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  • 1. WorldReligions
  • 2. Paperback edition General EditorPublished in 2004 by Martin PalmerTIMES BOOKS Director of the International ConsultancyHarperCollins Publishers on Religion, Education and Culture77-85 Fulham Palace Road (ICOREC)London W6 8JB ContributorsThe Collins website address is See pages 4– Editorial and Design Team for Flame TreeFirst published by Times Books 2002 Jennifer Bishop, Michelle Clare, Vicky Garrard, Dave Jones, Nicki Marshall,Copyright © Flame Tree Publishing 2002, 2004, Sonya Newland, Nick Wells, Polly Willis,part of The Foundry Creative Media Company Ltd Tom WorsleyMaps © Times Books Ltd 2002, 2004 Editorial and Design Team for HarperCollins Philip Parker, Martin BrownAll rights reserved. No part of this publication maybe reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, ortransmitted in any form or by any means electronic,mechanical, photocopying or otherwise, without theprior written permission of the publishers andcopyright holder.Printed and bound in SingaporeBritish Library Cataloguing in Publication DadA catalogue record for this book is available fromthe British LibraryISBN 0 0071 9991 0
  • 3. WorldReligions Martin Palmer
  • 4. C O N T R I B U T O R SContributorsMARTIN PALMER TARA LEWISGeneral Editor; Roots of Religion; Taoism ShamanismMartin Palmer is the Director of the International Consultancy on Having obtained a joint Honours degree in Comparative ReligionsReligion, Education and Culture (ICOREC). ICOREC specialises in and History of Art, and researched a thesis on ‘Shamans in the workprojects related to religious, environmental and development issues of Siyah Qalam’, after travelling widely in Asia for her studies,Taraand works with a variety of international organisations such asThe Lewis went on to work for the Alliance of Religions and ConservationWorld Wide Fund for Nature (WWF),The World Bank, UNESCO, and (a UK-based charity). She established ARC Asia, organising andthe World Council of Churches. He was also instrumental in the developing conservation projects with religious communities increation of the Alliance of Religions and Conservation first launched Cambodia,Thailand, Indonesia, Mongolia and China. She is currentlyin 1995 by HRH the Prince Philip of which he is now Secretary editing Mongolian Sacred Legends of the Land.General. In 1997 he founded the Sacred Land Project which worksworld wide preserving sacred sites from Mongolia to Mexico. JIMMY WEINER Martin is the author of many books including Travels through Oceania; Australian AboriginalsSacred China, Sacred Britain, Christianity and Ecology, Sacred Dr. James F. Weiner received his PhD from Australian NationalGardens and the forthcoming Jesus Sutras which is a translation of University in 1984. He has held teaching and research positions inthe sacred texts of the Nestorian Christians, China’s first Christian anthropology at Australian National University, University ofcommunity dating from AD 635. He frequently appears on television Manchester and University of Adelaide. He has worked for overand radio, has presented a number of series on sacred topics and three years in Papua New Guinea with the Foi people and hasalso writes for a wide variety of publications. published two books on New Guinea mythology. Currently he is Martin studied theology at Cambridge, with a special emphasis working as an independent consultant in native title for Aboriginalon Chinese and Japanese studies. He founded the Centre for the communities throughout Australia. He is also working on a bookStudy of Religion and Education in inner city Manchester and has about the Hindmarsh Island sacred site case in South Australia.been a pioneer in the areas of interfaith environmental education. GRAHAM HARVEYBRENDA RALPH-LEWIS The MaorisThe Ancient Near East; Zorastrianism Graham Harvey is Reader in Religious Studies at King Alfred’sBrenda Ralph Lewis is a freelance author specializing in history, College, Winchester. He is particularly interested in Maori andwith particular reference to ancient civilizations. Her most recent Ojibwe spirituality, but has also published books aboutbook (out of a total of more than 90), published in 2001, deals with contemporary Paganism and ancient Judaism. His (edited)the philosophy and practice of ritual sacrifice in both ancient and Indigenous Religions: a Companion brings together excellentmodern religion. Mrs Lewis has also written over 25TV and video writing about issues in indigenous religious and their study.scripts on the history and culture of ancient civilisations. She ismarried with one son and lives in Buckinghamshire. FREDA RAJOTTE Native North AmericansROBERT MORKOT Rev Dr Freda Rajotte has always been dedicated to both justiceAncient Egypt issues and to preserving the integrity of creation. As a GeographyRobert Morkot is an ancient historian specialising in North-East professor she focused upon the related issues of economicAfrica. He studied at London University and the Humboldt- development and environmental conservation. She also gaveUniversity, Berlin, and currently teaches at Exeter University. As courses in Comparative Religion. Freda has numerous First Nationwell as many academic publications he is author of The Penguin colleagues, relatives and friends. Always interested in encouragingHistorical Atlas of Ancient Greece (1996), The Black Pharaohs: Egypt’s better understanding between people of different cultures andNubian Rulers (2000) and The Empires of Ancient Egypt (2001). faiths, for seven years she was the director of the Canadian Coalition for Ecology, Ethics and Religion. During this time, thanksMICHAEL KERRIGAN to the contributions and assistance of many First Nation leaders,Greece and Rome she compiled and published First Nations Faith and Ecology.An Edinburgh-based freelance writer specializing in the civilizations of Freda is married and has six children.ancient times, Michael Kerrigan has written on almost every aspectof archaeology, ancient history and culture, covering subjects from KEVIN WARDthe origins of agriculture to the icons of Byzantium, from the rise of African Traditional Religionsthe Greek city-state to the fall of Rome. A regular contributor to such Dr Kevin Ward teaches African Religious Studies in the Departmentjournals as the Times Literary Supplement and the Scotsman, his recent ofTheology and Religious Studies at the University of Leeds. Hebooks include Ancient Greece and the Mediterranean (2001), Ancient worked for over 20 years in East Africa, as a teacher in Kenya andRome and the Roman Empire (2001) andThe Instruments ofTorture (2001). as a lecturer at a seminary in Uganda. He is ordained in the Church of Uganda.NIGEL CAMPBELL PENNICKNorthern Europe MICHAEL SHACKLETONNigel Pennick was born in Surrey in 1946.Trained in biology, he Shintopublished descriptions of eight new species of marine algae before Michael Shackleton studied at Cambridge University, and alsomoving on to become a writer and illustrator. He is author of over 40 at the University of Manchester from which he received a post-books on European spiritual traditions, arts and landscapes. graduate diploma in Social Anthropology. At present he is Associate Professor of Social Anthropology at Osaka GakuinSUSANNA ROSTAS University in Japan with a special interest in Japanese Religion (inCentral and South America particular New Religions and traditional mountain cults, orSusanna Rostas has a D.Phil in Social Anthropology and has ‘shugendo’). He undertakes research, which has recently taken himtaught at both Goldsmiths’ College and Durham University. She is to Southern Ethiopia and Southern Sudan. Michael is also involvedcurrently a Research Associate in the Department of Social in working with Martin Palmer (General Editor) on the Alliance ofAnthropology in Cambridge. Her publications include The Popular Religions and Conservation (ARC) scheme. He currently lives inUse of Popular Religion in Latin America with Andre Droogers. Japan with his wife and two children.4
  • 5. C O N T R I B U T O R SJIM PYM serving as a special advisor to Jathedar Manjit Singh, one of theBuddhism spiritual heads of the worldwide Sikh community, he has alsoJim Pym has been a Buddhist for over 40 years. He is the author of You served as a board member for the North American InterfaithDon’t Have to Sit on the Floor; a book on practical Buddhism inWestern Network. Dr Singh founded the Sikh Council on Religion andculture (Rider Books 2001), editor of Pure Land Notes, a Buddhist Education (SCORE) in 1998, based in Washington DC, of which hejournal, and a member of the Council of the Buddhist Society, London. is currently the chairman. Acting on behalf of SCORE, he has been invited to speak at the White House, the US Congress, the VaticanALAN BROWN and by various non-governmental organizations to present the SikhChristianity perspective.Alan Brown is director of the National Society’s Kensington R. E.Centre and R. E. (Schools) Officer of the General Synod Board of MARK TULLYEducation. He has written a great many books about the Christian East Meets West; Multi-faith Societiesfaith and world religions, as well as numerous articles, reviews and MarkTully was born in Calcutta, India, and was educated atbooklets. He is also tutor and examiner forThe Open University Cambridge University where he did a Masters in History andcourse, ‘The Religious Quest’. Theology. He worked as a correspondent for the BBC for 30 years, and for 22 years of that time was the Delhi correspondent. SinceJOHN CHINNERY 1994, Mark has been a freelance broadcaster and writer. His mostConfucianism recent publications include Amritsar – Mrs Gandhi’s Last BattleDr John Chinnery formerly headed the Department of East Asian (1985), Raj to Rajiv (1985), No Full Stops In India (1988), The HeartStudies at the University of Edinburgh. He is a frequent visitor to of India (1995) and Lives of Jesus (1996). In 1992 he was awardedChina and has written on a wide range of Chinese subjects, from the Padma Shri by the Government of India, and in 2002 receivedphilosophy to the theatre. He is currently Honorary President of the the KBE.Scotland China Association. ELIZABETH PUTTICKRAMESHCHANDRA MAJITHIA New Religious Movements; Women and ReligionHinduism Dr Elizabeth Puttick is a sociologist of religion, specializing inRameshchandra Majithia was born inTanzania. He graduated with a women’s spirituality and new religions (including New Age,BSc in Engineering from the University of London and followed a shamanism and paganism). Her publications include Women incareer as a teacher of mathematics and graphic communication at New Religions (Macmillan/St Martin’s Press). She teachessecondary level. He was responsible for informing organised religious studies at the British American College, London, and alsogroups to Shree Sanatan Mandir, the first Hindu temple to be works as a literary agent and publishing consultant.established, about Hinduism; he is also editor of the bimonthlymagazine published by the temple. He gave Hinduism input to RACHEL STORMReligious Education students in teacher training, and has co- Rastafari; Scientific Religions; Glossaryordinated Hindu religious education for children aged five to 16 for Rachel Storm has studied and written about mythology and religionthe last seven years at his local temple in Leicester. since the 1980s. She is the author of three books in the area and has contributed to a number of encyclopedias, as well as to nationalAMAR HEGEDÜS and international magazines and newspapers.IslamWriter, reviewer, broadcaster and lecturer on Islamic subjects, SUSAN GREENWOODAmar Hegedüs established the Islam in English Press (IEP) to Contemporary Paganismprovide ready access, in comprehensible style and language, to this Susan Greenwood is lecturer is the School of Cultural andfrequently misrepresented subject. He networks with other faiths in Community Studies at the University of Sussex, an Opencommon initiatives to create better understanding between peoples, University Associate Lecturer and Visiting Fellow at Goldsmithsand provides spiritual and pastoral care to the community. He is College, University of London. She gained her doctorate fromChaplaincy Imam to the South London and Maudsley NHSTrust. research on Paganism, and her recent publications include Magic, Witchcraft and the Otherworld: an anthropology (2000).DR SHAHJainism PAUL VALLELYProfessor Natubhai Shah teaches Jainism at the FVG Antwerp, The Culture of the West; Conflicts of IdeologySelly Oak Colleges University of Birmingham and occasionally at Paul Vallely writes on religion for The Independent newspaper, ofthe SOAS London University. He represents Jainism at the highest which he is associate editor. He is chair of the Catholic Institute forlevel and was responsible for the creation of the beautiful Jain International Relations and is the editor of The New Politics:temple in Leicester, and for establishing Jain Academy and Jain Catholic Social Teaching for the 21st century (1999) and is the authorStudies courses in the UK and Mumbai University. He was awarded of Bad Samaritans: First World Ethics and Third World Debt (1990) andJain Ratna by the Prime Minister of India in 2001. He is the author of various other books.Jainism: The World of Conquerors (1998).RACHEL MONTAGUJudaismRabbi Rachel Montagu is Assistant Education Officer for theCouncil of Christians and Jews and teaches Judaism and BiblicalHebrew at Birkbeck College and Allen Hall. She read Classics atNewnham College, Cambridge and studied Judaism at Leo BaeckCollege, London and Machon Pardes, Jerusalem. She is marriedand has two sons.RAJWANT SINGHSikhismDr Rajwant Singh was born in Calcutta, India, and emigrated to theUnited States. In 1984 he helped initiate the Sikh Association ofAmerica, and he is a founding member of the Guru Gobind SinghFoundation, a Sikh congregation based in Maryland. As well as 5
  • 6. C O N T E N T SContentsIntroduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .8 OCEANIA Death, Ghosts and the Soul . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .60THE ROOTS OF RELIGION . . . . . . . .12 The Mythic Chieftainship . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .62Religion Before History . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .12 Millenarian Movements . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .64The Nature of Religion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .14A Religious World-view . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .16 AUSTRALIAN ABORIGINALS The Dreaming . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .66 Initiation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .68ANCIENT RELIGIONS . . . . . . . . . . . . . .18THE ANCIENT NEAR EAST THE MAORISThe Sumerians . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .18 Maori Religion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .70The Babylonians . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .20 MaoriTraditional Knowledge . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .72The Assyrians . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .22The Canaanites . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .24 NATIVE NORTH AMERICANS North American First Nations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .74ANCIENT EGYPT Spirituality . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .76The Kingdoms of Egypt . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .26 Ceremonies and Rituals . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .78The Egyptian Pantheon . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .28Temples and Worship . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .30 CENTRAL AND SOUTH AMERICA The Amazonians . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .80GREECE AND ROME The Huichol . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .82Classical Origins . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .32 Highland MayaToday . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .84Homeric Gods and Heroes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .34Civilization and Religion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .36 AFRICAN TRADITIONAL RELIGIONThe Gods in Imperial Rome . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .38 Religion in Africa . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .86Religion and Philosophy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .40 African Cosmologies, Gods and Ancestors . . . . . . .88Religions Under Rome . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .42 The Celebration of Life and Cults of Affliction . . . . . .90 African Religion, Politics and The Challenge of Modernity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .92NORTHERN EUROPEReligion of the Landscape . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .44 SHINTOCeltic Religion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .46 The History of Shinto . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .94Germanic Religion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .48 Shinto Shrines (jinja) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .96Slavic and Baltic Peoples . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .50 ShintoToday . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .98CENTRAL AND SOUTH AMERICA WORLD RELIGIONS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .100The Maya . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .52 BUDDHISMThe Aztecs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .54 The Buddha . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .100The Incas . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .56 Early Buddhism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .102 Theravada Buddhism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .104INDIGENOUS RELIGIONS . . . . . . . . .58 Mahayana Buddhism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .106SHAMANISM Zen Buddhism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .108Shamanism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .58 Living Buddhism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1106
  • 7. C O N T E N T SCHRISTIANITY Jewish Festivals . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .178The Life andTeaching of Jesus . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .112 Jewish Movements . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .180The Early Church . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .114 Judaism in Practice . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .182The Christian Bible . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .116 Jewish Worship . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .184Central Beliefs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .118 Anti-Judaism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .186Rites and Practices . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .120Festival and Celebration . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .122 SIKHISMThe Catholic Church Worldwide . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .124 Origins and Practice . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .188The Orthodox Churches . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .126 Guru Nanak’sTeachings . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .190The Anglican Communion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .128 Sikh Philosophy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .192Luther, Calvin and the Reformation . . . . . . . . . . . . . .130 SikhismToday . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .194The Protestant Churches . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .132The Pentecostal Movement . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .134 TAOISMThe Diversity of Christianity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .136 Origins . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .196 Taoist Beliefs and Practices . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .198CONFUCIANISMThe Life andTeachings of Confucius . . . . . . . . . . . . .138 Lao Zi and Zhuang Zi . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .200After Confucius . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .142 Taoism Beyond China . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .202HINDUISM ZOROASTRIANISMFoundations of Hinduism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .144 Zoroastrianism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .204Major Beliefs and Concepts of Hinduism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .146 NEW RELIGIONS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .206Hindu Gods and Goddesses . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .148 East Meets West . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .206Hindu Life . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .150 New Religious Movements . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .208Hindu Places of Worship (mandir) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .152 Baha’i . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .210Hindu Festivals . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .154 Rastafarianism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .212 Contemporary Paganism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .214ISLAM The Culture of the West . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .216Allah’s Guidance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .156The Early Years of the Prophet Muhammad . . . . . . .158 RELIGION IN THE MODERNRevelation in Makkah . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .160 WORLD . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .218Revelation in Madinah . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .162 Conflict of Ideologies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .218The Book of Allah . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .164 Multi-faith Societies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .220The Prophet’s Example . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .166 Science and Religion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .222How Islam is Spread and Lived . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .168 Women and Religion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .224JAINISMOrigins and Practice . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .170 Chronology . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .226Jain Philosophy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .172 Glossary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .236 Bibliography . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .242JUDAISM Names Index . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .248Origins . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .174 Subject Index . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .251SacredTexts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .176 Picture Credits/Acknowledgements . . . . . . . . . . . . .256 7
  • 8. I N T R O D U C T I O NIntroductionSince the earliest days of humanity, religion has played a part in bothstructuring life and explaining life.Through ritual, myths and legends, dance,art, buildings, beliefs, teachings and daily practices, faith has guided, inspiredand shaped the way people have lived. As with all things human, even thoseperhaps touched by the divine, this has led to great acts of generosity and greatacts of arrogance; it has brought peace and has created wars; it has held thosewho are suffering wiping away their tears and it has been the very cause of tears.Religion, like any human endeavour, brings out the best and the worst in people.However, for most people, throughout history and today, religion has made themundane sacred; given meaning to what could otherwise be experiencedas a meaningless world and has taught that small acts of kindness andthoughtfulness are the true fruits of religion.I n this Encyclopedia, we explore what this travels from the great ancient faiths of antiquity means and has meant. Our notion, and to such as Egypt or Greece to the most modern of some degree definition, of what is religion faiths – such as the Baha’is or some of the newranges from the vast arrays of indigenous pagan movements. Together and over time thesereligions still to be found today to the great ideas, thoughts, beliefs and practices, have, formissionary faiths such as Buddhism and Islam. It better or worse, made the world we live in today.
  • 9. I N T R O D U C T I O NWhere it has been possible, we have asked thatmembers of the living faiths of ourcontemporary world be our guides. Forultimately, faith is personal and thus tounderstand its significance we need to do morethan just stand outside and examine its shapeand form. We also need to know something ofwhat it feels like to live within a worldview suchas, for example, Hinduism or AfricanTraditional religion. Buildings and rituals areimportant but more important is the reason whythey exist. To understand this we need tohear the voice of faith as well as see itsoutward manifestations. Such a voice comes from allowing the faithitself to determine that which is important andsignificant, and this is something we asked thecontributors to do, albeit in dialogue with thoseof us with overall responsibility for this book.What can appear to outsiders as the mostimportant aspect of a faith can upon closerexamination be of less significance to thebeliever. For example, most outsiders viewChristmas as the most important Christianfestival. While it is very important and throughthe stories, activities, symbols and celebrationsone can indeed gain a good idea of Christianity,it is not the most important festival. That falls to Easter and without understanding why Easter is the more significant, an understanding of Christianity would be incomplete, indeed rather lopsided. The decision was taken early on in the construction of this Encyclopedia to include faiths which have died. Religion is always changing and although the great faiths of today may seem unaltered through time, in fact they are constantly adapting. The faiths of the world are the oldest surviving human institutions in the world. As such they have learnt a thing or two about continuity. But some faiths have not survived. They have become part of the rich tapestry of our world but only as now fading colours in the background. Yet without an understanding of the shifting ideas, which are manifested in the changes, for example, the insignificant role of humanity in Egyptian religion to the nuanced role of humanity in for example Middle Eastern religions of ancient 9
  • 10. I N T R O D U C T I O N years, has re-emerged as a major player on the world scene. This is for good, bad and indifferent reasons. The good is the increasing role of religions in social and environmental issues. Where once science and the state were seen as having taken over the traditional role of faiths as guides through social and ecological upheavals, now increasingly, religion is being included as a partner once again. In part this is due to the collapse of ideologies such as Marxism and state control. In part it is because in the end people relate better to locally led initiatives rather than governmental and especially inter-governmental initiatives. The faiths have the best network for reaching virtually all-local communities, in the world. They are now beginning to offer this in partnership with humanitarian movements and environmental and social concerns. The bad is the rise of extremism within so many faiths. Labelled as ‘fundamentalism’ – a phrase which is usually insulting to all major faiths – extremism is religion with its back to the wall and fighting back. It arises from the sense of helplessness, which so many who lie outside the sphere of the benefits of modern technology and economics feel. It is often a cry of pain and frustration from the most powerless and as such demands serious attention from the world. Sadly, however, it is often then forced or chooses to take the path of violence in order to be heard. The rise of extremism in the world’s faiths – there is no major faith without such a movementMesopotamia, our current notion of whatit means to be human cannot adequatelybe understood. The need for an Encyclopedia, which thusopens up the worlds of faiths, has perhaps neverbeen so urgent. It was conventional wisdom inthe twentieth century to assume that religion wasdying. Science, modern secular politicalmovements and the growth of pluralism wereseen as the potential death knells of religion. Thiswas especially so for writers – who were themajority writers on religion – from the Westwhere in many European countries, overtpractice of traditional religion was in decline. The reality in the twenty-first century is thatreligion, having suffered the most extensiveperiod of persecution in history in the last 10010
  • 11. I N T R O D U C T I O N– is a challenge to the rest of the world to listen wonderful poetry and literature the world hascarefully to the root concerns and to offer help ever seen. Through its rituals and liturgies,before the movement feels completely isolated prayers and actions it brings hope to many andand literally at war with the rest of the world. offers vehicles for living, which aid billions in The indifferent is the increasing recognition making sense of a difficult world.that, far from fading, religion is transmogrifying Its understandings of what it means to bein many cultures. Pluralism has led many whose human and its recognition that thegrandparents were of one faith to embrace either world is more than just that whichanother faith or to include into their religious can be observed, noted andworldview, elements of different faiths. This catalogued means that itspluralism has weakened some traditional faiths, approach is truly encyclopaedic.but it may be that from such an interaction, new What, therefore, could be morereligions are beginning to emerge as well as new appropriate than an encyclopediaexpressions of the older faiths. of world religions. Finally, religion embodies the wisdom andexperience of humanity through countless Martin Palmergenerations. It contains some of the most 2002 11
  • 12. T H E R O O T S O F R E L I G I O NThe Roots of ReligionReligion Before HistoryOur knowledge of prehistoric religion is, of necessity, scant and uncertain.Our only evidence is archaeological, and the range of interpretationspossible from any one artefact or site is enormous. For many years there wasa tendency to interpret virtually any prehistoric object as religious – no matterwhat its nature – and for evidence to be twisted and bent to fit the pet theoriesof the researcher, commonly extrapolated back from anthropological theorieswhich are often now discredited themselves. In the final analysis, our besttheories are only speculation.T HE FAMOUS CHAUVET cave hunted, or even direct worship of the animals paintings, over 30,000 years old, themselves. Possibly, though, their purpose is discovered in France in 1994, depict in simply artistic; perhaps the men and womenvivid and splendid detail animals which now who painted these wonderful paintings did solong extinct, are perhaps our earliest evidence of purely in order to celebrate and delight in beautyreligious activity. Undisturbed patterns in the and their own ability to create. We simply dodirt of the floor seem to show signs of dancing; not, and cannot, know.there is a bear skull on a stone block whichmight be a shrine; and a strange figure at the PALEOLITHIC VENUSback of the cave seems, possibly, to combine Perhaps the most striking prehistoric artefactsaspects of beast and man. are the so-called ‘Venuses’: carved female stone The depiction of the animals may represent a figures with prominent and exaggerated breastssymbolic invocation of the animal spirits to fill and genitalia, sometimes headless, whichthe hunters with power, or an attempt to appear all over Europe from 40,000 to 25,000increase the numbers of the animals to be BC. Again, it is hard to know what
  • 13. R E L I G I O N B E F O R E H I S T O R Yinterpretation to place upon these figures. Do their worship of a single ‘Goddess’ became anthey represent the exultation or the degradation orthodoxy of the study of prehistoric religionof the female form? Were they intended to until the 1970s, and virtually any figure, dot,celebrate or perhaps increase female fertility? spiral or curve was interpreted as representingOr were they simply pornographic? After all, the Goddess. Although now discrediteddrawing naughty pictures has been academically, it is still a common belief in bothcommonplace in virtually all cultures. feminist and neo-pagan circles. The hard truth of it is that there is absolutely no evidence of aWAS THERE A GODDESS? universal prehistoric ‘Goddess’, it is a projectionThese figures are a keystone of a powerful back of our own need for a figure to counteractmodern myth – the ‘Cult of the Great Goddess’. the masculine God of the Judeo-ChristianFirst proposed in the nineteenth century, the tradition, and highlights the problems of how tobelief that prehistoric societies were united in interpret a silent religious prehistory. THE GREAT SITES There are spectacular prehistoric sites, conjunctions and alignments there are may such as the long barrows and stone circles be for purely dramatic or architectural of England, or the mound cultures of North purposes; after all, the windows of many and South America, which may have had a cathedrals are aligned to light up the altar in strongly religious purpose. In the case of sunlight, but nobody would claim this was the long barrows, dating from around their primary purpose. Many of the stone 4000–3000 BC , they may have been part of circles are near areas that show signs of a tradition of ancestor-worship; skulls trade and industry; perhaps they were seem to have been regularly moved in and boundaries within which making a deal was out of them, probably for some ritual sacred. Again, we simply cannot tell. purpose. Perhaps the spirits of the Really, all we can be sure of is that some ancestors watched over the tribe, or joined form of religious activity, some form of them at festivals. veneration and worship, was taking place. As for the stone circles – easily the most The dead were certainly buried with some impressive and awesome prehistoric sites in respect for their future fate; perhaps this is Europe – their purpose remains essentially the most telling sign of religion.The nature of unknown. Certainly at the larger sites, such religious activity, towards whom or what it as Stonehenge, they probably had a was directed, the cosmology into which it ceremonial or dramatic function. They have fitted, and the nature of the ceremonies often been associated with astrology, but the involved all remain hidden behind a veil that evidence for this is scant, and what will never be lifted. 13
  • 14. T H E R O O T S O F R E L I G I O NThe Nature of ReligionReligion, for billions of people, is a vital way of making sense of their life, and of giving purposeand meaning to existence.Through ethical and metaphysical theology, and through ceremony andliturgy, religion imbues people with a powerful sense of meaning. Many attempts have been madeto define religion, most of which fail before its vast diversity, but one factor that links almost allreligions is their belief in a reality beyond the material world, that there is something greater thanjust the here and now.T HERE IS A strong argument about the the last century has been towards the etymology of the word ‘religion’ itself, second approach; religion is increasingly which reflects two rather different seen as a matter of personal conscience, notviews of the purpose of religion. It may be public commitment.derived from the Latin religare, ‘to bind’,suggesting that the first concern of religion is to ATTITUDES TOWARDS RELIGIONbind humanity and the divine together, and to Religion has often been attacked as essentiallybind us together in community; to those an oppressive, even tyrannical force. It has beenopposed to religion, this binding can seem like linked to racism, war, dictatorship, sexism andan imprisonment. On the other hand, it may bederived from relegare, ‘to tread carefully’,reflecting a respect and care for both the naturaland supernatural worlds, which for many is theprimary concern of religion – to provide us withguidance as to how to live. Indeed, religion provides us with a purposegreater and more profound than simple survival,forging a bridge between the world of humanexperience and the supposed greater realm of thedivine. For some religious people, this meansforsaking the temporal pleasures of this world insearch of a transcendent meta-reality, throughfasting, celibacy and so forth. For others, it leadsto a desire to improve this world, to bring thematerial closer to the divine and to honour thepresence of God in everything.A PERSONAL OR PUBLIC APPROACH?There has always been something of a tensionin religion between the community and theindividual. Structured communities, from theCatholic Church to the Hindu caste system,have always been a part of religion, as havecommunities bound by less formal ties, andmany people find that the experience ofworshipping as a community – and the supportthat a community can provide – powerful andprofound. Others find religious communitiesstifling, sometimes even oppressive, andapproach the divine in a more individual way.Generally speaking, the shift in the West over14
  • 15. T H E R O O T S O F R E L I G I O Nslavery, and every religion has its fair share ofguilt here, from the cruelty of the Inquisition tothe slave-keeping Buddhist monks of China.Karl Marx (1818–83) famously wrote that‘religion is the opium of the people’ and manyhave seen religion as essentially soporific,designed to keep the oppressed anddowntrodden quiet before their masters. However, Marx also wrote that religion wasthe ‘heart of a heartless world, the soul ofsoulless conditions’. As much as religion hasbeen used to justify human horrors, it is alsooften a profoundly redemptive and powerfulforce, providing hope and liberation for billionsof people. In the end, the success of religion lies,perhaps, in its providing powerful explanations,or legitimising the asking of questions about, theissues of existence, the cosmos and good andevil. It may not settle all questions, but it givesmany people a way of coping with the problemsof their lives, and a means to explore even deeperquestions about the universe. THE ULTIMATE POWER Broadly speaking, almost all religions claim to worship or venerate one ultimate power – God, Buddha, Tao – the names change. For some faiths, especially Islam and Judaism, the being of God is so unknowable that it is forbidden even to try to depict ‘God’. In other faiths, such as Hinduism and Taoism, this power is depicted in many different ways and is accompanied by a wide range of gods and goddesses. In faiths such as Christianity and Islam, there is a strong emphasis on the relationship between God and humanity, with humanity’s proper role being seen generally as submission and acceptance before God’s might. God is generally seen as omnipotent, omniscient, and benevolent; reconciling these three attributes with the reality of suffering is often a problematic concern. Other religions, however, such as Shinto and Hinduism, have a more practical focus. They often have a profound side, but there is also the simple question of ‘What can this god do for us?’ In Chinese folk religion, for instance, the gods are essentially seen as being useful patrons to whom one makes offerings in return for favour. Something of this same pragmatism can also be seen in ancient Greek and Roman religion. 15
  • 16. A R E L I G I O U S W O R L D - V I E W had strong associations with the nonconformist churches, and the support of religious leaders is often essential in elections. Two-thirds of American Jews consistently vote Democrat, reflecting the Jewish commitment to social justice and a concern for minority rights. Even now, some states are entirely committed to one religion. This is particularly common in Islamic countries such as Iran and Saudi Arabia, where Islamic religious law is used as the basis for the justice system, and the rights of members of other religions are circumscribed; for instance, non-Muslims can only worship in private in Saudi Arabia and cannot attempt to convert others. Communist states, dominated by an atheist ideology, often carried out terrible religious persecution, such asfamous scientists have been religious and have Stalin’s purges of the Jews, and the Culturalseen the discovery of the laws of nature as a Revolution in China. The situation in Chinasacred charge from God. eased after 1977, though the government retains Science has seemed to answer some questions a cautious attitude to religious activity.about the origins of life and the nature of the In recent years, faiths have found themselvesmind better, perhaps, than religion, and some being brought more strongly into partnershippeople believe that the sphere of influence of with secular structures that formerly thoughtreligion will shrink as our knowledge of science religion obsolete. The environment movementgrows. Many, however, believe that there are now has a strong involvement with all the majorcertain questions, particularly concerning the religions, while the World Bank is working withmeaning and purpose of existence – if there is faiths to try and find new economic andone – that science simply cannot answer, and developmental models.that religion provides far more powerful answers Alongside this runs the quest for deeperto such questions. spiritual meaning. It is not without significance that, worldwide, the practice of spiritual retreatsRELIGION AND POLITICS is growing. While patterns of religiousAs with science, there is little distinction between observance are changing, the quest goes on.religion and politics for many people. Indeed,the separation of Church and State is essentiallya product of the eighteenth century, followingterrible European religious wars betweenCatholic and Protestant. Before that, the Statewas strongly associated with a particularreligion, and followers of other religions werefrequently persecuted, such as Cathars and Jewsin medieval France, or Christians in Shinto-dominated Japan. Wars were often religiouslymotivated, from the Crusades to the Hinduextermination of Buddhism during the ninth tothe twelfth centuries in India. A religious world-view, however, also oftenleads to a powerful motivation for social change.The socialist movement in England, for example, 17
  • 17. Ancient Religions THE ANCIENT NEAR EAST The Sumerians Sumeria, the earliest known city civilization, set the religious tone for the rest of Mesopotamia. Sumeria seemed to be saturated with divine presence and its concept of myriad gods and goddesses, each controlling their own aspect of life, together with the sacrifices required to humour them, greatly influenced other Mesopotamian religions. T HE FIRST PEOPLES settled in Sumeria, Sumerians believed that humans had been Mesopotamia, in around 4500 BC, but created out of clay in order to relieve the gods of it was another 12 centuries before the their workload. It followed that humans were Sumerian tribes from Anatolia established a the servants of the gods. Nevertheless, the gods number of city states where the Sumerian were envisaged as much like humans, with civilization developed in which religion and its similar physical form, needs, appetites and rituals were all-pervasive. Their purpose was to characteristics. This was why food became the deflect the anger of the gods by constant prayers most frequent form of sacrificial offering. The Spread of Ancient Near and sacrifices. Sumeria, like the rest of Eastern Peoples The area of the Ancient Near East Mesopotamia, was not an easy place to live and GODS AND GHOSTS comprises part of what is now known divine fury was thought to reveal itself through The vast Sumerian pantheon represented as the Middle East, a section of western Asia encompassing the eastern disasters such as drought, floods, pestilence, aspects of the world – the harvest, the wind or Mediterranean to the Iranian plateau. crop failure or the silting up of rivers. The the sun – in divine form. The principal deity The Sumerians built the region’s first- known civilization between the Tigris 3300 BC Immigrants from Anatolia arrive in Sumeria and build city-states and Euphrates rivers from the fourth 3100 BC Temples built at Uruk, along the ancient course of the Euphrates millennium BC. By the eighteenth 2600 BC Sumerian king list (a list of the names of Sumerian kings, discovered by archeologists) century BC the new state of Babylonia 2200 BC Ziggurats built in Sumeria had been formed and this gradually 2000 BC Myths of Gilgamesh, King of Uruk, written in the Sumerian language on clay tablets overtook that of Sumeria.The 1720 BC Shift in the position of the Euphrates River leads to collapse of Nippur and other Sumerian cities Babylonian Empire eventually absorbed that of Assyria. Tepe Hisar zg irt Mala Elburz Mts ia an Urm e V Lake Lak r Harha adam ndiz iyah Ham ˆ ig Elaz ˘ Rawa man Sialk ni ir Ninev eh Sulay Erga iyarb ak Gür ün D ybin Arba il kha nshah Mala tya Nusa Arrap Kerma shKane r Baz ar ts tan a Zagros Mts M Sariz Elbis ik Chag Ashu r us Birec Harra n r mish MESO u IA t s Carche Euphra POTA Eshnun na SusaTa IC s M tes Der MI A IL sus ma nu Alepp o Mari Hit C Tar A h Ebla I A Sippar Nippu r Tigr is lak Mer sin Ala Uga rit S Y R Babylo n Kish Adab Umma possible ancient ra Isin Lagash coastline c. 2000 BC Qatna Palmy ancient course e of Euphrates Agad Larsa Ur k Uruk uppa s Shur Eridu Per s ascu sia Byblo Dam n G ulf The Spread of Ancient Near Eastern Peoples by 2000 BC Tyre Hazo r Sumerian cultural area ad De a Gaz Sea 18
