, an affliction requiring a cure. Cures, or exor-
(Cambridge, U.K., 2003). On the troubled question of
cisms, may be simple affairs involving only the exorcist and
whether there were qabbalistic influences on Spinoza’s
his patient, or they may be elaborate, highly theatrical perfor-
thought, see the good summary and analysis of this issue by
mances involving the patient’s whole community.
Nissim Yosha, Myth and Metaphor: Abraham Cohen Herrera’s
Philosophical Interpretation of Lurianic Kabbalah
(Jerusalem,
In one form or another, spirit possession occurs over
Israel, 1994; in Hebrew) pp. 361374.
most of the world. The anthropologist Erika Bourguignon
found that in a sample of 488 societies 74 percent believe in
DAVID WINSTON (2005)
spirit possession. The highest incidence is found in Pacific
cultures and the lowest in North and South American Indian
cultures. Belief in possession is widespread among peoples of
SPIRITISM SEE AFRO-BRAZILIAN RELIGIONS;
Eurasia, Africa, and the circum-Mediterranean region and
KARDECISM; NECROMANCY
among descendants of Africans in the Americas. It occurs
more frequently in agricultural societies than in hunting and
gathering ones, and women seem to be possessed more often
SPIRIT POSSESSION
than men. However, altered states of consciousness, such as
This entry consists of the following articles:
trance, are not always interpreted as spirit possession. In
AN OVERVIEW
Bourguignon’s 488 societies, 437 societies (90%) have one
WOMEN AND POSSESSION
or more institutionalized forms of altered states of conscious-
ness, but only 251 of these (52% of the total) understand
SPIRIT POSSESSION: AN OVERVIEW
them in terms of spirit possession.
Spirit possession may be broadly defined as any altered or
Scholars have attempted to classify possession phenome-
unusual state of consciousness and allied behavior that is in-
na in many ways. Some have based their classification on the
digenously understood in terms of the influence of an alien
moral evaluation of the spirit. The French scholar Henri
spirit, demon, or deity. The possessed act as though another
Jeanmarie argues that exorcism aims at the permanent expul-
personality—a spirit or soul—has entered their body and
sion of the possessing spirit in societies that regard the spirit
taken control. Dramatic changes in their physiognomy,
as essentially evil, whereas exorcism in societies that regard
voice, and manner usually occur. Their behavior often is gro-
the spirit as morally neutral aims at the transformation of the
tesque and blasphemous. Justinus Kerner, a nineteenth-
“malign” spirit into a “benign” one. Other scholars have
century German physician and disciple of the philosopher
looked to the cultural evaluation of the possession state itself.
Friedrich Schelling, describes a demonically possessed
In Ecstatic Religion (1971) the anthropologist I. M. Lewis
woman in his native Swabia:
distinguishes between central and peripheral spirit posses-
In this state the eyes were tightly shut, the face grimac-
sion. The former are highly valued by at least a segment of
ing, often excessively and horribly changed, the voice
society and support the society’s moral, political, and reli-
repugnant, full of shrill cries, deep groans, coarse words;
gious assumptions. In these cases possession is considered de-
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8688
SPIRIT POSSESSION: AN OVERVIEW
sirable, and the spirits are generally thought to be sympathet-
rocco to describe extreme rage, sexual excitement, love, pro-
ic. Peripheral possession does not support, at least directly,
longed erections, morbid depressions, and on occasion those
the moral, political, and religious order. In these cases posses-
conditions in which the subject did not want to accept the
sion is considered undesirable and requires some form of
consequences of his or her own desires. In the West, posses-
cure, and the spirits are thought to be malign. Still other
sion metaphors also occur—for love, extreme anger, deper-
scholars, such as Oesterreich, have sought the basis for classi-
sonalization, multiple personality, autonomous behavior—
fication in the phenomenology of the experience. Oester-
in short, for any experience in which the subject feels “beside
reich divides possession into involuntary or spontaneous pos-
himself.” Such metaphors may be a residue of an earlier belief
session and voluntary or artificial possession.
in spirit possession.
Oesterreich’s distinction plays an implicit role in many
The discussion in the remainder of this article will be
other classification systems. For example, in Tikopia Ritual
restricted to spirit possession as defined by Firth. Exorcisms
and Belief (1967, p. 296), the anthropologist Raymond
will be divided into the permanent and the transformational.
Firth distinguishes “spirit possession,” “spirit mediumship,”
Permanent exorcisms aim at the complete expulsion of the
and “shamanism” on the basis of the host’s control of the
possessing spirit; the patient is liberated from all spirit influ-
spirit. According to Firth, spirit possession refers to “phe-
ence. Transformational exorcisms strive to change the nature
nomena of abnormal behavior which are interpreted by other
of the spirit from malign to benign; as a result the relation-
members of the society as evidence that a spirit is controlling
ship between spirit and host also changes. In transformation-
the person’s actions and probably inhabiting his body.” Spir-
al exorcisms, the patient is usually incorporated into a cult
it mediumship involves the “use of such behavior by mem-
that sponsors periodic ritual occasions when the patient can
bers of the society as a means of communication with what
again experience possession and reaffirm his relationship
they understand to be entities in the spirit world.” The medi-
with his possessing spirit.
um’s behavior must be fairly regular and intelligible. Firth
ALTERED STATES OF CONSCIOUSNESS. An altered state of
applies the term shamanism “to those phenomena where a
consciousness refers to any mental state subjectively recog-
person, either a spirit medium or not, is regarded as control-
nized or objectively observed as a significant deviation from
ling spirits, exercising his mastery over them in socially rec-
“normal” waking consciousness. Sleep, dreaming, hypnosis,
ognized ways.” In the case of spirit mediumship and shaman-
brainwashing, mental absorption, meditation, and various
ism, at least after the initial possession, the state of possession
mystical experiences are all altered states of consciousness.
is often deliberately induced by inhalation of incense or me-
These states are characterized by disturbances in concentra-
phitic fumes (as at the Delphic oracle in ancient Greece), by
tion, attention, judgment, and memory; by archaic modes
ingestion of drugs (as in North Africa and the Middle East)
of thought; by perceptual distortions, including those of
or emotionally laden substances (such as the blood of a sacri-
space, time, and body; by an increased evaluation of subjec-
ficial victim in parts of India), or by mechanical means (such
tive experiences, a sense of the ineffable, feelings of rejuvena-
as drumming, dancing, hyperventilation, or the incantation
tion, loss of a sense of control, and hypersuggestibility.
of repetitive prayers).
The altered state of consciousness most frequently asso-
All these classifications impose on the reality of spirit
ciated with spirit possession is trance (Lat., trans, “across,”
possession a conceptual rigidity that distorts the essential flu-
and ire, “to go”; cf. OFr., transir, “to pass from life to
idity of the phenomena. Often the host moves in and out
death”), defined as “a condition of dissociation, characterized
of all of Firth’s three states—if not in one séance then in the
by the lack of voluntary movement and frequently by autom-
course of his relationship with the spirit. The anthropologist
atisms in act and thought, illustrated by hypnotic and medi-
Esther Pressel found that in the African American cults of
umistic conditions” (Penguin Dictionary of Psychology, Har-
Brazil initial possessions tended to be involuntary and subse-
mondsworth, 1971, p. 38). The subject experiences a
quent ones voluntary as the host gained control of his or her
detachment from the structured frames of reference that sup-
spirit. One Moroccan woman with whom this writer worked
port his usual interpretation and understanding of the world
suffered periodic possessions in which she was very much the
about him. The subject is, as the Balinese say, “away,” quite
victim of her possessing spirit (jin¯ı). At times, however, she
literally dissociated (Lat., de, “from,” and socius, “compan-
was able to gain some control over the spirit and convey its
ion”), removed from companionship and from society.
messages to those about her. It was rumored, though this
writer never witnessed this, that she would sometimes force
Ritual trance, the trance of possession, is induced by
her possessing spirit to perform nefarious deeds for her and
various physiological, psychological, and pharmacological
her secret clientele.
means. The most common techniques involve sensory bom-
bardment (an increase in exteroceptive stimulation), sensory
Too rigid a definition of spirit possession precludes rec-
deprivation (a decrease in exteroceptive stimulation), or an
ognition of its power as an authentic and believable meta-
alternation between the two. Techniques of bombardment
phor for other conditions not usually associated by the West-
include singing, chanting, drumming, clapping, monoto-
ern observer with altered states of consciousness or with
nous dancing, inhaling incense and other fumes, and experi-
trance. For example, possession metaphors were used in Mo-
encing the repetitive play of light and darkness. Techniques
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SPIRIT POSSESSION: AN OVERVIEW
8689
of deprivation include ideational and perceptual restrictions,
process involves the subjectification of the “external” ele-
blindfolding, and isolation. Fasting and other dietary restric-
ments, the symbols, of the spirit idiom.
tions, hypo- and hyperventilation (during incantations, for
example), and ingestion of drugs (tobacco, cannabis, and var-
It is important to stress the belief in the existence of the
ious psychedelic substances) may also be used. Psychosocial
spirits on the part of the possessed and those about him or
factors—group excitement, heightened expectations, theatri-
her in order to grasp adequately the spirits’ articulatory func-
cality, costumes and masks, a generally permissive atmo-
tion. The spirit idiom provides a means of self-articulation
sphere, and the presence of strong behavioral models—all fa-
that may well radically differ from the self-articulation of the
cilitate trance.
Westerner. Much of what the Westerner “locates” within the
individual may be “located” outside the individual in those
Although trance is considered the hallmark of posses-
societies in which the spirit idiom is current. This movement
sion, it is important to recognize that “possession” has been
inward is perhaps seen on a literary level in the gradual inter-
used to describe nontrance states and that the experience of
nalization of the “double” in nineteenth- and twentieth-
possession is neither continuous nor unchanging. The pos-
century European and American literature.
sessed person moves in and out of dissociation. There are
Spirits, as exterior to the individual, are not projections
some moments of ordinary lucidity, other moments when
in the psychoanalytic sense of the word. For the psychoana-
consciousness appears to have surrendered to the possessing
lyst, projection is the subject’s attribution to another of feel-
spirit, and still other moments of complete unconsciousness.
ings and desires the subject refuses to recognize in him or her
Frequently there is a “doubling of consciousness” (Verdop-
self. Projection occurs only after introjection. The movement
pelungserlebnis), whereby one of the two (or more) conscious-
is centrifugal, from inner to outer. If “external” spirits repre-
nesses looks on passively at what is happening and is quite
sent as “outside” what the Westerner would regard as within,
capable of remembering what Oesterreich has called “the ter-
then, strictly speaking, there can be no projection, for there
rible spectacle” of possession. At other times consciousness
is nothing within to project. The movement here is centripe-
is submerged, and the actor loses all awareness and memory
tal, from outer to inner.
of the spectacle; recall of the trance experience is confused,
dreamlike, and often stereotypic. The possessed person
A construction of human experience so radically differ-
makes frequent use of mythic plots and symbols when re-
ent from that of the Westerner is difficult to convey; none-
counting the experience, although his tales are not as elabo-
theless, it has been suggested by many scholars who have
rate as those of the shaman describing, for example, his voy-
worked with the spirit-possessed. The anthropologist God-
age to the netherworld.
frey Lienhardt, for example, refers in his study of the Dinka,
T
a Nilotic people, to “Powers” (spirits) as extrapolations or
HE POSSESSION IDIOM. The interpretation of dissociation,
ritual trance, and other altered states of consciousness as spir-
images that are the active counterpart of the passive element
it possession is a cultural construct that varies with the belief
in Dinka experience. Since the Dinka have no conception
system prevalent in a culture. Although the relationship be-
of mind as a mediator between self and world, the images—
tween spirit and host has been described in many different
the powers or spirits—mediate between self and world:
ways, most indigenous descriptions suggest the spirit’s en-
Without these Powers or images or an alternative to
trance, intrusion, or incorporation into the host. The rela-
them there would be for the Dinka no differentiation
tionship is one of container to contained. Usually, in any sin-
between the experience of the self and of the world
gle culture a wide variety of metaphorical expressions are
which acts upon it. Suffering, for example, would be
employed. The spirit is said to mount the host (who is lik-
merely “lived” or endured. With the imaging of the
ened to a horse or some other beast of burden), to enter, to
grounds of suffering in a particular Power, the Dinka
take possession of, to have a proprietary interest in, to haunt,
can grasp its nature intellectually in a way which satis-
fies them, and thus to some extent transcend and domi-
to inhabit, to besiege, to be a guest of, to strike or slap, to
nate it in this act of knowledge. With this knowledge,
seduce, to marry, or to have sexual relations with the host.
this separation of a subject and an object in experience,
In part, this variety reflects changes in the spirit-host rela-
there arises for them also the possibility of creating a
tionship, a relationship that should not be regarded as static,
form of experience they desire and of freeing themselves
well-defined, and permanent but rather as dynamic, ill-
symbolically from what they must otherwise passively
defined, and transitory.
endure. (Lienhardt, 1961, p. 170)
Although it is often of analytic significance to distin-
Of utmost significance in both projection and articulation
guish between the psychobiological condition of the pos-
through “external” spirits is the status accorded the vehicle
sessed (the trance state) and the cultural construct (“spirit
within the individual’s culture. A Western paranoid who be-
possession”), it should be recognized that the construct itself
lieves he or she is pursued by secret agents responds to domi-
affects the structure and evaluation of the psychobiological
nant cultural images, just as does an African who believes
condition. The construct articulates the experience, separat-
himself hounded by ancestral spirits. Both give expression to
ing it from the flow of experience and giving it meaning. The
feelings of persecution and suffer the consequences of that
experience itself instantiates the interpretive schema. The
expression. In the first instance, the secret agents are not gen-
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8690
SPIRIT POSSESSION: AN OVERVIEW
erally thought to exist by anyone other than the paranoid.
ous. Unlike their Haitian counterparts, many North African
In the second instance, the ancestral spirits are generally rec-
spirits have no “biographies.”
ognized by others. The consequences of this difference are
While the spirits must not be so specifically character-
immense. The haunted person does not necessarily suffer the
ized as to discourage individual elaboration and specifica-
same social isolation, loneliness, derision, and feelings of
tion, this does not entail that they be simply random refrac-
abandonment as does the paranoid. He or she enters a new
tions of individual desires, as some scholars, notably the
symbolic order. The paranoid learns the language of the spir-
German classicist Hermann Usener, have argued. The spirits
its and of possession and submits to its grammar; and is af-
must resonate with both the psychological and the social cir-
forded the possibility of therapeutic intervention.
cumstances of the possessed. Psychologically, they may mir-
This is not meant to suggest that the idiom of spirit pos-
ror some aspect of the individual that he refuses to accept or
session is more conducive to cure than the “psychological”
some desire that he denies. Or they may compensate for defi-
idiom of the modern Western world. Both have their suc-
ciencies in his relations with others. Thus, I. M. Lewis
cesses and failures. In societies with spirit possession some
(1971) relates the high frequency of possession among
individuals articulate their experiences in terms of spirits in
women and marginal men to their “inferior” position in soci-
purely idiosyncratic ways and hence do not respond to indig-
ety. The spirits relate to the social world of the individual.
enous therapeutic intervention. In Medusa’s Hair Gananath
In his study of Tikopian spirit mediumship Raymond Firth
Obeyesekere compares two patients who were exorcised at
writes, “The idiom in which these personal phenomena of
a shrine in Sri Lanka:
anxiety, conflict, illness, and recovery was couched was one
in which the physical and psychological syndrome of trance
One woman possessed by a demonic spirit ran around
was described in terms of social constructs, including notions
the ritual arena threatening to tear her clothes off. Her
of spirit powers and spirit action” (Firth, 1967, p. 329).
behavior was perfectly intelligible in terms of the preta
Whether elaborated or unelaborated, the spirits may relate
[spirits of the dead] or demonic myth model. The other
to specific social groupings. In many societies that are orga-
patient, a male, was pulling and pinching her skin, say-
nized into lineages, in Africa for example, the spirits are
ing that demons were residing under it. Later on he
abused the gods, the very beings who should help him
thought to be lineage members or to have some other signifi-
to banish the demons. None of this was intelligible to
cant relationship with a lineage. Often they are conceived of
the exorcist and his subculture in terms of available
as ancestral shades or lineage or household spirits. Diagnosis
myth models. Demons do not get under one’s skin in
of the spirit possessed involves discovering the spirit’s identi-
this culture, and it is unheard of for the gods to be
ty, the cause of his displeasure that led to the possession, and
abused in this manner. (Obeyesekere, 1981, p. 161)
the nature of his demands. Therapy involves the regulation
of the relationship between the possessed and the spirit.
The first patient was amenable to cure; the second was not.
(Many anthropologists have understood this regulation as
When Obeyesekere asked the exorcist what could be done
symbolic of a regulation of the possessed’s “real” social rela-
for the second patient, the exorcist suggested taking him to
tions.). In societies with looser social organizations, for ex-
a Western-trained psychiatrist! Exorcists are usually clever di-
ample in many urban centers, the spirits are not so closely
agnosticians and avoid treating those patients whom they
related to specific social groups. They are “open” to a larger
cannot cure.
variety of social relations, but they are not devoid of symbolic
The spirit idiom must be flexible enough to accommo-
social attachment.
date the individual if it is to establish itself and remain pow-
INITIAL POSSESSION. A first possession may be conceived of
erful. It may be composed of a highly elaborate demonology,
as an articulatory act. The possessed is thrust into a new sym-
as in Sri Lanka, Brazil, or Haiti. In these cultures the spirits
bolic order. His or her initiation frequently takes the shape
have attributes and make specific demands on their hosts. In
of a dramatic illness—paralysis, mutism, sudden blindness,
Haitian Voodoo, for example, the lwa, or possessing spirits,
or profound dissociation—or contrary behavior, such as a
have highly developed characters. Legba, the master of the
wild and seemingly destructive flight into the bush or, for
mystic barrier between men and spirits, is described as a fee-
women, nursing the feet of a newborn infant. Many psychi-
ble old man in rags who smokes a pipe, slings a knapsack over
atrically oriented observers have considered these symptoms
his shoulder, and walks painfully with a crutch. He is terribly
to be of a hysterical nature, but careful study reveals that they
strong, however, and anyone possessed by him suffers a vio-
may be symptoms of other forms of mental disturbance or
lent trance. Dambala-wédo, another lwa, is pictured as a
reactions to the stresses and strains inherent in the individu-
snake; he forces those whom he possesses to dart their tongue
al’s social position. Even with such dramatic symptoms, the
in and out, crawl on the ground sinuously, and fall like a boa
diagnosis of possession is not necessarily immediate. There
from roof beams headfirst. Ezili-Freda-Dahomey, a sea spirit,
may be other options within the “medical” system of the par-
personifies feminine grace and beauty. (She has been likened
ticular society. The initial symptoms may, however, be far
to Aphrodite.) Men and women possessed by her behave in
less dramatic. The neophyte may have been attending a pos-
a saucy, flirtatious manner. By contrast, in other cultures, for
session ceremony when seized by the spirit. Such “contagious
example in North Africa, spirits are ill defined and ambigu-
possession” has been frequently described in the literature of
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SPIRIT POSSESSION: AN OVERVIEW
8691
spirit possession. (Aldous Huxley gives a particularly readable
The neophyte must learn to recast conflicts in the spirit
account of contagious possession in The Devils of Loudun,
idiom and to articulate essentially inchoate feelings in that
1952, a study of demonic possession in seventeenth-century
idiom, feelings of persecution or inferiority, of fear or brava-
France.)
do, of hatred or love. This process may proceed by trial and
error, or it may occur through the guidance of a curer. The
Often the initial possession is articulated in retrospec-
Puerto Rican Espiritistas “work” their patients through vari-
tive accounts in a stereotyped manner. These may be elabo-
ous levels of possession and develop in them, when possible,
rate, particularly where the possessed becomes a curer, the
mediumistic faculties. (Such development resembles the
account providing the possessed with a culturally acceptable
mystic’s passage through various stages of ecstasy.) The
charter for his or her profession, or they may be a simple sen-
movement from initial illness to accommodation with
tence or two. Alice Morton records the story given her by
the spirit and incorporation into the cult is often accompa-
an Ethiopian curer, Mama Azaletch.
nied by an indeterminate period during which the possessed
resists the call of the spirit and suffers depression, extreme
In 1936, I was caught by a certain spirit. I ran away
from my home in Bale to the desert, and there I lived
alienation, dissociation, and even fugues. Such a period,
in a cave. I would not see anyone or speak to anyone,
analogous in many respects to what mystics refer to as the
and I became very wild. But there was one woman of
“dark night of the soul,” may be symbolized as a period of
high rank there who was interested in my case, and she
wandering or isolation. Mama Azaletch’s life in the cave may
would send her son to bring me beans and unsalted
refer to such a period.
