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The Anthropology of Religion, Magic, and Witchcraft,9780205718115
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The Anthropology of Religion, Magic, and Witchcraft

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This is the 3rd edition with a publication date of 11/29/2010.
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This concise introductory textbook emphasizes the major concepts of both anthropology and the anthropology of religion. It is aimed at students encountering anthropology for the first time. Reviewers describe the text as vivid, rich, user-friendly, accessible, and well-organized. The text examines religious expression from a cross-cultural perspective while incorporating key theoretical concepts. In addition to providing a basic overview of anthropology, including definition of key terms and exposure to ethnographies, the text exposes students to the varying complexity of world religions.

Author Biography

Rebecca Stein has been teaching with the Los Angeles Community College District since 1995 at various colleges, as well as at Pasadena City College. She joined the Anthropology faculty at Los Angeles Valley College in 2000. Ms. Stein received a bachelor’s and master’s degree in Anthropology from the University of California at Los Angeles, where she received a National Merit Scholarship. Her work has been focused in cultural and psychological anthropology, specifically concerned with child-rearing, transmitting values to children, deviance, gender and religion. She also has an interest in human biological evolution, particularly in the fields of genetics and the new field of Darwinian Psychology.


Philip L. Stein is a Professor of Anthropology and Chair of the Department of Anthropological and Geographical Sciences at Los Angeles Pierce College. He has also taught at East Los Angeles College, Los Angeles City College, and California State University, Northridge. He received his BA in Zoology and MA in Anthropology from UCLA.


Professor Stein is a fellow of the American Anthropological Association and a past president of the Society for Anthropology in Community Colleges. He is also a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Association of Physical Anthropologists, National Center for Science Education, and the Southwestern Anthropological Association.

Table of Contents


1          The Anthropological Study of Religion    1

The Anthropological Perspective    1

The Holistic Approach   

The Study of Human Societies   

The Fore of New Guinea: An Ethnographic Example   

Two Ways of Viewing Culture   

Cultural Relativism   

BOX 1.1 • Karen McCarthy Brown and Vodou   

The Concept of Culture   

The Study of Religion   

Attempts at Defining Religion   

The Domain of Religion   

Theoretical Approaches to the Study of Religion   

BOX 1.2 • Malinowski and the Trobriand Islands   

BOX 1.3 • Evans-Pritchard and the Azande   

The Biological Basis of Religious Behavior   



Suggested Readings   

Suggested Websites   

Study Questions   


2          Mythology   

The Nature of Myths   


Stories of the Supernatural   

The Nature of Oral Texts   

BOX 2.1 • Genesis  

BOX 2.2 • The Gender-Neutral Christian Bible   

Understanding Myths   

Approaches to Analysis of Myths   

BOX 2.3 • The Gururumba Creation Story   

Common Themes in Myths   

BOX 2.4 • The Navaho Creation Story: Diné Bahanè   

BOX 2.5 • The Raven Steals the Light    

BOX 2.6 • Joseph Campbell   



Suggested Readings   

Suggested Websites   

Study Questions   


3          Religious Symbols   

What Is a Symbol?   