  • 18. T H E S U M E R I A N Swas Anu, ruler of Heaven, who was later The Epic of Gilgameshreplaced by Enlil, Lord of the Winds. There Gilgamesh, the fifth king of the first dynasty of Uruk, in present-day southern Iraq, reigned in around 2600 BC,were also some 3,000 other deities in Sumeria. and was the subject of five Sumerian poems probablyIn addition, individual villages had their own written six centuries later. Gilgamesh became thelocal gods, as did inanimate objects. Enlil, for hero not only of Sumerian, but also of Hittite, Akkadianinstance, was god of the hoe through his and Assyrian legend. The Epic tells how Gilgameshconnection with the moist spring wind and the searches for immortality, but after many adventures, he fails and is forced to recognize the reality of death.planting season. Enlil’s son, Ninurta, was godof the plough. Concepts of reincarnation and libations of water were poured over sheaves ofthe afterlife were alien to Sumerian theology. grain or bunches of dates so that the gods ofThe dead, Sumerians believed, had no specific fertility would grant rain for healthy crops. Allplace in which to continue in the same style manner of offerings were brought to the prieststhey had known while living. Consequently, the in the temples for use by the gods: clothing,living were thought to be constantly at risk beds, chairs, drinking vessels, jewels,from their presence and only by regular ornaments or weapons. All these were classedofferings of food and drink could these ghosts as divine property and were placed in thebe dissuaded from haunting them. temple treasuries. Clothing was first offered to the gods, then distributed among the priestsTHE PRIESTS and other officials who staffed the temples. ThePriests in the Sumerian temples acted as high priest had first pick, and the last went toconduits between the gods and human beings. the lowly sweepers of the temple courtyards.They conducted the daily services and presidedover festivals, such as Akitu, the festival of thenew year, which fell approximately at the timeof the Spring equinox. They interpreted theentrails of sacrificed animals, usually sheep, inorder to learn the divine will. They performedthe public sacrifices which usually consisted ofgoats, cattle and birds, as well as sheep. Thedivine portion of an animal sacrifice comprisedthe right leg, the kidneys and a piece of meat forroasting. The rest of the animal sacrifices wereconsumed at the temple feast. In addition, ZIGGURATS The high temple towers known as ziggurats, the Tower of Babel, which is popularly which were topped by a small temple believed to have had links with the ziggurat dedicated to one of the Mesopotamian at the temple of Marduk, the national god of deities, were a feature of religious Babylonia. The Tower of Babel, having been architecture around 2200 BC and 500 BC. The built in the vicinity of Babylon, is regarded practice of building ziggurats began in by some archaeologists and anthropologists Sumeria, spreading later to Babylonia and as an extension of the worship of Marduk at Assyria. The step-sided ziggurat bore little his ziggurat temple in the city. resemblance to the later pyramids of Ancient Egypt. There were no internal rooms or passageways and the core was made of mud brick, with baked brick covering the exterior. The shape was either square or rectangular, with measurements averaging 40 or 50 sq m (130 or 165 sq ft) at the base. The most complete extant ziggurat, now named Tall al-Muqayyar, was built at Ur in south-west Sumeria (present- day southern Iraq). The most famous was 19
  • 19. A N C I E N T R E L I G I O N SThe BabyloniansThere were two empires of Babylonia –the Old Empire (c. 2200–1750 BC) and theNeo-Babylonian Empire (625–539 BC).Both the Babylonian and Assyrianreligions, which bore a closeresemblance to one another,originally derived from that ofSumeria. However, differencesbetween them evolved over time.The Babylonian religion stressedgoodness, truth, law and order,justice and freedom, wisdom andlearning, courage and loyalty.Thechief Babylonian god was Marduk,‘king over the universe entire’.B ABYLONIAN FAITH encompassed WORSHIP AND RITUAL IN BABYLONIA the whole universe and each sector of it Worship and ritual at the Babylonian temples was under the rule of a particular deity. usually took place out of doors, in courtyardsHeaven, earth, sea and air comprised one where there were fountains for washing beforesector, the sun, the moon and the planets prayers and altars where sacrifices wereanother. Nature, as manifested in rivers, offered. The private areas of a temple, themountains, plains and other geographical monopoly of the high priest, the clergy andfeatures was a further sector and the fourth royalty, were indoors. The occult tendency inwas the city state of Babylon. Marduk, the Babylonian religion was fully representedchief god, presided over the pantheon. Like among the clergy. They included astrologers,the Sumerians, the Babylonians believed that soothsayers, diviners, the interpreters oftools and implements – bricks, ploughs, axes, dreams, musicians and singers.hoes – had their own particular deities. In Sacrifices took place daily. Oneaddition, individuals had their own personal Babylonian temple kept a stock ofgods to whom they prayed and looked for 7,000 head of cattle andsalvation. Magic was prominent in 150,000 head of other animalsBabylonian religion and Ea, god of wisdom, for this purpose alone. Apartwas also god of spells and incantations. The from animals, sacrificessun and the moon had their own gods, consisted of vegetables, incenseShamash and Sin respectively. Shamash was or libations of water, beer andalso the god of justice. Adad was the god of wine. There were numerouswind, storm and flood and Ishtar, a dynamic, festivals, including a feast for thebut cruel deity, was goddess of love and war. new moon and the most important,Although the general tenor of Babylonian Akitu, which lasted 11 days andreligion was beneficent, there was also a involved lively processions. At Akitu,negative, fearful side to it. This was worshippers purified themselves,represented by underworld gods, demons, propitiated the gods, offereddevils and monsters who posed an ongoing sacrifices, performed penance andthreat to the wellbeing of humanity. obtained absolution.20
  • 20. T H E B A B Y L O N I A N SBABYLONIAN BELIEF was necessary first of all to confess sin andThe ethos of Babylonia was essentially admit to failings. Only then would anphilanthropic. Compassion and mercy were individual’s personal god intercede for themprime virtues. The poor and unfortunate, with the greater Babylonian deities. There waswidows and orphans, were accorded special no comfortable afterlife in Babylonian No one, however virtuous, was After death, the spirit parted from the bodyconsidered to be faultless so that suffering, and all that awaited it was descent into thewhere it occurred, was never entirely dark underworld. There was no protectionundeserved. The gods handed out punishment from a wretched existence after death, notfor unethical or immoral behaviour. To obtain even for those who had led righteous andthe help of the gods in solving problems, it ethical lives. THE COSMOLOGY OF BABYLON The renowned Babylonian skill in astronomy and mathematics developed from the interest in the heavens that was an integral part of their religion. Using only the naked eye, astronomers would observe the movements of heavenly bodies and use them to make prophecies or cast horoscopes. In Babylonian times, the seven planets visible in the sky – the Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn – were wanderers among the fixed constellations of the zodiac. Each of them had its own god or goddess. In common with the Sumerians, the Babylonians believed that heaven and earth had once been joined as a single enormous mountain. This was imitated by ziggurat temple towers which were regarded as cosmic mountains. Apart from the Tower of Babel, whose construction was detailed in the Biblical Book of Genesis, the most apposite was the ziggurat built by King Nebuchadnezzar (c. 630–562 BC ), the Temple of Seven Spheres of the World. This had seven tiers, one for each stage of heaven, as represented by the seven visible planets. Inside was a vault, also constructed in seven levels, which represented the seven gates through which Ishtar, goddess of sex and war, passed during her regular descents into the underworld. c. 2200–1750 BC Old Babylonian Empire When Anu the Sublime ... and Bel, the lord of Heaven and earth c.1900 BC Epic of Gilgamesh ... assigned to Marduk ... God of righteousness, dominion over c.1790 BC Code (of laws) of Hammurabi, sixth king of the Amorite dynasty of Babylon earthly humanity ... they made [Babylon] great on earth, and c. 1750 BC Death of Hammurabi founded an everlasting kingdom, whose foundations are laid as 625 BC Establishment of New Babylonian Empire solidly as those of heaven and earth. by King Nabopolassar c. 587 BC Marduk as chief god of Babylonia From the Prologue to the Laws of c. 539 BC Persian conquest of the Babylonian Empire Hammurabi, king of Babylon 21
  • 21. A N C I E N T R E L I G I O N SThe AssyriansReligion had important political significance in Assyria.Kings were believed to derive their power from Assur, thechief god, and both divination and astrology were initiallyfacilities for the use of the monarch. Underlying this though,was a popular religion based on fear and superstition.R ELIGION WAS A VITAL factor in ascetic Babylonians, Assyrians favoured rich unifying and strengthening the Assyrian decorations, large statues and elaborate reliefs on Empire (746–612 BC). This was a state their temple buildings. The temples were thereligion, with the king himself as chief priest and scene of daily rituals that included feedingrepresentative on earth of Assur the chief the gods. To judge by Assyrian records, theAssyrian god, from whom Assyria likely takes its expense was Divination and prophecy were religiousfunctions of the State, designed to aid the king by ASSUR, NATIONAL GOD OF ASSYRIArevealing the destiny of the Empire. Even the Four of the six major Assyrian deities – Ishtar,libraries of Assyrian cities had a god of their own: Shamash, Adad and Sin – were identical in both The Near East 1000–600 BCNabu, son of Marduk, principle god of name and function with those worshipped in At its height the Assyrian Empre wasBabylonia, and the god of scribes. Considering Babylonia. However, Assur replaced Marduk as focused around the capital at Nineveh, but other cities were also greatthe importance of scribes and their records, this the chief deity and Ninurta, god of hunting and centres of learning. This map showsmade Nabu effectively the deity overseeing war, was Assur’s eldest son. Assur was raised to the key cities of the empire. With theAssyrian government administration. Assyrian prominence by King Sennacherib of Assyria destruction of Nineveh in 612 BC by the combined forces of the Babylonians,temples, modelled on those of Babylonia, (d. 681 BC). Originally, it was Marduk, chief god Syrians and Medes, the empire oftended to be monolithic. Unlike the more of Babylonia, who featured in the great ritual at Assyria finally fell. R T U U R A Malazgirt Lake Van Lake Urmia Tig ris Tarsus Khorsabad Aleppo Nineveh Nimrud MEDES Arbail Jebe l Bis hri Ashur Kirkuk Harhar Calah Arwad Euphrates Mediterranean Sea Der Babylon PERSIA (by N Susa 6 S 40 ) Nippur CHA LDA 671, 667 BC The Near East 1000 – 600 BC EAN Assyrian campaigns S against Egypt Neo-Assyrian empire in 745 BC Arabian Petra Neo-Assyrian empire at its greatest Deser t extent,c. 705–612 BC Per sian Neo-Babylonian empire under Gul Nebuchadnezzar II, 604– 562 BC f22
  • 22. T H E A S S Y R I A N S THE LIBRARY OF KING ASHURBANIPAL King Ashurbanipal of Assyria, who reigned other subjects: omens, the motions of the between 668 BC and 627 BC, gathered sun, moon, planets and stars, prayers, together a collection of texts, written in incantations, rituals, proverbs and creation cuneiform (a wedge-shaped script) that stories. Scientific texts were also stored represented the first systematically in Ashurbanipal’s library, together with folk catalogued library in the Ancient Near East. tales, one of which, ‘The Much of present-day knowledge concerning Poor Man of Nippur’ Assyria comes from tablets preserved from prefigured the famous this library, including the text of the Epic of stories of ‘One Thousand Gilgamesh. An important purpose of the and One Nights’ from library was to furnish information for priests Baghdad. The library was and diviners in their work of advising the discovered by Sir Henry king and seeing to his spiritual needs. Layard during excavations Ashurbanipal’s sources were the libraries of at the palace of King temples all over Mesopotamia, together Sennacherib between with tablets from Ashur, Calah (an ancient 1845 and 1851. More than Assyrian city south of Mosul in present-day 20,000 tablets from Iraq) and the king’s great capital at Nineveh. Ashurbanipal’s collection Scribes were ordered to copy texts were later placed in the concerning a wide variety of religious and British Museum.the Akitu festival, which celebrated his victory The struggle for survivalover Tiamat. Tiamat was a primordial creature imposed on those whowho had created monsters to avenge the death of lived there produced aher ‘husband’ Apsu at the hands of Ea, one of popular religion permeatedtheir children, the younger gods. In his role as with the power of thechampion of the younger gods, however, supernatural and dominated by superstition.Marduk killed the monsters and Tiamat as well. Devils and evil spirits lurked everywhere and May all the gods curse anyone who breaks, defaces, or removes this Sennacherib, however, ascribed the deed to charms and incantations were frequently used to tablet with a curse which cannotAssur after he conquered and destroyed Babylon exorcise them. To the Assyrians, devils and be relieved, terrible and mercilessin 689 BC and so gave the god his central place in demons had the power to enter the human body as long as he lives, may they let hisboth the festival and the Assyrian pantheon. and the clay and metal charms worn to fend name, his seed be carried off fromThis was a political rather than a religious move. them off included human heads and monstrous the land, and may they put his fleshIt was believed that Assyria had been granted its animals. Repeating seven times the seven in a dog’s mouth. Curse on book-thieves, from theempire by Assur and that its armies were under magical words inscribed on stone tablets was library of King Ashurbanipalhis protection. Assyrian kings used to present another commonly used means of averting evil.Assur with their reports on campaigns they had The supernatural appeared so all-pervading inconducted, virtually making the god a divine Assyria that a series of omens was developed,commander-in-chief. listing every conceivable piece of bad luck, with instructions on how to avoid them. A specialRELIGION AND SUPERSTITION class of priests – the baru, orAssyria was an extremely harsh land, with few seers – dealt with the sciencenatural advantages and much arid desert. of omens and portents. 745 BC Succession of KingTiglath-Pileser III, who turned Assyria into an empire and a military state 732–722 BC Assyrian conquest of Palestine and Syria 710 BC King Sargon II conquers Babylon 705 BC Nineveh, rebuilt by King Sennacherib, becomes capital of Assyria 689 BC Assur made national god of Assyria 668–627 BC Reign of King Ashurbanipal 612 BC Destruction of Nineveh by Babylonians, Syrians and Medes; fall of the Assyrian Empire. 23
  • 23. A N C I E N T R E L I G I O N S The Canaanites The Canaanites are the earliest recorded settlers of ancient Palestine, with a history in the region dating back to 3000 BC. Canaanite religion and Canaanite gods were synonymous with nature. For instance, the end of the rainy, fertile season was their sign that Mot, the god of death, had killed Baal in his guise as storm god. According to the Bible, however, the Canaanites’ abominable religious practices marked them for destruction. B AAL, WHO WAS worshipped not only in supreme god, and father of Baal, was El, creator of Canaan, but throughout the surrounding creatures. Shachar, the dawn, and Shalim, the dusk area, was not a name, but a title meaning were his twin offspring. Apart from Baal, there ‘lord’ or ‘master’. This did not describe a single god were several fertility deities, such as Baalat, or divine function. Baal could be lord of trees, goddesses of conception and childbirth, sea-deities rocks, streams, mountains and other natural and hunter-deities. phenomena, but was most frequently identified with storms, rain and fertility. The fertility of an THE CANAANITES AND THE BIBLE area frequently threatened by drought and desert The Canaanites had gods with more sinister was the main preoccupation of Canaanite religion representations: death, sterility, destruction, chaos and the gods were often associated with the and the underworld. However, the worship of these manifestations of nature. Baal, for instance, was and other gods as idols was not the only aspect of called ‘rider of the clouds’, ‘god of lightning and the Canaanite religion that earned such a pejorative thunder’ or ‘lord of the sky and the earth’. image in the Bible. There is also the controversial Kingdoms and Empires Canaan is the Biblical name for the Likewise, Yarikh, the moon god, was called assertion that many Canaanite religious practices area of ancient Palestine west of the illuminator of myriads of stars, lamp of heaven or were barbaric, together with what biblical scribes river Jordan. This map shows Egyptian lord of the sickle. The Canaanite pantheon was saw as abominations: incest, bestiality and human dominated Canaan and its surrounding kingdoms and empires in the period based around a family unit, with the gods sacrifice. The practice of offering their children as from 1500–1100 BC. envisaged as kings presiding over royal courts. The sacrifices to Baal came under special censure. So did GA SG A lys Ha C a Kingdoms and Empires 1500 – 1100 BCAegea Hittite empire established by s p i Hattushash Suppiluliuma I, 1344– 1322 BC L Y Mitanni territory at its greatest extent, 1480– 1340 BC H I T T I T E D E M P I R E a n AR Mitanni after 1340 BC (under n Se I A Hittite and Assyrian control) Lake Van Mt 129 ZA 5–1 Assyrian territory gained by A us 26 S e a HURRI 4 Ashur-uballit I, 1353– 1318 BC i W n a r a t o l au A Lake Babylonia under M T N Urmia Burnaburiash II, 1347–1321 BC S e s A M I TA N N I Elam under Tepti-ahar, C I Carchemish 1353– 1318 BC LI ab CI o Harran Washshukanni tZ Egypt under Amenophis IV and Aleppo p 12 Nineveh Tutankhamun, 1352– 1335 BC ea 95 T Gr o t Alalakh –1 26 A S S Y R I Ab Orontes 4 a N Syria a m Z bur Ugarit Ashur tle L it ai m K ha 12 hiya Hamath Adh A l a sp r u s ) 95 Qatna (Cy A –1 Tig – 1197 1 23 Kadesh Palmyra la Euphrates 26 r is Byblos ya Za 3 4 1275 Di V gr M e d i t e 1275 os r r a n e a n S e a M Damascus Dur-Kurigalzu 155 E 1180 – 1 ts Der E L B 1213 A A K ar M L B Babylon khe Jordan a n Y Susa LO Al-Untash- h Joppa n a Nippur Napirisha N Ascalon Ashdod IA Gaza Ca un Gath Uruk 5 r 11 0 Ka Gerar 1 126 – EG YP T Ur Anshan Nile Memphis Petra 24
  • 24. T H E C A N A A N I T E Sthe essentially orgiastic, sensual atmosphere of began at Ugarit (on the coast of present-day Syria,Canaanite religion and its fertility cults and serpent north of Lattaqia) in 1929 considerably expanded And they chopped down the altars of the Baals in hissymbols. The biblical view of God and worship this knowledge. In this area, during King Niqmad presence, and he cut down thewas vastly different from that of the Canaanites. II’s reign (c. 1360 BC), sacred texts were recorded incense altars that stood aboveThe Canaanites viewed worship as a means of on clay tablets at the king’s request, using the them. And he broke in piecescontrolling the gods, rather than serving them and cuneiform script invented by the Sumerians in the the Asherim and the carved andthe sexual nature of Canaanite deities was in fourth century BC. Thirty-four deities were listed, the metal images, and he madecomplete contrast to the spiritual qualities of the beginning with the god residing in Tsafon, the dust of them and scattered itbiblical God who occupied a lofty place, far sacred mountain. The deity of the cult of the dead over the graves of those whobeyond such earthly temptations. The biblical came next, and thirdly El, the bull and source of had sacrificed to them.representation certainly has elements of the creation, power, sagacity and virility. Dagan, a Chronicles 2, 34:4polemic and archeology and anthropology show a semitic god worshipped throughout the Near East,different side to the Canaanites. especially in the region of the middle Euphrates, was listed after that, then seven different Baals andEXCAVATIONS AT UGARIT the more minor deities. The rituals recorded on theFor a long time, the Bible was the only source of tablets were all reserved to the king, or to theinformation about the Canaanites and their official priesthood who performed them in hisreligion, together with some material from ancient presence. The Ugarit tablets also included textsGreek writers. However, the excavations that concerned with oracles. FUNERARY FIGURINES Up to the present, little direct evidence has god El seated on a throne, excavated at been found for the daily practice of religion Ugarit, and dating from the thirteenth century among the ordinary people of Canaan, BC, was monolithic and less elaborate. El is despite the greatly increased knowledge depicted as an old man, with a grey beard and made available by the excavations at Ugarit, a sage, benign expression. which shared many customs with Canaan. However, a small insight into popular worship and rituals derives from the thousands of tiny bronze figurines which have been found in virtually all the excavations conducted in or around the area of ancient Canaan. These figurines were probably small representations of the great statues of gods and goddesses that were the subject of public worship in the temples. It is thought that they were votive offerings or offerings made to confirm or consecrate a vow. These figurines could be very beautiful, elaborate and expensive. One such, dating from around 1900 BC and measuring 235 mm (9 in) high, was worked in gold and silver foil. The clothing worn by the figurine was intricately decorated and showed the god wearing jewellery and a head-dress. By contrast, a limestone statue of the supreme Canaanite c. 7000–4000 BC Early Paleolithic (Old Stone Age) and Mesolithic settlements in the area of Canaan. c. 3000–2000 BC Bronze Age settlers, including Semites, in Canaan c. 2000–1500 BC Early recorded history of Canaan region c. 1500–1200 BC Canaan dominated by Egypt c. 1200 BC Israelites reach Canaan c. 990 BC Final defeat of the Canaanites by Israelites c. 950 BC Solomon, king of Israel, breaks Canaanite idols and altars 25
  • 25. A N C I E N T R E L I G I O N SANCIENT EGYPTThe Kingdoms of EgyptDocumented Egyptian history, from the unification of the country tothe acceptance of Christianity as the official religion, lasted some3,500 years.This huge expanse of time saw periods of confidence,prosperity and empire, separated by times of economic trouble and politicalfragmentation. But throughout, the fundamentals of Egyptian religion Egypt’s Nubian Empireappear to have remained constant. The map shows Egypt’s Nubian Empire. Nubia, on Egypt’s southern frontier, was conquered and garrisoned by theE GYPT ENJOYED SEVERAL major storehouses for the wealth of the empire. At the pharaohs of the twelfth dynasty periods of prosperity, with the state height of Egypt’s power came the one attempt to (1991–1783 BC) who built forts at strategic points. At the end of the strongly centralized under the pharaoh replace the many gods with worship of the sun Middle Kingdom control was lost, butwho was regarded as a god-king. The first of alone. This phase, in the reign of Akhenaten the territory was reconquered by thethese ‘high points’ was the Old Kingdom (c. 1352–1336 BC) was short-lived, but had eighteenth dynasty pharaohs (1552–1306 BC), who pushed it borders(Dynasties 3–6, c. 2650–2150 BC). At this time, repercussions in the way people understood their farther south. Nubia eventually brokethe temples to the gods appear to have been relationship to the gods. away at the end of the New Kingdom.rather small and the resources of the state wereconcentrated on the building of massive royal GREECE ANATO L IAtombs in the form of pyramids. The pyramids Tarsus Carchemish Tellwere symbols of the sun, and of the primeval Mersin Tayinat Aleppo Emar Alalakhmound on which the sun first appeared. The Hamath Ugaritpharaoh was the intermediary between the gods Crete Cypru sand people and was their provider. It was Qatna Kadeshthrough the pharoahs that the aloof gods Byblos Damascus M e d i t e r r a n e a n S e a Sidonprovided sustenance and justice to the people. Tyre Laish Syrian Troubled times followed the end of the Old Acre Hazor Desert TaanachKingdom. There was no single ruling dynasty in Megiddo Beth-shan Ashdod Tell es-Saidiyehcontrol of the whole country and rival families Joppa Amman Gazacompeted for power. Egypt was reunited and Jerusalem Pi-Ramesseenjoyed another period of prosperity under the Heliopolis Tanis New Kingdom Egypt BubastisMiddle Kingdom (Dynasties 11–13 c. 2007 New Kingdom temples Memphis–1700 BC). During this period there were major Egyptian fortress or garrisondevelopments in funerary practices and core area of Egyptian state Herakleopolis A Nubian gold resources Rliterature, both of which were no longer an A trade routesexclusively royal preserve. Associated with this El-Amarna B limit of Egyptian control in Nubia (Tell el-Amarna) Iwas an increased devotion to Osiris, the ruler of under Amenophis I (1527–1507 BC) A limit of Egyptian control in Nubiathe underworld. under Tuthmosis III (1490 –1436 BC) Abydos northern limit of campaigns of Tuthmosis I (1507–1494 BC) and R Medinet Habu Karnak Tuthmosis III (1490 –1436 BC)THE NEW KINGDOM e Thebes Luxor E G Y P T d boundary between Egyptian andA second period of breakdown was followed by Mitannian zones of influence at the end of the reign of Amenophis II (1438 –1412 BC) Sthe reunification under the New Kingdom boundary between Egyptian and Hittite e Nile zones of influence at the end of the reign of a(Dynasties 18–20, c. 1539–1069 BC); this was also Akhenaten, 1347 BCthe time of Egypt’s empire in western Asia and Aniba Quban Abu SimbelNubia. The temples of the kings and gods now Faras Qasr Ibrim Buhen 2nd Cataractreplaced pyramids as the focus of the state’s Island of Meinarti Semna Island of Dorginartibuilding operations. The temples became vast Island of Sai Amarastructures serving as the theatre for elaborate Nubian Solebfestival processions. They were also the Sesebi Deser t 3rd Cataract Tumbos Kawa26 Gebel 4th Cataract Barkal Napata 5th Cataract
  • 26. T H E K I N G D O M S O F E G Y P TTHE LATE PERIOD EGYPTIAN DYNASTIESFollowing the end of the New Kingdom there was c. 5000–2900 BC Predynasticanother period of fragmentation, and attempts by c. 2900–2650 BC Early Dynastic Dynasties 1–2 c. 2650–2150 BC Old Kingdom Dynasties 3–6some rulers to regain Egypt’s former power failed c. 2150–2007 BC First Intermediate Period Dynasties 7–10in the face of the Babylonian and Persian empires. c. 2007–1700 BC Middle Kingdom Dynasties 11–13 c. 1700–1539 BC Second Intermediate Period Dynasties 13–17Despite the loss of empire and periods of foreign c. 1539–1069 BC New Kingdom Dynasties 18–20rule, the Late Period (Dynasties 26–30, 664–323 c. 1069–656 BC Third Intermediate Period Dynasties 21–25 664–332 BC Late Period Dynasties 26–30BC) did see many huge temples constructed. This 332–323 BC Persian Empire under Alexanderwas also the time when the cults of sacred animals 323–30 BC Ptolemaic Periodwere most popular. 30 BC–AD 395 Roman Period In 332 BC Alexander the Great of Macedontook Egypt from the Persians, and for the threecenturies following his death the PtolemaicDynasty ruled the country. This period broughtmany Greek settlers to Egypt and saw theidentification of Greek with Egyptian gods (soRe, the sun god, was identified with Helios, andthe goddess Hathor with Aphrodite), and alsothe spread of some Egyptian cults around theMediterranean. This process continued whenEgypt fell under Roman rule, and the cult of Isisbecame one of the major religions of the RomanEmpire. Christianity found a home in Egypt veryearly and monasticism flourished in the deserts.During the first centuries AD Christianity and thetraditional Egyptian gods co-existed and therewas certainly a strong influence from the oldcults on many aspects of the worship andiconography of the newer religion. AKHENATEN: THE FIRST MONOTHEIST? The most striking episode in Egypt’s religious attempting to reinstate the sun cult of the Old history is the 17-year reign of the pharaoh Kingdom pyramid builders, with its emphasis Akhenaten (c. 1352–36 BC) at the height of the upon the pharaoh as the sole intermediary New Kingdom. This is still one of the most between the divine and human realms. The controversial subjects in Egyptology. experiment proved unacceptable and Ascending the throne as Amenhotep IV the , following Akhenaten’s death the traditional new pharaoh soon abandoned the major state cults were rapidly restored. cults, notably that of the god Amun, in favour of a solar cult emphasizing the visible disk of the sun, the Aten. At some point in the reign there was an iconoclastic phase when the images of gods, particularly Amun, were destroyed. The extraordinary style of art adopted at this time, allied with the poetry and content of the sun hymns, led early Egyptologists to present a false impression of the pharaoh as a true monotheist, and a pacifist.They also suggested that Akhenaten was the pharaoh who had befriended Joseph, and that his hymns to the sun were an influence on the biblical Psalms. Egyptologists now think that in many ways Akhenaten’s religious ideas were reactionary, 27
  • 27. A N C I E N T R E L I G I O N SThe Egyptian PantheonEgyptian art presents us with hundreds of gods, manywith animal or bird heads, some even more complexcreatures combining a beetle’s body, bird’s wings andanimal heads. Each of the different elements representedto the Egyptians a recognizable characteristic whichencapsulated the nature of the god.E GYPTIAN RELIGION developed in the occasion demanded. Some long period known as the Predynastic Egyptologists have claimed Period (c. 5000–2900 BC) before the that – certainly by the laterunification of Egypt into one kingdom. In the periods – all gods werenineteenth century Egyptologists explained the aspects of one, andmany gods that characterize Egyptian religion as that Egyptian religion wasthe product of this Predynastic Period. They moving towards monotheism. While a process ofthought that Egypt was divided into many small rationalization does appear to be a feature of thekingdoms or chiefdoms, each with its major later periods, there was no attempt to abandoncentre and gods, a triad of creator god (usually the polytheistic system.male), consort and child. When Egypt wasunited these gods remained as the patrons of the DEPICTING THE GODSdifferent regions, and at a later stage there were One of the most striking features of Egyptian Pyramids and Temples of the Old Kingdomattempts to rationalize and amalgamate gods religious imagery is the way that animal and bird During the period of the Old Kingdomwith similar associations (such as solar gods). heads are combined with a human body. Gods (c. 1539–1069 BC) the main focus ofThis interpretation served to explain the can often be associated with more than one Egyptian religious practice was pyramid building, rather than temple construction.daunting number of gods in the Egyptian animal, representing different characteristics or The pharaoh was thought to be thepantheon, but it is now regarded as simplistic. phases of their existence. Some of the intermediary between humanity and the gods; the pyramids were representationsThe Egyptians were polytheistic: they accepted associations are obscure to us, but others are of this power as well as conduits to thethe existence of numerous gods, some very obvious. The scarab beetle was a symbol of underworld and eternal life.with very specific functions, and others whowere only vaguely defined. They also S i n acreated many new gods as Tanis i Nabesha Mendes Qantir Pithom (Avaris, Pi Ramesse) T. er-Rataba a ) Sea Buto Se Busiris Bubastis e at nean Sais Athribis Gr rra T. el-Yahudiyeh ite Abu Roash Heliopolis e d Giza Abusir (M Saqqara Memphis Dahshur L O W E R E G Y P T Illahun Meidum El-Amarna Hermopolis Nile U P P E R Pyramids and Temples of the Old Kingdom Deir el-Medina Thebes (W) Karnak Pyramid Abydos Malqata Luxor El-Kab Temple Gebelein Hieraconpolis E G Y P T28
  • 28. T H E E G Y P T I A N P A N T H E O Nthe creator god Khepri because it lays its eggs in MINOR DEITIESa ball of dung. The scarab rolling the ball of There were numerous minor deities whodung was associated with the sun god pushing had specific functions in relation to thethe sun disk across the sky; but more underworld, or protection in this life.important, the small scarabs The major deities tended toemerged from the dung as if they be rather less specific,had created themselves. although many appearedEmerging as the new-born as creator or solar gods.sun, Khepri rose into the sky Falcon-headed godsand was transformed into were common, andthe falcon-headed god at associated with sky.the sun’s zenith. After sunset Many of the goddesses Homage to thee, Osiris, Lord of eternity, King of gods, whosehe assumed the head of could appear as both names are manifold, whosea ram to travel through vulture and as the rearing forms are holy, thou being ofthe night towards his rebirth cobra, the uraeus, which hidden form in the temples,next dawn. spits fire at the pharaoh’s whose Ka is holy…. Thou art Many of the goddesses enemies. Nekhbet, and the Great Chief, the first amonghad an ambivalent nature, so other goddesses such as Isis, thy brethren, the Prince ofHathor could appear as the were thought of as the mother Company of the Gods, thewild cow of the Delta marshes of the pharaoh, therefore they stabiliser of Right and Truthwhich had to be calmed, and in could assume vulture form and throughout the World, the Son who was set on the great thronedoing so became the domestic cow. queens wore a headdress in the of his father Keb. Thou artAlthough calmed, such goddesses always form of a vulture with extended wings; beloved of thy mother Nut,had the potential to become violent again. This they could also be shown with vulture wings the mighty one of valour….appeasing of violent aspects of the world is at the enfolding their bodies. In Egyptian hieroglyphic Hymn to Osiris, fromheart of Egyptian cult practices. the word ‘mother’ uses the symbol for a vulture. the Book of the Dead OSIRIS AND THE AFTERLIFE The Egyptians believed that it was the thought of as leaving the tomb and flying pharaoh who ensured the afterlife of the around), and a tomb and grave goods. ordinary people: he cared and provided for Complex religious texts (the Book of the them in the afterlife as he had on earth. Even Dead) aided the passage of the soul through so, during the Predynastic period, the dead the gates of the underworld, to the were buried with food and other equipment judgement hall of Osiris, where the heart to assist them. Towards the end of the Old was weighed in the balance against ‘truth’. Kingdom, with a decline in royal power, there It was only after vindication that the was a change, and everyone expected to deceased could go on to enjoy the afterlife. enjoy the afterlife. The cult of Osiris developed at the same time and rose to ever- greater prominence in the Middle and New Kingdoms. Osiris was a mythical pharaoh murdered by his brother, who cut his body into pieces and scattered them across the globe. These pieces were collected by his sister-wife Isis and mummified by Anubis, the dog- or jackal-headed god of the cemeteries, who invented embalming. Briefly restored to life he was able to father Horus (the pharaoh) before becoming ruler of the underworld. Every Egyptian could look forward to becoming ‘an Osiris’. To this end elaborate preparations were made: mummification to preserve the body so that the soul (the ba) could return to it (the ba is shown as a human-headed bird, and is 29
  • 29. A N C I E N T R E L I G I O N STemples and WorshipIn Egypt the priests performed rituals in the temples on behalf of the pharaoh, to ensure thepreservation of the cosmos. Personal intercessions could be made in the home, in the majortemples or village shrines, using intermediary statues or images carved on the walls, or when thegod’s statue was brought out in a festival procession. Tell el-Fara`in BUTO MENDES SAIS NAUKRATIS Tell el-Muqdan TAREMU TANIS Qantir PIRAMESSE Kom el-Hisn Tell el-Dab`a AVARIS L O W E R E G Y P T Tell el-Maskhuta Tell Atrib Tell Basta ATHRIBIS BUBASTIS salt lake Tell el Yahudiya Merimda Beni Salama LEONTOPOLIS HELIOPOLIS Abu Roash Maadi Giza El-Omari Abusir Mit Rahina Saqqara MEMPHIS Dahshur El-Lisht Hawara Re Medinet el-Fayum Meidum d CROCODILOPOLIS Se Medinet Maadi El-Lahun NARMOUTHIS a Ibnasya el-Medina Gurob HERAKLEOPOLIS MAGNA U El-Hiba ANKYRONPOLIS PPE R Beni Hasan El-Ashmunein HERMOPOLIS MAGNA Deir el-Bersha El-Amarna AKHETATEN Meir E G Asyut Y P T Akhmim Nag el-Deir ABYDOS Dendera Deir el-Ballas Qift Naqada KOPTOS Pharaonic Egypt settlement Valley of the Kings Karnak, Luxor temple Armant THEBES tombs HERMONTHIS site with archaeological Gebelein Tod Pharonic Egypt remains El-Moalla APHRODITOPOLIS This map shows the major temples Early Dynastic Esna Old Kingdom LATOPOLIS and sites of worship during the Middle Kingdom period of the pharaohs in Egypt. New Kingdom Elkab NECHEB Although many ancient Egyptians had Late Period fertile land Edfu shrines to the household gods in their APOLLINOPOLIS MAGNA Aswan modern name homes, the temples became a focal MEMPHIS ancient name capitals of Upper and point not just for religious worship Lower Egypt but also for state occasions such as Kom Ombo festivals and processions. Aswan ELEPHANTINE
  • 30. T E M P L E S A N D W O R S H I PE GYPTIAN TEMPLES were a significant stuck out his tongue to ward off evil. Bes part of the state machine. Few temples frequently accompanied another popular deity, from the early periods survive, and those Taweret, who was a pregnant hippopotamusthat do are quite small. The major focus of state with lion’s paws and a crocodile tail: she alsobuilding in the Old Kingdom was the pyramid protected women during childbirth.and its associated temple, emphasizing the role One significant development in Egyptianof the pharaoh as god on earth. In the New religious thought during the New Kingdom wasKingdom (c.1539–1069 BC) temples were major that of the direct relationship of the individual toland-holders and employers throughout the the major gods. These became morecountry. The temples became the repositories of approachable, and a large number ofthe wealth of Egypt’s empire, and they were the inscriptions record prayers to the gods for help,focus of the largest state building operations. or recording the afflictions (usually described asThis accounts for the vast scale of temples like ‘blindness’) caused by ‘sin’ or taking the name ofthat of Amun at Karnak, still one of the largest the god in vain. People could go to the statesurviving religious complexes. However, the temples to pray, adore and present offerings totemples and the priesthood remained under the the gods. Access was limited to certain areas,direct authority of the pharaoh: there was no such as the great forecourt, or a shrine at thedivision between Church and State. back of the temple. The statues of pharaohs and In the New Kingdom festival processions officials set up in these outer parts functioned asbecame an important feature of religion, and this, intermediaries and passed on the prayers to thetoo, played its part in the development of temples gods inside.and the religious landscape of the cities. The godsnow travelled between temples, along the river, THE TOMBcanals or sphinx-lined avenues. Carried in the The other major focus ofsacred barks (portable boats with a shrine for the religious activity was thestatue of the god), the veiled images were still tomb. Egyptian tombs wereinvisible to the ordinary people, but their family vaults, focussed on apresence was indicated by the head of the god decorated tomb chapel builtwhich adorned the prow and stern of the bark. by the leading member. Here, at certain times of theGODS AND THE INDIVIDUAL year, families would gatherThe Egyptians made offerings to their household to celebrate rituals ofgods, and perhaps to their ancestors, at shrines renewal with theirin the main rooms of their homes. These gods ancestors, bringing theprotected against the hazards of daily life, such statues out from the chapelas snakes and scorpions, illness and disease, and to receive the rays of theduring the dangerous times of pregnancy and rising sun. Here they wouldchildbirth. The gods were often rather fearsome gather to enact thein appearance, and armed with sharp knives. elaborate burial rituals toAmong the most popular of these gods was Bes, ensure the journey of thea dwarf with a lion skin around his face, who soul into the afterlife. THE HOUSE OF GOD In form, the Egyptian temple combined the world at the moment of creation and here the attributes of a house, with an image of the god’s image resided in a shrine, the focus of moment of creation. Protected by high the daily ritual.The temple precinct included towers (a pylon), the entrance led into a other chapels, a sacred lake that supplied public open court, where people could come water for the temple rituals, houses for the to make their offerings and prayers to the priests when on duty, storage areas and gods. Beyond this court, access was workshops, and ‘hospitals’ in which the ill increasingly restricted. One or more were treated, combining medicines and columned offering halls, flanked with rooms ‘magic’. The roof of the temple was used for for the storage of cult objects, led to the observations of the stars, and for the New sanctuary, where only the highest priests Year festival when the statue of the god was could go. This sanctuary represented the taken to receive the rays of the rising sun. 31
  • 31. A N C I E N T R E L I G I O N SGREECE AND ROMEClassical OriginsThe civilization established by the ancient Greeks and subsequently builtupon by Rome would in time be regarded as the foundation for 2,000 years ofwestern history, though no-one could have forseen this imposing legacy. Whilethe great states of Mesopotamia and Egypt flourished, stone-age farmers inwhat we now know as Greece were still scratching at the soil, eking out thesparsest possible of livings from year to year.The story of classical religion,like that of classical culture more generally, is one of local practices andtraditions being brought gradually to coherence through the evolution of Mycenaean Greeceever more far-reaching states and empires. The Mycenaeans took control of the Aegean after the Minoan civilization had disappeared. They wereA LTHOUGH THERE ARE known to (its name derived from that of its great mythical apparently a warlike people, as proved by the impressive fortified have been people in Greece from as long ruler King Minos) was a peace-loving culture of citadels that have been discovered, ago as Neanderthal times, the first artistic accomplishment and nature-worship. as well as implements of war. Theirdistinctively ‘Greek’ culture is thought to have Though later Greeks, envious of the Minoan great palaces and citadels testify to their major preoccupation: trade.been imported by a wave of immigrants pushing achievement, might have told of the bull-headed The map shows sites of key buildingswestward from Anatolia some 4,500 years ago. monster held in the labyrinth beneath Minos’s of the Mycenaean culture.With them they brought bronze-age Spiliametalworking skills unknown to Lake Pindus M As Ioannina Maramariani prthe Neolithic farmers among whom E op P THESSALY o ta IR Lake Voiviis A e g e a n A rak mothey settled. Down the centuries U S e a S s ts hthos Iolkos Yioura Toumbamany important cultural influences Parga Kouphia Rachi Pelagos Kastraki Pagasean Iliodhromiawould come to the eastern GulfMediterranean across the Aegean Gritsa Skopelos Lake Xiniaand around the coastal fringes of Ambracian Ayios Theodhoros Gulf SkyrosThrace. Much speculation surrounds Gu AETOLIA lf othe religious beliefs of the early f E ub PHOCIS oe EU aGreeks, as there are few religious Chrysovitsa Lake Orchomenos Chantsa B O Mila Trikhonis Panopeus Pyrgos Ayios loannis EAartefacts and little written evidence Ayia Marina Ithaca Krisa Stroviki Lake Kopais Glato indicate what they were. One Kastri Thebes Katakolou Gutheory is that they honoured their Cephalonia a f P tras lf of Eutresis o Co BOEOTIAown ancestors as guiding spirits and Mazarakata lf Araxos rin A Bouga th TT Vrana u G I CMenidiworshipped the deities of local ACHAEA Athens A Ayios Ilias Korakousprings, the weather and other life- Akroterion P E L O P O N N E S E Perdikaria Salamis Saron icsustaining forces. Mycenae Berbati Gu Thorikos Kolonna lf Prosymma Aegina Ayia Irini Zacynthus Alfios Argos Dendra Tiryns KeaCRETAN CONTRADICTIONS Asine Kastro Kakovatos LakeThe first significant civilization in G Taka Kythnos ul Kamari Vourvoura Mandra fthe area seems to have evolved not Peristeria Stylari Hydra of Xerovrysi Elliniko Malthi Spetsaiin mainland Greece itself, but on the Serifos A Pylos Koukounara Aithaia rg Menelaion M i r t o a n Garalavouni Vaphioisle of Crete where what is known o Dara S e a li s Nichoria LACONIAas the Minoan civilization had its Pa Yenitsari rn Kambos Ev r o Midhen Arkines Gu oncapital at Knossos around 2000 BC. s ta Ayios Nikolaos Charakopio Phylakopi lf MtsAs revealed to the modern world by Gulf of La Melos of Mycenaean Greecethe nineteenth-century archeologist Mes 1400–1000 BC I o n i a n Pavlopetri major settlementSir Arthur Evans, Minoan culture senia S e a major fortification fortification con major palace32 Cythera Kastri trade route ia fertile plains