bread. I stayed there in that place, eating very little and
EXORCISM. Spirit possession has the tripartite ritual structure
seeing no one, for four years and eight months. If they
first delineated by the folklorist Arnold van Gennep in 1908.
had tried to take me from that cave and put me in a
The possessed is removed from the everyday world by the
house with other people, I would have broken any
bonds and escaped back to the desert. It was the spirit
possessing spirit. The possessed enters a liminal world—the
that made me wild that way. (Crapanzano and Garri-
world of possession, dissociation, trance—and through exor-
son, 1977, p. 202)
cism (which replicates the tripartite structure of possession
itself) is returned to the ordinary world. Exorcisms may be
Morton calls attention to Mama Azaletch’s stereotypic flight
permanent or “transformational.” In permanent exorcism,
into the wild, her fasting in the desert, and her renunciation
the patient is returned to the world from which the patient
of family. Mama Azaletch’s story was told in both public and
came, ideally as he or she was before he was possessed. Not
private. Many Moroccans with whom the writer of this arti-
much is known about such patients. Have they undergone
cle had worked had less elaborate but stereotypic stories of
some sort of social or psychological transformation through
their “slippage” into the spirit idiom. They were at a posses-
possession and exorcism? It would seem that they have been
sion ceremony, mocked the possessed or possessing spirit,
marked by the spirit: They have been possessed, and they
and were immediately struck by the spirit.
have been cured. In transformational exorcism, the patient
is explicitly transformed. He or she has undergone a change
The initiatory illness itself is an eloquent symbol, for not
in identity and are now, to speak figuratively, more than
only does it focus attention on the possessed (who must be
their self; he or she is in intimate relationship with a spirit
cured!), but it also requires definition. Such definition occurs
whose demands must be recognized. Usually the possessed
through a variety of diagnostic and healing procedures. The
is incorporated into a cult, which not only provides legiti-
initiate has to learn to be possessed and undergo exorcism.
mate occasions for future possessions but also supplies a new
This is particularly evident where possession involves incor-
social identity. Often, as a member of such a cult, the
poration into a cult. Technically, the initiate must learn to
possessed becomes an exorcist or a member of a team of
enter trance easily, to carry out expected behavior gracefully,
exorcists.
and to meet the demands of his spirit. Almost all reports of
spirit possession emphasize the clumsiness of the neophyte
Exorcisms may comprise little more than simple prayers
and the necessity of learning how to be a good carrier for the
or incantations sung over the possessed, as happens in Chris-
spirit. Members of the Moroccan religious brotherhood, the
tian and Islamic contexts. Sometimes exorcisms involve tor-
Hamadsha, who mutilate themselves when in possession
turing the possessed (pulling the ear, flagellating, or burning)
trance, can explain how they learned to slash their scalps with
until the possessing spirit has revealed its identity and de-
knives and halberds without inflicting serious injury. Many
mands or has released the patient. In many societies that sup-
have serious scars from their initial possession when, as they
port possession cults, the exorcisms are semipublic or public
put it, they had not yet learned to hit themselves correctly.
occasions. Such ceremonies tend to be highly dramatic.
Similar stories have been reported from Sri Lanka, Malaysia,
There is music, most frequently drumming but also music
and Fiji by adepts of the Hindu god Murukan who skewer
of woodwind, reed, and string instruments, and dancing,
themselves with hooks and wires. For possessions involving
which may be simple or quite complex. In Sri Lanka and
complex theatrical behavior, dancing, and impersonification,
elsewhere in Southeast Asia comic or other dramatic inter-
as in Sri Lanka or Indonesia, the learning process can be
ludes often play a role. The exorcist, the possessed, and other
quite rigorous.
performers may don masks, wear special costumes, and take
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SPIRIT POSSESSION: AN OVERVIEW
on the part of well-known mythic and legendary figures. The
Possession cults aim to transform the relationship be-
ceremonies are often accompanied by sacrifices and commu-
tween spirit and host much as the Furies were transformed
nal meals, and last through the night. This passage from light
into the gentle Eumenides in Aeschylus’s Oresteia. The trans-
through darkness to light again seems to parallel the tripartite
formation usually involves the conversion of a “wild” posses-
ritual movement that culminates with the “rebirth” of the
sion, an illness, into an institutionalized, ritualized, and per-
patient as cured or transformed.
iodized possession in which negative metaphorical attributes
Patient, exorcist, and other spectators may all fall into
become for the occasion metonymic ones. It is as though the
trance. There is considerable variation in the depth and style
host were allowed to play out in a sanctioned manner who
of these trances. In some the possessed fall into an ill-defined,
he is not and to give expression to desires that he cannot ex-
seemingly superficial, dreamy trance. In others they become
press in everyday life. This movement from metaphor to me-
frenetic and out of control. And in still others they take on
tonymy is neither direct nor simple. The changing, essential-
the character of the spirit that possesses them, responding
ly complex relationship between host and spirit or spirits is
only to special songs, dancing characteristic dances, talking
given a sort of theatrical representation. The two may enter
in a distinctive language (glossolalia), and demanding special
into conversation with one another in a friendly or inimical
costumes, perfumes, or objects. In many parts of the world,
manner, they may struggle with each other, or the host may
the possessed perform uncanny feats, such as walking over
succumb to the spirit. Often, as in Sri Lanka, the possession
burning coals (in the Greek Anastenaria), piercing them-
includes a comic interlude that plays an important part in
selves with skewers and pins (the followers of Murukan in
the exorcism itself. The comedy of exorcism, Bruce Kapferer
Sri Lanka, Malaysia, and Fiji), slashing their heads with
(1983) has suggested, displays through its very irrationality
knives and halberds (the Hamadsha of Morocco), playing
the rationality of the world and allows the host to reformu-
with poisonous snakes (the rattlesnake cults of Appalachia),
late his self in accordance with that rationality. Although this
or stabbing themselves with swords and spears without harm
movement toward the discovery or rediscovery of the ratio-
(in Java, Bali, and among the Cape Malay in South Africa).
nality of the world is not immediately apparent in many sim-
The exorcisms provide an occasion for both an individ-
pler possessions, even these tend to bring about a transforma-
ual and a transcendent drama of order and disorder, of con-
tion of the way the possessed sees his world. He takes on the
trol and the absence of control. At least in societies that con-
view of his cult. He is attached to the demon, who becomes
sider the spirit demonic, possession reveals the underside of
a primary orientation point for his understanding of himself
social, cultural, and psychological order. Possession negates
and the world about him.
the “rational” order of everyday life; it displays the world in
If the exorcism is successful, the patient has to become
reverse. Ritual and exorcism restore order and rationality to
fully possessed and then released by the spirit. To be released
that world. The anthropologist Bruce Kapferer has written
from the spirit’s influence the possessed must meet the spir-
that in Sri Lanka the demons embody human suffering and
it’s demands, whatever they may be. In Morocco, for exam-
symbolize the destructive possibilities of the social and cul-
ple, the spirit requires the host to wear certain colors, burn
tural order. They provide a “terrifying commentary on life’s
special incense, make regular pilgrimages to the spirit’s fa-
condition and individual experience in it.” They cast the in-
vored sanctuaries. Often the demand includes the sacrifice
dividual’s experience into a wider social and cultural order,
of an animal with which, as the anthropologist Andras Zem-
and the encounter with the demonic becomes a metaphor for
pléni (1984) has suggested, the spirit’s host is identified.
his or her “personal struggle within an obdurate social world”
Thus the host is separated by the power of the sacrifice from
(Kapferer, 1983).
the spirit with which the host has become one. So long as
Exorcisms regulate the relationship between spirit and
the possessed follows the spirit’s commands, the host is
host. Formally, spirit possession may be understood as a se-
blessed, protected, and generally favored. A failure to follow
ries of transformations of usually negative metaphorical attri-
the commands usually leads to a renewal of the possession
butions into occasionally positive and at least ritually neutral
crisis: The host falls ill, becomes paralyzed, or is blinded. A
metonymic ones in a dialectical play of identity formation.
new exorcism is then required.
The spirit often represents what the possessed is not or does
not desire. The Moroccan man who is inhabited by the fe-
Without doubt the spirit and its commands are of sym-
male spirit EADisha Qandisha is no woman; the chaste Haitian
bolic import to the host, resonating with significant events
woman possessed by the promiscuous Ezili-Freda-Dahomey
in the host’s biography, reflecting the host’s present situa-
would disclaim any of Ezili’s promiscuous desires. The host’s
tion, and orienting the host toward the future. The com-
identity and desires are here the opposite of the spirit’s. Dur-
mands may symbolize adherence to the social and moral ob-
ing possession, however, the host becomes nearly identical
ligations and commitments the individual has in his or her
with the spirits. The Moroccan man comes as close to being
everyday life; a failure to follow the commands may represent
EADisha Qandisha, a female, as possible; the Haitian woman
a failure to live up to these obligations and commitments;
as close to the flirtatious, saucy Ezili as possible. A negative
the possession may make articulate feelings that in other
metaphor is transformed into a positive metonym, even to
“psychological” idioms are described as feelings of guilt. The
the limit of identity within a very special context.
roles played by the spirits and their commands, by “wild”
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SPIRIT POSSESSION: AN OVERVIEW
8693
and institutionalized possessions, differ in each individual
Kapferer, Bruce. A Celebration of Demons: Exorcism and the Aes-
case. Generalizations tend to become overgeneralizations.
thetics of Healing in Sri Lanka. Bloomington, Ind., 1983. A
The spirit idiom is subtle and, as the existentialists would say,
detailed symbolic anthropological study of spirit possession
reflects the subtility of the individual in situation. It is, of
and exorcism in Sri Lanka.
course, important to recognize that possession also plays an
Leiris, Michel. La possession et ses aspects théâtraux chez les Éthio-
important role for those who witness it, providing them with
piens de Gondar. Paris, 1958. An insightful study of Ethiopi-
an often theatrical representation, an objectification, of their
an spirit possession by one of France’s most original anthro-
pologists and poets.
cultural presuppositions, their social situation, and their psy-
chological conditions. For them and for the possessed, pos-
Lewis, I. M. Ecstatic Religion: An Anthropological Study of Spirit
session confirms belief in the spirits. Exorcism affirms faith
Possession and Shamanism. Harmondsworth, 1971. A broad
social-anthropological study of possession.
in a social and cultural order, an order that gives perhaps only
the illusion of mastering the “irrational forces” that surround
Lienhardt, Godfrey. Divinity and Experience: The Religion of the
Dinka. Oxford, 1961. A brilliant study of the religion, in-
and on occasion besiege its members.
cluding spirit belief, of a Nilotic people.
SEE ALSO Affliction; Consciousness, States of; Demons, arti-
Métraux, Alfred. Voodoo in Haiti. Translated by Hugo Charteris.
cle on Psychological Perspectives; Devils; Enthusiasm; Exor-
New York, 1959. The classic study of Haitian Voodoo.
cism; Frenzy; Glossolalia; Oracles.
Monfouga-Nicholas, Jacqueline. Ambivalence et culte de possession.
Paris, 1972. A study of possession among the Hausa of West
BIBLIOGRAPHY
Africa.
Bastide, Roger. Le condomblé de Bahia. Paris, 1958. A detailed
Obeyesekere, Gananath. Medusa’s Hair: An Essay on Personal Sym-
study of Afro-Brazilian possession.
bols and Religious Experience. Chicago, 1981. A psychoanalyt-
Beattie, John, and John Middleton, eds. Spirit Mediumship and
ically oriented anthropological study of ecstasy and posses-
Society in Africa. New York, 1969. An anthology of social an-
sion at the Hindu-Buddhist pilgrimage center of Kataragama
thropological studies of spirit mediumship and possession in
in Sri Lanka.
Africa.
Oesterreich, Traugott K. Possession, Demoniacal and Other, among
Belo, Jane. Trance in Bali. New York, 1960. A detailed, descrip-
Primitive Races, in Antiquity, the Middle Ages, and Modern
tive study of trance in Bali.
Times. Translated from the German by D. Ibberson. New
York, 1930. A classic compendium of case material on spirit
Bourguignon, Erika. “The Self, the Behavioral Environment, and
possession.
the Theory of Spirit Possession.” In Context and Meaning in
Cultural Anthropology,
edited by Melford E. Spiro,
Ortigues, Marie Cécile, and Edmond Ortigues. Oedipe africaine.
pp. 39–60. New York, 1965. Anthropological consideration
Paris, 1966. A psychoanalytic study, owing much to Jacques
of the relationship between self- and spirit possession.
Lacan, of spirit possession in Senegal.
Crapanzano, Vincent. The Hamadsha: An Essay in Moroccan Eth-
Prince, Raymond, ed. Trance and Possession States. Montreal,
nopsychiatry. Berkeley, Calif., 1973. An anthropological
1958. An anthology of religious, anthropological, and psy-
study of a Moroccan Islamic religious brotherhood whose
chophysiological studies of trance and spirit possession.
adepts mutilate themselves when in possession trace.
Sargant, William Walters. Battle for the Mind. Garden City, N.Y.,
Crapanzano, Vincent, and Vivian Garrison, eds. Case Studies in
1957. A Pavlovian psychophysiological study of, among
Spirit Possession. New York, 1977. An anthology of case
other things, spirit possession.
studies of spirit possession from around the world. For a
Spiro, Melford E. Burmese Supernaturalism. Exp. ed. Philadelphia,
more detailed account of the arguments in this entry the
1978. A study of Burmese belief in spirits and spirit posses-
reader is referred to the introduction to the book.
sion.
Firth, Raymond. Tikopia Ritual and Belief. London, 1967. In-
Tart, Charles T. Altered States of Consciousness. New York, 1969.
cludes an interesting discussion of spirit possession and
A useful anthology of psychophysiological studies.
mediumship among these Pacific Islanders.
Tremearne, A. J. N. The Ban of the Bori: Demons and Demon-
Goodman, Felicitas D. Speaking in Tongues: A Cross-Cultural
Dancing in West and North Africa. London, 1914. An early
Study of Glossolalia. Chicago, 1972. A study of speech pat-
comparative study of spirit possession among the Hausa and
terns in trance.
in North Africa.
Goodman, Felicitas D., Jeanette H. Henney, and Esther Pressel.
Wirz, Paul. Exorcism and the Art of Healing in Ceylon. Leiden,
Trance, Healing and Hallucination. New York, 1974. Three
1954. A highly detailed account of Sinhala exorcism and
studies of trance and possession, on St. Vincent, Brazil, and
curing.
the Yucatan.
Walker, Sheila S. Ceremonial Spirit Possession in Africa and Afro-
Huxley, Aldous. The Devils of Loudun. New York, 1952. A semi-
America. Leiden, 1972. An important survey.
novelistic study of spirit possession in seventeenth-century
Zempléni, Andras. “Possession et sacrifice.” Temps de la reflexion
France.
5 (1984): 325–352. A carefully argued analysis of the rela-
Jeanmarie, Henri. Dionysos: Histoire du culte de Bacchus. 2 vols.
tionship between spirit possession and sacrifice.
Paris, 1951. A study of Dionysian worship in the ancient
New Sources
world that draws parallels with North African possession
Behrend, Heike, and Ute Luig, editors. Spirit Possession: Modernity
cults.
& Power in Africa. Madison, 1999.
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8694
SPIRIT POSSESSION: WOMEN AND POSSESSION
Caciola, Nancy. “Mystics, Demoniacs, and the Physiology of Spir-
spirit possession is exemplary of the situation in which hu-
it Possession in Medieval Europe.” Comparative Studies in
mans negotiate with a will that is not of human origin. These
Society and History 42, no. 3 (1999): 268–306.
three revaluations are examined below after attending to the
Foster, Byron. Heart Drum: Spirit Possession in the Garifuna Com-
translational issues involved in employing spirit possession
munities of Belize. Belize, 1986.
as a category of comparative study. A survey of the thematics
Garrett, Clarke. Spirit Possession and Popular Religion: Fom the
of power found in possession studies concludes the entry.
Camisards to the Shakers. Baltimore, 1987.
Spirit possession can refer to a spectrum of experiences
Lambek, Michael. “Spirit Possession/Spirit Succession: Aspects of
in which the person involved negotiates with or is overcome
Social Continuity among Malagasy Speakers in Mayotte.”
by a force such as an ancestor, deity, or spirit that employs
American Ethnologist 15 (1988): 710–731.
the human body to be its vehicle for communicating to
McDaniel, June. “Possession States among the Saktas of West
human communities. Ann Grodzins Gold provides a useful
Bengal.” Journal of Ritual Studies 2 (Winter 1988): 87–99.
definition and discussion of the term spirit possession in her
McVeigh, Brian J. “Spirit Possession in Sukyo Mahikari: A Vari-
study of possession in rural Rajasthan (1988, p. 35): “any
ety of Sociopsychological Experience.” Japanese Religions 21
complete but temporary domination of a person’s body, and
(July 1996): 283–297.
the blotting of that person’s consciousness, by a distinct alien
Rasmussen, Susan J. Spirit Possession and Personhood among the Kel
power of known or unknown origin.” This definition high-
Ewey Tuareg. Cambridge, U.K., 1995.
lights the problem of subjectivity and agency; the possessed
Rosenthal, Judy. Possession, Ecstasy, and Law in Ewe Voodoo. Char-
person is not a conscious individual but rather has a blotted
lottesville, 1998.
consciousness and has become an instrument for the will of
Smith, Frederick M. “The Current State of Possession Studies as
an alien power. While the term spirit possession is rarely used
a Cross-Disciplinary Project.” Religious Studies Review 27,
outside of the Western European tradition, Gold argues that
no. 3 (July 2001): 203–212.
the term does not “radically violate indigenous categories and
Stoller, Paul. Embodying Colonial Memories: Spirit Possession,
does facilitate controlled comparisons with similar phenome-
Power, and the Hauka in West Africa. New York, 1995.
na in other linguistic regions” (p. 39) if, she emphasizes, re-
gional nominations are brought to bear. Applying Gold’s
Sutton, Donald S. “Rituals of Self-Mortification: Taiwanese Spir-
it-Mediums in Comparative Perspective.” Journal of Ritual
logic, the term spirit possession is used below with caution,
Studies 4 (Winter 1990): 99–125.
noting: (1) the importance of translating specific linguistic
terms (discussed below); and (2) that the term possession car-
Wafer, Jim. Taste of Blood. Philadelphia, 1991.
ries with it many overdetermined connotations regarding
VINCENT CRAPANZANO (1987)
Western notions of property and subjectivity as epitomized
Revised Bibliography
in the idea of a self-possessed individual.
