Kung Religion - _Kung

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Myth & Religion Definitions
 !Kung Ritual and Healing
        !Kung Art
   Future of the !Kung
    Myth and Religion Definitions
   Religion is defined, following Wallace,
    as belief and ritual concerned with
    supernatural beings, powers, and
   So defined, religion is a cultural
                 Kinds of Religion
   Religious forms vary from culture to culture but
    there are correlations between political organization
    and religious type.
   Religious Practitioners and Types
    • Wallace defined religion as consisting of all a society‟s cult
      institutions (rituals and associated beliefs), and developed
      four categories from this:
          Shamanic religions shamans are part-time religious
           intermediaries who may act as curers--these religions are most
           characteristic of foragers.
          Communal religions have shamans, community rituals, multiple
           nature gods, and are more characteristic of food producers
           than foragers.
          Olympian religions first appeared with states, have full-time
           religious specialists whose organization may mimic the states,
           have potent anthropomorphic gods who may exist as a
          Monotheistic religions have all the attributes of Olympian
           religions, except that the pantheon of gods is subsumed under
           a single eternal, omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent
     Origins, Functions, and Expressions of
   Neanderthal mortuary remains provide the earliest
    evidence of what probably was religious activity.
   Animism
    • Tylor first studied religion anthropologically, and developed a
      taxonomy of religions.
    • Animism was seen as the most primitive, and is defined as a
      belief in souls that derives from the first attempt to explain
      dreams and like phenomena.
   Mana and Taboo
    • Mana is defined as belief in an immanent supernatural domain
      or life-force, potentially subject to human manipulation.
    • The Polynesian and Melanesian concepts of mana are
           Melanesian mana is defined as a sacred impersonal force that is
            much like the Western concept of luck.
           Polynesian mana and the related concept of taboo are related to
            the more hierarchical nature of Polynesian society.
           Magic and Religion
   Magic refers to supernatural techniques
    intended to accomplish specific aims.
   Magic may be imitative (as with voodoo
    dolls) or contagious (accomplished
    through contact).
   Anxiety, Control, Solace
    • Magic is an instrument of control, but religion
      serves to provide stability when no control or
      understanding is possible.
    • Malinowski saw tribal religions as being
      focused on life crises.
       Rituals & Rites of Passage

   Rituals
    • Rituals are formal, performed in sacred
    • Rituals convey information about the culture of
      the participants and, hence, the participants
    • Rituals are inherently social, and participation
      in them necessarily implies social commitment.
   Rites of Passage
    • Rites of passage are religious rituals which
      mark and facilitate a persons movement from
      one (social) state of being to another (e.g.
      Plains Indians‟ vision quests).
    Rites of passage have three phases:

   Separation – the participant(s) withdraws from
    the group and begin moving from one place to
   Liminality – the period between states, during
    which the participant(s) has left one place but
    has not yet, entered the next.
    • Liminality is part of every rite of passage, and involves
      the temporary suspension and even reversal of everyday
      social distinctions.
   Incorporation – the participant(s) reenters
    society with a new status having completed the
   Communitas refers to collective liminality,
    characterized by enhanced feelings of social
    solidarity and minimized distinctions.
   Rituals play an important role in creating and
    maintaining group solidarity.
   In totemic societies, each descent group has an
    animal, plant, of geographical feature from which
    they claim descent.
    • Totems are the apical ancestors of clans.
    • The members of a clan did not kill or eat their totem,
      except once a year when the members of the clan
      gathered for ceremonies dedicated to the totem.
   Totemism is a religion in which elements of nature
    act as sacred templates for society by means of
    symbolic association.
    • Totemism uses nature as a model for society.
          Each descent group has a totem, which occupies a specific
           niche in nature.
          Social differences mirror the natural order of the
          The unity of the human social order is enhanced by symbolic
           association with and imitation of the natural order.
    Religion and Cultural Ecology
   Sacred Cattle in India
    • Ahimsa is the Hindu doctrine of nonviolence that forbids
      the killing of animals.
    • Western economic development experts often use this
      principle as an example of how religion can stand in the
      way of development.
          Hindus seem to irrationally ignore a valuable food source
          Hindus also raise scraggly and thin cows, unlike the bigger
           cattle of Europe and the U.S.
   These views are ethnocentric and wrong as cattle
    play an important adaptive role in an Indian
    ecosystem that has evolved over thousands of
    • Hindus use cattle for transportation, traction, and
    • Bigger cattle eat more, making them more expensive to
                Social Control
   The power of religion affects action.
   Religion can be used to mobilize large segments
    of society through systems of real and perceived
    rewards and punishments.