  • 32. C L A S S I C A L O R I G I N Spalace, the reality was altogether gentler. For masculine a culture as the Minoans wereEvans, the Minoans’ elevation of femininity over feminine and pleasure-loving, the Mycenaeansbrute masculinity was symbolized by the image left an archeological legacy of heavy bronzeof graceful girl-gymnasts vaulting over the back swords and helmets, and warlike fortifications.of a charging bull. Finds from impressive arsenals Yet here too, appearances may deceive: theof weaponry to evidence of human sacrifice (and Mycenaeans’ most important force may wellpossibly even cannibalism) have called Evans’s have been their army of priestly scribes, foridealized picture increasingly into question, yet they were even more meticulous than thehe seems to have been correct in his view that the Minoans in their administration of what wasMinoans were subject to a matriarchy. Evidence clearly first and foremost a trading empire. Yethas mounted that the king was a mere figurehead their reign was brief: by about 1200 BCbeside the high priestess who really ruled. Mycenean power itself was declining. TheLikewise, the great goddess Potnia far outranked reasons for this remain obscure: historians havethe male deity who was at once her consort suggested that political instability further eastand son. left Mycenae cut off from its trading partners, Ultimately, the issue of masculinity versus economically stranded. Those same troubles,femininity misses the point of a religion whose meanwhile, had their demographic impact too,main function may have had less to do with setting off large-scale movements of peoplesspiritual than economic life. The most vital role throughout western Asia. From the coastalof the Minoan priesthood seems to have been in settlements of what is now Turkey, it ismaintaining a highly centralized mercantile thought, came the ‘Sea Peoples’, who ravagedeconomy with contacts throughout the eastern much of the eastern Mediterranean with theirMediterranean: to this, all more obviously sacred raids. Meanwhile, the Dorians – warlikeroles may well have been secondary. Inscriptions nomads from the western steppe – pouredfound at Knossos, dating from the fourteenth overland into northern Greece, the precursorscentury BC, appear to have been written in the of later hordes like the Huns and Mongols. Byhands of up to 70 different scribes, recording the beginning of the first millennium BC, theagricultural output in the city’s hinterland in Mycenaeans had disappeared: Greece had littlegreat detail. Meanwhile, the priests seem to have apparently to show for more than 3,000 yearssupervised a large number of craftsmen working of the palace precincts. Pots, jewels and otherluxuries from Knossos have been discoveredthroughout Asia Minor and Southeast Europe,while Egyptian tomb-paintings attest to the visitsof Minoan merchants.THE MYCENAEANS AND AFTERRecords of Minoan culture disappear around1400 BC, supplanted – if not actually destroyed– by the might of Mycenae, then emerging onthe mainland. Apparently as austerely BLOOD RITES Digging at Anemospilia, Crete, in 1981, Greek researchers can be no doubt that they were caught in the act of human Yannis and Efi Sakellarakis made a remarkable find after sacrifice.The seismic disaster they were apparently seeking opening up what appeared to have been a basement room in to stave off seems to have struck too suddenly for them to an ancient temple that was believed to have been destroyed complete the ritual: buried beneath tons of fallen masonry, by an earthquake in about 1700 BC. There they found the the tableau would remain frozen in mid-moment, lying skeletal remains of a boy, trussed up like a sacrificial bull, undisturbed for 37 centuries. If the scene the Sakellarakises with a priest and priestess beside him poised to cut his exposed amounts to an archeological snapshot of a pivotal throat with a knife and catch his blood in a cup. Speculation point in the great Cretan civilization’s agonising collapse, that the sacrificial victim was the son of one or both of his their discovery also spelled a severe fall in the Minoans’ would-be dispatchers has never been confirmed, but there modern reputation for gracious humanity. 33
  • 33. A N C I E N T R E L I G I O N SHomeric Gods and HeroesThe ‘Dark Age’ that followed the fall of Mycenae was not, perhaps,as black as it has since been painted, although there was no greatcivilization to chronicle its history or give it cultural coherence.Although cast by history in the role of wild invaders, the incomingpeoples brought with them a spirit of cultural ambition and enterprise.Their knowledge of ironworking filled the breach that the now lost bronzetechnology had once filled, and a slow re-urbanization of the countrybegan. From this early urban culture emerged the epic poems of Homer;chronicles of the distant Mycenean past and a defining work of future Greekcultural, religious and political consciousness.T HE IMPOSITION upon a culture of the warlike Iliad, and his account of the long subsistence farming of a civilization and difficult homecoming of the trickster that raised its eyes to the heavens can be Odysseus, the Odyssey, may differ significantlyseen represented symbolically in the story of the in tone and technique, but both hold up a set ofwar between the Titans and Olympians. As Greek heroes for respect and emulation. Theserecorded by Hesiod’s Theogony (c. 700 BC), the stories, and the values they enshrined, becameworld was once ruled by the Titans, the children part of the general Greek inheritance, unitingof Gaia, the earth, and Uranus (Heaven), her son scattered communities which might otherwiseand husband. To this point, the antique order have shared only mutual enmity.corresponded with the sort of matriarchyimagined by the Minoans, with their goddess THE OLYMPIADPotnia, but events took a different turn in the The Homeric poems also mark the unforgettabledeveloping Greek tradition. The story tells how mythic debut of the Olympians as rulers of theKronos, Gaia’s youngest son, castrated his father heavens, the often all-too human divinitiesand usurped his throne; he then married hissister Rhea, but in order to secure his position,he swallowed all their children as they wereborn. One alone escaped: the infant Zeus wassmuggled to safety in Crete, where he grew tomanhood plotting revenge against his unnaturalsire. The god of open sky and mountain-top,Zeus was armed with flashing thunderbolts, andestablished his seat on the summit of Greece’shighest peak, Mount Olympus, from where heled his own family in war against the Titans(now regurgitated so as to be able to help in theirfather’s defence). The final victory of Zeus andhis Olympians marked not only the end of theregion’s pre-Greek period, but also a significantbreak with a past in which mother earth hadbeen at the spiritual centre of things.WARS OF GODS AND MENThe epics of Homer (eighth century BC) didmore than anything else to forge a commonGreek identity. His tale of the battle for Troy,34
  • 34. H O M E R I C G O D S A N D H E R O E Spresiding over the fortunes – and misfortunes – of intellectual achievement. Long before themortal men and women. Hence, outraged at the Parthenon or Plato, in the depths of aslight they have received in being placed behind supposedly ‘Dark Age’, the ancient GreeksAphrodite in terms of beauty, Hera, Zeus’s sister had set forth on the long road that wouldand queen, and his daughter Athene, the goddess lead to modernity.of wisdom, both side with the Greeks in thehostilities that follow Paris’s theft of Helen.While the goddess of beauty and love herself maystand loyally by her supporter’s city, Aphroditecannot finally prevail over the other goddesses,despite the assistance of her lover Ares, the god ofwar. Poseidon the earth-shaker, god of the sea,sets himself against Troy from the very start –although he also does his best to hinderOdysseus’s subsequent homeward journey.Fortunately, the hero has help from Hermes, themessenger of the gods. Even Apollo, theradiant sun-god, is not above interveningto bring about the death of theapparently invincible Achilles, whilehis sister the virgin-huntress Artemis,goddess of the moon, also takes thepart of Troy. If the Greek gods as exhibited inHomer seem by today’s standardsmore petty than divine, their foibleshave the paradoxical effect ofunderlining the importance ofhuman agency. A culture which sawso many mortal frailties in itsdeities was correspondingly quickto discern the potential forgreatness in humankind: the resultwould be an age of unparalleled artistic and THE TROJAN WARS Asked to judge which was the fairest followed was a series of stentorian speeches goddess – Hera, Athene or Aphrodite – and heroic single combats, with the warrior Paris, Prince of Troy, was offered various ethics of pride and honour.Thus we meet the inducements to sway his decision. Hera, courageous Ajax, the cunning Odysseus and the consort of Zeus, offered him the gift of the angry Achilles – all but indestructible empire, while Athene promised him military since his mother dipped him in the Styx, the might. Aphrodite, goddess of love, tempted river of the underworld, when he was an him with the most beautiful woman in the infant. Only the heel by which she held him world – and the young Paris could not resist. was left unprotected, and it was here that he This most beautiful woman was Helen, would finally be caught by an arrow from wife of Menelaus, the king of Sparta (and Paris’s bow, after the Greek had slaughtered brother of Agamemnon, king of Argos). Paris Paris’s brother, the noble Trojan general eloped with Helen after being welcomed in Hector. The famous tale of the Wooden Sparta as an honoured guest, and heroes Horse – the ‘gift’ within which Odysseus and from scores of Greek cities heeded his troops contrived to make their way into Agamemnon’s call to arms and lay siege to the city – does not in fact figure in Homer’s Troy in an effort to restore Helen to her Iliad, though it is referred to incidentally in cuckolded husband. The conflict that the Odyssey. 35
  • 35. C I V I L I Z AT I O N A N D R E L I G I O N A VENEER OF CIVILIZATION? Yet if a city like Athens had much to celebrate, individual people still feared sickness and death, while states knew they were never entirely safe from the possibility of crop failure, plague or military defeat. The construction of a second fine classical temple to Athene on the Acropolis (the Erechtheion, around the much older shrine of Erechtheus, mythical king and archaic earth-god) underlines how reluctant the Athenians were to letultimate symbol of ‘classical’ perfection. Its lines go entirely of their older ancestral ways. In variousassert the triumph of human skill and ingenuity, a of its aspects the cult of Apollo – and still more thatdisdainful reproach to the rough untidiness of of his son the serpent-god Asklepios, master ofnature. A temple to Athene, the Parthenon healing – hark back to pre-Olympian religiousenshrines for ever the co-opting of an Olympian cults. As for the wild trances entered into by thegoddess as tutelary deity to a single city. more determined adherents of Dionysos, they suggest the sort of shamanism now associated withFESTIVALS indigenous religions of the most ‘basic’ sort.The festival calendar in classical Greece likewiseplaced a premium on mortal, rather than divine,accomplishment: so it was, for example, with theoriginal Olympic Games. First held in 776 BC inthe shadow of Mount Olympus, this gatheringbrought the youth of Greece together to competein running, wrestling and other tests of speed,strength and skill. Although the athletes’achievements were offered up to Zeus (there weregames in the name of Apollo and Athenaelsewhere), such tournaments were first andforemost a showcase for the grace and strength ofthe human body. The importance of Dionysos,god of revelry, cannot be overestimated: therewere seven Dionysiac festivals a year in Athensalone. The whole city processed to the theatre,where music and dancing set the scene forprogrammes of drama from farce to tragedy. DEATH OF THE YEAR The tradition that Kore, the daughter of pomegranate seeds, however, and she was Demeter, goddess of the harvest, had been thus deemed to have sealed her marriage abducted by Hades, the ruler of the with the infernal king. Although restored once underworld, was commemorated by Athenian more to her mother, Kore was from that time youths in an annual autumn pilgrimage to the obliged to return to her husband’s home for scene of the crime at Eleusis, on the coast one season in every four. During that time north-west of Athens. Enraged at her loss, the Demeter’s bitterness is marked by biting goddess of the harvest had struck down the frosts and barren soil. The tradition of Kore’s crops where they were growing in the fields – descent to the underworld each winter and they would not bear fruit again, she warned, her subsequent resurrection for the spring, until she once more had her daughter. clearly reflects an age-old concern with the Concerned that their human subjects would continuation of the agricultural cycle soon starve, the gods sent Hermes down into (presided over, not by male Zeus, but by a the earth to bring Kore back – if she had eaten female deity), as well as a more modern nothing in her time below she would be free theological preoccupation with the question forever. Hades had tempted her to take a few of life after death. 37
  • 36. A N C I E N T R E L I G I O N SThe Gods in Imperial RomeThe origins of Rome were obscure and unpromising: through the earliercenturies of the first millennium BC another civilization dominated what isnow central Italy – the Etruscans.The lively culture of the Etruscans is bestremembered for its elaborately decorated complexes of tombs, but theywere also responsible for the drainage scheme which allowed thereclamation of the land on which Rome would be built. Expanding downwardfrom the surrounding hilltops, under the auspices of Etruscan rule, thesettlement established by Latin shepherds in the mid-eighth century wasslowly evolving and as it grew, so did its confidence and self-belief: by509 BC, Rome had succeeded in expelling its Etruscan overlords; as arepublic, it would bring all Italy under its control. By the second century AD The Peoples of Italy The Etruscans were the dominantRome’s dominions spanned the known world, from Scotland to Syria, yet the civilization in Italy throughout the early first millennium BC, but there werecivilization propagated there was recognizably Greek in origin. settlements of other peoples across the country as well. None were to pose a serious challenge to the Etruscans until the rising Roman republic finally drove themA S MIGHT BE expected with so creation, he was honoured on the first day of out. From this point, the Romans began pragmatic a people, the Romans took every month, as well as throughout Januarius, extending the boundaries of their empire beyond their homeland and at its height, over the Greek gods along with much the first month of every year. Besides the great the Roman Empire ruled much of theelse, adapting more or less the entire Olympian gods so far mentioned, the Romans held known world.pantheon to their own purposes. Thus fatherZeus became thundering Jupiter, his wife Hera I The Peoples of Italy 500 BC ET A CE RH LT S Savusthe imperious Roman Juno, while Aphrodite TI Carthaginian Greek NE Adduabecame the love goddess Venus and chaste Verona VE Etruscan Italic Ti c Patavium in sArtemis Diana. Athene passed her wisdom on to Mantua u PadusMinerva, the messenger Hermes was reinvented URE S Felsina (Bononia) Spina LIG Ravennaas Mercury. Yet such apparently straightforward Genua (Marzabotto) Ariminumtransformations may mask rather more complex ETRUSCANS us Novilara Pisae Arnorigins: the most famous Roman god of all, for Tib Arretium PIC Naro E eri A s NTexample, was the war-god Mars. Although in UMBR Volaterrae dr ro Cortona ES b Perusia ia Um Populoniatime he assumed the attributes of the Greek Ares, Clusium ti IANS Vetulonia Asculum Rusellae Volsinii che had in fact started life among the early Latins Vucli Se Corsica Tarquinii Falerii Amiternum aas an agricultural deity. Only as Rome’s raison Aleria Caere Veii SABINI Rome IAPd’etre shifted down the generations from the Ostia LA VO L S C I Malvent Arpi SA um TI YG Antium NI S MNfarming to the military front did Mars by slow AURUNCI E Anxur (Tarracina) us ITE Capua id MESSAP f Au II Sdegrees take on his more warlike nature. Olbia Cumae Neapolis Brundisium Turris Libisonis LUCANI Tarentum Posidonia MetapontumA BORROWED PANTHEON Elea (Velia) Sy ba Siris risThere was in fact no shortage of gods and Sardinia Sybaris Laus Neapolis Crathisgoddesses, but most found their identities Ty r r h e n i a n S e a Crotonmerged with, and their functions assumed by, Carales Nora TIImembers of this new and Greek-derived Aeoliae Insulae UT Locri Epizephyrii BRpantheon. One uniquely Roman deity who did Mylae Zancle Panormus Rhegiumsurvive, however, was the double-faced Janus, Himera Tyndaris SI ELYM A N Sicilia C I I Naxusgod of gateways, entrances and exits, new Selinus SIC Ionian U LI Agrigentum Seaventures and fresh beginnings. Associated not Hippo Diarrhytus Gela Syracusae Uticaonly with daybreak but with the world’s Tunes Carthage Cossura Camarina38
  • 37. T H E G O D S I N I M P E R I A L R O M Einnumerable other minor deities in awe: as the ‘cult of personality’. Thethe Lares (household spirits) and adulation accorded toPenates (guardians of the generals such as Juliuspantry) were only the best Caesar led to their elevationknown of these. If Janus to effective dictatorship, apresided over doorways, there role merely ratified when, inwere separate spirits responsible 27 BC, Octavian, Caesar’sfor hinges, thresholds and great-nephew and adoptivethe doors themselves. For son, and final victor in thethe pious Roman any long years of faction-fighting thataction, from pruning a had followed the dictator’svine to embarking assassination in 44 BC, enthronedon an overseas himself as ‘Imperator’ or Emperorvoyage, might Augustus (the name simply meansrequire the ‘splendid’). In Egypt and the Asiaticperformance of precise provinces, where kings had longrituals, special prayers been venerated as gods, he was soonand propitiatory offerings. popularly regarded as a living divinity. After his death in AD 14, thisAUGUSTUS, became the official policy of RomeEMPEROR AND GOD itself, and subsequent emperors wereAs time went on, and automatically promoted to the ranks ofpower in what had once deities. So accepted a part of Roman GREEK GODS AND THEIR ROMAN COUNTERPARTSbeen a republic became life did such deifications become that, Greek Romanconcentrated more and when the emperor Hadrian’s young Zeus Jupiter Hero Junomore in the hands of lover Antinous drowned during a visit Aphrodite Venusindividual leaders, Rome to Egypt in AD 130, the emperor had the Artemis Dianasaw the development of youth enrolled among the gods and Athene Minerva Hermes Mercurywhat modern states worshipped at shrines throughout Ares Marswould come to know the Empire. CYBELE: ASIATIC SAVIOUR Although the Romans borrowed most of their Rome before the general Scipio turned the pantheon wholesale from the Greeks, they tables. By 206 BC the Carthaginians, ousted were not too proud to take assistance from Italy itself, had suffered a serious defeat wherever it was offered – especially in times in Spain. The following year, however, a of trouble.Their greatest fear in the early days prodigious meteorite-shower fell upon the of empire was the Punici, or Phoenicians, of city, an apparent omen which sent the Carthage. The region’s foremost mercantile Romans into a fever of consternation. An and naval power, Carthage effectively ruled oracle urged them to invoke the aid of the the coasts – and thus the commerce – of the Phrygian mother-goddess Cybele, whose entire Mediterranean. If Rome was to expand sacred throne was a massive black boulder its influence further, it would have to find a fallen from the skies: she, way of capturing Carthage. Conversely, the prophecy promised, Carthage knew it had to see off this threat to would rid Rome of the its own dominance. In a series of Punic Wars Carthaginian menace fought from 264 BC, the advantage shifted once and for all. Envoys back and forth between the two rival empires, sent to Asia Minor to the at one point threatening to see Roman power Phrygian king returned extinguished completely. In the years after bearing Cybele’s throne: 218 BC, the Carthaginian general Hannibal three years later, at Zama, ranged relatively unhindered through Italy for Hannibal was finally several years, almost reaching the gates of vanquished. 39
  • 38. A N C I E N T R E L I G I O N SReligion and PhilosophyThe institutions of Greek and Roman religion are now a matter of strictlyhistorical interest and the beliefs involved no more than an unusually richand colourful mythology. But the philosophies first conceived inclassical Athens and further developed in ancient Rome haveremained in important respects as vital as ever. Religious andsecular thought have been equally indebted to the work of theseancient pioneers. Without the ideas they set in motion the entireintellectual history of the western world would be very different.P HILOSOPHY BEGAN in the open air, THE SCHOOL OF ATHENS around the city square, or agora, of The colonnaded walks, or stoas, of central Athens Athens, where experienced thinkers or were a favourite haunt of philosophers, hence the‘sophists’ gave lessons in logic and rhetoric – name given to the body of thought firstthe art of persuasion – to the sons of more propounded by Zeno of Citium around the end ofaffluent citizens. This was the context in the third century BC. ‘Stoicism’, as it came to bewhich the ideas first formulated by Socrates called, involved the submission of the individualtook shape, in the dialogues he had with his self to the providential workings of the universe atstudents at the end of the fourth century BC. large, the quiet acceptance of adversity and goodHe was compelled to commit suicide in fortune alike. As modified by later Greek thinkers399 BC, charged with ‘impiety’ and the like Epictetus and by Romans such as Seneca,corruption of Athenian youth – the tradition Stoicism became the pre-eminent intellectualof intellectuals upsetting those in power was movement of the ancient world. What may soundestablished very early. AlthoughSocrates left no writings, histeachings were recorded by hispupil Plato, whose ownphilosophical contributioncannot clearly be distinguishedfrom his master’s. It has,however, become conventionalto attribute to Plato thedistinction between materialthings and the ideas to whichthey give imperfect reflection,and in the case of humanity thedifference between the body andthe immortal soul. Plato’sstudent Aristotle took the moredown-to-earth view that wecould really only know what wecould perceive for ourselvesthrough our physical senses: thetension between these twoopposing philosophies wouldprove the main intellectualarmature of western thoughtthrough more than 2,000 years.40
  • 39. R E L I G I O N A N D P H I L O S O P H Ylike a doctrine of passivity in fact involved the could really know anything – even what ourmost strenuous efforts of discipline and self- senses told us. Their solution, ‘suspendingcontrol: in AD 65, after falling foul of his judgement’, may seem a defeatist one, but toheadstrong pupil Emperor Nero, Seneca took his the true sceptic, it was argued, it broughtown life in perfect calm – the ultimate stoic. contentment and peace of mind. Pyrrhon’s Roman successor, Sextus Empiricus, gave hisTHE SCEPTIC name to the sceptical doctrine of empiricism,Sceptics such as Pyrrhon (c. 365–270 BC) the belief that sense-experience was theand his followers took the ‘small-s’ scepticism essential – albeit insufficient – basis ofof Aristotle to extremes, asking how far we all knowledge. TRUE BELIEVERS? How far did the ancients actually believe serious argument only caricatured by later their own mythology? Did their tales depictions of the Epicureans as a crowd of constitute a religious scripture? And did decadent pleasure-seekers. they take what we would call a ‘fundamentalist’ view of their traditions’ literal truth? From as early as the sixth century BC, in fact, the mythic conventions co-existed with a spirit of genuine scientific enquiry – however extravagant some of its findings may seem in retrospect. Pythagoras (b. c. 580 BC ) formulated rules of geometry which hold today – as well as his idiosyncratic philosophy of reincarnation. By his doctrine of the ‘transmigration of the soul’, the spirit slips from one physical form to another in successive lives, with the potential for progressive purification through abstinence and virtuous living. One hundred years later Heraclitus suggested that the entire cosmos was in a state of perpetual flux; its governing principle, reason, was manifested physically in fire. Anticipating the findings of modern science, Democritus (c. 460–370 BC) proposed that all matter was made up of minute atoms assembled in different combinations; the philosophy of Epicurus followed from this strictly materialistic view. Since there could be no gods or life after death there could be no higher goal than the avoidance of suffering in the here and now – a 41
  • 40. A N C I E N T R E L I G I O N S Religions Under Rome At its height in the second century AD the Roman Empire covered some five million sq km (2 million sq miles), occupying lands which now belong to over 30 different sovereign states. Around 100 million Roman subjects were drawn together into a single political entity, despite the enormous variety of their linguistic and cultural backgrounds. Yet, while their temporal authority was absolute, the Romans were much more relaxed about matters spiritual: under their iron rule a remarkable religious diversity was free to thrive. D ETERMINED STANDARDIZERS, being recruited to the Roman side. Rather as The Roman Empire by the Second Century AD the conquering Romans created an air the old gods had been subsumed into the In the second century BC the area under of uniformity wherever they went in official Roman pantheon, indigenous cults Roman rule covered only Italy and its islands, and the small coastal area of everything from law to architecture, from were spliced together with Roman traditions by Dalmatia to the east. Three hundred entertainment to roadbuilding, from fashion to a process of ‘syncretism’. years later the empire’s boundaries city planning. It was precisely these profound stretched as far north as the Scottish border in the British Isles, modern-day rigidities, and the cultural confidence they AN ECUMENICAL EMPIRE France and Spain, the coastal areas of gave, that enabled the expanding empire to In parts of Gaul the Roman war god was linked North Africa and eastwards to the Black Sea. Some gods and goddesses in display comparative tolerance towards local to a local god of light: Mars Loucetus, as he subject lands succeeded in maintaining religious beliefs and ritual practices. In fact, the became known, was widely worshipped. At Bath their independent existence, and in Romans were able to make such open- the British spring goddess Sulis was associated so some cases exerted a strong influence on the Roman people (e.g. Isis and mindedness an instrument of pacification in closely with the Roman Minerva that they Mithras). They became known as newly conquered territories, native deities became to all intents and purposes different mystery religions. The Roman Empire by the Second Century AD Eburacum Roman empire, AD 180 Deva sea routes Isca provincial colonial settlements Londinium Dubris Colonia road Agrippina Gesoriacum original homeland of mystery religion Mogontiacum Rotomagus Augusta Castra Regina ia eum Treverorum Olb pa Lutetia um tica Vindobona Aquinc sa Pan Potais rias scu Augustodunum Dio Apulum us pez pe Tra Lugdunum Aquileia cium Tom i Sino Mithraism Patavium Vimina Burdigal Od essus a e ala Mutina Ravenna Nova Sat Salonae e Arelate Naissus Serdic a ntium ia yra liten Byza Nicomed Me Ancona Anc Tolosa Arretium Narbo Massilia ea Sabazius Nica um Rome ori lonica eph Ostia Capua Thessa am um Icon iu m Nic Tarraco Brundisium nia Perg Tarsus Toletum Puteoli Apollo mea A l e 30 d Emeri Tarentum sus Augustta Ephe ioch Apa raFelicit Side Ant my xa as a Pal nd y s Julia Athen ae cus ria Cordu m as Da a ba Cybele -M a Messana Isis Caes tus Carthago s il Rhegium Sparta a re Bery Bos tra s Nova ia a- Gades B yz s Syracuse anti Tyru re a Malaca s Hippo Cnoss us um 2 C aesa d ay Regius n 0 da y s Tingis Gade s - O stia 9 Carthage ex Gorty A a nd Caesarea l ria - Rome 20 days a Cirta - P ut eoli 15–20 da ys (fastest 9 days ) Gaz a ene 6 days Petr andria - Cyr m a Theveste Alex Pelus iu A elan ndria Cyrene Alexa Sabrata na phis Leptis Mag Berenice Mem Osiris rmus s Ho Myo imen os L Leuc ae Theb nice Bere 42
  • 41. R E L I G I O N S U N D E R R O M Efacets of a single Romano-British deity. In North appealed to battle-hardened legionaries.Africa, meanwhile, characteristics of the old Wherever the legions went, Mithras went too,Phoenician fertility god Baal-Hammon, renewer the soldiers’ guardian and guide: signs of hisof all energies, were effectively grafted on to worship have been found in the very shadow ofthose of Jupiter, to produce a recognizably Hadrian’s Wall.Roman deity, Jupiter-Ammon, whose particular The fort at Carrawburgh, Northumberlandcharacteristics were nevertheless appropriate to is one of five Mithraic shrines to have beenthe traditions of a region on whose arid soils found in Britain, and one of the best sources yetagricultural life had always been that much more discovered of archeological insights into theprecarious than they had ever been in Italy. workings of this secret devotion. Some 20 adherents seem to have gatheredMITHRAS here at any one time, wearing masksSome gods and goddesses in subject lands to mark the level of initiation theysucceeded in maintaining their independent had reached – those grades we knowexistence: the Egyptian Isis, and her husband of are Raven, Lion,Osiris, for example. The latter’s death each Soldier, Bride and Father.year clearly symbolized the death of the crops The ordeals endured byin the Nile Valley; the tears of the widow who postulants hoping torestored him to life were the annual floods. At progress from one grade tofirst an underground cult, confined to slaves, the next included everythingthe worship of Isis had won a degree of official from the binding of thebacking, and by the first century AD she had a hands with chickenprestigious temple in the heart of imperial intestines to theRome. By that time Mithras, the Persian god of branding of the bodylight and truth, had won a wide unofficial with red-hotfollowing in the Roman army: a male-only irons and evencult, with tough initiation rites, it naturally burial alive. RENDER UNTO CAESAR... Roman tolerance was not, of course, unlimited: wherever native religions showed the potential for destabilization they were ruthlessly crushed, as the Druids were, for instance, in parts of Gaul. Denounced by later critics as a ‘slave morality’, Christianity’s values of peace and forgiveness should have made it easy enough for the Roman Empire to absorb.This does seem to be the case: it was Jesus’s misfortune that his mission on earth happened to coincide with a period of violent resistance in the province of Judaea. The chronicler Josephus, the only Roman author specifically to deal with Christ in his work, shows much more interest in the armed independence-struggle (and mass- crucifixion) of the Jewish Maccabees. Even afterwards, when Christ’s followers did destroyed much of his capital in AD 64. Only indeed suffer savage persecution, it was in very slowly in the centuries that followed the first instance a matter of political would Christianity’s gospel of love come to opportunism, the Emperor Nero needing to be regarded as a serious threat to the mighty find a scapegoat for the disastrous fire that Roman Empire. 43
  • 42. A N C I E N T R E L I G I O N SNORTHERN EUROPEReligion of the LandscapeIndigenous religion in northern Europe was based upon the activities of everyday life.The climateand landscape gave it its character, hunting and farming its deities and festivals. Focused onlocal cults and shrines, it was eventually overwhelmed by the better-organized Christian church. Offerings were cast into lakes Northern European Peoples and springs at certain times of Left: Northern European Peoples With the decline of the Roman Empire T S year in thanksgiving or the way was opened for expansion of PIC propitiation. Holy trees were S the native northern Europeans. J UTE ANGL E S Germanic peoples spread northwards protected by fences, and decked O N N GLES to Sweden and Norway and westwards with garlands and ribbons. into France. Later the marauding S ON A S Sacred signs, images of gods Viking Norsemen took this influence T S SLAVS AX S AX still further, expanding into Iceland S and animals were carved on L FRISIANS G IANI N- and the British Isles and even on into S E R rocky outcrops; stopping- C the Mediterranean. THU FRANKISH KINGDOM LOMBARDS places along tracks and roads ALEMANNI K.OF OSTROGOTHIC were marked by shrines to local AQUITANIA BURGUNDY KINGDOM gods as places of devotion BAS for travellers. ES V Q U ES SUE Other holy places with no M DO IN G particular natural features have IC K G OTH VISI been marked by posts, images and temples. Cairns were VANDALS generally erected where a sacrifice was made, or where a person had died. It was a sacredN ORTHERN EUROPEAN religion is essentially polytheistic. Northern religion acknowledges spirit guardiansof fields and flocks, earth spirits, water and treesprites, spiritual protectors of travellers andseafarers, personifications of disease and death,and demons who bring bad luck. These are theinnate spiritual qualities of places, expressed asguardian spirits or deities.A SACRED LANDSCAPEReligion in northern Europe is inextricablybound up with landscape, climate and the cycleof the seasons. The same features of landscapeare sacred in the Celtic, Germanic, Slavic andBaltic traditions into which the main elementsof northern European religion mayconveniently be divided. They include hills andmountains, springs, rivers and lakes, specialrocks and trees. Each have their particularmarks of veneration. Mountains were rituallyascended on the holy days of the sky gods.44
  • 43. R E L I G I O N O F T H E L A N D S C A P Eact to place a stone upon it with a prayer. From RECORDSaround the ninth century, labyrinths made of turf Certain ancient texts, most notably the Irishor stones were used in spring rites, weather-magic Dindsenchas preserve landscape myths that dateand ceremonies of the dead. Early Christian from pre-Christian times. The best record ofchurches were built on such sacred places when landscape religion comes from Iceland. During thethe old religion was destroyed. There are 134 ninth and tenth centuries, the uninhabited island ofplaces in Brittany alone where Christian churches Iceland was colonized by settlers from Norway andare built upon places of ancient worship. the Western Isles of Scotland. Their religious Particular mountains were recognized as holy. response to the landscape is recorded inAmong the most notable are Mont Ventoux in Landnámabók. These settlers were acutely awareProvence, the Celtic holy mountain of the winds; of the spiritual nature of places. Certain areas wereHelgafell in Iceland; Ríp in Bohemia, the place of not settled, being reserved for the landvaettir (‘land Heathendom is ... that theythe Czech ancestors; Hörselberg, Wurmberg and wights’) or spirits of place. Ceremonies were worship heathen gods, andBrocken in Germany; and the Polish holy performed in honour of the landvaettir, and the sun or moon, fire or rivers,mountains of Góra Kosciuszki, Lysa Góra, offerings left for them. More generally, prayers water-wells or stones, or forestRadunia and Sobótka. Mountains dedicated to St were directed towards Helgafell, the Icelandic holy trees of any kind...Michael all over Europe were often formerly mountain. Before praying, devotees first washed The Dooms of Canute, king ofplaces of solar veneration. their faces out of respect. Denmark and England (1020–23). SEASONAL FESTIVALS Throughout northern Europe, religious festivals are linked with the seasons. The midwinter solstice, celebrating the increasing light after the longest night, is the major festival of the year. Celebrated with feasting and fires, disguise and games, it was the old Norse Yule, Slavic Kracun, and the Lithuanian Kucios and Kaledos. Most midwinter rites and ceremonies of the old religion were absorbed into Christmas. In eastern Europe, the day on which the first thunder of the year was heard was sacred to the god Perun. Because hens begin to lay when days become longer than the nights, eggs are symbols of springtime. The oldest extant spring egg is from Wolin, Poland. Covered with marbled patterns, it dates from the tenth century. The Christian festival of Easter is named after the Germanic goddess of springtime, Eostre. In Celtic religion, Beltane fires, sacred to the god of fire and light, Belenos, were kindled on May Day, and maypoles were erected. Midsummer was also commemorated by erecting poles and lighting fires. Harvest-time was the Anglo-Saxon festival of Lammas, the Celtic Lá Lúnasa celebrating the god Lugus. The ancestral dead were remembered in early November with festivals including the Celtic La Samhna and the Lithuanian Velines. 45
  • 44. A N C I E N T R E L I G I O N SCeltic ReligionThe Celts emerged as a powerful force in central Europe, later expanding to occupy the north-west. Acknowledging the divine in all things, their religion was influenced by Roman practices.The Druids are the best-remembered ancient priesthood of northern Europe, although theysuffered persecution first by the Romans, then by the Christian Church.D EFINED BY THEIR material culture, the Celts emerged as a recognizable group around the seventh century BC inAustria: the Hallstatt Culture. From the fifthcentury BC, the Greeks gave the name ‘Keltoi’ tothe tribes of central Europe who raided their cities.During the late fifth century BC Celtic influencesexpanded westwards into what is now France andSpain, northwards to Britain and Ireland andeastwards through the Balkans into Asia Minor. Early Celtic religion was aniconic (withoutimages) and atectonic (without architecturalsettings). Celtic oral culture has left no ancienttexts, and any information we have comes fromcontemporary Greek and Roman authors, inaddition to archeology and later writings thatput oral traditions in writing.HOLY GROVES AND TEMENOICeltic holy groves (nemetona) were held in aweand approached only by members of thepriesthood. The modern place-name element the areas of present-day France, Germany and Celtic Europe By 200 BCnemet or nympton denotes the former site of a Switzerland adopted human form for their The extent of the Celtic inhabitationholy grove. The goddesses Nemetona and deities. Sacred buildings were introduced as the of Europe is best identified throughRigonemetis are named as protectors of groves. result of the influence of Roman religion and evidence of their material culture such as artefacts, burial sites, hillforts andThe temenos was the central place of collective some 70 Celtic deities are named in surviving settlements. The map shows their areaworship for the continental Celts; it was an inscriptions from the Roman period. of influence by 200 BC.enclosure, defined by ditches, in whichceremonial gatherings took place and was Extent of Celtic impact N O R T H on Europe by 200 BCgenerally square or rectangular. In central BRITISH ISLES S E AEurope the enclosures known as viereckschanze(‘four-cornered fort’) are Celtic temenoi, Thetemenoi contained aniconic or iconic images, A T L A N T I C O C E A Nsacred stones, ceremonial fireplaces, a tree or GERMANYpole, wells and shafts for ritual offerings. FRANCECompressed earth at such places attests toceremonial perambulation or dances aroundthe central point. ITA IBERIAIMAGES OF THE GODS LY BALKANSFrom the late sixth century BC, the Celts beganto make anthropomorphic images from stone M E D I T E R R A N E A N S E A ANATOLIAwhich were set up on burial mounds. Under theinfluence of Mediterranean culture, the Celts in46
  • 45. C E L T I C R E L I G I O N Brigid was a great goddess whom the poets worshipped, for very great and noble was her perfection. Her sisters were Brigid, woman of healing, and Brigid, woman of smith’s craft, goddesses. Cormac’s Glossary, Ireland, ninth century AD Julius Caesar stated that the Gauls war, also assimilated with the Roman Mars,considered Dis Pater, the lord of the underworld, include Belutacadros, Cocidius, Corotiacus,to be their divine ancestor. In Ireland, the Loucetius and Rigisamus. Ogmios, god ofgoddess Dana was the ancestress of certain strength and eloquence, was equated withtribes. The Celtic kings in Britain counted their Hercules. Poeninus, god of mountain ranges,descent from the divine couple Beli and Anna. was also equated with Jupiter.Lugus, or Lugh, was the supreme god of the In common with other Europeanwestern Celts. traditions, the Celts acknowledged various In Celtic regions under Roman rule, images gods of trades and crafts. Seafarersand altars to Celtic deities bore inscriptions that worshipped the sea-god called Manannan orreflected the interpretatio Romana. According Manawydden. Smiths had a god with a nameto this, Lugus is equated with Mercury, Taranis, close to the Irish Gobniu, Sucellos was god ofthe Celtic god of thunder, with Jupiter, and vineyards and Rosmerta goddess ofTeutates, god of the tribe, with Mars. Gods of fruitfulness and financial gain. CELTIC PRIESTHOOD The Celtic priesthood comprised the century BC bronze calendar from Coligny in Bards, Vates and Druids, all of whom were France, inscribed with Greek characters, is restricted to Ireland, Gaul and Britain. The the only surviving example. Divided into 62 Bards were the genealogists, keepers of consecutive lunar months, it shows the main myth and song. Vates performed sacred religious festivals of the Gallic year, with divinations, whilst the Druids performed auspicious and inauspicious months. religious rites. The Roman author Lucan, According to classical sources, the Druids in his Pharsalia, mentions the Gaulish taught the doctrine of transmigration of Druids who lived in deep groves and souls. In this belief, human souls at death remote woodlands. ‘They worship the gods enter into trees, rocks or animals, or newborn in the woods without using temples,’ noted humans. Outside the Druidic order, each holy his commentator. place had its own guardian, certain members According to classical writers, the Druids, of the family who owned the land.The office of whose name meant ‘men of the oak tree’, dewar, keeper of sacred things, continued in were keepers of astronomical knowledge Scotland and Ireland in a Christian context and regulators of the calendar. A first- until the twentieth century. 47
  • 46. A N C I E N T R E L I G I O N SGermanic ReligionGermanic religion was relatively uninfluenced by Rome. Spread toEngland in the sixth century AD, it was soon replaced by Christianity.In mainland Europe, it succumbed to the crusades of Charlemagne.It survived longer in Scandinavia, from whence it was re-exported tothe British Isles by the Vikings, who also took it to Iceland and Greenland.T HE POLYTHEISTIC RELIGION of the used in divination and sacred inscriptions – Germanic peoples was centred upon the which were believed to come from Woden. cult of the divine ancestor. In early times,the king’s ancestor was also the tribal god, and THE GERMANIC GODSthis principle was maintained until well into Germanic religion continued in ScandinaviaChristian times. Seven out of eight Anglo-Saxon until the tenth century AD, long after it had diedroyal genealogies begin with Woden, as does the out in England and Germany. The conversionSwedish royal line. Folk meetings were held on of England began in AD 597, when the firstmoot hills, the burial mounds of ancestors, whose Christian missionaries arrived in Kent and inhelp was invoked in decision-making. Seeresess AD 716 Boniface made his first trip to Germany. Settlements of the Germanic Peoples The Germanic peoples are classed asaccompanied early Germanic rulers; they It was re-imported to parts of Britain (northern those peoples descended from thecontacted the spirits of the ancestors by various Scotland and eastern England) and to central speakers of Proto-Germanic – thedivinatory techniques. From the fourth century Ireland by Viking and Danish settlers, although ancestor of German, as well as Dutch and Scandinavian. Germanic peoples sharedAD, they used the runes – an alphabet derived Christianity seemed to have survived the Viking a common culture and religion, whichfrom the Etruscans with religious significance, raids, albeit with interruptions in Christian spread with them as they migrated.