TRANSHISTORICAL AND CROSS-CULTURAL CONTEXT. Spirit
possession exists on all continents and throughout most of
SPIRIT POSSESSION: WOMEN AND
Western history as well. In part because of the often spectac-
POSSESSION
ular nature of possession accounts and because spirit posses-
Spirit possession has largely been interpreted by scholars as
sion demands a witness or a community response, we have
a phenomenon that impacts “traditional people,” the poor,
evidence of spirit possession in legal, medical, historical, lit-
the uneducated, and women. The conjunction of spirit pos-
erary, and theatrical texts. As Western missionaries and aca-
session with oppressed or vulnerable persons has produced
demics began recording information about other cultures,
theories that Susan Starr Sered has called “deprivation theo-
the force and vivacity of spirit possession repeatedly drew au-
ries” (1994, pp. 190–191) that begin with the assumption
thors to describe and discuss possession, producing a tremen-
that possessions are abnormal behaviors and result from so-
dous volume of materials. A proliferation of spirit possession
cial, physical, and mental deprivations. From a feminist per-
ethnographies in the late twentieth and early twenty-first
spective, deprivation theories are suspect, and a revaluation
centuries indicates that spirit possession is a major force in
of spirit possession suggests that: (1) the cross-cultural and
a globalized world because the practice survives dislocations
transhistorical prevalence of accounts of spirit possession
and relocations of culture, and women predominate in these
present a familiar rather than an exotic model of religious
accounts. This prevalence of material is particularly impor-
subjectivity to most human communities across the broadest
tant in the study of women’s religious lives because the re-
spectrum of history; (2) the capacity to be possessed by an
cords provide information when other references are mini-
ancestor, deity, or spirit is best approached, as Sered and Jan-
mal or nonexistent. Important examples include the
ice Boddy (1989) argue, as an ability, like musical or athletic
maenads of Greek antiquity who appear in Greek tragedies
ability, although in the case of spirit possession it is likely that
such as Euripides’ Bacchae; women possessed by the mono no
the person being possessed does not choose to develop the
ke spirit described in The Tale of Genji, a masterpiece of me-
ability to receive the spirit but rather cannot choose other-
dieval Japanese literature (Bargen, 1997); and the dybbukim
wise in the face of the spirit’s demands; and (3) possession
of medieval Eastern European Hasidic Jews described in the
is the formal root of religious experience in general, in that
acclaimed play The Dybbuk, by S. Y. Ansky. The diaspora
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SPIRIT POSSESSION: WOMEN AND POSSESSION
8695
hosts of African and syncretic spirits found in vodou, San-
male, possessed persons are likely to be evaluated for their
tería, and Candomblé in all regions of the African diaspora
receptivity. The gendered configurations of spirit possession
(Brown, 1987; Olmos and Paravisini-Gebert, 1997) have fig-
take many forms. Women are possessed by male and female
ured prominently in anthropology and literature of the dias-
deities, men are possessed by male and female deities, and
pora. Where information is scarce about women’s lives in
in all cases gendered tropes are employed. For example, in
Asia and the Pacific, we have information about Korean
the Hasidic tradition (Schwartz, 1994, p. 72.), the name for
housewives participating in Kut rituals (Kendall, 1985) and
the possession of a male was ibur (pregnant), and such a pos-
the tangki of Taiwan (Wolf, 1992). Islamic traditions in the
session was highly valued by the community, while posses-
Middle East, Saharan Africa, Pakistan, and India describe
sion of women was widely interpreted to be malevolent pos-
women’s predisposition to possession by jinn and regional
session by dybbukim and was not considered ibur. Helen
spirits such as the hantu of Malay (Ong, 1987) and empha-
Hardacre (1992) discusses the prominent role women have
size how women’s possession activities are tolerated, al-
had in Japanese new religious movements founded since
though authorities address women’s need to maintain vigi-
1800, noting the gender transformations that were central
lance through prayer and sanctity to avoid possession. With
to the theology of Deguchi Nao, whom Hardacre calls a ge-
an increased emphasis on the study of women’s lives, as well
nius of Japanese religious history. Nao was a middle-aged
as the lives of the poor and lower castes in Hinduism has
woman whose theology, written by her younger, male col-
come a wave of studies of spirit possession (Egnor, 1984; In-
league while she was in a trance, turned traditional Buddhist
glis, 1985; Gold, 1988; Stanley, 1988) by the gods and god-
wisdom on its head, proclaiming that Nao was The Trans-
desses of Hindu traditions. In most indigenous traditions
formed Male who signaled the arrival of a new era.
some elements of spirit possession continue to appear, as
SPIRIT POSSESSION AS EXEMPLARY RELIGIOUS SUBJECTIVI-
with African traditional religions (Mbiti, 1991), including
TY. The subjectivity of the possessed woman is radically non-
those regions of Africa where Muslim and Christian influ-
autonomous, but rather than seeing this as an aberration it
ences are strong (Boddy, 1989; Maaga, 1995; Stoller, 1989
can be viewed as exemplifying religious subjectivity in gener-
and 1995).
al. The broad spectrum of roles humans have played in reli-
The controlled comparison of similar phenomena across
gious history, from mystics to prophets, are all variations on
traditions allows one to identify culturally specific models of
this very central theme. Hence Marilyn Robinson Waldman
religious subjectivity. Indigenous terms for the dynamic and
and Robert M. Baum (1992) compare the subjectivity of a
role of the possessed person are rich with conceptual and rhe-
Diola woman prophetess who reached adulthood at the be-
torical depth, related to receptivity, the mandatory element
ginning of World War II on the border between French Sen-
of the human’s agency in a possession. In many vodou tradi-
egal and Portuguese Guinea with the subjectivity of the
tions the possessed person is considered to be a chwal, or
prophet Muh:ammad in that both channeled communication
horse, who is mounted by her spirits (Brown, 1987, p. 54),
from an extrahuman source to oppose the status quo. From
an activity that is often sexualized. In her study of Hinduism,
this perspective, it is not important to create categorizations
Kathleen Erndl (1984) notes that the Goddess plays those
in which people can be placed; rather, the spectrum in which
whom she possesses and that the Punjab word for a theatrical
people experience themselves negotiating with a force of
play, khel, is the same word used to describe a possession.
nonhuman origin is the common, formal ground of religious
David Lan (1985, p. 59) notes that among the Korekore, a
subjectivity in general.
Shona group in Zimbabwe, the spirits are considered to grab
What makes spirit possession unique is the degree to
their mediums, who may be referred to as homwe, which
which the human has become an instrument for the will of
means “pocket” or “little bag.” In all of these instances, a
the intervening agency. In terms of voice, for example, Mi-
complex model of human agency is evoked by the notion
chel de Certeau (1988) makes the following observation in
that the human will and consciousness have been overcome,
his study of the seventeenth-century nuns of Loudun, whose
and that the human body has become receptive to the inter-
nunnery was disrupted by a series of possessions:
vening agency of the possessing spirit.
RECEPTIVITY TO POSSESSION AS GENDERED ABILITY. In
That the possessed woman’s speech is nothing more
contrast to deprivation theories, Sered argues that women’s
than the words of her ‘other,’ or that she can only have
preponderance in possession traditions can be related to their
the discourse of her judge, her doctor, the exorcist or
roles in nonautonomous experiences such as childbirth and
witness is hardly by chance . . . but from the outset
this situation excludes the possibility of tearing the pos-
their receptive role in heterosexual intercourse (1994,
sessed woman’s true voice away from its alteration. On
pp. 190–191). From this perspective, receptivity to the inter-
the surface of these texts her speech is doubly lost.
ventions of ancestors or deities is understood as an element
(p. 252)
of a feminine-gendered ability. From an androcentric per-
spective, receptivity has often been negatively evaluated as
If, at the formal level, we are dealing with speech that is dou-
passivity, but spirit possession requires a shift in perspective
bly lost, we are dealing with a model of subjectivity that is
critical of the claims that a self-possessed, impermeable sub-
radically instrumental (as with a flute that is played, or a
ject is the norm of human experience. Whether male or fe-
hammer that is wielded) rather than with an individual who
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8696
SPIRIT POSSESSION: WOMEN AND POSSESSION
is speaking. As a model of subjectivity it is the instrumentali-
tive but that elides the agency of a pouncing hantu or the
ty rather than the autonomy that marks the possessed per-
devil in a dollar. If, on the other hand, religious subjectivity
son’s speech and actions. Social psychologists and ethnopsy-
is itself understood to be a kind of work, then the efforts
chologists have suggested that the difference found in the
made by the Malay women to decrease their vulnerability to
model of subjectivity of a possessed person and the model
the spirits through prayer and vigilance indicates that they
of subjectivity employed by modern psychology (that of an
are working with the forces of global capitalism and the
individual whose sickness is located in an individual psyche)
forces of possessing spirits. So also, the devils associated with
leads to different levels of community-wide mental health.
the dollars of international mining companies in South
In her study of possession in India and in his study of posses-
America are not merely symbols to be interpreted, but rather
sion in African American communities, Waxler (1977) and
are working forces in the religious lives of the miners.
Csordas (1987) argue that possessions often function prag-
matically to heal community problems, perhaps more effec-
In terms of the wars engaged by possessed women’s bo-
tively than modern psychiatry in some instances.
dies, there are two central types: gender conflict and territori-
al conflict. Doris Bargen (1997) argues that spirit possession
The speech of possessed persons is not only doubly lost
was a woman’s weapon in medieval Japan because a woman
but is often replete with critical, symbolic value, leading
who was spoken-through by a possessing spirit could say
some ethnographers studying spirit possession to employ
things to public audiences that women were not otherwise
psychoanalytical interpretations of the speech in a way simi-
tolerated for saying. Ann Braude (2001) discusses the spiritu-
lar to the analysis of dreamwork. Willy Apollon (1999),
alism that coincided with the women’s suffrage movement,
Susan J. Rasmussen (1995), and Judy Rosenthal (1998)
noting that women who were inspired by the spirit were al-
bring contemporary French psychoanalytic theory (Jacques
lowed a public forum in which to speak. These approaches
Lacan) to the analysis of possessed language. Postcolonial lit-
can suggest that possession is a guise for political struggles.
erary scholars (Cooper, 1992; Henderson, 1993) have noted
From a revalued perspective, however, the religious person
the significance of the possessed woman as a literary trope
is approached as a training and disciplining person, whose
that signifies the experience of having multiple languages and
body is prepared to enact the will of its deity, and thus there
heritages speak through a subject, particularly women. Spirit
is no viable distinction between a religious and a political
possession metaphorically depicts the sensibility of post-
struggle. In the case of the Shona in Zimbabwe, spirit posses-
colonial subjectivity, a subjectivity that is not pure but rather
sion by powerful land-governing ancestors (mhondoro) was
spoken-through by many forces. By the turn of the twenty-
largely the remit of men, but two women who were possessed
first century, questions of agency, voice, and body theory had
by the spirit of Nehanda, a female ancestor of an early Shona
coincided with a growing effort by historians and ethno-
dynasty, were central to the struggle for indigenous rule
graphers to produce a significant number of possession
(Lan, 1985; Keller, 2001). In two chimurengas, or battles for
studies, granting the “Third World woman” a profound po-
freedom (1890 and 1950–1970), an older woman possessed
sition in possession studies. Signifiers of possessed subjectivi-
by Nehanda significantly inspired and focused the fight
ty that cross the historical spectrum of case studies include
against colonizers. The Nehanda mhondoro from the first chi-
nonautonomous models of agency, heteroglossia, and volatil-
murenga was tried and hung by the British, using old British
ity that attracts the attention of a community and relates to
witchcraft laws, but was revered for her claims that her bones
gendered notions of the ambivalent power of receptivity.
would rise again to secure victory. Nehanda was revered in
THEMATICS OF POSSESSION AND POWER. From a revalued
the songs of the socialist-inspired armies of the second, suc-
approach to the power of possession, it is the work, war, and
cessful chimurenga, and the Nehanda mhondoro of the second
performance of possessions that merit analysis. In each sce-
chimurenga inherited the potent legacy of the first Nehanda.
nario the possessed body’s power is exerted in ambivalent
Territorial wars and gender wars have been waged through
ways, deeply implicated with the social symbolic of the com-
the body of a possessed woman who serves as an instrumental
munity. In Malaysia, for example, indigenous possession tra-
agency in the struggles for power that religious bodies have
ditions have survived, and accounts of possessed women in
been trained and tempered to engage.
multination free trade zones have caught the attention of
news media and scholars. Possessed women work in free
As Gold notes (1988, p. 37), the performative elements
trade zones. The women stop work when possessed by hantu
of possession have received great attention in Sri Lanka and
(ambivalent ghosts or spirits) and weretigers (akin to were-
across South Asia. Possessions are inherently performative.
wolves) in the factories. Aihwa Ong (1987) analyzes these
Without an audience, the possession has not effectively tran-
possessions from a feminist and materialist perspective. Simi-
spired because the possessed person is not conscious during
larly, in The Devil and Commodity Fetishism in South America
the event to report on what has happened. Also, possessions
(1980), Michael Taussig interprets indigenous spirits as a
are often violent, volatile, laden with sexual innuendo, and
critical reaction to commodity fetishism in South America.
dramatic in the knowledge they produce. While anthropolo-
The danger is that these materialist analyses dismiss the pos-
gists have invoked performance theory to explore this ele-
sessing ancestors or spirits as mystifications, a categorization
ment of the power of possession, the question of subjectivity
that might be more comfortable from a materialist perspec-
is again raised because performance theory largely begins
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SPIRIT POSSESSION: WOMEN AND POSSESSION
8697
with the assumption that an actor wills herself into a perfor-
women’s suffrage movement, Braude argues that the Spiritu-
mative mode. Most possession traditions have rigorous tests
alist platform provided women with a place for public speak-
with which they judge the validity of a possession in order
ing and provided reassurances for the public regarding their
to assure that it is not a performance by an agent. Not only
recently deceased family and friends in a time of national
are rigorous tests applied by the communities, but, as Gold
turmoil.
notes, in Sri Lanka as well as in rural Rajasthan, the theatrical
Brown, Karen McCarthy. “Alourdes: A Case Study of Moral
traditions of these communities show high levels of critical
Leadership in Haitian Voudou.” In Saints and Virtues, edited
analysis in their employment of possessions in plays. Some
by John Hawley. Berkeley, Calif., 1987. A focused argument
plays depict fake possessions, which the entire audience rec-
based on Brown’s larger research project into the life of
Mama Lola, a Haitian immigrant in New York City.
ognizes as fake and laughs at, while other theatrical perfor-
mances might spontaneously produce possessions that the
Chajes, J. H. “Judgements Sweetened: Possession and Exorcism
audiences regard as authentic. Gold identifies “ethno-
in Early modern Jewish Culture.” Journal of Early Modern
performance theory” (p. 37) as the cultural backdrop against
History 1, no. 2 (1977): 124–169. Chajes provides the socio-
historical context of Christian spirit possession and early
which the performative power of possession has long been
modern Jewish spirit possession to evaluate the growing pres-
analyzed by these traditions.
ence of possession in Jewish resources of the time.
Viewed as a prevalent and exemplary model of religious
Cooper, Caroline. “Something Ancestral Recaptured: Spirit Pos-
subjectivity in general, the specific historical and geographi-
session as Trope in Selected Feminist Fictions of the African
cal accounts of spirit possession provide resources for ex-
Diaspora.” In Motherlands, edited by Susheila Nasta. New
panding the horizons against which women’s religious sub-
Brunswick, N.J., 1992. An important analysis of spirit pos-
jectivity is understood and evaluated in the context of
session as a literary trope in African diaspora fiction.
instrumental struggles for power and meaning.
Csordas, Thomas J. “Health and the Holy in African and Afro-
American Spirit Possession.” Social Science and Medicine 24,
SEE ALSO Gender and Religion, articles on Gender and Af-
no. 1 (1987): 1–11. Based on interviews with a Brazilian psy-
rican Religious Traditions, Gender and North American In-
chiatrist who is also an initiated elder of Candomblé, this et-
dian Religious Tradition; Human Body, article on Human
hnopsychiatric study argues that an approach that attends
Bodies, Religion, and Gender; New Religious Movements;
to both religious and medical motives in spirit possession
Religious Experience.
cults is intrinsic to the goals of contemporary medical an-
thropology.
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its receptivity to Dionysos, making it powerful over Pentheus
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Discusses the polyvalent Punjabi notion of play and applies
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of spirit possession among women from an interdisciplinary
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no.1 (1988): 35–63. Detailed descriptions of contrasting
don, 1989. An examination of Zar possession in northern
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SPIRIT POSSESSION: WOMEN AND POSSESSION
New York, 1992. Studying the case of Deguchi Nao, a ge-
Santería, Obeah, Quimbois, and Gaga in specific communi-
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studies the radical gender equality of Nao’s symbolic universe
N.Y., 1987. Materialist and feminist analysis of spirit posses-
and the limitations of that symbolic to interrupt traditional
sion among indigenous Malay women working in the free
gender roles.
trade zones of Malaysia.
Henderson, Mae Gwendolyn. “Speaking in Tongues: Dialogics,
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Heine and Carolyn Korsmeyer. Bloomington, Ind., 1993.
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Inglis, Stephen. “Possession and Pottery: Serving the Divine in a
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scribe clay images and “god dancers” (possessed dancers) in
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is perceived to be particularly fitted for the work of making
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clay images in which the deities manifest themselves by mak-
ditions.
ing their bodies receptive to divine interventions.
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Keller, Mary. The Hammer and the Flute: Women, Power and Spir-
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lar religion in four districts of Maharashtra, possession by
Honolulu, 1985. Ethnography of Korean women whose
ghosts and possession by gods, Stanley discusses gendered
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Laderman, Carol. Taming the Wind of Desire: Psychology, Medicine
and Aesthetics in Malay Shamanistic Performance. Berkeley,
Stoller, Paul. Embodying Colonial Memories. London, 1995. Eth-
Calif., 1991. Interdisciplinary study of Malay shamanism
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highlighting the humoral aesthetic that underlies Malay sha-
its that mimic the French colonialists among the Songhay of
manism and medicine.
Niger.
Lan, David. Guns and Rain: Guerrillas and Spirit Mediums in Zim-
Taussig, Michael. The Devil and Commodity Fetishism in South
babwe. London and Berkeley, Calif., 1985. Ethnographic
America. Chapel Hill, N.C., 1980. An ethnography of peas-
study of the relationship between spirit mediums and social-
ants in Columbia and Bolivia and their indigenous religious
ist-inspired fighters during the 1960s and 1970s battle for
practices regarding the presence of the devil in the money of
Zimbabwe’s independence from the White Rhodesian Front.
the capitalist developments in their regions.
Lewis, I. M., Ahmed Al-Safi, Sayyid Hurreiz, eds. Women’s Medi-
Tsing, Anna L. In the Realm of the Diamond Queen. Princeton,
cine: The Zar-Bori Cult in Africa and Beyond. Edinburgh,
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with special attention given to Oma Adang, a female sha-
volvement in Zar-Bori and the tension between Muslim au-
man, and with critical reflection on ethnography and “the
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gaze.”
Maaga, Mary. “Liminal Women: Pneumatological Practices
Waldman, Marilyn Robinson, and Robert M. Baum. “Innovation
Among West African Christians.” In Images of African
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Women: The Gender Problematic, edited by Stephanie Ne-
vation in Religious Traditions. Berlin and New York, 1992.
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Comparing the life and times of a Diola woman prophetess
Victor Turner’s theory of liminality and evaluates the pneu-
and Muh:ammad in terms of their respective roles within
matological practices among Christian women in the Inde-
their communities as speakers of a privileged kind of com-
pendent Church Movement in West Africa.
munication.
Olmos, Margarite Fernández, and Lizabeth Paravisini-Gebert,
Waxler, Nancy E. “Is Mental Illness Cured in Traditional Socie-
eds. Sacred Possessions: Vodou, Santeria, Obeah, and the Carib-
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try 1 (1977): 233–253. Drawing from social labeling theory,
interdisciplinary studies of African-based religious systems in
Waxler interprets her comparative social psychological re-
the Caribbean, analyzing the nature and liturgies of vodou,
search in Canada and India to argue that the prognosis is
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8699
brighter for a person whose community considers them pos-
tions besides his own when he noted that “whoever travels
sessed than is the prognosis for a person whose community
without a guide needs two hundred years for a two day’s
considers them to be psychotic.
journey.”
Wolf, Margery. A Thrice Told Tale. Stanford, Calif., 1992. Thirty
C
years later, Wolf returns to field notes of an incident in
ONNOTATIONS OF THE TERM. The word discipline is a par-
which a rural Taiwanese community responded to the appar-
ticularly apt one. To some people it rings of punishment,
ent spirit possession of a marginalized woman and explores
which in some cases is the point. But this certainly is not the
the representational issues involved as she rewrites the inci-
primary meaning of the term, which carries a good number
dent in different academic formats.
of connotations. The scope of its etymological cousins shows
the broad applications the term can have in the study and
MARY L. KELLER (2005)
practice of religion.
The word discipline may be derived through one of two
ways, or, more likely, in a semantic combination of the two
SPIRITS SEE ANGELS; DEMONS; DEVILS; FAIRIES;
ways. It may come from the Latin discere, “to learn,” and thus
GHOSTS; MONSTERS
be directly related to the English word disciple, “one who fol-
lows the instructions of a teacher.” Discere itself reflects the
Indo-European root *dek- (“take, accept”), which also ap-
SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINE.
pears in the English decent, docent, docile, dogma, and dog-
Throughout history, re-
matic; doctrine, doctor (“one who teaches doctrine”), and thus
ligious traditions have noted that those people who long for
indoctrinate; as well as dignity, “to be acceptable,” and deco-
a transformative or complete understanding of themselves
rous, “elegant, worthy of respect, graceful.”
and of their place in the world must somehow find a teacher
or set of teachings to help them along. That guide may be
Perhaps the word comes from the Latin disciplus,
a person, an idea, or a set of values; whatever it is, it establish-
“pupil,” from discapere, “to grasp,” in the sense of “to take
es the orientation and outlines the procedures the seekers
hold of mentally” and thus “to understand.” If so, then the
should follow in order to make real the transformation for
word discipline derives primarily from the Indo-European
which they hope. Many traditions further maintain that,
*kap- (“grab hold of”) and is related to such words as the En-
having found (or having hoped eventually to find) that
glish captivate, capture, and captive; accept, precept, concept;
guide, the seeker then must practice various regimens that
and participate. Often that sense of reception (a related word)
will help him continue along the way to ultimate transforma-
is described as a safe and protected experience, as would be
tion. Such endeavors constitute spiritual discipline, the
the sense of the Germanic derivative of the root *kap-,
means by which people find their fullest potential in the con-
*hafno, appearing in the Old English haefen, which leads in
text of any particular religious ideology.
turn to the modern English haven, “place of refuge.”