   Witch hunts play an important role in limiting
    social deviancy in addition to functioning as
    leveling mechanisms to reduce differences in
    wealth and status between members of society.
   Many religions have a formal code of ethics that
    prohibit certain behavior while promoting other
    kinds of behavior.
   Religions also maintain social control by stressing
    the fleeting nature of life.
             Religion and Change
   Revitalization Movements
    • Religious movements that act as mediums for social
      change are called revitalization movements.
    • The colonial-era Iroquois reformation led by Handsome
      Lake is an example of a revitalization movement.
   Syncretisms
    • A syncretism is a cultural mix, including religious blends
      that emerge when two or more cultural traditions come
      into contact.
          Examples include voodoo, santeria, and candomlé.
    • The cargo cults of Melanesia and Papua New Guinea are
      syncretism of Christian doctrine with aboriginal beliefs.
    • Syncretisms often emerge when traditional, non-
      Western societies have regular contact with
      industrialized societies.
                    Secular Rituals
   A Pilgrimage to Walt Disney World
   Walt Disney World functions much like a sacred shrine, which is
    a major pilgrimage destination
    • It has an inner, sacred center surrounded by an outer more secular
    • Parking lot designations are distinguished with totemlike images of
      the Disney cast of characters.
    • The monorail provides travelers with a brief liminal period as they
      cross between the outer, secular world into the inner, sacred center
      of the Magic Kingdom.
   Within the Magic Kingdom
    • Spending time in the Magic Kingdom reaffirms, maintains, and
      solidifies the world of Disney as all of the pilgrims share a common
      status as visitors while experience the same adventures.
    • Most of the structures and attractions at the Magic Kingdom are
      designed to reaffirm and recall a traditional set of American values.
   Recognizing Religion
    • It is difficult to distinguish between sacred and secular rituals as
      behavior can simultaneously have sacred and secular aspects.
    • Americans try to maintain a strict division between the sacred and
      the profane, but many other societies like the Betsileo do not.
    African Bushmen Creation Myth
   People did not always live on the surface
    of the earth. At one time people and
    animals lived underneath the earth with
    Kaang (Käng), the Great Master and Lord
    of All Life.
   In this place people and animals lived
    together peacefully. They understood each
    other. No one ever wanted for anything
    and it was always light even though there
    wasn't any sun. During this time of bliss
    Kaang began to plan the wonders he would
    put in the world above.
   First Kaang created a wondrous tree, with
    branches stretching over the entire country. At
    the base of the tree he dug a hole that reached
    all the way down into the world where the people
    and animals lived.
   After he had finished furnishing the world as he
    pleased he led the first man up the hole. He sat
    down on the edge of the hole and soon the first
    woman came up out of it. Soon all the people
    were gathered at the foot of the tree, awed by
    the world they had just entered.
   Next, Kaang began helping the animals climb out
    of the hole. In their eagerness some of the
    animals found a way to climb up through the
    tree's roots and come out of the branches. They
    continued racing out of the world beneath until
    all of the animals were out.
   Kaang gathered all the people and animals about
    him. He instructed them to live together
    peacefully. Then he turned to the men and
    women and warned them not to build any fires or
    a great evil would befall them. They gave their
    word and Kaang left to where he could watch his
    world secretly.
   As evening approached the sun began to sink
    beneath the horizon. The people and animals
    stood watching this phenomenon, but when the
    sun disappeared fear entered the hearts of the
    people. They could no longer see each other as
    they lacked the eyes of the animals which were
    capable of seeing in the dark. They lacked the
    warm fur of the animals also and soon grew cold.
   In desperation one man suggested that they
    build a fire to keep warm. Forgetting Kaang's
    warning they disobeyed him. They soon grew
    warm and were once again able to see each
   However the fire frightened the animals. They
    fled to the caves and mountains and ever since
    the people broke Kaang's command people have
    not been able to communicate with animals. Now
    fear has replaced the seat friendship once held
    between the two groups.
   The Bushmen of Africa believe that not only are
    plants and animals alive, but also rain, thunder,
    the wind, spring, etc. They claim:
   What we see is only the outside form or body.
    Inside is a living spirit that we cannot see. These
    spirits can fly out of one body into another. For
    example, a woman's spirit might sometime fly
    into a leopard; or a man's spirit fly into a lion's
             Religious Beliefs
   High God
    • Kaang (Käng)
    • Sometimes depicted as an elephant.
   Lesser God
    • Trickster God (Praying Mantis)
   Animal Spirits
    • Luck and Misfortune
    • Success and Failure
   Summoning the forces of life, a man or
    woman dances in a circle of clapping,
    singing people.
   After some hours he/she will fall into a
    trance, then rise to heal the sick.