  • 47. G E R M A N I C R E L I G I O N NORDIC PRIESTHOOD AND TEMPLES The office of Godi originated in the priest complete with the sacred earth on which it of a tribe or clan who held a certain sacred stood. Some Norse shrines were dedicated place in common. Godar were never full- to particular gods, such as the temple of the time officials, but were rather hereditary Black Thor at Dublin. Others housed many landowners who had the duty to maintain deities. ancestral holy places. In Iceland, the Godi in charge of the temple at Kialarnes, the direct descendent of the first settler, Ingulf Amarson, bore the title Alsherjargodi, or High Priest. In accordance with ancient tradition Iceland was divided into four quarters, each containing three jurisdictions, further subdivided into three Godord, each with its ruling Godi. The Icelandic law-making assembly (Lögrétta) was originally composed largely of Godar. Norse temples were the personal property of the hereditary keeper of the land on which they stood. In Iceland, the Höfud-hof or public temples were sometimes owned by women. During the settlement period (ninth to tenth centuries AD), whole temples were shipped to Iceland. Erbyggja Saga tells of the Norwegian Godi Thórolf Mostrarskegg transporting his timber temple of Thor,practice. In earlier times, the sky god Tîwazwas considered the chief deity. There is alsoevidence of an older, pre-agricultural pantheon,including the god Frey and the goddess Freyja,known in Scandinavia as the Vanir. In Anglo- extension, the afhús, where sacred objects andSaxon England, Woden and Thunor were the images were kept. Here, regular festivals weremajor gods, whilst in Saxony, their observed to mark the passing of the seasons.counterparts, Wotan and Donar were There was a shrine in Saxony with a hugevenerated. Later, in Viking times, Odin post called Irminsul, the ‘universal pillar’, which Odin is called Allfather, for he(Woden) became pre-eminent, with the title was destroyed by Charlemagne in AD 772. The is the father of the gods. He is also called Father of the Slain,Allfather. Thor (Thunor), god of the peasantry, shrines of the god Fosite, on the holy island of for all who fall in battle are hiswas relegated to the status of son of Odin. Heligoland, were destroyed in AD 785. In the adoptive sons. He gives them Viking age, important temples of places in Valhalla...HOLY PLACES the Nordic gods stood at Jellinge Gylfagynning, Snorri SturlusonThe Germanic religious landscape in Denmark, Sigtuna and Gamlawas filled with sacred places. The Uppsala in Sweden, Mæri, Lade,Anglo-Saxon Wih was a holy image Skiringssal, Trondenes and Vatnsdal instanding in the open. In Scandinavian Norway, Kialarnes in Iceland and Dublinpractice, unsheltered images were in Ireland. Many Nordic templesprotected by a fence of Hazel contained images of more thanposts and ropes (the Vébond). one god, though some wereMore substantial was a shrine dedicated to a single deity.covered with a pavilion, the At Gamla Uppsala, theTraef or Hørgr. In Swedish royal centre,Scandinavia and Scandinavian which emerged as the most importantcolonies, communal worship took place in the temple, there were images of Thor, Odin andHof, a hall-form farmhouse with a special Frey – the three chief gods. 49
  • 48. A N C I E N T R E L I G I O N SSlavic and Baltic PeoplesSlavic and Baltic religion followed the general pattern of the Celtic and Germanic traditions.Worship was conducted first in holy groves, and later in wooden temples served by priests andpriestesses. In Lithuania, a state religion emerged in the thirteenth century whose remnants werestill evident 300 years later.T HE SLAVS CAME into existence as a was worshipped by the Elbe Slavs. In 1008 recognized ethnic group formed of the Bruno von Querfurt described his cult centre at amalgamation of various tribes who Retra. Inside a castle with nine towers was acame to occupy their territory in the sixth timber temple adorned with aurochs – hornscentury AD. Their polytheistic religion bedecked with gold and jewels. Among others,continued long after the Christian church had the main image was of Svarozic, dressed intaken over western and south-eastern Europe. armour, with weapons. The temple wasIn early times, the head of the family or clan destroyed in l068.officiated at religious ceremonies. From theeighth to ninth centuries onwards, a Slavic THE CULT OF PERUNpriesthood emerged. Rites formerly performed The thunder god Perun (Lithuanian Perkunas)in open-air enclosures or groves were was venerated throughout the Slavic andtransferred to newly built temples. In Baltic lands, in association with the weather-Pomerania, there were three grades of priest. and wind-gods Erisvorsh, Varpulis andCentral or provincial temples were officiated Dogoda. Perun is first mentioned in theover by a high priest. seventh-century AD Life of St Demetrios of Salonika. In AD 980, an image of Perun with aTHE SLAVIC GODS silver head and a golden beard was set up byByzantine chronicles of the sixth century AD the side of the River Volchov at Kiev. Atmention the Slavic god Svarog, a god of fire and Perynj, near Novgorod, an eternal fire of oaklight, equating him with the Greek Hephaistos. branches was maintained in honour of Perun.His son, Dazbog, was paralleled with the sun- Oak trees were sacred to Perun. In Poland, agod Helios. Dazbog was brought into the holy oak was venerated at Czestochowa. Inpantheon of Kiev by Duke Vladimir in AD 980. the tenth century, Russian devotees sacrificedAs Svarozic (son of Svarog) the god Dazbog chickens, made offerings of meat and bread,50
  • 49. S L AV I C A N D B A L T I C P E O P L E Sand shot arrows in honour of the god at a worship of national heroes, practised cremationsacred oak on the holy island of Chortice in of the dead, and taught the doctrine ofthe river Dnieper. reincarnation. Until the early fifteenth century, Lithuanian royalty and noblemen were crematedLITHUANIAN STATE RELIGION in full regalia accompanied by their horses, dogsLithuanian religion was formulated by and falcons. As late as 1583, Jesuit monksSventaragis in the sixth century AD, when the visiting Lithuania reported that Perkunas wascult of Perkunas was established. All over being worshipped at oak trees.Lithuania, on tracts of land called alkos sacred In addition to the Vilnius shrine, there wasto the god, eternal fires were maintained by another important centre at Romuva (nowpriestesses known as vaidilutes. Sventaragis in the Kaliningrad enclave of Russia),established an ancestral centre in an oak grove where, Peter von Duisburg records in 1326,at Vilnius, where the ancestors of the ruling a high priest, Kriviu Krivaitis, officiated.dynasty were venerated. Whilst Perkunas was the major god, the During the early thirteenth century, in Lithuanian pantheon contained many otherresponse to external threats, a polytheistic state deities, including the goddesses Zemynareligion was established by King Mindaugas. It (earth), Saule (sun), Gabija (fire), and Laima,amalgamated local cults, emphasized the goddess of individual destinies. TEMPLES IN POMERANIA In Vilnius ... Skirtnantas, the Until 1123, when it was destroyed by Bishop had seven heads and seven swords. Lithuanian ruler, ordered vestals Otto of Bamberg, a temple of Gerovit stood A hereditary high priest who was the head of and priests to make offerings in honour of the gods and to the at Wolgast, a fortified holy island at the the ruling family officiated at the temple of Great God Perkunas, who rules junction of three rivers in Pomerania. Until Svantevit (Svarog) at Arkona. Svantevit was fire, thunder and lightning. Day the same time, temples of Triglav existed at depicted in a multiple-headed image holding and night, they were to feed the Wolin, Sezezin and the place that retains his a horn. Comparable tenth-century images eternal flame with oak wood. name today, Trzyglów. The holy island of have been found in Poland in the Riavinski If the fire ever went out, it was Rügen in the Baltic, settled by the Wends in forest and the River Zbruc. The Rügen re-lit from sparks made with a the seventh century AD, contained two main temples were destroyed in 1169 by Danish great boulder. temple enclosures, at Garz and Arkona. crusaders after fierce resistance from the The Lithuanian and At Garz, an oaken image of the god Rugievit men-at-arms dedicated to defend them. Samogytian Chronicle 51
  • 50. A N C I E N T R E L I G I O N SCENTRAL AND SOUTH AMERICAThe MayaIn what is now Mexico, the Maya dominated the lowland peninsula oftheYucatan highlands, Chiapas and most of Guatemala.There wasnever one unified theocracy but a number of aggressive city-states.TheMaya favoured the arts and learning and pushed knowledge of astronomy andmathematics much further than any previous civilization in the Americas.Theyrecorded much of their knowledge and beliefs by means of glyphs which, sincetheir decipherment, have enabled us to know much more about their religion.T he effects on the Mayan people of their All gods were endowed with a huge pantheon of supernatural forces – calendrical presence, some more directly deities, spiritual beings and essences, than others: the Pahuatuns or windcould in part be discerned or predicted by the use deities (Ik in the calendar); the Chicchans,of their Calendars. The Tzolkin or divinatory a giant snake (Chicchan); and the fourcalendar, consisted of a 260-day sacred round. Balams, jaguars who protected theFound exclusively in Mesoamerica, the calendar cultivated fields (Ix). Also important wereconsisted of 13 numbers linked to 20 day names, Exchel, the moon and the four Chacs oreach of which was a divine force: the first, Imix rain gods. (See also pages 84–85 onwas linked to the earth monster. The Highland Maya Today.) El Meco Chichén Itzá Cobá Xelhá Dzibilchaltún Izamal San Gervasio The Realm of the Maya Halakal Acancéh Aké Tancáh settlements Tihoo Yaxuná Tulum trade and traded items Mayapán Oxkintok Maní trade feathers Uxmal routes Loltun Cave Huaymil Kabáh slaves Labná Chacmool cacao Sayil Jaina marine products Xcocha Santa Rosa Xtampak obsidian and shells Dzibilnocac jade salt Etzná Left: The Realm of the Maya I T Z Á language group Hochob Yucatán Like their neighbours, the Aztec, the Ichpaatun Champotón Pechal Maya thrived on trade. This map shows Cilvituk Santa Rita Xpuhil Cerros the realm of the Maya, their Becan Nohmul Río Bec settlements, their language groups Cuello Oxpemul and the items that they traded. El Palmar metalwork imported Xicalango Calakmul from Mexican Río Azul highlands El Mirador Uxul San Jose Naachtún La Honradez metalwork Bellote Barton Ramie imported from Jonuta Uaxactún Holmul Comalcalco Moralles Tikal Central America Naranjo Uolantún Pomona C H O N TA L Piedras I T Z Á Topoxte Ucanal Tzimin Kax San Miguel Negras El Cayo Tayasal Mountain Cow Palenque Caracol El Pajaral Ixkun CHOL La Mar El Yaxchilán MOPÁN Lubaantun Toniná LACANDÓN K E K C H I Seibal Pusilha Right: A jade serpent recovered T Z E L TA L Bonampak JICAQUE Kuna Machaquilá from a sacred well (or cenote) at Altar de Sacrificios Cancuén San Felipe TZOTZIL Chichen Itza. Chiapa del Corzo Aquateca Naco Santa Rita San Augustín TOJOLABAL POKOMCHÍ Santa Cruz Chinkultic KEKCHI Quen Santo Quiriguá Los Higos T Z E L TA L Chamá Santa Rosa Chaculá Nebaj QUICHÉ Pantzac Copán Yarumela TIME LINE Tonalá Chutixtiox Zacualpa Acasaguastlán Zaculeu Cahyup POKOMAM MAM Utatlán Mixco Viejo Olmecs 150–750 BC Tajumulco CAKCHIQUEL Abaj Kaminaljuyú Sololá Izapa Amatitlán Takalik Zapotecs AD 300–600 El Baúl Pantaleón El Jobo Chalchuapa Salinas Chocolá la Blanca TZUTUHIL Monte Obrero Usulután Alto Finca Arizona Classic Maya AD 300–900 Tiquisate52
  • 51. T H E M AY AMAYA COSMOLOGYIn Maya cosmology, seven layers extendedabove the earth ruled by the 13 deities of theHeavens: six marked the sun’s ascent, six its The 365-day solar calendar consisting of 18 months of 20 daysdescent and one its position at midday. Below (here shown running together)the earth was Xibalba, the realm of the dead,consisting of four layers and ruled by the ninedeities of the underworld, an unpleasant place The 20 day names of theof putrefaction and strong smells from which 260-day sacred roundillnesses came. Each night, the sun passedthrough the underworld in the guise of a jaguar,descending through four layers beforemidnight, to ascend again (through four) to risein the east. The underworld was linked to theheavens by a huge tree, the ceiba, which is stillconsidered to be sacred in Mayan communitiestoday. The tree marked the centre of the earth,distinguishing where the sun rose (our east andlinked to the colour red) from where the sun set(west and linked to black). The north and south(or up and down) were simply known assides of heaven and associated with white andyellow respectively. The 13 day numbers of the The other, 365-day calendar was important for 260-day sacred rounddetermining the dates of ritual. It consisted of 18named months linked to 20 numbers (360) and a The Mayans, like other Mesoamerican peoples such as the later Aztecs, had amonth of five days known as the Uayeb, whose sophisticated calendar. The divinatory,days were considered particularly unpropitious. 260-day calendar intermeshed with theThe 365-day calendar was based on astronomical 365-day calendar (rather like interlocking cog wheels) to give each day its distinctcalculations and intermeshed with the 260-day character. With both calendars, andivinatory calendar. With the two calendars identically named day only re-occurredcombined, an identically named day only occurred every 18,980 days (i.e. 52 years).every 52 years, after which a new cycle began. RECOVERING MAYA BELIEFS It is the Chilam Balam and the Popul Vue, documents especially of war captives and occasionally of children, but written after the Spanish Conquest, which began in 1517, not on a scale comparable to the Aztecs. Animals and birds plus the numerous depictions on pottery and sculpture, were also offered, such as armadillos and parrots, and which tell us much of what we know about the Maya’s plants or plant products: copal, flowers, cacao, honey and beliefs, mythology and practices: such as those of the the rubbery like chichle, from which chewing gum is made. mythical hero-twins, Xbalanque and Hunapahu, sons of Deities varied from community to community as did the Hun Hunapahu (god of corn), who were monster slayers details of the calendars themselves. Both calendars are still and ballplayers. More recently the decipherment of the to be found in use today, however, in many Mayan Mayan hieroglyphic script has added detail which communities in the highlands of Guatemala, for divinatory previously could only be guessed at. purposes and to give shape to the ritual year. Rituals were huge affairs, preceded by fasting, abstinence and ceremonial steam baths, accompanied by music, dancing and incense and attended by many. Autosacrifice was an important means of contacting the deities. By drawing a cord or piece of grass through the penis or the nose, and letting blood, visions could be induced, personified by the Vision Serpent. This was performed particularly by the king and his wife. Human sacrifice did occur, 53
  • 52. A N C I E N T R E L I G I O N SThe AztecsThe Aztecs were an itinerant people who settled in the Valley of Mexicobetween AD 1200 and 1300. From humble beginnings they rose to become thedominant political force in Central America by the time of the Spanish arrivalin 1519. Daily life was dominated by the sun,Tonatiuh, who by the time of theAztecs (1350–1525) was often equated with Huitzilopochtli, their principaldeity and also a god of war. He demanded to be fed by blood in order to keeprising, necessitating human sacrifice.W HAT WE KNOW of Aztec religion around AD 1325, after a long journey south is primarily due to the accounts of from Aztlan during the fifth and final Sun, those Spanish friars who, after the which was to bring earthquakes and famine.Aztec defeat, became interested in the beliefsand practices they were attempting to stamp THE COSMOSout. The Aztec codices, folding screens books According to myth, there had already been fourmade from deer skin, give us details in a previous Suns, each of which had beenpictorial language while the sculptural forms destroyed. But the last was a Sun of movement,can tell us what their deities looked like. such that some of the gods had even sacrificed themselves in order to keep it in motion. TheTHE RISE OF THE LAST SUN world was believed to consist of a discThe Aztecs were the last of a number of surrounded by water with 13 layers above anddifferent cultures that occupied the Central nine layers below. In the highest livedMexican plateau and the most belligerent, Ometeotl, the omnipotent supreme being, deity The Aztec Empire to 1519although their expansionist empire lasted only of duality both masculine and feminine, but The Aztec relied heavily on trade and tributes for their livelihood. The mapa century. Huitzilopochtli owed his pre- who also lived in Mictlan, the underworld and shows the major sites, settlements andeminence to the Chichimeca-Mexica tribal peopled all the other layers. Ometeotl had four trading routes of the Aztec Empire to 1519. The expansion of the Empirepeoples whose deity he was. They had made sons, the four Tezcatlipocas, (a name usually was also driven by the need to acquireTenochtitlan (today Mexico City) their home in translated as ‘Smoking Mirror’) two of whom captives for use as human sacrifices. Pá Tamuín nu co Aztec capital founded AD1325 Teayo Tula El Tajín Tzintzuntzán Azcapotzalco L.Texcoco Texcoco B a y o f C a m p e c h e Chichén Itzá Tenochtitlán Mayapán Tlatelolco Tlacopán long-dist Tlaxcala a nce contacts from 9th century AD Malinalco Cacaxtla Aztec period temple Cholula Cempoala Xochicalco Tulum carved in rock major centre of Aztec allies Y u c a t á n s tween lsa Teotitlán trading exchanges be Champotón Ba Teh P e n i n s u l a lley Va uacá A z t e c a n d M a ya Xicalango Monte Albán Va Yagul lle y n Ichpaatun ca Mitla xa Oa Santa Rita ACALAN Lamanai Maya centres occupied Tipu continuously until Tayasal mid-17th century Guiengola The Aztec Empire to 1519 Gulf of Honduras Maya area XO CO area of Aztec domination, 1519 Zaculeu Wild Cane Cay N rich province supplying island trading centre US trading routes cacao to the Aztec capital CO Xoconocho Iximché54
  • 53. T H E A Z T E C Sare sometimes known as Quetzalcoatl (‘Plumed These were lavish and costly affairs, at leastSerpent’) and Huitzilopochtli (‘Hummingbird in Tenochtitlan which was a large andon the Left’). sophisticated city, with 30 distinct classes of Associated with the four early Suns, they priests and priestesses, education for women,were responsible for creating fire, a half sun and and slaves. The ceremonies were held in themoon, water, other divine beings and the open air and were attended by thousands,calendar. But it was the fifth Sun that completed including the common people.the cosmos. During the preparatory days, the priests fasted (one mealTHE FESTIVALS per day) and observedThe Aztecs had two calendars, the Haab and the prohibitions (on bathingTonalpohualli, but most of the large monthly and sex). An all-night vigilreligious festivals were related to the former, the preceded the festival itself,365-day cycle. Many were for agricultural which was usually ofmatters and dedicated to Tlaloc and the several days duration.Tlaloque (the deities of water and fertility), Shrines were emboweredwhile others propitiated Huitzilopochtli, and decorated withTezcatlipoca or Xiuhtecuhtli (deity of fire), or flowers, and offeringsfemale deities, such as the goddess of love, of food, clothingXochiquetzal (‘Precious Flower’) or Coatlicue and rubber-spattered(‘She of the Serpent Skirt’). papers were made, accompanied by burning incense and libations. Through- out the festivities sacred songs were sung, music played and there was dancing. Festivities in the countryside were simpler, more benign and often dedicated to local and QUETZALCOATL Although still part of feminine deities (such as Tonantzin, who the Aztec pantheon, represented the power of the earth). For Quetzalcoatl (as the although the Aztecs conquered a huge area and plumed serpent) was of brought all the foreign deities into their less significance than at pantheon in Tenochtitlan, they were unable to the time of the earlier city- state of Teotihuacan obliterate local customs. (150 BC–AD 750 – see Time Most pre-Christian practices were Line below), where he was eradicated, with time, by the Spaniards but revered as a feathered there are today groups in Mexico City who celestial dragon. For the laterToltecs (AD 900–1200), are disaffected with their lives and he became the patron of with globalization. Calling themselves the warriors and associated Mexica, they are attempting to reinvent with the morning star. Aztec religiosity. THE SACRIFICES Each festival had one or more processions and a compelling political message: that which included those to be sacrificed, the Aztecs were the servants of their sometimes dressed up as deities (ixiptla), deities. Often thousands of men and whom they impersonated for a day or two, women were sacrificed, captives from living in luxury, before their hearts were cut neighbouring groups, their bodies allowed TIME LINE out with an obsidian knife and offered up in to fall down the steps from the top of the Teotihuacan 150 BC–AD 750 ceremonial vessels and their flayed skins ceremonial pyramids, after which their Toltecs AD 900–1200 worn by male dancers. These were heads were placed on the skull rack and theatrical occasions with dramatic appeal their flesh cooked. Aztecs AD 1350–1525 55
  • 54. A N C I E N T R E L I G I O N SThe IncasThe Incas were originally a mountain culture, brought to the Cuzco Valley bylegendary leader Manco Capac in 1200.They gradually established theirdominance over other valley cultures, until at their height they incorporatedmuch of Peru and Bolivia, and sections of Chile, Argentina and Ecuador. Atthe head of the empire was a divine monarch, who demanded a loyalty akin toslavery, but provided for all the needs of the people in return. Religion wasorganized in a similar fashion, with Viracocha, the supreme immanent deity,responsible for all the others.The most important religious ceremonies tookplace in Cuzco, the centre of the empire, for the Sun (Inti), his consort theMoon (Mama Qiya) and Ilyap’a (the thunder and weather deity).T HE CONSOLIDATION of the Inca SACRED GEOGRAPHY empire had occurred (c. 1400) only a Conceptually, the Inca cosmos was divided into little over a century before its conquest spheres linked together by Viracocha (as theby the Spanish in 1532, and covered parts of cosmic river). This earth (kaypacha) was seen aspresent-day Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador and Chile. an almost vertical domain, probably because ofAlthough Viracocha was considered to be the immense physical diversity that characterizesomnipresent, this name was just one of the many the region – rising from sea level to highattributions given to the deity before the arrival mountains in a very short distance.of the Spaniards. Only east and west were named, where the sun rose and set while the country was seen toTHE INCA COSMOS consist of four unequal ritual quarters, as wasAt the beginning of the cosmic cycle, Cuzco itself. Radiating out from the CoricanchaViracocha was associated with Lake Titicaca, (the temple of the Sun in Cuzco) were ceques –out of which the sun, moon and stars emergedand ascended as gods. The numerous lesserdeities were believed to have emanated fromthe caves, hills, springs and mountains, manytaking animal (zoomorphic) or bird (avian)forms. The Quechua-speaking indigenouspeople today still associate their deities withthese sacred locations known as huacas.Considered to be animate, they are imbuedwith supernatural power and mythicsignificance, and are usually marked by stones.Some are the tombs of ancestors, whichcontained their mummies during the time ofthe Inca empire. It was to the huacas thatsacrifices of alpacas and llamas and sometimeschildren were made, linked to divination byritual specialists. Mostly of regionalsignificance, nonetheless travellers made andstill make offerings of coca, chicha (beer),pieces of clothing or an additional stone,particularly during pilgrimages. The earthitself, known as Pachamama (the earth mother)has not only to be consulted, but also assuaged.56
  • 55. T H E I N C A S known as Qolqa (‘the granary’), were particularly important for prognostication of agricultural fertility and many of the bigger ceremonies centred around the growth cycle. Important rituals were held also at solstices. During the festival of Qapaq Raymi in December, as held in Cuzco, boys of royal descent were initiated and llamas sacrificed to the sun. The llama was sacred to the royal lineage. So, for the Ayriwa celebrations, in April, a perfect white llama was dressed in red with gold ear ornaments and taught to ingest coca and chicha and allowed to live. For other festivals, the llamas were less lucky and were usually sacrificed, sometimes in Inca Empirea series of some 41 conceptual lines along which large numbers and usually accompanied by The Inca empire expanded rapidly in the fifteenth century. From Cuzco, thestill lie some 328 huacas. prayer, music, dancing and drinking. Inca emperor exerted rigid control over The various parts of the empire were linked By the time of Pachacutec, anthropomorphic this extensive territory by means of atogether by a network of roads along which statues had been made, such as that of Viracocha highly trained bureaucracy, a state religion, a powerful army and anmessengers ran carrying quipu, bundled cords, fashioned from gold and representing a young advanced communications network.from which hung dyed knotted strings. These boy. Viracocha was also believed to be a culture The final expansion under Huayna Capac put the Inca world under greatwere coding devices that could communicate hero and to travel throughout his dominions and strain, however, and by the arrival ofinformation at a distance: the Incas lacked according to myth disappeared across the ocean the Spanish conqueror Pizarro, in 1533,a written language which means that all of to the north-west. civil war had split the empire in two.our information on their religious practices ispost-conquest. Ja pu rá QuitoINCA HISTORY AND RITUAL AmazoThe first Inca (king) was Manco Capac, who nwas also seen as an androgynous founder Cuencaancestor. All subsequent Incas and their wives, CHINCHAYSUYU ón M ar a ñ A(the Coyas) were also considered to be of divine li adescent: the Inca, the son of the sun; the Coya, C ay Uc H nM Úthe daughter of the moon. Their festivals were P urus I Chan Cajamarcaordered according to a calendar based on the Chan e or d ammoon and stars and consisting of 12 months. MThey gave particular importance to the Milky Huánuco e BombónWay, two of whose constellations were named sas a baby and an adult llama. The Pleiades, Pachacamac Machu ANTISUYU Picchu Inkahwasi Ollantaytambo DIVINATION Vilcashuamán Cusco Limatambo As all illness was believed to be due to M Lake Titicaca CUNTISUYU Tiahuanaco supernatural causes, divination was o important for curing when amulets, plants, Cochabamba The Inca Empire guinea-pig fat and parts of other animals u The growth of the Inca Empire: were administered. For really serious under Pachacuti, 1438–63 illnesses or for taking important decisions, an Pacific n added under Pachacuti oracle would be consulted such as at the and Topa Inca, 1463–71 Ocean COLLASUYU added under Topa Inca, Apurima huaca, where a tree trunk, had a t 1471–93 ‘gold band the thickness of one hand territory under Huayna Capac, 1493–1525 a ...wrapped around it; this band had a pair of ANTISUYU Four Quarters of the solid gold breasts on it’ and was dressed in Inca Empire i imperial roads women’s clothing ‘of very fine gold and many ...large pins’. ‘...this post was covered in blood n from the sacrifices that were made there.’ s
  • 56. Indigenous ReligionsSHAMANISMShamanismShamanism is recognized as the world’s oldest religious tradition, evolvingbefore the Neolithic period (c. 8000–3000 BC) and the Bronze Age (2000–500BC). It was originally practised among hunting and gathering societies ofSiberia and Central Asia.T HE WORD SAMAN is derived from the Shamans come into their roles for a Tungus people of Siberia, becoming variety of reasons. Often it is a question of shaman in Russian, and has been inheritance, or they are something of ainterpreted to mean ‘he who knows’ or ‘one who social misfit, or else they undergo anis excited, moved, raised.’ References to these alteration in character. They may appearfigures include medicine men, sorcerers, possessed and experience remarkablemagicians, necromancers, ascetics, healers, behavioural changes and neurosis. This is referredecstatics, acrobats and Brahmans, but essentially to as the Initiation Crisis. Generally, oncethe shaman is an indigenous practitioner whose initiated, these symptoms disappear and theexpertise lies in entering a trance which enables shaman abandons his or her former life inhis or her soul to travel to the upper and lower submission to a new path. Women are as likely asworlds of the spirits and demons. Alternatively, men to be shamans. Essentially the shamans are inin mastering the spirits, the shaman will invite the possession of a supernatural gift that is receivedspirits into him or herself. The shaman’s journey from the spirit realm and the donor becomes thethrough this altered state of consciousness is spiritual guide or spiritual ‘spouse’. Shamansconducted in order to pass into the world of the know initiation when they have an apparition ofspirits as a mediator for his tribe or people. their guide, who will seemingly steal the soul and Shamanism is believed to have been present travel to another realm of the cosmos where thein most parts of the world, but it is known to soul will perish, only to be reproduced and, in ahave originated in Siberia. There is contention sense, reborn into a new vocation.over whether seeds of shamanism arosenaturally or were disseminated by means of THE ROOTS OF SHAMANISMtrade routes, migration or oral traditions. It is Siberia is the homeland of the shaman, whereplausible that most religions and cultures have they have been an integral part of the cultureacquired it or incorporated it through an innate of such peoples as the Tungus, the Mongols,human desire or inherent social need to the Samoyedes, the Inuits and the Altaians –communicate with the otherworld. from whom the term and definition ‘shaman’58
  • 57. S H A M A N I S Mhas originated. Siberian shamans have clearly South American shamans are also known to usedistinguished between the realms of the hallucinogens, psychotropic plants and tobacco No one enters uninitiated into the sea of mysteries. It iscosmos, according it upper, middle and lower whilst shamanizing. necessary that his spiritualrealms. Shamans can rescue souls from the In Peru and Native Amazonia, shamans senses be attuned, that theylower realm of the cosmos, whilst attaining acquired their powers from nature spirits of may grasp the spiritual tonescouncil from those in the heavens. Siberians plants and animals, or from deceased shamans and spiritual forms and colours.also distinguish shamans as being ‘black or mestizo, aided by periods of isolation and Ph. Kontugloushamans’ or ‘white shamans’. The black starvation. During the initiation period,shaman calls upon a wicked deity and the psychotropic plants are ingested at specificwicked spirit whilst shamanizing, whereas the times, whilst a strict diet and celibacy arewhite shaman applies to a benevolent deity observed. The plants are alleged to teach theand to good spirits. shamans how to overcome the evil spirits of the earth, waters and air, and how to journey withinSOUTH AMERICA the cosmos.South American shamans are distinguishableby attaining mastery over the auxiliaryspirits, through whom the shaman acquirespoems, music, songs and chants. This musicand verse is of prime importance to theirpower and their ability to shamanize. Some SHAMANIC RITUAL AND PROPS Shamanic rituals differ in all traditions, yet all share certain characteristics. These are associated with the trance-like state attained by the shaman in order to journey to the outer realms or to submit to possession by the otherworldly spirits. To coax the shaman into trance certain props are used.The most common of these is the shaman’s costume which, when examined, reveals the core beliefs of shamanism, as any doctrine or myth might. The Siberian costume consisted of a caftan adorned with mythical animals and iron discs, used for protection whilst in combat with the spirits. A mask is a very common feature sported by the shaman. Often grotesque and extraordinary, with extravagant colour and awesome designs, it allows the shamans to be transported, disguising them from their peers. Often the shaman is blindfolded and so journeys by an inner light, isolated from the outer reality. Animal skin, fur, feathers, bones, bells, a staff, a crown or cap and staves make up the shaman’s regalia. During the ritual, the shaman will induce violent breathing, may shake or sweat furiously, and may dance in a wild, frenetic manner, aided always by the constant and climactic beating of the drum.