The practice of spiritual discipline marks the notion
To be disciplined, then, is to be caught up by the teach-
that one who is in search of the guide is not only a human
ings of a guide—whether that guide be a person, an ethic,
being but also a human “becoming,” one on his or her way
a community, a historical tradition, or a set of ideas—and
toward an ideal. Images of such discipline, therefore, often
to organize one’s behavior and attitude according to those
include themes of movement or passage. Maha¯ya¯na Bud-
teachings. The person who undertakes such discipline may
dhists describe the spiritual endeavor as bodhicarya¯vata¯ra,
be understood, then, to be a disciple of that which is felt to
“entering the path to enlightenment”; Jewish traditions
be true, a captive of that which is valuable. Religious tradi-
speak of religious norms as halakhah, “the way to go”; and
tions do not tend to view this as “punishment.” Rather, they
traditional Hindu literatures outline the three sacred “paths,”
generally stress the notion that this very captivity allows one
marga, of proper action, proper meditation, and proper de-
to become who he or she really is, or really could be. As Zen
votion. Not infrequently, religious systems refer to the sacred
Buddhists have long noted, one is most free when one is most
cosmos as a whole with terms meaning “the Way,” like the
disciplined.
Chinese dao.
TYPES OF SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINE. Just what kind of teacher
The perfection such a person seeks may take a number
the student follows and what type of relationship exists be-
of forms, each reflecting the fundamental worldview pres-
tween the two varies from tradition to tradition and within
ented by the pertinent religious system. It may be the fulfill-
each tradition itself, so any typological classification of spiri-
ment of being or the return to nonbeing; it may be personal
tual disciplines runs the risk of oversimplification. Classed
or impersonal; it may be the enjoyment of the good life or
very generally, however, the different kinds of spiritual disci-
the release of the good death. Whatever the goal, spiritual
pline may be understood as heteronomous, autonomous, or
disciplines claim to offer their adherents the means by which
interactive in nature. (Within these types one can discern
the religious ideal may be reached.
various modes of discipline, to which this article shall re-
Without discipline, the seeker founders. The S:u¯f¯ı mys-
turn.) These three should be understood as ideal types only:
tic Jala¯l al-D¯ın Ru¯m¯ı spoke perhaps for many religious tradi-
Analysis of different examples of actual spiritual endeavors
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8700
SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINE
will show that individual disciples and specific traditions
tion holds that Muh:ammad first received these lessons one
practice a combination of all three.
night during Ramad:a¯n when he was visited by the angel Ga-
briel. After cleansing Muh:ammad’s body and spirit, Gabriel
Heteronomous discipline. In heteronomous disci-
swept him up into the air, carrying him first to the sacred
pline, the disciple submits in his or her search for realization,
shrine at Mecca and then upward through the seven heavens
completion, or genuine understanding to the guidelines pres-
to the throne of God. There, surrounded by mystic light, the
ented by an external authority. While this authority may be
Prophet received divine instructions on proper religious ac-
personal or impersonal in nature, the structure of the rela-
tion, specifically the practice of the five daily prayers (s:ala¯t),
tionship between guide and disciple is often represented as
objective and depicted in oppositional images: creator/
in which the Muslim is to cleanse himself and touch his fore-
creature; lord/subject; teacher/apprentice; parent/child;
head to the ground as he bows toward Mecca in the early
shepherd/sheep; wise one/foolish one; judge/judged. In
morning, at noon, in midafternoon, at sunset, and in the eve-
obeying the commands or by imitating the paradigmatic ac-
ning. According to traditional stories, Muh:ammad then re-
tions of the central authority, the seeker finds the way to ful-
turned from the heavens and shared those instructions with
fillment and meaning.
the human community on earth. “The key to paradise is
s:ala¯t,” Muh:ammad is reported to have said; and the practice
One sees the ideals of heteronomous discipline in any
of the daily purification and prayer remains today one of the
account of a disciple who serves a master: the Chan Buddhist
Five Pillars of Islamic faith. The four remaining pillars are
who sweeps the floor and washes the pots for his teacher; the
shaha¯dah (the profession of faith), zaka¯t (care for the unfor-
American Indian who follows the instructions discerned in
tunate through almsgiving), s:awm (fasting during the month
the tones of a coyote’s call; the orthodox Hindu who obeys
of Ramad:a¯n), and h:ajj (pilgrimage to the KaEbah in Mecca).
the social regulations prescribed by the Dharma´sa¯stras. Het-
eronomy is found in those cases where people find meaning
According to Islamic mystical traditions, primarily
and validity in their actions as defined by an external authori-
those influenced by S:u¯f¯ı ideologies and practices, a person
ty of some kind.
intent on gaining a direct experience of God’s presence and
power first seeks out a teacher (Arab., shaykh; Pers., p¯ır) who
Sometimes the teacher is so distant, either in time or in
guides the disciple (Arab., mur¯ıd, “one who wishes to enter
space, that the disciple first must learn from a fellow, but
[the path]”) through the stages of the spiritual journey. The
wiser, seeker who knows the teachings if not the teacher and
teacher then watches over the mur¯ıd carefully, for the path
who, having traveled it, can illumine the difficult passage
(t:ar¯ıqah) is a long and difficult one. The master comes to
from one mode of being and understanding to another. Such
know the disciple at the most intimate of levels. The master
is the case, for example, in the Jewish figure of the rabbi, the
reads the student’s mind and sees into the student’s dreams
Christian pater spiritualis, the Buddhist arhat and bodhisatt-
in order to advise as the disciple moves through the anxiety
va, the Chinese sage, and the Siberian shaman—although
and doubt inherent in the religious transformation. The
the particular ideologies in which each of these figures pres-
master may make the mur¯ıd practice ascetic meditation for
ent their teachings vary immensely.
periods of forty days at a time and demand that the pupil
A good example of heteronomous discipline appears in
direct all of his attention to God; or the master may require
Islamic spiritual traditions. Muslims repeatedly hear in the
the student to live in a community of fellow seekers in order
QurDa¯n the notion that a person’s sole purpose in life is to
to benefit from the support a group can give. The master is
serve the will of God (Alla¯h) by cultivating his or her poten-
careful to keep the disciple attentive to his or her spiritual
tial in accordance with God’s “command” (amr). This sub-
duties as the disciple progresses through the “stations” (sg.,
mission (isla¯m) to God is the purpose for which God sends
maqa¯m) on the path: repentance (tawbah), abstinence
through prophets and revealed literatures the divine “guid-
(wara E), renunciation (zuhd), fasting (s:awm), surrender to
ance” (hida¯yah). The central revelation, the QurDa¯n, de-
God (tawakkul), poverty (faqr), patience (s:abr), gratitude
scribes itself as an invitation to come to the right path (hudan
(shukr), the cultivation of ecstatic joy (bast:) through con-
li-al-na¯s) and is the source of the Islamic sacred law (shar¯ı Eah,
straint of the ego (qabd:), and—finally—love (mah:abbah)
literally “the way to the water hole,” an appropriate image
and mystic annihilation (ma Erifah) into the being of God.
for spiritual travelers in a desert region). Islamic tradition
Bringing the student through these stages, the S:u¯f¯ı master
notes that examples of such guiding laws include what is
shows the way to fana¯ D, in which the seeker disposes of all
known as fard: or wa¯jib—those duties and actions all Mus-
human imperfections and takes on the qualities of the divine.
lims must obey, such as daily prayer (s:ala¯t), almsgiving
Autonomous discipline. The typological opposite of
(zaka¯t), and fasting during the holy month of Ramad:a¯n
heteronomous discipline is characterized by ideologies in
(s:awm).
which the guide is said not to live or exist somewhere outside
The paradigmatic disciple in this case is the prophet
of the seeker but, rather, to inhabit the very depths of one’s
Muh:ammad, who is said to have heard the sacred instruc-
personal being. There, deep within the heart, the teacher
tions from divine teachers and then to have obeyed the order
rests timelessly beneath the swirling currents of the seeker’s
to recite (qur Da¯n) those teachings to the community. Tradi-
confused identity, unaffected by the vagaries of the objective
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world. The adept’s task is to discover that inner wisdom. The
in which one refuses to kill another creature, take what is not
discipline that arises from this notion of the guide may be
given, or enjoy illicit sexual relations; correct livelihood
called autonomous in nature because the aspirant’s spiritual
(samma¯-a¯j¯ıva), to earn a living only by ways in which living
endeavors are self-contained and independent of external au-
beings are not injured; correct exertion (samma¯-va¯ya¯ma),
thority.
characterized by dispassion and benevolence; correct mind-
fulness (samma¯-sati), the remembrance of the Four Noble
A good example of autonomous discipline would be the
Truths; and correct meditative concentration (samma¯-
set of practices and assumptions reflected in the stories of
sama¯dhi), which allows one to understand the harmful na-
Siddhartha Gautama’s enlightenment and subsequent life as
ture of selfish desire. The Eightfold Path thus combines the
the Buddha. According to traditional accounts, the prince
practice of proper wisdom (namely, correct views and
led a comfortable and secure life in his father’s palace until,
thoughts), morality (correct speech, action, and livelihood),
as a young man, he was shocked and utterly disillusioned
and meditation (correct mindfulness and concentration).
with the passing enjoyments of the material world by the
sight outside the royal walls of an old person, a sick person,
Buddhist tradition firmly maintains that the Buddha
and a corpse, sights that his father’s protection had hitherto
gained this insight by himself. Records of the Buddha’s first
prevented him from seeing. After encountering a wandering
discourse after his enlightenment note that he told his fol-
ascetic who seemed to have attained a certain equanimity in
lowers, “No one in any of the worlds—neither the gods, nor
the world of sickness and death, Gautama at age twenty-nine
Ma¯ra, nor Brahma¯, nor ascetics or priests or gods or human
left his father’s palace in search of a teacher who could help
beings—had ever gained this highest complete enlighten-
him understand the nature of life. He is said to have found
ment. I [alone] knew this. Knowledge arose in me, insight
successively two highly respected masters, but eventually left
that even my mind cannot shake.” No teacher is said to have
each one, unsatisfied, because he had become their equal in
given this insight to the Buddha; the implicit lesson here is
wisdom and yet still did not understand. He despaired of any
that other people, too, can gain such knowledge if they culti-
teachings from another person, because even the most
vate autonomous discipline. Gautama himself seems to have
knowledgeable people did not know the full truth.
resisted the role of a master. One text records his encourage-
ment to others that “as wise people test gold by burning, cut-
Traditional accounts say that Gautama then went alone
ting and rubbing it, so are you also to accept my teachings
into the forest, where he found a quiet place to fast and to
only after examining them and not simply out of loyalty to
control his breathing in order to enter into a trance in which
me” (Jña¯nasa¯ra-samuccaya 31).
he could gain transcendent knowledge. Eventually abandon-
ing even some of these techniques because they led to what
Interactive discipline. In another form of discipline,
he experienced as a debilitating and therefore counterpro-
the teacher is neither completely external nor completely in-
ductive physical weakness, he developed his own kind of
ternal to the seeker. Rather, teaching and learning occur in
meditation, which was neither austere nor self-indulgent.
a continuing and flexive process. The discipline needed here
While meditating in this “middle way,” he was confronted
centers on a dialectical way of seeing or knowing that in itself
by demonic forces who tempted him, unsuccessfully, with
brings the seeker to the desired transformation. Outside au-
worldly power and prestige.
thority exists in the form of tradition, ethos, or structures of
the natural world; but that authority is affected in various de-
Gautama is said to have entered into four successive le-
grees by the hopes, worldviews, and training of the disciple.
vels of meditation (Pali, jha¯na), each one giving him deeper
Similarly, internal authority holds sway, but it is defined and
awareness of the origins and nature of suffering. Finally, at
given form by external structures. Interactive discipline cen-
the dawn ending the night of the full moon, he gained com-
ters on practices that arise in an open-ended or multivalent
plete understanding and stood up, alone. At that point he
relationship between the seeker and what he seeks.
became the Buddha, the Enlightened One. He understood
what have come to be known as the Four Noble Truths: (1)
Representative examples of interactive discipline might
that all conditioned existence is permeated by suffering; (2)
best come from the aesthetic arena. One thinks of a New En-
that there is a cause of suffering (namely, desire); (3) that
gland Shaker crafting a perfectly simple wooden chair; a sita¯r
there is a way to end suffering (namely, to cease desiring);
player quietly practicing a morning ra¯ga in the Indian dawn;
and (4) that the way to cease desiring is to follow a set of
an Italian sculptor lovingly fashioning an image of the Virgin
principles that became known as the Noble Eightfold Path.
Mother out of a piece of marble. In such cases the disciple
undergoes experiences in which the ideal is made real
Traditional Buddhist hagiographies and commentaries
through his or her own creative power, but that ideal itself
note that one follows that path by maintaining and practic-
determines the form in which the disciple can make it real.
ing the following disciplines: correct views (samma¯-dit:t:hi) to
Not only is there disciplined action; there is also a cultivated
see things as they really are rather than as one wishes them
interaction between the disciple and the discipline itself.
to be; correct thoughts (samma¯-sankappa), directed only to
the goal of enlightenment; correct speech (samma¯-va¯ca¯), in
At times the artist seems to be the effective agent in the
which one does not say anything that would harm his or
creative process who brings his or her work to fruition
other people’s integrity; correct action (samma¯-kammanta),
through bold assertion. “This is not the moment for hesita-
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8702
SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINE
tion and doubt,” Vincent van Gogh wrote of the creative
of the world that led the haiku poet Jo¯so¯ (1661–1704) to
process, “the hand may not tremble, nor may the eye wander,
find transformative appreciation in the following image:
but must remain fixed on what is before one.” Yet, no matter
Mizu soko no
Under the water,
how subjective or personal this creative discipline may be, it
Iwa ni ochitsuku
On the rock resting,
frequently is described almost paradoxically as a participation
Kono ha kana.
The fallen leaves.
in an impersonal event that transcends the idiosyncracies of
Or Basho¯, in a moment’s notice of
the artist. “Everything vanishes around me,” Paul Klee once
noted to himself, “and works are born out of the void. . . .
Nomi shirami,
Fleas, lice,
My hand has become the obedient instrument of a remote
Uma no nyo suru
The horse pissing
will.” The artist cultivates a vision and undertakes a disci-
Makuramoto.
Near my pillow.
pline in which the objective and subjective worlds converge
The freedom to experience the world as it arises from such
and yet remain distinct.
cognitive or perceptual discipline occurs only when the
poet’s mind is in perfect harmony with the rhythms of life
Interactive discipline thus involves a kind of “attentive
itself. “Wonder of wonders!” Ho¯ Koji exclaimed in an
selflessness.” Or perhaps it would be better to say that it cen-
eighth-century verse, “I carry firewood, I draw water!”
ters on an “attentive wholeness”—for one who perfects this
type of discipline is said to experience himself or herself as
There are no heteronomous or autonomous authorities
a creative and vital participant in the larger scope of life itself.
in this type of discipline, for to distinguish between object
Techniques of interactive discipline are different from those
and subject is to bifurcate the essential unity of being. Inter-
of heteronomous and autonomous discipline in that the for-
actional discipline takes a person beyond all dualities, includ-
mer do not revolve around conceptual knowledge. The mas-
ing the duality of “self” and “other” or “disciple” and “mas-
ter is both external and internal, and neither external nor in-
ter.” Interactive discipline in the haiku tradition eventually
ternal, to the disciple.
frees the disciple from the need for a teacher. Such discipline
recognizes that the guide, the way, and the wayfarer are one.
Interactive experience, like the artistic experience, cen-
MODES OF SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINE. The three types of spiri-
ters on what the Japanese call myo¯, the wondrous mystery
tual discipline just outlined should not be understood as mu-
and rhythmic flow of life. One who disciplines himself or
tually exclusive. Despite the autonomous ideals reflected in
herself toward this experience seeks to know eternal truths
his early discourses, for example, even Gautama’s followers
within the mysteries of the constantly changing world. Such
directed their lives according to the instructions given them
discipline is exemplified, to choose one of any number of
by their master and subsequently codified in the Vinaya
possibilities, in the Japanese haiku tradition, in which poets
Pitaka, a canonical collection of community rules and regula-
compose short verses in moments of sublime understanding
tions established by the Buddha and his immediate followers.
of the world. These poems reveal the unmediated nature of
Conversely, even the S:u¯f¯ı mystic who advances through the
the world as it exists objectively but also the fond and atten-
stages of the path under the heteronomous guidance of a
tive regard the poet holds for that world. Basho¯ (1643–1694)
shaykh finally experiences fana¯ D, the annihilation of ego-
is said to have set the haiku tradition with this verse, translat-
consciousness that brings knowledge of the unity of reality
ed by D. T. Suzuki:
in a state similar to that called jam E, “unification.” The Mus-
Furu ike ya!
The old pond, ah!
lim, in fact, learns from the QurDa¯n itself that God is “closer
Kawazu tobikomu,
A frog jumps in:
to man than is man’s jugular vein” (50:16) and that God has
Mizu no oto.
The water’s sound!
placed within each person an “inner torch” (taqwa¯), which,
if allowed to burn brightly, guides that person toward fulfill-
Quite typically, the images presented in haiku come from the
ment. And the Japanese notion of immediacy of myo¯ is said
ordinary world, but the terseness with which they are de-
to be taught at first by a master, who teaches the student ei-
scribed comes from the poet’s discerning vision of that world
ther through example or through specific instructions how
as an entirely remarkable place. The poet Buson (1716–
to see and to experience sublime beauty himself.
1783) once exclaimed:
In all three types of discipline, therefore, the seeker and
Tsuri-gane ni
On the temple bell
the path on which that seeker travels are inextricably linked.
Tomarite nemuru
Perching, sleeps
Within the general parameters of these three types of spiritu-
Kocho kana.