   Besides treating physical illnesses, the
    “trance dance” traditionally was used to
    heal spiritual sicknesses, which, it was
    believed, led to conflicts and broken
   Such healing power allowed Bushmen to
    live together peacefully under harsh,
    stressful conditions.
                Healing Dance
   The San people have few medicines and generally
    use dancing and ceremonies to cure illness and
   This involves dancing near a sacred fire. In this
    dance, the spiritual leaders, which are diviners
    and healers, dance around the fire until they are
    in a trance-like state, when they believe they
    receive the power to heal.
   They then attempt to pull out the invisible arrows
    affecting the person they are healing. When they
    reach this state they are able to heal large
    numbers of people at one time.
   Despite the lack of
    medicines, the San people
    generally live long and
    healthy lives.
   However, lung infections
    and skin diseases are a
    constant threat.
   Kwashiorkor is also a
    serious threat. This is a
    result of a lack of protein
    in the San‟s diet.
    Kwashiorkor causes
    anemia, weakness, hair
    loss and an extended belly.
    It occurs exclusively in
   Concept that the dead come back to
    bother people and cause sickness
    and death.
   Why? Longing for living.
   Healers in trance talk to the dead
    and try to convince them to leave
    the live person alone. When the
    dead won‟t “hear” them the sickness
    gets worse and the individual dies.
   The Rock Art of the San (Bushmen) people of
    Southern Africa has been described as one of
    humankind‟s greatest treasures from the past.
   It is found over a large area of Southern Africa
    and more than 15 000 sites occur in South Africa
    alone. The discovery of fragments of rock art –
    dated at more than 26 000 years old – suggest
    that southern African rock art is one of the
    longest continuous art traditions in the world.
   This priceless heritage – as depicted in the
    collection of the Centre for Indigenous Knowledge
    of the University of Pretoria – is a valuable aid to
    understanding the spiritual search of the San
               Art & Religion
   San religion and mythology are of
    significance in interpreting rock art.
   The rock artists depicted human and
    animal subjects; handprints and a range
    of geometric designs were often added to
    enhance the meaning.
   Later visitors often interacted with images
    by scratching or rubbing them. For the
    San, rock art images marked places of
    access to supernatural spiritual power.
   The San believe that when
    an eland dies, supernatural
    energy is released that
    may be accessed or
    harnessed by the shaman
    priests to perform services
    such as healing and rain
   They would dance around
    the animal and sing eland
    songs to invite the eland
    spirit to enter their bodies.
    Such a scene is depicted in
    this superb, upside-down
    eland body.
   So important was the eland that it
    features significantly in the rituals
    performed at initiation
     • When a young boy hunts his first
       eland he is considered to be „of
       age‟. Since this is such an
       important event, certain rites are
       performed to ensure his safe
       transition to a new stage of life.
     • When an eland has been killed,
       the skin is stretched out on the
       sand. The young man is invited to
       take his place on the skin while
       the other members of the group
       dance around him and make eland
       footprints all around the skin,
       using the dismembered eland
     • This is a symbolic gesture which
       means that whichever direction
       the young person should choose
       to move out towards, from the
       focal point of the outstretched
       eland, he would move across the
       path of the eland, since one‟s
       spirit, and that of animals, lingers
       within your footprints.
   Two San people painted in
    profile and gracefully
    elongated, not only for
    aesthetic reasons but also
    probably displaying the visual
    distortion experienced as a
    result of the trance
   Objects seem attenuated and
    weightless, almost floating, as
    depicted here.
     • The one figure bends forward,
       possibly in a dancing position,
       or else as a result of the
       abdominal muscle
       contractions experienced
       during the initial stages of
     • The figures display details of
       hunting equipment but the
       string of the bow, which was
       painted in a lighter colour,
       cannot be discerned due to
       the age of the artwork. The
       decorative detail of the
       leather aprons, as well as the
       tassles of the headdress and
       the short shoulder wrap are
       all carefully depicted.
   This rock painting of Nguni cattle
    being herded by a San hunter
    forms part of a larger narrative
    depiction and reveals a
    fascinating number of contrasts
    and contradictions.
   Traditionally the San were
    hunter-gatherers who did not
    keep cattle. A number of
    interpretations of the scene
    depicted here come to mind, the
    first being that this scene relates
    to a frontier situation, where San
    people and early pastoralists lived
    in harmony and where the San
    were known to have assisted in
    cattle herding in exchange for
    certain goods.
   There are, however, many rock
    art depictions that illustrate times
    of strife, for instance when the
    need for grazing for cattle herds
    threatened the San‟s natural food
   Also note the hunting bag carried
    over the shoulder of the hunter,
    where the bow and arrow can
    clearly be seen in profile.