  • 58. I N D I G E N O U S R E L I G I O N SOCEANIADeath, Ghosts and the SoulThe collection of islands in the Pacific Ocean and East Indies known as Oceania was colonizedby hunters from Southeast Asia around 30,000 years ago. From this time a belief systemdeveloped that is still practised today.The belief in ghosts, as a projection of the life-force of aperson, is central to spiritual thought throughout Oceania and has in fact become fused withChristianity rather than pushed away by it.The acceptance of Christian religion has not causedthe demise of two of the important aspects of Oceanic traditional religion: ghosts and sorcery.T HE SPIRITUAL RESIDUE of a person Foi do not speak of ‘west’ or ‘east’, but rather after life has departed the body takes the ‘upstream’ and ‘downstream’ as their main form of a ghost – a masalai in the New cardinal axis. The other dimensions they referGuinea Tokpisin language. These ghosts share the to are ‘above’, for places higher in altitude, andsame life space with the community of living ‘below’, for places lower in altitude.persons and constantly intrude, usually The afterworld in Foi is a place calledundesirably, in the affairs of the living. Men (it is haisureri, sometimes translated by the Foi asonly men who deal with ghosts in most of ‘white sand’. It is conceived as a beautiful regionMelanesia) attempt both to placate the ghosts and with fine sandy banks that lies far downstream,to appropriate their special powers – to find lost beyond the valley and beyond the places that theobjects; to foretell the future, to interpret dreams Foi traditionally knew of in pre-colonial times.– for their own purposes. They believe that when people die their souls travel downstream until they reach this place,THE FOI and in haisureri they continue to live, eat theThe Foi inhabit the Mubi River Valley in the special ghosts’ food that grows only there, and The Foi and the DaribiSouthern Highlands Province, a long and carry on in a caricature of living society. The Foi inhabit the Mubi River Valley insomewhat narrow valley which runs from Upstream, by contrast, is the source of all the Southern Highlands Province of Papua New Guinea, and the Daribinorthwest to southeast. The Mubi River and all water and the source of all life – they sometimes inhabit the southern part of the Simbuits smaller tributaries flow in this direction. The refer to the distant west as me ga kore, (the ‘place- Province around Mount Karimui. South The Foi and the Daribi China Foi pine S e a Philip Daribi Islands North Pacific Ocean N e w e a M G u i n E o L Borne A s N C e le b e N e w e a E G u i n S I A Samoa Java Tu Coral am ot Sea Fiji Tahiti u A Tonga rc P O L Y N E hi S I A pe la go I A A L T R S U A ian South Pacific Ocean Ind an O ce NEW ZEALAND
  • 59. D E AT H , G H O S T S A N D T H E S O U L It is not just the flow of water and digestion that are modelled by these macrocosmic orientations, but also the moral direction of the flow of social energy. By stipulating that men and women should inhabit distinct spatial zones, a visible flow – of food, sexual fluids, children – is set up between them. Pearl shells, which are given by men to other men in exchange for women as brides, govern the marital destinies of women and men, and thus also flow in similar mythical directions.source-upstream’), and it is the direction fromwhich pearl shells are thought to have originated,as well as certain brightly coloured shrubs andflowers associated with pearl-shell magic.THE DARIBIThe Daribi inhabit the southern part of SimbuProvince around Mount Karimui. Theirmacrocosm is similarly oriented by the flow ofthe Tua River, only in this case it flows from eastto west, thus paralleling the movement of thesun. It is interesting to note that in the cases of theFoi and Daribi it is the movement of water that isthe primary orienting movement, and movementof the sun, by contrast, is interpreted accordingly.Thus, for the Foi, the sunset is associated with theorigin and source of water and has connotationsof vitality and life. The red of a flamboyantsunset reminds them of the red paint that youngmen and women wear at dances, a time whenflirtation, sexual play and marriage proposals areapproved of. It also, of course, reminds them ofthe red colour of pearl shells. THE DARIBI LONGHOUSE The Daribi longhouse is oriented with the in the direction of the sunrise while women front of it facing east so that the rising sun live in the direction of the sunset, the place may shine through the front door. This is where water and ghosts go. For the Daribi considered the ‘face’ of the house, and is the sunset means just the opposite to that the only end provided with a ladder for of the Foi: it is associated with death and entrance – all coming and going is through the place the ghosts go, for ghosts follow the front door. The back door, by contrast, the direction of water in both the Foi and is used to throw rubbish and food remains Daribi traditions. out, and is also used as a latrine by the Unlike the Foi, both Daribi men and women men and women. live in the longhouse, which is divided into Thus, the Daribi longhouse is a miniature male and female areas: men live in the ‘east’ or microcosmic version of the more or ‘front’ section, while women live in the encompassing world space or macrocosm. ‘rear’ or ‘west’ section. East also means The analogy of the longhouse is that of the ‘higher’ in Daribi, as ‘west’ means ‘lower’ or human digestive tract, in which food and below; some Daribi longhouses are other materials enter from one end and constructed of two stories, in which case the excretion takes place out the other. Men live men sleep in the upper half. 61
  • 60. I N D I G E N O U S R E L I G I O N SThe Mythic ChieftainshipUnlike most interior New Guinea societies, in island Melanesia,as in Polynesia, the institution of chieftainship is a central socialand cultural institution.The chief has certain religious and ritualresponsibilities and partakes of a certain divinity himself. He isthe incarnation of certain deities, as in Hawai’i, or of the totem, asin New Caledonia.P OLYNESIAN SOCIETIES IN general CHIEFLY POWER are hierarchical, usually with a chiefly The primary concern of religion was ruling class, commoners, and a lower or protection of the people – individual andslave class. As well as the king being of divine group – from divine malevolence. Strictorigin, the head of a family also mediated the adherence to laws and procedures wasdivine realm. This function was increasingly necessary to keep the divine and physicaltaken over by a class of priests. There is much worlds in harmony. The main functions ofvariation in the region as to how separate were priests were the foretelling of events throughthe roles of chief and priest and the kinds of divine intercession, and leading ceremonies tosecular power they exerted. ensure the conventional stability of society.62
  • 61. T H E M Y T H I C C H I E F T A I N S H I P All chiefly power in Polynesia is body. The god father, however, forces them tomade possible by divine power. In the regurgitate the body, which he god then bringsMarquesas, the birth of a firstborn is referred back to life and sends to earth to be the firstto as the epiphany of a god, according to Tu’i Tonga.the anthropologist Douglas Oliver. It has Stone petrolgyphs in Hawai’i werealso been reported that Marquesans believed important ritual anchors between the surfacethat the firstborn was sired by an world and the divine sky realm. Hawai’ianancestral divinity. shrines, called heiau, were often built upon a sacred foundation of stones. One such place isTHE SACRED KING Kukaniloko. When Kukaniloko was used as anIn Tonga, the sacred king is known as the Tu’i ancient birthing place, there was a large stoneTonga. He was the main mediator between the that presumably held the mother up in a sittingrealm of the human and that of the divine, and position. A chief was requiredis said to have descended from the sky. In the to stand before eachmyth, the first Tu’i Tonga was Aho’eitu. He woman. The child bornwas the son of the earth-mother Ilaheva, who would be called ‘awas made pregnant by Eitumatupu’a, the sky chief divine; agod, who then went back to his heavenly realm. burning fire’. TheAs a small boy the son goes to heaven to find name Kukanilokohis father. When the god sees his son, he falls to itself means ‘anthe ground, so overwhelmed is he by his son’s inland area frombeauty. Later, Aho’eitu defeats his older which great eventsbrothers, who in revenge, kill him and eat his are heralded’. HAWAI’IAN GODS Humans and gods would compete over the power to reproduce themselves. La’ila’i is the older sister of both god and human and is also the firstborn. Her brothers, sometimes described as twins, are Ki’i (a man) and Kane (a god). She weds both of them, giving birth to both the line of humans and of gods, though the children of Kane are senior to those of Ki’i. As the generations succeed each other, the line of men repeatedly marry back into the line of gods, according to the Kumulipo chant. In Hawai’i, the time of the god Lono begins with the winter rainy season, the period when all things planted bear fruit. Lono is the god of regeneration and fertility, while Ku is the god of war and sacrifice. This generative power is maintained at the expense of its opposite, the power of war, which is the province of the god Ku, whose temple rituals are suspended during this period. After Lono departs, the king had to re-sanctify the temples of Ku by means of human sacrifices. It is said that Lono, as part of the general fertility he brings, descends from heaven to mate with a beautiful woman. Thus, when Captain Cook arrived, from the proper direction, at Hawai’i at the time of Lono, it was thought he was the god. The Hawai’ian women paddled out to meet him and his crew, eager to mate with the gods in the hope of bearing a sacred child who would be chief. 63
  • 62. I N D I G E N O U S R E L I G I O N S Millenarian Movements Cargo cult is the label given to a series of millenarian and apocalyptic movements that arose in many South Pacific islands following European colonization. What these cults have in common is a perception of the magical source of western material wealth and the Pacific islanders’ attempt to recreate that magical procedure so as to attain the wealth themselves. T HE CARGO CULT in Melanesia was be arriving by aeroplane. People abandoned in many respects an ‘inverted their gardens and engaged in frenzied acts anthropology’ – it was the attempt by of spirit possession. This was called ‘The Melanesian people to analyze the source and Vailala Madness’ by the anthropologist F. E. substance of the western material world in Williams. For the next 10 years the British terms of their own magical and spiritual colonial administration imprisoned all men cosmos, and efforts were expended to obtain who took leadership roles in inciting access to this world by means of their own hallucinatory activity and by 1931, the cult had ‘magical technology’. They saw acceptance died out. of Christianity as the Europeans’ ritual means of obtaining the cargo. This approach still remains fundamental to many Melanesians’ responses to governance and economic issues of today, although the cargo cults as such have become institutionalized and New Oceanic Cults ‘routinized’ to a large extent. The twentieth century witnessed the rise of many new religious cults in areas of Oceania. The extreme and THE VAILALA MADNESS sometimes bizarre nature of some of these movements had led to them being In 1919, on the south coast of Papua New given the label ‘cargo cults’, although Guinea, one of the most dramatic of the this is now seen as a derogatory term. Melanesian cargo cults started. The ancestral Most proved to be short-lived. The map shows the areas in which these new spirits communicated to certain men that cults arose, alongside the traditional western ‘cargo’ or material goods would tribal settlements of the area. So uth Marshall Ch ina Philippine Islands New Oceanic Cults Se a Caroline Islands The Vailala Madness Islands I C R O N E S I A The Johnson Cult M The Luveniwai Movement The Nagriamel Gospel Kiribati M (Gilbert Moluccas E Islands) Borne o L New Ireland Phoenix Islands N e w A s N C e le b e G u i n e a New Kuk E Tuvalu Tokelau Swamp Britain (Ellice Islands) Banda Solomon S Islands Sea Islands Purari I Arafura Delta A Sea Timor SamoaJava Co ra l Vanuatu Timor Se a (New Hebrides) Sea Fiji Tonga New Caledonia I A A L T R Norfolk I. S U Kermadec Is. A
  • 63. M I L L E N A R I A N M O V E M E N T STHE NAGRIAMEL GOSPEL petitioned for independence, demandingIn the New Hebrides (now Vanuatu) in 1966, repatriation of foreign-owned plantations. InJimmy Stephens became a prophet and called 1964, when the first elections were held in Papuahis reform movement Nagriamel – which was New Guinea, the people of New Hanovera symbol for the restoration of traditional became persuaded that the then US president,custom. On the island of Espiritu Santo, Lyndon Johnson, would be the person to leadStephens and his followers spread the them to a better government. They collected aNagriamel gospel, which aimed to recover large amount of money in shilling coins and gaveland that had been appropriated by the this to the local Catholic missionary withEuropeans. He continued to be an important instructions to send the money to Presidentpolitical presence well after the independence Johnson to cover his travelling costs to Newof Vanuatu, but was eventually imprisoned. Hanover. The money was returned to them, but their desire to install President Johnson as theirTHE LUVENIWAI MOVEMENT leader continued for some time after that.In Fiji, a secret society arose towards the end ofthe nineteenth century. The movement focusedon the class of indigenous spirit beings calledluveniwai (‘children of the water’). These weresmall elves or dwarfs that lived in areas ofwaterfalls and dense jungle. Many peoplebelieved they were spirits of abandonedinfants. The Luveniwai Movement attestedthat each person could have a personalguardian spirit of the forest – they met in secretclearings in the forest, drank kava andperformed ceremonies. The movementeventually attracted the attention of thecolonial government when people involvedrefused to work and ordained it illegal.THE JOHNSON CULTOne of the most bizarre of the cults was the so-called Johnson Cult of New Hanover in PapuaNew Guinea. In 1933, the people of the island NEW MEN In the Purari Delta of Papua New administrative detail of western life; he Guinea’s south coast, there arose after built his own ‘office’ which he littered the Second World War the movement of with printed papers of all kinds, including ‘New Men’ led by Tommy Kabu. Like Yali of copies of articles from Reader’s Digest, to Madang District, Tommy Kabu served in create the impression of official New Guinea during the war and saw administrative functioning. The New Men something of Australia during the war were to embark on western-style years. When he returned to the Purari business ventures, to market sago and Delta, he started a movement that copra to Port Moresby. However, because advocated destruction of traditional of their lack of understanding of real religion, the wholesale adoption of business fundamentals, and the Christianity, and the reformulation of formidable resistance of the social local society on a business cooperative system to western-style individualism, basis. He and his followers also rejected these ventures failed. By the mid-1950s, the colonial administration of their area, although the first steps had been taken, preferring to form their own police force the people of the Purari River Delta had and build their own jails. Tommy Kabu only succeeded in introducing destructive himself was impressed with the influences into their traditional cult life. 65
  • 64. I N D I G E N O U S R E L I G I O N SAUSTRALIAN ABORIGINALSThe DreamingThe most distinctive concept of Australian Aboriginal religion isthat of the ‘dreaming’ or, as it used to be called, the ‘dreamtime’.This refers to a primordial creative period when ancestor beingsroamed the land, in various human and animal forms, creating thelandscape and the species of the earth as humans find them in thepresent day.I N THE CENTRE of Australia and the discontinuity between the waking life and the Great Victoria Desert, the term for the dream life in terms of everyday meaning and creative period when the earth and all its significance for Aboriginal persons, although ofcontents were first made by the ancestors, is course Aboriginal people know the differencedjugurba. Not only was it the initial form- between the real world and the dream world.creating period of the world, but its creativepowers exist to the present day. The ancestors CREATION MYTHScontinue to exert their form-making powers, and Most of the major Australian creation mythsit is up to humans to detect this power and tap detail the wanderings of mythical beings. Theyinto it for their own purposes. The word ‘dream’ moved from place to place, creating waterholes,is highlighted, as many Aboriginal people say rocks, creatures, landscape features, and alsothat ancestors and ancestral power often reveal giving these things their names. The pathway ofthemselves in dreams. There is much less a single creator being or a single route of travel is Aboriginal Australia Dar win When Europeans first began to settle in Gulf of Australia towards the end of the Carpentaria eighteenth century there were already Indian Coral 300,000 people on the continent. As the Ocean frontier was pushed forward, the Sea competition for land and water became fierce. The native population began to Broome decline almost immediately. Since the Townsville 1970s, however, large tracts of land have been returned to the aboriginals Gre and the aboriginal population is now at estimated at around 350,000. Div idi Alice Springs ng esert Gibson D Simpson R Uluru/Ayers Rock Desert a g n e e g Sturt n a Desert R Brisbane toria Desert Great Vic y re g G n s Ra r Plain Flinder e Kalgoorli larbo Nul e ng Ra Great t Perth Australian Bigh g in id Sydney iv Adelaide D t a re Canberra Albany Bendigo G Aboriginal Australia Areas of recorded aboriginal resistance to European settlements Melbourne pre–1850 Bass S trait 1850–80 1880–1930 native land rights claims, Jan. 1997 Ta s m a n i a66
  • 65. T H E D R E A M I N G be performed as a complete ritual performance. Thus, in a certain important sense, traditional Aboriginal groups of Australia were only parts of a larger mythological whole which they could infer but the extent of which they did not know. SUPREME BEINGS In south-east Australia, there is the widespread belief in a supreme being, a male ‘All-Father’. He is called Ngurunderi among the Ngarrindjeri of the Lower Murray, South Australia, Baiami among the Wiradjuri of New South Wales and Victoria, and the Kamilaroi of New South Wales and Queensland. In the Lower Murray, Ngurunderi travelled along the south coast, creating the contours of the coastline and the mouth of the Murray River. Pursuing his two wives who had fled, he caught up with them around Cape Willoughby andcalled a dreaming track. These can be very long caused the sea to rise,and can connect dozens of groups literally across drowning them. They turnedthe breadth of the continent. The tracks criss- into the Pages Islands there.cross Australia and thus provide a network for The Rainbow Serpent isreligious and social communication between also a widespread figuregroups at very great distances from one another. across Aboriginal Australia. The dreaming track is a single thing and can It is always associated withbe said to have a beginning and an end. But rain or water and is often saidbecause different Aboriginal groups occupy only to inhabit deep water holes.restricted portions of the route, they only ‘own’ Around Ayers Rock (Uluru) itpart of the myth and its associated ritual. This is called wanambi and iscreates the condition under which different regarded as very dangerousgroups come together to perform their own and is treated with greatspecial segments of the total myth, although circumspection by localbecause of the length of the tracks, it could never Aboriginal people. FERTILITY Bolung among the Dalabon of the Northern powerful. The wandjina have Territory refers explicitly to the rainbow. The the power to make babies and Dalabon believe that if a woman is to ensure the coming of the wet conceive, she must be entered by a rainbow season and the flourishing of snake, and that after death the performance edible plants and animals. of the proper ceremonies will transform a In the Pilbara region of person’s spirit back into its rainbow-snake Western Australia, south of form. Bolung as an adjective, however, means Kimberly, early reporters anything that had creative, transformative mentioned the concept of tarlow – a pile of power in the Dreaming period. stones or a single stone set apart to mark some In Western Australia, a similar idea is spot of particular fertile power, the power to contained in the notion of ungud. Ungud, is a make things increase and multiply. Among the property of the wandjina paintings found in Karadjieri of Western Australia, there are caves of Western Australia. These paintings centres of ritual that belong to all-important show beings with no mouths and often no plant and animal species, upon which increase bodies. The wandjina are the creative spirits rites are performed.The performance of these that made the land and its features. Ungud is rites thus keeps Dreaming power alive in the creative power that made the wandjina the present. 67
  • 66. I N D I G E N O U S R E L I G I O N SInitiationThe initiation of boys was and still is one of the central ritual events of thecommunity, especially in central Australia. Both circumcision and sub-incision of the male genitalia were practised over a considerable area ofinterior Australia. As well as this, the focus was on the training of boys inthe sacred mythology and ritual of their group.I N THE WESTERN desert, there are four they make when swung over the head is main stages to initiation. First, the initiate believed to be the voice of the ancestor). Later is taken from the care of his female on they are returned to the camp where theirkinsmen. He is then painted with older men’s arrival is celebrated by their relatives. Theblood and then with red ochre. After this, he is novices are taken on to their country andisolated with the other initiates for up to a year. instructed in their territorial mythology. AfterIn the second stage, fire is thrown over the this, the novices may be sub-incised, a processheads of the novices. Older men take blood whereby an incision is made in the underside offrom their arms and use it to fasten bird the urethra. In the last stage, the novices receivefeathers down in the shape of sacred totemic their cicatrizations – scars made on the initiate’sdesigns. In the third stage, the circumcision of back which leave a permanent raised weal ofthe novices is performed and they are taken flesh on the body. At this point the young menback into the seclusion camp to heal and to be are considered fully initiated and mayshown the sacred bullroarers (oblong pieces of participate in a range of rituals and ceremonieswood inscribed with sacred designs; the noise performed by men.68
  • 67. I N I T I AT I O NCIRCUMCISION AND SCARIFICATION Sub-incision is practised in the Great VictoriaIn eastern Arnhem Land, the boys who are Desert, northern South Australia and centralbeing prepared for circumcision are told that Australia. In these areas, the wound isthe mythical python Yurlunggor has smelled subsequently opened up in certain ritualtheir foreskins and is coming to swallow them, contexts, so that blood may flow from the man’sas he swallowed the mythical Wawilak sisters genitals on to his legs during the myth. The novices are also smeared with Scarification of the body was also practisedochre during the djunggawon initiation cycle, extensively throughout Australia, particularly inwhich stands for the blood of the Wawilak Queensland. Parallel scars were made on thesisters in the myth. In the Kunapipi (Gunabibi) chests of initiated men among the Butchulla andinitiation, men let blood from their arms fall Kabi Kabi of the Wide Bay Coast of centralupon the sacred trench dug in the ground – Queensland as late as the twentieth century.again, this is supposed to represent the Among the Dieri of Northern AustraliaWawilak sisters’ blood. cicatrizations are common. THE WAWILAK MYTH The Wawilak myth is central to the Australian Creation. At the beginning of time, it is said, the Wawilak sisters travelled north from their home in central Australia towards the sea. As they travelled they named places, animals and plants, and dug holes in the ground from which water sprang. On their journey they stopped near a waterhole in whichYurlunggor, the great python, lived. It was here that one of the sisters (the eldest) polluted the waterhole with her menstrual blood. Yurlunggor was angry and emerged from the waterhole, commanding a great flood and heavy rains. The water covered the whole earth and everything on it.The flood receded as Yurlunggor descended back into the waterhole. 69
  • 68. I N D I G E N O U S R E L I G I O N SMAORIMaori ReligionMaori are the indigenous people of Aotearoa (New Zealand).Theyname themselves tangata whenua (‘people of the land’ or ‘locals’).Maori often say that they are very spiritual people. Although manyMaori identify themselves as Christians, Baha’is, Rastafarians oras members of other religions, there is a sense in which thesereligions are added to an omnipresent and traditional Maorispirituality that informs much of contemporary Maori culture.M AORI SPIRITUALITY IS centrally inherent potential and increase the concerned with relationships between prestige of the family and place. people, and between them and the Everything and everyone is understoodland. It is about genealogy, family and to have an essence, mauri. As people develop theirneighbourliness, and it is about the importance of abilities and realise their potential, they increase inparticular locations and what takes place there. mana (charisma or the authoritative prestige ofThese concerns underlie the highly respected arts gifted people). Some people, places or things haveof oratory and carving that are especially evident more mana than others – they are more gifted,in Maori gatherings of various sorts. Such arts and valued or powerful. Encounters between differentencounters engage the dynamics of mana and strengths or kinds of mana are potentially fraught,tapu, and involve a wide community of human if not dangerous: whose prestige is greater? Howand other-than-human persons. All of this (and will one strength affect the other? Should onemuch more) comes together when Maori meet skilful ability come into contact with another?guests on marae (sacred spaces) and their Especially difficult are encounters betweenassociated buildings: wharenui (meeting-houses), different tribes, or between Maori and otherand wharekai (dining-halls). peoples. These encounters are therefore controlled by social restrictions, tapu, a word widely knownMANA in its wider Polynesian form tabu. Sometimes tapuTraditionally, when a child is born its placenta is involves keeping mana-full things or peopleburied in the family’s land, and establishes the separate, establishing a place and clear boundarieschild’s rights in that place, its turangawaewae for every activity. However, when it is necessary to(‘standing place’). Throughout life each person is bring two mana together there are carefulencouraged to exercise their rights not only in protocols and procedures that negotiate theliving in a place, but also in acts that unfold boundaries and establish new relationships.70
  • 69. M A O R I R E L I G I O NMARAE rather than their potential hostility. The gifts ofWhen hosts receive visitors they typically do so on oratory are demonstrated in speeches made andthe marae, an open space in which potential received by hosts and guests. These refer to aspectsbecomes apparent as different mana encounter of traditional knowledge (korero tahito) thatone another. The local hosts greet visitors, demonstrate respect to both parties. Localrecognize their mana and that of their ancestors ancestors are also present in the form of more-or-(who are ever-present with the current generation), less elaborately carved meeting houses (wharenui):but also insist on the pre-eminent mana, prestige, their arms outstretched in welcome of visitors,of local ancestors and community. By various their spine supporting the roof that shelters thoseceremonies the visitors are brought into the marae currently alive and making space for furtherspace and their potential friendship is established talking and decision-making. MAORI TRIBES Maori identify themselves not only as the those yet to be born. Each family indigenous people of the land, but also as community has strong ties to particular members of particular tribes, iwi, which places where ancestors lived and are further sub-divided into clans, hapu, are buried, where each generation is and families, whanau. Around 1,000 years born, works, socializes and gives birth to ago Maori migrated from elsewhere in the the next generation. In speech- Pacific in a fleet (or series of fleets) of making, korero, people introduce large canoes, waka. Each iwi descends themselves by referring to place and from a common ancestor who captained genealogy. Thus, someone from Ruatoria one of those canoes and first settled a might begin with: particular area in the new land, Aotearoa, Land of the Long White Cloud (or Long Ko Hikurangi te maunga, Twilight). Within each iwi, families trace ko Waiapu te awa, their descent from more recent but also ko Ngati Porou te iwi. highly honoured ancestors. Thus whanau refers not just to a relationship between Hikurangi is the mountain, parents and their children, but includes Waiapu is the river, the ancestors, all those alive today, and Ngati Porou is the tribe. 71
  • 70. I N D I G E N O U S R E L I G I O N SMaori Traditional KnowledgeMaori oratory is rooted in traditional narratives that should not be mistaken forprimitive, childish or erroneous ‘myths’. If orators refer to the rain as the tearsof Father Sky, sad at his separation from Mother Earth, they are not confusedabout the nature of the cosmos, but reinforcing a point by referring to ubiquitoussigns of relationship, desire, disappointment and so on.T HE FOLLOWING SUMMARY of a grow. The overwhelming closeness of the traditional Maori theme is not parents caused a division in the affections of the principally about ‘how the world got to children. Eventually, with considerable effort,be as it is’ but might establish a point about the Tanemahuta pushed his father up and awayconstraints imposed by over-close relationships. from his mother. With space and light to grow,It continues to demonstrate that space is needed the children took on the responsibilities ofif people are going to grow towards the furthering the great unfolding of life’s potential.fulfilment of their potential. These acts engendered not only growth, but Some time ago in the evolution of all things, also further acts both of conflict and community.Father Sky and Mother Earth were so intimately Tanemahuta’s act is partly replicated every timedevoted to one another that there was no space someone skilfully makes space for life andbetween them. The children born of their potential. It is clear in the tall forest treespassion had neither light nor space in which to (Tanemahuta’s domain), but also in the lifting of roofs above floors in wharenui and all other whare (houses). It does not encourage disrespect to parents, partly because it was only justified by the extreme conditions endured before the separation, and partly because traditional knowledge also speaks of the priority of peace despite the occasional necessity of conflict. MAUI It is not only gods who contribute to the creative unfolding of potential; humanity is also implicated in the choices and constraints that arise in life. Maui, ancestor of all Maori, achieved many things that made life better for his relatives and descendants – and, indeed, for all humanity. Maui considered the day too brief to be useful. So, with the help of his brothers, he trapped the sun in a large net, and forced it to travel across the sky slowly enough to provide sufficient time and light to achieve great things. On another occasion Maui is said to have used New Zealand’s South Island as a canoe from which to fish up the North Island out of the depths. However, in the end, Maui failed. Or maybe it is simply that he tried to go too far, and his failure must be counted a benefit to all. Had his attempt to gain immortality for humanity succeeded, there would be absolutely no room left on earth by now. In brief, an orator might72
  • 71. draw out the following traditional knowledge to rediscovered as resources for facing ordinary lifesupport a particular argument about restraint. and its concerns, whether everyday or Maui hoped that immortality might be found overwhelming. Central to Maori knowledge andby entering the body of the divine-ancestress. culture is the creation and maintenance of moreTransforming himself into a lizard, he warns his respectful relationships and lifestyles.companions not to laugh. But the sight of Maui North Capeentering head-first into the vagina of the sleeping Maori TribesHine-nui-te-po was far too funny. The twittering southern limit of gourd and taro cultivationlaughter woke the sleeper, who closed her legs southern limit of sweetand crushed Maui to death. potato cultivation Bay of Plenty East areas of densest Cape Over the last 30 years there has been a populationrenaissance of Maori culture. Traditional 1st aukati (border), 1862knowledge has been found to be rich and 2nd aukati (border), 1866 North Hawke Islandresonant and, importantly, well able to speak to Taranaki Bay Bightcontemporary concerns and issues. Even in an era C. Farewell Tasmanwhen most Maori live in cities rather than small Sea Maori Tribes There are more than 40 differentvillages, when they participate in global forums C. Palliser Maori tribes. The map shows the mainlike the internet and trade, and even when many areas of Maori settlement in Neware unemployed or impoverished, the knowledge Zealand before European contact in 1769. Although most food wasof divine and ancestral deeds is increasingly obtained through hunting andvalued. Maori cultural centres have been gathering, the Maori also cultivated South the land. The limits of this cultivationestablished in the cities, children are introduced to Island are shown on the map. In the 1860sMaori language via traditional stories and elders the Maori fought bloody campaignsagain explore the wisdom handed down in against the British in defence of their lands. Aukati was a border proclaimedpowerful and evocative oratory. What may seem by the Maori king to limit Europeanlike myths of strange and miraculous events are Stewart Is. penetration from the south. 73
  • 72. I N D I G E N O U S R E L I G I O N SN AT I V E N O R T H A M E R I C ANorth American First NationsWhen, from the end of the fifteenth century, Europeansbegan to explore North America, they found a large andculturally diverse population. However, epidemics and frequentwarfare – coupled with the loss of land and resources to anincreasing flood of immigrants – decimated the scatteredpopulations. It was only in the 1960s that a resurgence began.O VER MANY THOUSANDS of years POPULATION DECLINE successive migrations of peoples had The native population had no immunity to filled every inhabitable region of North European diseases such as influenza,America, from the Arctic tundra, to the interior diphtheria or smallpox and by 1600 some 20plains, and from the sea coasts to the desert epidemics had swept through the Americas,plateaux of the arid south-west. Speaking over decimating the population until less than one-300 distinct languages, each tribal group had tenth of the original number remained.developed its own distinctive culture, mythology As increasing numbers of European settlersand rituals, specific to living in harmony within arrived they came into conflict with the nativetheir local environment. Scholarly estimates, peoples. Genocide obliterated some first nationsbased upon both oral tradition and archeological that, together with their unique languages, cultures,evidence, suggest that the population of the oral histories and cosmologies, disappeared for ever.Americas prior to the arrival of Christopher Treaties were negotiated between native Tribal America Before 1492Columbus in 1492 exceeded 100 million. nations and European representatives from The map shows the location of the tribes of the 100 million people that Britain or France, but these made up the population of North were routinely America before the arrival of I A E R Columbus in 1492. S I B it ra St I g r in N N Be K OYU KO K A U SKUT A INL A TA N CHI N I AN HAR G AL A HAN E T IKA L E U T T UTC DOG HON RIB E KAS T KA L N IN HIA MS T SI G CHIPE WYAN IT BEAV H AID ER A C ARR IE R Tribal America Before 1492 KWA SH US SA KIUT C R L -WAP RC Arctic NOO E E EE TK A Sub-Arctic BLA C Northwest Coast CH I N KFOO OOK T NEZ MONTAGNA Plateau PERCE IS-NASKAPI O J Great Basin I B W C RO W MAND A K AN RO California YURO K MOD S HO S M ENO M OTTAWA BEOTHUK KA OC HONE IN ALGONKIN Southwest PO M SAUK EE C H EY SIOUX Great Plains O EN NE HURON MICMAC POTAWA Mis P TOMI - IROQUOI ABENA Northeast ARAPAAWNEE S KI s i ss YOK U PAIUT HO FOX U TE ILLI Southeast TS E ippi CHUM ERIE SUSQUEH ANNOCK NO ASH MIAMI MASSACHUSETT IS NAVA KI O W M OH JO A N AVE HOPI OSAG SHAWN DELAWA ARRAGANSETT PAPA P U E BL I TA E EE RE GO O H EE PO IC OK WHATAN APAC C OMA W ER HE CH I C K CH PI M TA NCHE ASAW CATAWB CADDO A RA A COCH CHOCT H IM NATCH AW CREEK U M TE P EZ A R EHU Atlantic A COAH UILTE C TIMUCU Ocean A AN HUICH Gulf COR A OL of Me CALUS H UAS TEC xi co A TOT NAHU ONAC ATL
  • 73. N O R T H A M E R I C A N F I R S T N AT I O N Signored by the newly arriving, land-hungry ceremonies were declaredsettlers. Many natives were killed in skirmishes illegal (despite charters inwith settlers, or in concerted attacks by armed both countries proclaimingforces, such as the massacre of the Lakota people freedom of religion). West-at Wounded Knee in 1890. coast Potlatches, sun dances, Successive waves of immigrants surged sweat lodges and sweet-westwards and flowed over traditional native grass ceremonies were allgardens and hunting grounds. European banned. Only on the largeencroachment and annexation of ‘Indian Lands’ reservations of the Puebloforced native peoples on to diminishing areas of peoples in the arid south-‘reservation’ lands, which were generally of western USA did themarginal productivity. Without a viable economic traditional cycles of religiousbase, the majority were condemned to poverty. rituals and ceremonies The immigrants viewed the remnants of the continue undisturbed.native nations as just one more obstacle in their Some left the reserves for urban centres.way. In 1830 President Jackson ordered the mass Many still remain on isolated and resource-poorrelocation of all ‘Indians’ living east of the reservation lands, where poverty,Mississippi. Although Cherokee elders fought this unemployment, illness, alcoholism, domesticpolicy in the courts, the people were still forced to violence, child abuse, despair and soaring suicidemigrate from their ancestral lands and to relocate rates are endemic.far to the west. Herded by federal soldiers, sick, By the 1960s there were governmentexhausted and starving, many died along the proposals for ‘extinguishment’ (in the USA) and‘Trail of Tears’, which is only now beginning to be ‘termination’ (in Canada). These proposalsmourned and commemorated in art, literature would have effectively ended all treaty rights andand song. Land loss or relocation also entailed treaty status of native peoples.spiritual bankruptcy, for relationship to thespiritual world is mediated through the land. RESURGENCE In the mid 1960s, however, a series ofDISINHERITANCE conferences convened by native peoples beganBoth American and Canadian governments to publicise their plight and awaken publicassumed that total assimilation of their native outrage. The glorious pioneering historypopulations was inevitable. From the late recounted in text books was challenged bynineteenth century right up until the 1980s native communities who had experienced theirmany thousands of native children were own history as a continuous tragedy offorcibly taken from their families to residential injustice, broken treaties, persecution,schools or removed for adoption into ‘white’ violence, plunder and suppression.families. The use of indigenous languages was There followed a series of very public andforbidden. Almost all traditional religious televised events: the occupation of the abandoned prison island of Alcatraz (1969), RE-ESTABLISHING native militant youth holding out against USA TRADITION marshals for 71 days at Wounded Knee (1973), or Canadian Mohawk people defending their Gradually the old religious traditions and tribal lands against encroachment at ceremonies are returning. Often elders Kanehsatake (1990). can still remember how sacred dances In the USA the Indian Self-Determination Act and rituals were conducted. Museums was passed in 1975. Each recognized tribe is and public art galleries have been entitled to receive assistance in establishing its ordered to repatriate sacred artefacts, own government, court system, police and dance masks, etc. to the tribes to which schools. Each may operate as an independent they belong and to return ancestral nation, developing their land as they wish. This bones for re-burial. Native languages development already includes everything from and spirituality now form established resorts and casinos, to industrial developments courses in many universities, while and toxic and nuclear waste dumps. In Canada Aboriginal elders work as chaplains in the movement towards complete self- many hospitals, universities and prisons. government is progressing more slowly. 75
  • 74. I N D I G E N O U S R E L I G I O N SSpiritualityThe recent resurgence of native spiritualityprovides the self-respect and culturalidentity essential to the ongoing struggleto regain treaty lands and achieve politicalindependence. Despite wide variations inmythologies, ceremonies and rituals, it ispossible to generalize. Native spiritualityexpresses the close relationship between people, natureand the spirit world. Its re-introduction sometimes causesfriction with older tribal members who have become devout Christians,but is of increasing appeal to the young and to the wider North American public.N ATIVE TRIBAL CULTURE and self- or a spring, for example) and image are based upon the continuous specific creatures will assume habitation of place. People and place special significance, and can and dotogether form a social, cultural and spiritual become vehicles for revelation.unit. Prominent landscape elements are the A bear, a buffalo, a raven, and so onsacred sites – places where the spiritual will, on occasion become, orworld is manifest. They may mark the body forth, the power of the spiritplace of the emergence of a people world to protect, teach, warn or healfrom the underworld, or of its tribal members.creation by mythological spirit The focus upon spatiality may bepowers. Here the ancestral expressed in the medicine wheel, abones rest. circular form, frequently marked out in Oral histories, stories rock patterns on the land. The medicineof origin and of ancient wheel is a symbol of inclusiveness, ofmythological creatures the four directions (north, south, eastvary across the continent, but and west), of the whole peopleall serve the function of (children, youth, adult and elderly),culturally bonding a people of the circle of the teepee, inside thetogether. They all stress the circle of the tribe, inside the circle ofinteraction between people and the the world. Prayers can be addressednatural and spiritual world. Story- to and blessings sought from thetelling, chanting, dancing and role- four directions.playing wearing elaborate dance masksenable people to actively participate in RESPECT FOR ANIMALSaddressing issues of ultimate concern, and Spirituality is pervasive throughout all lifeexpressing the unity and spiritual origin of and, therefore, all animals are part of theall things. sacred creation. They contain a spiritual essence no less significant than our ownHIEROPHANIC NATURE and so must be treated with respect. It isNature is experienced as hierophanic, that is, often possible to be in spiritualmanifesting the spiritual. It is said that nature communication with an animal spirit. Aitself is the cathedral, the site where the hunter may ‘call’ animals towardsspiritual may be encountered. For each tribal himself. On killing an animal for food,group, certain specific places (a high mountain the hunter should make a reciprocal76