Religious Symbols   

BOX 3.1 • Religious Toys and Games   

Sacred Art   

The Sarcophagus of Lord Pakal   

The Meaning of Color   

Sacred Space and Sacred Time   

The Meaning of Time   

BOX 3.2 • The End of Time   

Sacred Time and Space in Australia   

The Symbolism of Music and Dance   

The Symbolism of Music   

The Symbolism of Dance   



Suggested Readings   

Suggested Websites   

Study Questions   


4          Ritual   

The Basics of Ritual Performance   

Prescriptive and Situational Rituals   

Periodic and Occasional Rituals   

A Classification of Rituals  

A Survey of Rituals   

Technological Rituals   

Social Rites of Intensification     

Therapy Rituals and Healing   

Salvation Rituals   

Revitalization Rituals   

Rites of Passage   

The Structure of a Rite of Passage   

Coming-of-Age Rituals   

Alterations of the Human Body   


BOX 4.1 • The Hajj   

The Huichol Pilgrimage   

Religious Obligations   


Jewish Food Laws   

BOX 4.2 • Menstrual Tabus   

Conclusion    1

BOX 4.2 • The Way of the Amish   


Suggested Readings   

Suggested Websites   

Study Questions   


5          Altered States of Consciousness   

The Nature of Altered States of Consciousness   

Entering an Altered State of Consciousness   

The Biological Basis of Altered States of Consciousness   

BOX 5.1 • Altered States in Upper Paleolithic Art   

Drug-Induced Altered States   

BOX 5.2 • The Native American Church   

Ethnographic Examples of Altered States of Consciousness   

The Holiness Churches   

San Healing Rituals   

The Sun Dance of the Cheyenne   

Religious Use of Drugs in South America   




Suggested Readings   

Suggested Websites   

Study Questions   


6          Religious Specialists   


Defining Shamanism   

Siberian Shamanism   

Shamanism among the Akimel O’odham   

Korean Shamanism   

Pentecostal Healers as Shamans   


BOX 6.1 • Clown Doctors as Shamans   


Aztec Priests   

Zuni Priests   

Okinawan Priestesses   

Eastern Orthodox Priests    

Other Specialists   

Healers and Diviners   

BOX 6.2 • African Healers Meet Western Medicine   




Suggested Readings   

Suggested Websites   

Study Questions   


7          Magic and Divination   

The World of Magic   

Magic and Religion   

Magic and Science    

Rules of Magic   

The Function of Magic   

Why Magic Works   

Magic in Society   

Magic in the Trobriand Islands   

BOX 7.1 • Trobriand Island Magic   

Magic among the Azande   

Sorcery among the Fore   

Wiccan Magic   


Forms of Divination   

Divination Techniques   

BOX 7.2 • I Ching: The Book of Changes   

Fore Divination   

Oracles of the Azande   

Divination in Ancient Greece: The Oracle at Delphi   




Suggested Readings   

Suggested Websites   

Study Questions   


8          Souls, Ghosts, and Death   

Souls and Ancestors   

Variation in the Concept of the Soul   

Souls, Death, and the Afterlife   

BOX 8.1 • How Do You Get to Heaven?   

Examples of Concepts of the Soul   


BOX 8.2 • Determining Death   

Bodies and Souls   


The Living Dead: Vampires and Zombies   

Death Rituals   

Funeral Rituals   

Disposal of the Body   

U.S Death Rituals in the Nineteenth Century   

U.S Funeral Rituals Today   

BOX 8.3 • Roadside Memorials   

Days of Death   



Suggested Readings   

Suggested Websites   

Study Questions   


9          Gods and Spirits   


The Dani View of the Supernatural   

Guardian Spirits and the Native American Vision Quest   


Christian Angels and Demons   


BOX 9.1 • Christian Demonic Exorcism in the United States   

Types of Gods   

Gods and Society   

BOX 9.2 • Games and Gods   

The Gods of the Yoruba   

The Gods of the Ifugao    


Monotheism: Conceptions of God in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam   




Suggested Readings   

Suggested Websites   

Study Questions   


10        Witchcraft   

The Concept of Witchcraft in Small-Scale Societies   

Witchcraft among the Azande   

Witchcraft among the Navaho   

Witchcraft Reflects Human Culture   

Sorcery, Witchcraft and AIDS    

Euro-American Witchcraft Beliefs   

The Connection with Pagan Religions   

The Witchcraze in Europe   

The Witchcraze in England and the United States   

BOX 10.1 • The Evil Eye   

BOX 10.2 • Satanism   

Modern Day Witch Hunts   



Suggested Readings   

Suggested Websites   

Study Questions   


11        The Search for New Meaning   

Adaptation and Change   

Mechanisms of Culture Change   



Haitian Vodou   


Revitalization Movements   

The Origins of Revitalization Movements   

Types of Revitalization Movements   

Cargo Cults   

BOX 11.1 • The John Frum Cult   

The Ghost Dance of 1890   

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormonism)   

Neo-Paganism and Revival   

The Wiccan Movement   

New Religious Movements   

The “Cult” Question   

Characteristics of High Demand Religions   

Examples of New Religious Movements   

UFO Religions   


Characteristics of Fundamentalist Groups   

BOX 11.2 • Religious Violence and Terrorism   



Suggested Readings   

Suggested Websites   

Study Questions   





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