By John R. Hinnells
Historical civilisations workout an severe fascination for individuals across the world. This instruction manual presents a shiny, scholarly, and eminently readable account of historical cultures world wide, from China to India, the center East, Egypt, Europe, and the Americas. It examines the advance of spiritual trust from the time of the Palaeolithic cave work to the Aztecs and Incas. masking the full of society not only the elite, the guide outlines the background of the various societies in order that their faith and tradition will be understood in context. every one bankruptcy comprises dialogue of the huge box of appropriate reviews alerting the reader to wider debates on each one topic. a global group of students exhibit their very own deep enthusiasm for his or her topic and supply a distinct examine of either renowned and 'official' faith within the old international.
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Extra resources for A Handbook of Ancient Religions
By representing animals and by marking them with spear-like signs, a sorcerer facilitated their killing. Incomplete animal outlines were taken to mean that the makers wanted to weaken the animals and diminish their defence abilities. Geometric signs were then interpreted as weapons, wounds or traps. Secondly, destructive magic was said to have been used against the most dangerous species, such as bears, lions and rhinoceroses. Thirdly, fertility magic helped to increase the herds of herbivores by representing mating scenes or pregnant females.
Indeed, given the Ice Age way of life that we have described, it seems likely that Upper Palaeolithic shamanism did not exactly match any specific instance known today. It is essential that researchers remain flexible and do not force ethnography onto Upper Palaeolithic data. Ethnography should bring to light special features of Upper Palaeolithic religion, not obscure them. It should also be clear that a certain amount of fuzziness around the edges – instances that are difficult to categorize as being or not being shamanistic – does not invalidate the central notion.
In some shamanistic societies, such as those of North America, the notion of a vision quest is crucial to becoming a shaman. A North American quester usually repairs to a remote, isolated place, sometimes a high cliff-top, sometimes a cave ´ (Eliade 1951: 50–1; Halifax 1980: 6), to fast, meditate and induce an altered state of consciousness in which he or she will ‘see’ an animal helper that will impart the necessary shamanistic power. It is a vision, a spirit-animal, that bestows power, not a real animal.