  • 75. S P I R I T U A L I T Yoffering, possibly of tobacco, offeredto the animal spirit and to theCreator in thanksgiving, respect andacknowledgement of the hunter’s relianceupon the animal for survival.SHAMANISMShamanism is found throughout NativeNorth America. The shaman (usually atribal elder or holy man) has, by fastingand prayer, established a closerelationship with his specific guardiananimal spirit. He undertakes journeysinto the spirit world where he may begiven wisdom to prophesy, to givewarnings to his people, or inform peoplewhy certain animals are scarce andwhere they should hunt. He hasextensive knowledge of herbal remediesand may be called upon (instead of,or in addition to, modern medicalfacilities) to provide both physical andspiritual healing. Shamans, with their healing powers,are highly respected. Their activitiesthey carry out are extremely diverse,ranging from knowing the movements ofArctic fish, to healing with sand paintingsand traditional chants in the south-western deserts. Today, some undertakework as counsellors, advisors orchaplains in hospitals and colleges.Their clients increasingly include non-native followers. NATIVE NORTH-AMERICAN ART There is an amazing variety of works of great artistic merit created, not primarily for decoration, but as an expression of the spiritual manifest in all things. Art is not a separate category but rather a symbolic representation of a spiritual reality. Each pattern and decoration, each shape and colour, each rattle and feather, is symbolic and carries a specific meaning. Often these symbols are highly stylized. Art is used to decorate both sacred objects (e.g. dance masks) and everyday items of clothing, housing, and implements of daily life such as canoe paddles, pottery, baskets etc. Art honours the object by affording it meaning. It is an expression of the role of the object in the sacredness and interacting unity of life, and the great circle of being. 77
  • 76. I N D I G E N O U S R E L I G I O N SCeremonies and RitualsAcross North America there is not only a wide variation in the type andpurpose of ceremonies but also in their continuity.The Pueblo peoplesof south-western USA, were never subjected to military conquest and,having rejected the early Spanish missionaries, maintained theirtraditional ritual cycles without interruption, preserving much of theirculture and mythology intact. In contrast, Canadian First Nations arereinstating traditional ceremonies and dances that were prohibited bylaw for many years. In other communities, especially those of thesouth-eastern USA, where people were displaced from their lands,and many of the ancient traditions and ceremonies were irretrievably lost.C EREMONIES AND rituals reinforce a of the earth up a vertical axis. Located in reciprocal relationship between people, the centre of the village, the kiva is the domain nature and the spirit world. Spiritual of the men and is where the Kachina masks andpower or Orenda (Iroquois), Manitou costumes are stored.(Algonquin), Wakan-Tanka (Sioux) or Kachina The annual ritual cycle follows the seasonal(Hopi), ensures the abundance of nature, and cycle of nature: cultivation of crops in thepeople play an essential role in this by offering summer and harvest in the fall being followed bygifts, rituals and gratitude. the dance and ceremonial cycles, generally Before most ceremonies a sweat lodge is built lasting from the winter to the summer solstice.for purification from sin, addiction and For the complex cycle of masked dances andbrokenness. Constructed of saplings bent together ceremonies, the sacred masks are brought out ofto form a half sphere, with the entrance facing storage in the kivas and may be repainted andeast, it is covered with cedar boughs and tarpaulins decorated. The dances form a liturgical cycle into ensure darkness. Very hot rocks are placed in which both mask and dancer become thethe central fire-pit and, accompanied by prayer embodiment of the spirit power that isand chanting, cold water is sprinkled on them. The represented. Dolls are made for the children aslodge combines earth, air, water and fire. Aromatic small replicas of the Kachinas, so that they canherbs, drums and rattles may also be used. learn to recognize each of the masks and associated spirit powers.VISION SEEKINGAnother widespread tradition is that of vision CEREMONIES OF THE CENTRAL PLAINSseeking. After receiving instruction from a – THE SUN DANCEshaman, and after making offerings and For so long declared illegal, it is only since thereceiving purification in a sweat lodge, the vision 1970s that a slow revival of the Sun Dance hasseeker goes to a wilderness location to spend been possible. It is held annually by anseveral days in solitude, fasting and prayer. Theseeker may have dreams and see beyond thephysical world into the spiritual. Many receive avisit from an animal who will reveal itself asbeing the person’s spiritual guardian.CEREMONIES OF SOUTH-WESTERN USAPueblo traditions are based upon a cosmologyof the emergence of people from undergroundworlds. The stonewalled, underground kivachambers symbolize emergence from the womb78
  • 77. C E R E M O N I E S A N D R I T U A L Sincreasing number of bands. A dancearena is selected and surrounded by anarbour of poles and evergreen branches.A central pole is erected, representingthe axial centre of existence, linkingdancers to both the circle of earth andthe celestial circle of the spirit world. Following weeks of preparation, thedancers begin each day with a sweatlodge, and fast throughout the four ormore days of the ceremony. They circle thearena continuously during daylight hours,accompanied by groups of drummers whomaintain a steady rhythm, like theheartbeat of the earth. It is also a test ofendurance and bravery. Some of the youngmen choose to have skewers placedthrough their back or chest muscles,attached by ropes to heavy buffalo skulls. They CONFLICT OF INTERESTcompete to drag the skulls the furthest, and can While the last few decades have seen anwin prestigious awards. extraordinary resurgence in Native religion in North America, accompanied by rapidCEREMONIES OF THE NORTH-WEST educational improvements and politicalCOAST – THE POTLATCH changes, many thousands of native people,The nations of the Pacific north-west especially those on the more remote andacknowledge the profound spiritual resource-poor reserves, remain in poverty andrelationship that exists between people and are seriously marginalized with few prospectsnature, by carving the story of the family for a better future.relationship with both real and mythological As the destructiveness of the modern Northcreatures into house posts, mortuary poles and American way of life has become increasinglytotem (or family crest) poles. apparent, native spiritual teaching has become The most important ceremony is the potlatch increasingly appealing to many in ‘mainstream’(prohibited from 1884 until 1951). In large and society. There is a certain irony that the nativewonderfully carved assembly halls, feasting is integrated worldview of a sacred earth, wherefollowed by elaborate dances in which the dancers people, nature and land are interdependent andwear huge, fabulously carved masks to depict hierophanic, is in absolute contrast to theancestral legends honouring a particular chief or economic aspirations of many band councils (theclan. Dancing is followed by a lavish ‘give-away’, local community organisation responsible forin which the giver of the potlatch gains status by First Nation affairs) to develop casinos, resorts,his generosity. Potlatches may be held to celebrate mines, industries, in fact anything that willany major event such as a birth, wedding, catapult band members into the materialist,anniversary or appointment of a new chief. consumer mainstream. THE POWWOW CIRCUIT The recent resurgence in national pride and culture has led types of dance costume. Prizes may be awarded for almost every tribal group and reservation to hold a regular dancing and for costumes. Notable performers, a skilled summer celebration (homecoming), during which powwow hoop dancer, for example, may be invited to come a dances form an essential part of the celebration. The considerable distance to give a solo performance. Many powwow is a series of dances in which participants circle younger band members spend their summer months on the the dance arena to the rhythm of different drum groups. It powwow trail, moving from one celebration to another. may last anywhere from a few hours to several days. There They carry with them not only costumes and drums, but are different categories of dancing; some for men, or for also new cultural, political and economic ideas and cement women, or children, and some open for everyone present to friendship bonds between Native peoples of many join in. There are different categories of the very elaborate different cultures. 79
  • 78. I N D I G E N O U S R E L I G I O N SCENTRAL AND SOUTH AMERICAThe AmazoniansNot only is the longhouse the centre of the everyday lives of theAmazonian people but, during ritual, their house becomes thecosmos. With the assistance of the shaman, space and timebecome one as the participants experience the invisible worldwhich is essential to their continuing wellbeing.T HE PEOPLES WHO inhabit the forest-dwelling creatures, of which the jaguar is Amazonian forest, located the most powerful. All creatures are believed to predominantly in Brazil but also be controlled by the ‘master of animals’ who isVenezuela, Colombia and Peru, live by shifting sometimes the group’s shaman.agriculture; hunting, fishing and gathering. For them the cosmos is animate. According SHAMANISMto their cosmologies, the universe has three The shaman is often the only individual with alayers, each peopled by different beings. In the specialized role in the community. Able to see theunderworld live aquatic creatures, the most invisible world, which co-exists with the visible,important of which are the anaconda or caiman. shamans communicate with it and areIn the sky live the birds, of which the vulture or responsible, for example, for releasing gameharpy eagle are the most significant for myth and animals for which the souls of new-born babiesbeliefs generally. On the earth live people and have to be exchanged. They can also travel to the La Mata Sitio C Cerro M onte achado superb goldw ork fo Filand Orinoc und in ia SAVAN tombs FARME NAH San A RS NOR gustín ANDE TH C H IE F AN DOMS Los Est eros Pacova l Amazon Mara extensijó Island A imperi Moch ve villa al Santaré immen capital wit e m ges se pyra h mids Maran Mo ga Hernmund n Cahua ack CENT chi Mou A N D ER A L Huari exten nd Velar sive fi de C IV IL AN eld sy d IZ AT IO Nasca SAVA s tems N NN FARM AH ERS Tiah cult cuanaco e econ entre an omic d Coyo pow erho use s HUN S OF TERS OR CHA THE CT CO LE SAVA C OL NNA H H LL FI S S HE S, T ER H UN IME RI T Padre MA Las C asas GRA STEP SSLAND Amazonia PE H UNT ERS farming peoplesAmazonia MA HU RITIME chiefdomsThe map shows the settlement of the SHEL NTERS, COLL LFISH civilized states ECTOpeoples of the Amazon and South RS hunters and gatherersAmerica from 300 BC to AD 1300. site first occupied before AD 600 site mainly occupied after AD 60080
  • 79. T H E A M A Z O N I A N S EAST he Sun of t th Pa WEST Symbolic centre of the world d Dea the r of Pa Rive th of t he Sundifferent layers of the cosmos or send others midday sun. For this water scented with aromatic The house becomes one with thethere in trance or by means of hallucinogenic leaves is thrown over the patient’s body which is universe and the spirit world which itdrugs. In many groups, the son of a shaman is thought to ‘trawl’ through it removing ‘spines, represents. An imaginary river seen asapprenticed to his father, but in others, men bundles of fur or feathers which the shaman throws flowing through the middle of the house is the underworld river of the dead, whobecome shamans by means of a severe illness, by away amid much blowing, clapping of hands and travel in their burial canoes.The sun’srevelation or simply ambition. flicking of fingers’. The shaman makes a canoe travels in the opposite direction so that it can rise once again in the east. The latter pay for their initiation and performance out of such rituals: for he has to notaccumulate power in the forest through direct only know all the myths, rites and otherexperience. It is a hard training involving sexual esoteric knowledge (of plants, animalsabstinence, fasting, vomiting and other dietary and the stars) but also to add somethingprohibitions. The shaman enters into a of himself to become highly respected.relationship with one or more ancestral spirits, andis given his spirit weapons. Potency lies in the THE HE OR YURUPARY CULTinvisible world which is viewed with ambiguity (as For the Barasana, who live in the upperis the self-made shaman). All shamans have access Vaupes region in Colombia, theto considerable power which they can use for good anaconda is the first ancestor andor evil: the most powerful can turn themselves into associated with the sacred He flutes andjaguars. Mostly, however, a shaman does good in trumpets which are kept under water andhis own community but wards off mystical represent its bones. He refers to a timelessattacks sent by shamans from elsewhere. generating force, known also as Yurupary. In myth, Yurupary was the culture hero who establishedCURING order in nature and taught the first men rules andShamans can cure both physiological illness and ritual conduct. These instruments must never besocial disorder; they may blow tobacco smoke over seen by women and girls, and only by boys whothe patient, suck out spirit weapons or go into a have been initiated. During ritual, as those involvedtrance to fight the spirits causing the problem. dance and chant, ancestral time is recreated; theMore powerful is water throwing carried out in the house is seen to become the cosmos. THE BARANSA HOUSE AS COSMOS During ritual, the floor of the house is conceptualized as the earth and the sky. The cassava griddle used by the the earth, the roof becomes the sky supported by the women is like the cosmos, and said to be the one dropped house posts which become the mountains. The horizontal by the female maker of the world (Roumi Kumu), when roof beams represent the sun’s path. Any grave under the there were only sky people and the Primal Sun. She was house is seen as being in the underworld, and the ritual the originator of domestic fire, and it was her sacred ornaments hanging from the ceiling beams, collectively beeswax gourd that gave men their shamanic power. known as ‘macaw feathers’, act as the mediator between 81
  • 80. I N D I G E N O U S R E L I G I O N SThe HuicholThe Huichol believe that their ancestors gave them thetask of looking after not only their community but thewhole cosmos. Every year they perform rituals for theearth led by their shamans. But these can only beperformed after they have made a pilgrimage to thesacred land of Wiricuta, the birth place of the sun.T HE HUICHOL LIVE high up in the who is also priest, healer inaccessible Sierra mountains in the state and community leader, of Sinaloa, Mexico, where they grow the and can be either male ofstaples of maize and beans. They number around female). The shaman20 000, and today have only a small amount of wears deer antlersland, the terrain in the immediate vicinity was attached to his hat and becomes Tatewarionce all theirs and they were predominantly accompanied by the mythical Kauyumari (thehunters rather than agriculturalists. Today, sacred Deer Person and culture hero). This is amuch of that land has become the property of tough journey requiring abstinence from salt, sex,ranchers and peasant farmers. Despite the washing, full meals and sufficient sleep for itsproximity of mainstream Mexican society, the duration, not just for those who go but for thoseHuichol’s sacred beliefs and practices have who stay behind too. Peyote is believed to haveremained comparatively unchallenged, and there been given to them by the deer and is ‘hunted’ untilare only a few traces of Catholicism, such as the it reveals its whereabouts. Once gathered, it ismention of Jesucristo in their prayers. treated with the greatest respect and carefully brought back.HUICHOL DEITIES Tatewari, having guided their quest, isAll aspects of their cosmos are imbued with equally important on their return: the Huicholsupernatural significance. The most important circle the fire to thank him for their successfuldeity is Tatawarei (Grandfather Fire), made quest. Before any ritual, Tatewari prepares them. The Huicholmanifest long ago by the Animal People They ‘confess’ their misdoings to the fire which The Huichol live high up in the Sierra(specifically Deer Person and Ant Person), while cleanses them and Tatewarei is fed a small mountains of Sinaloa, Mexico (see map).Tayaupa (Our Father Sun) was subsequently Atlanta Phoenix UNITED STATES OF AMERICAcreated when a Huichol boy was thrown into the R e ssissippi d S Iwater to become the sun. He travelled down Dallas El Paso E R Br Jacksonville G uthrough five levels to the underworld and Ciudad Juárez Pe az c os Mi S I R A os l feventually emerged in the east in a burst of New Orleans E R Ba Houston o f Ri M Tampa R A javolcanic activity. The Huichol feel ambivalent San o Hermosillo Chihuahua G A Antonio ra C Ca D ndabout Tayaupa: he is potent and can be a M Miami e R l i lif A E M E X I C O f odangerous. The pilgrimage into the desert to D or R O Matamoros G U L F O F M E X I C O ni r n Monterrey E CWiricuta, 480 km (300 miles) away, is partly to Saltillo a Culiacán i a C O La Paz Habana Durango I D Rmake offerings to him but it is also to hunt IE Yu c a E Cabo Falso tan N N Aguascalientesfor peyote, a hallucinogenic cactus, which today Tampico Ch Isla de la T a n Juventad T A A n L León Bahia de Méridahas close associations with corn: both L e Campeche Yucatan l Cabo Guadalajara Tlalneplanta Ecatepec Campeche Peninsulaconsidered to be aspects of Tateima (Our Corrientes Naucalpan Mexico City Veracruz Laguna de Manzanillo Puebla TerminosMothers or Mother Earth). Belize City Balsas Coatzacoalcas Belmopan The Huichol Oaxaca BELIZE Gulf of Honduras Acapulco area of inhabitation Golfo de HONDURASTHE PILGRIMAGE TO WIRICUTA Tehuantapec GUATEMALA Tegucigalpa GuatemalaIn spring, before the start of the ceremonies to bring San Salvador P A C I F I C O C E A N EL SALVADOR NICARAGUArain, up to 12 men and women make the Lago de Managua Nicáraguapilgrimage led by their mara’akame (or shaman82
  • 81. T H E H U I C H O Lportion of all food and drink. Collected also in the past this would have been a deer, but todayWiricuta is a yellow root whose sap is used to the Huichoi do not hunt much). The blood notdecorate the faces of the entire community with only feeds Tateima but unites everyone anddesigns showing their respect for Tayaupa. everything, as each in turn has a little daubed on his or her forehead and on all their possessions.THE CEREMONIAL CYCLE Rain is believed to come from the sea and so, toThe main rituals are to Tateima and Nakawe ensure its continuance, the Huichol also make(Grandmother Growth) whom they believe they pilgrimages, not to the nearest ocean (the Pacific)must nurture before the rains will come and the but to the Atlantic. Entire families travel with theircorn ripen, accompanied by music, song, prayers children, who are blindfolded as they approach.and chants. Amidst many candles and flowers After keeping vigil on the beach all night, thedecorated with ribbons, a cow is sacrificed (in children are ritually presented to the sea at dawn. PEYOTE During the dry season, the Huichols use peyote for many of sacred chair in the tuki (sacred house), has been known their rituals, thereby increasing their knowledge of their to chant for up to 36 hours non-stop. However, only cosmology. Children are introduced to it little by the shaman reveals to others what he or she has learnt little when still quite young. During one whole day, from peyote. they are taken on a metaphorical journey to Wiricuta by the shaman, by means of chants and songs accompanied by drumming. When initiated, they stay up all night to dance and sing with everyone else and experience the full sensory complexity of their cosmos. It is not unusual for Huichols not to sleep for three to four nights in a row; a female shaman, sitting in her 83
  • 82. I N D I G E N O U S R E L I G I O N SThe Highland Maya TodayThe indigenous peoples of Mexico and Guatemala although apparently Roman Catholics, havetheir own cosmologies. Some of their rituals occur in the church, where they venerate their saints,but in their everyday lives, the sun and the moon are more important.T HE TZELTAL, who live in the highlands of Chiapas, Mexico are just one of many Maya groups with rather similar oraltraditions. An egalitarian people, they grow cornand beans for their own consumption, on the landsurrounding their scattered homesteads. Eachhouse has an altar, consisting of a simple crossplaced on the dirt floor, an incense burner andcandles, framed by pine boughs. In each parish,crosses mark natural features which areconsidered to be sacred, such as springs orlimestone shafts, generically known as metik- ortatik-anjel. At these, prayers are offered daily,addressed to ch’ultatik (the sun), ch’ulme’tik (themoon) and to kaxeltik (the earth). The sun isresponsible for giving men their vital heat (k’ahk), THE SAINT-GODSwhile the moon, the mother of the sun, is In Tenejapa, the images of the indigenous saintsconcerned with the welfare and fertility of women. in the church are different from those veneratedShe is also responsible for rain and associated with by the Roman Catholic mestizos. Therewater holes and lakes (metik-anjel). But it is ch’ultatik (the sun of the parish) becomeskaxeltik (also feminine) who is the protector and Kahkanantik (or burning protector), thesustainer and to whom prayers are said for both principal male deity, but known to the mestizosplanting and the harvest: she is the greatest threat as San Alonso (Saint Alphonsus). He is theto people, bringing both life and death. patron saint of the community for both Catholics and indigenes. The moon becomes halame’tik (a The Tzeltal The Tzeltal live in the highlands ofTHE FESTIVALS synonym for ch’ulme’tik – Dear Mother) but is Chiapas, Mexico near the border ofThe Tzeltal, in common with many other known as Santa Maria (the Virgin Mary) to the Guatemala (see map).highland indigenous peoples in both Mexico, Atlanta Phoenix UNITED STATES OF AMERICAGuatemala, Bolivia and Peru, had imposed on R e ssissippi d S Ithem, by the Spaniards in the sixteenth century, Dallas El Paso E R Br Jacksonville G uwhat are known as cargo systems or civil- Ciudad Juárez Pe az c os Mi S I R A os l freligious hierarchies. Today, cargo holders – New Orleans E R Ba Houston o f Ri M Tampaeight couples for each saint – continue to R A ja San o Hermosillo Chihuahua G A Antonio ra C Ca Dorganize the main festivals for a year, which nd a M Miami e R l i lif A Ecentre on the church in the small town in each M E X I C O f o D or R O Matamoros G U L F O F M E X I C O ni r n Monterrey Ecommunity. Each of the 11 or so festivals is C Saltillo a Culiacán i a C O La Paz Habana Durango I D Rmarked by a period of communal living, very IE Yu c a E Cabo Falso tan Ndifferent from their normal isolation. Special N Aguascalientes Tampico Ch Isla de la T a n Juventad T A A n Lfoods are prepared to be consumed by all, after León Bahia de Mérida L e Campeche Yucatan l Cabo Guadalajara Tlalneplanta Ecatepec Campechetheir saint’s clothing has been ritually changed Corrientes Naucalpan Mexico City Veracruz Peninsula Laguna deand washed on one day, and their saint has Manzanillo Puebla Terminos Belize City Balsas Coatzacoalcas Belmopanbeen taken out in procession around the town The Tzeltal Oaxaca BELIZE Gulf of Honduras Acapulcoon the next. During these five days, there is area of inhabitation Golfo de HONDURAS Tehuantapec GUATEMALA Tegucigalpaconstant activity, either in the cargo holders Guatemala San Salvadorhouses or in the church, where music is played P A C I F I C O C E A N EL SALVADOR NICARAGUA Lago de Managua Nicáraguaand toasts drunk to the saints and to each other.84
  • 83. T H E H I G H L A N D M AY A T O D AYmestizos. Other figures include Tatik Mamal the ‘true people’ distinct and better than its(Old Father), the brother of Kahkanantik, while neighbours, there is only occasional contactSanta Luca, or San Ciako (Santiago or Saint between them during pilgrimages.James) have names closer to Catholic usage. Today an increasing number of people areRather than calling these images saints, they can being attracted to various faiths, such asbest be referred to as saint-gods, as they Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Adventists and theincorporate a measure of Catholicism which is Baptists, in part to avoid the financialunderpinned by the Mayan pre-Colombian responsibility of caring for the saint-gods. But itbeliefs and practices of the countryside. The is not yet clear that these new affiliations will lastrange of saint-gods varies from community to and whether the Maya peoples will revert to thecommunity, and as each community sees itself as beliefs and practices they had before. THE CHURCH Nominally Roman Catholic, the church is shared by the mestizos and the indigenes, although the mestizos’ Catholic services never overlap with the indigenous use of the church. On a Sunday during a festival, for example, the space of the church will be used all morning by the indigenes who come to pray and hold ceremonies for their saint-gods accompanied by music and ritual drinking. Then after midday, mestizo women descend with brooms to sweep it out, clean it up and replace the pews, readying it for their Catholic service taken by the local priest later in the day. 85
  • 84. I N D I G E N O U S R E L I G I O N SAFRICAN TRADITIONAL RELIGIONReligion in AfricaAfrica has a rich cultural and spiritual heritage, expressed in complex andhistorically diverse religious traditions. Amidst the tremendous diversitythere are a number of common features: above all, a concern for communityand the expression of common humanity (the word used in many Bantulanguages is Ubuntu). Community involves not only the living, but alsothose not yet born and those who have died: the ‘living dead’, in the famousphrase of the Kenyan theologian and thinker, John Mbiti. Religion is anorientation of the present community towards the spirit world.The spiritworld lies parallel and beyond the world of sense perceptions.I N AFRICANS: The History of a Continent is mediated through sacred sites and persons: (1995, p. 1), John Iliffe writes: ‘The central priests and diviners, kings and elders, musical themes of African history are the peopling of performers and official ‘remembrancers’. Theythe continent, the achievement of human function as guardians and transmitters of thatcoexistence with nature, the building of enduring corporate sense of community; they define asocieties, and their defence against aggression society’s place in the natural world and its relationfrom more favoured regions. As a Malawian to the spiritual world.proverb says, “It is people who make the world;the bush has wounds and scars.” ... Until the latertwentieth century … Africa was an Mediterranean Sea ts s Munderpopulated continent. Its societies were Atlaspecialised to maximise numbers and colonise ARABIC ARABICland. Agricultural systems were mobile, adapting S A H A R A Reto the environment rather than transforming it, d TUAREG Seconcerned to avert extinction by crop-failure. BEJA MALI a TUBUIdeologies focused on fertility and the defence of GHANA MEROË SONGHAIcivilization against nature.’ FULA KANURI KANEM BAMBARA AXUM WOLOF HAUSA FULA Ni 500 – 350 CE AMHARIC SOMALI geTHE CELEBRATION OF LIFE r NUER MOSSI OROMO DINKAAfrican traditional religion is thus centrally MENDE SARA ASANTE YORUBAconcerned with the establishment and building AKAN EWE SANGO ZANDE IGBO EFIK BUNYOROup of human society, with human flourishing EWONDO MONGO KITARAand the celebration of life. But it is also FANG LUGANDA MASAI African Kingdoms RWANDA KIKUYUintensely aware of the fragility of life. date of kingdoms LINGALA BURUNDI SUKUMA pre-800 PEMBAExistence and wellbeing are constantly ninth-thirteenth centuries KONGO fourteenth-fifteenth centuries KONGO LUBA Indianthreatened. Much of African religious practice sixteenth-nineteenth centuries LUBA SWAHILI Ocean ARABIC language groups CHOKWE BEMBAis devoted to coping with the eruption of evil LUNDA MAKUAand its persistence in the world. NYANJA African approaches to religion may be Atlantic Ocean UMBUNDUcharacterized as the glorification of everyday life, GREAT ZIMBABWE MUTAPA African Kingdoms SHONAimagined and enacted through ritual. Religion is KUNG SAKALAVA The installation of many African rulers wasnot enshrined in books, in scriptures or written accompanied by a series of rituals, which KALAHARI DESERT R TONGA SCAliturgies, but in customs and ritual performance, gave them special religious powers, and the TSWANA GA spirit world was mediated through them.The SOTHOin folk tales and proverbs, creation myths, prayer DA NAMA map shows the areas of sacred kingdoms up MAand invocation, music and dance. The spirit world until the end of the nineteenth century. ZULU Mozambique Channel MERINA XHOSA86
  • 85. R E L I G I O N I N A F R I C A CHRISTIANITY AND ISLAM In different ways, both Christianity and Islam have been the means by which modernity has penetrated Africa. Yet both these religions have a long history on the African continent, and have a long ‘pre-modern’ encounter with Africa in the form of Coptic and Ethiopian Christianity and North African Islam. Both religions have incorporated dimensions of traditional African religion into their own systems. Even when they denounce many aspects of African religion as ‘pagan’, they still cannot avoid expressing theRELIGIOUS DIVERSITY spiritual aspirations of African religion.Religion in Africa is bound up with the whole Nevertheless Islam and Christianity are seen asstructure of society and its communal self- different in kind from the African spiritualunderstanding. Yet it would be wrong to regard sensibility – in East Africa, Islam andreligion in Africa as fragmented and Christianity are called dini (from the Arabicethnocentric – the term ‘tribal religions’, so word). Dini implies a religious body which canoften used in the Western discourse, is be distinguished from and stand over againstunfortunate. Africa does indeed contain a wide other institutions in a society, which a persondiversity of particular ethnic groups. But there joins. African traditional religions do nothas always been an immense amount of function in this way. Rather, they areinteraction between peoples. The fact that constituted by the totality of being and practicedifferent language groups live in close in a community. Islam and Christianity mayproximity means that many Africans are multi- strive for a total transformation of a society,lingual, speaking a variety of vernacular but they recognize a disjunction betweenlanguages, as well as a lingua franca such as present ideal and reality.Swahili or Hausa, in addition to proficiency ina world language such as Arabic, French orEnglish. In religion there is an equal diffusionof concepts, forms and practices over wideareas. For example, the name for God (ordivinity) may have wide currency over largeareas. Spirit-possession or witch-eradicationcults transcend ethnic boundaries. Nor is suchinteraction confined to ethnically similarpeople. There is much interaction, for example,between Bantu speakers and Luo in easternAfrica; between Khoi and San (the pastoralistsand hunters of southern Africa) and theirXhosa and Tswana neighbours. Africantraditional religions do not operate in timelessnon-historical contexts. There is much evidenceof the interchange and development of practiceand ideas over time. ‘Traditional’ does notmean that African religions exist primarily asbackward looking, quaint survivals. They areresponsive to new situations, not least to theforces of modernity and globalization. 87
  • 86. I N D I G E N O U S R E L I G I O N SAfrican Cosmologies, Godsand AncestorsAfrican societies are concerned with the enhancement of life: the healthof human beings and of livestock, the fertility of the land and the prosperityof the whole community. Ancestors (the ‘living dead’), nature spirits andgods are guardians of the community.These beings are refractions ofspirit, the High God, the dynamic principle of life. African cosmologiesattempt to explain the loss of immediacy between the two worlds andto account for the fragility and disharmony of existence.CREATION STORY (MORU, SUDAN) involved in the life of the community; they areWhen God created the world, Heaven and also more benign, though they can be were close together, connected by a In many African societies the dead are buriedleather ladder. People were constantly moving near the homestead, and the ancestors of theto and fro. They loved to attend the dances and family have a tangible presence. In somefeasts of heaven, and returned to earth societies, there is a class of ancestors who assumerejuvenated. One day a girl was grinding some wider significance, as heroic figures, who achievesorghum (sorghum is a grain used for food and divinity, and whose cults spread far and make beer). She delayed and was late for the The Dogon of Mali have a complexdance. In her haste she started to climb the cosmology, symbolically mirrored in theladder without washing her hands. The trail of architecture of village and homestead and of thesorghum on the ladder attracted the hyena. He human body itself.began licking the ladder. That set him tognawing at the leather, until the ladder broke. THE YORUBA PANTHEONSo the communication between earth and The Yoruba of Nigeria have developed a richHeaven has been broken. People cannot be urban culture of historical depth. Each cityrejuvenated and death has come into the world. state has an orisha or divinity, with its ownORIGIN OF DEATH (ZULU)The chameleon was entrusted with a messageto take to earth – immortality for humankind.But he loitered on the way and was beaten toearth by the lizard. The lizard also had amessage – death for humankind. Thus deathcame into the world.GODS AND ANCESTORSThe African cosmos is populated by spirits whooccupy a realm which is outside normal reality,but which impinges at many points on humansociety. There are nature spirits who typicallyinhabit the uncultivated places and wildernesswhich stand over against the abode of people.Such spirits are by their nature fickle and bestavoided; their potential for harm to humansociety is great. The ancestors are more directly88
  • 87. A F R I C A N C O S M O L O G I E S , G O D S A N D A N C E S T O R Spriesthood and cult and method of divination. wilderness. However, as a strong,Above all the orisha is Olorun, the Lord and centralized state, with a monarchowner of the Sky. Olorun is also know as (the Kabaka), Buganda also had aOlodumare, the Creator, the ‘owner of the series of national gods: thespirit of life’ and the one in charge of the balubaale (singular lubaale).destiny of human beings. Olorun apportioned These were of two kinds. Theoversight of the world to the orisha divinities. ‘gods of the mainland’ wereThe orisha are representations of the divine, mainly personifications ofand mediate between God and human society. natural forces: Ggulu (the sky),They include Esu, a trickster god, of a type Walumbe (death), Kiwanukafamiliar in other parts of Africa (for example (thunder) and Kawumpuli (theamong the Bushmen of the Kalahari). Ogun is plague). The ‘gods of the lake’the god of iron and war. Sango, the deified were heroic figures originatingfourth king of the ancient Yoruba kingdom of from the Ssese islands ofOyo, is a particularly popular orisha much Lake Victoria (Lakedepicted in sculpture. In life regarded as a Nalubaale). Mukasa wastyrant who committed suicide, in his heavenly the god of the lake – hisguise he is the god of thunder. Sango is noted symbol was a paddle –for his capricious behaviour in both giving and and he was regardeddestroying life. He is the object of a major cult as overwhelminglyof possession. beneficent, particularly to pregnant women andAN AFRICAN MONOTHEISM? never demanded humanOne of the most vigorous debates among sacrifice. In contrast, hisstudents of African religion and brother Kibuuka wasanthropologists has been the role and the god of war,importance of a ‘high god’, a ‘great spirit’. associated with theChristian missionaries often attempted to long struggle betweendiscover such a concept, so that they could use Buganda and itshis name for the God they proclaimed. At the neighbour Bunyoro. On the lakeside, shrinessame time they tended to disparage the African (masabo) dedicated to Mukasa, with theirconception of deity as deus otiosus, a god who distinctive paddle insignia, are still common.had departed from direct concern with the The name of one lubaale, Katonda (‘Creator’),world and humanity. Anthropologists have has been adopted by Muslims and Christians tosometimes been sceptical of the antiquity of describe the supreme God.most concepts of high gods, seeing this as an In many parts of Africa, kings werealien discourse in which outsiders have accorded a divine status. This was not so inimposed their views. There was a growth of Buganda, at least during the lifetime of thewhat has been called ‘ethical monotheism’ in Kabaka, whose power was seen as distinct frommany societies in the nineteenth century, that of the balubaale. On the king’s death, therelating to the enlargement of scale resulting jawbone was separated from the body andfrom Africa’s incorporation into a global buried separately. Both burial sites became theeconomy, requiring attention to a divinity who focus of a cult, distinct from the balubaaleis above and beyond the particular concerns of themselves. In Buganda, there was a deepthe local community. This accounts for some ambiguity about the spirit world, sometimesof the attraction of Islam and Christianity, but expressed in proverbs of surprisingly modernit also helps to explain the rise of universalist scepticism: ‘You are wasting your time beggingtraits within African religions themselves. health from a jawbone: if it could give health, why did its owner die?’ Islam and ChristianityTHE CASE OF BUGANDA dealt a severe blow to the public expression ofLike neighbouring societies Buganda (south of traditional religion. But its ethos andwhat is now Uganda) in the nineteenth century spirituality survived in the covert constructionhad a strong awareness of ancestral spirits of shrines, consultation of diviners and a(mizimu) and the nature spirits (misambwa) reverence for the Kabaka as a symbol ofwho inhabited the swamps, forest and national identity. 89
  • 88. I N D I G E N O U S R E L I G I O N SThe Celebration of Life and Cultsof AfflictionAfrican traditional religion is concerned with the enhancement of life. Itcelebrates community, health and prosperity, fertility and procreation. Africansare also acutely aware that these values are fragile. Harmony with the spiritworld is necessary for human flourishing; but, if mishandled, the spirit worldcan also exercise malign power in ways which diminish and negate life.R ITES OF PASSAGE are important Naming is of great importance and often has stages for the affirmation of life. They strong religious connotations. Children are given are liminal experiences when people the names of divinities. If the birth has beenstand on the threshold of the spirit world, times difficult, or occurs after a history of troubleof celebration but also of danger. within the family, the name might have a Fertility and procreation are celebrated, but somewhat derogatory implication, in the hopethey are surrounded by danger. The birth of that the vengeful spirit may overlook thetwins illustrates the combination of vitality and rejoicing and not inflict further punishment.danger. In some parts of Africa, twins areregarded as an anomaly: by mischance the spirit INITIATIONcounterpart of the child has also been born, an The most important communal rites are oftenoffence to the spirits and a danger for all. In at adolescence when boys are initiated throughparts of East Africa, by contrast, twins are circumcision. They are sent away from normalregarded as a special blessing, a sign of the super human society and for a time live beyond itsabundance of the spirit world. Special twin rules. In the circumcision camp, on thenames are given not only to the children, but to boundary between civilization and wilderness,those who are born after them, and to the humanity and the spirits, initiates learnparents themselves. Such names are held in important new skills appropriate to the adultgreat honour. world, gender and sexual roles, the history and ethics of the group as transmitted from one generation to the next. Not all African societies perform circumcision. The Zulu are said to have abandoned circumcision during the time of Shaka, when it would have compromised the fighting effectiveness of the impi. Female ‘circumcision’ is less common than male circumcision. But where it does occur it is meant to have the same socializing role. Missionaries strongly condemned female circumcision in the 1920s and were in turn attacked for wanting to destroy African culture. More recently human rights and women’s groups have renewed the opposition to the practice, insisting that it is, in effect, female genital mutilation. MASKS AND MASQUERADES The great communal celebrations of rites of passage or harvest festivals, as well as initiation into healing or status cults, are often90
  • 89. T H E C E L E B R AT I O N O F L I F E A N D C U L T S O F A F F L I C T I O N AFRICAN NOVELISTS Modern African novelists have tackled many themes explores the dilemmas of a young Kikuyu girl torn between associated with traditional religions sensitively and the desire to undergo the rite of initiation into full powerfully. The Mourned One (1975) by Stanlake womanhood, and the opposition of her parents, Christian Samkange, a Shona from Zimbabwe, is concerned with the converts. Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart (1958) is the plight of a woman who gives birth to twins. The Kenyan classic account of the onslaught of western colonialism writer, Ngugi wa Thiong’o in The River Between (1965), on African cultural and religious values.accompanied by pageants and masquerades, paraphernalia – bones, cowry shells, animaldramatic performances, song and dance in sacrifice – to discover the reasons. Mediums arewhich the relationship between the spirit world possessed by spirits and act as their mouthpieceand human society are enacted and re-enacted. In in diagnosing the problem and offeringdonning a mask the performer loses his own solutions. Witches and sorcerers also have accessindividuality and entirely becomes the entry to spiritual powers. They do not admit freely topoint for communication with the realm of spirit. such deeply anti-social activity. The covertness of their activity is itself the cause of alarm andSICKNESS AND MISFORTUNE anxiety. The problem is that spiritual powers canAfrica has always been a harsh place in which be used for both good and live, environmentally and politically. Infantmortality has always been high; more recently, SPIRIT POSSESSIONthe AIDS pandemic has affected especially the The search for relief and therapy is oftenstrong and economically productive sections of embodied in ‘cults of affliction’. In Bantu-society. Yet, only the death of the very old can speaking areas these often go under the generaleasily be accepted as part of the natural flow of name of Ngoma (‘drum’: referring to the musicevents. The death of younger people needs and dance which may be part and parcel ofexplanation, as does illness and bad luck, membership of the group). Such groups have aparticularly if they are recurrent. There may be public existence and (unlike witchcraftproximate explanations – a specific symptom activities) have respect from society. Butor event – but what is the enduring, initiates enter into a secret world, which maydetermining cause? The problem may be involve learning an arcane language and thelocated in a failure to respect ancestors or other symbolic performance of acts normally taboo.spirits, or the accidental or deliberate failure to Women are often the majority. They may begincomply with certain norms. It may be caused by their involvement by consulting a diviner forjealousy on the part of kinsfolk or neighbours, some particular problem during pregnancy andor be due to the malice of witchcraft. be gradually drawn into membership. By A number of religious professionals can be becoming adept at healing or divination,consulted. There are healers who are skilled in women have opportunities to gain a statusherbal medicines. Diviners use a variety of otherwise denied them.