The butterfly, oh!
al discipline, one may recognize a number of ways in which
If perfected, such interactive awareness of the world is said
the disciple actually practices the regimens deemed necessary
to lead to satori (enlightenment), which finds its meaning in
for movement along the path. For simplicity’s sake, these
one’s everyday activities such as eating, sleeping, and moving
modes of activity can be classified in the following categories:
one’s body. The meaning that satori illumines in these activi-
ecstatic discipline, constructive discipline, discipline of the
ties does not come from outside; it is in the event itself. It
body, discipline of the mind, discipline of the heart, and dis-
is beingness, or life itself. Better still, it is the “is-as-it-isness”
cipline of enduring personal relationships.
of something, the quality that in Japanese is known as kono-
It should be stated, once again, that these categories
mama or sono-mama. It is this discipline of “seeing the isness”
serve typological purposes only; they are not rigid classifica-
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SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINE
8703
tions but general descriptive groupings of a variety of prac-
lies at the very center of religious ideology itself. Perhaps the
tices and ideas.
best example is that of the Tibetan traditions based on the
notion of bar do’i sems can (or simply bar do), the “intermedi-
Ecstatic discipline. Many religious traditions maintain
ate stage” through which a departed soul moves over the in-
that the desired state exists outside of the human realm. It
terval of forty-nine days between death and rebirth. Tibetan
may lie in some other place such as in the heavens, across the
priests read a series of instructions—most frequently from
mountains, or at the bottom of the sea; or it may take place
the the Bar do’i thos grol (often transliterated and simplified
in some other time, typically the past or the future. Whatever
as Bardo Thodal, the Tibetan Book of the Dead)—to the
the case, in order to reach that extraordinary state personally
dying or dead person to help him through the dangers of the
or in order to be able to communicate with spirits from that
bar do and to help him gain a comfortable rebirth or, ideally,
other world, the seeker must somehow cultivate the ability
freedom from the cycle of rebirth itself.
to move out of his or her physical body, because that body
is limited by the confining structures of time and space. Such
Immediately upon death—in fact, before a person even
out-of-the-body experience is classified generally as “ecstasy”
knows he or she is dead—a departed soul is said first to enter
and is attested in a variety of religious traditions throughout
the ’chi kha state, a realm of pure light and bliss. Reading set
history.
instructions from the Book of the Dead, the priest tells the de-
ceased that this is the ultimate reality and encourages the de-
The discipline needed to attain ecstasy typically includes
ceased to sever all emotional ties to the world left behind in
practices in which the seeker deprives himself or herself of
order to remain free in this state. Most spirits are afraid of
normal bodily pleasures in order to be free of his or her phys-
such freedom, however, and turn from it toward a second
ical body. Such deprivational or ascetic discipline may begin
state known as chos nyid, in which the dead person encoun-
with the seeker’s withdrawal into solitude and spiritual tute-
ters wondrous and beautiful creatures. The priest tells the
lage under a master. It often culminates in the visitation by
person that these beings are images of his or her self that have
a guardian spirit and subsequent transformative vision or in
been constructed through the person’s own selfishness and
an experience of death and resurrection.
that the person must renounce all attachment to them be-
Ecstatic discipline appears, for example, in North Amer-
cause they will soon turn into demonic monsters. Fearing
ican Indian practices centered on what has come to be
these terrors, the person then enters a third state, srid pa, in
known as the vision quest. In such a quest practiced among
which the person panics and flees into a new birth on earth
the Thompson River Indians, for instance, a young man ob-
as a way to avoid the horrors that have been experienced in
served severe dietary restrictions and fasts, cleansed his spirit
the intermediate realm. The priest attempts to keep the per-
with such rituals as sweat bathing and immersion in a cold
son from moving through the second two of these realms—
river, purged his body of impurities by forcing himself to
and thereby allowing the person to remain in the state of
vomit or by taking sacred medicines, and camped alone on
pure light and bliss—by reciting lessons and offering encour-
a mountaintop, where he forsook sleep for nights on end.
agement in the highly structured discipline of the long funer-
There he hoped to be visited by a guardian spirit who would
ary ritual.
teach him sacred ways and lead him through the dangers of
Constructive discipline. This mode of discipline does
life. The Ojibwa Indians of the Algonquin tribe near Lake
not seek in general to deprive the spiritual aspirant of un-
Superior demanded that a boy entering puberty set up camp
wanted or harmful characteristics; rather, it helps that person
alone under a red pine tree, where he was to fast and to lie
perfect his or her being by building on desirable characteris-
awake for days, waiting for a vision that would allow him to
tics that are already there.
see who he was in the context of the sacred cosmos as a
whole. These visions were often described as journeys taken
Such constructive discipline often takes the form of per-
into the worlds of the spirits, where the seeker was intro-
sonal imitation of a paradigmatic figure or figures who are
duced to divine teachers who would guide him throughout
said to embody desirable qualities or to have undertaken ben-
his life.
eficial actions. Many times, therefore, such discipline takes
the form of the correct performance of a ritual. “We do here
Such ecstatic practices often included the seeker’s ritual-
what the gods did in the beginning,” the priests report while
ized symbolic death and resurrection. Shamanic initiates
explaining why they officiate at the sacred rites of Vedic
among the Pomo and Coast Miwok Indians of California lay
India (see S´atapatha Bra¯hman:a 7.2.1.4). For those priests, all
on the ground and were covered with straw as if they had
work performed as part of the ritual thus becomes a disci-
died and been buried; standing up and casting off the straw,
plined imitation of a divine model. So, for example, the artist
the initiate was then known to have been resurrected from
who fashions the utensils and ritual paraphernalia expresses
the dead. Among the Tlinglit Indians of coastal Alaska, a
artistry in a religious context: “Those works of art produced
man was recognized as a potential shaman when he fell to
here by a human being—[an image of] an elephant, a goblet,
the ground in a deathlike trance and subsequently revived.
a sacred robe, a gold figure, a chariot—are works of art only
In some instances of ecstatic discipline, the value of an
because they imitate the art of the gods” (Aitareya Bra¯hman:a
enduring, rather than temporary, out-of-the-body experience
6.27).
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SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINE
But it need not be explicit ritual behavior only that em-
own command” (33). According to Benedict, monks were
bodies the ideals and techniques of constructive discipline.
to “let one pound of bread be enough for one day, whether
Such discipline appears in any system which assumes that
there be one meal only, or both dinner or supper,” and “wine
within the seeker lie qualities that, although perhaps dor-
is not appropriate for monks at all” (39–40). Benedict never-
mant, can be brought to the surface so that the ideal can be
theless admitted, “Since it is not possible these days to con-
made real. “Be faithful imitators of Jesus, and perfect imita-
vince the monks of this, let us agree at least on this: we
tors of Mary,” the fifteenth-century monk Thomas à Kempis
should not drink excessively nor to the point of satia-
wrote to his fellow Christians in his Imitation of Mary. “Be
tion. . . . one pint of wine a day is enough for each one”
simple, like the simple children of God, without deception,
(40).
without envy, without criticism, without murmuring, and
Benedict’s Rule thus reflects the value he placed on the
without suspicion.” In his Imitation of Christ, Thomas simi-
monk’s renunciation of material goods, the primary purpose
larly taught others to “learn to turn from worldly things, and
of which is to satisfy the body. “He should have nothing at
give yourself to spiritual things, and you will see the King-
all as his own: neither a book, nor tablets, nor a pen—
dom of God come within you” (2.1).
nothing at all” (33). Six centuries later, Francis of Assisi re-
Elements of constructive discipline may also be seen in
stated and modified for his fellow monastics many of Bene-
the Chinese, specifically the Neo-Confucian, tradition of the
dict’s rules, telling them, for example, “to go and sell all that
cultivation of sagehood. Zhangzai (1021–1077) defined the
they have and carefully give it to the poor,” and that “all the
sage as one who understands the harmonious and holistic na-
brothers shall wear humble garments, and may repair them
ture of oneself and one’s relationship to the world. According
with sack cloth and other remnants” (Rule of St. Francis 3.2).
to his teachings, a human being’s essential nature (xing) is
It may be, however, that the best classical example of
identical with all of nature (tiandi), and the sage understands
the discipline of the body comes from the ra¯jayoga tradition
the principle (li) that unites his essential nature with all
of India, particularly as represented by Patañjali’s Yoga Su¯tra
things. According to Neo-Confucian thought, transforma-
and its principal commentaries, Vya¯sa’s Yogabha¯s:ya and
tive understanding of this unity can be obtained through var-
Va¯caspati Mi´sra’s Tattvavai´sa¯rad¯ı. According to that tradi-
ious techniques reflecting the ideology of constructive disci-
tion, the path to the ultimate goal of meditation practices—
pline. Gao Pan Long (1562–1626), for example, advocated
namely, complete autonomy (kaivalya)—involves eight
a combination of several attitudes and practices: the cultiva-
stages or “branches” (an˙ga) and is therefore known as the
tion of an open-minded reverence (jing) for all things; an in-
“eight-limbed discipline” (as:t:a¯n˙gayoga).
tuitive exploration (ge wu) of the unifying principle that links
the inner and outer worlds; a pervasive appreciation of the
The first of the eight steps given by Patañjali is known
natural world; a sense of one’s place in history; and a practice
as restraint (yama) and is centered on injunctions not to kill,
he generally characterized as “quiet sitting” (jing zuo) in
not to lie, not to steal, not to enjoy sexual contact, and not
which the student brings the body and mind together into
to envy other people’s possessions (Yoga Su¯tra 2.30). The
a whole. Gao described this latter technique as “ordinary”
second stage is comprised of the five traditional spiritual
(ping chang) because it reflects the basic unified nature of
practices (niyama) of cleanliness, mental equanimity, asceti-
being itself.
cism, scriptural study, and devotion to a master (2.32). At
the third level, the yogin masters the various limber body
In his Fu qi gui Gao notes that one may practice such
postures (a¯sanas, e.g., the lotus position) that strengthen the
quiet sitting by observing some general procedures:
body against the rigors of severe asceticism (2.46), some of
Burn incense and sit in the lotus position. . . . Try not
which take many years of training before they can be prac-
to be lazy. After eating one must walk slowly for a hun-
ticed without the risk of dangerous injury. The fourth level
dred steps. Do not drink too much wine or eat too
consists of breath control (pra¯n:a¯ya¯ma) in which the adept
much meat or you will stir up the muddy waters. When
slows down his rate of respiration, sometimes to the point
resting do not take off your clothes. If you feel sleepy,
of stopping his breathing altogether for long periods of time,
then lie down. As soon as you awaken, get up.
and in so doing releases for his disciplined use all of the life
Discipline of the body. There is a general recognition
force (pra¯n:a) that is said to reside within the breath itself
among religious traditions that the body’s tendency to please
(2.49–51).
its own senses tends to distract the spirit from its more ethe-
At the fifth stage of the eight-limbed discipline, the
real tasks. Therefore, most spiritual disciplines involve the
yogin withdraws all senses from their objects in an enstatic
seeker’s control and restraint of his or her physical body.
process known as pratyahara, which includes in part focusing
Christian monastic traditions provide a good example
all attention thus retrieved from external distractions on a
of such discipline of the body. “The life of a monk should
single object—such as the spot between his eyebrows—in a
always be as if Lent were being observed” even though “few
technique described as eka¯grata¯, the sustained concentration
people have the fortitude to do so,” wrote Benedict of Nursia
on one thing (Yogabha¯s:ya 2.53). Mastering this technique
in the sixth century (Rule of St. Benedict 49), for “monks
gives the yogin power over all of his body, which possesses
should have not even their bodies or their wills under their
an almost immeasurable amount of energy.
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The sixth level, known as dha¯ran:a¯, a term that might
less, Yama asserts that “by discerning That, one is liberated
best be translated as “mental concentration,” is a form of
from the jaws of death” (3.15).
eka¯grata¯ in which the yogin, under strict guidance of a mas-
Another Upanis:ad notes that the master should accept
ter, concentrates all powerful attention on a single sacred syl-
as a disciple only a student “whose mind is tranquil and who
lable (mantra) or visual diagram (yantra) in such a way that
has attained peace. He teaches in its very truth that knowl-
the mind ceases to wander about in its constant fluctuations
edge of brahman [absolute reality] by which one knows the
and the yogin comes to know and experience the unity of
true eternal soul” (Mun:d:aka Upanis:ad 1.2.12–13).
his or her soul (a¯tman) with the soul of the universe.
The adept who disciplines his or her mind undergoes
In these first six stages of the eight-limbed discipline, the
here a kind of “unknowing” of all of the categories through
adept subdues and controls the instincts, desires, move-
which one’s self, the world, and divine reality is normally un-
ments, respiration, senses, and mental activities of the physi-
derstood. Part of this mental discipline involves the practice
cal body. This is done in order to prepare for the seventh and
of seeing the essence of things as distinct from their form.
eighth levels of discipline, which may be said to transcend
In a classic teaching recorded in the Br:hada¯ran:yaka
corporal existence. The seventh stage is known as dhya¯na
Upanis:ad, the Upanis:adic sage Ya¯jñavalkya repeatedly asserts
(deep meditation) in which the adept experiences the light
(see 4.5.15, for example) that the eternal soul is “not this,
of the Absolute within his or her own eternal soul. The final
not this.”
stage, sama¯dhi, brings the yogic discipline to its fruition. At
Christian mystical traditions centered on the via nega-
this point the yogin knows pure being, absolute conscious-
tiva present similar teachings regarding the need in one’s
ness, and complete bliss and is released from all suffering en-
spiritual advancement to break down the categories to which
tailed in the cycle of rebirth.
one’s undisciplined empirical mind clings. In his work The
Discipline of the mind. Many religions teach that
Mystical Theology, Dionysius the Areopagite (sixth century)
one’s mind tends to distract one from the necessities of spiri-
taught that “the universal and transcendent Cause of all
tual growth and that it, like the body, must be restrained.
things is neither . . . a body, nor has He a form or shape,
Sometimes religious masters admonish their students not to
or quality, or quantity, or weight; nor has He any localized,
daydream. Sometimes they scold their students for being too
visible, or tangible existence; He is not sensible or percepti-
analytical. In either case, they encourage them to retain con-
ble” (Happold, 1970, p. 212). Dionysius accordingly en-
trol over the mind.
couraged his followers to “leave behind the senses and the
The Kat:ha Upanis:ad records a mythic conversation be-
operations of the intellect, and all things sensible and intel-
tween Naciketas, a young boy desirous of sacred knowledge,
lectual, and all things in the world of being and nonbeing,
and Yama, the lord of the dead. One sees reflected in Yama’s
that thou mayest arise, by knowing, towards the union, as
teachings the notion, cited often in ancient India, that the
far as is attainable, with Him Who transcends all being and
mind must be restrained the way a charioteer must control
all knowledge” (op. cit., pp. 216–217).
his horses:
Discipline of the heart. Some religious traditions teach
that the final universal truth centers on a profound, delicate,
Think of the true self as [riding in] a chariot
and enduring love. According to these traditions, everything
and that the body is the chariot.
that is real arises from and returns into love; and it is through
Think of the intellect as the charioteer
the openhearted awareness of that love that one comes closer
and the mind as the reins.
to divine truth. The cultivation of those attitudes and actions
He who has no understanding, whose mind is out of
that help one see and know that love may therefore be called
control—
the discipline of the heart.
his senses are unchecked
At times such discipline of the heart is described as a way
Like wild horses [when unrestrained by a bad] charioteer.
of seeing the world in its sublime nature. As the S:u¯f¯ı poet
He, however, who has understanding,
Muh:ammad G¯ısu¯dara¯z (d. 1422) proclaimed,
whose mind is always under control—
his senses are checked
You look at the beautiful one and see figure and statue—
Like the obedient horses [of a good] charioteer. (3.3–6)
I do not see anything save the beauty and art of the
creator.
The lord of the dead continues to teach Naciketas that the
search for the absolute truth residing within the self is diffi-
Jala¯l al-d¯ın Ru¯m¯ı (d. 1273) saw the structures of the natural
cult because it “cannot be known through language, nor by
world as expressions of universal love:
the mind, nor by sight” (6.12). According to Yama, one rea-
If this heaven were not in love, then its breast would
son it is so difficult to comprehend the nature of the self is
have no purity,
that it has no discernible qualities or characteristics: It is
and if the sun were not in love, in his beauty would be
“without sound, without touch, without form, imperishable
no light,
. . . without taste, eternal, odorless, without a beginning
and if earth and mountain were not lovers, grass would
and without an end, beyond the great, constant.” Neverthe-
not grow out of their breast.
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SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINE
The Hebrew Song of Songs (whose verses date as early as the
best achieved through the observation of principles that serve
tenth century BCE) presents classic love imagery set in a dia-
to uphold the relationship between the human community
logue between a bride and her bridegroom. Traditional com-
and the deity or to maintain important familial and other in-
mentaries have interpreted the relationship between the
terpersonal bonds.
characters of the bride and groom in four ways: literally, as
A classical example of such relational discipline appears
a man and a woman in love with each other; figuratively, as
in the traditions centered on and developed from the Jewish
a model on which proper marriage should be based; allegori-
notion of mitsvah (“commandment”; pl., mitsvot), a rule of
cally, as the people of Israel and their god; and anagogically,
discipline that is understood to have divine sanction. The
as the account of an individual soul’s perfected relationship
rabbinic tradition of Judaism notes that God has given the
to God. Whatever its reference, the love between these two
people of Israel 613 mitsvot outlining the 248 positive in-
finds vivid expression:
structions and 365 negative injunctions the people are obli-
Bride: Night after night on my bed
gated to honor. The most general and most familiar of the
I have sought my true love;
mitsvot are known as the Ten Commandments (see Exodus
I have sought him but not found him,
20:2–14 and Deuteronomy 5:6–18), which combine strict
I have called him, but he has not answered.
monotheistic ideology with rules against destructive social
Groom: How beautiful you are, my dearest, how
behavior. According to these rules of discipline, the people
beautiful! . . .
of Israel are to believe in no other god but Yahveh, not to
Your lips are like a scarlet thread, and your words are
construct idols, to keep the commandments, not to misuse
delightful;
God’s name, to observe the day of rest, to honor their par-
your parted lips behind your veil are like a pomegranate
ents, not to commit murder, not to commit adultery, not to
cut open. . . .
steal, not to testify falsely against their neighbors, and not
Your two breasts are like two fawns, twin fawns of a
to be envious of other people’s possessions. Rabbinic tradi-
gazelle.
tions are careful to say that the Ten Commandments do not
Bride: I am my beloved’s, his longing is all for me.
exhaust mitsvot, and remind the people of Israel of the reli-
Come, my beloved, let us go out into the fields to lie
gious duty incumbent on all Jews, for example, to marry and
among the henna bushes. (3.1–7.11)
have at least two children in accordance with the divine com-
mandment to “be fruitful and multiply” (Gn. 1:22).
The Cistercian monks of twelfth-century Europe tended to
see the religious quest as an ongoing apprenticeship in the
Such relational discipline finds similar expression in
ways of love. In his Sermons on the Song of Songs, Bernard of
Paul’s teachings to the hellenized Jewish-Christians at Thes-
Clairvaux urged his readers to remember that “when God
salonica that the true disciple must “not [give] way to lust
loves, he wants nothing else than to be loved; for he loves
like the pagans who are ignorant of God; and no man must
for no other purpose than that he may be loved, knowing
do his brother wrong in this matter, or invade his rights, be-
that those who love him are blessed by that very love” (83.4).
cause, as we have told you before with all emphasis, the Lord
Christian mystics of that era often defined God in masculine
punishes all such offenses.” Paul further noted to those disci-
and the soul in feminine terms and described the religious
ples that we are “taught by God to love one another” in a
life as a relationship between the two. Richard of Saint-
selfless way and that “anyone who flouts these rules is flout-
Victor, for example, outlined in The Four Degrees of Passion-
ing not man but God” (1 Thes. 4:4–9).
ate Charity the stages through which the soul moves in its
Discipline based on the maintenance of proper relation-
relationship to the loving God:
ships also appears in another way in the classical Hindu no-
In the first degree, God enters into the soul and she
tion of varn:a¯´sramadharma, the sacred duties determined by
turns inward into herself. In the second, she ascends
one’s vocation and stage of life. An entire science (´sa¯stra) of
above herself and is lifted up to God. In the third, the
such sacred duties developed in Brahmanic India in order to
soul, lifted up to God, passes over altogether into Him.
interpret and preserve those rules by which orthodox Hindus
In the fourth the soul goes forth on God’s behalf and
are to act in society.
descends below herself.
According to the texts of that tradition, the Dharma-
Discipline of the heart carries the seeker further and further
´
sa¯stras, society is divided into four classes (varn:as, sometimes
into the depths, or heights, of divine love. This is seen in
translated as “castes”) of people. Each varn:a has its own par-
India, too. As Kr:s:n:a (i.e., God) is reported in the
ticular function, and the whole system may be understood
Bhagavadg¯ıta¯ to have told his disciple, Arjuna:
as a symbiosis in which all parts depend on the others. The
Through loving devotion [bhakti] he comes to know
priests (bra¯hman:as) perform rituals that ensure the favor of
Me—my measure, and who, in very truth, I am.
the gods for specific individuals or for society in general.
Then, knowing Me in that complete truth, he enters
Warriors (ks:atriyas) protect the society from foreign inva-
immediately into Me. (18.55)
sions and increase its land holdings. The responsibilities of
Discipline of enduring personal relationships. Ac-
production and distribution of material goods throughout
cording to some religious ideologies, religious fulfillment is
society fall to the merchants (vai´syas), and the laborers
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SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINE
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(´su¯dras) perform the manual work the other classes need in
The Path of Purification (Berkeley, Calif., 1976), vol. 2,
order to fulfill their responsibilities.
pp. 583–584. For commentaries on the First Sermon, see
Nalinaksha Dutt’s Aspects of Maha¯ya¯na Buddhism and Its Re-
Dharma´sa¯stra literatures similarly outline the four stages
lations to H¯ınaya¯na (London, 1930), pp. 129–202. An exam-
(a¯´sramas) of one’s individual life, each having its own disci-
ple of Maha¯ya¯na Buddhist spiritual discipline can be found
plined requirements. According to a representative text, the
in Marion L. Matics’s translation and study of S´a¯ntideva’s
Ma¯nava Dharma´sa¯stra (the Laws of Manu, second century
Bodhicarya¯vata¯ra entitled Entering the Path of Enlightenment
BCE), a student (brahmaca¯rin) must study the Vedic scrip-
(New York, 1970). Robert C. Lester discusses Therava¯da
tures under the guidance of a master until he is old enough
Buddhist ideals in Theravada Buddhism in Southeast Asia
to marry. Becoming a householder (gr:hasthin), one must
(Ann Arbor, Mich., 1973).
raise a family and secure its well-being. Having carried out
The quotation from Vincent van Gogh comes from Dear Theo,
these responsibilities long enough to see one’s grandchildren
translated and edited by Irving Stone (New York, 1969),
grow to be adults, one leaves the demands of family life to
p. 114; that from Paul Klee is taken from The Diaries of Paul
the children and enters the stage of the forest-dweller
Klee, 1898–1918, edited by Felix Klee (Berkeley, Calif.,
(va¯naprasthin) in order to offer private oblations to his ances-
1964), p. 386.
tors and various deities. Only if one lives long enough, and
Selections of Japanese haiku poetry appearing above come from
has met all of these other responsibilities, can one then be-
D. T. Suzuki’s Zen and Japanese Culture, 2d ed. (Princeton,
come a wandering ascetic (sam:nya¯sin) who, having finally
1959), pp. 215–268. See also R. H. Blyth’s Haiku, 4 vols.
abandoned all possessions and family obligations, seeks the
(Tokyo, 1949–1952).
inner wisdom that will bring eternal release.