Future of !Kung
    What problems do they face?
   The Bushmen had their homelands invaded by cattle herding
    Bantu tribes from around 1,500 years ago, and by white colonists
    over the last few hundred years.
   From that time they faced discrimination, eviction from their
    ancestral lands, murder and oppression amounting to a massive
    though unspoken genocide, which reduced them in numbers from
    several million to 100,000.
   Today, although all suffer from a perception that their lifestyle is
    'primitive' and that they need to be made to live like the majority
    cattle-herding tribes, specific problems vary according to where
    they live.
   In South Africa, for example, the !Khomani now have most of
    their land rights recognised, but many other Bushman tribes have
    no land rights at all.
     • The Gana (G//ana) and Gwi (G/wi) tribes in Botswana's Central
       Kalahari Game Reserve are among the most persecuted – they have
       no ownership rights over their land, and the Botswana government
       has in fact been trying to force them off their ancestral land for the
       last 16 years.
     • In 1997, many were forcibly evicted from their homes in the Kalahari
       desert, and those that remain have faced drastic restrictions in their
       hunting rights, torture and routine harassment. In the latest move to
       drive them out, the Botswana government has announced that it is
       cutting off all water supplies to Gana and Gwi communities in the
   I do not want this place. It is foreign to me. My land is in there
    [the reserve]. I would rather die there than live here.
    Bushman, New Xade, May 2002
   We want to live in our land and to choose the way we want to
    Roy Sesana, April 2002
   I am feeling very sad. We were created by God on the land of our
    fathers and their forefathers – it is our ancestral home. The
    government has treated us unfairly. We were not given any choice
    about moving out.
    Molatlhwe Mokakale, April 2002
   Now we have to leave our graveyards and go. The government
    sees no problem with taking us out of our ancestral lands and
    putting us somewhere else. Our Bushman culture and our social
    living is destroyed, there is no respect for any of those things,
    there is no democracy for us.
    Roy Sesana, October 2001
   The government said I must leave Molapo because there‟s eland
    here, diamonds here and other things here. I think the
    government tells me to leave so others will enjoy the riches of
    this land. But I'm going to stay because those things are mine,
    not the government's.
    Gakeitsiwe Gaorapelwe, Molapo, October 2001
   This place is not for the wildlife department. It is my father's
    father's father's land.
    Bushman woman, Molapo, October 2001
Uncharted Africa Bushman Safaris, Botswana
      Uncharted Africa is unique in its pioneering efforts to
      work with the Bushman communities to provide a
      dignified and culturally sensitive experience.
      The company has worked closely with The First
      People of the Kalahari, the Bushman pressure
      group that has been affiliated to the United
      Nations for many years.

          Uncharted Africa Safari Company offers an
          incredible opportunity to experience a dignified
          and sensitive Bushman safari. For many years, it
          has not been possible to offer a genuine non-
          patronising Bushman experience due to the threat
          of exploitation.
          Now, the Bushman people themselves in
          conjunction with Uncharted Africa Safari Company
          offers a fascinating insight into their unique way of
          life, now almost extinct.
          These are 4 to 7 night tailor made safaris
          You will be flown into the nearest Airstrip and
          transferred by land cruiser to a remote mobile
          camp site on the Namibian border at Xai
   Botswana has a history of good governance rare
    in Africa. However, its aim is now the very
    backward one of integrating the Bushmen into
    the 'mainstream' and ending their way of life.
   The government must halt its violations of
    Bushman rights, and allow them to live in peace,
    in a way of their own choosing.
   The authorities must prevent officials from
    assaulting Bushmen.
   The right of the Bushmen to hunt the game on
    which they depend must be recognized.
   The right of the Bushmen to own communally the
    lands they live on and use within the Central
    Kalahari Game Reserve must be recognized.
   Services on which the Bushmen now depend –
    health care, water and food supplies – should be
              How you can help
   Send a brief, polite letter or fax to the President of the
    Republic in Botswana. State that you are concerned about the
    Bushmen of the Kalahari and what must be done to preserve their
    rights and their culture.
   The Hon F G Mogae
    President of the Republic
    Private Bag 001
    Fax: + 267 356 086
    Begin: 'Your Excellency'
   Send a copy of your letter to the Director of Wildlife and
    National Parks in Botswana:
   Mr Matlhare
    Director of Wildlife and National Parks
    PO Box 131
   Sign the online petition for the rights of the Kalahari
    Bushmen on the Survival website, at
            Spread the word!
   Tell your friends and family about the
    Kalahari Bushmen and the problems they
   Visit www.survival-international.org/ , the
    website of Survival International.
   This organisation is dedicated to
    defending the rights of tribal societies all
    over the world.

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