  • 90. I N D I G E N O U S R E L I G I O N SAfrican Religion, Politics and theChallenge of ModernityBecause African traditional religion was so closely integrated into society, it has oftenbeen regarded as lacking the critical distance from the centres of power effectively tochallenge authority: it served rather to sacralize political and cultural institutions. Forexample, a territorial cult like that of Mbona in the Shire and Zambesi valleys of Malawiand Mozambique may have begun in opposition to local power, but it soon became co-optedinto those structures.Yet there are a few examples of religious opposition to the status quo.A N EARLIER AFRICAN opposition to planting crops and kill all their cattle. The colonial rule is associated with the prophecies deeply divided the Xhosa people, but young Xhosa girl Nongqawuse. The the overall result was famine, death, the exodusXhosa had suffered intense pressure on land and of young men to work as landless labourers onresources emanating from Afrikaner and British European farms, and a further erosion of Xhosafarmers for half a century. Nongqawuse had a culture. Nongqawuse’s message, with itsvision in which the ancestors promised to rise adoption of Christian elements (such as The Reaction Against Europeanfrom the dead and, with the help of the Russians resurrection of the dead) into a Xhosa cultural Imperialism(who had just fought the British in the Crimea), framework, shows the cultural adaptability of Growing dissatisfaction with colonial rule resulted in revolt throughoutto drive out the British and renew the land. To African religious sensibilities, even though in this Africa from the late nineteenthrealise this the Xhosa should refrain from case to negative effect. century onwards. S e a Jellaz incident, 1911, d i t e r r a n e a n Dinshaway, followed by martial M e PERSIA law until 1921 TUNISIA incident, 1906 anti-French Sanusi war Nationalist rising rising, 1915–16 against Italy, under Arabi R 1912–31 Pasha, 1881–2 e LI B YA EGYPT d A L G E R IA S e A N G LO-E G Y P T I A N a S U DA N Khartoum FR E NCH W E S T A FR ICA resistance Mahdist state, 1881–98 to French Khartoum falls to Mahdi, 1885 under Rabih, Mahmadou Lamine, 1881–7; 1897–1900 Abyssinia defeats Sén é Ahmadou, 1881–93 Italy at Adowa, 1896 A ga er Ni g BRI T I SH RIC Sokoto caliphate, l 1890s–1903 Nil e S O MA LI LAND F Mande resistance to French NIGE R IA L A ABYSSINIA Somali resistance to under Samory, 1884–98 D British and Italians under RIA Ijebu war, 1892 Anyang AN Sayyid Muhammed, GO L D revolt, 1904 IL the Mad Mullah, 1891–1920 AL TO Itsekiri war,Temne revolt, CO A S T 1893–4 CAM E R OON M UA 1898–1900 Ashanti rebellions, U G A N DA SO EQ Congo Bunyoro 1874, 1896, 1900 D A H O M E Y resistance to BRITISH AN Fon resistance, 1889–94 British rule, E A S T A F R I C A LI TA CH 1890–8 I Nandi resistance EN B E LG I A N FR C ON G O Tutsi and Hutu to British rule, 1895–1905 resistance to British and Germans, 1911–17 Arab resistance TA N G A N Y I K A Abushiri revolt, under Tippu Tib 1888–9 The Reaction Against European Imperialism to Congo Free (GERMAN Hehe revolt, Zanzibar in Africa in the late Nineteenth and Early State, 1891–4 E A S T A F R I C A ) 1891–8 rising against Twentieth Century anti-Portuguese risings, 1913 Maji–Maji British, 1896 rebellion against foreign or colonial power Arab resistance to revolt, 1905–6 British, 1887–97 A N G OLA risings, 1895–9 R H ODE S I A anti-Portuguese Chilembwes risings, 1913 rebellion,1915 R CA UE AS Ndebele and IQ Mashona revolts, AG Herero and Khoi MB 1896 revolts against German AD ZA colonial rule, 1904–8 M MO GERMAN S OU T H - W E S T anti–French revolt in Madagascar, AFRICA 1896–1905 Zulu war, 1879; Zulu revolt in S OU T H Natal, 1906 AFRICA
  • 91. A F R I C A N R E L I G I O N , P O L I T I C S A N D T H E C H A L L E N G E O F M O D E R N I T Y Such responses of distress have been repeatedat critical periods in Africa’s confrontation withexternal forces. The Maji Maji revolt againstGerman rule in East Africa between 1905 and1907 dispensed a sacred water to make peopleimmune from the guns of the aggressor. In theaftermath of military defeat in Northern Ugandaafter 1986, Alice Lakwena, possessed by ‘theholy spirit’ and other spirits of the Acholi people,waged a spiritual battle. She promised immunityfrom bullets, and looked the spirits to restorepurity and dignity to the polluted land.PRIVATIZATION OF RELIGIONOne of the startling changes of modern Africanlife is the increasing privatization of aspects ofthe traditional African religious vocabulary ISLAM AND CHRISTIANITYand repertoire. Islam and Christianity have In North Africa the process of incorporatingbecome major players in public life at a whole African religious values into Islam has gone far.variety of levels – the institution of a traditional Sufi brotherhoods have historically been at theruler, the rites of passage: particularly of birth forefront of this movement. In Morocco theand death. Traditional rituals are becoming Gnawa cult emphasizes healing rituals, withsecularized, divorced from the religious music playing an important role. Its origins areconcepts which formerly gave them coherence. traced to the black slaves who came to MoroccoA religious element is often sought from the from sub-Saharan Africa, and the sensibilities oflocal priest, pastor or imam. a spirit-possession cult of affliction seem evident. In the search for health, however, African Christianity has always been more warytraditional understandings continue to flourish, about bringing these two worlds together, thoughnot least in urban settings. Politicians, business African Instituted Churches, such as Aladuramen and women, civil servants and teachers, churches in Nigeria and Zionists in Southernnot to mention the army of workers and job Africa, have often emphazised healing andseekers, all have reason to consult traditional prayer. Modern Pentecostalism, however, is louddiviners and healers both as a remedy for in its denunciation of the traditional spirits, all ofsickness (in situations where public health whom are demonized. Yet they do address theprovision declines) and for success in work or issues of healing on a similar conceptual footinglove. Students look for success in exams. to traditional understandings, and this may be Such consultation may be conducted in one reason for the rapid expansion of this type ofsecret and with a certain amount of shame. It Christianity in late twentieth-century Africa.may also involve the use of anti-social forms ofthe manipulation of the spirit world. Beliefs in NEO-TRADITIONAL MOVEMENTSwitchcraft have a long history in Africa. The There have been attempts to reinvent Africanreluctance of colonialists and missionaries to religion as a ‘religion’ like Christianity or Islam.recognize the reality of witchcraft and their In Gabon, Bwiti freely incorporates Christianwillingness to punish those who made elements. Outside Africa, Candomblé inaccusations as much as the actual witches Brazil mixes local Catholicism andoffended African distinctions. It has not Yoruba orisha.reduced the fears of witchcraft. The insecurities These movements are interesting,of modern life have if anything led to increased but they are not the major way in whichmanipulation of objects for a harmful African traditional religion survives. Forpurposes. In the 1990s the disintegration of most Africans this is more likely to bestates such as Liberia and Sierra Leone was through the articulation of an authenticaccompanied by an increased fear of the African spirituality within Islam andharmful effects of witchcraft in political power Christianity and in the wider social,struggles and as a resource for undisciplined political and ecological concerns ofboy soldiers. African life. 93
  • 92. I N D I G E N O U S R E L I G I O N S SHINTO The History of Shinto Shinto – the traditional belief system of Japan – has no fundamental creeds or written teachings, and is not particularly evangelical. However it resonates with a veneration for Japanese tradition and the invisible presence of innumerable spiritual powers, or kami.Thus the spiritual insights attributed to Japan’s ancient inhabitants are regarded as just as valid now as throughout all the vicissitudes of history. Shinto is essentially a body of ritual to relate with kami in a way that is respectful, warm, open, positive and vibrant. Local festivals (matsuri) have become so much part of social life and enshrine so much traditional Japanese morality and social behaviour that participation seems natural common-sense, good neighbourliness and part of being Japanese. Shinto has thus become a vehicle for many themes, and need not operate merely on the basis of conscious ‘belief’. T RUSSIAN FED. HE NAME ‘Shinto’ combines the Chinese characters for kami and way, (implying the way to/from and of the HOKKAIDO kami). It was originally chosen by government in the seventh century to distinguish N ‘traditional’ worship from Buddhism. Shinto, however, is clearly not simply an indigenous native cult but reflects much of the ancient shamanic traditions common to its Asian neighbours. Historians can also pinpoint how Buddhist, Taoist, Confucian and, more recently, Christian philosophy and customs have been adopted because of the attractions A The Spread of Yamato Influence in the Eighth Century AD and challenges of Chinese, Korean and early Yamato palace (AD 600-650) major burial grounds Western civilization. At times Shinto has also mound cemetery area of state formation been used by the Japanese State to unify the expansion of state nation under the Emperor, as a national Sado religion, against foreign enemies. no This background of political and academic ina Sh debate however has usually been alien to most R. P Sekitama Japanese people, who have always spoken simply of ‘the kami’, (never ‘Shinto’) and Matsuoka Dendenchofu moreover practise a mixture of Buddhism and L.Biwa Shinto, without any sense of contradiction. Oki Umami Saki Umanoyama Furuichi Oyamato-Yanagimoto Furthermore, few Japanese would refer to either Mozo Ikaruga Asuka-Itabuki imperial residence Buddhism or Shinto as ‘religion’, or shukyou, Izumo Kibi A Yamato which is usually equated with pushy evangelism and quibbling over dogma. KU O Left: The Spread of Yamato IK SH THE KAMI Influence in the Eighth Century AD In the eighth century AD Shinto becameNorth Kyushu Japan’s earliest histories, the Kojiki and a political entity when Yamato writers J Nihonshoki, were compiled on the orders of ascribed divine origins to the imperial the imperial family in AD 712 and AD 720 family, and so claimed legitimacy for Saitobaru KYUSHU rule. Shinto thus became an essential respectively, for the purpose of justifying the weapon for Yamato expansion.The map Tojin royal lineage, and describe many of the most shows the directions of this expansion. 94
  • 93. T H E H I S T O R Y O F S H I N T Oimportant kami. Although there was an mischievous elements like fox-spirits,obvious political aim to unite all the regional kitsune, or tree spirits, tengu. These may beand clan deities under the authority of the called on to communicate with us throughimperial, Yamato, clan-deity Amaterasu O- mediums, to explain their behaviour. Onmikami, the kami of the sun, these legends special occasions, the kami may also possessprovide an explanation for most Shinto a medium to send an important message.rituals and the starting point for any official, • Individuals should venerate and entertainShinto ‘theology’. the kami most important to them, not only Some basic concepts that emerge are: because their good will is required but also• Kami are not necessarily the same as ‘gods’. because they appreciate that individual’s They can die, and decompose like mortals. concern. They are not all-knowing, and Some are human. There is no easy divide want to be informed about significant between what is animate and inanimate, events. They love most to see individuals cultural and natural, human and divine. enjoying themselves in a happy community. Rather, all creation is the expression of • There is no teaching about the original spiritual powers. All things are bound creation of the universe, or about any future together in a kind of spiritual family, and it end or final judgement. Likewise, there is no is natural therefore to try and relate with clear description of any after-life. After a the world emotionally, as well as materially person dies, they simply merge with their and scientifically. Spiritual power is not ancestral kami and have no individual soul spread equally, but can be recognized as such as is taught in Christianity or Buddhism. especially powerful in particular Primary identity thus reflects membership in phenomena and these are the kami. a community and social roles.• The kami are invisible and countless. Shinto • Purity is essential to a right relationship with focuses upon those that reveal their the kami and the avoidance of failure or importance to people. Particular kami are disease. Many rituals feature the exorcism of identified with the kitchen, safety on the sins in order to be restored to original purity. roads, education etc. Others are identified Cleanliness, sincerity (makoto) and with places, especially forests, mountains or politeness in particular signify freedom from waterfalls, that seem especially numinous, bad external influences, and reliability. The or natural phenomena that are especially kami are especially repelled by blood and by awesome, such as winds and thunder. death. Traditionally, women were banned Individuals too, who seem possessed of a from shrine events during menstruation; those special charisma or just very successful, who worked with dead bodies, such as might be called kami. Other, less important, tanners, were not tolerated and soldiers spiritual forces are recognized, such as required special purification after battle. 95
  • 94. I N D I G E N O U S R E L I G I O N SShinto Shrines (jinja)Shinto shrines and ritual very carefully mark entry into a special world. Even in a bustling city,shrines express a different atmosphere. Surrounded by evergreen trees, and approached on anoisy gravel path, they still everyday conversation.There is a special silence, broken only by ritualhand-claps, or the sound of crows and seasonal insects. Shinto ritual, including music (gakaku)and dance (kagura), is characterized by a special slow, measured pace, appropriate to thetimeless kami and quite different from daily life outside. On special occasions (matsuri) amass of local people will be crowded together in noisy festivity, letting themselves go in frontof the kami in ways they would never dream of doing outside the shrine.I T IS IMPORTANT that the shrines blend THE KAMI into the environment chosen by the kami. The kami do not ‘live’ in the shrines, and must be Traditionally built from wood and generally summoned politely. The approach to each shrineleft untreated, they need regular repair or is marked by one or several great gateways, orrebuilding, and the work of the local community torii, and there will be a basin to rinse hands andis thus bound to the life of the local shrine. This is mouth. A shrine is usually dedicated to onestill the tradition of Japan’s most celebrated particular kami, but may host any number ofshrine, the Grand Shrine of Ise, dedicated to smaller shrines, representing other kami thatAmaterasu and reconstructed in ancient style local people should also venerate. Sacred points,every generation. Worship is done primarily in such as entrances or particular trees and rocks,the open air, and the key buildings enshrine the will be marked off by ropes of elaboratelytokens that are the focus of veneration. plaited straw, or streamers of plain paper.96
  • 95. S H I N T O S H R I N E S ( J I N J A ) The kami are usually summoned by pulling abell-rope outside the shrine, making a small(money) offering followed by two hand-claps, ashort silent prayer, and two bows, but variationis tolerated and this procedure is longer at themost important shrines. The primary audience isalways the kami. Matsuri, for example, seemgreat fun but always begin with an invitation bypriests facing away from the people, towards thekami, and inviting them to attend, and end withpriestly farewells on their departure. Traditionally, the professional priesthoodwas limited to the great shrines, and local peopletook it in turns to be the priest. But recently theprofessional priesthood has grown to about20,000, including 2,000 women priests. Allexcept the smallest shrines will be theresponsibility of a team of priests (guji) ofvarious ranks, assisted by a team of local(unmarried) girls (miko) who performceremonial dances (kagura) and other services.Most new priests are now university graduates,usually from Shinto universities, and are oftenfrom priestly families. There is no equivalent toa Pope or leader of Shinto, and each shrine isindependent. But most shrines are linkedtogether through the national shrineorganization (jinja honcho) which providesinformation and administrative services, andhelps represent Shinto overseas. 97
  • 96. I N D I G E N O U S R E L I G I O N SShinto TodayThere are four major seasonal events: NewYear, Rice-Planting (spring), O-Bon (a visit by theancestors in mid-July or August) and HarvestThanskgiving (autumn). In addition there will be thefestival days of the local kami.There will also be special events to mark rites of passage, such aspresenting a new-born baby to be recognized and protected by the kami,followed by further presentations during childhood (boys aged five, girls agedthree and seven), then a coming-of-age ceremony when 20. Within the last 100years, marriage has also begun to be celebrated at the local shrine. Funeralsare left to Buddhist priests, since shrines must avoid pollution. Abashiri Asahikawa Hokkaido N Sapporo Tomakomai Osore-yama (Shinto) Iwaki-san Shinto Today A sacred mountainsM OST TRADITIONAL FAMILY Shinto shrines Haguro-san homes feature a kamidana or shelf Tosho-gu on which amulets and tokens of the 17th centurykami are displayed. Particular rooms associated Meiji-jinguwith pollution or danger, such as the toilet and 20th century shrine tokitchen, may also feature amulets. Emperor Meiji Yasukuni-jinja shrine to Minobu-san war dead PTHE ROLE OF THE EMPEROR Tate-yama (Nichiren) Tokyo S e a o f (Shinto) Ontake-san Honshu YokohamaThe failure of Japan’s brutal adventure into (Shinto) J a p a nmainland Asia from 1894 to 1945, in the name Fushimi-Inari Mt Fuji Mt Fuji (Shinto shrine) 9th century shrine Shizuokaof the emperor, has complicated his place in ti Inari, god of rice Ullung-do Kasuga ShrineShinto. The emperor has been promoted as Oki- 8th century Hiei-zan shoto (Buddhist) Kyoto Ise Shrine 3rd century shrineShinto’s high priest, Japan’s primary link with Nara to Amaterasu, sun goddess Izumo-no-Oyashiro Kobe Omime-yama (Shugendo)the most important kami – notably Amaterasu rebuilt in 18th century; Osaka Kumano-Jinja,14th century shrine to goddess of marriage Koya-san (Shingon)O-mikami – since the very foundation of the Mt Miwa AJapanese state by the Yamato clan around the Hiroshimaearly sixth century. Between 1868 and 1945, this Shikoku Pacifictradition was interpretated to make him head of Matsuyama Oceanstate, and State Shinto was promulgated as the Tsushimachief arm of government, but the emperor was Fukuoka Shinto Today Ama-no-lwato-Jinjanot given any clear mandate to rule. J Aso-san Shrine to Amaterasu Omikami, sun goddess Even in today’s heavily industrialized Japan, Shinto continues to play a part Nagasaki Kyushu Since 1945, the Japanese constitution forbids in society. Shinto customs are still Kirishima-yama practised, including visiting shrines,any formal link between members of government marriage ceremonies, taking part inand religious activism. The Shinto ceremony shrine festivals and praying to Shintowhen the crown prince formally becomes an gods for success.98
  • 97. S H I N T O T O D AYemperor in theory makes his body the host of a Insofar as they played down the significance ofkami, but in Japanese law the Emperor is now the emperor, they were suppressed until 1945.merely the symbol of the Japanese nation and not Since then, some such as Tenri-kyo, Sekaia religious figure. He still has a busy schedule of Kyusei Kyo and Mahikari have enjoyedrituals to perform, such as offering the first fruits spectacular success for example in Southeastafter harvest to (other) kami. Asia or South America, where similar spirit- The myth that all Japanese are ‘children of based cults are indigenous.the kami’, especially Amaterasu O-mikami,through the emperor, has made it easy togenerate a proud nation unified on the basis of acommon ethnic origin. It fails, however, torespect the rights of those whose roots do not liein the Yamato tradition, such as the Ainu orOkinawans, or immigrants, and claim the rightto be different.NEW SHINTO SECTSSince around the middle of the nineteenthcentury, as Japan faced up to all sorts of crisesdue to foreign imperialism and internal change,a variety of local Shinto cults appeared.Typically, they introduced new, hithertounknown kami, who could help the people andmeet the new challenges. Often they assumedan international character, unlike traditionalShinto, and sought to compete withChristianity as evangelical, saviour religions. 99
  • 98. World ReligionsBUDDHISMThe BuddhaThe Buddha was born, lived and died a human being. He is not a god.Thespecial thing about him was that he realized the state of sublime wisdomand compassion called Nirvana. He discovered the causes of all suffering,and the way by which all beings could reach the same state.G AUTAMA SIDDHARTHA, the historical four things which changed his life. First he saw an Buddha, was born in the year 566 BC, the old man, then a sick man, and a corpse. Gautama son of the king of the Sakya people in was shocked, and asked for an explanation. Thepresent-day Nepal. At his birth it was prophesied groom told him that these conditions werethat he would either become a world ruler or a great normal, and happened to everyone. Gautamasage. His father wanted the former, so he arranged then met a wandering holy man, who had givenfor his son to be brought up without seeing the up everything to practise the religious life and seektroubles of the world. Gautama grew up to be a the answer to suffering. He radiated a sense ofhandsome youth, who excelled in all kinds of serenity which Gautama knew he had to find. Buddhismactivities. He lived a happy and contented life within Soon afterwards, Gautama shaved his head, Buddha was born in the year 566 BC inthe walls of the palace, and married a princess, and slipped out of the palace. He wandered far Nepal. At his birth it was prophesied that he would either become a greatYasodhara, who bore him a son, Rahula. and wide, begging for his food, and subjecting ruler or a great sage. Today, 360 himself to all kinds of austerities. Eventually, million Buddhists account for almostENLIGHTENMENT almost dying with hunger, he decided such six percent of the world’s population across 92 countries. The map showsOne day, Gautama persuaded his groom to take practices would not achieve his goal. He the distribution of Buddhistshim outside the city walls. There he encountered resolved to practise a middle way between throughout the world. ASIA NORTH EUROPE AMERICA Atlantic Ocean Pacific Ocean Hong Kong Pacific Ocean A F R I C A Singapore Buddhism SOUTH World total – 360 million AMERICA Indian Ocean Concentration of Buddhists in Asia, by percentage of population AUSTRALIA 85% + 70–84% 40–69% 20–39% 10–19% 1–9% Less than 1% Spread of Buddhism100
  • 99. austerity and luxury. He took a little food, andsat beneath a tree at a place called Bodh Gaya inpresent-day Bihar, vowing not to move until hehad achieved his goal. At the age of 35, on the night of the fullmoon in May, he realized Nirvana, (awakening,enlightenment) entering into deep meditationand becoming the Buddha, the Enlightened One.The Buddha would never explain Nirvana,saying that it is essentially beyond words andthoughts, and so Buddhists also refrain fromspeculating about it.HIS MESSAGEAt first, the new Buddha was reluctant to compassion, and a practical way which could beinstruct others, feeling that they would not followed by those who wished. This teaching heunderstand. However, the god Brahma called the Dharma. Many of his disciples chose toappeared to him, and begged him to teach ‘for follow the Buddha into the homeless life, and thusthe sake of those with but little dust in their was born the Sangha, or community.eyes’. He agreed, and delivered his first sermon Eventually, the Buddha’s life came to an end,on the Four Noble Truths in the Deer Park near and he passed away aged 80 at Kusinara, India.Varanasi, India. In his lifetime, the Buddha His followers were grief-stricken, but thetaught all who wanted to listen, men and Buddha’s final words to them were, ‘Allwomen, rich and poor. We are also told that conditioned things are impermanent. Strive on!’he taught animals and spiritual beings of THE HISTORICAL BUDDHA*various kinds. 566 BC Buddha born His message was always the same: ‘suffering, 550 BC Marries Yasodharathe causes of suffering and the way out of 535 BC Son Rahula born 536 BC Leaves homesuffering’. He did not talk about God or the soul, 528 BC Achieves Nirvana and preaches first sermonor encourage speculation in matters that could not 526 BC Founds Sanghabe proved. Rather, he specifically told people to c. 523 BC Order of nuns founded c. 522 BC King Bimbisara donates bamboo grove at Magadhabelieve and practise only those things which were 483 BC Achieved Parinirvana (dies)helpful and led to freedom and peace of mind. It * The dates are traditional, but not universally recognized.was a combination of profound wisdom and deep THE FOUR NOBLE TRUTHS The Four Noble Truths are the heart of the Buddha’s our birth, life and rebirth. One of the skandhas is form, so teaching. They are: rebirth is always in some form, which need not be human. Having discovered for himself that there is a way out of • The fact of suffering; suffering, the Buddha proceeded to outline it.This is the final • The cause of suffering; Truth,The Noble Eightfold Path of the way out of suffering: • The fact that there is a way out of suffering; • The way itself. • Right view (understanding, attitude); • Right aim (intention, resolve, motive or thought); The Buddha observed that all beings suffered. The cause • Right speech (not lying, slandering or gossiping); of this suffering is selfish desire, and a misunderstanding • Right action (or conduct); of the nature of ‘self’, which is not the fixed, separate and • Right livelihood (means of living); enduring entity that it appears to be. What we call ‘self’ is • Right effort; actually a collection of skandhas (heaps or particles) • Right mindfulness (awareness of things as they are); which are constantly changing. These are form, feelings, • Right concentration (contemplation, meditation). perception, mind-contents and consciousness. The relationship of these constitutes our ‘self’ at any moment, The Buddha summed up this path as: ‘Cease to do evil; and creates karma (action and reaction) which influences learn to do good, and purify your heart.’ 101
  • 100. Early BuddhismFollowing the death of the Buddha in 483 BC, the concept of theSangha, or community, of monks grew ever more important.TheBuddha had ordained monks in his lifetime, calling them to followthe homeless life and practise the Dharma, and their numbercontinued to grow after his passing.T HE FIRST MONKS were considered to monks was held. These monks were all be arahats, beings enlightened by the arahats who had known the Buddha. They met Buddha’s teaching. There was no formal to recite the teaching as they remembered it,ordination ceremony. The Buddha taught them and to agree a definitive version. However,the Dharma, and invited them to leave home and there were some who did not agree that thefamily. They in turn ordained others. The Council had preserved the pure teaching of theBuddha had charged his followers to ‘travel for Buddha.the welfare and happiness of people, and out of The teaching was preserved in oral tradition,compassion for the world’, and this they did. and it was not until many years later that it was The Spread of Buddhism by AD 500Some 200 years after the Buddha’s death the written down. It was grouped into three pitakas Despite humble beginnings themovement had spread throughout India. They or baskets. Vinaya consisted of the rules for message of Buddhism soon spread. This map shows the diffusion ofdepended on lay people for food and other monks (bhikkhus) and nuns (bhikkhunis). Buddhism throughout the near and farnecessities, and the relationship grew whereby These not only provide guidelines for the east by AD 500.the monks were fed in Na Kyotoreturn for teaching. ra Much of Buddhism’s gju A RE onearly success was due to Ky KO Ir t ysthe patronage of higher e a n g ijin h Beclass members of society er Riv O csuch as King Bimbisara Lake ha n Balkhash iS a ta Sh n an ow Sh n- uo llof Magadha and many ai Ye u-t Tia Put Wof his court. The king Aral Sea iu fu-x Ja c an- xa AN an r W EST te f i ng Sh sgave the Buddha a URK hua a ua ES E T Dun uh os rm c i Jibamboo grove where CHIN Fo O NA xu HI s C athe monks could stay. It P an Shwas considered an Merv TIB ET -m ei O Phiaction of high merit to AFGHA N I S TA N lip Gandhara Taxila a sgive to monks, so they H Lhas pi i a ne m y ut r a Red Rivwere well supported in a l a ap er gara hm uth Is K usinai Bra So ina latheir work of spreading Lumb L in Ch ea waddy n a th S s PA arn d s N Eres GaS ges n AL k Me ong Mthe Dharma. However, du Bena ENG NA Ir r a In B Gaya hai ANthe Buddha’s teaching Bodh Pag an MA hot Karachi hi alcu tta B UR Suk Sanc C u N D koralso embraced the Prom e Peg gon I L A Ang Yan T H A s al belowest classes, as he Ajanta eng of B le Bay erejected the caste system eo C Arabian Sea INDIA rn Bombay Karli Boand taught that all could M al ayattain enlightenment. s Madra Pe ni su n la S u ur ra m udORGANIZATION dhapu a t rob Anura y r a Bo KandSoon after the Buddha’s ka Sr i L a ndeath (in approximately The Spread of Buddhism by AD 500 spread of Buddhism483 BC), the First Great first area of BuddhistCouncil of 500 senior missionary activity area of rise of Mahayana Buddhism102 Buddhist sites
  • 101. E A R LY B U D D H I S Mmonastic life, but allow for settling of disputes all beings (bodhisattvas). In fact, asand imposing discipline. Sutta is the collection compassion is an essential aspect of Buddhistof the Buddha’s sermons, while abhidamma practice, this is largely a question of semantics.(higher Dharma) consists largely of Today, there are two main traditions, thephilosophical analysis of the Buddha’s Theravada or Teaching of the Elders, and theteachings. It was the differing interpretations in Mahayana or Greater Vehicle, which containsthis section which caused most of the disputes a number of different traditions such as Zen,between the various emerging schools. Vajrayana and Pure Land. While the various schools differed in manyTHE TWO TRADITIONS ways, they were united by the Dharma, and byA second Great Council took place around the vinaya, the rules of monastic life, even383 BC. By this time, several schools had come though interpretations differed.into existence. Part of the controversy was As time went by, Buddhism tended to lose itsover whether Buddhists should only try to gain distinctive character due to the influence oftheir own enlightenment (arahats) or whether various Hindu teachings, and so virtuallythey should seek the freedom from suffering of disappeared from India as a separate religion. THE SANGHA The original meaning of Sangha is the In other Mahayana traditions, such as Zen community of monks. Today, different and Pure Land, the term Sangha is used for all traditions place different emphases on ‘Disciples of the Buddha’ whether lay or what constitutes Sangha. In the Theravada monastic. In these traditions, priests can be and some Mahayana traditions, the Sangha married and the temple may be a family affair. is limited to those who have ‘embraced the Nuns have extra rules to follow, including homeless life’ – even though they may live being subservient to monks. Originally, the in monasteries. The Buddha himself laid Buddha was reluctant to ordain nuns, and down rules for the monastic Sangha. At the only did so after much persuasion. This was First Council, 227 rules were recited, and mainly because of the attitude to women these became the basis for the Sangha. prevailing in his time. In some schools the Monks (and nuns) are celibate and keep order of nuns died out, and today efforts are other vinaya rules, such as the times being made to restore it from traditions they may eat. where it survived. 103
  • 102. Theravada BuddhismTheravada – the Way of the Elders – is the oldest form of Buddhism, being largely unchanged fromthe third century BC. It is found throughout Southeast Asia. Its teachings come from the PaliScriptures, interpreted in a conservative manner which gives prime importance to the Sangha ofordained monks and the liberation of the individual.P ALI IS AN Indian language which is similar to the one which the Buddha spoke. It is one of the two languages of the earliestBuddhist writings, the other being Sanskrit. It ispossible that Pali was the language in which theoral tradition was preserved, and it was certainlythe one in which the first written scriptures wereproduced, in Sri Lanka in the first century BC. The written scriptures adhere faithfully to thepattern of oral tradition established by the greatBuddhist Councils, namely, vinaya, sutta and THE WAY OF THE ELDERSabhidamma. They show the Buddha as a human The essence of the Theravadin way is based onbeing – albeit a unique one – who realized the monastic life. This is the way to attainNirvana through his own efforts, and they give his Nirvana, and, for most lay people, the goal is toteaching of the way to attain a happy, peaceful be reborn in a life where they can become aand contented life. The Pali Canon mentions few monk or nun. Many laymen become monks for Theravada Buddhism The map shows the main areas ofmiraculous events, but emphasizes the life and a few months, either in their teens or after their Theravada Buddhism in Southeastteaching of the Buddha as the great miracle. families have been cared for. Asia today. H I M Delhi A L Taipei NEPAL A Y A S Mt. Everest BHUTAN TAIWAN Ganga dy Hong Kong BANGLADESH wad Calcutta n Irra Salwee Hanoi I N D I A South Bombay LAOS China M YA N A M A R Sea M Manila ek Hue on Hyderabad Bay of Da Nang g Rangoon Bengal THAILAND Moulmein PHILIPPINES Bangkok Madras CAMBODIA VIETNAM Phnom Penh Ho Chi Minh City Colombo BRUNEI SRI LANKA M A L A Y S I A SINGAPORE BORNEO CELEBES SU Pontianak M AT RA A I Theravada Buddhism Indian I E S N D O N Main areas of Theravada Buddhism Ocean JAVA104