On the American Indian practices centered on the vision quest,
see Ruth Benedict’s “The Vision in Plains Culture,” Ameri-
SEE ALSO Asceticism; Eremitism; Ecstasy; Martial Arts;
can Anthropologist 24 (1922): 1–23; Benedict’s The Concept
Meditation; Monasticism; Mortification; Obedience; Reli-
of the Guardian Spirit in North America (1923; Millwood,
gious Communities, article on Christian Religious Orders;
N.Y., 1974; Ake Hultkrantz’s The Religions of the American
Retreat; Yoga.
Indians (Los Angeles, 1979), pp. 66–83; and Sam D. Gill’s
Native American Religions: An Introduction (Belmont, Calif.,
1982). For personal accounts of the vision, see Gill’s Native
BIBLIOGRAPHY
American Traditions: Sources and Interpretations (Belmont,
Readers interested in discussions of spiritual disciplines in several
Calif., 1983). On patterns of initiation in North America,
traditions not outlined above and interpreted from a variety
see Edwin M. Loeb’s Tribal Initiations and Secret Societies
of approaches by eminent scholars will want to consult Pa-
(Berkeley, Calif., 1929). The best general discussion of sha-
pers from the Eranos Yearbooks, vol. 4, Spiritual Disciplines,
manism around the world remains Mircea Eliade’s Shaman-
edited by Joseph Campbell (New York, 1960), a collection
ism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy, rev. & enl. ed. (New York,
of papers read over several years at the Eranos meetings in
1964).
Ascona, Switzerland.
Translations of the Bar do’i thos grol into English may be found
On the development of Islamic shar¯ı Eah and its relationship to
in W. Y. Evans Wentz’s The Tibetan Book of the Dead, 2d
personal piety, see Marshall G. S. Hodgson’s The Venture of
ed. (London, 1949), and in Francesca Fremantle and
Islam, vol. 1, The Classical Age of Islam (Chicago, 1974),
Chögyam Trungpa’s The Tibetan Book of the Dead: The
pp. 315–409; Fazlur Rahman’s Islam (New York, 1966),
Great Liberation through Hearing in the Bardo (Berkeley,
pp. 100–116; and Frederick Mathewson Denny’s An Intro-
Calif., 1975). The notion of dao in China is discussed by Ar-
duction to Islam (New York, 1985), pp. 216–292. On Islamic
thur Waley in The Way and Its Power (New York, 1958).
spiritual traditions and mystical poetry, see Annemarie
Rodney L. Taylor offers a concise discussion of Neo-
Schimmel’s Mystical Dimensions of Islam (Chapel Hill, N. C.,
Confucian sagehood in The Cultivation of Sagehood as a Reli-
1975), esp. pp. 98–227 and 287–343; Reynold A. Nichol-
gious Goal in Neo-Confucianism (Missoula, Mont., 1978).
son’s Studies in Islamic Mysticism (Cambridge, 1921); and
The translation from Gao Pan Long’s Fu qi gui is taken from
William C. Chittick’s The Sufi Path of Love: The Spiritual
Taylor’s work.
Teachings of Rumi (Albany, N.Y., 1983). One of the better
The only available complete English translation of the S´atapatha
translations of the QurDa¯n remains A. J. Arberry’s The Koran
Bra¯hman:a is by Julius Eggeling, The S´atapatha Bra¯hman:a,
Interpreted (London and New York, 1955). For an elucidat-
5 vols., “Sacred Books of the East,” vols. 12, 26, 41, 43, 44
ing introduction to QurDanic thought, see Fazlur Rahman’s
(Oxford, 1882–1900). The Aitareya Bra¯hman:a has been
Major Themes of the Qur Da¯n (Chicago, 1980).
translated by Arthur Berriedale Keith in his Rigveda
Translations of traditional accounts of the Buddha’s enlighten-
Bra¯hman:as: The Aitareya and Kausiktaki Bra¯hman:as of the
ment, mostly from Pali sources, appear in E. J. Thomas’s The
Rigveda, “Harvard Oriental Series,” no. 25 (Cambridge,
Life of Buddha as Legend and History, 3d rev. ed. (London,
Mass., 1920). The best English translations of the Upanis:ads
1949), pp. 38–96, esp. pp. 61–80, and in Edward Conze’s
are Robert Ernest Hume’s The Thirteen Principal Upanis:ads,
Buddhist Scriptures (Harmondsworth, 1959), pp. 34–66,
2d ed. (London, 1931), and Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan’s The
which is a translation of A´svaghos:a’s Sanskrit work,
Principal Upanis:ads (London, 1953). There are many trans-
Buddhaca¯rita (Acts of the Buddha). For a traditional com-
lations of the Bhagavadg¯ıta¯. One of the best remains Frank-
mentary on the Noble Eightfold Path, see Buddhaghosa’s Vi-
lin Edgerton’s Bhagavad Gita¯ (Chicago, 1925), which in-
suddimagga 16.77–83, translated by Bhikkhu Ñya¯namoli as
cludes helpful studies and a summary. Patañjali’s Yoga Su¯tra
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8708
SPIRITUAL GUIDE
with commentaries by Vya¯sa and Va¯caspati Mi´sra has been
Hinduism is not alone in its insistence that the spiritual
translated by James Haughton Woods as The Yoga-System of
bond (vidya¯sambandha) that exists between the spiritual pre-
Patañjali (1914), 3d ed. (Delhi, 1966).
ceptor (guru) and his disciple (´sis:ya) is no less real than a
Those interested in the writings of Thomas à Kempis might look
blood relationship. Taking Socrates as the model preceptor,
to The Imitation of Mary, edited and translated by Albin de
Kierkegaard maintained that the maieutic relationship be-
Cigala (Westminster, Md., 1948) and his far better-known
tween teacher and disciple was the highest possible relation-
The Imitation of Christ, translated by Leo Sherley-Price (Har-
ship between man and man. Socrates, writes Kierkegaard,
mondsworth, 1953). Those wishing to read Benedict’s rule
entered into the role of midwife, not because his thought
have available many translations, a good one being The Rule
lacked “positive content,” but because he “perceived that this
of St. Benedict, edited and translated by Justin McCann
(London, 1921). For Bernard of Clairvaux, see Étienne Gil-
relationship is the highest that one human being can sustain
son’s The Mystical Theology of Saint Bernard, translated by
to another” (Kierkegaard, 1962, p. 12; cf. Plato, Theaetetus
A. H. C. Downes (London and New York, 1940). Transla-
150).
tions from Dionysius the Aeropagite come from F. C. Hap-
Whether he is regarded as a midwife, daimo¯n, or bodhi-
pold’s Mysticism: A Study and an Anthology (Harmonds-
worth, 1970), pp. 212, 216–217. The same is true for the
sattva, the paradigmatic feature of the spiritual guide is al-
translation from Richard of Saint Victor’s The Four Degrees
ways his intermediate status; in a hierarchically ordered cos-
of Passionate Charity (see Happold, pp. 241–248, esp.
mos, the guide is situated in an intermediary world of subtle
p. 242). Happold’s book contains short selections drawn
possibilities, between the realms of pure matter and pure
from mystical tracts from a variety of classical religious tradi-
spirit, between earth and heaven, or, one might say, between
tions around the world.
the exoteric and esoteric. The mythological paradigm for this
For studies on rabbinic understanding of Jewish sacred law and
idea finds expression in a variety of forms: Eros is the half-
custom, both written and oral, one might turn first to The
mortal, half-immortal daimo¯n of special significance to Soc-
Code of Maimonides, 15 vols. (New Haven, 1949–1980).
rates (See Plato, Symposium 202); in Twelver Shiism the
Less imposing works include A Maimonides Reader, edited by
guide is the Hidden Ima¯m who lives unseen in the third
Isidore Twersky (New York, 1972), and Maimonides’ Mish-
world of the esoteric Church, a Paradise in potentia, between
neh Toreh, 3 vols., edited and translated by Moses Hyamson
the physical and spiritual cosmos; and as Hermes, he is both
(New York, 1949). For other codes, see Code of Hebrew Law:
the messenger of the gods and their interpreter (hermeneut¯es),
Shulh:an EAruk, 5 vols., edited and translated by Chaim N.
Denburg (Montreal, 1954–), or Code of Jewish Law: Kitzur
an intermediary between the terrestrial and celestial worlds
Shulhan Aruh, 4 vols., annot. rev. ed., compiled and translat-
who has an additional function as the “guide of the souls of
ed by Solomon Ganzfried and Hyman E. Goldin (New York,
the dead.”
1961). Otherwise, see Alan Unterman’s Jews: Their Religious
The legitimacy of the unearthly, inner guide has been
Beliefs and Practices (Boston, 1981); A Rabbinic Anthology,
vouchsafed by all traditions; but the “masterless master” who
edited by C. G. Montefiore and Herbert Loewe (New York,
1974); and The Mishnah, edited and translated by Herbert
has been initiated and guided by the inner spiritual guide
Danby (Oxford, 1933).
without first having been counseled by an outer, human
guide (as in the case of Ibn al-EArab¯ı, the “disciple of Khid:r”;
WILLIAM K. MAHONY (1987)
see Corbin, 1969) is especially rare. Hui-neng, the sixth
Chan patriarch, said that if a man cannot gain awakening on
his own
SPIRITUAL GUIDE. Since ancient times, the figure
of the spiritual guide has stood at the center of contemplative
he must obtain a good teacher to show him how to see
and esoteric traditions. It would appear that all such tradi-
into his own self-nature. But if you awaken by yourself,
tions stress the necessity of a spiritual preceptor who has im-
do not rely on teachers outside. If you try to seek a
teacher outside and hope to obtain deliverance, you will
mediate knowledge of the laws of spiritual development and
find it impossible. If you have recognized the good
who can glean from the adept’s actions and attitudes his re-
teacher within your own mind, you have already ob-
spective station on the spiritual path as well as the impedi-
tained deliverance. (Yampolsky, 1967, p. 152)
ments that lie ahead. Furthermore, the guide is responsible
for preserving and advancing the precise understanding of
On the other hand, the Indian guru Maharaj has suggested
the teaching and spiritual discipline to which he is heir, in-
that it is the inner guru who leads the disciple to the outer
cluding both a written tradition and an oral tradition “out-
guru, and it is the outer guru who reveals the inner guru
side the scriptures,” which at its highest level is passed on
(Maharaj, 1973).
from master to succeeding master and to certain disciples ac-
ANCIENT GREECE. Pythagoras and Socrates remind us that
cording to their level of insight. The precarious nature of this
the worthy figure of the spiritual guide is not confined to the
transfer has been recognized by all traditions, but no one has
strict forms of religion but can also be identified in various
described the situation more succinctly than the fifth Chan
fraternities, orders, and academies whose primary concern is
patriarch, who warned that from “ancient times the trans-
the self-transformation and spiritual enlightenment of their
mission of the Dharma has been as tenuous as a dangling
members. As is often the case with founders of religions and
thread” (Yampolsky, 1967, p. 133).
lineages, there are no writings that have been attributed to
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Pythagoras or Socrates. The first written material on the
which has never been known. (Plato, Symposium 219,
“master” or founder of these traditions emerges often only
trans. Hamilton)
after a long gap, so that in the instance of Pythagoras we find
Many other of Socrates’ extraordinary attributes are de-
many of the earliest accounts idolizing and mythologizing
scribed by Alcibiades in the dialogue, including Socrates’ ri-
him, attributing numerous miracles to him but remaining si-
diculous and yet perfect choice of words (221), so that one
lent as to the essentials of his teaching.
might finally agree with Alicibiades that Socrates’ “absolute
According to Aristotle, the Pythagoreans taught that
unlikeness to any human being that is or ever has been is per-
among rational beings there is that which is God, that which
fectly astonishing” (221).
is man, and “that which is like Pythagoras” (Arist., frag.
JUDAISM. Although it is difficult to speculate on the figure
192). The spiritual guide, as in the case of Pythagoras, stands
of the spiritual guide as he might have existed in ancient Ju-
between the human and the suprahuman worlds, between
daism, as, for example, suggested in the texts of Psalms and
the mundane and the sacred; the guide is the intermediate
Ecclesiastes, the dominant figure of later times became the
par excellence, mediating energies from above and attracting
rabbi. The title is derived from rav (“master” or “teacher”)
disciples from below. The idea is further exemplifed by the
and a suffix of possession; hence its literal meaning is “my
tradition quoted by Diogenes Laertius that Pythagoras was
master” or “my teacher.” In modern times the Western world
the son of Hermes in a previous incarnation and that he re-
has come to regard the rabbi as a congregation leader, but
ceived from his father a memory of all things that had hap-
his original function as a “master” is indicated in the New
pened to him (Diogenes Laertius 8.4).
Testament where Jesus is frequently referred to as rabbi. Sim-
ilarly John the Baptist is indicated by the title in a singular
The historical Pythagoras, however, remains a mystery;
instance (Jn. 3:26). Jesus, when he warned his disciples not
we have inherited a fragmentary picture of his ascetic prac-
to call themselves rabbis, surely meant that this title was not
tices, taboos, sumbola, and orally transmitted maxims, but
to be taken lightly.
nowhere does the man Pythagoras emerge.
In Talmudic times the rabbi was an interpreter and
The problem with Socrates is somewhat different.
teacher of the Bible and the oral law (Mishnah). Like many
Whereas Pythagoras had no single student to organize his
teachers in the nonmonastic traditions of the East, the rabbi
teaching into a “system,” Socrates was followed by his disci-
derived no income from these activities but had an additional
ple Plato. But the problem here is trying to separate the real
occupation that produced private income; most often he was
Socrates, whose stature as an exemplary guide emerges even
a simple artisan or craftsman. According to doctrine, all rab-
in the dialogues, from Plato’s literary achievement “Socra-
bis are mutually equal, while reserving their individual free-
tes.” Jacob Needleman’s study of the Symposium (in The
dom to give ordination to suitable disciples. However, the
Heart of Philosophy, New York, 1982) reminds us of certain
rabbinical mysticism of the medieval period emphasized hi-
aspects of Socrates’ personality and energy as a guide, aspects
erarchy in other ways; to belong to the inner circle of disci-
that have been long overlooked by philosophers. Socrates, as
pleship presupposed an extraordinary degree of self-
in the other dialogues, is allowed to speak for himself to the
discipline. Furthermore, the most esoteric level of exegesis
extent that he alone among Athenians admits that he does
and transmission of teaching was reserved for the most select:
not know; he is a man who is questioning. The state of ques-
“It is forbidden to explain the first chapters of Genesis to
tioning once again reflects the idea of the intermediate; it
more than one person at a time. It is forbidden to explain
represents an intermediate state of unknowing, free at least
the first chapter of Ezekiel even to one person unless he be
from false and unexamined views. Similarly, Alcibiades, as
a sage and of original turn of mind” (Hag. 2.1).
the “authentic” pupil of Socrates, is also alone in that, unlike
the other Athenians, he is neither for nor against Socrates;
The title was adopted and altered to rebe by Hasidism
many times he wishes Socrates were dead, and yet he realizes
in the eighteenth century. The didactic and often humorous
that his death should make him more sorry than glad. Alcibi-
stories told by the rebeyim of Poland and East Europe were
ades is, alas, at his “wit’s end” when he enters the sympo-
passed on by tradition, so that collections exist today that
sium. A glimpse of Alcibiades’ estimation of Socrates is given
faithfully reflect the scope and activity of these remarkable
after the former recounts his failed amorous advances:
guides (see Buber, 1947–1948 and 1974).
What do you suppose to have been my state of mind
CHRISTIANITY. The foundation for guidance and disciple-
after that? On the one hand I realized that I had been
ship in the Christian tradition is naturally found in the re-
slighted, but on the other I felt a reverence for Socrates’
ported actions of Christ: he called his disciples to him; they
character, his self-control and courage; I had met a man
lived with him and were taught by his actions, words, and
whose like for fortitude I could never have expected to
gestures.
encounter. The result was that I could neither bring
myself to be angry with him and tear myself away from
For Christianity in general, Christ has remained the un-
his society, nor find a way of subduing him to my
equaled teacher, rabbi, a transcendent inner guide through
will. . . . I was utterly disconcerted, and wandered
whom man seeks salvation. Over and beyond this tendency
about in a state of enslavement to the man the like of
toward reliance on a transcendent guide, Eastern Orthodox
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Christianity has stressed the importance of the startsy, or el-
ISLAM. It has been suggested that much of the wit, humor,
ders, who guide one’s spiritual and practical work. The pri-
and fullness of the image of the spiritual guide in the writings
mary texts of this tradition (called hesychasm) are contained
of the Desert Fathers and subsequent accounts of spiritual
in the Philokalia. They represent an unbroken tradition of
fathers in early Christianity has been gradually diluted and
practical guidance based on the teachings and disciplines of
extracted through generations in an attempt to make the
the Desert Fathers, having been written between the fourth
writings more generally palatable. The S:u¯f¯ı master remains,
and fifteenth centuries by spiritual masters of the Orthodox
as in the case with various Buddhist guides, a robust and vig-
tradition. The texts show the way to awaken and develop at-
orous man, full of life, paradox, and humor.
tention and consciousness, and they describe the conditions
Shaykh or p¯ır. The shar¯ı Eah, or divine law, is meant
that are most effective.
for all Muslims, but beyond that lies the t:ar¯ıqah, or spiritual
Many of the writings indicate the difficulty of accepting
path, for the mur¯ıd (literally “he who has made up his will,”
the vocation of spiritual guidance and attempt to discourage
i.e., to enter the path). In order to enter the path, it is essen-
the false guide from destructive actions and consequences.
tial that the adept find and be accepted by a spiritual master,
Nilus the Ascetic (d. around 430) writes:
a shaykh (Arabic) or p¯ır (Persian); as a h:ad¯ıth (tradition) says:
“When someone has no shaykh, Satan becomes his shaykh.”
But what if someone, not from any choice of his own,
is obliged to accept one or two disciples, and so to be-
Many accounts are given of adepts who have undergone
come the spiritual director of others as well? First, let
seeming rejection and Abu¯se by the master who must test the
him examine himself carefully, to see whether he can
resolve and serious intent of the mur¯ıd. After this testing
teach them through his actions rather than his words,
(sometimes the adept is made to wait for years), the mur¯ıd
setting his own life before them. . . . He should also
will only then actually begin on the path under the guidance
realize that he ought to work as hard for his disciples’
of his master.
salvation as he does for his own; for, having once ac-
cepted responsibility for them, he will be accountable
The Sheikh would teach him how to behave in each
to God for them as well as for himself. That is why the
mental state and prescribe periods of seclusion, if he
saints tried to leave behind disciples whose holiness was
deemed it necessary. It was well known that the meth-
no less than their own, and to change these disciples
ods could not be alike for everybody, and the genuine
from their original condition to a better state. (Philo-
mystical leader had to have a great deal of psychological
kalia, vol. l, p. 223)
understanding in order to recognize the different talents
and characters of his mur¯ıds and train them according-
Not only is there a great temptation for the more advanced
ly. (Schimmel, 1975, p. 104)
monks to consider themselves as highly evolved spiritual
guides or directors, but the novice must face the temptation
The keen attention paid by the guide to the daily activities
of relying merely on himself and trusting his own judgment
of the adept gradually developed in the course of time to the
when he has as yet insufficient material to understand the
image of the shaykh “who acutely supervised every breath of
guile and cunning of the “enemy.” The monk should bring
the mur¯ıd.” The problem of finding and dwelling in the
his thoughts and confessions to an elder so that he might
presence of an authentic shaykh is particularly acute, for the
learn the gift of true discrimination. John Cassian (d. c. 435)
adept must choose a guide (or be chosen by a guide) who
relates: “The devil brings monks to the brink of destruction
possesses the qualifications for guiding that particular disci-
more effectively through persuading him to disregard the ad-
ple. “Not every sheikh is a master for every disciple. The disci-
monitions of the fathers and follow his own judgment and
ple must seek and find the master who conquers his soul and
desire, than he does through any other fault” (ibid., p. 104).
dominates him as an eagle or falcon pounces upon a sparrow
in the air” (Nasr, 1970, p. 144).
But in confessing one’s thoughts and concerns there is
still the pitfall of following the pseudoguide. John Cassian
The absolute necessity of a spiritual guide is so central
further encourages monks to seek out spiritual masters who
to the credo of Sufism that at least one biography of the S:u¯f¯ı
truly possess discrimination and not those whose hair has
master Abu¯ SaE¯ıd ibn Ab¯ı al-Khayr (d. 1049 CE) reports the
simply “grown white with age.” He relates: “Many who have
maxim that “if any one by means of asceticism and self-
looked to age as a guide, and then revealed their thoughts,
mortification shall have risen to an exalted degree of mystical
have not only remained unhealed but have been driven to
experience, without having a P¯ır to whose authority and exam-
despair because of the inexperience of those to whom they
ple he submits himself, the S:u¯f¯ıs do not regard him as belong-
confessed.” Unseen Warfare, a text with roots in both the
ing to their community” (Nicholson, [1921] 1976, p. 10).
Western and Eastern traditions of Christianity, echoes the
In this way the transmission of doctrine, method, and
necessity of a qualified teacher: “A man who follows their
exercises is secured in a continuous lineage traced back
guidance and verifies all his actions, both inner and outer,
through a series of dead pirs or shaykhs to the Prophet. The
by the good judgments of his teachers—priests in the case
appearance of Muh:ammad and his son-in-law, EAl¯ı, at the
of laymen, experienced startzi in monasteries—cannot be ap-
head of a list fits in more with necessary fiction than strict
proached by the enemy” (Kadloubovsky and Palmer, 1952,
historicity; the S:u¯f¯ıs maintained they were the legitimate
p. 165).
heirs of the esoteric teachings of the Prophet. Abu¯ SaE¯ıd’s lin-
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SPIRITUAL GUIDE
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eage is traced by his biographer through ten p¯ırs to
Ima¯m in both Shiism and Sufism. The Hidden Ima¯m is the
Muh:ammad; the twentieth-century S:u¯f¯ı saint Shaykh
pole (qut:b) with whom all S:u¯f¯ı masters are inwardly con-
Ah:mad al-EAlaw¯ı (d. 1934) is credited with a “tree of spiritu-
nected.
al mastery” including scores of generations as well as sectari-
As Annemarie Schimmel writes:
an connections complex enough to require a navigator (see
The veneration shown to the ima¯m and the qut:b, as
Lings, 1973, appendix B).
manifested in the mystical preceptor, is common to Su-
Although the shaykh has certainly undergone the ascetic
fism and Shiism. The Shia teaches: “who dies without
and meditative training through which he guides his pu-
knowing the ima¯m of his time, dies an infidel,” and
Jala¯ludd¯ın Ru¯m¯ı (d. 1273), though a relatively moder-
pils—dhikr (“remembrance” [of God]), fasting, deprivation
ate S:u¯f¯ı, said: “He who does not know the true sheikh
of sleep, intense physical labors, and so on—he abides in the
i.e., the Perfect Man and qut:b of his time—is a ka¯fir,
fullness of life, active and yet detached from his actions. “The
an infidel.” (Schimmel, 1975, p. 200)
true saint,” states Abu¯ SaE¯ıd, “goes in and out amongst the
HINDUISM. The idea of a spiritual preceptor to guide one’s
people and eats and sleeps with them and buys and sells in
study of religion and philosophy has been a constant influ-
the market and marries and takes part in social intercourse,
ence on the religion of India since the most ancient times.
and never forgets God for a single moment” (Nicholson,
Already in the R:gveda we see him referred to as the r:s:i (“seer”)
1921, p. 55). For this reason the shaykh’s actions often ap-
or muni (a sage, or “silent one”); as such, he is the possesser
pear paradoxical or inconsistent with Islamic doctrine. Nich-
of deep spiritual insights (often resulting from performing
olson relates yet another story of Shaykh Abu¯ SaE¯ıd from the
austerities) and is considered to be the “author” of the sacred
Asra¯r: when the shaykh was holding one of his lavish feasts
hymns. In later times we find him referred to as a¯ca¯rya,
and entertainments, an arrogant ascetic—ignorant of the
brahma¯n:a, and sva¯mi (swami), but he has most dramatically
shaykh’s novitiate and forty years’ austerities—challenged
captured the attention of the West as the guru.
him to a forty-day fast, hoping to humiliate the shaykh be-
fore his pupils and thereby earn their respect. The shaykh ac-
Only knowledge that was gained from a teacher was ca-
cepted and ate nothing while the ascetic continued to eat the
pable of successfully leading one to one’s aim (Cha¯ndogya
small amounts of food allowed by the practice. Throughout
Upanis:ad 4.9.3). And from Cha¯ndogya Upanis:ad 6.4.1f., it
the forty days the S:u¯f¯ıs continued by order of Abu¯ SaE¯ıd to
appears that the spiritual guide is also necessary in order to
be served delicious food while the two looked on. Finally the
cut through and disperse mundane, empirical knowledge
ascetic, no longer strong enough to perform his obligatory
and to become conscious of true spiritual knowledge.
prayers, confessed his presumption and ignorance.
There is also the prevalent concern for the secret trans-
mission of esoteric knowledge. Hence, Cha¯ndogya Upanis:ad
The Perfect Human Being. The idea of the Perfect
3.11.5 states that a father can teach the esoteric doctrine to
Human Being (insa¯n-i ka¯mil) seems first to have been em-
“his eldest son or to a worthy pupil, and to no one else, even
ployed by the S:u¯f¯ı theosophist Ibn al-EArab¯ı (d. 1240) and
if one should offer him the whole earth”; see also Aitareya
somewhat later in a more technical sense when al-J¯ıl¯ı
A¯ran:yaka 3.2.6.9: “Let no one tell these sam:hita¯s to one who
(d. between 1408 and 1417) systematized his predecessor’s
is not a resident pupil, who has not been with the teacher
work. Although the idea of the Perfect Human Being has re-
for at least a year, and who is not himself to become a teach-
ceived several different treatments, a general definition might
er.” That the pupil is often tested by the guru and admitted
describe him as “a man who has fully realised his essential
only sometimes after a novitiate or probation is attested to
oneness with the Divine Being in whose likeness he is made”
in several sources (e.g., Cha¯ndogya Upanis:ad 8.7.3; Pra´sna
(Nicholson, 1921, p. 78). The saint (wal¯ı) is the highest
Upanis:ad 1.2).
knower of God, and consequently he occupies the highest
of all human degrees, saintship (wala¯yah), as the Perfect
It would seem that the word guru is used in the sense
Human Being par excellence. Al-J¯ıl¯ı maintained that the Per-
of “teacher” or “spiritual guide” for the first time in
fect Human Being of any period was the outward manifesta-
Cha¯ndogya Upanis:ad, but one should also point out that its
tion of the Prophet Muh:ammad’s essence, claiming that his
original adjectival sense (“heavy one” or “weighty”) is illus-
own spiritual guide was just such an appearance. According
trative of the widespread belief that holy persons are charac-
to the system of Ibn al-EArab¯ı and al-J¯ıl¯ı, the S:u¯f¯ı shaykhs
terized by uncommon weight, not necessarily in the outer,
are “vicegerents” of Muh:ammad, invested with the “prophe-
physical sense. Hendrik Wagenvoort and Jan Gonda have
cy of saintship” and brought back by God from the state of
both commented on this (Gonda, 1947, 1965; Wagenvoort,
fana¯ D (“annihilation”) so that they might guide the people
1941). Wagenvoort has shown that guru is etymologically re-
to God. Something of this idea is reflected in the definition
lated to Latin gravis, which is remarkable only because its de-
by Mah:mu¯d Shabistar¯ı (d. 1320) of the Perfect Human
rivative, gravitas, was frequently used in connection with the
Being as he who follows a twofold movement: down into the
nouns auctor and auctoritas. The Latin expression gravis auc-
phenomenal world and upward to the divine world of light.
tor (“the important or true authority”) also carries the same
general sense of a guru as a man of influence who takes the
Mention must also be made of the S:u¯f¯ı master’s rela-
initiative, in other words, a man who can “do” and have an
tionship to the role of the twelfth ima¯m, who is the Hidden
effect on others.
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Although the tendency to deify the guru only gradually
a similar transformation. It is upon this fundamental attitude
gained a doctrinal position, the idea can already be seen in
that the Buddhist tradition of spiritual guidance takes its pre-
the S´veta¯´svatara Upanis:ad 6.23, which speaks of a man who
cedence.
has the highest love and devotion for God and for his guru
Unlike some Indian traditions that tend to view the
as for God. In later times this distinction is erased so that the
guru as an incarnation of divinity or as an intermediary to
guru is identified with the gods. The great poet and mystic
the sacred, early Buddhism emphasized the humanity of the
Kab¯ır (d. c. 1518) taught that the guru should be recognized
guide and his own attainment of spiritual knowledge. The
as the Lord himself; a view echoed by Caitanya (d. 1533) and
term designated by the texts for the guide or teacher is “good
his followers. This process of deification (no doubt aided by
or virtuous friend” (Pali, kalya¯n:amitta; Skt., kalya¯n:amitra).
the conception of avata¯ras) went to such extremes that the
The kalya¯n:amitra provides guidance based entirely on the in-
guru might be said to have usurped and displaced the gods
sight he has gained from personal experience. In one instance
in importance. Thus, the S´aiva texts teach that if S´iva be-
the Sam:yutta Nika¯ya reports that when A¯nanda suggested to
comes angry, “then the guru can pacify him, but if the guru
the Buddha that reliance on “virtuous friends” was half the
becomes angry, no one can pacify him.”
holy life, the Buddha corrected him by declaring it the whole
It is in relation to this theme that the idea of the “guru’s
of the holy life. The same text (1:88) relates an episode in
grace” arose, a concept of particular force even today. Many
which the Buddha describes himself as the “virtuous friend”
Indian seekers feel that the mere presence of the guru (as in
par excellence, as a spiritual guide who leads sentient beings
satsang, or keeping spiritual company) can somehow lead the
to freedom from birth, old age, suffering, and death.
pupil to liberation. This view, however, is not held universal-
Bodhisattva. At the core of the development of
ly. One can easily find numerous exceptions that suggest that
Maha¯ya¯na Buddhism was the role to be performed by the
the intensity of the disciple’s wish for knowledge and his ear-
bodhisattva (“enlightenment being”). Maha¯ya¯na doctrine ar-
nest striving are all that is necessary; the guru’s only true
gues that the old order was decidedly individualistic and that
function then is to act as a messenger. Seen in this light, one
the emphasis on desiring a personal liberation, or nirva¯n:a,
can easily understand the statements that contend there is no
was actually a hindrance to the full development of one’s
lack of gurus, only of qualified and true disciples.
spiritual potentialities, stopping the larger movement toward
“complete enlightment.” The bodhisattva relinquishes his
That the prestige and influence enjoyed by gurus has
personal enlightenment and vows to work for the enlighten-
persisted to modern times is attested to by certain teachers
ment of all sentient beings. After attaining the requisite in-
of our century who possess the force and unmistakable ring
sight (prajña¯), the final stage of the bodhisattva’s career is de-
of authenticity. One need only mention by way of example
voted to the welfare of others as practiced via skillful means
the writings by and about Nisargadatta Maharaj, Ramana
(upaya). The doctrine maintains that prajña without upaya
Maharshi, and Shri Anirvan. Although in modern times
leads to the incomplete quietistic enlightenment, while pos-
there has been a great deal of speculation and criticism about
session of upaya without prajña results in continued bondage
the claims made by many spiritual guides of India, especially
to samsara. Therefore, the skillful guidance of others toward
those offering their services to the West, it would be difficult
enlightenment, as an expression of compassion, becomes
and perhaps a mistake to attempt to judge those teachers on
paramount to the spiritual progress of the bodhisattva;
the basis of their outward actions. For no one, as Maharaj
through this process of guidance something “more” is gained
has said, could know the motives behind the actions of a
by him.
truly realized guru. To illustrate this point, Maharaj tells the
The employment of skillful means or technique is essen-
story of a sam:nya¯sin (world-renouncing ascetic) who was told
tially intended for use by those spiritual guides or masters
by his guru to marry. He obeyed and suffered bitterly. But
who possess a complete and perfect knowledge of the teach-
all four of his children became the greatest saints and r:s:is of
ings and the methods of practice and who are themselves free
Maharashtra.
from the delusions of the mind and emotions. The bodhisatt-
BUDDHISM. Accounts of the Buddha’s early life indicate that
va perceives through spiritual insight (prajña) the inner barri-
he retired to the forest in order to receive the teaching and
ers and the potentialities of the pupil and can respond to each
guidance of various celebrated hermits and teachers. Howev-
accordingly. Candrak¯ırti (fl. 600–650 CE) argued that con-
er, after practicing a series of austere yogic exercises for sever-
tradictory teachings would naturally arise because the Bud-
al years, the Buddha determined that their guidance was in-
dhas were physicians rather than teachers; in considering the
sufficient and set out on his own to attain enlightenment.
mental and spiritual stations of their disciples, the Buddhas
Once the Buddha attained his enlightenment he remained
would vary their teachings accordingly. The idea that the
in a blissful state of meditation for several days and contem-
master could teach people by playing various roles while re-
plated the trouble he would cause himself should he attempt
maining inwardly free was presented in its ultimate form by
to share his vision and offer guidance to a deeply deluded and
the Vimalak¯ırti Su¯tra, which declared that even the Ma¯ras
ignorant mankind. He overcame this final temptation of re-
are all bodhisattvas dwelling in an “inconceivable liberation”
maining secluded and private in his vision, resolving to share
and “playing the devil in order to develop beings through
his knowledge with other seekers and to guide them towards
their skillful means.”
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Lama. In what historians have termed the “second dif-
tion. It is said that Milaraspa became “even greater than his
fusion of the teaching” in Tibet, the Buddhist masters em-
teacher” and he is today remembered in Tibet as the greatest
phasized the necessity of an authoritative tradition of teach-
of Buddhist “saints.” Later, when Milaraspa took on his own
ing, the validity of which was assured by direct transmission
pupils, one disciple suggested that he must have been the in-
from master to disciple. The first two schools of Buddhism
carnation of a Buddha or great bodhisattva owing to the ex-
to appear in Tibet were the Bka’rgyudpa (Kagyüpa) and
tent of the trials and ascetic practises he had undergone and
Bka’gdamspa (kadampa), founded by Marpa (d. 1096 or
based on his great devotion to his lama. Milaraspa replied
1097) and At¯ı´sa (d. 1054) respectively. With regard to the
tersely that he had never heard whose incarnation he was.
esoteric tradition of initiation and oral transmission, both
Zen patriarchs and Zen masters. It has been observed
schools recognize the same Indian teachers. It is also clear
that every tradition emphasizes the importance of an oral tra-
that the first objective of both Marpa and At¯ı´sa was to gather
dition of instruction for the guidance of adepts. The founda-
around them tested disciples who would be capable of trans-
tion of Chan (Jpn., Zen) Buddhism is based squarely upon
mitting the tradition. When asked by a disciple whether
this premise, as is indicated in the following verses attributed
scripture or one’s teacher’s instructions were more impor-
to the “founder” and first Chan patriarch in China, Bodhid-
tant, At¯ı´sa replied that direct instruction from one’s teacher
harma (d. before 534):
was more important; if the chain of instruction and transmis-
sion is broken, the text becomes like a corpse, and no power
A special tradition outside the scriptures;
can bring it new life. Marpa’s Indian teacher, Na¯ropa
No dependence upon words or letters;
(d. 1100), gave him similar instruction when he declared:
Direct pointing at the soul of man;
Seeing into one’s own nature, and the attainment of
Before any guru existed
Buddhahood.
Even the name of Buddha was not heard.
(Dumoulin, 1963)
All the buddhas of a thousand kalpas
Only came about because of the guru.
Hui-neng, the sixth patriarch, was said to have been illiterate,
(Nalanda Translation Committee, 1982, p. 92)
and it is reported in a story that is most probably apocryphal
that he ordered all of the su¯tras of his monastery thrown into
There is, perhaps, nowhere in world literature a more
a heap and burned in order to teach his disciples not to rely
dramatic and haunting portrayal of the kind of guidance pro-
on word and texts but direct experience only.
vided by a great master than is found in the Life of Milarepa,
an account of Marpa’s most famous disciple, Milaraspa
The golden age of Chan in China (the period from Hui-
(d. 1123). Milaraspa came to Marpa filled with remorse for
neng’s death until the persecution of Buddhism in the ninth
the evil he had done by sorcery in his youth; he sought in-
century) was a time in which Chan masters of the most re-
struction that could free him from the karmic consequences
markable originality won the day. These were vigorous and
in his future lives. But, as Lobsang P. Lhalungpa has pointed
effusive men who sought to bring their disciples to new levels
out, Marpa clearly perceived that, as a result of his previous
of insight by demonstrating their own inexpressible experi-
actions, Milaraspa could not gain the desired transformation
ences of enlightenment by shocking and often violent meth-
by means of any normal training. “Thus, as the condition
ods.
of receiving the Dharma, Mila was required to fulfill a series
One such figure was Mazu (d. 786). A robust and un-
of bitterly demanding and dispiriting tasks. In enforcing the
flinching presence, Mazu is described in a Chan chronicle of
great ordeals, Marpa used shifting tactics and seemingly de-
the period as a man of remarkable appearance: “He strode
ceitful ways” (Lhalungpa, 1977, p. x). During the so-called
along like a bull and glared about him like a tiger.” He was
ordeal of the towers Milaraspa was commanded by Marpa
the first to use shouting (especially the famous cry “ho!”
to build single-handedly a tower. But each time Milaraspa
[Jpn., “katsu”]) as a means to shock the disciple out of his
had completed a tower, Marpa ordered him to tear it down,
habitually duality-conscious mind. In one famous story it is
claiming he had not paid enough attention to the plans or
related that after a typically paradoxical dialogue with one
that he had been drunk when he gave the “Great Magician”
of his disciples, Mazu grabbed him by the nose and twisted
directions. Finally, having constructed a ten-story tower
it so violently that the pupil cried out in pain—and attained
(which is still said to exist today) and at the brink of suicide,
enlightenment.
Milaraspa at last received from Marpa the secret teaching.
Not just Milaraspa but Marpa’s wife and several of his disci-
For Mazu the important thing was not a deluded attach-
ples were baffled by the apparent cruelty and irrationality of
ment to quiet sitting in meditation but enlightenment,
the lama Marpa, of the verbal and physical abuse he show-
which could express itself in everything. This was impressed
ered on Milaraspa and his seeming lack of compassion.
upon Mazu by his own master, Huairang (d. 744). While
Marpa countered the doubts of the uninitiated by saying that
still a student, Mazu was “continuously absorbed in media-
he merely tested Milaraspa in order to purify him of his sins.
tion.” On one occasion Huairang came across Mazu while
the disciple was engaged in meditation and asked, “For what
After these trials, Marpa led his disciple through initia-
purpose are you sitting in meditation?” Mazu answered, “I
tions and offered instruction and consultation on medita-
want to become a Buddha.” Thereupon the master picked
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SPIRITUAL GUIDE
up a tile and started rubbing it on a stone. Mazu asked,
guiding others in their quest for enlightenment, the Zen
“What are you doing, Master?” “I am polishing this tile to
master “smashes the brains of monks everywhere, and pulls
make a mirror,” Huairang replied. “How can you make a
out the nails and knocks out the wedges.” With typical Zen
mirror by rubbing a tile?” exclaimed Mazu. “How can one
irony Hakuin describes the worthy successor he has pro-
become a Buddha by sitting in meditation?” countered the
duced who is qualified to transmit the teaching: “Without
master (Dumoulin, 1963, p. 97f.).
the least human feeling he produces an unsurpassedly evil,
stupid, blind oaf, be it one person or merely half a person,
Linji (d. 866) led his numerous disciples toward enlight-
with teeth sharp as the sword-trees of hell, and a gaping
enment by continuing and enlarging the use of shouting, ad-
mouth like a tray of blood. Thus will he recompense his deep
ding to that his own favorite method of beating disciples.
obligation to the Buddhas and the Patriarchs” (Yampolsky,
The “shouting and beating” Chan of Linji was not intended
1971, p. 39).
as punishment or random mischief. Experience had taught
Linji that harsh and unexpected encounters with “reality”
SEE ALSO Authority; Leadership.
could lead more quickly and certainly to enlightenment than
endless lectures and discourses.