  • 103. The Sangha is supported by lay people, and • Not to kill or harm living beings;monks are not allowed to work or handle • Not to take what is not freely given;money. Their main activities are meditation, • Not to indulge in sexual impropriety;study and teaching the Dharma. Their only • Not to use slanderous or lying speech;possessions are their robes, and a few articles for • Not to become intoxicated by usingdaily use such as a toothbrush and begging bowl. substances which cloud the mind. The Theravadin Sangha claims unbrokensuccession from the Buddha, as each ordination Monks and nuns follow these and a lot more.has to be conducted by a number of fully People become Buddhists by announcing,ordained monks. usually before a monk, that they, ‘Take refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha’, and byTEACHINGS AND PRACTICE agreeing to follow these five precepts.The teachings of the Theravada are the basic Theravadin Buddhist practice has little in theones of Buddhism. They are the Signs of Being, way of ceremony, though devotees will attend a(dukkha, that life is essentially unsatisfactory, temple for a puja, or recitation of portions of theannica, that all things are impermanent or Pali scriptures. Important times in a person’s lifeconstantly changing, and anatta, that we do not will also be marked by chanting.have a permanent unchanging self); the Four An important practice is meditation, which isNoble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path. The the way the Buddha achieved his goal. There arepractise of morality is very important, based on many kinds of meditation, and the basic formsthe Precepts or rule of life. The five basic practised in Theravada Buddhism are also foundprecepts are: in other traditions. MEDITATION Meditation is one step on the thoughts of wellbeing and loving Eightfold Path, and one practice kindness. ‘May all beings be well and through which Buddhists aim happy’ is the traditional phrase. ‘All to become free of suffering. Four beings’ include those we love, those main types are practised within we like and those we dislike, beings Theravada Buddhism. other than human, and ourselves. • Vipassana or insight meditation • Samatha or concentration is the enables us to be aware of the ever- peaceful calming of the mind changing nature of the self, and its through concentration. It is usually relationship with the world around practised by watching the breath, us. In it, there is direct observation and being aware of it without trying of the physical and mental to change anything. components that make up what we • Mindfulness consists of being aware call our ‘self’. of the activities of body and mind in whatever we might be doing, and It is preferable to learn meditation from watching the mind’s reaction. a teacher, and in the Theravada this is • Metta or loving kindness is the usually – though not always – practise of suffusing all beings with a member of the Sangha. 105
  • 104. W O R L D R E L I G I O N SMahayana BuddhismMahayana is the form of Buddhism found inTibet, China, Mongolia,Vietnam, Korea and Japan. It recognizes theTheravadin scriptures,and adds many more, some of which were composed after the historicalBuddha’s lifetime. Some were based on remembered teaching, othersare mythological, and some are said to have been recorded and hiddenuntil the time was ripe to reveal them.I N MAHAYANA BUDDHISM, Buddha is There are also bodhisattvas such as the not limited to the historical Gautama. There Chinese Guan Yin or the Tibetan Tara, are other Buddhas recognized who are not who represent the personification ofhistorical figures, but who represent different active compassion, and Manjusri, theaspects of his enlightenment. Two of the principle manifestation of wisdom. Bodhisattvasones are Amitabha (the Buddha of Infinite Light) are often spiritualized beings who wereand Bhaisajya (The Medicine Buddha), but there disiples of the historical Buddha, but whoare many more. Their lives and teachings were delayed their own enlightenment, choosing torevealed by Shakyamuni Buddha, and are remain on earth, until all beings are freed fromrecorded in the Mahayana scriptures to help suffering. Their power can help practitionersdisciples understand various practices. who know the correct way of invoking it. Ulan Batur Bogd Khan M O N G O L I A Yungang Heng Shan Beijing NORTH Dunhuang KOREA Wu-tai Shan Mogao Taiyuan Gao Temple Tai Shan SOUTH Bingling Si Luomen KOREA N Longmen Mt Hiei Maijishan Changan Loyang Kyoto AP A K I S T A N P Nara White Horse Temple Dragons in the Cloud Hill A C H I N A J Nanking Danyang Hugiu Jokhang Temple Feilong Shan Shanghai Dharmashala Qionglong Shan Yujang Putuo Shan Lhasa Potala Palace Luoshan Temple Jiuhua Shan Taiping Shan Ruoye Shan Chengdu Kailas Shan Tashilhunpo Monastery Leshan Emei Shan Lu Shan Sakya Monastery Tashilhunpo NEPAL BHUTAN H Jizu Shan DES I N D I A GLA Lions Head Mountain BAN Hsuan-Tsang Lingjiu Shan TAIWAN Luofou Shan Mahayana Buddhism Mahayana Buddhism Light of Buddha Mountain Countries following Temple of Six Banyan Trees Zen (Chan) Macao Temple of 10,000 Buddhas Mahayana Buddhism Hong Kong B U R M A Temples VIETNAM Mahayana Buddhism Cave Temples There are many traditions within LAOS Main Tibetan Lama seats Mahayana Buddhism. Chan and Pure Tibeand Ze Land Buddhism are two schools Buddhist Centres popular in China. Tibetan Buddhism Cities is distinctive in that it took on many Sacred Buddhist and characteristics of Tibet’s indigenous Taoist Mountains, with Buddhist Shrines T H A I L A N D Bon religion after it first arrived in the country in the seventh century AD.106
  • 105. M A H AY A N A B U D D H I S M PRACTICES Mahayana practices include all the forms of meditation previously mentioned, as well as the practise of morality. However, it also includes a number of other practices not found in the Theravada. One of these is the Bodhisattva Vow, through which practitioners dedicateBUDDHA NATURE their practice to the release of all beings fromAnother important aspect of Buddha in the suffering, and vow to master all the teachingsMahayana is Buddha Nature, which is latent in and practices of the Buddha Way. Further, theyall, and which the various practices reveal. In the vow not to attain their own enlightenment untilearlier Buddhism, enlightenment was something all beings are freed from suffering. Forthat could only be achieved by the few, after Mahayana practitioners, it is the removal ofmany lifetimes, and then only by those who were suffering from the world that is more importantordained. The Mahayana emphasizes that than personal release.Buddhahood is not limited, but is the Real In general, Mahayana Buddhism is moreNature of living beings, with them from the very ritualistic, although the ritual is seen as beingbeginning, and only needing to be revealed. a form of conscious yoga in which there is The essence of Buddha Nature is emptiness, visualization of spiritual beings andin that it is still not a ‘self’, but is something that an acceptance of the power of theiris beyond the ability of words to describe. It is help. This power is a living realitysometimes referred to as ‘the Unborn’ or ‘Mind’ for Mahayana Buddhists, and can(capitalized) and said to be the perfect balance of help relieve suffering in this worldwisdom and compassion. It is hidden by the and the next. For example, withindefilements or hindrances of greed, anger and the Pure Land tradition, Amitabhaignorance, and the various practices of the vowed to help ordinary beingsMahayana are taught because they have been to attain enlightenment, even iffound to remove these hindrances, and allow the they have not mastered theirBuddha Nature to shine forth. own defilements. TIBETAN BUDDHISM Tibetan Buddhism, with its mysterious benefit of all beings, through the practices and colourful art, is becoming development of Great Compassion and better known in the West, partly due to the Perfect Wisdom. The Vajrayana or influence of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Diamond Way is the highest practice, The Tibetan tradition is subdivided into a which aims at achieving Buddhahood in number of different schools which contain this lifetime. the whole range of Buddhist practices. The Tibetan tradition encourages The principle teaching is the Lam Rim or the use of grand ceremonies, music, dancing, graduated path, the first part of which consists chanting, and colourful paintings of various of taking refuge in the Triple Jewel (Buddha, deities, the production of which is itself a Dharma and Sangha), the practice of ethical spiritual practice. Many of its foremost lamas behaviour and basic meditation. The second or teachers are rimpoches, or rebirths of stage empowers meditations which help to famous lamas of the past, the discovery of overcome the limitations of greed, anger and whom is rigorously tested. ignorance, and an understanding of the Tibetan Buddhism also has a tradition of interdependence of all existing things.The final silent meditation without symbols called stage is the Bodhisattva Path, in which the Dzogchen, which is in many ways close to practitioner seeks full enlightenment for the Japanese Zen. 107
  • 106. W O R L D R E L I G I O N SZen BuddhismZen is the Japanese form of the Chinese Chan, which is the phonetic pronunciation of the Sanskritdhyana or meditation.The practice of meditation – sitting or moving – is the basis forZen activity of all kinds, whether in the temple, tea-room, the home or the martial arts practice hall.I T IS SAID that Zen started one day when the Buddha silently twirled a flower instead of speaking. None of his disciplesunderstood, except Mahakasyapa, who smiled.The Buddha then explained that the essentialtruth of his teaching is beyond words, and thathe had given it to Mahakasyapa. The tradition passed down through anumber of Indian patriarchs to Bodhidharma,who brought it to China in the early sixthcentury AD. He was summoned by the emperor,who asked what merit building temples andtranslating scriptures had gained him. ‘No meritat all’, answered Bodhidharma, who then retiredto a cave to meditate for nine years. Huike, thefirst Chinese patriarch, came to Bodhidharmaseeking peace of mind. ‘Bring me your mind andI will pacify it’, said Bodhidharma. ‘I cannot findmy mind’, Huike answered. ‘There! I havepacified it’, exclaimed Bodhidharma. From such beginnings, Zen extended • Obaku Zen, the smallest of the schools, wasthroughout China in ways that were often founded in China, and maintained Chinesesimilarly unintelligible to the reasoning mind, traditions in its chanting, ceremonies andand spread to Japan, Korea and Vietnam. other practices, retaining aspects such as the Pure Land teaching.JAPANWhen Zen reached Japan, it became at the same In addition to meditation, all traditions includetime more organized and more iconoclastic. in their training work such as cooking orPhrases such as ‘If you meet the Buddha, kill sweeping, and religious ceremonies withhim’ sought to drive Zen practitioners beyond bowing and chanting.the confines of organized religion. Three majorstreams emerged, as well as many charismatic ZEN ORIGINALSfigures who were outstanding in their own right. One of the greatest Zen originals was Bankei (1622–93). Although he trained in orthodox• Soto Zen was founded by Dogen (1200–53). Zen, he taught that all beings had what he called It emphasized zazen or sitting meditation, ‘the Unborn Buddha Mind’, and the only thing through which the sitter’s Buddha Nature is necessary was to remember this at all times. revealed. Enlightenment is seen as a gradual Formal meditation and religious practices were process, revealed in the process of sitting. not necessary. Though he left no official• Rinzai Zen was founded by Eisai successors, many were said to have become (1141–1215). It emphasizes meditation on enlightened just through hearing him speak. koans, riddles that have no logical answer. Towards the end of the seventeenth This creates a ‘great ball of doubt’, the century, Rinzai Zen became stagnated and shattering of which brings about sudden declined. Hakuin Zenji (1686–1768) reformed satori or enlightenment. the monastic orders, systematizing koan108
  • 107. Z E N B U D D H I S Mpractice, and insisting on the value of zazen.He also had many lay disciples who he taught ZEN BUDDHISMaccording to their needs. He left many c.500 BC Founded by the Historical Buddha as the Dhyana (meditation) tradition c. AD 470 Bodhidarma 28th Indian Patriarch bornenlightened successors. AD 530 Bodhidharma creates the Chan tradition in China Ryokan (1758–1831) is one of the best- AD 543 Bodhidharma dies AD 638 Hui Neng (6th Chinese Patriarch who established Chan in China) bornloved poets in Japan. A Soto monk and hermit, AD 713 Hui Neng dieshe lived alone practising meditation, writing c. AD 786 Lin-Chi (Rinzai) born in China AD 866 Rinzai dies.poems and playing with the local children. 1141 Eisai (who took the Rinzai tradition to Japan) bornHis simplicity and childlike nature impressed 1215 Eisai dies 1200 Dogen Zenji (founder of the Japanese Soto tradition) bornall who knew him, and is clearly obvious in 1253 Dogen dies.his poetry. ZEN AND THE ARTS Zen had an impact on all aspects of Japanese life. Millions of people who never practised religious Zen were influenced by it through arts such as calligraphy, painting, tea ceremony, flower arranging and music. One of the most typically Zen arts is calligraphy, which varies from formal characters to a free style that is hardly readable by ordinary Japanese. It was valued so much that it often replaced the Buddha image in temple and family shrines. Most of the celebrated Zen roshis – a word literally meaning ‘old boy’ but signifying master – were famous for their calligraphy and poetry, being pestered by disciples to ‘write In all arts, the Zen way of teaching includes something’ for the home, or even for mindfulness, which is a form of meditation. mundane uses such as shop signs. The potter pauses before putting the clay on This background of meditation was also the wheel, the musician practises ‘Blowing true of the so-called martial arts. In judo, Zen’ as he plays his bamboo flute. The Zen karate, kendo (sword-fighting) and archery, influence on the tea ceremony emphasizes meditation, both sitting and moving, is a part being in the moment, and caring for the of the traditional training. The essence of guests. It has evolved it into a religious ritual, these arts is not to hurt the opponent, but to a moving meditation of hospitality. And, resolve the conflict in the most harmonious above all, the Zen ideal of the natural garden way possible, which often leads to one party inspires visitors the world over with its peace backing down without a blow being struck. and tranquillity. 109
  • 108. W O R L D R E L I G I O N SLiving BuddhismIn spite of persecution – most notably in the last 70 years – Buddhism is still one of the world’smajor religions. It has a significant presence in most countries in the East – even wheregovernments have been hostile – and is growing in the West. Practices vary considerably,as do the forms of Sangha and the style of temples and monastic buildings.I T IS SAID that the Buddha taught 84,000 Other forms of Buddhism also use different ways to enlightenment. Meditation chanting as a practice, principally those based is the traditional practice to this end, but on the Lotus Sutra, such as the Tendaiother forms of Buddhism have evolved to meet and Nichiren schools. The Lotus Sutra isthe needs of suffering beings today, and have considered to be the synthesis of all the Buddha’sbecome ever more popular. teaching, and chanting its title is one of the most In the Pali Canon, the Buddha refrained from suitable ways to enlightenment in thiscommenting on what happens after death. contemporary age.However, in some Mahayana scriptures, he toldof Buddha-lands created by the enlightenment of ENGAGED BUDDHISMother Buddhas, into which we might be reborn. Another phenomenon of Buddhism has evolvedThe basic practice for this is simply chanting the in the form of what is called ‘Engagedname of the Buddha concerned, such as Buddhism’. Traditionally, Buddhism wasAmitabha or Guan Yin. This practice became concerned with the removal of the causes ofwidespread in all Far Eastern Buddhist suffering through the individual. Today, somecountries, and it has become one of the most Buddhists are concerned with working to bringpopular of all Buddhist traditions. about changes in society, improving the welfare110
  • 109. L I V I N G B U D D H I S Mof those who suffer. They see their work as theengagement of compassion in the sufferingworld, and use the term ‘Engaged Buddhism’ toexplain their motivation. Because non-violence is one of the Buddhistprecepts, it is consistent for Buddhists to haveconcerns for peace, and to work actively in thisfield. Today, there are many other aspects ofengaged Buddhism, such as a hospice for AIDSsufferers in San Francisco, and a scheme forfeeding homeless people in London. Buddhistmonks in Thailand have ‘ordained trees’ bywrapping them in Buddhist robes to stop illegallogging operations, and something similar hasbeen done in Nepal. Buddhists also activelycampaign for animal welfare and refugee work,particularly with Tibetan refugees. They havealso worked with the ‘untouchables’ in India, traditions, a statue of the baby Buddha is bathedand with re-building Cambodia after the with sweet tea by all present, and there aregenocide there. street processions with elaborate floats commemorating events from the Buddha’s life.FESTIVALS AND CELEBRATIONS Another festival that is celebrated byOne major feast, Vesak, is celebrated by Buddhists everywhere is that of the New Year,Buddhists the world over. It brings together although the date varies from country toBuddhists from Theravadin and the various country. New Year celebrations are often mixedMahayana schools. This is the Buddha’s up with local traditions providing lavishbirthday, which is celebrated on the day of the festivities with music and dancing in whichfull moon in May. Theravadin Buddhists also everybody can join. The Sangha are invited tocelebrate the Buddha’s enlightenment and death bring a blessing to the New Year by chanting andon the same day. Others celebrate his Nirvana in making offerings to the Buddha. It is also a timeDecember and his death in February. when individual Buddhists will seek to forgive Special ceremonies are used to celebrate the those who may have harmed them, and makeBuddha’s birthday. In Chinese and Japanese reparation to those they have injured in any way. RITES OF PASSAGE Rites of passage also differ from country As in other religions, the religious to country. They are as important for ceremonies are usually followed with a feast Buddhists as for any other religion, as or party, sometimes with music and dancing, they are seen as emphasizing the and often with special food. Buddha’s teaching of change, and bringing it home to those concerned. It is also important for people to be able to celebrate them, and invoke the Buddha’s blessing on the occasion. Births, marriages, naming ceremonies and funerals are all commemorated in ways that follow national customs and legal requirements. The Buddhist element usually consists of chanting from members of the Sangha, probably in the local temple of those most concerned. There may also be rites such as giving new Buddhist names, the exchanging of tokens and sprinkling of water as a sign of purity. 111
  • 110. W O R L D R E L I G I O N SCHRISTIANITYThe Life and Teachingof JesusJesus of Nazareth, c. 6 BC–AD 32, is the most important personin the Christian religion. While his teaching followed thetraditional Jewish style of religious debate it is who he wasthat is central for Christians.They believe Jesus was the Sonof God, that he was born on earth, lived the life of a humanbeing, was crucified, died and then rose from the dead. Hisdying and rising revealed God’s love for the world and offeredall people the possibility of eternal life.F OR CHRISTIANS the most important their religion but were aware of the presence and event in history has been, and will always pressure of their Roman overlords. be, the birth, life, death and resurrectionof Jesus. THE JEWISH CONTEXT Historically nothing of his life is known There were various Jewish groups jostling foroutside the four gospels contained in the Christian position at the time of Jesus’s teaching life. TheBible. These, however, are notprimarily historical accounts; Jesus’s Palestine Jesus was born in Palestine during therather they give an interpretation M E D I T E R R A N E A N reign of Herod the Great (37–4 BC). S E Aof what the life of Jesus meant. Herod was a client king of the Romans ni and he left his kingdom to his threeConsequently there are some Jesuss Palestine ta Li Herods kingdom in 6 BC sons, Herod Antipas (Galilee andevents and stories that appear in area under Roman rule Peraea), Philip the Tetrach (northerntwo or three of the gospels and areas belonging to Herods sons Transjordan) and Archelaeus (Judaea, Herod Antipas Paneas Samaria and Idumaea). In AD 6 thesome that are distinctive to one. (Caesarea Philippi) Roman government took control of places associated with the life and teaching of JesusThere is, however, a core to Jesus’s Archelaus’s territories which were TRACHONITIS later ruled by Pontius Pilate.teaching; the Kingdom of God is GALILEE GAULANITIS Capernaum BATANAEAnow present, God has sent Magdala Bethsaida Nazareth Cana Sea of Galilee AURANITISprophets in the past but now Mount Tabor uk r mJesus’s coming opens up the Nain Ya Gadrapossibility for all people to enter LIS SAMARIA O APthat Kingdom. Jesus is the D ECfulfillment of God’s promises tothe people of Israel, that they Sychar Jordanwould be his people, he would give Jericho EAthem a land (Israel) and he would JUDAEA PERA SEAbe their God. Jerusalem Jericho Mount of Olives At the time of Jesus’s birth Jerusalem D DEA(now considered to be between Bethphage Bethany6–4 BC) the Romans ruled over IDUMAEA Bethlehemthe land of Israel. They were the NABATAEAmajor force in the Mediterraneanworld. The Jews, and Jesus was aJew, were allowed certain‘freedoms’ in order to practise112
  • 111. T H E L I F E A N D T E A C H I N G O F J E S U SPharisees are shown in the Gospels to be Jesus’s healing. He gathered manyenemies because he challenged many of their men and women around him;ideas and attitudes, although they were key amongst them were 12concerned to maintain the essential qualities of men called disciples. JesusJewish life and religion. Disputation, debate and became involved in conflictinterpretation were part and parcel of their with the religious authoritiesmethod of teaching. The Sadducees, another in Jerusalem. He wasgroup, reflected the interests of more traditional arrested, tried and nailed to aJews. There were other groups, like the Zealots cross, crucified and died.who were more ‘Messianic’ in flavour. They Christians believe, and thewere expecting the arrival of the ‘Anointed One’ Gospels recount, Jesus rose(Messiah, in Greek ‘Christ’) who would release from the dead. He met histhem from Roman domination. followers and ate with them. After a few weeks he wasJESUS’S LIFE taken up into heavenThe Gospels of Matthew and Luke say that Jesus promising to return at thewas born in Bethlehem and grew up with Joseph, end of the world. Jesus’shis father, and Mary, his mother, in Nazareth, in followers believed he was theNorthern Galilee. Joseph is traditionally Messiah who had brought about the Kingdombelieved to have been a carpenter and would of God. This was a dangerous idea to theprobably have taught the growing Jesus Romans who thought this might mean asomething of his trade. challenge to their power and equally It is likely that Jesus’s ministry began when disturbing to the Jewish authorities.he was about 30 years old. He probably taught Jesus taught in synagogues. The mainfor three years after being baptized in the River concern of many Jews, however, was that heJordan by John the Baptist (his cousin). appeared to claim to forgive sins and only GodChristians believe John was the forerunner of could do that. Jesus was therefore claiming to be For God so loved the world, thatJesus, preparing the way for him. Jesus divine and that was not acceptable to the Jewish he gave his only son, thattravelled throughout Israel, teaching and religious authorities. whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. THE PARABLES John, 3:16 Jesus used parables and healings to help challenge those around and to help people people understand his teaching. He taught be more aware of the will of God and the that the Kingdom of God (an acceptance of nearness of God’s Kingdom. God as Ruler and King) had arrived and it For Christians the greatest miracles were was possible for everyone to enter that his birth, death and resurrection (rising to Kingdom. What was necessary was to see defeat death). It was a demonstration of the what Jesus did and hear and understand love, authority and power of God. his teaching. Some of his parables, including The Sower (Mark 4:3–20), The Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30–37) and The Lost Son (Luke 15:11–32), are very well known and are stories in themselves; others like The Lost Coin (Luke 15: 8–10) and The Lost Sheep (Luke 15:3–7) are short and easily remembered. Jesus, like all great teachers, took examples from everyday life with which his hearers would be familiar. Everyone knows the joy of finding something that was lost or re-uniting relationships. His healings and miracles taught about God’s power and authority. Jesus could do these things because he was carrying out God’s will. He did remarkable things to 113
  • 112. W O R L D R E L I G I O N SThe Early ChurchAt Pentecost the disciples of Jesus received the power of the Holy Spirit.They went out to teach and preach across the known world. St Paul,who as Saul, had not been one of Jesus’s followers, was tireless in hispreaching of the Gospel and travelled throughout the Mediterranean.As time passed and numbers grew, the small groups of Christians beganto organize themselves.They also suffered persecution.A FTER THE EVENTS of Jesus’s life, ‘spirit’ can mean ‘breath’) and looked as if each death and resurrection had been of the disciples had a tongue of flame on his completed, his followers gathered to head. This powerful event gave the disciplescelebrate the Jewish festival of Pentecost. In the power and courage to go out to preach in manyActs of the Apostles, the coming of the Holy different languages.Spirit is recorded. The Holy Spirit of God The disciples became known as ‘apostles’ –arrived in the upper room of a house where the from a Greek word meaning ‘sent as messengers’.disciples were gathered with the sound of a They went out to preach the good news (themighty wind (the Hebrew and Greek words for Gospel) of the risen Christ. Ve rco vic ium Se go nti De Pr um a um va oc ol BR Isc iti Lo a Eb nd I T Agr Taun ur Au ini ac A C ipp um en gu um I N olo ina sta Tre arz Sc ve hw ni ro The Journeys of St Paul a Po ru B N N Le ns G m in er id e area converted to Christianity sB Sa de i a u by AD 600 e ola n A ra nh S eritata g v eim Em gus rd Au StO Pauls first journey AD 46–48 s U P Ar o ste ck sta Bes rbu St ge Pauls second journey AD 49–52 L Bo ndé Kö ig A r A ni ntor dt hei ken ur ol gs g- at m Pauls third journey AD 53–57 I ho um fe Vo N n Pauls fourth journey AD 59–62 lu M Ca bil od Po rn Pauls possible journey to Spain eto is en vio un AD 64? a tum Bri I T Bolo ge tio A gn Sal M Co O L a ona a R Y sti A La rsi Ko Alb Dn ca U m om nji aI ba R u iep c A esis arth C e Sa lia ET a M er Ne rm Volg N Ca Ep fer D ize ag ida tar an IA e Po pua uru a ube ge tus e A nti a Se m a FR rdi ca No vae Tîrg d IC Sic ily Co TH uso r A nst RA i an CE Bl GR S tin ac op t EE le k S Le CE ea a e pti Ch sM alc Nic edo r ag n A aea h na SI r A a a Ep M Cr ete he sus IN Trap e zus n Cy OR r ren e e a a n Edes sa S Ant D e e Cyp ioch Ale a rus Sido E Dura s xa ndr n urop - MES ia Dam os OPO The Journeys of St Paul e EG ascu s TA M r YP Jeru IA Paul was deeply committed to taking T sale t m Ti g the message of Jesus Christ to the non- ris Jewish (Gentile) world. The map shows N il e his missionary journeys, details of Eu ph which are known from his surviving ra t e s letters and the Acts of the Apostles.114
  • 113. T H E E A R LY C H U R C H There are many stories of where they went AS TIME WENT BYand what they said but Peter, who is considered to The early followers of Jesus believed the end ofbe the leading disciple, ended up in Rome, the the world would come very soon with everyonecentre of the Roman world. It is believed he was living under God’s rule. As the apostles died andcrucified there after he had founded a Church. He the years passed the end did not arrive and eachwas the first Bishop of Rome. Christian group began to organize itself. Bishops, elders and deacons took a role in the organizationPAUL AND THE EARLY YEARS and administration of the church with the bishopsThe most significant apostle was not in the upper taking responsibility for the care of people withinroom at Pentecost. He is St Paul who, before his a larger area. The bishops of Rome, Jerusalem,own conversion, when he was known as Saul, had Constantinople, Alexandria and Antioch becamepersecuted the followers of Jesus. At his conversion the most influential.on the road to Damascus he had a vision of Jesus Christians soon changed their day of worshipthat changed his life. He took the name Paul to from the Jewish Sabbath to the first day of theshow the change he had experienced and after a week, Sunday. This marked a move away fromfew years’ quiet reflection set out to take the their Jewish origins and recognition that Jesus’smessage of Jesus across the Mediterranean world. resurrection was the most important event. Easter Paul wrote a number of letters contained in and Pentecost were important festivals butthe Christian Bible. These were written before the Christmas does not appear to have been It is their habit, on a fixed day,Gospels and tell us a lot about Paul himself as well celebrated at all. to assemble before daylight and to recite by turns a form ofas about the growing groups of Christians. He Persecution of the Christians in the Roman words to Christ as God.was passionate, strong-willed and strong-minded Empire largely finished when Constantine wasand deeply committed to taking the message of Emperor in AD 312 although there were outbreaks Pliny the Younger, early second centuryJesus Christ to the non-Jewish (Gentile) world. He during the next two centuries. During the fourthprobably died in Rome at about the same time as century Christianity became much morePeter, i.e. AD 60–65. formalized, church building took place and by AD 381 Christianity was the official religion of the Roman Empire. In its turn it was not averse to persecuting others now that it had the support of the Empire. AD 48–60 Paul’s missionary journeys AD c. 100 First reference to Christians AD c. 110 First accounts of Christian martyrs (e.g. Polycarp) AD 175 First reference to the four Gospels AD 200 Christians symbols in Roman catacombs AD 312 Constantine becomes Emperor AD 313 Christians granted freedom of worship AD 381 Council of Constantinople: Christianity becomes the official religion of the Roman Empire JEWISH ROOTS The early Christians were Jews and, although Christian Christianity was called ‘The Way’ for several decades after teaching spread rapidly to the non-Jewish world, they Jesus’s death and the religion developed as a secret society. In the continued to attend synagogues and follow the traditional third and fourth centuries there were influential bishops and Jewish way of life. The followers of Jesus were regarded as a thinkers some of whom became saints and martyrs. But in the first new Jewish sect, rather like the first century BC Jewish group centuries there were no agreed guidelines and the ‘Christian of Essenes who lived by the Dead Sea. As they developed, Church’ was a collection of small communities. There were no however, the Christians were influenced by Greek ideas and church buildings. symbols. Some of the early representations of Jesus (200 The symbol of the fish became common for early Christians. years after his death) show him in the Graeco-Roman style Fish figure in the Gospels; some of the disciples were fishermen of a shepherd carrying the lost lamb, or as a sower scattering and the Greek word for ‘fish’ has five letters standing for the initial seed for future harvest. In the artwork of letters in the Greek phrase ‘Jesus Christ God’s Son Saviour’. the time Jesus was depicted in much the same way as other It was a secret code to help Christians communicate with each gods or kings. other without the state realizing. 115
  • 114. W O R L D R E L I G I O N SThe Christian BibleThe Christian Bible took nearly 400 years to reach its final form. It consistsof two ‘testaments’ or ‘promises’.The OldTestament is almost entirelymade up of the Jewish scriptures and is written in Hebrew.The NewTestament is written in Greek and tells of the new ‘testament’ made by Godthrough the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.T HE NEW TESTAMENT was probably knowledge about God and the meaning of written by a variety of authors between Jesus’s life, who Jesus was and what he AD 48–95. Christians believe the Old taught, and is the basis and major source of theTestament shows how God had promised the churches’ teachings.coming of Jesus, the Messiah, to the Jews for For some churches, particularly thecenturies. Jesus fulfilled those prophecies and Protestant and Pentecostal Churches, the Bible iswritings so the Gospels and Epistles (letters) relate a direct point of reference when seekingthe story of a new promise – ‘a new testament’. guidance from God. There is less emphasis on the importance of a priest or minister to interpretEPISTLES what the Bible says and this ‘direct revelation’The Epistles (the Greek word for ‘letters’) are the has played a powerful part in the developmentearliest known Christian writings. Paul wrote of Protestantism.some of the epistles within 20 years of Jesus’s This belief was also a driving force in thedeath. He pays little attention to the detail of translation of the Bible from the Latin to theJesus’s life concentrating much more on what his vernacular. Martin Luther’s translation of thelife meant. There are other letters, some attributed Bible into German, in the sixteenth century,to the apostles, written over a period of 50 years combined with the development of the printingor so but little is known of most of their authors. press (and subsequent rise in literacy), made the Bible more widely available in his nativeGOSPELS Germany. However, it was not until theThere are four Gospels (the word means ‘good