BIBLIOGRAPHY
Buber, Martin. Tales of the Hasidim. 2 vols. Translated by Olga
An unrelenting giant among Japanese Zen masters was
Marx. New York, 1947–1948.
Hakuin (d. 1769). Born in a “degenerate” period of Bud-
Buber, Martin. The Tales of Rabbi Nachman. Translated by Mau-
dhism in Japan, Hakuin revived the Rinzai form of Zen
rice Friedman. London, 1974.
begun by Linji, particularly emphasizing the investigation of
Dumoulin, Heinrich. A History of Zen Buddhism. Translated by
ko¯ans and “sitting in the midst of activity.” Throughout
Paul Peachey. New York, 1963.
Hakuin’s life he attacked forms of “silent-illumination Zen,”
Gonda, Jan. “À propos d’un sens magico-religieux de skt. guru-.”
which he consistently referred to as “dead-sitting.” In his
Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 12
youth, Hakuin tells us, his ko¯an meditation was poor, and
(1947): 124–131.
as a result he engaged in dead-sitting until his Zen-sickness
Gonda, Jan. Change and Continuity in Indian Religion. The
was cured by the instruction of an insightful teacher, the her-
Hague, 1965.
mit Hakuyu. As a result, Hakuin was totally uncompromis-
Guénon, René. “Hermes.” In The Sword of Gnosis, edited by Jacob
ing in his insistence of a right understanding of meditation;
Needleman, pp. 370–375. Baltimore, 1974.
his ironic and acerbic tone seems to have been inherited from
Gunaratna, Henepola. The Path of Serenity and Insight. Columbia,
the harsh patriarchs and Zen masters of the past:
Mo., 1984.
How sad it is that the teaching in this degenerate age
Kadloubovsky, Eugènie, and G. E. H. Palmer, trans. Unseen War-
gives indications of the time when the Dharma will be
fare, Being the Spiritual Combat and Path to Paradise as Edited
completely destroyed. Monks and teachers of eminent
by Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain and Revised by Theophan
virtue, surrounded by hosts of disciples and eminent
the Recluse. London, 1952.
worthies, foolishly take the dead teachings of no-
Kerényi, Károly. Hermes, Guide of Souls. Translated by Murray
thought and no-mind, where the mind is like dead
Stein. Zurich, 1976.
ashes with wisdom obliterated, and make these into the
Kierkegaard, So⁄ren. Philosophical Fragments. 2d ed. Princeton,
essential doctrines of Zen. They practice silent, dead sit-
1962.
ting as though they were incense burners in some old
mausoleum and take this to be the treasure place of the
Lhalungpa, Lobsang P., trans. The Life of Milarepa. New York,
true practice of the patriarchs. They make rigid empti-
1977.
ness, indifference, and black stupidity the ultimate es-
Lings, Martin. A Moslem Saint of the Twentieth Century: Shaikh
sence for accomplishing the Great Matter. (Yampolsky,
Ahmad al-Alawi. 2d ed. Berkeley, 1973.
1971, p. 170)
Maharaj, Sri Nisargadatta. I Am That. Bombay, 1972.
It has been argued that the ultimate purpose of the Zen
Nalanda Translation Committee under the direction of Chögyam
Trungpa, trans. The Life of Marpa the Translator. Boulder,
master is one thing alone: to produce a disciple who can carry
1982.
on the teaching and preserve the transmission of the Dhar-
ma. The lineages of many famous monks became extinct
Nasr, Seyyed Hossein. “The Sufi Master as Exemplified in Persian
Sufi Literature.” Studies in Comparative Religion 4 (Summer
after a generation or two because they had no disciples to
1970): 140–149.
hand down their teachings.
Needleman, Jacob. “The Search for the Wise Man.” In Search:
The biography of Bozhang (d. 814) states: “He whose
Journey on the Inner Path, edited by Jean Sulzberger,
view is equal to that of his teacher diminishes by half his
pp. 85–100. New York, 1979.
teacher’s power. He whose view exceeds that of his teacher
Needleman, Jacob. The Heart of Philosophy. New York, 1982.
is qualified to transmit the teaching.” Hakuin was keenly
Nicholson, Reynold A. Studies in Islamic Mysticism (1921). Re-
aware of the necessity of producing a worthy disciple and in
print, Cambridge, 1976.
fact sanctioned several of his own pupils to carry on his
Palmer, G. E. H., Philip Sherrard, and Kallistos Ware, eds. and
teaching. Armed with spiritual powers and techniques for
trans. The Philokalia, vol. 1. London, 1979.
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SPIRITUALISM
8715
Schimmel, Annemarie. Mystical Dimensions of Islam. Chapel Hill,
of Louis Alphonse Cahagnet’s description of conversations
N.C., 1975.
with entranced clairvoyants, The Celestial Telegraph. The
Yampolsky, Philip, ed. and trans. The Platform Su¯tra of the Sixth
term Spiritualism came from mesmerism and referred to the
Patriarch. New York, 1967.
concept of an exalted expanse opened to clairvoyants travel-
Yampolsky, Philip, trans. The Zen Master Hakuin. New York,
ing without the body to realms where spirits could commu-
1971.
nicate secrets to them.
STUART W. SMITHERS (1987)
The disappearance or surrender of one’s identity to an-
other was a theme of the seventeenth-century mystical writ-
ings of Madame Guyon and Francois Fénelon, who empha-
SPIRITUALISM
sized the individual’s surrender of the will to divine love.
is a widespread and generally unorga-
These writings were popular among American antebellum
nized movement that arose in the United States at the end
Protestant intellectuals. The Romantic movement fostered
of the 1840s, was influential through the nineteenth century
a similar surrender of the self, or hypersensitivity to spiritual
in the United States and elsewhere, and persists at the begin-
or psychic “impressions.” Goethe had depicted such sensitiv-
ning of the twenty-first century. At its core is the belief that
ity in his novels The Sorrows of Young Werther (1744) and
the living can conduct conversations with spirits of the de-
Elective Affinities (1809), and it was exemplified in Bohe-
ceased through a sensitive instrument (either a mechanical
or electronic device) or a human medium.
mian wanderlust, the desire to follow personal “monitions”
rather than conventional expectations. The abandonment of
Spiritualism’s advent was occasioned by two events. The
the self to holy enthusiasm and impulse was also encouraged
first was the publication of Andrew Jackson Davis’s visionary
in the religious revivals of the time. The Gothicism of the
cosmology and universal history, The Principles of Nature,
period resulted in the enormous popularity of Catherine
Her Divine Revelations, and a Voice to Mankind, in 1847.
Crowe’s 1848 collection of stories about uncanny phenome-
The second was the production of audible rapping that was
na, The Night-Side of Nature.
interpreted as coded responses of spirits to questions posed
by two young sisters, Margaret and Kate Fox. Others soon
The concern with reconciling science and religion, as
reproduced the sounds during “spirit circles” or séances
well as matter and spirit, coincided with a popular interest
around the country. Spiritualists later annually commemo-
in the newly translated writings of Swedish engineer and vi-
rated the rappings as having begun on March 25, 1848.
sionary Emanuel Swedenborg, who had conversations with
Practitioners said Spiritualism was precipitated when
spirits about their lives in other worlds that intersected with
spirits, including that of electrical experimenter Benjamin
this one. Transcendentalists urged a spiritualization of the
Franklin, established a practical “spiritual telegraph” be-
natural world, and Perfectionists suggested that the earthly
tween this world and the spirit world. Those who were not
could be reformed into, or revealed to be, the heavenly, sti-
Spiritualists looked elsewhere for the sources of the move-
mulating seekers to set up utopian communities founded on
ment, crediting demons, mass delusion, human folly, fraud,
the ideas of French socialist Charles Fourier. Also influential
or simply to the influence of social and religious trends in
in the birth of Spiritualism was an efflorescence of trance vi-
the larger culture.
sions among Shakers during the late 1830s and 1840s, which
S
presaged many of the features of Spiritualism.
PIRITUALISM’S THEORY AND CULTURAL BACKGROUND.
The “harmonial philosophy” of Davis and his sympathizers
Spiritualism promoted the notion of surrendering the
envisioned a harmonization of past, present, and future; of
will to the inspiration of spirits, but it simultaneously elevat-
matter and spirit; of reason and intuition; of men and
ed the importance of the individual’s perception and judg-
women; and of individuals and society. It provided an osten-
ment. It assented to testing the reality of the spirits, ranking
sibly rationalist stock onto which was grafted a variety of ex-
empirical experience over traditional authority. It made a
otic psychic phenomena, such as mesmeric trance and the
“scientific” appeal to evidence available to anyone. It also
Fox sisters’ rappings. The result was “Modern Spiritualism,”
adopted the individualism and anticlericalism of the Protes-
as it was called, which was optimistic about the destiny of
tant dissenting tradition, evident in the Pietistic origins of
each individual after death and of human society in the long
the religious groups—such as the Universalists, the Unitari-
run, and egalitarian insofar as it accepted the revelations of
ans, and Quakers—among whose members Spiritualism
women, children, and others who lacked education or cre-
flourished. Spiritualism, by and large, was antiauthoritarian
dentials.
and Spiritualists valued the liberty of individual conscience.
Spiritualism was part of the larger culture’s effort to rec-
The movement was associated with progressive politics and
oncile science and religion. In the United States and Europe
social theory, and was most popular in the northern United
the intersection of matter and spirit had been explored in ex-
States. Southerners often saw spiritualism as one strand of
periments with mesmerism. Influential books included the
a twisted skein of Yankee fanaticism that also included such
1845 translation of Justinus Kerner’s case study of a som-
causes as utopian socialism, women’s rights, and the aboli-
nambulist, The Seeress of Prevorst, and the 1855 translation
tion of slavery.
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SPIRITUALISM
Spiritualists accepted the naturalistic idea of geological
perings of spirits. These scientists believed this explanation
and biological change and development, and they extended
was more naturalistic.
the idea to religion, which they believed also evolved and
In nineteenth-century America, Spiritualism bore the
progressed. Spiritualists supposed that individuals progressed
marks of the progressive wing of Protestantism. Local varie-
as well, continuing beyond this life into the afterlife, and
ties, however, sometimes drew from other sources, such as
Spiritualism thus expanded the realm of natural law into the
the Spiritualism of New Orleans, which incorporated Ca-
supernatural. They did not view the Fox sisters’ rappings or
tholicism’s traditions of intercessory saints and sacraments,
other Spiritualistic phenomena as miracles in the sense of a
as well as voodoo. The Spiritualism practiced in some parts
suspension of natural law, but they saw such phenomena as
of the United States incorporated Native American methods
the ultimately rational—although not yet understood—
of divination, trance induction, and spirit possession, and
effects of the interaction between this world and the higher
white mediums often discovered that their spirit guides were
world. The clairvoyant travels of spirit mediums also resem-
Indians. Modern Spiritualism was largely a phenomenon of
bled the travels of naturalist explorers of exotic cultures, such
white Americans, however, with some notable exceptions,
as, for example, A. J. Davis’s travels while in “the superior
such as Sojourner Truth and Pascal Beverly Randolph. Nev-
state” to the afterlife, which he envisioned as “The Summer-
ertheless, Spiritualists believed that spirit contact was at the
land,” a socialist community of enlightened souls. The “sci-
heart of all religion, and they believed they found support
entific” tendencies of Spiritualists led some of their early reli-
for this view in the Bible, in ancient accounts of the Sibylline
gious opponents to refer to them as “rationalists.”
oracles and of prophets and druids, and in historical records
Many personal accounts described conversion to Spiri-
of witchcraft and haunting.
tualism as a joyful liberation from a bleak Calvinist belief
Some opponents of Spiritualism argued for replacing
that the soul was powerless to affect its final disposition, or
the term Spiritualism with spiritism. As they saw it, Spiritual-
even liberation from an arid materialist belief that denied life
ism was a word with wide application but only appropriate
after death. Other accounts described the adoption of Spiri-
as a contrast to materialism. They insisted that spiritism was
tualism as only a small step from the beliefs of liberal church-
the proper term for what was commonly called “Spiritual-
es that already had a tenuous relationship with traditional
ism,” which, according to them, was merely a submission or
Christian doctrine. Many Spiritualists saw themselves as
unhealthy attachment to spirits. Their argument had little
“come-outers,” that is, as part of a group that had left Chris-
effect on popular usage, and gained no acceptance by Spiritu-
tianity, just as their spiritual forebears had left corrupted
alists.
churches. Many other Spiritualists, however, believed that
they were simply finding their way back to the true core of
Spiritism, however, was used by French seer Hippolyte
Christianity and called themselves “Christian Spiritualists.”
Léon Denizard Rivail, writing under the pseudonym Allan
Spiritualists were early advocates of “higher criticism” of the
Kardec. Kardec’s publications in the late 1850s and 1860s
Bible and they were convinced that apocrypha, such as Gnos-
influenced many in the French-speaking world to accept the
tic texts, contained a true picture of Jesus’s life and teachings.
reality of spirit contact. They also accepted the existence of
Spiritualists generally accepted the rococo speculations of
reincarnation, whereas American and English Spiritualists, at
comparative religion as it was practiced by such savants as
least for the first decades of the movement, rejected it.
Louis Jacolliot, who believed that the biblical story of Christ
was a fiction based on the Hindu myth of Kr:s:n:a.
In general, European Spiritualism was more influenced
than was American Spiritualism by occult traditions, such as
Traditional churches vigorously opposed Spiritualism,
Hermeticism, Rosicrucianism, irregular orders of Freema-
attributing it to the devil and equating it with previous forms
sonry, and ideas from the eastern lands that Europeans had
of necromancy. Traditional churches also opposed Spiritual-
colonized. Nevertheless, American spirit mediums spread
ism because it made revelation deliberately open-ended and
their variety of Spiritualism to Europe by lecturing and hold-
subject only to individual judgment. Spiritualism moved re-
ing séances there. Maria Trenholm Hayden, for example, vis-
ligion from churches, which were public places subject to the
ited England and made an early convert of socialist Robert
control of traditional (male) authority, to home parlors,
Owen. Daniel Dunglas Home traveled throughout Europe
which were private places subject to domestic (female) senti-
and gave spectacular performances, some of which powerful-
ment, or, as opponents put it, dark places where people were
ly affected the czarist court.
free of restraint. Opponents also took issue with Spiritualists’
equating the authority of the Bible with that of the messages
Doctrinal controversies arose within the movement:
and wonders produced at séances and in other religions.
Did spirits provide tangible assistance or mere comfort? In
trance, was the will erased or exalted? Was Spiritualism’s es-
Most of the public and most scientists, with a few excep-
sence a public platform of progressive reform, or the phe-
tions, treated Spiritualism as delusion, fraud, or mental dis-
nomenal manifestations of the séance? Why were revelations
order. Some scientists attributed séance messages to the me-
from trance mediums contradictory? Controversies also arose
dium’s ability to read the thoughts of others in the spirit
on the specifics of the afterlife (Were animals reborn there?
circle, rather than to the medium’s ability to hear the whis-
Was retrogression possible after death?) and on the interac-
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8717
tion between spirit and body (Did sexual prompting signal
“trance lecturers” Cora L. V. Scott Richmond, Emma Hard-
an attraction of true spiritual “affinities”?).
inge Britten, Hannah Frances Brown, Achsa White Sprague,
Lizzie Doten, Ada Hoyt Foye, and Amanda Britt Spence—
THE FORMS AND PRACTICES OF SPIRITUALISM. Spiritualists
drew enthusiastic audiences, thrilled to see women on a plat-
developed their own church services, with congregational
form speaking fearlessly and authoritatively.
singing of hymns, lectures, and Sunday schools (“lyceums”)
for children. Spiritualists also encouraged the development
Spiritualists believed that one feminine aspect of Spiri-
of mediums who could conduct séances or give lectures
tualism was its focus, not on the abstract intellect, but on
under the influence of spirits.
subjective feeling and on the body. They believed that spirits
had begun to affect the biological elevation of the human
The séance was meant to be a ritual communion of the
race by exerting spiritual influence over the conception and
saints still in the flesh with those who had left it, but the sé-
development of the human embryo. They also believed the
ance was also meant to be a proof test of the reality of the
spirits could free women from undesired sex, which literally
afterlife. The earliest Spiritualists formed spirit circles similar
degraded their offspring. Women had to be made equal to
to those that mesmerists already used to investigate “animal
men, and each woman had to be given sole authority over
magnetism,” where men and women touched hands around
when, and how often, and with whom she would have sex
a table, forming a “magnetic battery.” Mesmeric investiga-
and children. Some Spiritualists were the first public advo-
tors had produced trance, clairvoyance, eruptions of tics or
cates of women’s reproductive rights, and Spiritualists occu-
automatisms, sometimes involving writing or speaking, and
pied the most radical wing of the early women’s rights move-
the tilting of tables and levitating of people, furniture, and
ment.
musical instruments. Now sitters attributed these to discar-
nate spirits rather than to their own manipulations of energy.
Spiritualists made effective prophets, perhaps, but not
loyal group members. They attempted to organize, but with
Personal messages voiced or written by the medium
only sporadic successes. Many were leery of setting up a hier-
from the sitters’ deceased friends and family were always the
archy that would judge individual practices or experiences.
main products of a séance, with the sitters conducting their
On the other hand, they valued communion, association,
conversation with the spirits through the medium. But the
and small spirit circles as aids to amplify a medium’s sensitiv-
medium might also give voice to the spirits of famous people
ity. In addition, groups fortified the camaraderie of believers,
who corrected or supplemented the ideas for which they had
inculcated children in the belief in spirit communion,
been known while living. Other phenomena produced at a
trained mediums, and sponsored lecturers. Local associations
séance might include musical sounds, disembodied voices,
licensed mediums, ministers, and lecturers to protect them
floating lights and phosphorescent hands, and the material-
from ordinances against fortune telling and “jugglery.” They
ization of coins, flowers, letters, or birds. Mediums produced
also investigated charges of mediumistic fraud or immorality
spirit-inspired songs, poetry, paintings, scriptures and narra-
to protect Spiritualism from abuse by con artists or from em-
tives of travel to other times or worlds, revelations of hidden
barrassment by anti-Spiritualist opponents.
treasures or lucrative business opportunities, chalk messages
on slate boards, spirit images on photographic plates, and
Spiritualists also formed state, regional, and national as-
novel plans for inventions and for political or social reforms.
sociations, with varying success, and they held conventions.
Mediums also reported the ability to read minds, to see the
Propaganda for the movement was carried out by word of
future, and to escape from tied ropes or locked jail cells. At
mouth, by experiments with séances, by lectures from travel-
séances in the 1870s and 1880s mediums might extrude
ing mediums, and by the publication of pamphlets and
from their bodies a pale diaphanous substance eventually
books. Spiritualist newspapers connected far-flung and often
called “ectoplasm,” or they might conduct “dark cabinet ma-
isolated believers into a community of faith. The most influ-
terializations” in which they were locked in a cabinet and
ential were Spiritual Telegraph, New-England Spiritualist,
produced spectral forms who walked among the audience.
Herald of Progress, Religio-Philosophical Journal, and Banner
of Light
.
Mediums also diagnosed disease. Their reputed clair-
voyance allowed them to see into a person’s body to the
The first Spiritualist camp meeting was held in a field
source of illness, and, sometimes with assistance of the spirits
outside Malden, Massachusetts, in the summer of 1866.
of famous physicians, to prescribe treatment. This often in-
Camp meetings became very influential in the movement,
cluded the medium’s manipulation of the energy “aura” sur-
sometimes drawing as many as twenty thousand attendees to
rounding the patient’s body through the laying on of hands.
such rural surroundings as Lake Pleasant, Massachusetts, or
Many mediums made their living through healing, rather
Cassadaga, New York (the forerunner of the center for the
than through conducting séances or giving lectures.